What’s NOT the best choice for a bedtime story? Ballad of the Harp-Weaver.

There sat my mother
   With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
   And not a day older,
A smile about her lips,
   And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
   Frozen dead.

 

Since I was lucky enough to become a grandma (thank you DIL!) I’m always searching for new and interesting books to tempt Angel Boy 2.0 and his voracious appetite for words and pictures and language. One of my favorite photos was of AB 2.0 at around two months looking intently at AB 1.0 while he read a story. We swear he was paying attention. Maybe/maybe not, but we like to think so.

I went to our local library where they have a store staffed by volunteers and always find great books-sadly some never even cracked open-and grabbed an armful.

I parked myself in a little child-sized chair and briefly skimmed through my treasures. I found a book by one of my son’s favorite authors, James Herriot, who wrote All Creatures Great and Small and Moses the Kitten, along with about a dozen other really good stories, mostly about animals (my personal interests shining through).

Somehow, though, this book slipped by…

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver by Edna St. Vincent Millay, illustrated by Beth Peek.

Visually stunning, I anticipated a lovely illustrated poem that Theo would enjoy, but waited until I had already driven home to fully read this one.

UH OH, thank goodness I read it first and I’m even more grateful that Theo can’t read at all.

I know I initially read it in high school, because as soon as I saw this page, the horror I had initially felt–returned.

A bedtime story? I think not. Not unless you want to seed some traumatic nightmares! I can’t imagine what kind of positive life lesson there could be here, can you?

I didn’t remember that it ended with the mom dying, having sacrificed her life for her son, and it’s not even that I DISAGREE with that concept because I believe a good parent should place her/his needs beneath those of the innocents we bring into this universe, BUT the guilt trip that little guy will most likely endure isn’t an equivalent value for having his loving mother ALIVE.

No wonder it appeared that this book looked as if it had never been touched.

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

“Son,” said my mother,
   When I was knee-high,
“You’ve need of clothes to cover you,
   And not a rag have I.
“There’s nothing in the house
   To make a boy breeches,
Nor shears to cut a cloth with
   Nor thread to take stitches.
“There’s nothing in the house
   But a loaf-end of rye,
And a harp with a woman’s head
   Nobody will buy,”
   And she began to cry.
That was in the early fall.
   When came the late fall,
“Son,” she said, “the sight of you
   Makes your mother’s blood crawl,—
“Little skinny shoulder-blades
   Sticking through your clothes!
And where you’ll get a jacket from
   God above knows.
“It’s lucky for me, lad,
   Your daddy’s in the ground,
And can’t see the way I let
   His son go around!”
   And she made a queer sound.
That was in the late fall.
   When the winter came,
I’d not a pair of breeches
   Nor a shirt to my name.
I couldn’t go to school,
   Or out of doors to play.
And all the other little boys
   Passed our way.
“Son,” said my mother,
   “Come, climb into my lap,
And I’ll chafe your little bones
   While you take a nap.”
And, oh, but we were silly
   For half an hour or more,
Me with my long legs
   Dragging on the floor,
A-rock-rock-rocking
   To a mother-goose rhyme!
Oh, but we were happy
   For half an hour’s time!
But there was I, a great boy,
   And what would folks say
To hear my mother singing me
   To sleep all day,
   In such a daft way?
Men say the winter
   Was bad that year;
Fuel was scarce,
   And food was dear.
A wind with a wolf’s head
   Howled about our door,
And we burned up the chairs
   And sat on the floor.
All that was left us
   Was a chair we couldn’t break,
And the harp with a woman’s head
   Nobody would take,
   For song or pity’s sake.
The night before Christmas
   I cried with the cold,
I cried myself to sleep
   Like a two-year-old.
And in the deep night
   I felt my mother rise,
And stare down upon me
   With love in her eyes.
I saw my mother sitting
   On the one good chair,
A light falling on her
   From I couldn’t tell where,
Looking nineteen,
   And not a day older,
And the harp with a woman’s head
   Leaned against her shoulder.
Her thin fingers, moving
   In the thin, tall strings,
Were weav-weav-weaving
   Wonderful things.
Many bright threads,
   From where I couldn’t see,
Were running through the harp-strings
  Rapidly,
And gold threads whistling
   Through my mother’s hand.
I saw the web grow,
   And the pattern expand.
She wove a child’s jacket,
   And when it was done
She laid it on the floor
   And wove another one.
She wove a red cloak
   So regal to see,
“She’s made it for a king’s son,”
   I said, “and not for me.”
   But I knew it was for me.
She wove a pair of breeches
   Quicker than that!
She wove a pair of boots
   And a little cocked hat.
She wove a pair of mittens,
   She wove a little blouse,
She wove all night
   In the still, cold house.
She sang as she worked,
   And the harp-strings spoke;
Her voice never faltered,
   And the thread never broke.
   And when I awoke,—
There sat my mother
   With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
   And not a day older,
A smile about her lips,
   And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
   Frozen dead.
And piled up beside her
   And toppling to the skies,
Were the clothes of a king’s son,
   Just my size.

Wild Times: Sex, Drugs, and Mammoth Mountain

I have a friend who wrote a book, which in and of itself is an amazing accomplishment since my own book is stuck in limbo somewhere between my head and a few notes in this computer, but this isn’t even his first foray into publishing-he authored Zen and the Art of Surfing, too.

Greg Gutierrez is an amazing human for many reasons. He’s an artist, an educator, a vocal supporter of the environment, and a powerful local community activist.

Also a surfer. Also a skier.

When I first started to read Mammoth Mountain, I was immediately transported back to my own college years when I split my time between San Diego State University and Mammoth, where I lived part of the year on Lupin St. For me, those were spectacular days with tons of snow, skiing from first light to dark. If I didn’t have a ride up to the mountain, I’d start walking and someone would always pick me up. It was a great little community before the whole mountain exploded in condos and timeshares and tourism.

I never met Greg back then–our paths never crossed–two ships in the night and all that, and my own experiences in Mammoth were TAME compared to his, that’s for sure!

The subtitle of Mammoth Mountain is “Follow the 1980’s life of Drew, a pot smoking, thieving, womanizer…”

Now I don’t have PROOF that Drew is Greg…but I’m kinda sorta connecting the dots, if you know what I mean.

I don’t want to give away the storyline or the ending, but this is way more than a journal that chronicles one debauchery after another…there’s serious substance here, a coming of age, a rite of passage, painful growth, self examination, and enlightenment.

He lost his way, his life went off course, but what did he find?

He found himself.

There’s love, there’s a lot of love here, and at the end of the day, that’s all we have. That’s all that really matters. To love and be loved.

And if we don’t love ourselves, we can never truly know love.

P.S. Who should read this book? EVERYONE. 

“The Happy Vegan” by Russell Simmons

51SMARDTY0L._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_I’m trying to stand as tall as I can and at a vertically challenged sixty inches, that’s all I have to offer, because I need to give hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons a big huge, gigantic, massive

APOLOGY.

Why?

I misjudged him.

When I was sent his book, The Happy Vegan, to read and review, I thought it was going to be another superficial and chichi vanity publication written by a “famous person” in order to jump on the trendy new “vegan” bandwagon.

I admit that I started to read it with a closed mind.

I’ve been a vegan since 1970 and confess that I’m kind of a vegan snob, but I’m happy to say that I was wrong!

Yes, you heard me correctly; I was WRONG. (This doesn’t often happen haha)

This is a thoughtful, mindful, compassionate, and informative read about Russell Simmons’ journey and his guide to living a long, healthy, and successful life.

His writing style is down-to-earth, relatable, and I truly feel like he cares very much about getting his/our message out about the health benefits of a vegan life.

Not only is he a big name in hip-hop and a fashion entrepreneur, he’s a devout yogi, and for nearly seventeen years, Russell Simmons has been a vegan.

In The Happy Vegan, Simmons clears up misconceptions people might have about veganism and lays out reasons adopting a vegan lifestyle is in everyone’s best interest.

If Mr. Simmons can hear me…”I’m sorry. I was wrong to have misjudged you. I wish I could have met you when you were recently in SoCal. The Happy Vegan is an awesome book!”

Wondering what to give (or get) this holiday season?

I 1000% recommend The Happy Vegan, authored by Russell Simmons and Chris Morrow.

Namaste.

P.S. The moral of THIS story? One should never judge a book by a preconceived notion.

Build Your Running Body: Book Review

“This is so good. Honestly, I think this is the best running book ever.
–Bob Anderson, Founder of Runner’s World

Every so often I’ll accept an emailed request to read and review a book and it was that quote that caught my eye.

I’ve always wanted to run, but I don’t have great lung capacity. It’s no problem for me to hike ten miles and I regularly do high intensive boot camp-style training, but I don’t have the stamina for long distance running.

This easy-to-navigate book authored by Pete Magill, Thomas Schwartz, and Melissa Breyer, is full of valuable advice about training, healthy nutrition, and recipes.

I’m super motivated to start slowly and work my way up to at least a 5K.

Whether you’re a miler or an ultramarathoner, if you want a fit, fast, and injury-resistant running body, there’s a better way to train than relentlessly pursuing mileage.

This easy-to-use workout manual draws on the latest research in running physiology to target all the components that go into every stride—including muscles, connective tissue, cardiovascular fitness, energy production, the nervous system, hormones, and the brain.

With the breakthrough whole-body training program in Build Your Running Body, runners will improve their times, run longer and more comfortably, and reduce injury.

With more than 150 workouts—from weightlifting and cross-training to resistance exercises and plyometrics—fine-tuned to individual skill levels and performance goals.

buildyourrunningbody

Photographs © Diana Hernandez, 2014

• 393 photos that make it easy to follow every step of every workout
• 10 training programs to help runners of all levels integrate the total-body plan into their daily routines
• Interviews with leading runners, exercise scientists, and coaches—learn how elite runners train today
• Race strategy for the crucial weeks leading up to the competition and through to the finish line
• Exercises to prevent injury and rehabilitate common running ailments
• Seasoned insight on barefoot running, the pros and cons of stretching, and other hot-button topics
• Nutrition guidance on carbs, proteins, fats, and weight loss
• More than 30 recipes to speed recovery and cement fitness gains
• Beginners‘ guidelines every step of the way
• Valuable tips on proper apparel, tracking your progress, and more!


I give Build Your Running Body 5 out of 5 Louboutans

louboutin(Not running shoes LOL)

 

Credit line: Excerpt from Build Your Running Body: A Total-Body Fitness Plan for All Distance Runners, from Milers to Ultramarathoners—Run Farther, Faster, and Injury-Free © Pete Magill, Thomas Schwartz, and Melissa Breyer, 2014

 

 

What’s on your bedside table and your bookcase?

When I got back from my (retail) therapy sesh, I was in a much better state of mind. A little purchase can do wonders! Check out my new Hello Kitty laptop bag. It got its first unsolicited compliment from the Apple employee who was trying to help me figure out my MacAir. I’m scheduled to go back tomorrow and have a technician re-install iLife, which somehow isn’t there. All I know is that the store was packed full of women who, shall we say, all fall into the category of needing reading glasses and who were passionately attempting to learn how to work macs or iphones. It was pretty funny and revealing. From a marketing standpoint, does Apple even know who their primary demographic is, at least in the La Costa/San Diego area? It’s not young urban professionals, it’s women like me! Ha ha ha, or maybe the joke’s on me? Whatev.

I decided to expand the theme of reading material, and walk around the house and list all the books and mags that belong to my Merchant Marine tugboat captain husband. He has a lot of time to read while he’s out to sea with no TV, mostly no internet, and he’s limited to the DVDs of movies and television shows that he brings with him.  And yeah, there seems to be a recurring theme here.

Magazines:
Marine Technology Reporter
Marine News
Power Ships
Maritime Professional

Books:
Raising the Hunley Bryan Hicks and Schuyler Kropf

In Danger at Sea  Samuel Cottle

Titanics Last Secrets John Chatterton

No Country For Old Men Cormac McCarthy

The Secret Knowledge of Water Craig Childs

George Washington’s Secret Navy James L. Nelson

A Stranger Came to Port  and I Cover the Waterfront Max Miller

Desert Solitaire Edward Abbey

A lot of Joseph Conrad, who was a Merchant Marine.

Heart of Darkness, The Secret AgentNostromoUnder Western Eyes

The Rediscovery of North America Barry Lopez

Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond

Inside Mavericks, a photo book of the surf spot by Doug Acton

Here’s mine:

Afoot and Afield in San Diego Jerry Schad (one of the greatest hiking guides ever written)

Of Wolves and Men Barry Lopez

Love in the time of Cholera  Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Lots of cookbooks, including  Joy of Cooking of course.

Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special

Martha Stewart Cookbooks

Light in August William Faulkner

How To Raise a Jewish Dog Ellis Wiener and Barbara Davilman

…and all the other chick lit books that are in print.

What’s on your shelves?

Recent Reads

When my brother and I were little, we were both voracious readers; books, magazines, newspapers, street signs, cereal boxes, anything and everything. Since I know he reads my blog, I’ll give him a shout out–“Hi, Skip!” He’s much, much older than I am, practically doddering, as it were. He told me that he really began to feel old when he got his Medicare card. It represented the symbolic confirmation that he’s… OLD!  Ha ha ha. It was nice to grow up having an extremely older big (old) brother. I was the baby (still am) and could torture him all the time and never fear retaliation! All kidding aside, he was a great big brother until he went off to college and I was all alone with no one to torture except for our parents; they bore the brunt of my rebellious teenage “boy crazy” escapades. Ah, the good old days of ditching school and hanging out at Plum Street and listening to the Doors at ear screeching volume for hours on end!

Environmental/Animal Rights:
I’m not sure if he still reads as much as I do, but I am lost without a book.  I was out of chick books and picked up a novel my son sent to the captain, T.C. Boyle‘s When The Killing’s Done. It’s a real departure from my normal fantasy-based romance and witty banter menu, but it is a must-read; savagely compelling.  It’s based on the true story of how the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy rid the  Channel Islands (off the California coast) of  sheep, pigs, black rats and, finally, opportunistic golden eagles, in order to give the rare island fox and some nomadic seabirds a fighting chance for survival. As expected, animal rights activists protest and actively thwart the efforts by attempting to sabotage the killing of some species to “save” others. It’s not all about the animals; there are relationship subplots and twists and turns that made it impossible to stop reading. I had to skip over a few of the more graphic paragraphs (thanks to my son who warned me), but I don’t think that minimized the brilliance of the writing nor the importance  of the subject matter. It was an especially timely read for me during our great squirrel relocation program last week.
Nautical:
When I finished that book, I was searching around the house for something else to read and picked up one of the magazines delivered to the captain every few months. If you love nautical/maritime reads, you will love this. It was really interesting with beautiful pictures. Power Ships is a publication of the Steamship Historical Society of America. In this issue, they highlight the Providence Steamship Company. In the 1920’s the owner’s wife took over management of the tugboat company when her husband died. Some say she was the inspiration for the popular “Tugboat Annie” character.

Enough of that, I said to myself. I am excited to start reading Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand novel.