Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A BIG birthday.

Forty years ago today somebody very special came into the world, and he grew up to become my husband!

Todd has been a blessing to me every day of my life for almost 22 years, and I am so glad that he was born. (Did I mention that was FORTY years ago? Just wanted to make sure!)

He is truly a remarkable man and somehow he just keeps getting better-looking, too, in that annoying way men do when they're FORTY and over.

He's smart, funny, sweet, creative, hard-working and kind. Yes, God sure knew what he was doing when he made Todd...FORTY years ago.

Ah well, getting older is unavoidable, but at least we get to do it together, sweetie. Happy (fortieth) birthday to my favorite person in the world--I love you lots!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Color therapy.

I really don't mind winter, especially Virginia winter, which is "winter lite" compared to other places I've lived (Idaho, I'm looking at you!)...and even though we've had a harsher winter than usual this year, it pales in comparison to the mountains of snow my friends and family elsewhere are dealing with...and yet, I think I am ready for a warm breeze and some COLOR!

Most days I can find a kind of muted beauty in brown grass, brown leaves, brown tree trunks, and a gray sky, but not today. So here are the tulips I bought last week...gone now, but remembered fondly. February is the perfect month for tulips.

I went out on a limb and combined red/yellow tulips with hot pink, and I thought the result was wonderful. The pot is a McCoy pot I found at my favorite antique store (which isn't saying much since there are about three antique stores in all of Hampton Roads, but this one really is terrific)--anyway, I LOVE it and it was perfect for a big fistful of tulips.

I think I might need to go out and bring home a new fistful of tulips to look at...because color is good therapy in February.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


This is a fun test I found on another site: Color Career Counselor. When it gets to the part where it asks for all your information, just scroll down and hit "No Thanks" and you can get your results. Here's an article that describes the test.

I have to say my results were dead on for my personality:

Best Occupational Category

You're a CREATOR


Nonconforming, Impulsive, Expressive, Romantic, Intuitive, Sensitive, and Emotional

These original types place a high value on aesthetic qualities and have a great need for self-expression. They enjoy working independently, being creative, using their imagination, and constantly learning something new. Fields of interest are art, drama, music, and writing or places where they can express, assemble, or implement creative ideas.

Suggested careers are Advertising Executive, Architect, Web Designer, Creative Director, Public Relations, Fine or Commercial Artist, Interior Decorator, Lawyer, Librarian, Musician, Reporter, Art Teacher, Broadcaster, Technical Writer, English Teacher, Architect, Photographer, Medical Illustrator, Corporate Trainer, Author, Editor, Landscape Architect, Exhibit Builder, and Package Designer.

Consider workplaces where you can create and improve beauty and aesthetic qualities. Unstructured, flexible organizations that allow self-expression work best with your free-spirited nature.

Suggested Creator workplaces are advertising, public relations, and interior decorating firms; artistic studios, theaters and concert halls; institutions that teach crafts, universities, music, and dance schools. Other workplaces to consider are art institutes, museums, libraries, and galleries.

2nd Best Occupational Category



Self-Control, Practical, Self-Contained, Orderly, Systematic, Precise, and Accurate

More book stuff.

I was going to run some errands this morning, but as the snow is falling again and accumulating far beyond what the weather people said it would, I guess I'll stay home and not risk the chaos out there.

Kim asked what I've been reading, so here's a rough list of things...

I read a mystery called The White Garden by Stephanie Barron, who writes a pretty good mystery series about Jane Austen that I used to read. This is a stand-alone novel about what may have really happened after Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with rocks and waded into the river in 1941. It was pretty good (I have found Barron to be a consistently "pretty good" writer) and it got me interested in Virginia Woolf and her friend/lover Vita-Sackville-West, and also the gardens at Sissinghurst, Vita's home, as I mentioned before.

So I had a copy of Mrs. Dalloway from the the thrift store around here, and I picked that up. I was an English major in college, and yet I never read any Virginia Woolf, not even "A Room of Her Own," which I think is supposed to be mandatory for English majors with a women's studies emphasis!

I had tried to read Mrs. Dalloway once or twice before and never gotten past the first page or two before getting distracted, but I must have just been in the perfect frame of mind, because I floated right through it and thought it was terrific.

Vita Sackville-West also intrigued me from her characterization in The White Garden, so I ordered one of her novels from Paperback Swap and read it: All Passion Spent. Sackville-West was nowhere near the kind of writer that Woolf was, but it was still an excellent story of an elderly woman whose husband dies and who astounds her children and grandchildren by taking charge of her life for the very first time. It was a quick, good read. There aren't many of Sackville-West's books in print any more, but I'd like to find a few more to sample.

Vita Sackville-West had a very long and interesting marriage to a man named Harold Nicholson, who worked for the diplomatic service in Great Britain. They fell in love and married right before the first World War, but their marriage was severely strained several years later when Vita had her first affair with another woman. This story is told in their son Nigel Nicholson's book Portrait of a Marriage. Vita and Harold spent almost forty more years together after this crisis, but never shared a bed again, she sleeping with other women and the occasional man, he sleeping with other men. And yet they were devoted to each other and to their homes and gardens. It's a pretty interesting story, to say the least.

I am a total Anglophile, and books that take place around the First World War through the Second World War are always interesting to me. Someone on the Paperback Swap forums (have I mentioned how much I love that site?!) brought up an author named E.F. Benson, who was a prolific writer, but who is most famous today for six novels he wrote about a woman named Emmeline Lucas (called "Lucia" by her friends) who rules the small town she lives in with an iron fist. The first Lucia book (Queen Lucia) was written in 1920, and you wouldn't think a 90-year-old book could be so wickedly funny, but it is. I've read the first three books and have the second three on order...I don't even know how to describe them except to say that if you find British sitcoms funny, you will probably find these books funny. Nobody is better at poking fun at people's pretensions than the British.

I finally got 84, Charing Cross Road from my Paperback Swap wish list...I had seen part of the movie on TV a month or so ago, so I knew how it ended, but I still enjoyed the book. It's a very quick read, a little story told in letters between a New York writer named Helene Hanff and the used bookstore in England where she orders books. The letters span a 20-year period. It made me very nostalgic for a time when you could stick a couple of bucks in an envelope and get antique books from London!

Somehow I got interested in reading Shirley Jackson, and I can't remember how. Many people had to read her short story "The Lottery" in junior high or high school--it's her most famous work by far. I heard somewhere about her last book We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and requested it for Christmas, and read it all on Christmas evening, which was a creepy way to end a holiday. It is one of the oddest books I have ever read, but it sticks with you--the story of two sisters who live in a big house with their deranged uncle, as told by the younger sister Merricat. Read it, it's good.

Then a couple weeks ago I picked up Jackson's other novel, The Haunting of Hill House, which was also very good. For people who are jaded by years of violent horror films, this book might not make much of an impact, but if you are an imaginative sort of person who doesn't even like to sit through scary movie previews, you'll get quite a few pleasurable spine chills from the story. It, too, has stuck with me...Jackson had a real talent for setting a scene and adding details that made it come to life and feel very real to the reader.

Shirley Jackson spent her early career writing the kind of domestic humor that a lot of women writers were stuck writing in the late 40s and through the 60s--stories about absent-minded husbands and adorable but cantankerous children. I found her best-known of this type of book, Life Among the Savages, and read it a few days ago. After reading her dark, spooky fiction, this light-hearted story of her four children and her family's move to an old house in Vermont hardly seems like it could be written by the same person at first glance, but I could see in it some of her same careful prose and even a few dark bits peeping out here and there.

I am really eager to get Jackson's biography--it's on my wish list at Paperback Swap--and find out more about her. She died in her mid-forties, from too much food, alcohol and pills--certainly the flip side of the light-hearted wife and mom she portrayed in her humor books, and more in keeping with the haunted women in her short stories and novels.

So that's a bit of what I've been reading the past few weeks. And I just keep finding more and more and more...!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Book stuff.

This is the year I turn forty, and even though it doesn't happen until October, I am already wrestling with it hard.

One of the many anxieties that has crossed my mind related to turning forty is silly, but very much a part of the "time running out" feeling I've been wrestling with, and that is--so many books to read, so little time. Which is a cliche, but like most cliches, all too true!

I've always been a voracious reader, but I hopped and skipped along, reading this and that, or not reading anything new for a few weeks here or there...and I often bemoaned the fact that I had "nothing to read." Lately, I've been feeling more and more breathless, looking at the stacks of books to be read, and finding new books to add to the stacks almost every day. I've gone from famine to feast, especially since I joined Paperback Swap and started trading for books I never would have found otherwise.

I watched a BBC miniseries of "Bleak House" this week on Netflix, and decided to read the book, which I was pretty sure I had tucked away on a shelf upstairs. I dug around and found A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, which I've read; and David Copperfield and Oliver Twist, which I haven't gotten to yet, but no Bleak House.

Providentially, Borders sent me a coupon in this morning's e-mail, so I printed it off and took myself to Borders, where I did find a copy of Bleak House and heaved it down off the top shelf. Let's just say this is a daunting-looking book. Even in paperback, it weighs a ton. It's 800-some pages long--and tiny type! I have a feeling this book may take me through my fortieth birthday and beyond.

In the past few months I've been finding all sorts of new topics and new authors, with an emphasis on early 20th-century fiction and history. I've read bits of Dorothy Parker and Shirley Jackson, Virginia Woolf and Vita-Sackville-West. I've read about Bohemians in England and the Lost Generation and the gardens at Sissinghurst Castle. Every topic and every author washes up against each other and overlaps and there's always more threads to follow and more people to find out about. It's a little overwhelming.

I've also changed my method of reading lately. I'm using bookmarks! I've always been a dog-earer and a plopping-open-face-down reader, but after ruining a couple of perfectly good books by plopping them face-down onto unseen table and counter stains, I decided to invest in a couple of tassled bookmarks. They have an added bonus in that you can play with the tassel while you read.

Maybe it's just a winter kind of feeling, and once the sun comes back out and there's more to do outside, I'll lose this urgency that is making me feel like I should have a book in front of me at all times. But right now, I feel like a squirrel stashing nuts--except it's books and they take up way more room.