Friday, November 30, 2007

Rain by Robert Louis Stevenson

Rain

The rain is falling all around,
It falls on field and tree,

It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.
--Robert Louis Stevenson


I have a special fondness for this poem, though the source of the fondness is of a more recent date than most of the poems I have a special fondness for. Last year I was tutoring a little girl named Fatima. She needed help in reading, mostly because English was her second language, and she simply didn't have the vocabulary to recognize when she had sounded out a word correctly. During our tutoring sessions, I brought storybooks to read along with the worksheets and vocabulary building exercises that I was required to use. One day, we read a book of nursery rhymes, and she LOVED it. She recognized a few of them, but mostly she liked the predictability of the rhythm and rhyme in poetry.

As a tutor, I'm quick to grab hold of anything that motivates a child, so I brought her more poetry: Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Robert Louis Stevenson and even some Haiku. She liked reading poems herself, but she also loved hearing me read them since I could do it with more fluency, and she could get the full effect. She was especially impressed when I showed her that I had some of the poems memorized and could recite them without looking at the words. She decided that she really wanted to do that too, and picked this poem as her first (she already knew some nursery rhymes, as I've said, but this was the first she set out to memorize as a poem).

We copied it down onto a little piece of paper that she kept in her desk and she practiced it for weeks, finally getting it just right. We copied down a few others that she especially liked, but I soon realized that it would take too long to do much more of that during tutoring. That's when I set out to compile a book of poems for her--including the best of the ones she'd already read, and some more of my favorites for her to grow into. While compiling poems and illustrations for her little book, I found many others that I loved, but which didn't fit the scope I had decided on. It was at that point that I decided to start this blog.

Anyway, it rained all day today -- We haven't had this much rain at once in months and months -- maybe not since last winter. It was nice to wake up last night to the sound of rain, and it was nice to have the rain wash away a lot of the ashy dust from the wildfires and general smog. My biggest complaint about living in California is that I miss the rain (though my biggest reason for liking it is the constant sunshine). If we could get a good thunderstorm rolling through about once a month, I think that would be the perfect compromise.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm a Little Teapot by George Sanders and Clarence Kelly

I'm a Little Teapot


I'm a little teapot, short and stout
Here is my handle, here is my spout
When I get all steamed up, hear me shout
Tip me over and pour me out
--George Sanders and Clarence Kelly

I'm a little teapot, short and stout
Here is my handle, here is my...other handle
Oops...
I'm a little sugar bowl short and stout...
--Author Unknown


Here's another from my intermittent series on poems with funny responses. I don't think it needs much explanation.

I've been feeling more and more like a teapot lately, not so much short, but definitely round and bulgy. Even my stretchiest pants don't fit around my belly anymore, and driving is starting to be a problem (If I recline far enough to keep from squishing my belly, then my arms aren't long enough to reach the steering wheel).

Yesterday I decided to take a nap on the couch (My doctor has been suggesting daytime naps to make up for my lousy sleeping at night). I was only out for an hour or so, but I neglected to prop up all the relevant bits with pillows like I do at night. Bad Idea! I was SOOOO sore all evening. I felt like somebody had folded me in half, then roughly unfolded me but neglected to work the kinks out of my ribs and spine. Consequently, it felt like very sharp bony bits were poking thru my innards -- especially my lungs (which were in bad shape to begin with having been squished for weeks now).

While I was trying to describe how I felt to Peter, I remembered a game Daddy used to play with us. He'd say, "Gravity Belt OFF!" and hold some body part up in the air while we tried to get it down. Then when he got tired, he'd shout, "Gravity Belt ON!" and crush whoever he was playing with to the floor under an enormously heavy arm or leg (Telling it like this, it sounds like seriously abusive behavior, but Daddy always knew just how hard he could push without actually hurting a child, and if we really wanted to stop, he would). Anyway, last night I felt like somebody shouted "Gravity Belt ON!" and then forgot to turn it off.

There's six weeks to go in this pregnancy, but I am SO ready to be done with it and see the baby for real.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hogswatch Filk by Daibhid Chienedelh

Hogswatch Filk

Have yourself a happy little Hogswatch,
Let your heart be light
From now on, Old Man Trouble will be out of sight
Have yourself a happy little Hogswatch,
Don't be cruel or mean,
Just make sure your meal doesn't contain a bean...

Here were are as in early days,
Nasty, churly days of old.
When the pigs would be sacrificed,
To eradicate the cold..

(Take it away, Big D!)

THROUGH THE YEARS YOU MAY ALL BE TOGETHER,
ONLY I CAN KNOW.
EVERY YEAR THROUGH FASCINATING WORLDS YOU GO
SO HAVE YOURSELF A HAPPY LITTLE HOGSWATCH...
HO. HO. HO.
--Daibhid Chienedelh
(backed up by The Librarian, with an amusing mistletoe-on-a-spring headband, on organ, Imp, in ceremonial Bardic robes, on guitar and Death-as-Hogfather on drums)


Peter and I happened on the made-for-TV-movie/miniseries The Hogfather on TV Sunday night (one of our channels regularly plays made-for-TV-movies/miniseries in single sittings on the weekends). We're both Terry Pratchett fans, so we decided to watch it.

The production values seemed pretty high in that the sets, costumes, casting and special effects were all as good or better than I could have hoped from such a piece, but I'm sorry to say that we were, on the whole, disappointed. It seemed to follow the structure and plot of the book almost slavishly, which you might think is a good thing, since Terry Pratchett is a comic genius, but instead, made the movie terribly slow and plodding. People making movies out of books ought to realize that books and movies are different, and what works for one does not necessarily work in the other. In a book, you can present a series of seemingly unrelated amusing incidents, and then slowly weave them together till you get to a whirlwind climax. In a movie, the whole needs to be more coherent from the beginning if you want to keep your audience from wandering off thinking you've forgotten what your movie is about.

The tone of the book also got lost somewhere. Almost all of the silliness disappeared. Characters or situations would appear on the screen, and you'd think, "Oh, I like this bit, that guy is always good for a laugh." Then the character would provide a bit of exposition and disappear without doing any of the silly things they're known for. The silly things that were left in were played so VERY straight, that they weren't funny either. All we were left with an ominous sense of doom throughout the whole thing. Sure, the ominous sense of doom is there in most of the Discworld books, but it's just one more absurd thing that the hero has to deal with, and not the main tone of the piece.

If I had been making the movie, I would have condensed the plot, cut the running time in half, and thrown in a lot more jokes.

I got this poem from the L-space filks page which has archived and indexed posts from the old alt.fan.pratchett newsgroup. It isn't especially great poetry, but it was the best of the ones that mentioned Hogswatch.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Frere Jacques Birthday by Binky the Clown

Frere Jacques Birthday

Happy Birthday,
Happy Birthday,
Whoop-tee-doo,
Whoop-tee-doo,
May your day be pleasant,
Open up your present,
Just for you,
Just for you.
--Binky the Clown on Garfield and Friends


OK, so it's a dumb poem, but it's less annoying than a lot of other birthday songs.

Today is Peter's birthday! Hooray! You should call him and sing him the birthday song of your choice. Call me if you don't know his number, and I'll be happy to give it to you (I assume that if you know my number, you're somebody safe to give his number to).

Birthday plans are modest this year -- as they generally are for Peter's birthday. I'm making him his special cake (sweetened with honey, which doesn't seem to mess with his blood sugar), and I have a couple of GREAT presents that I found at Goodwill a few months ago and I've been excited about giving him ever since (as well as some boring presents that're things he needs).

We may go out for dinner tomorrow, but tonight is Monday, and we have 3 TV shows we're following on Mondays this season. Chuck will probably have a regular episode, but both Journeyman and Heroes ended with big cliffhangers last week, and we really want to know what'll happen next. There's only a few more weeks till the regular midseason break, and we don't know whether there'll be any more episodes after that due to the writers' strike, so we're watching while we can (we did consider taping the shows, but since we've only got a rabbit-ears antenna on top of the TV, reception is pretty bad to begin with, and it gets worse when you pipe it thru the VCR, and you can't adjust it if you're not there while it's recording).

So back on topic, HAPPY BIRTHDAY PETER! I hope you have a great one!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Eagle by Alfred Tennyson

The Eagle

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
--Alfred Tennyson


Here's another poem I found in whatever class that was at BYU. I love the way this poem conveys the majesty of the eagle. Other than the title, the word eagle isn't used, and there's no description of the bird itself other than the two words "crooked hands." What we have is majesty by association. The eagle's lines are as sharply defined as a rocky crag, his feathers shine like the sun, he stands in sharp contrast against the blue sky. He is as changeable and powerful as the sea -- sometimes as still and immovable as a mountain, and then diving with the violence and speed of a thunderbolt. All the images are the sorts of things you'd find on inspirational posters, and the eagle owns them all.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hail Poetry by WS Gilbert

Hail Poetry

Although our dark career
Sometimes involves the crime of stealing,
We rather think that we're
Not altogether void of feeling.
Although we live by strife,
We're always sorry to begin it,
For what, we ask, is life
Without a touch of Poetry in it?

Hail, Poetry, thou heaven-born maid!
Thou gildest e’en the pirate’s trade:
Hail, flowing fount of sentiment!
All hail, Divine Emollient!
--WS Gilbert


Last night at Grandma's house, we were looking for a movie to watch. Larry and Joyce were there with their two youngest, Trace and Cesia, and it was a challenge to match Grandma's video selection with the cinematic taste of a couple of High Schoolers. We ended up with about 5 musicals as the possible choices, and eventually narrowed it down to Pirates of Penzance because Cesia hadn't seen it.

It's amazing how much more fun it is to see a G&S show with somebody who has no idea what they're getting into. All the old jokes become new again, and you can laugh without feeling self conscious. We had a great time, and I felt especially impressed that I ought to post this as today's poem.

It's a great moment in the play. General Stanley has just announced that "he is an orphan boy," and the pirates are all so touched that they not only agree to let him go, but they all drop to their knees and sing this chorus to poetry in five part harmony. It's the sort of moment that reminds you that Sullivan also wrote hymns (like Onward Christian Soldiers), and that as silly as his music is, he really was a great composer (as evidenced by the fact that people keep stealing his tunes).

I do have a few nit-picky complaints about the movie, though. First, there's the plot holes in the original: Given that the action happens on Frederick's birthday, what are all these girls doing taking off their shoes and socks on the coast of Cornwall in February? and How can the pirates simultaneously be poor orphans and noblemen who have gone wrong? Was there some great plague among the peerage twenty years ago? Besides that, they cut out a couple of songs from the original, and import replacements from other G&S operettas. This seems odd to me -- I agree that the Matter Patter song from Ruddigore deserves to be heard more often, but at the expense of half the Major General song, and How Beautifully Blue the Sky?

The also left out one of my favorite jokes:
GENERAL: Why do I sit here? To escape from the pirates' clutches, I described myself as an orphan; and, heaven help me, I am no orphan! I come here to humble myself before the tombs of my ancestors, and to implore their pardon for having brought dishonour on the family escutcheon.

FREDERIC: But you forget, sir, you only bought the property a year ago, and the stucco on your baronial castle is scarcely dry.

GENERAL: Frederic, in this chapel are ancestors: you cannot deny that. With the estate, I bought the chapel and its contents. I don't know whose ancestors they were, but I know whose ancestors they are, and I shudder to think that their descendant by purchase (if I may so describe myself) should have brought disgrace upon what, I have no doubt, was an unstained escutcheon.


But even with all those problems, it's still worth it to see Kevin Kline as the Pirate King singing With Catlike Tread at the top of his lungs.

PS: for those of you who don't know the plot or the music, and want to have some idea of what I'm talking about, there's an amateur recording here (though the songs are out of order on the page), and a plot synopsis on Wikipedia (including a list of the musical numbers in order). I'd encourage you to see a production of it though, because it really is funnier that way.

PPS: You may find it interesting to know that an Emollient is something soothing, especially face creams.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England by Felicia Hemans

The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England

The breaking waves dash'd high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods against a stormy sky
Their giant branches toss'd;

And the heavy night hung dark,
The hills and waters o'er,
When a band of exiles moor'd their bark
On the wild New-England shore.

Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame:

Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear;–
They shook the depths of the desert gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.

Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard and the sea!
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.

The ocean-eagle soar'd
From his nest by the white wave's foam;
And the rocking pines of the forest roar'd–
This was their welcome home!

There were men with hoary hair,
Amidst that pilgrim band;–
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?

There was woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.

What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of seas, the spoils of war?–
They sought a faith's pure shrine!

Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod!
They have left unstain'd what there they found–
Freedom to worship God.
--Felicia Hemans


I'm not sure whether I'll get around to posting a poem tomorrow, so I thought I'd post this famous one today. As I was looking for Thanksgiving poem options, I found, as I have for many other holidays and subjects, a LOT of really lousy, forgettable poetry. I found a few good poems about autumn or the harvest in general, and lyrics to thanksgiving songs and hymns, but most of the explicitly "Thanksgiving" poems were either acrostics (which can be done well, but seldom are) or sappy sentimental dreck.

Why does this poem stand out, remembered after more than a hundred and fifty years? First, it's not a poem about a meal -- which I don't think I've ever seen turn out well (we don't have that many good words to describe how things taste, and merely listing dishes is boring). Second, it's not about which specific family members are there at the table -- which I don't like reading about, because they're not MY family members (and the people at the table are different every year anyway). Third, it's not a generalized you-ought-to-be-grateful-for-what-you-have poem -- which generally comes off as inducing guilt rather than gratitude. Now that I think about it, it's not really about Thanksgiving at all, but about the Pilgrims who we remember at Thanksgiving.

It tells, in well chosen, dramatic words, what it was that they did that was worth remembering. They came, through a lot of hardship, to a new land, not for money or adventure, or military goals, but just to have the chance to worship God as they chose. And they gave their thanks to that God for simply allowing them to survive.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. I have a beautiful house, and I've finally got a handle on most of the housework (I still need to figure out how to plan meals better, but I am cooking more than before). I have a wonderful husband, Peter, who loves me to death, and takes good care of me. I am very close to my family, as spread out as we are, we all keep in touch and still like each other, which is really saying something if the TV is to be believed. Peter and I have good jobs that we enjoy doing and which pay enough to meet our needs right now. I have lots of friends at church, and I feel socially welcomed there in a way I haven't felt in a long time. Most importantly, the baby is coming soon, and that's a blessing I've been wishing and waiting and praying for for a long time.

May all of you be as blessed as I have been! Happy thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Housework Doesn't Pay by Pamela deLeon- Lewis

Housework Doesn't Pay

My last name is not Kirby and I am darn sure not a Swiffer
Don't you try to dodge the ball… the penalties are much stiffer
Get to work and do your thing in the household every day
And just remember that housework really doesn't pay
If you are a typical stay-at-home mom slaving everyday...
Cooking and cleaning and laboring your precious time away...
You must be doing it for love not for a tangible reward
It's an invaluable service that only your love could afford
It's the love of your children; it's the love of your family
That keeps you cleaning until it all looks so pretty
Dusting and waxing and cleaning everything with no pity
I know the feeling people because I, too, have been there
Trying to deal with the housework and the daily wear and tear
Some folks say housework is a very satisfying feat
But I say they are crazy, housework is not a treat
If everyone would do a small part the house would remain neater
I have no desire to be in the kitchen suffocating like I'm in the heater
I don't want to be the last person who always has to stay
After everyone else is gone to put everything away
I'd like to sometimes be the one to go to bed early
And rise next morning confident I would get a cup of tea
I'd like to leave the dishes in the sink and go my own way
And know that there'd be nothing left for me to do next day
But I could dream now, couldn't I?... at least for a little while
Let me have my illusions people, please, don't you cramp my style
--Pamela deLeon- Lewis


I realize that this poem has serious problems with the meter, and the style is not really consistent all the way through, and that the poet didn't bother to put in the punctuation that would have helped a lot. At the same time, her rant is appropriate for what I have to say today. My sister-in-law forwarded an article from the Salt Lake Tribune that talks about the reaction some women have had to Sister Beck's conference talk, Mothers Who Know. I think it's important for me to put into words how I feel about this talk.

It's amazing how one's point of view and attitude at the time of hearing a talk can change one's perception of it. A few years ago, I heard a talk on Mother's Day that had me in tears because it implied that I wasn't a fit wife or future mother because I couldn't keep up with work and housework at the same time, and was putting off having kids. The email I wrote at the time is here (for people who aren't part of that yahoo group, I'll post it on my other blog. You won't get to read the whole thread, but it's better than nothing). I mention this, because I want you to know that I can see clearly that some of the statements in this talk could be interpreted as condemnations of the way some people are living, and it could have been very hard to hear if one wasn't in a position to have the ideal.

When I listened to Sister Beck's talk however, I felt differently. I heard her saying, "There are many of you who have chosen to forgo the honors and money that a career offers, and stay home with your kids. The world tells you that you're demeaning yourself and that housework is akin to slave labor. I want to tell you that this choice is a good one, and that your sacrifice and housework bless your family in more ways than just hygiene. Your work and dedication is a spiritual gift as important as the gift of tongues"

There are many differences in the talks, and I'm aware that currently my choices are justified rather than condemned by the speaker, which may have something to do with my reaction. I still believe that it's important for women to do the work that their family needs -- and if that means working outside the home, or "doing man's work" on the farm rather than just looking pretty, then she ought to be able to do that without feeling condemned. On the other hand, a woman ought to be allowed to make the other choice without stigma as well. As the newspaper article points out, many women in the world don't get to choose whether they get to do housework or not, and it seems to me that they ought to be able to hear from church leaders that the work they do is valued by the Lord.

Another thing that may be part of the different interpretations that this talk gets is the choice of examples she used. It would be very easy to think that she was saying these were the only acceptable ways to be. It's easy to see how people heard, "If your dress (and your children's clothes) isn't cleaned and ironed to perfection, then you aren't taking the Sacrament covenants seriously -- and there should be no excuses here in the USA because even African women who live in dust and filth can manage it." If you take it as an example rather than a dictate though, then you can take it as saying, "It's important to wear your Sunday Best to church and make some sacrifice to make sure that Sunday Best is different than what you wear the rest of the week." Not all of our nice clothes need to be ironed, but that doesn't mean we're less spiritual. When I was little, I often had my hair curled for church, even though it meant extra work for Mom and discomfort for me. When I was in the Singles Ward, I had a hard time with talks from General Authorities that said girls ought to wear nylons, and not wear flip-flops to church. I was really trying to get my wardrobe up-to-date at the time, and I had bought a special pair of flip-flops to wear to church because that's what the fashionable people were wearing at the time. For me, that was special Sunday Best, and not lazy disrespect.

During this last month, I've really come to see how much my own Mom's sacrifice in staying home with us was a blessing to me. I've been going to Prepared Childbirth classes, and there has been a lot of focus on breastfeeding and infant care along with the Lamaze breathing. The instructor has been consistently surprised that I know things like how many times a newborn will poop during the day (as many times as it eats), or that I know the mechanics of breastfeeding. I finally told her that I've seen how to take care of babies first hand because my mother did it, and I know about breastfeeding, not only because my younger siblings were breastfed, but that my mom took the time to teach other women how it was done, and she took me along on these visits. I don't know whether she did it on purpose to teach me or if she just didn't have anywhere else to leave me at the moment, but I feel as prepared to take care of a baby as a new mother can be. That is a HUGE blessing in my life that has been YEARS in the making, and I know that Mom gave up a lot in order to give it to me.

Back in October, we were talking about teaching the ideals and allowing for exceptions. I stand by the comments I made at that time (email or blog) and I don't think I need to rehash them again here more than to say that the Lord recognizes that there are exceptions, and will be just and merciful to those whose circumstances make it impossible to reach the ideal, but at the same time, He wants us to know that the way to have the most happiness and joy in this life and the next is to strive for the ideal. We need to have our church leaders reminding us what that ideal is if we're going to strive for it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Fairies by William Allingham

The Fairies

Up the airy mountains
Down the rushy Glen,
We dare not go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And a white owl's feather.

Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow-tide foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain-lake
With frogs for their watch-dogs,
All night awake.

High on the hill-top
The old King sits;
He is now so old and gray
He's nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist
Columbkill he crosses,
On his stately journeys
From Slieveleague to Rosses;
Or going up with music,
On cold starry nights,
To sup with the Queen,
Of the gay Northern Lights.

They stole little Bridget,

For seven years long;
When she came down again
All her friends were gone.
They took her lightly back
Between the night and morrow;
They thought she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake
On a bed of flag leaves
Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hill-side
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn trees
For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite?
He shall find the thornies
In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountains
Down the rushy glen,
We dare not go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And a white owl's feather.
--William Allingham


I really like this poem -- especially the first and last stanza. It really shows the contradictory feelings people had for the Fairies. On one hand, they were a source of good luck and might do your housework or take care of your farm and animals. On the other hand, if offended, they may take your luck away, cause mischief, make your farm or animals wither and die, or even steal the children. Like luck itself, they were never referred to directly. They were carefully called "Fair folk" or "Good Folk" or some other euphemism (with an emphasis on the "eu"). I think it's fascinating to learn what traditions and superstitions can be traced back to the Fairies.

The rhythm of this is an easy jogging pace. It's the sort of thing you could chant as you went hunting (somewhere safe), or perhaps it brings to mind the little men "trooping all together." The rhythm is broken in the middle by the line, "They stole little Bridget" which is not part of any stanza or rhyme scheme either. By making this line stand out and break the mood as well as the rhythm, the author is reminding us that the fairies are not simply magical--they're dangerous, and unpredictable. I like that.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Baby Duck by Author Unknown

Baby Duck

A baby duck, a baby duck
And I am so cud-cud-cud-cuddly
A rainy day, I like to play
When it is so pud-pud-pud-puddly

When I walk I make a track
When I talk I go quack quack

A baby duck, a baby duck
I'm a cud-cud-cuddly
pud-pud-puddly cud-cud-cuddly duck!
--Author Unknown


My family will recognize this as the song I sang in my first ballet performance when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I had an exceedingly cute outfit: a yellow leotard with fuzzy down on the breast, a half tu-tu on the bum, a duck-bill hat covered in feathers, and lots of glitter and sequins all over the whole thing. I liked to put the outfit on and stand at the top of the attic stairs because at the right time of day, sunlight would come in through the windows and reflect off the sequins and make the landing all sparkly as if I was a living disco ball. We have some old film somewhere of me doing the dance (while David tried to imitate me in his own tu-tu and diaper). Later on the same film, we all put on swimsuits and run through the sprinkler in the mud of the swing circle.

I'm posting this today because the baby blanket I finished last night (and posted a picture of above) has a baby duck on it. As I've been shopping and registering for baby things, I find myself inexplicably attracted to anything with little yellow duckies on it. It's weird...but I think that pregnancy does weird things to people.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pregnancy Poem by Steve Stay

Pregnancy Poem

Rump-a-dump dump
I've got a baby bump
Lump-a-dump dump
Baby baby baby
--Steve Stay


I was tired this afternoon (I've been having trouble sleeping, and since my lungs feel squished, I don't get enough oxygen to my muscles so even a little bit of effort leaves me exhausted and out of breath), so I decided to call home and see who was around. Mike's family is visiting Mom and Dad in Ohio, so Steve also drove up from Columbus for the weekend. He answered the phone, and since I didn't really have anything specific I needed to say to anybody, we ended up having one of those stream-of-consciousness phone conversations that goes on for an hour and a half and ends up including most of the other people in the room responding to the one side of the conversation that they can hear.

Anyway, I was complaining about some pregnancy related issue--being tired, coughing on the fumes from my acid indigestion, having people make weird comments, or something like that. Steve said, "Well, if you ever feel sad, you can sing this little song." and then he sang the song I've reproduced above. It was very funny, and since I've been too lazy to post much this week, I thought I'd share it with all of you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Geek Love Poem by Anonymous

Geek Love Poem

Roses are #FF0000
Violets are #0000FF
All my base
Are belong to you
--Anonymous


I just thought this one was funny today. For those of you not sufficiently geeky to get it, here's a couple of quick links: AYBABTU, #FF0000. By the way, I looked for an attribution, but couldn't find one. If you happen to know who wrote the poem, let me know.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Elbereth by JRR Tolkien

Elbereth

O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western Seas.

A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
Silivren penna miriel
O menal aglar elenath!
Na-chaered palan-diriel
O galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, si nef aearon!
--JRR Tolkien

I really like Tolkien's poetry. He has a very good ear for rhythm and assonance. I think that the coolest thing about his made-up languages is that the words sound like actual words might. The stanza here that's entirely in elvish is still easy to read aloud because the words flow off your tongue.

Another thing to notice is which sounds he chooses to use at all. You'll notice there's really no hard or sharp or hissing sounds in this poem. There are a lot of l's and n's - very fluid consonants. There are several th's, ch's and f's --which are soft and smooth. There are a couple of g's -- which are the only real stops he uses, but these are at the beginnings of words, and seem to be there to spice it up a bit. There are almost no d's, t's, k's, z's or s's at all, and the ones that are there are minimized by their placement in the word.

Compare that to the ring poem: "Ash nazg durbatul√Ľk, ash nazg gimbatul, Ash nazg thrakutul√Ľk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul." and you'll start to see why people are so interested in the various languages he made up.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Butterfly by William Jay Smith

Butterfly

Of living creatures most I prize
Black-spotted yellow Butterflies
Sailing softly through the skies.

Whisking light from each sunbeam,
Gliding over field and stream —
Like fans unfolding in a dream,

Like fans of gold lace flickering
Before a drowsy elfin king
For whom the thrush and linnet sing —

Soft and beautiful and bright
As hands that move to touch the light
When Mother leans to say good night.
--William Jay Smith


I found this poem while I was in college. I don't remember whether it was for my Children's Literature class (where we had to read a certain number of books from each of a list of genres), or Theater and Media Arts for El Ed Majors (where we had to recite poetry for one assignment), but I was looking through the Children's literature section of the BYU Library for poetry. I found far more than I needed for whatever assignment it was, and ended up copying down and keeping several of my favorites. This was one of them.

I think that butterflies are the ideal sort of thing to write a poem about. They're so beautiful and ephemeral, and they're so carefully constructed it's like nature's way of capturing one magical moment by using its equivalent of "just the right words." There's nothing extra there -- just exactly what's needed to be elegantly perfect. Yet at the same time, they're an entirely superfluous and unexpected luxury. The world doesn't need butterflies, just like it doesn't need poems -- bees and other more homely bugs could do the prosy pollinating -- but the world is a better place because both are in it.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Idea of Housework by Dorianne Laux

The Idea of Housework

What good does it do anyone
to have a drawer full of clean knives,
the tines of tiny pitchforks
gleaming in plastic bins, your face
reflected eight times over
in the oval bowls of spoons?
What does it matter that the bathmat’s
scrubbed free of mold, the door mat
swept clear of leaves, the screen door
picked clean of bees' wings, wasps'
dumbstruck bodies, the thoraxes
of flies and moths, high corners
broomed of spider webs, flowered
sheets folded and sealed in drawers,
blankets shaken so sleep's duff and fuzz,
dead skin flakes, lost strands of hair
flicker down on the cut grass?
Who cares if breadcrumbs collect
on the countertop, if photographs
of the ones you love go gray with dust,
if milk jugs pile up, unreturned,
on the back porch near the old dog’s dish
encrusted with puppy chow?
Oh to rub the windows with vinegar,
the trees behind them revealing
their true colors. Oh the bleachy,
waxy, soapy perfume of spring.
Why should the things of this world
shine so? Tell me if you know.
--Dorianne Laux


Some of you may know that I finally hopped on the FlyLady bandwagon this month. I first heard of FlyLady a few years ago when one of my cousins posted a message to our family email list extolling the virtues of the woman who sent out emails everyday telling you to put shoes on and do your housework. I resisted it for a long time, because I thought that I was doing fine with my housework, and I didn't need anybody telling me I needed to wear shoes (which I find horribly uncomfortable at the best of times).

Well, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed a few weeks ago. It had been far too long since I had been able to convince myself to clean the bathroom, and the laundry and dishes never seemed to get finished either (not to mention vacuuming, heaven forbid). I felt like I was barely keeping up with things with just Peter and Myself contributing to the mess. How was I going to do it all with the baby coming, too?

I thought that if I told myself I didn't have a choice about what to do, I might have less trouble getting started, so I went to look at the FlyLady site. I was pretty intimidated by the idea of setting up morning and evening routines, keeping my kitchen sink free of dishes AT ALL TIMES, and cleaning the bathroom EVERY DAY. I was already tired and out of time, how could I fit those routines and demands in too?

I wanted to give it a try though, so I signed up for the emails, and convinced my sister-in-law to try it with me so I'd have encouragement. I began the 30 days of baby steps to get into the full swing of things in her system...and discovered a miracle! Without realizing it, I already had a morning and evening routine -- and they were full of things that wasted time, and contributed to my general blah feeling. It doesn't take much more time to put on real clothes than it does to throw on a housedress, but I feel so much better about myself when I have a real outfit and jewelry on (I still don't wear shoes, but what works for her doesn't necessarily have to work for me). It takes about ten extra seconds to put my dishes directly into the dishwasher, and less than one commercial break to wash the pots from dinner -- but there's never a giant pile of dishes getting moldy in the sink. I only check blogs about once a week now -- not many people I read post more often than once or twice a week anyway -- and I cut out one especially time wasting and not especially valuable site entirely. Each day there's a cleaning mission that takes about 15 minutes, and once a week, there's a marathon 1 hour "home blessing" when the vacuuming and other non-daily tasks get done.

The miracle is that instead of feeling oppressed by the system and my housework, I feel entirely freed from it. The whole house stays clean in a ridiculously short amount of time (you'd be amazed at what you can get done in 15 minutes when you're racing the timer), and the rest of the day I'm free to do anything else that strikes my fancy. I've been reading, doing projects, getting yardwork done, and feeling great! My therapist asked me this week whether I'd been having distracting obsessive thoughts, and I realized that I hadn't. Without piles of work sitting around guilting at me, my mind is much more clear. I've even been able to turn off the radio and TV that I keep on almost all the time to keep me from thinking too much.

I know that there will be more to do when baby arrives, but I feel much better able to deal with it, and I think that's a miracle everyone should hear about. I even compare it to the gospel -- people think that living by all those commandments is so hard until they try it and find that it really makes life easier.

Friday, November 2, 2007

November is NaNoWriMo

It's National Novel Writing month, and I'm already behind on my word count, so I'm going to try to focus my creative writing time in that direction during November. I may post a poem occasionally when I'm procrastinating, but it won't be every day. I'll start up again in December. Click here to see how I'm doing.