Archives for January 2007

Pillow Talk

I have mentioned before that my mama keeps a beautiful home. In fact, her idea of heaven on earth would be to have four or five days of blissful alone time so that she could dust every single picture frame, clean vast expanses of baseboards and wash each window with her homemade glass-cleaning solution (wiping only with newspaper, girls. only with newspaper. paper towels leave pesky streaks). And then, for kicks, she would launder all her table linens, hang them up to dry, and press them to perfection with a red-hot Oreck iron.

You see, housekeeping, for Mama, isn’t so much a chore as a calling, and she does it better than anyone else I know. 

If there’s any crack at all in my mama’s firm housekeeping foundation, it’s that she favors form over function. It’s not a big deal, really – it’s simply a result of her desire for everything to look pretty. She doesn’t like unsightly objects to disturb her decorative flow, and that is why she once placed a large hall tree in front of the air conditioner thermostat in my childhood home.

Now granted, the hall tree looked lovely, but there was absolutely no way to make a middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom without slamming a substantial portion of my thigh against it. Once I limped back to my bedroom and gingerly crawled into bed, however, at least I could sleep with the assurance that Mama’s aesthetic sensibilities were preserved by keeping that unsightly thermostat out of sight. And besides, that deep purple thigh-welt was bound to fade with time. 

When Mama and Daddy moved to another house about a year and a half ago, my sister and I made it our mission to give Mama more function, even if that meant sacrificing a bit of her beloved decorative form. I spent several weeks in my hometown before the big move, cleaning out closets, setting up for the mother of all garage sales, and trying to help Mama sort through over forty years of accumulated stuff.

“At the new house,” I would say, “you can streamline.”

“At the new house,” I would say, “you can focus more on function.”

But Mama just doesn’t have it in her. She would cover up the pipes on the back of a commode if Daddy would let her. Seriously. She’d go pick out some floral fabric, consult with a seamstress, and then pay somebody to make pipe cozies. She absolutely would.

And trying to convince her that it’s perfectly fine for a thermostat to be visible is like trying to teach a cat to bark. It goes against the natural order of the universe. 

At least now, in the new house, the massive book cabinet that’s covering the thermostat is out of the line of traffic. You don’t have to worry about taking out a chunk of your shin while trying to walk around it, but you do have to find a flashlight and then shine it behind the bookcase in order to read the thermostat settings. This process drives Daddy to complete distraction but leaves Mama sighing with contentment, as does the sage green velour throw that’s artfully draped across an inoperable wall heater in their den. 

This past weekend D. was helping me make up the bed at Mama and Daddy’s house, something he hasn’t done very often because the intricacy of Mama’s bed-making system can be a little intimidating. All things considered, he was doing pretty well; after almost ten years of marriage to me, he understands that the process is far more elaborate than pulling a bedspread over some pillows. He realizes that on my mama’s side of the family, making up the bed means that it’s time to put on your protective goggles and get ready to do some hard labor. It’s not for the faint of heart.

As we were working on pulling up layer-o-cover #4, Mama swooped into the room and picked up the pillows we’d slept on the night before. I didn’t think a thing of it because I know the routine, but D. paused for just a second and said, “Hey. Your mama just took all the pillows. What’s she doing with them?” 

“Putting them in the closet,” I said. 

“Putting them in the closet? Why?” he asked. 

“Because she doesn’t think they’re pretty enough to be on the bed.” 

D. could not quit laughing. Even when he was getting into the shower several minutes later, I could hear him chuckling across the hall. 

Several years ago my friend Daphne’s husband coined the phrase Stunt PillowsTM to refer to the purely decorative pillows, the ones that are often the very essence of form over function. They look great, for sure – but don’t you even think about using them for something as mundane as sleeping. That would never, ever do. 

With that in mind, please examine the following three pictures:

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Based on the photographic evidence, I feel it is appropriate – and dare I say, necessary – to christen my mama’s house as The Stunt Pillow PalaceTM of America. 

If you’d like to take a tour, I can probably arrange it. I know she’d be delighted to show you how she concealed an unused electrical outlet in her kitchen by hanging a picture in front of it.

But don’t you even think about stretching out on one of her beds.

Not unless you make a trip to the Functional Pillow Closet first.

Bloggity Goodness

This post by Lori is lovely. Well worth your time.

Today is Diane‘s one-year blogiversary…stop by her place and wish her well if you get a chance. Diane was the first person who read my blog outside of my real-life friends and family – and I’m pretty sure that she was the first person who listed me in a blogroll. There’s not a nicer, more genuine person in all of blogland, and this post of hers is one of my favorite things I’ve ever read in my life. Sister and I have been known to read the list together when we’re on the phone and subsequently cackle like crazy.

My friend Sarah writes with such transparent tenderness that I sometimes find myself holding my breath as I read. This particular post is one of her very best yet.

Shannon has some great encouragement this morning – especially if you find yourself thinking there is no way you can possibly survive another day of motherhood.

This post of Antique Mommy’s cracked me up. And the comments are just as funny.

Have a great day, everybody!

Thanks To You, I Will Now Have My Nose In A Book Until Approximately 2018

Well OH MY SWEET GOODNESS, internets – it’s not every day that a girl gets two or a hundred and twenty seven book recommendations. Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me a-heapin’ plenty of options from which to choose (by the way, thank you for this embarrassment-o-bloggy riches, too, and boy oh boy aren’t the nominations well-deserved because lists of books! they are funny! and riveting! and sure to make readers return for a very long time!).

[burying head in hands]

Anyway, it actually made me feel really good to read your comments, because 1) my theory about the high level of your collective intelligence was confirmed and 2) I realized that I’ve read more than I thought over the last few years. Surprisingly, I’ve managed to read all the Sophie Kinsella and Jennifer Weiner books, some Francine Rivers and Jodi Piccoult, a whole bunch of David Sedaris, and a good bit of Southern literature, including my annual re-reading of To Kill A Mockingbird (side note: I get teary-eyed just thinking about that book, and today when I quoted one line from the last chapter in an email, I literally had to go find a Kleenex. It moves me way down deep in my soul). And now that I’ve read all of your comments (every single one – and taken notes, to boot), I’m ready to dive back into reading again and find some new treasures.

Initially I was going to pick ten books. But I couldn’t pick just ten. Y’all reminded me of so much that I’ve wanted to read and forgotten about, and while I don’t have any delusions about finishing all the books within this calendar year, I’m going to do my best to finish the list before I’m, you know, 60.

As I am ever-so-fond of saying, everybody needs a goal.

And just so you know: I only picked one series to tackle because I know I can’t handle more than that. I also tried to pick a variety of authors, though certainly there’s a strong bent toward women. I tried to strike a balance between Christian and mainstream stuff, and needless to say the recommendations that I didn’t put on my list this time will enable me to have a ready-made list of books to read in 2008. And 2009. And forevermore.

So…without boring you any longer…here’s what I’m going to (TRY TO) read:

At Home In Mitford – Jan Karon
A Walk In The Woods – Bill Bryson
Fair & Tender Ladies – Lee Smith
For Women Only – Shaunti Feldman
Get Out Of That Pit – Beth Moore
Gods In Alabama – Joshilyn Jackson
House – Ted Dekker & Frank Peretti
Lily White – Susan Isaacs
Peace Like A River – Leif Enger
Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld
Raney – Clyde Edgerton
SAHM I Am – Meredith Efken
The Debt – Angela Hunt
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfeld
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
There Is No Me Without You – Melissa Fay Greene
Traveling Mercies – Anne Lamott
Velvet Elvis – Rob Bell

There are no links because, honestly, I’m tired. But I’ll try to get those up in the next day or so. I’ve set up a separate blog page to keep track of what I’m reading and what I’ve finished – and there’s about to be a little link to that in the upper left hand corner of the blog. I think I know what I’m going to read first – but I’ll decide for sure tomorrow.

Also, my friend Robin and I have been emailing today about doing a little book club thing-y over at her blog in case some of you might want to read along. Plus, I know Katrina has a Spring Reading Challenge coming up, so I’m going to take a section of this list and try to plow through it this spring and summer. I hope lots of y’all will join in with that. I was a total chicken the last time Katrina did a reading challenge and wouldn’t commit because, well, I was SKEERED (that’s “scared” for those of you who don’t speak Southern-ese), but this time I’m going to jump in feet first.

Thanks again, y’all, for all of your great suggestions. I have had several people email me to tell me that they were making lists based on your recommendations – including my dear friend Bubba, who’s about to get on a very big plane and fly across a very big pond. So you’ve done a public service, oh yes you have.

Happy reading, everybody!

Book ‘Em! (She Says, Cringing At The Punny-ness Of It All)

Now that Mama has figured how to “turn on the blog,” as it were, she’s told a couple of her friends about it, and now they “turn on the blog,” as well. And occasionally they ask me questions about it when I see them. And while talking to people about Ye Olde Blogge isn’t exactly comfortable for me, it’s not nearly as bad as, say, Emma Kate introducing me as BooMama to people at her church, an incident for which there are no words to adequately express my embarassment, but my embarrassment was significant enough that EK now owes me a really cute pair of shoes, or at the very least a case of diet Coke.

(I will be available for psychiatric evaluation from 5-7 pm on Thursday. Just be sure to let me know where you set up the couch. And be sure to bring lots of delicious, ice-cold diet Coke. And be sure to send Emma Kate the bill.)

Anyway, this past weekend one of Mama’s very fun friends was talking to me about my blog and asked me if I had ever posted a list of book recommendations. Which of course I haven’t. Because I’ve become a terribly lame reader.

Pre-pregnancy, I read voraciously – usually two or three books at a time – but since Alex came along I do well to read two or three books a year. I’ve tried to do better over the last three or four months by having at least one book on my nightstand at all times, but it’s difficult. I write a lot more than I used to, and it seems like between cooking and cleaning (don’t you even laugh, D. don’t you EVEN laugh), chasing Alex, working, blogging, wife-ing, etc., reading is the thing that gets pushed back farthest on the burner.

(To clarify: reading has not been pushed back as far as, you know, crafts, but those were never really on the burner for me to begin with. Come to think of it, crafts were nowhere even remotely near the burner. In fact, I think that for me, at least, crafts are currently located somewhere just southeast of Idaho.)

And here’s the thing: I miss reading. I really do. But I find that when I do want to read – when I make a special trip to the library or bookstore with the intent of finding a good book – I get completely overwhelmed. I don’t want to waste precious reading time on something that’s not any good; I don’t want to start a book that I’ll have no desire to finish. And inevitably I leave the bookstore empty-handed, usually wondering when people quit writing the kinds of books that I want to read.

Lately it seems like every other blog I happen across has a to-read list for the new year in the sidebar. I can’t even tell you how much that intimidates me because not only are you people reading, but you’re planning it, as well, and I’m pretty wide-eyed at the wonder of it all. On top of that, you’re not reading easy stuff; you’re not grabbing the #1 Walgreens bestseller off the shelf and calling yourself a bookworm. Y’all are reading challenging stuff. Some of it’s not even fiction, and ohmyword I don’t know how you do it.

So, for Mama’s friend who asked about a list – and for me, who really needs a list – here is my humble request. In the comments, give me ONE recommendation for a book that is, in your opinion, a must-read. I prefer fiction, but I’m fine with non-fiction, too.

Also.

Please remember that I have the attention span of your average four-year old, only I can’t even sit still long enough to watch cartoons. So while some of you (SHANNON!) might be intrigued by the idea of tackling Pilgrim’s Progress, I am not. In fact, the prospect of spending precious leisure time fighting my way through classic literature (aside from To Kill A Mockingbird, which is the best book in the history of all time ever) makes me want to throw things. And then chase down the stuff I threw so that I can kick it. Repeatedly. While twitching.

My former English professors must be so very proud.

So hit me with your One Essential Book in the comments. And if you happen to know the the author’s name, pass along that info, too. No need for links – mainly because the links will make my spam filter go cuckoo.

Once I wade through the list, I’m going to pick ten books to tackle this year. And I’m going to put the list in my sidebar so that y’all can point at me and laugh at the end of December when I’ve only read two and a half of them. But I really want to be a better, more intentional reader. And I know Mama’s friend will appreciate your suggestions, too.

By the way: if anyone lists anything by Henry James or James Joyce, I’m totally going to cover my eyes and sing “LA LA LA LA LA LA” and pretend like I don’t see it. Grad school nearly did me in with those two.

Thanks, internets!

I’m so glad y’all read and are smart and stuff. You have inspired me to do better.

Home Again

Here’s Alex and his newest cousin, Joseph:

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And little Joseph had a mighty big weekend indeed:

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It was a very sweet time.

“…Sustain him, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give him an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.” – The Book of Common Prayer

Bleh Bleh Blah Blah Bleh

If you haven’t noticed that I have a bit of the writer’s block, I give you this:

My last post was about a trip that I took six years ago. SIX YEARS AGO.

I actually have the blahs on several levels, none of which I’ll bore you with at this juncture. But I have talked to a couple of friends who share in my blah-ness, which leads me to think that part of the problem is that winter has finally gotten the best of us all.

Spring? OH, SPRI-ING? WHERE ARRRRE YOU?

We’re headed to Mississippi this weekend for a special family celebration, so hopefully I’ll regain my bloggy wits after I have a chance to listen to some stories, snap some pictures and last but not least see “Martie” and Sissie in action.

In the meantime, check out these fine bloggity people:

1) Jen at Lots of Scotts always has great perspective and wisdom, in addition to the cutest triplets you’ve ever seen (by the way, my real-life friends Emma Kate and Traci are OBSESSED with Jen’s blog. OBSESSED, I tell you).

2) Jennifer at Mississippi Girl always makes me smile with that sweet outlook of hers; as an added bonus, she just so happens to live in my home state.

3) Kathryn at Daring Young Mom is probably a bloggy standby for lots of y’all, but I’ve only recently started making my way through her archives. So much fun.

4) Overwhelmed! is hosting a Super Bowl Edition of her fab Favorite Ingredients Friday. Be sure to check it out.

5) Here’s something fun that I saw at Stacey‘s…and I feel it’s only fair to let you know that from this day forward, I will be known as:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Eminence the Very Viscountess Boomama the Convincing of Porton Down
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

That kind of title will make any girl shake off the winter blahs.

See y’all tomorrow.