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Category Archives: down time

And the Living is Easy…

Once upon a time I sang with a choral group and for a spring concert we learned Summertime from Porgy and Bess.  Forever after I’ve found myself singing these words when we have glorious days such as today.

Summertime,
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high

June 1st, and it’s in the upper 70s, azure skies, not a cloud to be seen.  Could it be anymore perfect?  Well, maybe a touch less of a breeze so my hair doesn’t get so mussed – but that’s nit picking.  Took the dog for a long walk and enjoyed the scent of lilacs and iris wafting in the balmy air.  (I wrote iris, but pronounced it eye-rye, just like my dad – it’s plural, get it?).  Upon my return, opened all the windows in the house.  Goodbye rain and chill!  Welcome summer!  Time for barbecues, evening walks and glasses of wine on the deck.  Sleeping in and going to bed late.  Sparklers and fireworks.  Ahhhhh.

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Summer Reading

Nothing makes me happier than curling up in the corner of the couch with a good book.  I give myself bonus happiness/enjoyment points for nobody being home, roaring fire (chilly days), balmy breeze (warm days), having a few chores to do but nothing so pressing that they can’t be ignored for an hour or two.

Here are a few good reads I thought I’d share in case you too find yourself with a pocket of time this summer, whether it be at home, on the beach, or out on a lawn chair.  Enjoy!

Really good:

The Truth About Unicorns, Bonnie Jones Reynolds (1974):  Saw this gem in a catalog I mysteriously began receiving this winter, Bas Bleu.  Set in the 20s, it deals with the occult, red-headed women and small town gossip.  I found it totally engrossing.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett (2009):  Everything you’ve heard about this book is true.  I disappeared into its pages and didn’t come back out to reality until it was done.  Excellent, excellent book.  Note – the author writes a lot of the dialogue phonetically.  The sooner you figure this out and accept, the faster you’ll be drawn in.

In The Woods, Tana French (2007):  Fantastic read.  One of those I read in one sitting, oblivious to everything around me.  Set in Ireland, it’s not only a solid mystery, there are all sorts of interesting bits and pieces of Irish culture.  Also read her others, “The Likeness” and “Faithful Place.”  Can’t wait for her next!

The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown (2009): A follow-up to The DaVinci Code that I really enjoyed.  Fast-paced and compelling.  As good as DaVinci, and better than his other efforts.

Interred With Their Bones, Jennifer Lee Carrell (2007):  Shakespeare lovers, here’s a DaVinci code for you.  Interesting and catchy plot.  I really enjoyed it.  Her latest effort, Haunt Me Still is waiting for me at the library.  I’ll update you once I’ve read it.

China Bayles Series, Susan Wittig Albert (1990s on): Another Bas Bleu find.  Entertaining mystery series that revolves around the owner of an herb store in a small town who used to be a criminal attorney.  Interesting facts about herbs are liberally sprinkled throughout.  Strong writing, good plots.

Amelia Peabody Series, Elizabeth Peters (1970s on):  Set in England and Egypt from the 1880s to the 1920s, this is one of my all time favorite series.  If you’re interested in pharaohs, pyramids and other things Egypt, you’ll love these books.  Great writing, interesting plots, strong characters.

Guilty pleasures:

Troubleshooters Series, Suzanne Brockmann (2000s):  If you ever feel the need to read about super macho Navy SEALs who are completely in touch with their feelings and not afraid to show it, try these books.  Tons of action, implausible plots (especially once you read a few), but somehow I still connect with and care about the characters.   Good for turning off your brain.

Regency Romances, various authors:  My secret guilty pleasure.  Don’t judge me.  Who hasn’t fantasized about a titled gentleman of unlimited means sweeping us  off our feet and giving us everything we’ve ever dreamed of?  I do have some standards – actual plot, snappy, witty dialogue, etc.  Try Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas (she writes contemporary fiction as well), Stephanie Laurens (although don’t read two of hers in a row or her template becomes glaringly apparent) or Teresa Medeiros.

Ballet Saved My Life

No, those aren't my feet. Well, maybe in my dreams!

It’s true.  It started with relevés and pliés, battements and tendus, then progressed to cabrioles and tour jetés.  My hour – sometimes hour and a half – all for me.  No kids, no husband, no pets – just the class.  For more than ten years, every Tuesday evening I put on my leotard, tights and slippers and – at least in my head – I was a ballerina.  As long as I didn’t look in the mirrors too closely I believed I looked just as beautiful and graceful as our instructor.  Certainly I thought my leg was extended straight behind me and easily at a 90° angle.  Or at least 45°.

I owe it all to a friend.  Staying home with three kids under the age of 5, I was drowning.  Not that I didn’t love it most minutes of most days of most weeks.  But one day I read a Christmas letter from a friend, also a stay-at-home mom, who said she had fulfilled a lifelong dream by signing up for aikido classes.  A light bulb went off.  I could do that!  Well, not aikido – really not an ambition of mine.  But something else.  My secret lifelong dream was to be a ballerina.

I let it stew for a few months.  Too much time, too much money, nervousness, etc.  But one day I picked up the yellow pages and called around.  Hi, do you have adult ballet classes?  A few scoffed.  How many years have you studied?  None? (always said on a rising pitch, incredulous that I would even consider such a thing).  A few offered to let me try something else.  Hip hop is very popular right now, we have that for adults.  Then one, practically right down the street, said the magic words.  Sure, we have a class.  There’s one tonight – come try!  I hemmed and hawed.  I don’t have a leotard, no shoes.  She was undeterred.  Just try!

So I did.  It was love at first plié.  There were only a few in the class in the early years.  One, the charter member as we called her, had three kids at the studio.  One day she asked the owners if they’d ever considered an adult class.  Next thing you know she was it – with the two owners standing on either side of her so that she always had someone to follow.  I actually preceded my daughter at the studio by several months, but that’s how most of us started, following in our daughters’ footsteps.  So much fun!  Always supporting each other and laughing at ourselves.  Trading envious glances when the teacher did a stretch that none of us would ever reach.  And the best part – the dancing.  Landing my first pirouette, and even better, nailing my first double.  The first time my jeté looked more like a leap than a hurdle.  Being able to touch the floor on a cambré.  The Santa Polka at Christmas.  Taking time off over the summer, then coming back in the fall and listening to every joint pop and crack that first time back at the barre.  Joking that NEXT year we’d be good enough for recital.  Joking further that we’d need long sleeved, long skirted costumes, and our dance would be only 16 counts long because that’s as much as we’d be able to remember.  It was wonderful.

But I stopped going this past fall.  It seemed time.  The studio had changed hands.  Our teacher was moving on.  It had been 11 years.  I’ll try something else, I promised myself.  But every Tuesday I’d find myself looking at the clock, figuring out when I had to get ready.  I think I’ll be going back.  It seems time.