Friday, March 31, 2006

Reader Project

Bev has started a new project for readers of Romances. We're still in the infant stage (gooochy-goo!), but we're hoping it can grow into something interesting.

Bev's idea was to provide for readers a network of resources. Recommended authors, info on how to start up a blog, hosting resources, perhaps a community blog for those who want to talk but don't necessarily want to start up their own blog. One area we probably won't go into is graded reviews, promotions, or author/industry news.

You can check it out here.

Right now it's only a message board as we try to pull together what people want. Let us know.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Kristie made me (And Cindy)

It's all their fault.

1. FIRST NAME? Heh, heh. Tough question, actually. I'm so complex ;) In Real Life name starts with an S and rhymes with, well, let's not give away too much.... Blogger name, Suisan, I chose because it's close to Shushan (which means 'Lily' in Persian, and I always liked that name), and it's kind of almost close to a town name that means something to me. (And then after I thought I was being Oh, So Creative I remembered that it's the name of a Scottish Heroine from an Arnette Lamb book. Dim bulb.)

2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? IRL I've got the name my grandfather would have named my mother if his mother-in-law hadn't vetoed the name as sounding too foreign, or in her words, "Choctaw." (Why Choctaw? No idea. But to her anything Armenian, Persian, or Turkish, was "that Choctaw stuff.") So I guess I'm named for my mother or for my grandfather.

3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? A few days ago when I realized that if I went to go see a horse I know in Georgia, then I'd probably start crying and embarrass myself. So I started crying here. Odd.

4. WHAT IS ON YOUR DESKTOP BACKGROUND? A King Kong vs. Godzilla movie poster which my husband puts on MY COMPUTER everytime he uses it. I used to change it back to Cap'n Jack Sparrow, or various horsey pictures friends have sent me, but now I'm too lazy to bother with it. I sort of never see my desktop background anyway.


6. KIDS? Three.

7. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Yes. What idiot answers this question, "No."?

8. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL ? Yeah, kinda sorta. I mean I have the blog, but somehow I don't think of it as a "JOURNAL," but I don't know why I resist that word.

9. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Who, me? Sarcastic? I'm sure I don't know what you mean.


11. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Ummmmm. Yeah, but the person with me at the top of the jump would have to be someone very calm, not a hyped up dude with long hair and an attitude. If I could be really calm and quiet with my eyes closed for about a minute before I jumped, I'd do it.

12. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Don't ask me to choose. Well, hot cereal's easy: McCann's Irish Oatmeal.

13. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES? Huh? I'm a preppy at heart--loafers with no socks. In all weather. (I don't wear wide wale courdoroy pants, bermuda shorts, or pink polo shirts. But the sockless shoes remain.)

14. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Yes. I think. Most of the time.

15. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Maple Walnut or Coffee Heath Bar Crunch

16. SHOE SIZE? 7 wide? 8? 8.5? Who knows--it's always a new shoe size depending on heel height and manufacturer. How does anyone buy shoes online?

17. RED OR PINK? Red

18. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? I procrastinate until I get myself into stupid trouble when it comes to paperwork. I hate that I can't get a handle on it when I've identified it as a problem.

19. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My aunt. She had flaws as dark and wide as veins of black on a turquoise stone, but she loved me perfectly.


21. LAST THING YOU ATE? Coffee, strawberries and Wheat Thins. Odd breakfast.



24. FAVORITE SMELL? A combination of leather + roses + lime. Never quite found a perfume which has this in the right balance, but I'm still looking.


26. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO? Eyes--are they listening eyes? Or are they watching eyes? After eyes, hands--the knuckles and backs of the fingers. Ooooohoooh. Tingly.

27. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Um, if taking it off of Kristie's blog, sitting on it for a few days and then taking it off of Cindy's blog counts, then, yes, I like both of them.

28. FAVORITE DRINK? HOT coffee with thick cream. But I'm such a slave to caffeine I'll drink it warmish with lo-fat milk, but it's not the same. Coffee laced with sambucca is nice too. (OK, anything licorice works, really.)

29. FAVORITE SPORT? Is speed knitting a sport?

30. HAIR COLOR? Dark brown with a few bright white hairs which I'm oddly proud of. My hairdresser finds me "brave." (It's six hairs--good thing bravery is so easy to come by.)

31. EYE COLOR? Brown, almost black

32. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? No, but I used to. I prefer contacts, but the upkeep annoys me--and they're expensive too.

33. FAVORITE FOOD? Carmelized onions.


35. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? The Ten Commandments. Quick! I've got to go watch something else to get the taste out of my mouth.

36. COLOUR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? Orangey-red boucle sweater, actually.



39. FAVORITE DESSERT? Don't make me choose! Oh, alright....Coffee creme brulee, raspberry cheescake where the raspberries are *really* tart, my own apple pie made with heavy cream so the apples melt into applesauce, Peach pie (I make a good one), bread pudding, I'm sorry, I was supposed to pick one? Can't do it.

40. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? Too many to keep track of--right now focusing on The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Jay Fowler.

41. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Don't have one.

42. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV? No TV last night. Reading a budget report and a math curriculum comparative analysis. Both superbly depressing. Should have watched Top Chef instead.

43. FAVORITE SOUNDS? Any grazing animal munching hay. Penny whistle.


45. THE FURTHEST YOU'VE BEEN FROM HOME? Soviet Armenia in terms of miles travelled. Circus in terms of cultures sampled.

46. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? I can speak in full sentences.

47. WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN? June 1967 in Boston, MA

48.WHY DID YOU ANSWER THIS SURVEY OF YOURSELF? Because I am a talented, witty, engaging, and fascinating person and wanted to share with the world.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Veterinary story

Doug wants us to post stories relating to medecine (and he adds in veterinary as a further option). So here's mine--perhaps only slightly related to Veterinary Practice. For all the stories of young horses born in the early morning, or fresh stallions picking fights with mirrors, or horses hung up on fences, this story wanted to be written today, and so here it is. On a second reading, I'm not sure it has anything at all to do with Doug's contest, but there you go.

My aunt had a large Arabian horse breeding farm when I was younger. She focused on older bloodlines, and along the way purchased or leased many older horses. First, their ancestors were "close up" in the pedigree, and second, older breeding stock, due to fertility rates, tend to be a less expensive option. The result of this though was that in the few years that I lived on the property, I had to assist in a number of euthanasias.

Her barn was made up of an old two-story gambrel roofed structure. Off the side was a long aisle she added on in the 1970s. The aisle housed her "Stallion Row." Here were at least ten stallions along the left hand side. To the right were stalls which opened out to paddocks in the back. For the most part they were empty during the day, as the horses would basically hang out in the fresh air. But the stallions were on a pasture rotation wherein every two or three hours a stallion would be led in from his turn out past his cohorts.

It depended on the stallion, of course, but for the most part, each stallion in his stall used this opportunity to rush the door, scream, stamp his feet, and generally display his magnificence to that puny piece of trash daring to walk through HIS territory. (Almost all of it was posturing. I once witnessed a young stallion bust through his unlatched door during one of these tirades, and I've never seen a more confused looking horse as he tried to scurry back home into the safety of his stall.) You'd lead a horse in: much screaming and thundering. You'd lead a new horse out: even more screaming and thundering. And then they'd all settle down to munch hay for a few hours. But it was deafening for a solid twenty minutes.

Up in the old barn my aunt had an aged stallion who was never healthy enough to breed anyone. He was fully white, with a long wavy mane which dripped past his nose. He was going blind, so as you came into his stall he would roll his head to the side and tuck his nose towards his shoulder so he could focus on you. At this movement, his mane would fall almost to his knee. He was small and calm. I never heard him scream, not even to the mares who walked past his window. His teeth had been ground down so long before that he could no longer eat hay, but existed on various alfalfa mashes, traces of which stained his chin and neck a muddy green. His soles had dropped before he ever came to the farm, and his hooves were polished like glass on the underside. With this change, he had lost all traction, so he could only move in a slow shuffling manner, and if he lied down, he had some difficulty getting to his feet. So Karada spent his days warming his back in the paddock just outside his door, drooling green saliva onto his knees, or shuffling around the edges of his stall, looking for the two barn cats which lived with him. About once a week we would try to clean him up, and he seemed to tolerate it, if not fully enjoy the attention. He was a little too proud to be affectionate.

The summer he was 33 he slowly went downhill. But it was hard to tell with him until he quite suddenly, which is the way with older horses, took a significant turn for the worse. He developed "Sand Colic," which is a condition where the horse, eating dirt or sand, fills his belly with grit and is unable to digest food. We started dosing him with Metamucil, which added further smears of bright orange to his chest and chin. Then he stopped walking, and his legs swelled up to hot thick cylinders--you could barely see one front knee.

Our vet had lived on the property while she had been attending veterinary school, and so knew the horses well. We all decided that this horse was never going to "tell" us when he was in pain, and that he was not going to get better. The day came to put him down.

I'd already been through this a number of times, and I would go on to attend more euthanasias after Karada's. In general, you need to get the horse outside the barn if you can, make him comfortable, and give him a lethal injection. The horses don't thrash or carry on, so it's not dangerous to euthanize indoors, but you do need the horse outside once you make this decision. Getting the backhoe to the horse if the horse is inside a 10'x10' stall is a nasty business. Karada's paddock wasn't appropriate due to fencing and gates, so we walked Karada down stallion row.

One stallion, a young one, "chumphed" at him. His neighbor was an older stallion, who squealed once and kicked the wall he shared with the young stallion. Apparently, this means in horse language, "Be still. Karada's passing." Because it took almost a full half hour to shuffle this aged white old man down the aisle into the sun, and not a single horse made a noise the entire time.

I never saw it happen again.

Outside we tried to convince Karada to lie down, but he wouldn't. But he was so small and weak that we eventually levered him to the ground by slowly bending one leg and then another, supporting his weight along his neck and shoulder so as not to bruise him as he went down. And still he wanted to get up, so I sat against his back, leaned over his shoulder and stroked his neck. (For a strong horse, a vital horse, this never would have worked to keep him down, but Karada accepted the signal and stopped trying to roll to his feet.) I was not expecting this, but in this way, I knew the instant he died.

The vet started the injection as soon as we had him down, and I had been stroking his neck. Long stroke from the poll to the shoulder, sweeping under his coarse mane. Pat, pat at the shoulder. Then back to the poll for a long stroke to the shoulder, sweeping under his coarse mane.

On my third sweep under his mane, I patted his shoulder. And then it was meat under my hand. Not his neck, not his hide, but pat, pat on a Sunday Roast to make sure the rosemary and pepper clings to the surface. I stroked again, and knew before I started the path down his neck that he was gone.

I've helped horses into this world, and I've helped them out. For some there was panic or pain, for some just a quiet passing as rain dripped on the roof. But I've never before or since felt death happen in the instant between the end of the first pat and the contact of the second.

I didn't know Karada very well when he was alive. He just lived in that little run-in stall near the stairs. I'm not even sure if I saw a picture of him that I would recognize him, but once he died he stayed with me. He shuffles into my dreams from time to time--usually to tell me that something important is about to happen. I do know that the stallions knew exactly why we walked him past their doors, and I do know that in whatever way they could, they offered him some respect as he passed.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ten Commandments


No really, OH MY GOD! As in, GOD!

Just started watching the Charlton Heston's The Ten Commandments last night with my husband. Ended up laughing so hard that I actually fell off the bed and hurt myself.

Who came up with the idea that Charlton Heston could ACT!?!?!?!?!!!!

Today husband took a day off, and we cannot stop talking in bad Cecil B. DeMille-speak.

"Oh, Great One, Father of the Children seated before you, Follower of the God of Abraham, may it please you to pass unto me the platter laden with the flesh of the cattle? The cattle which died in service to our Lord, so that its flesh may provide this humble family with sustenance."

Which causes Husband to choke, but still muster enough strength to reply, "Oh Ye Follower of the God Which Has No Name, I happy to provide this small family with whatever offering I may humbly provide. Let us eat the flesh of the cattle so that we may gain strength to more fully serve the Lord of the Isrealites."

My poor children cannot break into the ongoing joke and are left knowing only that their parents surely are the weirdest couple whom ever walked the earth...

...In Service to our Lord.

Yul Brynner is great though. I think he and Edward G. Robinson are the only ones who can do ANYTHING with that horrible dialogue.

Both my husband and I watched it every year on Easter. (His family's Jewish, mine's Christian, and it was compulsory viewing for both of us.) And neither one of us realized how truly and completely terrible this thing is. Really needs a Mystery Theater 2000 send-up. (Like: Why do the Bedouins drink out of gourds? When did they grow the gourds? GOURDS, mind you, which are squash and need both WATER and a stationary population to grow? With no trees in sight, why do the Bedouin keep using wooden spoons. "Look! A tree, which could fuel a fire! Let's whittle it into a spoon!" Why does Moses' staff keep getting longer and thicker? Huh huh, staff. If the cloak Moses wears is "the cloth of the Hebrews" then why is he the only one wearing it?)

OK, enough said. Have to go upstairs to watch the parting of the red jello, eh, sea.

Edited to add: Apparently this guy doesn't agree with me. Brilliant? Masterful acting? Oh dear.

Monday, March 27, 2006

And when we're not reading

...we're glomming movies.

I was feeling kind of guilty recently about (Jeesh. There are so many options here.) not reading more. And then I started totalling the movies I've watched recently. I think I'm on a backlist glom for movies right now.

First, I'm reading a lot of Auden poetry right now--various anthologies. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl, and Pride and Prejudice by (duh) Jane Austen.

Then I've been listening to Dev'lish Mary by Hot Club of Cowtown, Hang on Little Tomato by Pink Martini, Commoner's Crown and All Around my Hat by Steeleye Span, Basket of Light and Early Classics by Pentangle. Somehow I cannot listen to any of these albums and do anything else. Some cause me to head-bop around the house looking like a total fool, and the Pentangle/Steeley Span ones MAKE me sing along in some sort of trance. (My daughter is just about ready to throw herself under a train if she is made to hear more high-pitched-female wailing from either Maddy Prior or Jacqui MacShee. She is not amused.)

So Steeleye Span basically lives in the computer. (Beware the Moss/ Beware the Moor/ Beware of Long Lankin./ Be sure the doors are bolted well/ lest Lankin should creep in... Very Creepy.)

If I can get Steeleye Span out of my head (Let us pinch him/ Let us prick him/ We will stab him with a pin...), supposedly I would be able to accomplish some reading and make a dent in the TBR pile (There was blood all in the kitchen/ there was blood all in the hall...). Finally, wallowing in 1960's Folk rock all becomes too much and I seek out other entertainment.

Movies I have watched recently (with the notable exception of A&E's Pride and Prejudice--I finally lent it out to a friend so I would STOP WATCHING it.):

Elizabethtown Meh.
A Room with a View A guy once tried to pick me up by saying that I
looked like Helena Bonham-Carter from this movie. It worked.
The Sea Hawk Sigh. Errol.
The Adventures of Robin Hood Sigh.
Bridget Jones's Diary Forgotten how much I liked this.
Love Actually Snape is great in this one.
The Scarlet Pimpernel Wrote about this a while ago. Best Percy yet.
Howl's Moving Castle Likey!
Capote Sound mix is strange on DVD--we have to watch it with subtitles, and then I keep falling asleep on it.

I'm sure I've missed some movies in here--but the point is that I'm spending my reading time watching DVDs. (This list is really disgusting at some level--how is it that I have time to go to Board Workshops, Board meetings, correspond on email, pick up kids from school, make dinner, help with homework--ANOTHER FREAKING POSTERBOARD PROJECT!!!--and clean? Oh, yeah. I don't clean.)

SBD Old Cranks

Monday, Monday.

Must be time for Beth's Smart Bitches Day.

This is perhaps not so much of a rant or a bitch, but more of a personal exploration of what sort of Old Crank I enjoy. I know the kind I don't like, the Old Crank with the heart of gold--there's some analogy there to the prostitute with the heart of gold as well.

Old Crank with a Heart of Gold only APPEARS to be an Old Crank. Actually "OCw/HOG" is only acerbic because he or she has been deeply wounded by love or honor in the past. This OC is not nasty and biting by nature, and as soon as member of the opposite sex who is reasonably the same age shows up, then OC's barbs will melt away, displaying the Heart of Gold previously mentioned. Yeah, but no thanks.

I'm descended from a long line of cranky old women. (I think there are some brothers in there who are not angelic.) I have ancestors who were executed as witches during the Salem Witch Trials. Think their neighbors enjoyed them much? No, I don't think so either. My great-grandmother was famous in our family for sniping at kids during Christmas, "Don't tear the paper!" Gee, thanks, Nana. Nothing more fun than slipping your fingers under the tape to carefully ease the paper off a present. Nana would pick up all the paper, smooth out the creases, and disappear up into her room, muttering all the while about the dangers of exuberance during celebrations.

Then she would appear again with her presents to us--all wrapped in strangely familiar paper with creases across the tops of the boxes. Adults would elbow us painfully in the ribs if one of us happened to point out that she had guilted us into providing her with free paper. (And no, we were not allowed to tear that paper either. Wrath of Nana was not to be incurred.)

My favorite Old Cranks are The Duchess in Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm, and Signora Castelli in Liz Carlyle's No True Gentleman. They are demanding, cranky, and brook no disagreement from their favorite male offspring. (Maybe part of their charm is that the heroes genuinely respect them?) There are so many wonderful scenes in Flowers from the Storm, but in this context, I especially love the scene wherein The Duchess is trying to intimidate Maddy; she accuses Maddy of not respecting her elders. (I'd pull out the quote here, but my book is in the bedroom guarded by a cranky, eh, sleepy husband.) Paraphrasing, Maddy replies that she thinks that as she gets older there is every chance that Maddy will herself be an Old Crank. Yes!

Opinionated, lively, intelligent, and strong women can turn into Old Cranks very easily.

Where this begins to slide sideways for me is when the Old Crank is set up primarily as a side-kick to the hero. This guy tends to have a Heart Of Gold, one which is melted by finding a female Old Crank (often the older nurse/governess of the beguiling heroine). There's only one Romance I can think of where this romance of the older male character works--as comic relief.

Errol Flynn has Alan Hale as his robust and older sidekick through most of his movies. In Robin Hood Alan Hale is Little John, but Herbert Mundin plays Much, The Miller's Son. Maid Marian's nurse is Una O'Connor, "twittering like a hen." Neither Much nor Bess are attractive, but when they meet he likes her sharp tongue. Soon she's twittering over him, rolling her eyes, and it's funny and sweet.

But to me this only works if the older characters start off as comic characters. I enjoy seeing the hero and heroine set aside some of their pride and defenses to come closer to each other. If the older secondary characters are also loosing their sharp edges, it all becomes too much like an old Boston Cream Pie. Mushy, wet, and too sweet. It reads to me as if there's a pink cloud of fuzzy love surrounding the central couple. Anyone who comes too close to the pink cloud is sucked in and emerges on the other side as a cooing, sighing turtledove. Ew. One per book please.

I would like a story about Old Cranks falling in love, but I would want that to be a romance on its own merits, filled with snappy put-downs and reality checks. I imagine the dialogue would be great, and if we could all stand a few euphemisms in the sex scenes for various sagging body parts, I imagine the sex would be great too. (All that experience!) If the Old Cranks were surrounded by idiotic young 'uns running off to rescue various TSTL heroines held captive at the top of the highest tower, I could get into the Old Cranks waving them good-bye at the door, Princess-Bride-style.

What I most object to is the idea that once the young couple are filled with love, then the loving glow they create washes over the secondary characters so that they are helpless but to fall in love themselves.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Site meter

I just put a site meter on the blog.

Oh dear, this is addictive. Must. Control. Urge. To. Check. Every. Five. Minutes.

One poor soul found me through a search for "Book cover with young bedouin."

Disappointed much?

Here are some I could think of:

Black Tents: My life Among the Bedouins by Carl Raswan

My Quest of the Arab Horse by Homer Davenport (The grammar in that title always bothers me.)

The Sheik's Bartered Bride by Lucy Monroe, courtesy of Bam

Not doing much on posting pictures. Blogger hates me and is trying to tell me ever so subtly that I really should finish cleaning the house. (It's almost ALL THE WAY clean, on both floors. My God, how did that happen? I guess it happened when I wasn't online checking Statcounter. Oh yeah.)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday crazies

Every Friday is a half-day of school, which means it's very hard to get anything done, but everyone somehow schedules their errands on Fridays.

This morning at 7 am I got my children up on time with a song on the air and a smile in my heart. (Well, I actually didn't sing them awake, but I didn't make myself hoarse screaming at them either.) Eldest daughter has a dentist appointment this morning, but she needs to go to school first for attendance.

By 7:50 two children had appeared downstairs but only one was dressed. The dressed one ate breakfast; the pajama-clad one got a very dirty look and retreated back upstairs. We have to leave the house for walking by 8:00, for car by 8:20. At 7:58 the formerly pajama-clad child appeared announcing that she needs to take a practice test before she goes to school.

"Eat," growls the mother. (And yes, you can growl the word "eat" even there are no gutteral rumbling sounds. It involves gritting your teeth while putting the "eeee" sound at the back of your throat.)

Finally all kids are in car, drop elder two off (youngest has no childcare Friday mornings, lucky me), swing out of front circle to park car so that I can go back to school office to pick up dental child. Cell phone rings. It's my husband saying that the dentist called him looking for me. We're late to the appointment. (WHA?)

I just hate mornings. The panicked, rushed, I'll-never-get-ahead-of-the-curve feelings never stop, but I keep thinking that tomorrow I'll figure out how to make it work.

After the dentist visit the eldest daughter, the youngest daughter and I all went out for hot chocolate (I decided not to take her back to school. Bad Mommy.) Then we went to hair salon to offer moral support to eldest as she got about 5 inches cut off. (SHE LOVES THE NEW DO!!) (Youngest got adopted my the manicurist who painted her nails gold with little green-dot-flowers. Then youngest wanted her hair washed--Man, is she good at getting what she wants.)

Picked up son from school, got a take-out lunch.

This afternoon, eldest daughter goes to a 1 1/2 hour art class, then home again. At some point we need to go to the grocery store too. This evening, all the kids and I will go to the public library to cheer eldest (sporting a new dress and new hair) as she performs a flute solo.

By the end of the day today I will have driven all the way across town 10 times.

Fridays are crazy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Babies--wherein I alienate all mothers across time and space

An SBD rant posted one day late:

Babies in Romance.
Kill me now.

A knife right between the eyes--here, I'll even hold still for you.

My qualifications for bitching on this subject:

I have three children.
I had natural childbirth for all three.
My first labor was 33 hours long (occipital presentation: "Sunny side up")
My first child had colic for four months.
I breastfed all my children past one year.
My infants slept in the bed with us.
I donated my breast milk to neo-natal wards.
I trained as a doula (childbirth coach) and volunteered with midwives in a public hospital where the local inmates were sent to give birth while guarded by gun-toting correctional officers.
I worked with pregnant mares on a breeding ranch for years.
In both of the above cases I have had "water" break on my shoes.
I am a stay-at-home mom.
I ran for the School Board to ensure that my children's education would not be compromised by budget cuts.
I've made at least four tons of homemade play-dough.
Over the years I brought all three of my infants (one at a time) with me to therapists so that I could learn how to battle chronic depression and anxiety and not use their presence in my lives as an excuse not to go to sessions.
I have been thrown up on.
I have been thrown up on by other people's children.
I used cloth diapers for my middle child and washed them myself.
I have sat up all night in an armchair trying to keep a child with an ear infection vertical because the ER doctor cannot see the infection and therefore will not prescribe antibiotics.
I have watched goo leak out of my son's ear after his eardrum ruptured from an undiagnosed ear infection.
I have fought with doctors on behalf of my children.
I have fought with my children.
I have gloried in their triumphs, laughing and sobbing as my daughter plays "Theme from Pirates of the Caribbean" as a flute soloist. (She's performing "Tomorrow" from "Annie" on Friday in the town library. And I have refrained from wringing her neck as she practices. Lord, how I hate "Tomorrow.")
I love my children and I'm proud to be their mother, and sometimes I wear Birkenstocks.

And yet, I do not really enjoy children, even my own children, to the point where my head tilts to the side and my face is overcome with a rosy glow as I gaze upon their innocent faces. I also hated being pregnant. I hurt all over. I was anemic (tired), cranky, nauseated, and leaking breastmilk from about week three. (Don't tell me breast milk comes in after labor--I'm apparently part-Holstein. It was thick like colostrum during pregnancy, but I still needed to change bras daily and smell like yogurt for months.) To my children's continual disappointment, I do not volunteer in the classroom nor do I attend them on field trips. Screaming at a group of children to shut-up does not endear one to their parents--I'd rather not deal with the repercussions.

Therefore, when I pick up a romance, I do not want to be treated to the blond-haired daughter of the heroine who is running away from her love of the hero. (Which Jude Deveraux book was this? He gives her a rose a day until there are bushels of roses, but he kind of forgets to actually propose?)

One day young adorable child wanders into bedroom of hero, crawls up onto the bed and wakes him. He sits up in bed to find her perfectly arranged on his blanket, at the center of the circle made by her freshly laundered skirt. She sticks her finger in her mouth, sucks thoughtfully, and then pulls her gooey finger out to ask, "Are you going to stay here with me and Mommy or ever and ever?"


Meanwhile, Suisan is fantasizing about going after the young gamin-faced child Lizzie-Borden-style.

To me, motherhood is not fulfilling. It doesn't fill me up. It is the single most ego-defying endeavor you can commit to. (Man, I'd like to go take a nap. That would make me feel better. Nope, the kids need a responsible Mom around.) It is ultimately gratifying, and I'm completely commited to the project at hand. I'm proud of myself and I'm proud of my children. I love them, but I don't expect anyone else to be enamoured of them. But it is not instantly fulfilling in that I do not feel better at the end of the day, I do not enjoy watching them on a playground, and I do not feel warmth and contenment ruffle through me as I watch them eat a wholesome sandwich I prepared with my own two hands so that they could have the most nutritional meal possible. I love my children--but caring for them is not an emotional act for me.

Of course, when other people love my children, I love that. But I don't expect it. It is expected, however, that you must fall in love with children in romances as you read about them.

The children in romances are always there to be loved in a soft-focus Hallmark way. Look! She picks flowers! Look! He rides a pony! Ewwwww. Get them off stage now before the farting and the screaming and the fighting begin.

Oh lordy, then there's pregnancy. Never is a woman more fulfilled than when she's puking into a chamber pot, basking in the knowledge that she will bring forth a daughter with the eyes of the hero or a son with the mother's hair. She's ever-connected through the ages to all the women who came before her, bearing the strong men of the Fill-In-The-Blank Clan. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

So, in summation, I'm working hard enough as it is to take care of my own kids. Please don't burden me with more when I pick up a romance to escape. Thanks.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Beth is celebrating the one year anniversary of Smart Bitches Day! Now there's a fine tradition!

(I keep meaning to post something ON Smart Bitches Day WITH the correct topic. Have failed entirely since, eh, August 2005.)

So to celebrate the anniversary, I'm making my first SBD post!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Pictures to raise my spirits

Who dat?

Picture by Carol Mingst of Nikandor, Phylip, and Eldar HD checking out a farm visitor.

Picture by Carol Mingst of the stallion Cantador showing (to me) breathtaking movement.

OK, those make me feel better.

Still feeling quite bluesy about difference of opinion with Board Member. Spending much time this weekend trying to decide how obssessed to be with School Issues. (I'll remain obssessed; it's hopeless to believe I can substantially step back. The question for me is, "Is there some part you can step away from in order that minor setbacks don't send you spiralling?" Considering giving up a sub-committee appointment.)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Facetious Wit and Sour Stomach

Yesterday I posted a letter describing a new idea. Doug asked that I post a follow-up.

Follow-up is that Mickey The Board President, who takes his role as leader of the group rah-tha seriously, hadn't read the letter until we got into the Board meeting, and started reading it before the meeting commenced. At first he thought I was completely serious and broke off reading to start peppering me with questions as to when I wanted to hold the meetings.

"Please keep reading."

"But if we hold the meetings during the day, then school staff and teachers cannot attend."

"Please keep reading."

Much chuckling ensued. Oh, I am a witty duck.

We never released the letter to the public, as we felt as if that would be mean to Ms. Fredericks. Does make it difficult now to talk about Powerpoint or family time without a knowing wink and smirk. Ah, the isolating quality of the inside joke.


In other news, I'm having one of those icky-political-things which crops up from time to time wherein I don't fully agree with a Board Member on an issue. We usually agree on everything.

This is simply me being sensitive, I'm sure, but we got into a conversation which has left a certain bad feeling in my throat. When we agree, generally I'm held up as being articulate, dedicated, insightful, principled, and smart. Well, that certainly feels nice. But then when differences of opinion crop up, the first conversation always seems to start with, "I thought you were part of the team."

We all want to believe that our opinions are so rational and principled that everyone who has two IQ points to rub together would instantaneously agree and lend support. So I understand where Fellow Board Member has hurt feelings because I didn't support her idea right out of the gate. But it deeply bothers me, in some sort of physical achey manner, to hear that I am expected to come along with the team because I'm now part of the majority.

Of course, I want everyone to instantaneously agree with me--since I am an obviously brilliant and principled person. Somehow to hear that I'm to come along with the team (although, really, I don't think that's what Fellow Board Member needs or wants) makes me nauseated. Maybe I haven't been principled and brilliant. Maybe I've been told that previously as an ego-stroking device.

In this instance at least, the disagreement isn't major. I voiced some hesitation about a proposed plan, but then said that I wanted the chance to talk about it further, since I'm always ready to discuss any topic publicly. This was enough of a signal to "my team" that I wasn't on board so that I've been chastised (non-verbally--a little too subtle to explain here). Then this morning, a Board Member who was once in the majority, but who is now in the minority, as I was previously for two years before the last election, a Member who has refused to speak to me for months, called me at home. She's so happy to have a friend on the Board, she says.

Eh, what?

We actually had a good conversation where I explained that although I have disagreed with her often (she supported closing an elementary school, I didn't; she voted against ratifying a union contract I had helped negotiate), I have never had an issue with her personally. We talked a lot about being in the minority--how you have to keep on saying what you want to say even if you know it will be voted down, how you have to stick to your views, even if they agree with someone's else's stereotype of you. I think she was surprised that I was so articulate, ahem, brilliant, ahem, and principled. She ended the conversation by saying that she hoped we could work together, and I ended by saying that I hoped we could still disagree respectfully. (I don't think she liked that part, but hey.)

So I called Fellow Board Member to say, "Hey. You'll never guess who called me this morning." Fellow Board Member replied, "Yeah. Well, I'm hardly surprised." Ouch. And this quickly turned to Fellow Board Member expressing surprise that I wasn't going along with the team.

I never ran for the Board to be part of a team. But it still hurts to hear that my opinions are valid when they agree with the Board President's, and my opinions are traitorous when they don't.

I have enough faith in everyone's mutual respect and ability to talk to now that we'll get through this. I don't even think the hurt feelings will last past the weekend. However, that first slug expecting loyalty to the cause still stings.

More later.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Letters of Complaint

Sometimes the public sends me letters of complaint which need to be promptly answered. I received one recently which caused me to take a step back and re-evaluate our policies. The letter below is one that I sent to the Superintendent of Schools. Since I'm not interested in naming Board Members online, I've changed their names. But the rest remains the same.

Mickey: A young single Law Student, also Board President.
Jane: A mother of a college-aged student.
Jill: A mother of five children, the eldest heading for college.
Jim: A father of three children, the eldest in Middle School.
Suisan: Me, mother of three children, the eldest in Elementary School.

----- Original Message -----
From: Suisan
To: Superintendent of Schools
Sent: 3/16/2006 10:51:58 AM
Subject: B. Fredericks's email

Dear Sup:

I think Ms. Fredericks is on to something here. Quote:

First I would like to file a general complaint. Meeting at 7:00 in the
evening shows a blatant disregard for those families with young
children. While I can only speak for my family, I believe many families
to be in the same situation, we would be at meetings were it not for
our nightly bath, book and bed ritual which falls smack dab in the
7-8:00 p.m. time frame.


I wholeheartedly agree that this is an outrageous practice and wish to address this issue promptly. The families who are deprived of one of their parents for even one evening due to meeting schedules surely are under stress. Since Mickey can't meet during the day because of class conflicts, and clearly anyone with children could never meet in the evening, I propose that we combine our child-bathing duties with our meeting schedules.

Just in front of the board dais is an overly large table, which during our meetings serves only to support projectors for Powerpoint presentations and to block the energy flow from the audience to the board. (And we all know how much the board needs those good vibes.) So if we do away with Powerpoint and replace the table with a large tub we could indeed bathe our children and hold meetings at the same time. (I'm sure the local cable channel will be careful not to direct the camera at the tub.)

Now, Jane's son may not want to participate, and I certainly can't speak for either Jill's or Jim's family, but I am sure my confident nudists (at least the younger two) would really enjoy a public display of bathing fun. I leave it to you to make suggestions to your family and to your staff.

It would add a certain amount of frivolity to the evening's events, and who could be angry at anyone who publicly and lovingly cares for their children right there in public view? What better way to judge someone's character than to watch those tender bedtime rituals between parent and child? I really think this is the way to go.

Since all meetings are open to the public, then I would suggest that anyone who wishes to partake do so. Perhaps a rule about swishing the tub clean after every use would be beneficial, and I would like to have the District Secretary post a note that water births really are going to be discouraged in the public meetings. (Maybe we could rent the tub out for water births for extra income to the District!!)

I am so excited about this new proposal!! Can't wait to see you later!

Take Care,



Just received a note from school, enclosed in its own handy-dandy ziplock bag, informing me that as of February 2006, we can no longer put regular alkaline batteries (AAA, AA, C, D) in the trash. The bag is to collect your household batteries.

But then you have to bring them to a special recycling center to have them recycled.

Ummm. Newsflash: This isn't going to work.

Curbside recycling encourages participation. Special trips to drop off batteries? Em, no.

Sometimes I don't like living in PC California

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Megan Tagged me

Maili, I know you tagged me too, but I apparently I can't run fast enough to get to home base and just keep getting tagged. I suck at playground games.

Four jobs you have had in your life:
1. Assistant to equestrienne in a circus
2. Legal Secretary
3. Retail manager
4. Politician (run away now before I start in on some weird speech)

Four movies you would watch over and over:
1. Room with a View (What ever happened to Julian Sands? Did Arachnophobia kill his leading man status?)
2. Pride and Prejudice (A&E, Colin Firth version)
3. Notorious (Cary Grant. Mmmmm.)
4. To Kill a Mockingbird (Gregory Peck as The Perfect Father. Mmmmm Hmmmmm.)

Four places you have lived:
1. In a Winnebago (circus)
2. In a semi-trailer (circus)
3. In a hay loft (circus)
4. In a circus (my current 5 bedroom suburban house)

Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. Project Runway (Carry On!)
2. Law & Order: Criminal Intent (Vincent D'Onofrio)
3. CSI (Guilty pleasure, sorry)
4. Cold Case Files on A&E w/Bill Kurtis. (Drives my husband crazy. He keeps commenting as he strolls through the room, "Do you think they'll catch him?" Hee.)

Four places you have been on vacation:
1. London
2. Williamsburg
3. The Grand Canyon
4. Zion Canyon, where we suffered through the worst service ever at the hands of a totally harrassed twelve year old waitress who got yelled at every time she went into the kitchen or forgot a glass of water at the neighboring table. We felt terrible for her, but the horror just wouldn't stop. My husband actually got up and started to help her serve at one point. A cranky old man at the next table threatened her with his cane and tried to walk out when she told him that the kitchen had run out of steak, but his family wouldn't help him get out of his chair.

(Husband and I realized that we had ordered the last two steaks and were terrified that cranky old man would beat us up, or the poor waitress, when they came to the table.) At the end of our meal the waitress asked if we wanted dessert, so we asked what they had. The poor thing sighed, and said, "Bumbleberry Pie." A tear started to flow down her cheek as she realized that she now had to start reciting: "According to Grandpa, bumbleberries are burple and binkel berries that grow on giggle bushes, so named because they giggle when the berries ripen and the bush begins to quake, and at the precise moment that they ripen, they giggle. If you were to eat a berry while it was giggling, you would spend the rest of your life giggling." It was the most excruciating experience ever.

Four websites you visit daily:
1. All the blogs listed on my sidebar
2. Amazon
3. Site for local newspaper
4. imdb

Four of your favorite foods:
1. Lobster
2. Butter
3. Chocolate
4. Coffee

Four places you would rather be right now:
1. In a tub of warm water
2. At the center of Colin Firth's heart. (Not a homewrecker nor a rabid stalker, but I would like to be there.)
3. Maui
4. On my Aunt's horse farm in 1983

Four friends you are tagging that you think will respond:
1. Oh, good grief. I've run out of names. Whoever reads this, please follow suit. It's fun.

Book list

Completely utterly behind in posting many many books I had intended to write about:

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

OK, well, I've written about this quite a bit recently. But I did go back and read it once again. (And last night I got my husband to watch the Anthony Andrews made-for-TV version w/Ian Mckellan and Jane Seymour. Hee.) This is SUCH FUN to read!!! Very silly, outrageous, so overwritten and overdone. Lud, Madam!

Killing Neptune's Daughter by Randall Peffer

Wow. Or maybe a "Wow minus" if such a rating exists.

Personal disclaimer: I read this book only because I had Mr. Peffer as an English teacher. He introduced me to Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five), Thomas Hardy (Return of the Native), Mr. Heathcliff, Thomas Mann (Death in Venice), James Joyce (The Dubliners), and Henry James (Turn of the Screw). He was insanely inspiring. (And for those of you who have read my archives and think that perhaps I once wrote a Eulogy of sorts for him: No, that was another English teacher. I have been very blessed to have had so many mentors.) I've known for some time that Mr. Peffer wrote travel pieces, did a search on him and discovered that he had written a novel.

Killing Neptune's Daughter is about a group of men who were friends as boys who have come back to a small New England town after the murder of a girl they grew up with. There is a possibility that the narrator is himself the murderer--very cool idea. The flashbacks are clear and vivid concerning a group of boys who are violent and drunk mostly because there's not much hope of a future for them in this small coastal village. But ultimately I think (Oh, Dear God, forgive me Mr. Peffer) that the ending doesn't work. Revelations are made which give the boys a reason to hate each other and to hate themselves. And it's just a little too much, or a little too contrived. I'm not sure that every randomly violent gang of boys "mucking around in boats" playing with sex and knives, hating themselves for not having any future really needs a single villain to blame for their self-immolation. Nonetheless I enjoyed the read.

Somebody Wonderful and Somebody to Love by Kate Rothwell

Oooooo. Likey.

These books are fully deserving of a review wherein I detail what parts I liked, what characters were the best, how the stories shifted slightly between the two books, how much I look forward to more Historicals, but, eh, the reason I'm doing this stupidly long lost in the first place is that I just can't seem to find time to sit down and write about these. If you haven't read these, you should. Mick in particular is great. (Also read Summer Devon's Futurelove. Also likey.)

Annie's Song by Catherine Anderson

Very nice. Annie is a misdiagnosed deaf girl who has been raped. The younger brother of the rapist, Alex, tries to make ammends and ends up marrying Annie so that the child she carries will have a legitimate name. Normally I hate and abhor stories surrounding pregnancy and early infanthood. (I've been pregnant a number of times and never enjoyed it much. I do not glow in the sure knowledge that I am bringing forth a wondrous addition to the universe. I vomit. I become anemic. I can't sleep. And my bones hurt. Therefore I am disinclined to read about the miraculous gift of pregnancy as I am seized with the desire to dope-slap every character so enthralled.) Annie's Song ventures into that territory of wondrous amazement, but really the truth of the story is in Alex's discovery of Annie as a person. DID NOT like that he sent her away, seemingly to extend the story. Overall, maybe a B. Liked Alex enough for an A, but the plot lowered the score a touch.

No True Gentleman, The Devil You Know, and The Devil to Pay by Liz Carlyle

Good grief. Did I read them in order? Is it possible? Because I never ever read series books in order. I think I read No True Gentleman first, but I may have read To Pay before You know. Maybe.

Eh, quickly. I liked Max from No True Gentleman, and Sidonie from Devil to Pay. (Tattoos? Really? Where exactly does one go in Regency England to get a tattoo?) Sidonie was quite wicked in her little temptation of Dev. Tie me up, Tie me down seems to work quite nicely. In regards to The Devil you Know, I had to go read some reader reviews to remind me what it was about--the back blurb didn't even trigger a memory. But now that I do remember, I'll say, "Ooo. I liked this one too. Very sexy." (But it's disturbing to have a read you enjoyed just waltz right out of your head like that.) Planning on reading more Liz Carlyle.

Slightly Sinful by Mary Balogh

Read it quite a lo-o-ong time ago, in the general scheme of things (Christmas?). Really really liked. Supporting cast was memorable and not annoying.

Lindsay glom: Tender Rebel, Gentle Rogue, Love only Once

I wanted to reread the "Pirate" story I remember reading oh so many years ago. Amazon was running a 4 for 3 sale (still are), and I couldn't remember if it was Tender Rebel or Gentle Rogue that I wanted. (Could not these stories be named "Yo Ho Ho! Regency Pirate Tale from 1980's!"? It would make backlist glomming ever so much easier.) I bought these three, reread Tender Rebel and Gentle Rogue and just couldn't bring myself to read Love Only Once (which I'm still pretty sure I've never read--although it's heavily referenced in both of the other books). There is nothing I could write about these books which are embarrassingly delightful which Meljean and Missy have not already said, and better than I.

The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo, the "Marvelous Chinese Conjurer" by William Steinmeyer

Please read this. It's wonderful. A British magician (Robinson) who isn't particularly articulate on-stage adopts the personna of Chung Ling Soo, a mystical Chinese conjurer. Steinmeyer is a magician and so gives wonderful insight into Victorian magic and Victorian culture. He points out that Soo is a much more successful "Chinese magician" than Ching Ling Foo, (an actual Chinese magician, from China, whose act Soo stole) because Soo more perfectly presents the Victorian audiences what they expect a Chinese Magic act to be. And then there are bits like this:
[Soo's assistant, Frank Kamentaro] always looked elegant and convincing in a Chinese cap and a silk robe, adding further authenticy to the act. It was another fraud. He was actually Japanese.
Although he didn't speak Chinese, offstage he was occasionally required to do the "translation" routine with visiting reporters so that Chung Ling Soo could appear suitably, inscrutably Chinese. Now the procedure was surreal in its complexity. The reporters spoke English, which was instantly understood by Kamentaro and Soo. Kamentaro repeated it in his own version of fake Chinese. Soo responded in a different fake Chinese. Kamentaro nodded and answered the original question in English. p. 243

Whew! I'm sure there are others in there that I've forgotten to write down, but I think this post's long enough for today. (Made it to the end, did you?)

Oh SHOOT! I just remembered I was going to write about Untie my Heart by Judith Ivory. OK, well, whatever. I'm not going back to add/delete at this point. I've got a few memes to post too. (gasp)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Day of Questions

Today is definitely The Day of Questions.

I have the whole house-warming gift dilemna below, which has caused me to ponder deeper issues (see comments).

But then I got a phone call from a friend which is REALLY causing the universe to tilt on its axis.

There was a drunken driving accident earlier in the week which got a lot of local press. Guy crashed into center divide, crashed into a tow truck, killing the driver who was standing next to it, and then flipped his own car. I've been glancing at the articles, but not paying much attention to names. My friend had to point out the name to me today.

The drunk driver is the father of my babysitter and husband to a fine and energetic woman, who is a mutual friend to us both.

It's so easy to hate drunk drivers (and again, drunk driving is not a Good Thing) and to feel obvious sympathy for the family of the innocent man who died in pain. But I also feel such sympathy for the family of the drunk driver. Sympathy for how his bad decisions and weaknesses spiralled out and dragged them in.

No man is an island.

I'm sure I'll figure out a way to say this kindly, probably to the mother, but the first question that came to my self-serving mind was, "How do I tell the teenager that she doesn't have to babysit for me on Thursday like we planned, unless she still wants to, but I'm really not asking because I think she's done something wrong or shouldn't be around my kids, but because I thought she probably doesn't want to deal with babysitting right now?"

This is a very small town. What's even worse about this story is that apparently some High School friends of my babysitter took it upon themselves to tell her that her father had been charged while she was at school and before the police had even informed the father or the family. I think the friends were children of local police officers.

Deep sigh.

I think I need to make myself some tea.

Best gift?

My sister's just moved into a new apartment.

I'd like to send her a housewarming gift, but all I can think of is either a gift basket wrapped in cellophane, filled with flavored coffees (yuck), waxy cheese, and inferior cookies, or a houseplant. I'm considering a chocolate-only gift basket which could hardly be unacceptable.....

What's your best idea for a housewarming gift?

Candles? Soap? Food? Tools? None of the above?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

March TBR

Night of Sin by Julia Ross

I really liked this book and this author. I'll need to address one kinda sorta almost major problem I have with it below, but as I do so, please know that I would recommend it, and I did enjoy it.

I totally fell for the cover of this book. I read the back blurb only so far as to see that the hero's name was Lord Jonathan Devoran St. George, and then didn't read the rest. (Gotta know the book's not a contemp with that name for the hero!)

Jack (Lord Jonathan D____ St. G____) has just returned from traveling in the Middle East. He is tracking a sacred object which has been stolen, and which is simultaneously being tracked by a group religious assassins. Anne Marsh, a principled, intelligent, young engaged woman, has just stepped off a ship and is walking to her aunt's house when she is jostled in the crowd. Suddenly, as Jack watches, a man is killed, and Jack tracks the assassin. Jack soon realizes, as does Anne when she gets to her aunt's, that the sacred object has been slipped to her. She is now in danger of being killed.

Jack visits Anne and convinces her and her aunt that not only is she in mortal peril, but that he is truly the only one who can keep her safe. Jack is great here. He is charming, powerful, polite, respectful, yet implacable. Everyone knows that Anne's reputation will suffer if she hies off with Jack without a chaperone, but after examining all the options, there really is no alternative. Besides, Jack makes every promise to keep her virtue and "her person" safe from harm.

As they drive towards Jack's family's estate, they begin a complex conversation. (As I seem to have fallen into an endless personal A&E Pride and Prejudice marathon--Yes, Cindy. I may very well go blind--this book was total enjoyment up to this point. The characters work, and the conversation begins on the right foot.) Eventually, they end up talking about passion and "conjugal rights", are waylaid by assassins, and end up wet and hungry in a gamekeeper's cabin.

Anne encourages Jack to show her what to expect on her first night of marriage with her fiance, and he, being trapped in a romance novel in cabin with wet clothes, a fire, and a heroine, ravishes her. Very nicely, I might add.

By morning they have to get their way to Jack's family and face the consequences. The St. Georges are not amused, but they welcome Anne even as they try to force Jack, who has been away from England in the unprincipled and exotic East for far too long, to return to his English responsibilities. The characters are well-drawn, and I enjoyed the power-struggle conversations. Anne eventually has to face her father, her fiance, and convince Jack to marry her. Both still have to drive off the assassins, face the villain, and tie up the plot threads. All of which is very well done.

So. I recommend this book. Jack is not what I would call tortured--but he is dark and slightly twisted. Anne is intellectually quite strong, and she's appealing and brave. The sex is graphic and sex scenes are long (chapters-worth). The writing is excellent too. Especially in the beginning. Having Jane Austen's characters flitting around in my head, I would say that Night of Sin *felt* right.

What troubled me about Night of Sin: Jack's deflowering of Anne, and the attraction of the exotic East, filled with sexual mores and religious cults so different from our own.

When Jack is trying to convince Anne's aunt early in the book that she must allow Anne to come away with him, he completely convinces them that he will keep her safe. He convinces me too. (Even though, logically, I know somewhere along the way Anne's engagement will be broken, and Jack will have sex with Anne. But for that moment, I absolutely believed that he would keep her safe during the trip to the ducal estate.)

Eventually, when he starts talking to her about virginity, and sex, and passion, and even during the sex scene itself, I couldn't shake the feeling that Jack had lied. Which I can expect from a rake on his way towards reformation with "the right lady," but from Jack it feels wrong. I never quite got over that betrayal of his early character--maybe he was simply too convincing to begin with.

Then, agh, there's the whole fascination with the mystic, exotic, corrupting influence of the East. My aunt used to call this "The Lawrence Effect" after T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).

There's a certain theme in Western culture where everything which comes from the mystic Orient must be a) different that English/Western culture and b) justifiably superior from its counterpart in Western culture only because it originates in the East. My aunt was involved years ago with a scholarly effort to prove that Armenians wove carpets. The main objection to this theory was the pre-conceived notion that only Muslims wove carpets. (We didn't have knotted carpets in the West, we didn't have Muslims in the West. Therefore, Christians, which we do have in the West, must not have knotted carpets which come from the East, because anything which comes from the East must be mysterious, different, and superior than that which comes from the West. It's a romantic world-view which is very hard to break through.)

And, as you all know by now, I have a long history with Arabian horses. I think they are superior to some other breeds. But are they superior because they come from the mystic East, bred for generations by black-robed Bedouin? Is a German Hanoverian horse intrinsically less valuable because it is not wrapped in black cloths of mystery, violence, and romance? I think both are horses, but to romanticize either one gets you in trouble soon enough.

Back to Night of Sin. Jack's mother thinks he's been unalterably corrupted by his stay in The Mystic East, where he learned erotic arts at the knees of black-clothed Eastern beauties. I don't begrudge her that impression--she's an English Duchess--and she still loves her son and wants to see him content. But what bothers me is that Jack and the book itself seems to hold up Jack's erotic training as a fantastic trait, which can only be learned in the Middle East and rightly purifies him of his Western illusions of false honor, prudery, and social stuffiness.

It's a little too reverential, a little too clean for me. Jack swears that he will not ravish Anne, and then when he does, he doesn't seem *that* upset by it. Because, after all, he was only following his native impulses and being true to his Eastern erotic character. Except that in the East, corruption of a virginal woman, or even worse, a woman belonging to another man, not only corrupts her, but also corrupts the corrupter. (To despoil your enemy's horses in the desert, let loose his stallion, and allow him to breed your mare. Intercourse with a lesser mare ruins that stallion's purity forever, making it impossible for your enemy to continue using him on his own mares.)

I still highly recommend Night of Sin, even with all the blather above.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Personal ad

This lovely young gentleman, athletic and bright, is in need of a new home. I do lust after him, I'll be honest. But I don't have the room or the pocketbook for him just now. I'd love to post a picture of his golden body and flaxen mane and tail, but you'll have to go watch his video instead.

He's a Davenport Arabian. He's four, complete (not gelded), and would like a new home please. His name is Ibn Sham.

And just as I was about to post his video, I got word that he has been sold. So, tuck your wallets back into your pocketbooks and just enjoy this lovely guy. If I recall, the new owners are Endurance competitors. Eat your heart out, Frank Hopkins.

View his video here.

I love his floaty movement, although with age and a little more conditioning I'm hoping that he'll stop "flagging" his tail when he runs. (Floaty movement: hard to describe--but he looks as if he's floating in air as he trots. Flagged tail: not curved and loose but straight and upright. Foals do this and Arabians keep the habit sometimes for a lifetime. Makes them look tense.) I also love that for a four year old, he has filled out beautifully--not awkward but smooth all over. He has a number of lines to Wadduda, the famous war-mare, and his metallic chestnut color is a trademark of the Antez line in Davenports. That's not some fancy spray sheen--those chestnuts (who have a tendency to be flaxen) truly shimmer. Mmm Hmm. I think he's yummy.

And Davenports are just the sweetest boys. They'd crawl into your pocket if they could. Pretty, sweet, athletic: what more could you want?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

First, discover how many screws you have

We bought young son a bed. And we bought husband two dressers. (We have the world's largest walk-in closet. And a very small vanity. Guess if you have lots of shoes then you'll never need to wash your face.)

We bought the furniture from IKEA.

Which means, of course, that it all needs to be ASSEMBLED.

Actually, I'm pretty good at assembling knock-down furniture. But every piece we bought has at least three drawers. (And I hate putting together the drawers. And I've been making drawers all day and most of the day yesterday.)

What to do while sorting four hundred types of screws and sliding particle board pieces together? Listen to music--wasn't in the mood. Solicit the help of the five year old? "Is it my turn yet?" Em, no. She tends to grab the exact screw you need and involve it in a very complex fantasy game which must be worked out at just this instant. Or, better yet, she walks off with the screwdriver so it can be the stable master to her herd of horses. So although I'd love to treat her in a non-sexist manner and encourage her use of screwdrivers and understanding of furniture assembly instructions, I've had to banish her from the room or start shreaking at her.

I ended up putting on A&E P&P again. This is all just too much.

And now I find myself using the most intriguing turns of phrase. My children are all looking at me with their heads tipped ever so slightly to the left, a quizzical and slightly angered look in their eyes. They'd like their more familiar mother back now, I assume. But I confess that I like trouncing around in my new syntax.

Maybe I'll put in a pirate movie later.

In other news, my son ADORES his new bed. He keeps running into the room to lie on it--back straight, arms at his side, perfectly positioned on the center line. One can only hope for so much adulation from my husband.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pride and Prejudice

I spent all afternoon yesterday watching the A&E Colin Firth version. (Saw it years ago, but actually didn't remember much about it other than, "Ooo. I like this one.")

And then I watched (in the evening) the newest version.

Lord help me. That's all a little to much romance to bear in one 24 hour period.

I liked Keira Knightly very much as Lizzie--thought her tongue through the teeth giggle was charming.

But the pacing of the A&E was so much better. (I guess this is why we need 5 hour movies.) Mr. Darcy needs time to simmer before he becomes open and passioante. And I may just need to watch the piano scene every morning before I start my day with a full freeze frame of Colin watching Lizzie.

I don't hate the newest version, but I'm not convinced that editing the book down to a few speeches and draping the Bennets in muddy house with peeling paint and broken chairs was all that necessary.

Off to buy a bed for my son. He has jumped on it, grabbed it by the bedposts and shook it, drawn on it, and generally mishandled it so much that it will fall apart one night as he sleeps. (Now THERE'S a tale for the therapist! "I was just lying there asleep when....")

Thursday, March 02, 2006

With a sword, a mask, and a rose for milady.

Here are my favorite heroes in no particular order, since I really could spend way too much time trying to parse the differences.

Percy (The Scarlet Pimpernel)
Captain Blood
Robin Hood (Disney fox version or Errol Flynn only. Costner: gack.)
Will Scarlet (various print versions of Robin Hood and ballads)
Dread Pirate Roberts/Wesley from The Princess Bride
Athos from The Three Musketeers and D'Artagnan from Ten Years Later
Captain Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean; The Curse of the Black Pearl"
Tyrone Powers' pirate in "The Black Swan"
S.T. Maitland from Laura Kinsale's The Prince of Midnight. (He gets wa-a-ay too prideful towards the climax and almost takes himself off my list. But overall, he's pretty yummy.)

Defining attributes:

Strong, handsome, smart, principled, lithe, athletic, and brave. Dual identities a must. (With the exception of pirates and Robin Hood) Must have either a fast ship or a fast horse. (With the exception of Robin Hood. OK. Maybe he needs his own category.) Must have the ability to completely confound and bedazzle his enemies using his language as his primary weapon. Must be paired with a strong, witty, fiery heroine who could be portrayed on screen by either Maureen O'Hara or Olivia DeHavilland. (Keira Knightley was cute in "Pirates" but cute don't cut it.)

Why I love them:

Dialogue, barbs, dialogue, wit, dialogue, and athletic grace.

The blood rushes to my head and my heart beats faster when:

They spar with the heroine; "The Black Swan"
Tyrone Powers: You can lower your pistols.
Maureen O'Hara: I don't have any pistols.
Tyrone Powers: Your eyes. I've looked into pistol
barrels that are warmer.

They spar with the villain; "Robin Hood"
Basil Rathbone, who has Errol at the point of his sword;
Do you know any prayers?
Errol Flynn: I'll say one for you.

They spar verbally with the villain while pretending to be a simpering fool;
Percy: "A duel? .... Odd's fish! You are a bloodthirsty
young ruffian. Do you want me to make a hole in a
law-abiding man?... As for me, sir, I never fight duels,"
he added, as he placidly sat down and stretched his
long, lazy legs out before him. "Demmed uncomfortable things,
duels, ain't they, Tony?"

And this last bit, the simpering dual identity, is critical. I like the vigilante-Batman, but Bruce Wayne is too butch to fit in this category. Not every hero (as in Robin Hood) needs to wear a mask, but there has to be that false innocence to every character of this type. "What me? Raid a castle? Oh, how you do go on." (Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.)

So now that we have a sense of what's thrilling about this type of character, let's move on to The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig. Yeah, it will only take a second.

If you pretend that The Scarlet Pimpernel was real (bestill my heart), then the premise of The Pink Carnation is that there is still one member of the merry band of floral spies whose secret identity has never been revealed, even into the present day. A Harvard Ph.D. candidate travels to England attempting to unmask him. (Yeah, him.)

Now take a look at the Bee-YOOO-tiful cover of this book.

I'm reading the book and thinking, "Him? The Carnation's a guy?"

Talk about a cover killing the plot twist. Can anyone look at that image and think that The Pink Carnation's male? So that "mystery" which the heroine struggles with for most of the book is killed before I've cracked the spine.

(Aside: This was why The DaVinci Code was so freaking frustrating for me to read. I'm screaming at the characters, "NEWTON'S TOMB!! NEWTON'S TOMB!!" But the Harvard-educated fucking symbol fucking experts can't remember that NEWTON'S TOMB has angels pointing at spheres. Ahem. Sorry.)

OK, so at least give me a hero who swashbuckles! Nope, not here.
OK, so at least give me some kicking dialogue! Nope, not here.
Oka-a-a-ay. So at least give me a great plot with an intriguing adventure. (Diamond earrings which need to be smuggled into France as a message from one spy to another? A letter written in code? A daring rescue of a foppish aristocrat?) Eh, nope. (Yeah, so there was one rescue of a guy in prison, but it happened OFF-STAGE!!!!!! ::Deep breath::)

Instead it's a McNaught/Garwood-like romance with a funny but foolish heroine (she doesn't eat the shrubbery, but she does wax on about how boring sheep are), and an attractive hero who courts her. I've read this before, and I like this kind of book. In fact, it was well done for that Avon Historical genre. But where's Percy? Where's the snap?

And, last Most Annoying Thing About This Book.


No, that's not me quoting "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes." That's what every single character, whether in present day, or in Regency England, or in Napoleonic France, says at some point in this novel. Argh? Urgh? I'll go with "La!" or "Odd's Fish!" anyday, thank you very much.

Quickest review possible: I liked The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, and I'll probably read The Masque of the Black Tulip, but I was disappointed with it. Too fluffy. Not crisp.

Have an overwhelming desire now to go curl up in front of my "Captian Blood" DVD. Or maybe "Sea Hawk." Or maybe....

Yeah, except that when I dive into an adventure movie on the Thursday morning of a School Board Meeting, I have to suppress the urge, for an entire evening, to leap onto the dias, whip a freshly sharpened pencil from my briefcase and exclaim, "Are you with me boys? All those who are ready to die for love of country and raises for teachers, follow me!" Rather unprofessional, that.