Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ian and Cara's Wedding

So, my brother Ian got married the weekend before Thanksgiving in Dublin, VA (a place I'd never heard of, but which was very appropriate, seeing as he and Cara nearly got engaged in Ireland when they were over there last summer). This was an extremely exciting event in more ways than one. First, it was exciting because he has chosen a wife who fits right into the family. As he's noted, he's finally found his match when it comes to humor. They can most definitely go head-to-head on the humor field (although I wouldn't put it past her to outwit him on occasion. That's quite a feat!).

Second, it was exciting because they honored Bob by asking him to officiate. (We have learned not to say "marry them," as those who aspire to be humor pros like the bride and groom keep telling us, "That's not legal.") This honor turned out to be quite a lot of work. We should have guessed, being Presbyterians, that for a minister to leave the state of Pennsylvania in order to officiate a wedding in the state of Virginia would be about as easy as swimming from Manhattan to San Francisco. However, we didn't, which means Bob didn't finally have the document that allowed him to perform the ceremony until the day before the wedding. (No matter. Ian didn't have his tie -- ordered six weeks earlier, to match the best man's and the ushers' ties -- until the day before the wedding, either.)

Third, Ian had asked my father to be the best man. This was another honor not taken lightly. My father was nervous about dropping the rings and having them roll through some sort of crack and disappear (they got married in this very cool converted barn that is part of the Rockwood Manor Bed and Breakfast). I was more worried that our 81-year-old father was going to fall going up and down the stairs to the riser. Luckily, Cara's sons were ushers and offered him helping hands.

Fourth, this was the first time my entire family has been together in four years (by entire family, I mean my parents, two sisters, brother, and two nieces. I have to clarify this because one of my English cousins who came over for the event had informed us that her sister has recently discovered that we're somehow related to Hugh Grant. When we were talking about how it had been four years since we'd all been together, one of my nieces, without missing a beat said, "Define family. I mean, I want to know: are we talking Hugh Grant here?"). Believe it or not, we made it through the whole weekend without a single disagreement or argument (if you ignore my parents' typical bickering, which we all do). That's rare in my family. Either we have finally all matured (highly doubtful), or we were just all so happy and having such fun, nothing seemed worth arguing over.

Finally, I got to see people I haven't seen in years. And I actually got to talk to them, not just wave to them from across a room while someone I didn't know at all bent my ear for hours. It's amazing, though, how we've all come to resemble our parents. How did that happen?

All-in-all, it was a great success. Bob did a beautiful job (not to brag, but I will anyway and say that my husband really has a knack for things like weddings and funerals -- the latter of which caused us to have to race home, so he could be with a grieving family and officiate the day before Thanksgiving). One of our friends said to Bob, "If my daughters ever get married, I'm calling you." My father held onto the rings until they were masterfully exchanged by the bride and groom. And then we all ate the best. wedding. cake. ever (BTW, if you want really, really fantastic food at a wedding -- not that typical, bland, tasteless stuff that always seems to be served, no matter how fancy the caterers -- make sure the groom is a former chef) and danced the night away (helped along by a secret stash of moonshine, or as my English cousin called it "homegrown." After all, it was a Southern wedding. As if all the other booze weren't enough. Like I said, after all, it was a Southern wedding. It was also a Scottish/Irish wedding).

Most of my pictures of the actual wedding didn't come out all that well, but I share a few here with you.

The beautiful setting in Dublin, VA.

The minister, the groom, and the best man await the bride.

My immediate family with the newest member.

Cake cutting (that's the bride's son taking a picture).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Reading Lists (A Meme)

I got this one from Thomas. It's been a long time since I did one of these reading list/what-I-have-and-haven't read things. What I love about this one is that it's a list sure to make us book bloggers (note that I am referring to myself as a book blogger. Hope you real book bloggers out there aren't offended) feel great (as opposed to those that make us feel like we will never, in this lifetime, read everything we should have read). You see, apparently, the BBC (and, no, I have not researched this to see if it's a fact. My guess is that it very well may not be, since this started on Facebook. I mean, one need only ask the question, "Who, exactly is 'the BBC?'" to start wondering about the validity of this claim) believes most people have only read 6 of the following titles. Book bloggers, rejoice! I can guarantee that you have all read more than six of these titles. Aren't we a superior lot?

Anyway, here you go. (In true Queen o' Memes fashion) I'm turning this into a meme. Here are the instructions:

Thomas put the titles he'd read in blue, so, please, follow his lead and put the titles you've read in blue.
He put into italics those he'd partially read.
He crossed out those he never intends to read. I prefer (due to ease when using blogger) to put those in bold.
Put in red those that have been on your TBR list (or, if you are like me, "in your TBR tome") since The Fall (you know, the one described in Genesis?).

Comment as you see fit (which you don't have to do, but I can't help doing -- as all my long-time readers know).

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen. And I will probably read it again soon.
2. The Lord of the Rings. This one really ought to be bolded, but I keep hemming and hawing over whether or not I ought to bite the bullet.
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte. And one of my favorite rereads of 2010 (as an audiobook version). A book that ought to be read every decade or so of one's life.
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling. I've read the first four and will definitely read them all eventually, although I am not the huge fan most are and think there is much better stuff out there for kids.
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible. Still think it's a foundation for so much literature that has come since and is a fabulous description of the evolutions of western civilization, law, and psychology.
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte. Read it too late in life but can still understand all the hoopla, despite despising most of the characters.
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell. The verdict is still out on whether or not I've actually read it. Maybe I should put it in red, because I've been meaning to read (or reread) it forever.
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman. I've read the first two. Loved them. Am saving the last one (God knows for what, but thus is the life of a "savorer" as opposed to a "gobbler" of books/authors.)
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens. Why have I not yet read it? I can't, off the top of my head, think of anyone who hasn't recommended it.
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott. So many times I've lost count.
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy. Really ought to reread, since I go on and on about how it's been one of my greatest influences.
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller. The fact that my local library's copy of this is missing is a lame excuse for not having read it, isn't it? Especially since I was first told I had to read it 24 years ago (long, long before I had any idea I'd be living here, where the local library's copy is missing).
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare. I took two Shakespeare courses in college, but I still don't think I've read everything he's written. Almost everything, but not everything. Yet.
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier. One of those books I wish I hadn't read and could read again for the first time.
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien. It does count that my fourth grade teacher read it out loud to the whole class, even if I spent most of that time writing my own stories and drawing pictures and not paying much attention, right?
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk. Okay, back in 1997, some English friends recommended this one to Bob and me. Bob bought it and read it. He loved it, wanted me to read it. I've been meaning to do so ever since.
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger. I'd like to reread this one, too. Although I did enjoy it, I was not as impressed with it as most the first time I read it (at age 20), but I read Franny and Zooey in the past year and think I might have a new appreciation for Salinger.
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger. Completely, unexpectedly loved it! Recommended it to (a.k.a. thrust it upon) all kinds of people without thinking. I should have known better (those of you who have read it and know her, think: my mother). Now, I recommend it to a select few. Can't quite help wondering, though: why is it on this list?
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot. Oh my God, did I love it. Why I have not read more by George Eliot, I will never know, but I haven't.
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell. Yes, everything it is cracked up to be, but please put it in its time and place if you are going to read it and complain about racism, sexism, etc. Almost all books written in that era can be accused of same.
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald. Another one I have been meaning to reread for years.
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy. I read it on my honeymoon. Forget it's reputation for length. It's extremely romantic, which makes it a great honeymoon read.
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams. Maybe I didn't appreciate Catcher in the Rye, because I read this one the same summer?
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky. On that same list of most influential/greatest reads of mine. I have to admit, though, to anyone who has found it rough-going, it wasn't until I tried it the second time that I got it (a.k.a. fell into it, abandoned all else in life till I'd finished it, rhapsodized about it, told everyone they must read it, immediately dismissed anyone I knew who didn't like it, etc., etc., etc.).
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck. I WILL finish it one day. It just wasn't the right time when I tried to read it.
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll. I plan to reread it soon, too (my reread tome seems to be almost as long as my TBR tome).
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my father reading it aloud to me.
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy. I don't need to tell most of you how Bob and I met, do I?
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - C. S. Lewis. I'm not sure if I read all of them. All I know is that I read a good deal of them one summer as a child and was not as impressed with them as everyone else I knew seemed to be.
34 Emma -Jane Austen. This is my favorite Austen.
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen. Then again, I haven't reread this one. Maybe it's my favorite...
36. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis. Now, you see, this is what makes me wonder about that whole "BBC" claim. I mean, don't those employed by the BBC know that this happens to be one of the Chronicles of Narnia? (If not, I have lost all respect for the BBC.)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini. But really wish I hadn't wasted the time.
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres. Okay, now I know the BBC can't be involved. Those who work there surely must know that the title of the book is Corelli's Mandolin. The movie was Captain Coreli's Mandolin. Anyway, loved, loved, loved the book. The movie was a waste of time.
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne. Over and over and over again. As any child should.
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell. Well, wouldn't it be in your TBR tome if you hadn't read it?
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown. If I were stranded on a desert island with nothing else to read, maybe...
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Loved, loved, loved it! Abandoned everything else I was supposed to be reading for all my other courses in college until I'd finished it. Time for a reread, don't you think?
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving. So far, my favorite Irving.
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins. I bought a new edition last year, so I can read it again.
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery. But not as a child.
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy. It's not in my TBR tome, but it probably should be, as I am sure I will read it one day.
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood. Have read other Atwood but not this one.
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding. Couldn't get through it. Maybe ought to try again?
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan. You'd probably be better off just seeing the movie (which I haven't seen). This one was very disappointing.
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel. Finally read it and loved it.
52 Dune - Frank Herbert. Dragged myself through the tedium for a course I took in college.
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons. Enjoyable to a degree, but why does everyone rave so about it? Something must be wrong with me, because I just don't get that.
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen. So much Austen on this list...
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth. But it's just so...long...isn't it? Especially for a book that doesn't take place in America or England. (I know, that highlights my biases...)
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Since I've never heard of it, I doubt I'll ever read it.
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens. I just haven't read that much Dickens. I think I'm afraid that once I start, I may be stuck reading him for the rest of my life (I mean, he was so prolific, and I'm such a slow reader...)
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley. I know. I know. Please don't tell me I must read it.
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon. Why is this on this list? I mean, really? Did someone decide, "Well, we must have something written in the 21st century," and this was all he/she could think to include? It's already practically forgotten. I doubt people will be talking about it fifty years from now.
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Even better than One Hundred Years of Solitude. Put a gun to my head and ask me to name one of my all-time favorite books. This one would probably pop to mind before most others.
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck. Devastated me at the age of fourteen.
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov. Love it. If you haven't read it, listen to the Jeremy Irons audiobook. Perfection.
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt. The editor was out to lunch, which ruined this one for me. If you want something similar that is far better, read Tana French's The Likeness.
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold. Read it because it made Bob cry. It made me cry, too.
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas. This one has been in the TBR tome since I saw the movie in 1997. I know. I know. I must read it.
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac. Read it when I was a twenty-something and idealized Kerouac, the Beats, San Francisco, long road trips, etc., etc. I know: what's changed? Perhaps I need to reread.
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy. Until this past year, I'd only partially read it. Now I've read the whole thing. Typical Hardy: extraordinarily depressing, but somehow hopeful in that there was an author at the time who knew how bleak it all was due to society's decrees.
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding. Laughed my head off when I read it, but if I hadn't seen the movie not too long ago, really wouldn't remember a thing about it (a.k.a. Swedish-fish-reading). Again, though, why is this one on the list? Is it to help give those who never read a chance at achieving six read?
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie. Can't say why, but I probably won't ever read any Salman Rushdie. Just not interested.
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville. This book is my nemesis, which means I can't bold it, because I plan to conquer it one day, but I can't put it in red, because it hasn't been in the TBR tome all that long.
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens. But I read it when I had strep throat and a fever that had me seeing stars, so I can't attest to what was actually there and what I invented.
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker. Often contemplate making it a Halloween ritual to read it every year, but then get distracted by other stuff. I do love it, though.
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett. Loved as a kid. Loved when I reread it as an adult.
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson. Am reading his The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid for a book discussion group. Meh. Not sure what else of his I might read after this experience.
75. Ulyesses (hmm...looks like "the BBC" can't spell, either) - James Joyce. Hasn't been in the TBR tome forever. Is sort of making an appearance in the Afterward, though...
76. The Inferno - Dante. Nope. Can't answer your question as to why this one goes unread year after year after year...
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome. Never heard of it, so again, doubt I'll ever read it.
78 Germinal - Emile Zola. Haven't yet, but Mandarine gave me a copy, so I will.
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray. Never got through it, but have been meaning to try ever since I set it down sixteen years ago...
80 Possession - AS Byatt. No desire at this point.
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens. A wonderfully spooky ghost story.
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell. Again, no desire.
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker. I love Alice Walker.
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro. Twice. Perfection.
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert. Everyone knows I read it three times and hate it, right?
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White. Couldn't get through it as a child. Finally read it as an adult. Brilliant.
88. The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom. Life is way too short...
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The man who started my fixation with the mystery genre.
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton. Wasn't interested in Enid Blyton as a child. Can't see suddenly becoming interested.
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad. So shoot me. I'm just not that interested (despite love, love, loving The Secret Agent).
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery. What's better: the illustrations or the story?
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks. Again: why is this here?
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams. But I was thirteen. I'm sure I missed so much. I want to read it again.
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole. Yes, if you haven't read it, do.
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute. Maybe, one day...but it hasn't even made it into the TBR tome. Someone convince me.
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas. I saw the movie, which bored me to tears.
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare. And seen it performed probably more than any of his other plays.
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl. I still can't eat my chocolate bars the way Charlie managed to do in the beginning of that book.
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo. I really ought to read it. I mean, how many years am I going to keep responding to lists like these, having to talk about how I've been meaning to read it forever?

So, there you have it BBC (or who/whatever). I've read 58, well above the 6 predicted. I'm trying not to wrench my shoulder patting myself on the back.

What about you? How many have you read? I'm tagging you to do this on your own blog.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Where I've Been

Okay, I haven't decided to stop blogging or to go off to some third-world country to live a simpler life. I just happen to have been attending my brother's wedding, which was an absolutely fabulous event. As soon as it was over, though, I collapsed with a sore throat and a fever (while still having to drive from Virginia back to Pennsylvania). I will post pictures and more details soon. Right now, suffice it to say, it was fabulous! I've got a terrific new sister-in-law who comes from a family that is as wild and ruckus as we Michies (no wonder she fits right in).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

Thornton, Rosy. The Tapestry of Love. London: Headline Review, 2010.

Before I took up blogging, which has managed to nearly double the number of books I read in any given year (odd how that works. You'd think that with spending time in the blogosphere, I'd have less time for books), I used to spend the months of October and November exclusively reading books of a supernatural or mysterious nature. I'd buy and save books throughout the year specifically for this purpose. That meant a total of 6-8 books, and I so looked forward to this "spooky" time of year. Two years ago, though, I realized that I was reading more like 6-8 books a month. By the time I got to Thanksgiving, I was sick of the supernatural and the mysterious. And that, my dear readers, was a travesty for this thrills-and-chills Halloween-lover! So, last year I got wise. I decided it was okay to spread my (vampire bat?) wings a little in the fall, that I could just read more supernatural stuff throughout the year and not save so much for this time of year. Although I would still weight October and November with such fare, I would also read other non-spooky titles.

So, along came October 2010, and Bob and I were busy packing to go to Maine for 3 weeks. What was I busy packing? Edward Gorey's The Haunted Looking Glass, which is a collection of his favorite ghost stories (and a wonderful -- and wonderfully illustrated -- little read, for anyone who's interested) was first, followed by Tana French's The Likeness, Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box, and David Markson's Epitaph for a Tramp and Epitaph for a Dead Beat. Bob was bringing along Dan Simmons's The Terror, which I figured I was sure I'd be told "You must read!" (I figured correctly.) It doesn't look like I was doing a very good job of tempering my supernatural/mysterious reading in October. I knew I would need to do so, though. What would be a good antidote to all this heart racing material? And then I remembered I had the perfect thing. Rosy Thornton had very kindly sent me a copy of her latest novel to read and review.

Two years ago, when Bob and I were on our first three-week stint in Maine, I had read Thornton's Hearts and Minds and loved it. It was the perfect thing to read by the fire after a long day of hiking. Back then, we'd only had one or two fires, because we'd gone up in early September. This year, arriving during the fall peak, we were sure to have plenty of fires.

The Tapestry of Love is very different from Hearts and Minds. Nevertheless, Thornton's gentle wisdom, empathetic nature, and sense of humor, as well as her awareness of how complicated humans and their relationships are, shine through as much here as they did there. If you're someone who's ever gone off to live in a different country, you will appreciate this book about a woman in her late forties who decides to leave England for the France of her childhood holidays and settle there. But even if you've never done so, you can still laugh at the subtle misunderstandings, the difficulties of dealing with a bureaucracy that is probably no worse than your own familiar one but is more difficult in its being foreign.

Catherine, the heroine of the novel; with the exception of being someone who enjoys sewing and needlework and tapestry so much that she goes about setting up her own business doing so in this small, rural, French community; is a woman after my own heart. She lives in a place where, if she is patient (and lucky), she gets to observe a family of wild boars...

"...gathered one by one at the stream to drink. First the sow and then her young -- five, six, seven of them -- jostled forward and lowered their snouts to the water. The mother was a hefty size, much bigger than Catherine had imagined; three feet tall to the shoulder and maybe five feet long, she must weigh in at fourteen or fifteen stone...The piglets were small; she guessed they could be no more than a few weeks old." (p. 225)

(I loved that scene. Catherine had been missing the wild boars throughout the book, and what a treat when she finally sees them.)

She's been divorced for years. Her children are now grown and on their own, and she sets out to fulfill a dream. She's a loner at heart, someone who has no problem with isolation in a beautiful setting (I could certainly relate to that while reading this in Maine). Nonetheless, she surprises herself by becoming very attached to her neighbors. That's not all. There's even a little romance, a mature romance at that, although not without its moments of insecurity, common to all romance whether mature or not.

I expected cozy from this book. What I didn't expect was a connection and an odd sort of comfort just when I needed it. While I was in the midst of reading this book, my college roommate, one of my dearest friends, called to tell me her mother had died. This is the first of one of my long-time friends to lose her mother, and it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. My friend and I cried on the phone together, and I wished so badly that I could be with her to hug her.

In the book, Catherine's mother dies, not unexpectedly, really. I found a real solace in the way Thornton so poignantly described that event and its effects. She wasn't maudlin. She wasn't over-the-top. She was just right in her approach, handling awkwardness and sorrow and regret in just the right measures.

This is a book that will tempt you to sell everything and go live in France. Thornton makes the landscape, the way of life, and the people all so tantalizing. You will also be inspired to cook (or at least to eat). Food (of course. We're in France) is always being served and eaten; not just food, but delicious food, even when I wasn't sure I knew exactly what it was, it all sounded like something I must try. Ultimately, just as I thought, it's a perfect book to curl up with by the fire, after a long day of hiking. I also highly recommend it as an accompaniment to a long, hot bath.

Friday, November 12, 2010


This has been offered to us. Dare we take her? Why are we even hesitating? Poor Francis the Cat, whose world will be rocked. After a few trips to the animal shelter, we had recently decided that maybe we shouldn't try to introduce a dog into the house with Francis. He had a very traumatic kitten hood and is extremely skittish. But she's darling, isn't she? And our idea had always been to get a puppy and a kitten and name them Francis and Clare (after the two saints). What does everyone think?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Music Monday/Lyric Lundi

It's funny. I hadn't heard this song in ages. Then, I was driving around listening to one of those classic rock stations that I usually don't like (their idea of classic rock is typically very boring. Lots of Journey and the Eagles and Bob Seger. But that's a topic for another blog post), and it came on the radio. Then, I was reading a book, and it was mentioned in the book. I was reminded of a conversation I had a long, long time ago, back when this song was becoming one of my favorites (I paraphrase here. My memory is good for such things, but not that good):

Very Young Emily (VYE) to Much More Knowledgeable Older Sister (MMKOS) : ...but stuck in the middle of what?

MMKOS: I don't know. A card game, I think.

VYE: A card game?

MMKOS: Yes, one guy sitting next to him has clowns. The other has jokers.

VYE: But cards don't have clowns.

MMKOS: They can. A deck of cards can have anything on the back.

So, for years, whenever I heard this song, I imagined a guy sitting at a table playing cards and trying not to fall off his chair. Funny, the video seems to show something very different...

Saturday, November 06, 2010

An Extension (or What Was I Thinking?)

I was the classmate that many of you probably hated when you were in school. Or, at least, I would have been had you known what I was really like. You wouldn't have known, though, because when I was a student, I was ruled by two combating neuroses: fear of failure and fear of being hated. Therefore, since I would not have wanted you to hate me, I never would have let you know all that I was up to that would have made you do so.

All that I was up to was doing such things as writing papers the minute they were assigned (or at least five days before they were due instead of the night -- or even hours -- before, the way so many of my friends seemed to be able to do). I lived in terror of writer's block (a phenomenon that is practically foreign to me, but I lived in terror of it anyway), libraries not having the books I needed (this happened once. I did a paper on Anorexia. Hard to believe now, but back then, there were very, very few book-length sources on the topic. I searched my university's library, found three books on the topic, all of which were checked out. I searched my boyfriend's university library and found two books, both checked out. I searched my hometown's university library and found one book. The public libraries had nothing. I was dependent on journal articles. My professor liked my paper, but docked me for not having more "books as resources." I suppose I should say that my third neurosis back then was pathological shyness. I didn't dare approach him, explain how hard I had tried, and ask him to change my grade, but you can see that if I had time to do all that research, I had obviously started this paper long before it was due), a broken typewriter (God knows what I would have been like had we all used computers in those days), etc. I began studying for tests and exams long before the date (a stupid thing to do, because my fourth neurosis was text anxiety. I am an absolutely miserable test-taker, and studying too far in advance guaranteed that I wouldn't remember or would muddle facts).

I was always secretly envious of those who could wait until the last minute, who would begin a paper at 10:00 p.m. that was due the next morning at 9:00. How did they do it? I remember in high school, a friend of mine calling me after 10:00 (which means I had already turned out my light. My fifth neurosis was worrying about getting my full eight hours of sleep every night, and I had to be up at 6:00 a.m. the next morning) for help with our algebra II homework. What the hell was she doing still playing around with x's and y's at that hour? But I secretly wished I could be more like that. I pulled exactly one all-nighter during my entire college career, and that was only because I only had one exam the next day, and it was early, and I knew I could sleep the rest of the day, and I was trying to impress a guy I liked, one of those guys who pulled all-nighters at least once a week. What a dork, huh? I mean, college is all about all-nighters, isn't it? But there I was, every night before midnight, with my sleeping cap on and my little mug of hot milk, saying my prayers and tucking myself in. (Okay, I wasn't that bad. I did stay up to see the sun rise at many a party on the weekends, but nothing doing during the week.)

All this secret goody-two-shoes behavior didn't work so well when it came to avoiding failure. Not that I exactly failed anything, but I made my fair share of C's (at least, once I got to college) in those courses that either didn't interest or just didn't stick (like statistics, which did neither). However, I do think I managed to keep people from hating me. I had some very close friends when I was in high school and college, and I'm grateful for that.

Needless to say (fear of failure + pathological shyness = inability to do so), I never asked for a single extension. Again, I was both disdainful and envious of those I saw doing so all the time. I was always thinking, "You were assigned that at the beginning of the term. It's basically the only thing we had to produce. How could you possibly not get it done by the due date?" The most impressive were those who, say, were actually willing to take an incomplete in a course and deliver the paper after Christmas break, or to ask a professor, "Could I have an extension? I'm going to be at multiple Grateful Dead shows next week."

That get-everything-done-way-ahead-of-time-gal was me, circa 1984. But then, I went to work in publishing. I acquired books written by professors. I was flabbergasted to discover that those who would have docked me a letter grade had I turned in my paper late (or so they all had me convinced) would sign contracts with due dates that they basically ignored. The majority of my authors were not the least bit like me (or like the scary professors they presented themselves to be when handing out assignments to 19-year-olds). They never met a deadline that they respected. To them, contracts merely made"suggestions" about manuscript delivery dates. They were as blithe about the clause that said they would deliver a manuscript by April 30th as a pimp is about wedding vows.

They must have rubbed off on me. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe I'm learning to let my hair down, to think of deadlines and assignments as man made constructs, most of which mean very little, unless you're doing something like delivering organs for transplants. Because I am here to tell you today that I am giving myself an extension (and giving it to anyone else who wants it, as well).

Last year around this time, I came up with my TBR challenge. It was a rather ridiculous challenge, so ridiculous that I'm not even going to bother to link you to it. It involved reading twenty books from my TBR tome, not buying any new ones until I'd done so, and posting on each one I read. I thought that not buying new ones would give me the incentive to start tackling the tome. But no, I just quickly abandoned the idea of not buying books (around month two, I think), because, well, yes, books are my heroin. I am, apparently, incapable of going two months without buying at least one (oh, let's face it: at least ten). But I kept reading books I had carefully chosen for my challenge list. I just didn't keep posting on them. And pretty soon, I realized I wasn't even really reading much from the list.

The question then became: should I abandon the challenge? But no. I still want to read every single book I chose. I've read ten of them. I've posted on seven. I'm in the middle of my 11th. It seems ridiculous to abandon the challenge. All I really need is an extension. And so, I am giving it to myself. It seems far more reasonable to have a challenge that consists of reading ten books in one year (especially when one belongs to three book discussion groups and reads about as fast as your slowest first-grader. I mean, really, what was I thinking?), and so, I am giving myself another year to read the last ten books on the list and to finish posting on all of them. Who knows? Maybe I'll panic, worry that all my computers will crash, that I'll suffer from writer's block, and that all ten books will magically disappear before I can read them, and will break down and get them all read and written about by April. But don't count on it.

Anyone else who is still plugging away at this challenge, feel free to give yourself an extension until next December as well. All those of you who took it on and managed to finish it? Well you get an A++.