Sunday, August 31, 2008

Seattle, Day 1

At this particular moment, I am an extraordinarily happy lady. I am sitting in a cottage, at a breakfast nook surrounded by windows, looking out onto the most picturesque backyard you can imagine. Yellow roses, deep blue hydrangeas, bunches of sweet smelling lavender, an arbor laden with tiny purple flowers, pink smiley-faced daisies, and in the back corner of the yard, a small waterfall flowing into a pool with lily pads drifting lazily on its surface. An apple tree, bearing its unripened green fruit stands guard over the whole scene. And what am I doing? I’m dressed for a romantic dinner with my husband, smelling a bunch of wildflowers that I plucked from a mountaintop a few hours ago.

We are on vacation/fellowship interview in Seattle, ourselves! That's right, 5 days of just Jeremiah and me, exploring a new part of the country to see if we could potentially live here for a year. Right now, we are staying at some friends' home in Tacoma (just outside of Seattle), even though they are actually back in Birmingham visiting their family. It's amazing how much sweeter a person I become on vacation :) I can't stop flirting with my husband; I laugh about the least little funny, and I'm ready for any adventure (since I don't have to worry about it disturbing my babies' naps or mealtime).

We started the morning in what we have lovingly named "The Stang," (which is the silver/grey new Ford Mustang the car rental place graced us with) and drove to a quiet breakfast in a coffee shop overlooking downtown Tacoma and the harbor. We took our time, nibbling, sipping and pouring over different maps and brochures to decide what we wanted to explore for the day. After deciding that we couldn't stand the thought of leaving Seattle without seeing Mt. Rainer, we mapped out our course. We chose the "Sunrise" trail, which is the highest point you can drive to on Mt. Rainer and thought we would drive there and then begin our hike. This is us at the photo op at the top of the Sunrise trail. It makes me laugh SOOOO hard because 1) That's Mt. Rainer behind us, which we never saw because it was covered with snow clouds 2) You can see what Alabama idiots we looked like to everyone else out hiking in their long-sleeves, jackets and pants and most hilariously 3) The fact that I know that in the back seat of "The Stang" there are 2 SWIMSUITS that I so smartly recommended we not forget, so that we could take a dip at our hike's end. It was SNOWING people, and we brought our swimsuits. No matter how many times people recommend to you that you pack some jackets and pants for your trip, its hard to imagine, as you're dripping sweat in your tank-top and shorts in South Alabama, that you will need such wintry items.

It was fun to see the snow, but I'd be lying if I told you we weren't a bit disappointed about not seeing this beautiful mountain after our long drive.
But, we sucked it up and started our descent down the mountain, determined to find a trail head that wasn't covered in snow. We found one, parked and you can see how excited we were to finally be getting out of the car to start an adventure.
The hike was 3.5 miles up, so a round trip of 7 miles. Now, it was 1ish at this point, we hadn't eaten since our little coffee brunch, and I was under the impression that we would jog (Have I mentioned that we were planning on running the trail up the mountain? I am stupid.) for a little way in and then head back out. I forgot who I was married to. We started off, the happy little runners at the start of the trail as Jeremiah called out, "You know if we start this thing, we're going to finish it, right?" "Sounds good!" I called back, the happy vacationing wife who was ready for any adventure. About a 1/4 of a mile in I told Jeremiah it was too steep for me to run as we came across a group of hikers on their way down who told us there were bears in the meadow at the end of the trail. Bears! Real bears, not at the zoo in their safe little cages. However, my heart was even ready for this adventure as long as we could power walk instead of run.

The hike was absolutely gorgeous. I love the South and our pine trees, but as we passed under these gigantic, moss covered pines I felt like our trees are only a reflection of what they're meant to be. The trunks were 3 and 4 feet in diameter and looked as though they'd been planted before time began. The woods were more quiet and dark than ours, and it felt as though these gentle giants were allowing us safe passage in their midst. The mountain seemed to be bursting with water as we crossed stream after stream of cold, clear water. There was a deep, green velvet hue over every pebble and tree, and there was a part of me that wanted to rest my head on its downy softness. It all seemed...enchanted.
Now, I was feeling these things, but I'm not saying my mind didn't occasionally dart back to those bears that were waiting for us at the end of this hike. I asked Jeremiah if he was worried and, no joke, he said, "I've got a plan, and it ends with you taking a picture of me standing with one foot on that bear's head." "Ok," I said laughing. "Do you want to fill me in on the details or you just want to let it be a surprise?" Why do men live life with Braveheart playing in the back of their minds at all times? He says now that he was only kidding--that he wasn't really working out a plan for how he'd handle a wild bear that came upon us when we were unarmed, but I know that man. He was partly kidding, but I'd be willing to bet money he was fantasizing about fighting that bear.

We made it to the top, and this was the breathtaking view that was the reward for our efforts. A valley, carved out of the top of a mountain, filled with a profusion of wildflowers and Christmas trees. I caught my breath at the beauty in this dichotomy. Prickly evergreen fir trees, in their rightful home with temperatures around 35 degrees, but then popping out of the grasses at their feet, dainty wildflowers making their own mark on this paradise. Their colors made me think that God must have dipped his paint brush in every color on his palette and flicked his wrist to dash color all over. I just wanted to sit in their midst. I wanted to get lost in I did. And as cheesy as this picture is, I'm going to share it with you.

I gathered a bouquet, striving to get a flower of each color and type. We walked on through the meadow and saw the lakes at its heart. We stayed there for a while...I couldn't even tell you how long, just soaking it all in (I was soaking it in, but I'm pretty sure Jeremiah was too busy hunting down those bears we never saw). Then, we ran back down the mountain. Really ran, fast, the cool air blowing in our faces, leaping over rocks, dodging branches, and clutching my bouquet the whole way down. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face and never slowed down for the whole 3 1/2 miles. "This is what heaven is going to be like!" I called out to Jeremiah, "Running without effort, filled with the beauty of God's creation, and a smile I can't seem to wipe off my face."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Curls and Questions

Do you have any idea how happy these make me??!!! For the past month or so, the back of Mary Aplin's hair has been looking...well, frizzy. I don't know why I didn't recognize the texture, since its MY OWN, but I just kept thinking it was some weird baby hair thing. Then, the other day we went to my sister's Squeal Day and spent some quality time out in the rain and humidity. Suddenly, my Aunt Alice said, "Just look at those little curls!" I was ecstatic. It looks like this little cherub may be growing some slightly strawberry curls. I could just eat them!

While Mary Aplin has been growing curls, crawling all over the place, and putting any object she can get her chubby fingers on into her mouth, what, you might wonder has Pace been doing?...Asking the question, "WHY?" I'm serious, the child asks me "Why?" about everything, and I am just about to lose my mind. The whole world is a question just waiting to be asked, and while I don't want to squash her enthusiasm for knowledge, I can't go on like this forever. I was talking to my neighbors about it yesterday, and Joel told me that Caroline (their 5 year old) started asking constant questions about Pace's age and still hasn't stopped. I won't be able to handle that y'all! I'm not playing. By the end of the day, I feel so frazzled from all the questions that I am snapping at her. I have to take lots of deep breaths and have pulled Jeremiah to the side many nights and begged him to just try and absorb some of her energy. I mean, there are so many questions that just don't have answers like, "Why is blue your favorite color?" or "Why do I have ten toes?" or "Why do birds fly?" or (this second) "Why did I drink all this?" Just try fielding those all day and get back to me on your mental status. Anyway, all the questions are not aggravating, some are actually quite hilarious. I think I'll share a hilarious conversation with you, but be warned that if you can't take humor about bodily functions, stop reading now.

This conversation went down in a restaurant in Midland City called the Red Owl. It was one of those good 'ol Southern Sunday lunch buffets, in a restaurant with white table cloths where nobody, on this particular Sunday, was talking at all. It was bizarre to be in a restaurant with several tables full and silence prevailing. Anyway, it was in this atmosphere, in which a 2-year old still feels no need to talk below their normal extremely loud pitch, that the following occurred:

"Mommy, I need to go to the potty," Pace began, as everyone turned to see us leave for our second trip of this lunch to the bathroom (a bathroom that had only one thin plywood wall dividing it from everyone's ears).

We get to the bathroom and Pace gets all settled in before she turns to me red faced and says, "This is going to be a BIG one!"

"Oh, good Pace," I said as my face turned red wondering if everyone outside was snickering.

After a couple of solid, umm, releases, Pace said, "Oh, LORD that felt good!" I couldn't help but start laughing. I really don't know where in the world she would have heard that exclamation, especially related to potty time.

"Mommy, is it bad to say Lord?"

"Well, not if you're really talking to him," I answered. What else could I say?

Pace started looking around and then said, "Where is he Mom?"

"Well, he's everywhere Pace," I said, as I questioned if this was the appropriate time and place to discuss the omniscience of God.

"Even here?"

"I suppose that, yes, he's even here," I concluded. Not the time, just not the time to get into all that.

Pace looked up, to where we normally look when talking about where God is, and she saw the exhaust fan sucking away the lovely bathroom odors. "Is he in there?" she asked, and before I could even get an answer out through my laughter she said, "Well, if he is, he better get outta there, or he's gonna get stuck!" And there we were, wrapping up a theological discussion over poo.

It was several minutes later before Pace finished her business on the potty. And I was a little embarrassed as we re-entered the restaurant--self-conscious about the time it had taken and wondering just how much everyone else had heard. Pace, however, left no room for question in anyone's mind, because she ran straight into my Dad's arms yelling, "I pooped Papa, and it was a BIG one!"

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cinderella's Ball

As a stay-at-home mom, there are days I realize, "Wow, I have not really played with my children in a while." Its easy to get caught up in handing them a marker and some paper, so that I can fold another load of laundry. Pointing her to her toy chest so that I can sweep the kitchen. Or, heaven forbid, turning on Sesame Street so that I can blog :). This will work for a time, but soon you start to notice that they have run out of steam and need some new fodder for their little imaginations. So, Monday morning I decided to give myself over to make-believe with my 2 year old.

I sat down on the floor with Mary Aplin in my lap and said, "I will do anything you want today! So what will it be?"

"I want to have a ball!!!" she immediately replied. I must admit I didn't see that one coming, but I looked up into my imagination, begging my mind to bring back memories of childhood balls and what they might require. First, we made this list. I asked Pace what things she felt we needed, and with a little prodding on my part this is what we came up with.
Next, we decorated. I gave her some watercolors and told her to paint a picture of twinkling lights and dancing people (I just didn't have it in me to dig the Christmas lights out of the basement, give me a break) so that we could hang it on the wall. We covered part of the study in white sheets, in an attempt to make it feel like she was dancing on clouds. We invited her "friends" from the toy chest, being sure that the Evil Stepmother, Anastasia, and Drizella were all in attendance. We picked out the perfect ball music (my Pride and Prejudice soundtrack), practiced dancing, and attempted to learn what a curtsy was. We decorated with flowers and I tried to teach her the meaning of the word ambiance. Then came the really fun part--the make-over! She was insistent that she needed a PURPLE dress, and since there are no purple dress-up gowns at our house and a call to the neighbors produced no more hope of a purple gown, I dug into my own closet and found what, with a few strategically placed pins and one gold ribbon turned out to be the perfect ball gown. Then came the make-up and how to wear your hair when wearing a crown.

We felt pretty prepared for our ball, but there were still two people missing...the fairy godmother, and MOST importantly Prince Charming. One of those was pretty easy to solve. I put on a white dress, Pace's fairy wings and started carrying a wand around with me. She seemed pretty happy with this, as long as I wore the fanciest shoes I owned. Not sure where she got that...Did the fairy godmother even wear shoes? Anyway, she'd been fretting about the Prince all morning. She got a little paint on her fingers while she was painting those twinkling lights and she ran to me saying, "Mommy, get the soap! We can't let Prince Charming see me like this!" Then, I nearly poked her eye out while applying her mascara because she went into raptures about how she was in love with the Prince and he was in love with her too.

You can see I wasn't going to get away with handing her a Ken doll and telling her the Prince had arrived. So I called Ashley and asked her if Noah would be willing to come to our ball as Prince Charming. She laughingly said that she couldn't promise anything, but they would try. A few minutes later, Cinderella was waiting expectantly at the door for her Prince to arrive. The music was playing softly in the background and the ballroom was waiting, filled with friends. When we opened the door, Noah took one look at Pace and turned around and ran in the other direction. There were a few seconds where I thought my beautiful Princess was going to be stood up at her own ball. But suddenly Noah came running back through the door and stopped right in front of Pace. When I looked down, he was holding a bouquet of leaves from our Camellia bush. What a man! What kind of training is his Mama doing, that he knew instinctively upon seeing a woman decked to the nines that he dare not approach her empty handed! That shows a lot of promise in my book :)
This gallant steed was awaiting our fair Prince so that he could take his date to the ball in style. He was happy to oblige us in this area, but I'm afraid that, like all men, the allure of nature was greater than the allure of stiff dancing. And no matter how Cinderella pleaded, we just could not get him off that horse. So in the end, Cinderella didn't get to dance with Prince Charming at her ball (You should know that she called Noah, Charming the whole time he was here, as though that was logically the Prince's name), but she did get to dance with another, tinier prince. Noah's brother Gavin may only be 7 months old, but he could dance well with a little help from his Mama.

We had a great morning, and Pace has been playing ball all by herself during this whole blog...Sometimes they just need some new fodder! (You see where Cinderella and the Prince ended up AFTER the ball. Oh dear.)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mother-less Daughter

I miss her smell. White flowers, tiny green leaves, and sunshine. I miss her touch. Warm, soft, and made of a mother's love. I miss her smile. Its radiance that filled a room and left others grasping for her attention. I miss her love. Fierce, true, and always on my side. I went to a wedding tonight. Driving home with Jeremiah, I needed my somebody to dissect all the details with...and she wasn't there. So I started missing her. I started longing for this never-ending play to let me off the stage. I'm tired of this role...motherless-daughter. I'm ready to relinquish my part and step back into a reality that no longer exists.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I Am Afraid You are Going to Be Jealous

I just spent the past three days at the beach, with my sisters, WITHOUT EITHER of my girls. This was my first time spending the night away from Mary Aplin. The first time in 9 1/2 months, that I haven't woken up to the sound of baby noises. The first time I haven't welcomed the start of a new day by changing a poopy diaper and making a bottle/nursing. It was simply glorious.
This was also the first time, since my senior year of high school, that I have taken a trip with all of my sisters and without my parents. There is something so special about a sister. A friend who not only understands but has lived your childhood. A girl you can relate to so well, that you not only know her thoughts, but understand why she has them. A person who makes you feel 100% comfortable wearing simply your own skin. Finally, they are co-sufferers in the hardest battle you've ever had to fight... When you add that kind of company to a setting filled with white sand, ocean waves, excellent food, and a serene little nook all your own on the beach, well, it was just spectacular!

The first day, I could barely breathe, my chest was so swollen with the airy happiness of freedom. I just kept saying, "Y'all, I can just sit here, as long as I want too, and I am not responsible for ANYTHING!" I stayed up until at least 1 AM every night, talking and laughing. I slept until 9:30 (one morning actually 10:30!), and read 2 whole books. I ate sushi for breakfast, because I was craving it and their was a Publix right across the street. I had a Margarita on the beach at sunset, and ate three course meals two nights in a row.

The second day, I did start to miss my little chicken wings and feel a twang of guilt that they weren't getting to enjoy the ocean with me. When I went running, I missed my husband and his good looking body running on ahead of me. I've decided that once you become a wife and parent, no vacations can ever be quite the same. If you are on a family trip, then you're still responsible for all the duties of home. If you leave them behind, then you miss them. However, three days wasn't TOO long, and more than anything, I had a blast! I hope you aren't too jealous :)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Book Review

I have got to start doing this more frequently. Partly, so it won't be so long and boring for you to read, and partly because I don't remember the books very well after 6 months! I am not even certain this is everything I've read. Anyway, here's what I can remember of my books:
(Those are flowers Jeremiah's parents sent us for our 5 year anniversary. Aren't they gorgeous?!)

Watership Down by Richard Adams: This was an endearing story of some little rabbits on a big adventure. It's a tale of leadership, friendship, and courage. They have their own language and you will soon find yourself hungry for your silflay :) While I enjoyed this, I am not yearning to read it again.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell: If you are a Jane Austen fan, I want to highly suggest you give this author a try. She is not widely known in the states, but in England she is fondly referred to as Mrs. Gaskell. She has three main books that she is known for, this one, Wives and Daughters, and Cranford. I haven't read Cranford (I did buy it a couple of weeks ago though :)), but I can attest that these other two are EXCELLENT.

N&S is the tale of England's industrialized North and farming community South (while similar in their utilities, this book is not like our North and South--in case you were all depicting a diatribe on the slave trade). Of course it is a love story but this hero, unlike Austen's landed gentry, is a man who has pulled himself up by his own boot-straps. If any of you other red-blooded Americans sometimes balk at the idea of a hero who spends his days doing, well, what the heck do they do anyway?, then this book will give you someone with a work ethic to croon over. Now there is a lot of talk about the upheaval of the social system at this point in history, the crassness of an industrial family with money over the established nobleman, and the need for reform in the lower classes. I wish I could tell you that I didn't read these parts very quickly in order to find the next scene with my heroine and her hero... I retained very little besides a general knowledge :) So, if you like Jane Austen and have been despaired by the idea that there are only 6 books out there for you, give Mrs. Gaskell a go. I can't imagine you'd be disappointed!

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis: I may have listed this one on my last list as well. I LOVE Lewis, but I have to take him in small doses since he is so over my head. As always, I was amazed by his intelligence, his ability to make complex things seem simple, and I was encouraged to know that someone as smart as he is, was a devout agnostic who proved to himself through reason and conviction (against his own will) that our God is God. It makes me think, "Whew! I may not have understood everything he just said, but I sure am glad to know we are on the same page!"

The title, Surprised by Joy, comes from the idea that before Lewis became a Christian he felt stabs of Joy in his life through literature or nature... He became somewhat depressed at the realization that he was never able to hold on to that feeling he craved. He searched for it everywhere and tried basically everything the world had to offer him on his quest, only to find in the end, that this world is fallen, our glimpses of joy are merely glimpses of a God that is Joy. I loved the last paragraph of this book, where he explains that after receiving Christ, he experienced Joy much more often, but he ceased to notice it as much. This is so Lewis:

But what, in conclusion, of Joy? for that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian. I cannot, indeed, complain, like Wordsworth, that the visionary gleam has passed away. I believe (if the thing were at all worth recording) that the old stab, the old bittersweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time in my life whatever. But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, "Look!" The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. "We would be at Jerusalem."

As I reread that last paragraph it made me think of all of you, and the things you shared with me in the last post about when you feel God's pleasure. Almost everyone sighted happenings from their everyday. Nothing life-changing or earth-shattering, because, as Christians that is what He created us to experience...His Joy, His provision, His pleasure, in all aspects of our lives. Thank you for sharing; it blessed me.

At the Mercy of Tiberius by Augusta Evans Wilson: I have written about Wilson she is the first accomplished author from Alabama and has also been called the "foremost Southern novelist of her time." Now she is Victorian--HIGH Victorian. Meaning that her heroines are perfect, her heroes are dashing, bold and handsome, and the stories are extremely dramatic--I love every minute of it! Unlike N&S, this IS the story of our own beloved South--before the Civil War. It was intriguing to me to see slavery written about as the norm in a novel, and also to read about the pine tree forests I know so well (instead of a remote English countryside that I can only try to picture), described by an excellent author.

I think she wanted to be sure she was not overlooked by her male counterparts as being a flighty woman, because Lord-have-mercy sometimes I felt like I was reading a mythologically biased dictionary. If I knew the slightest inkling about mythology, maybe I wouldn't have minded so much, but I don't! So, you will probably have to do a little skimming in this one as well, but the story is oh so worth it.

It's hard to tell you much about the story without giving anything away. There is a twist awaiting around each page turn. But Beryl, our heroine, has lived a life of virtue only to have everything stripped away from her and find herself at the mercy of very handsome stranger in particular. She is torn by her faithfulness to her dying mother, her mysterious vagabond brother, her own pride, and that ever beating heart that she attempts to stifle. Ohh, I've made myself want to re-read!

Endurance by Alfred Lansing: This is for you guys out there (if there are any :)). I can't say that I read this book in its entirety, but I heard all about the beginning from Jeremiah (who was reading it and also made me watch the documentary) and I read the last third of it aloud to him on one of our road trips. It is the true story of Ernest Shackleton, a famous British explorer and arguably one of the best leaders that has ever lived. He leads an expedition of 28 men to Antartica. They are shipwrecked before attaining their goal of reaching the South Pole, and all 28 men make it home 2 YEARS later.

It is a story of courage, leadership, and man's will to survive. Jeremiah and I were both in tears at the end, and I hadn't even read the whole thing! Now, saying all that is good about it, I must also say that it was too intense for me. There were sereral times when I would put the book down, telling Jermiah my nerves could not stand one more moment of hopelessness and depravity. What they went through was just gut-wrenching, and he loved every minute of it. So, if you're a man and you like an adventure and you want to learn how to be a leader, I highly recommend this book (Jeremiah's Dad got so engrossed he finished it in 2 days). If you're a woman who likes a love story and you don't like your shoulders to be tense the entire time you read, then I suggest encouraging your husband to read it and tell you about it as he goes.

Laddie by Gene Stratton Porter: This is a sweet tale about Little Sister, in a house filled with older siblings. There is such a bond in this family, and their simple country life will speak to your heart. While Little Sister is our allie and narrator, never fear that I might possibly suggest a book to you that didn't involve love in some way. Laddie, her idol and big brother, is courting a forbidden girl (whose family came to the States from England for a mysterious reason) whose family is not Christian (at least by Mama's standards).

You'll love Little Sister, her adventures, her big heart, her mischievous times, and her intelligence. You'll laugh with her at the stodgy school marm, and roll your eyes with her at the over-pious church members. Freckles is near and dear to my heart, but Laddie is running a TIGHT second.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks: This is definitely a page turner. It tells the history of a famous (and valuable) Hebrew manuscript as it makes some harrowing escapes throughout history. You'll meet a girl fleeing a concentration camp, an ancient African prince forced into slavery, a Catholic priest struggling with addiction in Venice, and many more. It is a well planned plot and quite entertaining.

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy: I will have to say that this was not one of my favorites, although it was my first introduction to Hardy, and I am thankful to say I now know him a bit. I felt like it was an intriguing examination of my own conscious. Hardy gives this book the byline: "A Story of a Man of Character," even though the opening scene of the novel reveals our "hero", Henchard, selling his wife in a drunken stupor. The rest of the book examines Henchard's life after this grave mistake. I say it examined my conscious because throughout the book I found myself frustrated with Henchard's unkind acts, but also asking myself what I would do in his situation? Does he have bad character or is he merely a victim of his circumstances? So, I said it wasn't my favorite, then I just told you I was intrigued... I also have issues with the "heroine," Elizabeth-Jane. She's a stoic. When have you ever met a truly stoic heroINE? It's OK for a man to not weep over his lost love, but when a woman lets it roll off her back, I don't know I just had issues with feeling for a character that had very little feeling herself. I liked it OK, but I just didn't feel much connection with it.

Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: This is a memoir of a woman who is now (obviously) a writer and has an apartment on Park Ave. It opens with a scene of her riding in the back of a limo on the way to a party and seeing her mother digging through a dumpster. She is at first embarrassed that her mother will see/embarrass her and then is overcome with emotion at feeling that way towards her own mother. I was compelled to read on!

This is a very sad tale of parents who are so absorbed in themselves and their own needs, that their children are left to fend for themselves. I was amazed at Walls' ability to tell her story without any air of "woh-is-me," and her honesty, and her ability to show her readers both sides of the story... It was a fascinating trip and made me feel like I deserve a mother-of-the year award for simply giving food to my children.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh: This book was reminiscent of The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. I know that sounds like an odd combination, but there is a decadence steeped in sadness that reminded me of Gatsby and a man on a desperate search for himself that reminded me of Holden in Catcher. Read this gripping metaphor the narrator conveys in the first chapter, comparing the army and marriage:

Here my last love died. There was nothing remarkable in the manner of its I lay in that dark hour, I was aghast to realize that something within me, long sickening, had quietly died, and felt as a husband might feel, who, in the fourth year of marriage suddenly knew that he had no longer any desire, or tenderness, or esteem, for a once-beloved wife; no pleasure in her company, no wish to please, no curiosity about anything she might ever do or say or think; no hope of setting things right, no self-reproach for the disaster. I knew it all, the whole drab compass of marital disillusion; we had both been through it, the army and I, from the first importunate courtship until now, when nothing remained to us except the chill bonds of law and duty and custom....

It only gets worse from there. I'm just going to be honest when I tell you that this left me running into the next room to check on the pulse of my own marriage! I am sure you can tell, he is an excellent writer and this is one of the few places in the entire work where tragedy is spelled out plainly. The rest of the novel is pretty upbeat, filled with abiding male friendships (that are really much more accurately described as love) and a surprising love story.

I do feel the need to warn you that, while there are a couple of gay characters, the two main male characters are not gay, even though one carries a Teddy Bear around with him at Oxford, one gazes at the other lying in the grass and talks about how beautiful he is, and they sunbathe naked together...I don't know why I would have been confused :), but the critics (and the rest of the book) assure me that they are not. Just thought you might need some forewarning. I really liked this book. There are questions about God, Catholicism, love, marriage, alcoholism, and the "value" of interfering in each others' lives. All of that is played out on a beautiful back-drop of decadence: a Castle, Oxford, and Venice. If you don't want to read it, I think a movie just came out about it :)

In case you didn't notice, I linked all of these books to their search results on I like Abe a lot better than Amazon for many reasons, one being they have a better search engine for books, making it easier for me to find old ones that I like. Our next book club book (my selection :)) is The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge. It is the first in a series of three books Goudge wrote about the Elliot family. I have actually already read this one and it is GREAT!! So, if you want to read along with us, I will try to post my next review more quickly and we can talk about it.