Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Real Men Don't...

Just became aware of this from my niece's Facebook page: Restore A Voice.

(Photo removed, 05/09/2013---but you can find it by going to that link.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

All That Glisters

All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgement old
Your answer had not been inscroll'd
Fare you well, your suit is cold.

 — The Merchant of Venice

(Turns out the original word is "glisters," which I think is even better than "glitters") 

Fiction Friday: February 22, 2013: "Joy School" and Elizabeth Berg's Katie

Madame L read "Joy School," by Elizabeth Berg, years ago. When she saw it the other day lying dusty and forgotten on a shelf, she didn't think, Oh, Madame L must put this in the giveaway pile, but rather, Oh, Madame L wants to read this book again!* 

So Madame L did read it again, and, Dear Readers of Madame L and Aunt Louise, Madame L wants you to know you will probably find this one of the best books you've ever read, too.

Katie is 12 years old, going on 25, except for her extreme cluelessness and naivete. In "Joy School," she and her sister and father have just moved from Texas to St. Louis, Missouri, where she had the usual army brat's hard time finding friends and fitting in. She lives in the world of the 1960's, when a girl that wore too much makeup was automatically branded a slut and worse, and when, if your father hauled off and hit you or your older sister, no one would do anything about it.

Wait, that makes it sound like a depressing and unhappy book. But it's not. It's called "Joy School," after all, and that's what it's about. The joy doesn't come just because Katie wishes for it, but after some hard and embarrassing mistakes she makes, just like every 12-year-old girl does.

You don't have to have lived in the 1960's or grown up on an army base or had a mother who died and a father with an anger management problem to get right into Katie's world.

Usually Madame L does not deign to read the pages in the back, the interview with the author, the questions for the book club, and so on. But this time she did, and she found out that Katie is the heroine of another book, "Durable Goods."

Challenge accepted: Madame L found "Durable Goods" at her local library and devoured it. This is the story of Katie before she moved away from Texas. It's probably just about as good as "Joy School."

Again, Madame L deigned to read the back pages, where she found out that there's a third book about Katie, "True to Form." Elizabeth Berg says she wrote this one because a fan told her she "had to know" what happened to Katie. Madame L has to know, too, so she'll be checking this book out of the library.

Madame L found on the insides of the covers of these books that Elizabeth Berg has written many books, some of which Madame L will also be checking out of the library.

*Because even when she is talking to herself, Madame L of course uses the third person.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Do the best you can...

"Do the best you can until you know better.  Then, when you know better, do better."

    ― Maya Angelou

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Love Your Pet Day

Oh, puhleeeeeze! Yes, someone (who? that's what I want to know!) has decided that today, Feb. 20, 2013, is Love Your Pet Day.

Just to show how much I love my pets, I will NOT be posting any photos of them today, even though I happen to have---

Oh my dear, you won't believe it, the most adorable little movie of Mada taking a bath---

And that's just the tip of the iceberg---

blah blah blah (smoochie noises) blah blah blah blah  (smoochie noises) blah blah blah blah blah (smoochie noises) blah blah blah blah blah....

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lerrys, Our Venezuelan Son

Another reason to be participating in the Huntsman 140:   Lerrys died in January, another victim of cancer.

The world lost one of its brightest lights when we lost him. We know you are happy, Lerrys. We are the ones who are sad, missing you.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Flying Pigs

I'm sure this is some kind of character flaw, in someone's book anyway, but I'm not apologizing for it: I just can't stay serious even in the face of greatness. 

So, I was preparing for a meeting where we would be celebrating the life of  William Stafford. We were supposed to share one of our favorite poems of his and then a poem we had written in "response" to it.  Other people's poems were similar in tone and length and subject matter and downright seriousness and intensity....and perfection. In fact, I was intimidated by their poetic skills, but I went ahead with the one I'd written.

I shared "A Message from the Wanderer," the first poem of Stafford's I'd ever read. 

The poem hits the nail on the head, doesn't it: how we may imprison ourselves while dreaming of the stars, how freedom finds us, and how we may help the others break free. 

And I hope you'll think my poem also hits some nail, anyway, on the head. Here it is:

When the Pigs Started Flying

I asked one of them:
Which of all the impossibilities 
are you celebrating?"
The pig looked me up and down.
It was a baby pig.
A piglet.
"All of them," it said.
"One for each of us,
the flying pigs."

(C) 2013 Louise Wynn

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Attempt Everything

"Few there are that rightly understand of what great advantage it is to blush at nothing and attempt everything."
---Desiderius Erasmus

Thursday, February 14, 2013

This Is MY Mommy

Today at the gym I ran into three women I know, with their children. Sometimes I don't even remember the women's names, but I remember the children's names. So I chatted for a few minutes with  Boston's Mommy, Aliyah's Mommy, and Cy's Mommy.

Precocious little Aliyah reminded me, when I said "Hi" to her, "This is MY mommy!" She hugged her mom's neck tightly to show me how much she loves her wonderful mommy.

I remember the three kids' names because when I was a nursery assistant last year, I got to know them better than I've known most of the adults in our ward, even the mommies of the little ones, whom I saw only at the beginning and end of nursery, a hectic time when we couldn't stand around chatting. 

I was thinking of mommies two evenings ago when Jeff and I were going through a bunch of old photos on the main family computer. We were looking for the pictures we'd taken on our trip up the Hejaz Railway to Mada'in Saleh, and we found some of our wedding photos, too.

In one of those wedding photos I saw my own "mommy" on that day, looking amazingly beautiful and full of love and light. I'm almost 100% positive it was because she was happy for me on that wonderful day, not because she was relieved to have me out of her hair. 

Eventually I'm sure I'll think of something more profound to write about mommies --- and I promise not to post it for Mother's Day. And eventually I'll post some of those photos. But I guess all this is just a Valentine's card to my mother, whom I love and miss.

For now, I'll just add that every time I see a beautiful sunrise or sunset, or the mountains and trees and wildflowers around here, or the Steller's jay that hops up on the back railing every day, or anything beautiful in nature, I wish I could call Mother and tell her about it. She was a great listener and sympathizer and she loved the beauty of nature and taught me to love it, too. In fact, she taught me all the good stuff I know about being a mother and a person and she forgave me all the ridiculous mistakes I made.

So, thanks for being MY Mommy!



Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Curious Incident of the Squirrel at the Oak Tree

...Or, an original observation on the squirrelliness of squirrels particularly in the beautiful fall weather of northern Virginia, when they are gathering nuts and reinforcing their nests for the winter; and, I think, making valuable if injudicious Darwinian use of their time by acting so squirrelly that the "bad" genes (i.e., the most squirrelly ones) are weeded out before breeding season begins...

...Or, how I learned to be afraid of those kinds of bicycle pedals that you have to clip your shoes into:

Jeff and I were riding our bikes along the asphalt trail that runs behind the houses all around the Sugarland Run Drive loop. He would usually let me go ahead of him because I usually went slower than him. I'd like to think this was partly because I always rode my mountain bike, which had (and still has) very fat and very nubby tires, while he rode his street bike, which had (and still has) very thin and very smooth tires.

But I have to admit it was (and still is) mostly because he can just ride faster than me. I know this is true because when we have traded bikes, he STILL goes faster than me.

Anyway, on this day, a beautiful fall day in northern Virginia, he was, as usual, letting me go in front....when all of a sudden, a squirrel ran down an oak tree and onto the path in front of me.

I braked as fast as I could because I didn't want to run over the sweet little thing.

Jeff had been riding about 15 meters behind me, but my stopping here caught him up to me. He called out, "What's wrong?" I called back over my shoulder, "Squirrel!" (And I'm not even a robot dog...)

The squirrel ran across in front of me, unharmed, and waited like a good little pedestrian on the other side of the path, and I started going again. So we were all okay.

Then the squirrel decided to run back in front of me, maybe because it was homesick for its oak tree, or maybe because it enjoyed watching us freak out.

So I braked again, and this time the squirrel stopped in the middle of the trail as if to say, "Huh?" And then it started running again, just in time for my back tire to run over its tail.

This time Jeff was so close to me that he was about to run into me, even though he braked as fast as he could. So he did the next thing, which was to step out of his pedal and put a foot on the ground.

But he had both of his feet in those clip-on bicycle shoes, clipped into the pedal, so when he tried to put his left foot down, his bike just tipped over, him with it.

As he lay on the ground saying a lot of words and expressions which don't bear repeating here, and I ran back to him saying, "Oh, I'm so sorry! What happened? Oh, dear!" and many other idiotic things,  the squirrel, which had run back up its oak tree, sat on a branch about 4 meters above us cursing at us in squirrel talk (imagine Donald Duck on his worst day) and throwing twigs and pieces of bark down on us.

True story.

Yet, having been persuaded by many people that the clip pedals will make my Huntsman 140 trip much less difficult, in about a week or so from now I'll be getting a bike that has those kinds of pedals you clip your shoes into, plus shoes with clips to clip into those pedals.

So I'm following the advice of my trainer, who, by the way, had an incident much like this (minus the squirrel) with his own wife.

This is his advice: Before I take my new bike out on the road or even on any trails, I'm going to find a parking lot where I can practice riding around and around, going through all my gears, and making sure I'm very comfortable twisting my foot so I can get the shoe clip out of the pedal clip without falling over.

Also, sometime between now and June 15, I'll learn the correct terminology for those shoe and pedal clip things.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fiction Friday: February 8, 2013: Killing Floor

If the title itself is off putting, then you may want to pass on this one.  Because, yes, it has violence, blood, and gore, some use of modern adaptations of venerable Anglo-Saxon verbiage, and even some love scenes (but not like those disgusting love scenes in romance novels, know what Madame L means?) between consenting (heterosexual) adults.

However, this first Jack Reacher novel, by Lee Child, is a great read. Madame L highly recommends it for her pals and all of Aunt Louise's readers who like thriller/detective/action/suspense novels.

Jack Reacher is nothing like Brother Cadfael, but, then again, he's just a modern version of him: An ex-Army guy (or, in Brother Cadfael's case, a fighter in the Crusades) who has killed but only when it was necessary and wants only to help the little guy. (King Solomon was right: There is NOTHING new under the sun!)

The introduction to the book gives fascinating insight to the author's process and success. How did Lee Child come up with Jack Reacher's name? Why did he decide that Reacher will always win? If he always wins, then what's the story going to be about? What's the conflict? Ah, Dear Readers, read the introduction and weep.

But here's what kills Madame L (metaphorically speaking): In the Jack Reacher movie that just came out, our hero, who is six-foot-five and weighs about 250 pounds, all of it muscle, is played by Tom Cruise. Who is kidding whom?

Then again, Madame L read recently that Lee Child thinks Cruise did a great job in the movie. Hrmm? At any rate, Madame L will not be seeing the movie for the same reason(s) she has not seen any movie with Cruise in it for several years.

What Madame L is trying to say is enjoy the book. Then, if you're a Tom Cruise fan, let her know what you think of the movie.

Oh, by the way: Madame L does realize that she did not mention anything about the plot of "Killing Field" nor indeed follow any of the usual "rules" for book reviews. If you don't like it, then write your own review.

Happy reading!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groundhog Day

Looks like we'll have six more weeks of winter weather here, since if good old Punxsutawney Phil had come out of the ground anywhere around here this morning, he would have seen his shadow. 

I read that in Pennsylvania, he didn't see his shadow, so they're expecting an early spring. But guess what: I don't envy them at all. Here I am living in a paradise on earth, where even the winter weather makes me feel good. 

Also, I'm going to be doing a lot of hunting for frog eggs again, which will give me lots of time to enjoy the winter! So I'm ready for whatever this year brings.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fiction Friday: February 1, 2013: Groundhog Day

Of course that's what Madame L is going to mention every year at this time, one of her favorite all-time movies.  And Madame L is going to watch it, again, tomorrow.

Here's a scene with a math lesson:

And here's the math lesson that goes with the scene.

Maybe Madame L will try to solve the problem(s) this time. Let her know if you try, too, and what your answers are!

The Huntsman 140: June 15, 2013

Here we go! I'm going to do it with Neva and Laura this year, just like I said I was going to do last year after Neva did it.  Here's the video Laura put together from Neva's ride in 2012:

Here's the link to my personal page with the Huntsman 140 group.    If you want to donate, that would be great. But do you know what would be even better? To join us on June 15.

Do you want to come ride with us? Please do! Join the HCI Fitness Team, and get ready to go. Or sign up to volunteer at one of the aid stations, or just come along to help us make that very long bike ride. When you watch that video, you can see how much everyone helped.

Here's what Neva wrote in an email message a few days before that ride:

"I probably won't actually ride the entire 140 miles, because the time limit requires that one ride faster than I can ride. But they have a "SAG" service, that will bring me forward to lunch so that I can finish with the pack, i.e. 'Bring in the Pack.' The plan is for everybody to ride the last mile to the Huntsman Institute together. Jeff Warren, the man who started it all and began a ride from Reno last Monday with friends will lead the pack. And they will bring Echo, an 8 y/o girl who lost her leg to cancer, up that last mile, "Echo's mile." They will attach a trailing bike to one of the cyclist's bikes so she can ride that last mile with "the pack." As I said earlier, at first I wanted to complete the course on my own, no matter how long it took. But now, the beauty of everybody finishing together, of getting help to bring you forward - it's really like my journey with cancer. I couldn't have done it alone."

And here's what she wrote afterward: "I met my first goal of the first 70 miles before having to be "sagged" forward. I got to Eureka high school in about 5 hours, took a short break and got refueled, then rode 9 miles downhill in just over 22 minutes. That was fun. Then Laura drove me forward to the lunch stop at Saratoga Springs. After lunch I rode another 18 miles before calling it quits so that I could get to the Huntsman when the rest of the pack was arriving with the little girl, Echo. I got there just at the tail end."

I realized last summer, when I started training on my own, using my old mountain bike, that I wasn't going to make it on that one. Neva offered to let me use a bike of hers, but lately I've realized that I'll need to train on the  bike I'll be using on that trek.  So I'm hoping I'll be able to buy a better bike sometime this month or next.

I'm really training now, with a real trainer who is helping me get stronger and increase my aerobic capacity.  I won't be posting about this every day, though, because these training sessions are a strange combination of boring and really hard.

And it's a lot of stuff: warming up on the rowing machine, pulling a sled with 90 pounds (that was yesterday, my first day with that, and I'm sure we'll be increasing that weight as time goes on) up and down the basketball court fast and slow and frontward and backward; squats and lunges; weights and leg-lifts; and of course stretches. You get the picture.  And we've just barely started.

Plus the 5:30 am spin classes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with the loud music and the instructor yelling things like, "Come on! If you thought you could come here at 5:30 this morning and not try your hardest, then you might as well leave now. That's right, you know where the door is." And so on. As you can tell, I'm loving it.