Friday, March 29, 2013

March Book Report

First off, let me share this list of "new modern classics with you.  What do you think?

Of the 15 books on this list, I have read 1.  One.  The Life of Pi, which I liked very much, but I still can't figure out how they made it into a movie.  I need to see that. (I couldn't figure out how Oprah could make The Color Purple into a movie, either, but I'm glad she did.)

Three of them (The Corrections, Middlesex and Gilead) have been on my reading lists for several years.  One of them (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) was on my wish list so long it changed price four times.
And I was warned not to read The Road.  So I haven't.

Anyway.  On to what I have read this month.

As I am still working my way through The End of Your Life Bookclub, I read On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan.
Yeowch.  This is a short novel, but packed with full characterizations and tense plot devices.  It's all about a couple who are about to have sex for the very first time on their wedding night.  Intrigued?  I'll just leave it at that, but just know that it is a painful book to read, emotionally.

I listened to The Paris Wife, which was pretty painful, as well.  I had read about 1/2 of this book several years ago, but I knew where it was going -- I spent a whole semester with Hemingway's books in grad school and really had no desire to know anything more about him or his failed first marriage.  He's not a favorite.  But so many friends have recommended this book, and I had a few extra credits on Audible so I thought I'd give it another go.  Glad I did.  The reader was very good, and I felt a sympathy for Hadley that I didn't get when I had read those same pages.
Still not a Hemingway fan, though.

I did another re-read P&P, after watching two versions of it on TV -- one was an 1980 BBC series that reminded me of the CBS Children's Film Festival episodes that we would watch at Grandma Hunley's on Sunday afternoons.  Yawn.
The other was the Keira Knightly/Matthew MacFadyen film from 2006.  Nice.  Brenda Blethyn  is a great Mrs. Bennet, and I have a little tiny thing for Donald Sutherland, who plays her suffering husband.

But if you want to watch P&P, your best bet is to find a copy of the 1995 BBC series, starring Colin Firth as the very best Mr. Darcy.  Ever.

For April, I've started reading The Good House by Ann Leary and listening to Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  Oh my.  Go get these.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Meatless Monday. Or Tuesday. Whatever.

You know that posting a meatless recipe or picture every Monday just isn't going to happen.  But it's a great idea, and in the spirit of being like all the other kids (read:  bloggers), here's my first MM post.

I found some beautiful eggplants at the grocery and went searching for a MM recipe -- I thought this "Jewish Eggplant Lasagna" looked promising, and not too difficult.  You can find the recipe here, and believe me, it's worth trying -- this was delicious.

When I was in grad school, I worked for Jewish caterers; several of my office mates worked for this company (run by two feisty and fantastic women) for a little extra cash and asked me to join them.

When I went to work my first event, here's what I knew about Jewish cooking:  no pig.

After months of de-veining chicken livers, rolling grape leaves, baking noodle kugels and serving Bat Mitzvahs, Bar Mitzvahs, and Rosh Hashanah dinners in some of the fanciest homes in Akron, Ohio, I knew Jewish cooking was a lot more than an absence of bacon and sausage.

The women taught us not only about the food, but about the traditions surrounding the food and the religious significance of the dishes we served.  I was completely awed by them and what they taught us -- plus, I was taking a course in modern Jewish literature at the time, and was engrossed in Isaac Bashevis Singer, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth and J.D. Salinger.  It was a cultural turning point for me, and I didn't even have to leave Ohio.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Badass vs the Bullies

This is hard for me to confess:    I am smart.

This is hard to confess, too:  I am no badass.

Passing 50 (the age, not the speed limit), I am much more badass than ever before, but I am still stifled by the "good girl" label.  (Read this article -- I think most of you will know just what I mean.)

I can write a pretty badass letter, but then have to edit it, good-girl style.

I know the badass thing to do when it comes to injustice and intolerance and have been known to take a stand and call people out on their bad behavior.  But then I feel bad -- I am a genius at the apology/"I'm sure you had your reasons for your bad behavior" note.

But here is the most embarrassing confession of all:  I was afraid to be smart.

Oh, not from the beginning.  I was one of those kids with my hand up all the time, like Hermione up there.  I always had an answer, and usually it was the right one.  It felt so good to know stuff.

I knew how to read the newspaper before I went to kindergarten.  I don't know that I was advanced or gifted -- I just know my dad wanted to be sure I could spell my last name (which was phonetically difficult at 13 letters long) before I started school.  Sitting down at the kitchen table with him and sounding out words was the best part of my day, every day.  I learned to love letters, words and sentences, and was soon reading everything I could, from cereal boxes to McGuffey Readers to the Little House books to the dictionary.

And so when I went to school, I continually flung my hand into the air as soon as I had an inkling of the answer to my teachers' questions.

My teachers were the first ones I wore out.

On my kindergarten report card, Mrs. H wrote, "Georgie knows a lot about a lot of things, but she needs to learn to keep her ideas to herself."

I know.
But that didn't stop me, as my dad thought it was fantastic that I knew a lot about a lot.

In first grade, my beloved Miss Wilson regularly taped my mouth closed.

I know.
But that didn't stop me.  Although she used the tape to keep me quiet during class, she also directed me to the greatest books and encouraged me to read, read, read.

I loved to learn, I loved telling people how dad had taught me all these fascinating things -- how plants worked, why the Indians made arrowheads, all the capitals of all the states -- and I loved to show everyone just how smart I was.

Until the other kids started making fun of me.  That stopped me.

I don't know if we called them bullies in 1968, but we would today.  Back then, I thought of bullies as boys (and only boys) who would knock down other boys and stand around and belittle them; there seemed to be a lot of bullying on my school bus, which would send our bus driver, Mr. Nobbe, into a rage -- he scared the bejeebers out of me on the bus, although he was a friend of my dad's and a very nice guy away from the bus.

But my bullies were girls.  Girls who seemed to get a lot of joy in calling me "teacher's pet" and "smarty pants."  Each year it got a little worse, because I didn't say anything back -- I was hoping that if I didn't argue with them, maybe they would accept me into their popular clique. Yeah, that didn't happen.  When I got my glasses in 3rd grade I was immediately dubbed "4 eyes," "Miss Weirdo" and they said my glasses were goofy, which I would have believed, if it weren't for the fact that my glasses made everything better, especially looking at trees, cross stitch and reading.  (I think I was the only girl to have glasses until the 5th grade.)   The next year, my grandma made me the cutest dress -- black and white plaid wool, short sleeves,  white peter pan collar and a little red bow at the neckline.  I loved that dress, and boasted to the girls in my class about how my grandmother had made it for me.
"Eww.  A homemade dress," one of the girls sneered, turning up her nose.
I never wore that adorable dress again.  (Years later, mom told me how badly that had hurt my grandma's feelings.  Of course, I apologized.)

I think that's when I started covering up my smarts.  I let other kids answer, and tried hard not to correct them when they were wrong.

And then I started thinking about boys.  And everyone knows, if you want a boyfriend in the 5th grade, you can't be smarter than he is.  So I started dumbing down in class.
Sitting on my hands as my arm twitched in the desire to fling itself up.
Lowering my head and pursing my lips when someone gave a wrong answer.
Hoping to be considered less brainac and more girlfriend material.
Pretending I just didn't know.

But I knew.
I never landed an elementary school boyfriend.  But I kept holding back; by now, the regular barbs and snotty comments (and, in the 8th grade, comments on my body shape written all over my campaign posters for class vice president) diminished me, making me unsure of myself and unaware of my true worth.

And that, for want of a smarter word, sucks.  I don't want any other girl to ever feel that way -- my own girls, the girls in our little school, the girls in my town.  The girls anywhere.

I am happy to report that the bullies didn't finish me.  I survived middle school, high school, college and life after developing some deep and abiding friendships with strong women (and men), and with the constant encouragement of my mom and dad.  I'm still a little afraid to be smart now and then, but have learned that smarts are a gift that needs to be appreciated, developed and shared.  When someone compliments my writing/music/art/craftiness, I have learned to say, "Thanks, I read/practice/pay attention a lot," instead of doing the "Ah, shucks, it's nothing" nonsense.

To me, one of the most important things in the world right now is empowering girls to throw their hands into the air and give the world answers.  To not listen to the bullies and their lies.  To understand their own  potential.  To know that they can change the world.
And the best way to empower girls is to educate them  -- research shows that educated girls and women can help reduce poverty, child mortality and the risk of HIV infection.  I'd say that's worth educating girls, wouldn't you?
And the best way we can educate them is to use our own smarts -- write letters, sign petitions, make a donation, see a movie.

I'm hoping to bring a screening of Girl, Rising -- a film about educating girls and changing the world -- here to my home town.   Watch this trailer -- I'm fairly sure you will want to go to the movies with me:

We just can't let the bullies win.  Be a badass for for your sisters.

I know my dad would approve.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Three of the Happiest/Deadliest Words

On two of the very best days of my life, I heard these beautiful words:  "It's a girl."

I cannot begin to imagine the pain of other mothers who hear those words, knowing that "It's a girl"  is a death sentence.

Today, International Women's Day, pledge to make it stop.

Read the article here.  Write your Congresswoman/Congressman.
Go here and sign the petitions demanding that China and India to end their anti-woman policies and to enforce laws already in effect.

India and China are beautiful countries full of beautiful people.  But it is time for them to change.  It's time for all of us to change.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Two Whole Socks -- A Goal Accomplished!

After years of trying, crying and ripping out, I have finally completed two socks!  How satisfying!

I must thank Christie for the kick in the pants -- that is her hand-written recipe.  She has knit socks for every member of my family (plus those cute little sweaters still hanging on our fireplace mantle!)  and they all love them, so I thought I would try to knit another pair for everyone.  But don't hold your breath.

Christie's little sweaters:

Yarn:  KnitPicks Stroll Handpainted, County Fair
Needles:  dpn's, size 2
Pattern:  Christie's
Time:  (This is always Clay's big question -- How long does it take to make these?  I will just tell you this -- if I sold these, and charged even minimum wage for my time, you couldn't afford them!)  I am going to guess that each sock took me about 10-12 hours.  Of course, those hours were scattered over several months.

Cute little toes:

Cute little heels (look, they make a rainbow!  Yes, finishing these has made me rather giddy!)

Not-so-cute little cuffs.  I goofed.  Sock #1 (on the left) had a tidy little k3, p1 ribbing, but when I cast on and started Sock #2, I wasn't thinking, and did a k2, p2, and didn't realize it until I was halfway down the leg.  Boo.

What I have learned:  1) Measure.  While I thought I was making these for me (since I knew they would have a few mistakes), Clay thought I was making them for him.  (Really?  Do these look like Clay colors?)  He tried the first sock on, and said, "Great work, but it could be a little longer in the foot."  (First clue he thought they were for him.)  "Would you wear these?"  "Sure," he said.  (Second clue.)  So, I made the second sock longer, then ripped out the toe of sock #1 and knit in 10 more rows.  But I never did measure his foot, as I should have.  He hasn't tried these on yet, but crossing my fingers they fit!  (I still will be surprised if he ever wears them out of the house -- these might be at-home wear, like his kilt!)

2) Knit both socks at the same time.  I think if I knit one cuff, then the other, then one leg, then the other, etc.,etc., etc., I would have a better chance of them looking just the same.

3)  The most important lesson I learned is that I want to knit more socks.  I have two more skeins of the Stroll in my yarn bin, plus I am wondering if the yarn Clay brought me from India might make good socks?  (Did you read his blog post about wandering through alleys trying to find yarn for me?  That is love.)
While I didn't get that endorphin rush that many sock knitters seem to have, they were an enjoyable, easy-to-carry-around project that I know the recipients will appreciate -- hand-knit socks are like a loving hug on your feet.  Sappy, but true.