Saturday, November 29, 2008

So Close I Can Taste It!

I'm making an exception and posting on a Saturday, if you can believe it. What prompts such a post? Why, NaNoWriMo, of course!

It's been alarming to see the updates coming across from Twitter: people have been winning, effectively writing 50,000 words, for several days now. It has seriously prompted the competitive streak that usually lies dormant within me.

I wrote 3900 words yesterday, a record by far (it's been about 2000 a day). It started out slow and tedious, as I had to figure out some unknown geography in Italy. Somehow, though, it picked up and I was on a roll. Romance is in full bloom near the end of Part II of Doniamarie's Unnamed Novel. Romance is actually not easy to write - for me - but it's easier than some things, like madmen. So, my word count has exploded, past 45,000 and now I actually think I have a chance of finishing.

I'm cautiously ecstatic. Today, reality will intrude with obligations, but I'm sure there will NaNoWriMo-time. It's within reach now! Hehehe.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Graham Greene

A few days ago, I finished The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene. It's a short book (then again, anything's short after Rand) but it packs a heck of a punch. (I have not seen the movei, made in 1999 (I think), so I can't comment on that.)

Graham Greene (1904-1991) was a Catholic novelist, whose life spanned the entirety of the twentieth century. The End of the Affair is one of his four "Catholic" novels, focused primarily on faith. The main character is Maurice Bendrix, a writer, who befriends a woman while investigating his next novel. Despite her marriage, they begin a lengthy affair. The reader only hears of the affair through flashbacks. Bendrix, for almost the entirety of the novel, is angry at Sarah for leaving him and he looks back on their affair to try to find an answer to why she ended the it so abruptly.

Bendrix is consumed by hatred for Sarah and jealousy of her husband. He hires a private investigator and soon learns that he was not the only man she cheated on her husband with - there have been others. His hatred grows and there is little talk of faith, for this man has none.

It is not until the PI absconds with Sarah's journal that Bendrix finally understands. For me, this journal was the selling point of the novel, for this is a woman in agonizing pain, trying to speak to God...

"What do you love most? If I believed in you, I suppose I'd believe in the immortal soul, but is that what you love? Can you really see it there under the skin? Even a God can't love something that doesn't exist, he can't love something he cannot see. When he looks at me, does he something I can't see? It must be lovely if he is able to love it. That's asking me to believe too much, that there's anything lovely in me. I want men to admire me, but that's a trick you learn in school--a movement of the eyes, a tone of voice, a touch of the hand on the shoulder or the head. If they think you admire them, they will admire you because of your good taste, and when they admire you, you have an illusion for a moment that there's something to admire. All my life I've tried to live in that illusion--a soothing drug that allows me to forget that I'm a bitch and a fake. But what are you supposed to love then in the bitch and the fake?" (p. 80-81, Penguin Books, 2004).

This story is so amazingly raw and the pain is so very real for both of these characters. Eventually, Bendrix learns the truth about Sarah and his hate eases towards her. But he cannot bring himself to truly believe in a God.

If the Catholic-ness of the book turns you off, don't depair. There is very little Catholic about this; it is more about faith in general. I've never read anything so powerful but yet simple and unpretentious. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Finally, A FO!

How long has it been since I had a finished project? So long, that I don't even know! Yesterday, I finally finished the Diagonal Blanket!!

Here are the details:

Yarn: Lion Brand Homespun (4 1/2 skeins)
Color: Gothic
Needles: US 11
Finished size: 44 x 44

I'm super happy with it - just because I finished it - and I hope it's intended person likes it. It'll be a great lap blanket! And it only took me eleven months to knit - though I did go on serious hiatus for about four of those!

My dad informed me that the scarf I made for him - two years ago! - is too thin. It's a foot wide! I give up. He's never worn it, though he swears he's going to this winter (I've heard that before!). He even picked out the yarn for it! So, like I said: no more presents unless specifically requested.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Longview LYS

On Saturday, we had a reason to go three-fourths of the way to Longview, Texas. In doing so, we came temptingly close to the Longview yarn shop: Stitches n' Stuff. Of course, we had to make the detour as we hardly ever get up that way - it's an hour away from us.

I'd been to this LYS once before and thankfully I remembered what it looked like; it's very difficult to spot. There cannot be a worse location for a yarn shop, but the lady said they were in downtown Longview for 19 years (!!!) and had just been out in the middle of nowhere for 5 years. Honestly, they are so far north of the interstate highway that it makes it difficult to stop if you're just passing through East Texas. But, I didn't mind the extra drive.

This LYS is owned and operated by two older sisters who've obviously been knitting for fifty years or more. They were super sweet to us. As for the store, they carry mainly low to mid-range yarns and I couldn't, for the life of me, find exactly what I was looking for. This is forever my problem! But it was fun to look, as always. Their store had more miscellaneous things than I would like to see in a yarn store - figurines, trinkets etc. But what they do have are tons of knitted-up projects with the patterns easily accessible and cheap! I love seeing something knitted up and the pattern right there, for the bargain price of $2.

My mother, upon seeing these samples, wants me to make a sweater vest. I tried telling her that I do not do sweater vests - in any capacity. But, I had to admit, the floor sample was gorgeous.

It was such a treat to go to a LYS, even if there was a drive involved.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sookie's Play Day

These pictures of Sookie were taken over the weekend when the little girl finally perked up after her surgery. She really is adorable and, as you can tell, she loves laps. She's still too small so we're feeding her like crazy - and she's eating like crazy!

Yesterday, my dad was recuperating from his own surgery so I took the afternoon off to help him out. We sat on the back porch for about three hours, I think. We let Sookie out and, as I wrote on my novel, we watched her play.

Let's see, she found and ate a worm (ew!), chased butterflies, climbed a small tree, ran like crazy from the barking (fenced in) dogs, sharpened her claws on mom's crepe myrtles, and rolled around, back and forth, on the concrete. I've never seen anything cuter than her, stalking some insect. She's so small and nonthreatening to us! It's so refreshing to watch something so innocent.

I watched her listen to all the sounds of the country and found myself hearing things I usually don't - a frog, a new bird... It must be overwhelming to the senses for one so small - no wonder she likes being inside, away from it all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

1000 Pages, Conquered!

Atlas Shrugged is finished; I'm through with it. Outside of the pleasure of knowing I can conquer a 1000 page book, there is also a sense of nostalgia for Rand and her brand of thinking.

The other night, I went to Schlotzky's to get a sandwich. Debating whether to take AS in, I decided to get a few pages read, and I hate sitting there, with nothing to do but stare into space. I was alone, of course, and had to wait for a soccer mom with two screaming children to order before me. She took forever! After ordering, I went to get my drink and the soccer mom approached to do the same.

The soccer mom apparently saw my book and exclaimed, "You are holding my favorite book of all time! It changed the way I think about everything!"

I smiled, said something like "Yeah, it's interesting" and went to sit down.

So let me say this: I understand Rand's point of view. I know why she thought the way she did. She came out of communist Russia, born in 1905. She starved, saw the work camps, and the darkest face of communism to ever plague the planet. It's no wonder she embraced capitalism and thought it was the greatest thing ever.

I guess my problem with Rand is not with Rand herself but with the unnerving fact that people either love the book or hate. They either use it to qualify the Republican stance on little government and no regulation or they shake their head, roll their eyes, and blow Rand off as nothing more than a crazy egoist.

Is there no middle ground?! Am I the only one who can read it, not for the selfish egoism part of it all, but for the story? Surely not. I know there are others out there. Maybe it's because I'm not an extremist, I never have been. And I'd much rather understand the Republicans - a party I thought I was supposed to follow because my parent's did - than not know what they stand for. And they do not, I repeat, do not, follow Rand's philosophy.

What does Rand believe? Any involvement of the state in society is fatally flawed. Society cannot advance unless the "men of the mind" have free reign to invent, produce, and lead. Without these men, society stagnates. Society is better when these men are rewarded for their accomplishments, not impeded by regulation and taxes.

This novel is set entirely against God as well. Rand specifically goes after Augustine, the architect of much of Christian dogma.

I am glad I read AS. Rand is a phenomenal writer. Do I subscribe to her ideas? Not entirely, no. I think full blown capitalism won't work just as a full-blown democracy won't work. Alan Greenspan subscribed to Rand's ideas, his wife was a member of Rand's inner circle back in the day. Greenspan deregulated, deregulated, deregulated, and now the entire world is paying the price. Regulation is good in, like many things, moderation.

My next book, to counteract Rand's anti-religion stance, is Graham Greene's The End of the Affair. One of our profs has been pressuring me to read it for about a year. Right now, it's slimness looks awfully appealing! of Sookie.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fairy Garden Class

When my mom and I venture to our favorite nursery, Blue Moon, we've always been intrigued by their Fairy Gardens. In case you haven't heard of them (I never had before this!), they are miniature gardens planted in all kinds of small to large containers and are accented with small furniture where the fairies hang out when no one is watching. See below...

The Blue Moon property is filled with these cute, adorable gardens which use small plants to look like trees and bushes. We found out later that the ladies at Blue Moon have won two State Fair competitions for their gardens (though, it may have more than two, I can't recall). Their gardens are a work of art!

My mom and I found out they were teaching a class on Saturday and we enrolled a month ago; we've been excited about it ever since, anxiously awaiting our class. We started out with this...

Though the class was a bit expensive, you're given the above container, good potting soil, small rocks, one big tree-like plant, and two smaller plants. You have to buy the furniture. Here's how ours turned out....

I think it's pretty good for two novices. Notice that the walkway is purposeful: there's an entrance and exit. Some of the ladies had random piles of rock that had no entry or exit. How do the fairies get around, then? Anyways, I couldn't resist the St. Francis, though I'm not sure he and fairies would get along. The furniture is not easy to see as it's iron but there's a gate, a bird bath, and a chair where our fairy can sit and rest her wings.

We've already picked out two other pots around the house in which to do our next fairy gardens. So cute!

The ladies at Blue Moon left us with a marvelous quote from Hans Christian Andersen, spoken by a fairy:
“Just living is not enough... One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”