Books I read this week: July weeks 3 and 4

Here’s what I read at the end of July- lots of non-fiction, but quite excellent non-fiction.


Careless People Sarah Churchwell is about the state of America in 1926, the year that Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby. It covers so many topics, and illustrates so clearly what was influencing and inspiring Fitzgerald. One of my favorite things that she points out was that in 1926, when cars were still fairly new, traffic lights were even newer, and they weren’t codified. So a red light might mean stop in one area, but it might mean go in another. When you take that idea and apply it to the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, suddenly it takes on a different meaning. It’s really an excellent book, and I highly recommend it.

The Murder of the Century by Paul Collins centers around one of the most gruesome murders in US history (at the time), that occurred in 1897. Pieces of a body were found scattered around New York, and while the police investigated, two newpapers, run by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst battled it out to report on the mystery. The lengths they went to in order to outdo the other and to have headlines that would sell papers were crazy.  They often had reporters at crime scenes before the police got there, they made wild leaps of logic, they turned the investigation into the story they wanted it to be. It’s fascinating, and proof that there wasn’t a “golden age” of journalism where every reporter strove for the truth.

Everyone Behaves Badly by Lesley MM Blume is about Ernest Hemingway’s trip to Spain in 1925 with a bunch of his friends and the things that happened that inspired his book, The Sun Also Rises. I find Hemingway fascinating, and this is a beautifully researched and written book, not only because it brings to life this period in history, but because it illustrates just how Hemingway created his own “character”, the way that readers would see him to this day.

Missional Motherhood Gloria Furman was ok; I think I had my expectations too high. It’s about how motherhood can be viewed from a missional/ministerial perspective. There’s good stuff, I just wanted more hands on, practical insights.

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe is incredibly good. It’s the story of Vera, a 17 year old who was recently diagnosed as bipolar, and her father Lucas who left her and her mother when she was young. When Lucas comes back into Vera’s life he offers to take her to Lithuania so that they can discover more about their family history. Their trip is narrated by Lucas and through emails that Vera writes to her boyfriend Fang.  Over the course of the trip the truth comes out about the psychotic break that prompted Vera’s diagnosis , as well as her current mental state. I’m not really doing it justice at all, but I highly highly recommend this one.


The Poe Estate by Polly Shulman is an awesome middle grade book about a library of things that exist in books. There’s a mystery at the center of it (the book, not the library), and its a super fun read.

Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck is a novel about Zelda Fitzgerald. Set in the later years of her life, it’s narrated by a nurse who works in the mental hospital where Zelda lives, and parts of it are made up of autobiographical information that Zelda writes for her.  It’s very engaging and stays quite close to the facts. I really enjoyed it.

 

 

Summer challenge sticks

This summer I decided to bypass the complaining about not having anything to do by coming up with summer challenges. We have challenges that we choose from each day to do together, and then another set that are for when the girls are individually bored and need something to do on their own. I wrote all of them on Popsicle sticks and color coded the tops of the sticks with washi tape to indicate what category of challenge it is. (Mon-Friday we pick from a different category.) Then each category got it’s own little plastic box that is conveniently separated into two segments so that we can keep the already done sticks away from the still-to-do sticks. It’s worked pretty well so far; the girls are excited every day to find out what’s on our stick for the day, and it gives some focus to the day.

Here’s the list. There are more movies and games than we will actually use, and obviously those are geared to the games and movies that we have (as are the trips), but you could easily make an inventory of what you have or want your kids to experience.

COOKING CHALLENGES:

  1. Make pizza
  2. Make pancakes
  3. Make chocolate covered strawberries
  4. Make a cake
  5. Make snow cones
  6. Make tortillas
  7. Bake a pie
  8. Make donuts
  9. Make pudding
  10. Make rice krispy treats
  11. Make cupcakes
  12. Make popsicles

CRAFTING CHALLENGES:

  1. Create shell creatures (collage items and googly eyes on to shells)
  2. Make art with pastels
  3. Paint with watercolors
  4. Paint like Pollock
  5. Scratch Magic Fashion
  6. Draw a background for your sister to stamp
  7. Create rock monsters
  8. Make a multi media picture
  9. Make a basket from newspaper
  10. Use the collage box
  11. Make friendship bracelets
  12. Sew an animal
  13. Make a mosaic
  14. Paint a thing (a paper mache animal from the craft section at Target)
  15. Make things with Playdoh
  16. Color with the rubbing plates

TRIP CHALLENGES:

  1. Go to Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
  2. Go to Obstacle Warrior Kids
  3. Go to Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium
  4. Go to Kimbell Art Museum
  5. Go to Forth Worth Science Museum
  6. Go to Amon Carter Museum
  7. Go to Kidmania
  8. Go the the Aboretum
  9. Go to the Perot Museum
  10. Go to NickelRama
  11. Go to Dallas Zoo
  12. Go to Dallas Museum of Art
  13. Go to Heard Museum

ACTIVITY CHALLENGES:

  1. Nerf Gun battle
  2. Go swimming
  3. Play in the hose
  4. Water gun battle
  5. Go roller skating
  6. Go to the splash pad

INDIVIDUAL CHALLENGES:

  1. Do LinkIt puzzles
  2. Do a jigsaw puzzle
  3. Play with the pattern blocks
  4. Do Eureka puzzles
  5. Make pictures with tangrams
  6. Do QBitz puzzles
  7. Play with Gravity Maze

MOVIE CHALLENGES (a mix of movies they’ve seen and some they haven’t yet):

  1. Boxtrolls
  2. Winnie the Pooh
  3. Prince of Egypt
  4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  5. Matilda
  6. Nanny McFee
  7. Cats
  8. Wizard of Oz
  9. Jungle Book
  10. Ernest and Celestine
  11. Hotel Transylvania
  12. Shaun the Sheep
  13. Into the Woods
  14. Tink and the Neverbeast
  15. Cinderella
  16. Emperor’s New Groove
  17. Mary Poppins
  18. Snow White
  19. Sound of Music
  20. Tarzan
  21. Cats Don’t Dance
  22. Pippi Longstocking
  23. Muppet Movie (They get to choose which one)
  24. Little Mermaid
  25. The Pirates
  26. Beauty and the Beast
  27. Brave
  28. Monster in Paris
  29. Hello Dolly
  30. I need to come up with another one because it bugs me that there’s not an even 30.

So that’s our plan. We’re also doing some educational stuff, which we’re calling Science Camp, which I’ll write about in another post.  The girls are reading a lot, and there’s never a dearth of paper with drawings all over them.  We have a new trampoline, and Tiny is taking swimming lessons; just how summer should be.

Random thoughts

We are in Texas! We got here four days ago and are making ourselves at home. Our stuff won’t get here for another month at least, so we’ve already made more shopping trips than I would have thought possible. We’re gorgeously placed for “run out and pick up something” shopping, we have a Walmart literally 3 minutes away, and two Targets within 10 minutes. Things are coming together in spaces in the house- the school room may be together before anything else because we’re getting everything for it here, rather than waiting for the shipment. I put one desk together today and will put the other together tomorrow, and the huge whiteboard shows up tomorrow. We haven’t started school yet, we had to wait for a few pieces of curriculum to get here, so we will start on Monday. We are still the Flying Butler Academy, although we have added a “house” system to the school ala Hogwarts. The girls are both in Dragonfist House and will earn and lose points throughout the year in support of their house. Students in Dragonfist are clever, feisty, and like treasure.

We got our air shipment (1 pallet of “essentials” that included our school stuff) and I discovered that I’d stuck some quilts in there. A couple were quilts that I’d made in Tokyo, so they’d never been dried in the dryer before. So of course they got thrown in for a wash and came out of the drier all gorgeously crinkly and wrinkly. There are few things better than a crinkly quilt. 🙂

Speaking of washing, we have a washer and dryer! And the dryer actually dries things! In half an hour! And they come out dry! It’s like a little miracle every time. 🙂 It honestly is glorious to be able to do a bunch of laundry in a row though. I hope I never get to the point where I take that for granted.

B went to IKEA the day we got here and picked up some mattresses, so we’re all sleeping on comfy mattresses on the floor. The girls will continue to use theirs when their beds get here, and the one that B and I are using will go into the guest room.

I love that it’s almost Fall and so a bunch of new books are going to come out. There are biographies by Grace Jones, Carrie Brownstein, and Drew Barrymore, and Mindy Kaling’s new book of essays, plus new novels by Kenzaburo Oe, Margaret Atwood, and Salman Rushdie that all look incredible. I need some new blood, I keep finding myself in one of those “I have a million books and nothing to read” moods. Right now I’m reading a book about haunted locations in New Orleans, which makes me happy. I think after that I will finally get around to reading Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead which is a private detective novel set in post-Katrina New Orleans.

I think that the album Disintegration by the Cure could be an album that exists in the goblin kingdom in Labyrinth. Doesn’t it sound like magical music that would back up David Bowie walking dramatically around places?

We met our neighbors on the right today (we already met our left side neighbors, they are an utterly delightful retired couple) and they have a little 4 year old, a 2 month old, and a dog. The mom is super nice and we’re happy to have them next door.

We also found a great cupcake store; the girls are very happy. The cupcakes are a little big- none of us actually finished the whole thing- but the flavors are fun and the cake itself is delicious. The girls have been a bit obsessed with cupcakes after watching a bunch of episodes of Cupcake Wars.

We’re in the middle of reading the second Harry Potter book and the girls are SO sure that they know what’s going on and they totally don’t. It’s super fun. We’re going to watch the 1st movie soon, I’m excited for them to see it. Tiny’s a bit worried about the end when Voldemort’s face is there, but I think it will be ok. We’re going to see how they do with this one before we decide if we keep reading and go on to book 3. I hope so, because it’s my favorite, but if it’s too scary then we’ll wait. No point ruining it.

I’m so behind on So You Think You Can Dance that it’s not even funny. I’ve been keeping track of who has gone home, but I haven’t seen any of the dances for a couple weeks now. The girls don’t know yet that Neptune went home, they’re going to be upset about that. They really really liked him. I did too.

I have dye to dye my hair red, but I haven’t gotten around to doing it yet. Maybe tonight…

We watched Pitch Perfect 2 the other night- super cute. I was impressed with how it worked as a sequel but wasn’t just a rehash of the first one. I do wonder though if it freaks Jack Black out how much Adam DeVine acts and sounds like him. It’s slightly weird. Is it coincidence or an act? I don’t know. Maybe they’re secretly related and DeVine took a different last name because he wanted to get jobs on his own, not because of his relation to Jack Black. That could be a movie in itself.

I think that’s all I’ve got. Book post coming sometime soon, and posts with pictures from our travels coming as well.

The Prodigal Son

This last Sunday, Bruce and I were asked to give talks during the main meeting at church. (In the LDS church we don’t have a paid ministry, so people from the membership of the church are asked to give a talk – like a sermon, I guess- each week.) We were asked to talk about the parable of the prodigal son, and it really struck a chord with me. I ended up with quite a lot to say. I thought I’d share it here.

 

We were asked to speak about the prodigal son today, and pondering this parable and its implications for us has been such an enlightening experience. I will be using a lot of personal examples, because this parable is about individual souls.

I heard a lesson about the prodigal son once where the teacher challenged us to not assume that we were the father, (benevolent, loving, forgiving), but to take a deep look at how we function as the other characters in the story, and that is what I would like to do today. I don’t know that we are ever the father in this story (even if we are earthly parents of earthly children who stray from the gospel) – at its base this is a story about how we interact with God and how we view and react to how others interact with God.

The father in the story runs a household, and one of his sons comes to him asking for his inheritance early. He wants to live his own life on his own terms. The father allows this, and the son leaves. He enjoys his life of reckless spending (did you know that that is the definition of prodigal? It’s doesn’t mean wayward. I had NO idea.) and finally comes to the realization that he has wasted his money and has no further way to support himself.  He realizes that the servants in his father’s home have more to eat than he does, and he humbles himself and returns to his father’s home to beg for the chance to be a servant.

We are, all of us, that prodigal child. Every day, in different ways, we step away from our Father’s home and recklessly waste the time that we have here on earth. Some of us do that in big ways and find ourselves far from our Father’s house, some do it in small ways and maybe just find ourselves just outside the door. But every one of us finds ourselves in the position of needing to humble ourselves and return home.  Sin makes it impossible for us to have residence in His home or in His presence, and so we return as supplicants.

But as the parable teaches us, the Father is standing with arms outstretched, not even standing- the scripture tells us “when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” . The Lord is always waiting, ready to forgive us when we return. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, it tells us in Ephesians that  ” you are no longer called outcasts and wanderers but citizens with God’s people, members of God’s holy family, and residents of His household.” – Ephesians 2:19

I bear testimony that no matter how lost or far from God you feel, He knows exactly where you are. I went to college at the University of CA in Santa Cruz, which is about as far from a church school as you can get. It was extremely easy for members to come to college and then just never go to church. A friend and I were stake missionaries, and part of our job was to track down people whose records had been transferred to the student ward and let them know when church was and encourage them to come. Sometimes this was really straight forward, but other times people were quite elusive, especially if they lived off campus. We basically had a list of names in our heads all of the time and we just kept an eye out for them. One of them was Fred.

One quarter toward the end of the year, I was prompted to take a beginning Chinese language class. It sounded insane but kind of fun, and I like that combination, so I signed up. I figured that maybe I’d use Chinese in the future at some point, because I really felt prompted to take it. I went to the first class and realized that it really was just insane. Chinese is extremely difficult, and my other two classes were going to be intense as well. But I decided to stick with it. The next class came, and the next, and I realized that Chinese was not going to happen. I needed to get out of this class or I was going to flunk, but the only class I could transfer into was being taught by a teacher I had taken classes from before and had sworn I would never take a class from again. But it was my only move, and I felt like it was the right one, so I went in and pleaded for him to make space for me in his class, which he did. I showed up to class the next day, this class that I would never have chosen to take, and there was a roll sheet being passed around. I took it and as I went to write my name I noticed the name above mine. Fred.  I passed the roll on and then passed a note to Fred that said, “Are you the Fred who is LDS?” His head popped up and he asked how I knew who he was and I told him that we’d been looking for him since the beginning of the year and it was time for him to come to church. And he did.

The Lord knows where we are. He knows our hearts and He knows when we are ready to come back to His house.

But there is someone else in the parable- the older brother of the prodigal son. I said at the beginning that I don’t think we are ever the father in this story, and that’s because we are the son, and we are the older brother, and we get to choose how we respond when those around us repent. In the parable the older brother is resentful and angry about his father’s rejoicing and forgiveness and judgmental of his brother.

As I thought about this, I initially thought, oh, I don’t do that. But then the Spirit chastised me as I realized that, oh yes, I certainly do. There was a situation with a friend of mine, where in my view, she was wronged. Her ex-husband and his new wife went through a repentance process and when they announced that they were being sealed in the temple, I was resentful and angry, just like the brother in the parable. I didn’t feel like they had repented enough, though it was absolutely not my call and none of my business. We are not the father. We do not get to set the terms of other people’s repentance.

In another situation I know, a person committed a sin with very public consequences. They worked very diligently at the repentance process, and were able to return to full fellowship in the church. Everyone in their ward rejoiced with them. But then they committed that sin again. And because the consequences were public and easily seen, everyone knew. And though the person diligently repented and returned again to full fellowship, there were those in their ward, who, like the older brother, were resentful and angry, even going so far as refusing to serve in callings alongside this person.

And this leads me to the thought that has been on my mind for the past two weeks, as I think of the unfortunately large number of my friends who have left the church – do we make our brothers and sisters feel welcome in our Father’s house?

In sixth grade, I had a best friend. We were in the same class at school, and the same class at church. In high school her family stopped coming to church, and when we left for college we lost contact.  Speed forward a lot of years, and when Tiny was a baby I found her again, living about 10 minutes away. She had a daughter Zoe’s age and twins Tiny’s age, and we fell back into a deep friendship. We did preschool co op together and play groups, and even though she was still not active at church, she was surrounded by women who were. My friend was the Relief Society Enrichment counselor and invited her to teach a baking class. She led cooking lessons for our church playgroup. She was invited to baby blessings and baptisms.

We loved her and welcomed her regardless of whether or not she was active, and to this day she is not, but we don’t care, we love her and she knows that she is welcome.

Back in college, we got a name at the beginning of the year of someone whose records were transferred, and got in touch with the girl really quickly. We went to visit her and found out that she had a car, which was a huge thing. The campus is up on a big hill, and the church building takes about an hour to get to by bus. But it only takes 20 minutes by car, and so we arranged a carpool every week. But we had too many people and not enough seats.  So we asked her if she would drive people to church the next Sunday. She said no problem, and became a regular part of the carpool and was very active in church activities. About a year later as she was preparing to go on a mission, she sent me a card, and thanked me for asking her to drive people to church. She really hadn’t been planning on going to church in college, but we showed up and just assumed that she was active, and we communicated to her that she was welcome and needed, and so she came.

When we treat our brothers and sisters who are returning to their father’s house with real love and respect, they will feel welcome. If they feel like an assignment, or feel judged, they will not.

But what about those who aren’t returning on the time table that we want, or who are in the process of leaving?

Regardless the reason for their leaving, I believe the actions are the same. We love. We listen. We live the gospel and take the opportunity to share it when appropriate, being aware of their comfort level. We listen some more. And then perhaps listen some more. The commandment is for us to love our neighbor. Not love them if they are active, not love them if they are keeping the commandments the way we think they should be. Love them.

I asked a couple of my dear friends, one who has been away from the church for a while, and one who only this week announced her intention to leave what was helpful to them in keeping them connected with the church. I thought their words were so illuminating.

One of them said: “My friends that ask me questions still about spirituality and take my answers and experiences seriously, who do not minimize my feelings or conclusions because I am no longer a Mormon, those have been the most helpful friends. Because honestly it’s pretty terrifying to realize that a church you have belonged to for a decade is no longer where you need to be. Unhelpful: sending the missionaries over (if you feel that strongly that I need a 19 year olds help, come with them please), explaining that my feelings are just Satan, or acting like being offended is the only issue I have. I was offended…by the lack of inclusion and support as I went through a terribly dark night of the soul.”

Because of the time that we have spent talking about her concerns,  and the love that we share, I feel comfortable sending her conference talks or other things that come up that are about topics that are meaningful to her. And I have been able to learn and grow so much from the things that she has shared with me from the church that she currently attends.

The other friend said: “I know – from 27 years in the church – that the encouraged response is to see me as fallen, misled, apostate, or in need of “saving.” I hope my friends will sit, listen, and mourn with me, for I am mourning. I feel so loved and supported as people “sit” with me and we muse about questions together, some just said they loved me or sent hugs, and some compassionately shared times they’ve been on the outside as I have. I feel like, often, church members avoid those with doubts or those who’ve left as those with the plague; and yet, Christ was unafraid of those in his own time; he visited them, spoke to them, sat with them.”

If those who have left do not feel welcome, they will not return. If they feel dismissed or belittled, they will not feel that they have a place in their father’s home. May we never say or do anything that gives someone that impression, whether they are a participating member of the Church or not.

Many of my friends who have chosen to leave the church have done so because their feelings were really hurt. I know that we like to refer to that as “they chose to be offended”, but I think often times “they chose to be offended” is a way to not admit that someone made a mistake and said or did something hurtful. Everyone has their agency to decide how they respond to hurtful things, but we also have a responsibility to be inclusive.

One friend took a break from church attendance after a number of weeks of hearing that if she just had more faith she would get pregnant. A number of friends who are converts have a hard time feeling welcome when they hear lessons begin with “Think back to a time on your mission” or “All of us learned this in Primary”. Another friend was exhausted and hurt by criticism of her child’s behavior at church. Yet another felt judged for his decision to wait to serve a mission.

As the saying goes, the gospel is perfect, the people are not- but as Saints we should try to be a little more perfect and aware of what we’re saying. Don’t criticize how people are fulfilling their callings. Don’t assume everyone’s experience is the same as yours.  Teach doctrine, not culture.

It’s not stated in the parable, but I can imagine the older brother making the comment to his younger brother that if he really doesn’t like his father’s rules he can just leave. That should never be an option for us.

There should always be a place for everyone in our Father’s home. As far as he is concerned, there is. Our job is to love and wait and welcome our brothers and sisters back to our Father’s home, and to make sure that it’s where we are.

 

Random thoughts

Hi!

We’re back in Japan. It’s raining and windy today, which is lovely because it’s been hot for the last few days. I love the rain. It’s not currently raining- we are in a lull- which is good because we had to run down to the bakery and the girls couldn’t whine at me that it was raining because it wasn’t. Apparently they are witches, or at least believe themselves to be, and will melt if rain hits them. Who knew?

I read 5 magazines on the plane flight back to Tokyo, and the most important thing I got out of any of them was that Tommy Hilfiger has a son who is a rapper.  This man.

hilfiger

What could said rapper son look like? HAHAHAHAHAHA, I just looked him up and it’s so much better than anything you could imagine.

hilfiger 2I may die.

Out of the 5 magazines, Oprah was the one I kept because it had articles I wanted to refer back to, and Shape was the most boring. I’ve never read Shape before, but I got it because it had an interview with Her Lady of Perpetual Pain, Jillian Michaels. The interview was interesting. The rest of the magazine wasn’t.

I also watched the 2012 version of Anna Karenina on the plane, and it is my new everything. I love it so much. The sheer choreography of it is stunning.  The costumes and sets are gorgeous, and Anna’s stupid decisions and then her complete trappedness are so believable. Jude Law as Karenin is a revelation.

I’m in the middle of reading The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler which I’ve been reading for weeks because I was distracted in CA. I’m excited to sink into it and binge read to the end now. Speaking of reading for weeks, I was telling my sister about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and how it took me 6 months to read it and I stopped 3 different times, and that I thought she would really enjoy it, and her response was, “You want me to read a book that took YOU 6 months to read?” It made me laugh. But it is a great book. We just finished watching the BBC version of it last night, and I thought they did an incredible job. The book really does bog down a couple of times and they kept those sections light enough to keep things moving. The humor of the footnotes was missing, in that they didn’t cover the footnotes at all, but that makes sense. I thought the casting was exquisite and the sets were gorgeous.

Over our vacation the girls and I read The Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker. It’s a truly lovely book, I really highly recommend it. It’s about a little girl who experiences tragedy and loss (skimmed over) and then finds new courage and family and magic when she uncovers a hotel that has been buried in the sand for 100 years. It’s such a great story. The girls loved it. Now we’re reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and even though the girls say it makes no sense, they also say that they love it. I’m not sure when the first time is that I heard the book (we used to listen to it on audio tape driving to Utah during the summer), but I know it made very little sense to me either, and that I loved it anyway. So the girls will get what they get from it. They’re laughing at all the right spots, so at least the humor is coming through.

I have had Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars stuck in my head for the last 3 days. I wouldn’t mind except that the line ” your sex takes me to paradise” grates on my last nerve. Number one, it’s too obvious. I love Bruno Mars, but there are times his lyrics are the equivalent of Steve Carrell’s character in The 40 Year Old Virgin describing breasts as feeling like “bags of sand”.  Number two, the “cks” sounds in “sex” and “takes” back to back just bugs. He could have gone with “your love takes me to paradise” and solved both of those problems. I don’t know why he didn’t consult me first. But there are moments in that song that are sublime, so I’ll listen to it anyway. I’m sure he’s relieved.

I am currently cooking hashbrowns to eat for lunch. Don’t judge.

We had a weird experience over our vacation that inadvertently gave me the murder I was looking for for a location I had in my mind for a book. The location was perfect, but I had no idea who died there or how. And now I at least kind of know. Once we move, one of my main goals for the rest of the year is to sit down and write. And write some more. And some more. Not s’more. Though eating those is also a goal.

I hate the phrase “baby bump”. Who came up with that?

The more I see about Scream Queens, the more interested I am. Change that, I wasn’t interested at all until I saw these videos today. Now I’m totally in. I love the Heathers vibe. Although it would probably be better for everyone if Ariana Grande didn’t speak. She really does not come off well in her video at all.

Time to read!

Random thoughts

It’s 11:28 am. It’s sunny and lovely outside, but not hot. The birds, who have been noising off like a Hitchcock movie all morning, have quieted down. A crow was being quite diligent about trying to get into our trash, and we have a nest of little birds inside the space for our storm shutters (luckily we never open that window- it could have been grossly tragic), so there’s been lots of noise.

The girls are playing in the tea room while listening to the Beatles. Yesterday they kept going in and out and then knocking and pretending to be a different Beatle- it was highly entertaining.

We are in the last week of school, and we’re all ready to be done. I think I’m going to create a summer math challenge- if the girls can master their addition/subtraction/multiplication/division facts cold then they’ll earn something. I have to figure out exactly how to run it.

I’m listening to Achtung Baby, which has one of my favorite runs of songs ever. I don’t actually care for the first three songs, but once Until the End of the World starts all the songs through Ultra Violet just transition perfectly into each other, and they’re all so tonally perfect.  Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses and So Cruel are two of my favorite songs of all time.

Going back to the Beatles for a moment- I’ve realized through our unit on them that John’s voice really is my favorite. That thing he does when he kind of sings at the back of his throat (like during “You’re gonna say you love me too, oh” on “too” and “oh”) kills me.

We caught up on Penny Dreadful and Game of Thrones last night. I’m fascinated by the Arya/ Multi Faced God storyline on GoT- I’m so interested to see if she can let go of her want for revenge, because that’s what’s going to be required of her. She turned to the Multi Faced God because she thought it would give her what she wanted, but I think she’s going to come out of it with a completely different understanding of death than she thought she was going to. The whole approach to religion on the show is so nuanced and interesting with all the different factions.

As for Penny Dreadful, I will simply report our two statements at the end of the episode.

Me: “Wow, there was really a lot of ill advised sex happening.”

B: “Yeah, when the possessed woman and the wolf man are the only two showing restraint, that says something.”

TV STILL -- DO NOT PURGE -- Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME

TV STILL — DO NOT PURGE — Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 7). – Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME

It was a fantastic episode; I’m interested to see how the Dorian/Angelique storyline intersects with any of the others. I’m afraid I know where it might be going, and that would be sad. (Let’s just say that Dorian has been a bit too good for too long.) I did love the mirroring of John Clare’s story to Lily about how she stood up for him and Dorian’s doing the same for Angelique. The casting on that show is just so exquisite.

I’m eating hashbrowns for lunch. Don’t judge me, they’re delicious.

So You Think You Can Dance starts today! I can’t watch it for a while, because Hulu has to get the episodes up.  I’m interested to see how the changes to the format work out.

I’m reading Orlando by Virginia Woolf, and even though I kept falling asleep through four pages of it yesterday, it really is quite good. I love Virginia Woolf. I want to see the film version with Tilda Swinton.

That’s all I’ve got for now, and apparently the girls need something to do.

A wandering Saturday

My sweet cousin visited Tokyo a few weeks ago and we were able to take her around a bit. First we went to a park in Hiroo.

DSC02030

DSC02033

DSC02037

DSC02040

DSC02042

 

Obake (ghost) cigarette!
DSC02046

Then we went into Harajuku to see the lovelies in their finest.DSC02059

And a man walking his monkey. As you do.DSC02060

Tiny liked it.DSC02061

We caught a wedding procession at Meiji Jingu.DSC02066

And an ikebana festival. (Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging.)DSC02075

DSC02077

DSC02078

DSC02079

DSC02080

DSC02081

DSC02082

DSC02083

DSC02084

DSC02085

DSC02086

DSC02087

DSC02088

DSC02089

DSC02090

DSC02091

DSC02092

DSC02093

 

And another procession.DSC02104

Everyone in this picture was thrilled to be taking a picture with everyone else.
DSC02118

Then we went into Yoyogi Park where these people were practicing a play.DSC02128

 

There was a music festival happening across the street, so we stopped over there too. This is Japan’s version of a booth babe. (She had tiny jean shorts on with her kimono crop top.)DSC02133

 

Back in the park, these people were practicing a dance that included high fives.DSC02146

And this fine fellow really wanted someone to take his picture.DSC02148

This guy was creating art by slicing out shapes from the white paper with an exacto knife, while playing techno. It was fantastic.DSC02153

DSC02159

DSC02161

Photos! How about some lovely photos?

Spring is here, which means flowers are here, which means I’m taking pictures. It also means that I’m moving pictures off my phone and finding all sorts of pictures I forgot were there. And so I post.

These are not cherry blossoms. But they’re beautiful.

IMG_7823

IMG_7839

IMG_7833

IMG_7832 IMG_7830

IMG_7826

 

These aren’t cherry blossoms either. I’m pretty sure they’re plum blossoms.

IMG_7824

IMG_7785

IMG_7784

 

 

There’s a flock of green parrots that live in our neighborhood. They’re awesome. Here’s a bunch just hanging out.


IMG_7798

 

This is a very pretty butterfly/moth/winged creature.

 

IMG_7795

 

There was a display one day at the train station and the girls got to try on train conductor hats and dress up as the little mascot guy.

 

IMG_7728

IMG_7730

IMG_7735

 

Maybe he’s not so little.

IMG_7739

 

 

I had this for lunch one day. It was delicious. (Banana chocolate french toast.)

IMG_7766

 

Our train station in a dusting of snow.

 

IMG_7678

 

The girls being models. I love their model expressions.


IMG_7696

 

This is possibly my favorite graffiti in Tokyo.

 

IMG_7697

IMG_7691

IMG_7690

IMG_7694

 

The house down the street where they film a TV show (we think) is being renovated. It’s strange without windows.

IMG_7818

 

A while back we went to a bunny cafe in Omotesando, and I can’t believe I didn’t post pictures before this. There were cages with bunnies that you could pet or feed, but not take out. Two bunnies could be out at a time, and the people who worked there were the ones who did that moving. The bunnies hopped around the little tables where you could sit and drink tea or hot chocolate, and you could buy cups of food to feed them.

IMG_7624

IMG_7633

IMG_7635

 

They may have been a tiny bit excited.

 

IMG_7639

IMG_7645

IMG_7651

 

This sign was from the cat cafe next door. It was not as welcoming to young ones, but their sign made me laugh.

IMG_7672

 

Hope

I’ve needed this quote 3 or 4 times in the last week and couldn’t remember from what book it came. So I’m putting it here for those times when I need it.

It is written not out of despair but out of hope, by which I mean not a simple giddy optimism but the belief that once you know what is right and what matters, you can get there with enough determination. What I have in mind is most likely captured by Vaclav Havel, who said “Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.” -Azar Nafisi in The Republic of Imagination