The Lives We Never Live

I was watching the BBC miniseries Daniel Deronda the other day. Based on the George Eliot novel of the same name (which I’ll have to hunt down and read now), it follows the career of the titular character, who ends up having to choose between two love interests. It’s a beautifully done series, and it’s on Netflix, so if like me, you have a weakness for 19th century period dramas, it’s one of the better ones out there.

Hugh Bonneville is creepily magnificent as the aristocrat who enjoys his domination over others. Romola Garai is brilliant in the role of Gwendolyn Harleth, the young woman who must choose between love and her family’s financial security. She was arguably the most interesting character, and I rather think Eliot could have left out the part about Deronda’s other love interest, and named the book after Harleth. We all love the stories that follow Lizzie Bennet’s injunction, “Do anything rather than marry without affection.” However, the reality for most young women in financial straits in 19th century was that dreamy Mr. Darcy, the perfect gentleman AND in possession of £10,000 per year, did not often come along. Gwendolyn Harleth (whose name, by the way, I think is at least as mellifluous as Mabel Lane Fox) is a sympathetic and compelling character, and it’s hard to really fault her too much for her choices, even as one is horrified by both the choices and their consequences.

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My Top 20 Books

My Top 20 Books

You know that Facebook thing that’s been going around where people tag you and you have to list your top ten books? Well, I was waiting and waiting to get tagged. I finally did a couple of days ago (thank you, Jared) but by then the number had ballooned to 20 books. Which I guess is OK, because I had a hard time as it was narrowing it down to just 20. And I didn’t think I could just post a list without explaining what each and every book meant to me. So it got too long for a Facebook status, and ended up on my blog. Here, in no particular order, are my top 20 books:

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Friday Afternoon Blues

Friday Afternoon Blues

“Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?”
“All like ours?”
“I don’t know, but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound – a few blighted.”
“Which do we live on – a splendid one or a blighted one?”
“A blighted one.”
Thomas Hardy

Am I just in a bad mood, or has it been kind of an awful year so far?

Working loosely backwards, there’s Ebola, which while it hasn’t killed anywhere near as many people as more prosaic diseases like malaria and the flu, is wreaking serious havoc in West Africa, and is nowhere near containment or control.

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The Doctor is In

In theaters August 25th, that is! The first episode of the greatly anticipated 8th Season of Doctor Who will be coming to theaters across the U.S. later this month.

I already have tickets.

This is exciting because it’s my first real-time experience with Doctor Who. I only recently became acquainted with the series due to a several week Netflix binge that began while my husband and children were in California earlier this year. So I feel like I’m catching up on a lot.

Doctor Who is one of those things you always hear about from your geeky friend but think is way too complicated to start watching. At least that’s what it was for me. Once I finally gave it a chance, though, it didn’t take me long to get hooked. And by the time David Tennant walked on the stage in season two, I was completely smitten.

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The clear expression of mixed feelings

Here’s a rare thing–a secret about myself that I have not yet disclosed on this blog. I am a poet.

I fell in love with poetry as a little girl. I loved the images it made in my head, and the startling flashes of insight it gave me. But most of all, I loved the sound of the words in my mouth. Memorizing poetry became a habit, and a weapon against my recurring insomnia. I don’t know that I ever made it to the end of Paul Revere’s Ride without falling asleep.

At a used book sale once, my resourceful homeschooling parents picked up a copy of Literature: Structure, Sound and Sense. It’s a high school textbook, full of the minutiae the boring English teacher tries to cram into his students at the beginning of the movie Dead Poets’ Society. You know, all the facts and terms and analysis that are supposed to kill people’s love of literature. Only they didn’t kill mine. They woke it up. I could not get enough of synecdoche, dactyls, and onomatopoeia. I read and loved the poetry section of that book to death. I was fascinated not only by the poetry itself, but by all the elements that made it up–the nuances of sound and image and meaning that turned common words into art.

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The Working Life

Tony and the kids popped in to my work on Thursday, and Tony of course had to document the moment, like every other significant and insignificant moment of our life, for inclusion on the family website. So here is actual photographic evidence of my industrious ways:

And in fact, I’ve been at my job for a month now, and Tony and the children have been back for the past two weeks, which seems long enough to state some preliminary observations about how things are going.

The short answer is, I am happier than I’ve been in quite a while. I have way more patience for my children when I come home at six o-clock from an office full of adults than I did when I was at home with them all day. My emotional resources are magically magnified by being away from home during the work-day doing something interesting and creative, and I am much better able to deal with the inevitable complications and setbacks of life.

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Rated R

Mormons (at least in the U.S., where the MPAA holds sway) have a soft norm against watching R-rated movies. There are still lots of Mormons who watch them (just like there are plenty of Mormons who drink Coke or watch the Superbowl on Sunday or let their little girls wear tank tops), but for some,  not watching can be something of a symbol of their faith. I remember as a kid hearing several stories of young people who “lived their religion” by suggesting a different movie or just going home when their friends were pressuring them to watch one that was rated with the big bad “R”.

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Wearing Pants

About a month ago, I wore pants to church for the first time (trousers, that is, for my readers who speak British-inspired forms of English). In case you didn’t know, there’s a soft norm in the Mormon church for women to wear skirts or dresses to Sunday meetings. And in case you haven’t heard, there’s been quite a social media tempest during the past couple of weeks after a group of Mormon feminists asked LDS women to wear pants to church on Sunday, December 16 as a show of solidarity.

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How I Made Friends With Facebook

I have not always been a friend to Facebook. I am way too old to have grown up using it in high school. Actually, I’ll admit it, I’m even too old to have used it in college. I found out about Facebook from my kid brother long after all the cool people were already on it. I finally broke down and joined on 12 November 2008. According to Facebook, that important date (which appears prominently in my snazzy new Timeline) ranks right up there with being born and graduating from college.

Like most users, I experienced the initial infatuation with Facebook, as it put me back in touch with various long lost friends. And although I never took photos of myself kissing Zuckerberg’s photo, I do have warm fuzzies over Facebook’s important role in the Arab Spring. Since then, however, my feelings about Facebook have deteriorated from sarcastic ambivalence to downright hostility.

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My inner artist

Like most other children, I really liked to draw when I was young.

At the age of nine, my mom enrolled me in a YMCA art class, where I learned about various artistic styles and did the requisite imitations. For example, here’s my Mondrian,

The Seurat,

and the Kandinsky.

Later, as a teenager, I traded piano lessons for art lessons from a friend, and along with drawing and painting, I tried my hand at such varied artistic activities as Ukranian Easter eggs (several of which still hang on our tree each Christmas), wood-burning, and printing.

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