Monday, September 27, 2010

Words to Live By

Spotted on the back of a plumber contractor's truck, this profound motto:

"Where Quality is Always an Option"

"How much do you suppose they charge for that optional package," quipped my son. "An extra 50 bucks?"

We considered all the companies and institutions that could adopt the motto, such as a college, an airline, a hospital. As my son said, it is a very versatile motto. Indeed they are words to live by.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A whole new world

My son has a community college math class that meets at 7am 3 times a week. 7am!! The kid who hasn't been up before 10am for the last 2 years sets his alarm clock, has his book bag packed the night before, and is ready to head out the door at 6:30. That alone is stunning.

What is even more stunning are all the people who are out and about at 6:30 in the morning. I had no idea. The freeway is packed with heavy traffic. It isn't gridlock and isn't the frenzied panic traffic that we hit on the way home from his class at 8:30. I figure those are all the people who are worried about being late to work so ride your tail, accelerating to pass you and cutting you off when your lane ends. The 6:30am traffic is a more sensible, though sizable beast.

Starbucks is packed by 7am with a never ending line of 10-12 people. There are school kids with their parents, college students, and people dressed for work. As I write there is a little boy who asleep in one of the over-stuffed chairs. And Santa Claus just walked in wearing a bright aloha shirt festooned with tropical Santas. I may need more coffee...

As we get back to our neighborhood on the way home the elementary kids are heading to school. Another slice of life I've never experienced. Their backpacks are bigger than they are!!

6:30 to 8:30 am has been my quiet time for the last 11 years. If I'm up, I'm reading the newspaper, enjoying a quiet house. Or I'm out walking the dog or getting grocery shopping done before the family gets up. The grocery store is great in the early morning hours, although you have to dodge pallets of boxes while the shelves get re-stocked. And if you time it wrong on Monday morning, they haven't gotten around to restocking milk after the weekend rush so you have to make a second trip to get milk later in the day.

I was dreading this 3 times a week early morning routine, but it hasn't been bad at all. And it's been fascinating seeing how the rest of the world lives!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

52 Books in 52 weeks: More Moby Dick and some reviews

My reading list continues to be very eclectic -- a few “great books”, some good books and fluff and some non-fiction. I’ve slowed down a bit thanks to Moby Dick, which I’m still enjoying but isn’t quite the page turner of an epic that I thought it might be. But I’m past that “wall” that marathon runners describe, that point where you feel too fatigued to go on and realize the end is still so far away. At least now the end is in sight, the white whale is almost in sight and I’ll have a terrific sense of accomplishment when it’s all done.

But I was going to write about what else I’ve been reading.

First up, some light but entertaining fantasy. A friend lent me a copy of Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson promising it to be a fun read, and indeed it was. Fantasy is one of those hit or miss genres, too often a miss for my taste. Mistborn started off leaning toward the “miss” category because of the expository rush at the beginning of the book. There is nothing that kills a sci fi or fantasy novel like heavy handed explanations -- the world should be revealed through the story. But, the exposition wasn’t too clunky and the characters and plot soon caught and kept my attention.

My son and I attended a reading and signing with Sanderson just last week, and in a serendipitous coincidence he happened to mention Moby Dick, describing it as a kind of fantasy novel. I liked that analogy. What my son and I find quite amusing is that Sanderson’s newest book, in audio format, clocks in at a whopping 45 hours! Moby Dick was only 24, and is a self contained book whereas Sanderson’s book is the first in a planned 10 book series!!! 10 books! I can’t imagine a story that warrants 10 books of 400,000 words each! And yet the author was engaging, Mistborn was readable, so the 45 hour marathon may be worth a try.

Another recent read was Moonstone, a Victorian detective novel by Wilkie Collins. What a delightful read! The story is told from several viewpoints, each of which is a very distinct and entertaining character. The loyal and funny servant and the fundamentalist spinster aunt are the two best, but the detective and secondary characters are fun too. There are some terrific red herrings and a solution that works even though it defies reason.

I had never heard of Wilkie Collins until some of the ladies on the Well Trained Mind high school forums started talking about his books. I looked him up either on Wikipedia or Sparknotes (can’t remember which) and was surprised to find out he and Dickens were great friends. I assumed he is an author slipping into oblivion (because, of course, I hadn’t heard of him!) only to discover there is an essay contest for teens sponsored by Penguin books on the Moonstone, and a local bookstore’s book club is discussing the book later this month.

It seems the more I learn the more ignorant I feel! There are clearly more wonderful titles and authors out there that I’ve never heard of and so many literary references that still go over the top of my head.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Does this mean I have to vacuum more often?

I'm getting a taste of what life is like after homeschooling and it is really odd. I'm not entirely sure what to do with myself.

During my 11 years of homeschooling I'd relish the quiet hours before everyone got up, sipping coffee, browsing the internet, reading the paper. I'd fit in an errand or load of laundry before it was time to brace myself for the homeschool routine. I'd cement a cheery smile on my face while the kids rolled their eyes over math or while they dragged their feet getting out the door for a class or activity. If one kid was at an activity the other was supposed to be doing work -- I was constantly juggling my attention from kid to kid, to school to the calendar and where I needed to be next. I even found a way to shoe-horn in my own interests, but it made for some crazy busy months.

This September I suddenly find myself free from math and science, two time consuming homeschool subjects, and virtually free from driving. I still start my day with my own quiet time, still get an errand done fairly early, but I realize I don't have to start the juggling routine of homeschooling and driving, I really have no responsibilities to anyone for the balance of the day. It is unsettlingly bizarre. I can't figure out what to do with myself, what my own priorities are. I start making lists of things I've wanted to get done, of tasks that could be done in a more timely manner, and it is all Suzy Homemaker stuff. Vacuuming. Dusting. Organizing closets. Yuck!! Is that all I have left in my life?! Then I think of my interests such as reading, writing, practicing violin, gardening, knitting......and that seems sooooo self-indulgent. I feel guilty to think that I get to just do that as much and as often as I want. Then I think of how I could be exercising daily now, and I feel even more guilty that I'm sitting in Starbucks writing a blog entry!

I know -- what a horrible problem to have. This is NOT a complaint, really, but more of an observation of how strangely different life my life is now. For the first time in almost 19 years of motherhood, I'm not having to react and adjust to and juggle the needs and demands of others. After organizing everyone else, I have to organize myself.

It is so bizarre.