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.
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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.

Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards…S-E-X-Y Book Review

9781938231476[4][3][63]Confession time ‘cos well, that’s what Confessions of a Tugboat Captain’s Wife does from time to time…

Here I am, home alone, my handsome tugboat man far, far away floating on the big blue ocean, and what do I love to do?

Besides shopping, I mean…

Give up?

I LOVE to read. I read ALL the time and if I’m sent an advance copy to read and review, so much the better, ya know?

Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards is an enchanting and sensuous series about an actual historical figure, the notorious Lola Montez, who changed Europe through her beauty and strong, sexually liberated personality.

A young, beautiful dancer, Lola Montez, charms her way into the upper ranks of society using only her wits and her signature whip and fan.

Set in the 19th century, this hot tamale attracts trouble and finds herself in desperate situations that send her on jaunts all over Europe.

I was hooked from the beginning.

I LOVE novels that open with dialogue; I’m drawn into the characters right off the bat. (It’s a great device —  I need to remember and use it more often in my own writing.)

I don’t want to give too much away, but you might NEED a fan to cool you down after some of the super sexy bits!

Spying —  clandestine meetings — sexy interludes — AND a true story.

Whether you have a completely empty nest like me, or you’re just looking for a good read, I recommend Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards.

Have you read any good books lately? Let me know!


Astor + Blue Editions presents, Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards (ISBN: 978-1-938231-47-6; Trade Paperback; Romance, Historical, Women’s Fiction; US $14.95 CAN $14.95; February, 2013), the rollicking first installment of a new series by debut author, Kit Brennan.  The Whip Smart series begins during the historic week that marks the actual birthdate of Lola Montez. (February 17). 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kit Brennan is a nationally produced, award-winning playwright, and teaches writing and storytelling at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

The Victorian era and its personalities have always been of major interest to Brennan. Her play Tiger’s Heart explores the life of Dr. James Barry, who was actually a woman living a double life disguised as a man in order to practice medicine, which was not an option open to women at the time.

Kit divides her time between the vibrant city of Montreal and the quiet lake wilderness of Ontario alongside her husband, Andrew, and a variety of animal friends.  Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards is her debut novel.

Visit her online at www.kitbrennan.com.

Buy Whip Smart now on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1nwgjg5

Buy Whip Smart now from Barnes and Noblehttp://bit.ly/1mh9tL5

Visit Astor and Blue Editions: http://astorandblue.com/

Coming THIS October: The third installment of Kit Brennan’s series! 

 

 

The Best Books to Read This Summer

If you’re fascinated (like I am) about the what goes on behind the scenes in Hollywood with BIG DEALS and BIG MONEY, you will love these books.

I’m talking about the kind of book you can’t put down; the kind where you’re in limbo-time, in a trancelike state — and where you are so invested in the characters that you hope the book never ends — but you can’t wait to get to the last page to see how the author ties everything up — only to discover that there’s a sequel to the first book.

And it’s just as awesome.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I live an Enchanted Life on the edge of fantasy. Reality for me is, at best, a road not taken.

Although reality can and does rear its ugly head at odd and unexpected moments, that’s the best time for a well-written chick lit novel or two to transport me on a magic carpet ride back to the Land of Princess Rosebud and all that is sparkly.

According to Wikipedia, Chick lit is genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.

Although this is definitely chick lit, it’s so well written and the characters are so well fleshed out and alive, you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

(My Ph.D. DIL was as obsessed as I was, so it’s not just me.)

Clare Naylor and Mimi Hare met and became a fantastic writing team. Clare is the author of Love: A User’s Guide and Catching Alice.

Mimi was the director of development at Gracie Films, the company responsible for Jerry Maguire and As Good As It Gets.

They draw upon their own real life experiences for a riveting behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in Hollywood.

I loved reading these novels and I hope you will enjoy them too. Even though they came out a few years ago, it’s still fresh and relevant.

Read The Second Assistant FIRST:

thesecondassistant

Read The First Assistant NEXT:

First Assstant

Because of a COMMENT by Cowboys and Crossbones

I feel a potentially infectious bout of truthiness coming on and before it dissipates, I need to revise yesterday’s post, A normal life…for now.

Disclaimer: The picture of of my captain and myself IS accurate, we do sit by the fire and read or read before going to sleep–HOWEVER– Cowboys and Crossbones commentary shamed me into a fuller version of the story:

Cowboys and Crossbones says:
How do you keep from talking to one another while you’re reading?! I think it’s a sweet routine.

(ES-She’s just setting me up here, acting all so “sweet” with her and her party lifestyle and wild ways and her BFF cat, Teddy. She knows how to yank the real scoop out of me and I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. Watch out for her, people, she’s a sly one.)

Enchanted Seashells reply:
Well…you are a smart one, I annoy him constantly with commentary, questions:

“whatcha reading now, what page are you on, why aren’t you paying attention to me,  you look funny in your reading glasses,  can you feel me pulling your arm hair,  does it hurt,  am i annoying you yet…”

…those kinds of things which are prolly more interesting than the vision of us sitting quietly reading. hee hee.

To which C&C wrote back:

I thought I had you figured out!!!!! And yes, your questions would be MUCH more interesting than words on a page.

(ES-Darn that C&C! She wasn’t happy just getting the dirt on what goes on at Casa de Enchanted Seashells, NOW she’s saying that’d be more interesting than my original  story, which obvs was BORING!)

Because I strive to be a truth seeker and I rise to any challenge, I have to set the record straight. It’s NOT always uninterrupted evenings of tranquility around here–well, sometimes it is–but more often or not, out of the corner of my eye I’ll see his foot or leg twitch and that upsets my concentration so I need to RETALIATE and TORTURE him in some way.

As a reminder, my theory of a successful marriage: if he’s annoying, be twice as annoying.

In addition to the incessant questions of a two-year-old, I’ll say stuff like, “Do you want me to read you a paragraph from my book?” and he’ll invariably say, “Does it have sex in it?” and I’ll say, “Geez, you are such a baby.” And then he’ll say, “Let me see it. If it has any sex scenes, I can find them like magic.” {insert a finger snap here} …as he fans the pages and then stops, points to a passage and says, “See, I told you I could find it!” So proud of himself as he’s leering at the page. That’s when I say, “You are SUCH a dumb tugboat captain.” (Since I have to have the last word. Always. Always. Always.)

I feel ever so much better having gotten this off my chest. Let’s just say that if C&C hadn’t forced me to come clean, you might have walked away with an inaccurate picture of our serene life. This is, after all, CONFESSIONS of a Tugboat Captain’s Wife.

Are you happy NOW, Cowboys and Crossbones?

A normal life…for now

It’s been a real treat having my tugboat captain home! He’s been here almost a month and we’re settling into our familiar routines. I know that any minute his cell’s gonna ring and he’ll be flying off to another assignment, but for now, I’m really enjoying the normal-ness of having him around.

Right before he gets here, I go through all the stress of getting me and the house ready, baking his favorites, and all that welcome home stuff.

When he arrives, there’s always an adjustment period–at least for me–retraining myself to keep the bathroom door closed, dealing with his mounds of laundry, and learning to share the bed. The grocery bill goes up about a thousand percent–it seems like he thinks he needs to eat EVERY SINGLE DAY-what’s up with that?

We like to read together, either in front of the fire or before going to sleep. I think that’s probably some of the most special and restoring times of all. It’s such a pleasure to read a few pages, look up, quietly make eye contact and smile, and resume reading.

When my son and DIL are here, and it’s quiet except for the turning of pages and perhaps a chuckle or two, I look around the family room and see all of the heads bowed over books–it’s some of my happiest family times.

The book hubs is currently reading is The Way Out by Craig Childs. He previously read The True Story of Water, a gift from my son. Craig Childs is a naturalist, adventurer, and desert ecologist. In this intensely dramatic narrative–the record of a perilous excursion into the wild–two men confront immutable forces of nature and the limits of their own sanity. Childs is lost. In a labyrinth of canyons in the American Southwest where virtually nothing else is alive– barely any vegetation, few signs of wildlife, scant traces of any human precursors in this landscape–Childs and his friend undertake a journey. With as much food and gear as they can carry, and little else but their wiles to help them traverse the inhospitable, unmappable terrain, the two men assume the life-or-death challenge of exploring this land–and then finding a way out. Equally gripping as their adventure in the wild is the parallel story, told in flashback, of what propelled the two men into these extreme circumstances.

I’m reading an exquisite novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, a bestseller in France. I’ve only just started it, and I’m still at the stage of being introduced to the characters so I don’t really have a grasp about what’s going on, but I’m getting pulled into the story, and that’s always a good thing. Has anyone else read this? It’s been out for a few years.

Finishing up the tugboat man’s interview–thank you for your questions–and a post about  grumpy old men.