Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Books and Cooks: Eat, Pray, Love


Cover Image


An old friend of mine (Macy O'Neal, holla!) recommended this to me, so I included it in my choice list when I hosted Bs&Cs last month. It won, so there you have it. Briefly, Elizabeth Gilbert goes through an horrific divorce, then spends a year finding out who she really is through the pursuit of pleasure in Italy, spirituality at an Indian ashram, and balance in Bali, Indonesia.

Interesting conversation on this one. Most of us agreed that the notion of taking a year off from life to explore oneself is basically that: a notion. Nothing any of us could conceive of actually doing, and not because we haven't wanted at some point to run away from life and start over. It seemed self-indulgent of Gilbert, who's in her 30s, to do what most twentysomethings are known for, but that could be sour grapes talking. Or just reality.

It was very interesting to have my mom in the room for this one, since she was divorced from my dad in her 30s. Since she had three children to look after, taking off for Rome definitely wasn't possible, but she said she really identified with Gilbert's need to establish a personal identity separate from being a wife/mother/daughter, etc. I found that fascinating in itself, since so many of my books deal with the heroine's search for her true identity. Hmm. Maybe divorce affected me in the same way, even though I was a teenager at the time.

Gilbert's personal odyssey introduces us to some interesting characters, most notably--for me, anyway--Richard from Texas, speaker of the most hilarious line in the book, a wonderful metaphor about mosquitoes that only a true Southerner could appreciate. The way they're presented, you'd want to meet these people yourself. Maybe Gilbert, too, although some of us considered her a bit too selfish for our taste--a nasty side effect of all that self-examination. Her style's fun, though, accessible and light. I hear there's a sequel coming out, so I might have to take another trip with her to find out what she's discovered now that she's found herself a second husband.

As a special bonus, our lovely hostesses packed little bags full of beads for us to string our own japa malas--Indian prayer beads that are symbolic of Gilbert's spiritual journey and the 108 vignette structure she borrowed for the book. (Interestingly enough, the same number of stitches in a baseball, as Annie Savoy reminds us in her "Church of Baseball" speech in the sports movie classic Bull Durham.) I spied a lovely set of lapis-colored beads as the basket was being passed around, and they were waiting for me when I finally got the basket at the end of the line.

Amazing how God works in little moments.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Heard in the Bleachers

Little League. Bleachers. Moms and dads and sibs. Always an interesting sociological mix, especially in our community. I'm paying attention to the game (mostly), trying not very hard to avoid overhearing the conversation on my left, conducted by slim, toned wives with far more expensive shoes than I. You know, the ones with $100 haircuts and blinding diamond (plural) wedding sets. Here's what I hear:

"...you should take your shoes off."
"They don't take their shoes off?"
"No! It's incredible."
"Not even on Friday? That's cleaning lady day."

At that point, attention switched to the conversation on my right. Red Sox vs. Indians fits much more comfortably in my sphere than the concept of a "cleaning lady day." I'm the cleaning lady around Chez mimi. All the days are potential cleaning lady days. Key word: potential.

Which reminds me...time to throw some more laundry in the washer, lest DS be sent onto the field Tuesday night with the horror of grass stains for all to see.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Last Lecture

My friend Nancy sent me a link to this short video, a clip of a "last lecture" given by a prefessor at Carnegie-Mellon University. Universities across the US are featuring last lecture programs, inviting well-known professors to deliver the wisdom they really would like to impart before departing. What's the catch here? Dr. Prautsch has terminal pancreatic cancer and is expected to live only a few weeks or months more.

Check out the Wall Street Journal article here.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Style, or Lack Thereof

So I've been reading style books lately. (My friend Desiree is passing out at the thought at this very moment.) What I've realized is that my style and my closet aren't on close speaking terms.

My friend Colleen once told me that the best thing about turning 40 was the ability to say "to hell with it" and mean it. To hell with tasks you don't want. To hell with living up to someone else's expectations. To hell with "should" and Hello to "want."

Colleen has a point, and that point's being affirmed in the strangest places. One of the books I bought on my B-day was a copy of Brenda Kinsel's 40 Over 40. Much of this book is self-affirming rather than prescriptive. Figure out who you are and what you love, embrace it, and make your style your own. Okay, I can dig that. The problems crop up when your style veers more toward silly T-shirts and Marvin the Martian watches than it does chic. Desiree would shudder at the stuff I find cute (she's way more stylish than I am). I like the tacky shirts the Sunshine State Parkway workers wear in the tollbooths. I love Converse Chuck Taylors. I like Celtic knot earrings and my charm bracelet. I love bright colors. And pajamas--if I could wear pajamas to work, I would. But I also have a soft spot for twin sets, my grandmother's Huguenot cross, and pearls. Finding a personal style encompassing all that will be a trick. But it'll be a step toward becoming someone who doesn't hate getting dressed in the morning quite so much.

As I get older, I don't imagine I'll become a Red Hat lady. I won't need to be, if I can embrace my hot pink Chucks self for who she is and be happy.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


DH hates the song "Happy Birthday." He says that everyone sings it too slowly, so it comes out sounding like a dirge more than the celebratory air it should be. Methinks I agree. I'm a Stevie Wonder "Happy Birthday" kinda gal (moreso than The Beatles' "Birthday"), which is in no way dirgelike or, come to think of it, clichéd.

And on this, my 43rd "natal day," as my grandfather was wont to say, I admit that I don't want to be a cliché as I grow older. I will not be a teacher who succumbs to the tide of denim and apple motif clothing. I will not be a cranky church lady who forgets that children, messy and annoying and distracting they may be, are the lifeblood of a church. I will not submit to the minivan, though I am now officially a soccer and a baseball mom.

What does that mean? Not sure, exactly, but it'll probably involve some soul-searching about lots o'stuff and making some hard decisions. And cleaning out the closet of the faux-me to make room for the real-me. Scary stuff.

But 43 says I'm a grownup (allegedly), so I can handle it. I have big girl pants and everything.

Off to dinner with the fam. Italian. Good stuff.

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