Sunday, February 28, 2010

Teaser ~ The Dance of the Dissident Daughter

In The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine (1996), Sue Monk Kidd says her awakening began on the day she overheard two men talking about her daughter Ann, down on her knees stocking a drugstore shelf. One man said, "Now that's how I like to see a woman -- on her knees." The men laughed, Ann looked stricken, and Kidd herself was enraged, telling them, "You may like to see her and other women on their knees, but we don't belong there. We don't belong there!" That episode began a period of intense searching that, in my opinion, deepened her writing. Look at the beautiful way she uses words:
"There had been a moment, many moments really, when truth seized me and I 'conceived' myself as woman. Or maybe I reconceived myself. At any rate, it had been extraordinary and surprising to find myself -- a conventionally religious woman in my late thirties -- suddenly struck pregnant with a new consciousness, with an unfolding new awareness of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be spiritual as a woman" (p. 7).
Don't you love that phrase "struck pregnant"? I do.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thunder and rain

Last night's rain had John Coniglio writing on Facebook in his own inimitable way, "is that a thunderstorm i hear??  it's Feb, 4 cryin' out loud. who hires these weatherpeople...."  On my home front, the rumbling rain sent Kiki dashing under my bed.  When the noise abated a bit, she jumped up on the bed and then on top of me, with a look on her face that clearly said, "I'm here to protect you, but first hug me so I won't be frightened."  Pretty soon, she laid her head on her paws and went to sleep.  Since she was on my chest while wrapped in a hug, it was rather difficult for me to continue reading my book, so I just held her.  The only time she raised her head for the next 63 minutes was when thunder sounded off in the distance and she needed to look fearfully at the window which produced those offending sounds.  This morning the sky is overcast but bright, and Kiki is napping in her usual place -- at one end of my dark closet.  (Well, she WAS napping until I tried to capture the moment.  She's wondering what I'm doing down on the floor with my cellphone pointed at her.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Triumph of Deborah ~ by Eva Etzioni-Halevy, 2008

I have a purple tee-shirt with this slogan on it, "Well behaved women rarely make history," though mine shows a woman wearing a red hat.  Rather than dressy red and purple regalia, I would often wear this shirt with my jeans to my Red Hat meetings. That's more who I am. But today I want to talk about the words.

Deborah, a judge in the years before the Israelites had a king, ruled firmly and wisely.  Nobody would ever have called her Judge Debbie.  She wasn't that kind of woman.  Neither was she well-behaved, at least that's not the way Eva Etzioni-Halevy imagined Deborah in her 2008 novel, The Triumph of Deborah. In those days, a judge was a leader of the people, yet her husband said to her:
"Even an eminent woman must bend her will to her husband's" (p. 46).
Imagine where THAT leads this couple!  The back cover of the book says,
"In ancient Israel, war is looming. Deborah, a highly respected leader, has coerced the warrior Barak into launching a strike against the neighboring Canaanites. Against all odds, he succeeds ... Deborah, recently cast off by her husband, develops a surprising affinity for Barak."
Meanwhile, Barak was falling for someone else -- Asherah, daughter of the king he had defeated.  I really don't understand how men's minds work, but here's an example from the book.  Barak is with Asherah, after he burned down her town.
The beauty's voice was colorless.  But when Barak looked into her eyes, he saw a flash of dark hatred in them that strangely inflamed him.  At that moment, he decided to take this girl for his wife, as by Torah law he was entitled to do.

He promised himself that in time he would school her into submission and transform the glint of loathing in her eyes into the gleam of love.  He did not doubt his ability to achieve these goals, and he anticipated the prospect of taming her with relish.  Ignoring her last words, he said, "I will take you to my home, where you will live from now on" (p. 130).
Why do men want women who hate them?  He has decided that, because she's a beauty, he will tame her.  Eva Etzioni-Halevy is a fantastic writer.  I was THERE in the smoke and stench and chaos when the town was destroyed by Barak's army.  I felt the women's fear as they (including Asherah) huddled behind locked doors.  Their fright was palpable as they heard their guards being killed in the hallway before the door was thrown open.

The author did excellent research on the biblical Deborah and those ancient times before writing this book (unlike the story in The Red Tent, where Anita Diamant for some inexplicable reason -- totally unrelated to the story -- gave the son of one concubine of Jacob to another of his concubines).  In The Triumph of Deborah, we also see the story of one of the Bible's most interesting women, Jael, who fulfills a prophecy Deborah made when Barak agreed to lead the army as Deborah asked him to do, but with one stipulation:
Barak regarded her [Deborah] thoughtfully.  Finally, he surprised her by saying, "If you come with me I will go, but otherwise I will not go." ...

"If you insist, I will surely go with you.  Nevertheless, the path you are treading will not lead you to glory. ..."  Suddenly she felt a prophecy she did not know had been stored up inside her spewing out of her mouth, as if of its own volition.  "For the Lord will give Sisra into the hands of a woman.  She and not you will snuff out his life" (p. 31).
You may want to re-read the teaser I posted about this book, which is a perfect choice for the Women Unbound reading challenge. And in case you missed it, the author herself wrote a guest post for me, my first (and so far, only) guest post ever on this blog.  To read what little the Bible says about Deborah, take a look at Judges 4-5.  I rate this book 9 of 10 because it's an excellent story.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How to throw a party for your elders

Birthday parties should be age-appropriate, even when you have an honoree who is nearing 70 but labors under the impression that she started over because last year's heart surgery gave her new life and vitality she hasn't felt in decades.  A party that makes her feel young again is just the ticket, or as an earlier generation would say, such a party would be the cat's meow!  You could even call it a re-birthday party, just to make her happy.  Maybe even light a single candle on the cake when you sing happy birthday to her -- or happy re-birthday, as the case may be.  (One candle is better than 70, because you'd never get all 70 lit before the first ones sputter out in a puddle in the cake's frosting.)

Have music for the party.  Find some of her vinyl records and an old player on which records can be played.  (If you are too young to know what I'm talking about, google "record player," but the old folks know all about these things.  For your edification, that's a picture of a record player above, with a record already on the spindle.  Don't know what a spindle is?  Oh, never mind.)  Assign one of the youngsters in the group, maybe only in her 40s or 50s, to choose from the old albums and dance to the music, while the rest of us (I mean, the rest of the partyers) watch and smile and cheer her on.

Next, gifts.  Because the honoree will have collected "stuff" for many decades, she doesn't need more.  However, if you are feeling creative, here's an idea.  If you know or suspect that she takes a medication that warns "Do not drink alcoholic beverages while taking this medicine," do something cute like getting her favorite tea and festooning the bottle the way you would do with a fine wine (see photo above).  You can have even more fun and laughter if you get a tea, like the brand shown, that has a saying under the cap.  Unscrewing the cap on the bottle shown produced this:
"Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end." -- Unknown
And finally, fun and games.  When elderly folks were young, pin the tail on the donkey was a popular game.  Unfortunately, blindfolding a great-grandmother (or even a grandmother) -- and spinning her around before she tries to find the donkey to pin the tail on -- is more likely to cause her to fall than to have fun.  So here's an alternative that I call "Pin the tail on the donkey for elders."  An elder in this case can be anyone over ten!

Enlarge this drawing (or a similar one), make a copy for each person attending, and be sure to have enough pens, pencils, or crayons for everyone. The assignment is easy -- DRAW a tail on the donkey. Because elders have earned the right to skip pesky rules, they can draw the tail on the donkey with eyes wide open.  Two of us at my party yesterday drew the tail as in the photo at the top, rather than hanging straight down as the one in the child's hand here.  I didn't grow up on a farm and didn't realize that, when a donkey or horse raises its tail the way I drew it, everyone should get out of the way!

If you look closely at the photo above -- and if you know how record players work -- you'll see that the music has just started.  Anybody wanna dance?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Super-duper RE-birthday party

Today is the first anniversary of my quadruple bypass surgery.  I decided it was a perfect occasion to party with the friends who took care of me (and my cat) while I was recovering, so I sent out invitations to my RE-birthday party.  Here I am holding the cake Donna brought for the occasion.  See the giant candle shaped like a ONE?

And here are the women of "Bonnie's Support Group."  From left to right they are Emily, Ginnie, Ellen, Donna, and Joanne.  They are holding "awards" for various things they did for me last year, like feeding me, "babysitting" me, taking me into her home for eleven days, bringing me things I needed, and so forth.  You may notice that Donna has TWO awards -- that's because she got one from me and one from my cat Kiki, who said, "Feline's Favorite Friend Award of Excellence ... for feeding me and giving me treats when Bonnie left me all alone for over two whole weeks."  Now we know what's really important, huh?  Food, food, and more food.  May this group of friends give you food for thought, as you remember good things YOUR friends have done for you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Three more books that encourage girls

I've found some more good books that show girls doing adventurous things, like the children's books I wrote about recently.

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving (2002) is by one of my favorite writers -- Laurie Halse Anderson.  This one, for ages 5-10, is such fun to read!  People were forgetting Thanksgiving and, pretty much the only folks celebrating were in the New England states.  We needed a hero, according to the book, which showed action hero types on the next page.  "No, not like that."  So the three guys, ready to be heroes, are looking across the double spread to the "little lady" on the right-hand page.  The hero we needed was Sarah Hale, a writer and editor who started sending letters to presidents -- like Taylor, Filmore, and Pierce -- asking that Thanksgiving be made a national holiday.  They had other things on their minds and weren't interested.  Eventually, President Abraham Lincoln agreed to do as she asked.  I thought it was just as interesting to learn that Sarah Hale also wrote "Mary Had a Little Lamb."  Rated 10 of 10 because it was such fun to read.

Margaret Knight: Girl Inventor by Marlene Targ Brill (2001) is also about a real person.  This book, for ages 5-8, shows how Mattie (that's her nickname) developed her first invention, a stop-motion device to make looms safer for workers in the cotton mills.  Most people thought girls weren't interested in tools and making things, but she was.  And she came up with a simple idea that no one had thought of before -- to make the loom come to a stop when a thread broke, so the parts didn't strike the workers and injure them.  I love the pictures by Joanne Friar, like this one of Mattie figuring out how the loom worked and how it could be changed to work better without hurting the people (often children) who ran the looms.  Margaret Knight went on to develop a way to fold the flat-bottomed sacks still used in grocery stores today.  Rated 9 of 10.

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea (2006) was written by a spunky woman named Sy Montgomery. In an exclusive interview on Barnes & Noble online, Sy gives us some insight into her early interest in protecting living things. She calls this her first known act of eco-conscience:
"I was sent home from kindergarten for biting a little boy who had pulled the legs off a daddy longlegs. I would do it again today."
In this book for young adults, Sy  accompanies women and men on an expedition to Papua New Guinea's cloud forest (no, not a rain forest -- it's a cloud forest) to learn more about Matschie's tree kangaroos.  I know you are wondering what a kangaroo is doing up a tree.  As you can see from the book's cover, it looks kind of like a lovable teddy bear, but it isn’t a bear or a monkey, though it climbs trees as easily as a monkey. It has a pouch like a kangaroo and lives high up in the canopy of ancient trees.  The scientists who track these elusive animals were led by a woman named Lisa, giving little girls a role model for going into a scientific field as Sy and Nic (the photographer) record what the scientists do when they find the animals.  His photos are a lot like those used in National Geographic, making it a nice book to own.  Rated 8 of 10.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Falling Angels ~ a teaser

Today's teaser is from page 85 of  Falling Angels ~ by Tracy Chevalier, 2001.
Once or twice I've convinced the missus that I should go instead of her.  Rest of the time I've to sneak out of an afternoon.  He ain't there evenings.  Gardeners work shorter hours than maids, I like to remind him.

"Yep, an' we get paid twice as much," he said.  "It's a dog's life, innit?"

Friday, February 5, 2010

Teaser ~ A Thousand Sisters

Knowing I've taken on the Women Unbound reading challenge, my friend Halle put an ARC (advance reading copy) of this book in my hands today.  I had not (yet) heard of it, but this evening I was reading news online and discovered that Nicholas D. Kristof, the op-ed-columnist, wrote about this book and this author yesterday.  I love synchronicity, don't you?  Since I haven't started reading it, I'll "tease" you with some of what Kristof wrote about A Thousand Sisters: My Journey of Hope into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman by Lisa J. Shannon, which will be published April 1, 2010.
"Five years ago, Lisa Shannon watched 'Oprah' and learned about the savage, forgotten war here in eastern Congo, played out in massacres and mass rape."
Lisa felt she needed to do something, and she did.  From a 30-mile fund-raising run ("Run for Congo Women"), to sending $27 a month to help Generose Namburho (whose leg was chopped off when she shouted as militants prepared to rape her), to going to Congo in person.  Recently, Nicholas Kristof went visiting with Lisa in Bukavu, Congo.  He wrote:
"On this visit to Congo, Lisa is organizing a Run for Congo Women right here in Bukavu, for Feb. 28, with Congolese rape survivors participating. You can sponsor them at And one of those participating in the run, hobbling along on crutches and her one leg, will be Generose."
Watch Kristof's short video about Congo, which was posted today.  (By the way, I have just finished the book Kristof wrote with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn:  Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, 2009.)

Oops!  While I was composing this post, midnight came and went without my noticing.  So everywhere I said "today" now becomes "yesterday" instead.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Book Seer

I'll blame Alison if you and I become addicted to this.  It's called The Book Seer.  Type in a book you like, and it really does come up with books (recommended by Amazon and LibraryThing) that are similar.  At least it did for me.  I typed in the title of the most recent book I completed, which I read for the Women Unbound reading challenge, and this site did indeed suggest a number of others that would be appropriate for that subject.  So go have a little fun with it.