Sunday, May 31, 2009

Saga IX - Thora Is Stupid. And Also Gets No Sleep.

I've been putting off writing the next stage of my saga for a while now. See, I look kind of stupid in it. And this is the whole wide world Internet. But, what was the Internet founded for, if not to needlessly display our inner stupid selves? A short time surfing the 'net would seem to suggest this very point, and so I shall join the masses in sharing too much information that really you don't want to hear, and I don't want you to know (and yet write anyway).

To begin this Saga, start here.

Avram loved me. I loved Avram. The world as microcosmed in our relationship seemed simple and complete now, right? Wrong.

I am not a good fence sitter. Once upon a time, eighteen months before this time - May 2004 - I had begun dating a boy, Gui. Shortly (very shortly, but this isn't the part where I share TMI about my stupidity, so I shan't tell you exact numbers) after we commenced our mutual relationship, I decided that I could not like/love both him and Dennis, the missionary. Unlike a plethora of girls before me, I could not conceive of managing to love both, and pursue dating with the one, while still writing the other. So I decided I had to pick between them. Since I had a flesh and blood Gui sitting before me, I picked him. And since I had officially picked him, we began talking about marriage within a day or two, and a few days later (mind you we had been dating for almost no time at all) we were engaged. Let's review. Thora, in the beginning of a relationship, picks to date the guy, and not worry about the missionary. Having committed to dating and loving the guy, feels that marriage is next to love and dating, and gets engaged.

Almost five months later, a mere four and half weeks before the wedding, it all ends in tears, because all that time I didn't really want to be engaged, and I definitely wasn't ready to marry Gui. I just wanted to date him without feeling that I was continuously torn between two men. I finally had learned a valuable lesson - that deciding to merely date a man did not necessitate a Dear John letter, nor did love automatically need to proceed to marriage post haste.

In May of 2004, I once again found myself in love with a man, we'll call him Avram, and once again my natural impulse was to not fence sit. I could not abide the thought of continuously balancing in commitment between two men, nor having my heart undecided. And yet I also did not want to recklessly over commit, whether to marriage or just serious dating, and then feel trapped and deep in a relationship simply so I could avoid feeling torn.

Sunday evening, May 23, the day after I realized and had told Avram that I loved him for the first time, these thoughts swirled around my mind as Avram and I sat upon a picnic table at the playground of the now razed Joaquin Elementary south of BYU campus. As we talked and kissed, I thought how although I loved Avram, I would not, could not repeat another Gui relationship (footnote 1). Being that I had jumped into a serious relationship with Gui mostly because of my own inability to love without a large commitment, whether official in the form of an engagement or emotional with time and effort alone, I didn't know how to change this particular aspect of my personality.

Sitting there on that picnic bench, I hatched a harebrained scheme to avoid doing so, to avoid fence sitting and emotional angst and awkward moments galore. (Get ready, this is where I sound stupid. You should know that any scheme thought up in the midst of a late night conversation that involves any kissing and a deranged mind will be stupid. At least I hope so, because that will make me look normal, like any other girl under the circumstances, and not just uniquely stupid on my own).

When Avram and I had begun dating, at the instigation of myself we had laid down some rules of physical propriety to keep things appropriate and moral. What if I french kissed Avram right then and there, and then Avram, being the upright and upstanding young man that he was, would feel indignation at me breaking our own rules! Then he would have no choice but to break up with me right then, and this would solve all my problems because although I did love Avram, we had not been dating long, and I knew that we were not so seriously involved that our breakup would affect either of us for too long (especially not compared to a breakup after months of serious commitment like mine and Gui's relationship)(footnote 2). Also, since for the life of me I can't break up with boys myself, Avram would take care of all the messy work, and I could get off scott-free, and only be left to wait for Dennis to return in a few months!

This was clearly the brainchild of some genius thinking.

I immediately put to use my grand scheme to save us all a lot of emotional bother, and began my 'seduction.' (Please, at this moment, if you know me in real life, just pretend you've never read all this. I will greatly appreciate this, and would like to pretend I'm just writing this all down in my very private journal that only my eyes see, for some obscure exercise in handwriting, since of course I'll burn the whole lot once I'm done. Thank You.) It took Avram a moment to realize that his girlfriend seemed to be trying to be somewhat adventurous in matters of kissing, but once he figured out I didn't just widely define appropriate kissing, then he pulled back, and asked me point blank, "What are you doing?"

Here my grand scheme and convoluted thoughts and realizations really shone through. "Err.....Errr....." Then I rallied, and worked with what I had. "Why weren't you trying to stop me sooner? You clearly aren't committed to keeping our physical dating rules we set up at the beginning of the relationship! I was just testing your ability to keep my bounds, and you failed!" (Footnote 3)

We argued for hours over this small moment, as I convinced Avram that I had truly been testing his physical bounds, and that he had come off the worse for it. Despite my intentions, Avram did not seem in the least inclined to break off our whole relationship over the matter, and as I am allegedly horrible at ending any emotional connection, I never brought my true desire up either.

As the late hours grew to early morning 'wee s'mas' as Anne Shirley says, Avram and I felt the need to create a positive conversation to overshadow the early misunderstanding. So we kept on talking - about our families, and about hypothetical life if we ever got married. By this point we had moved to the outside walkway in front of my apartment, and sat on the stairs - cold, unforgiving cement stairs - and within a half hour of mutual thought had named eight hypothetical children:

Alexander Richard
Lydia Elizabeth
Charity Anne
Reuven Samuel
Nephi Lee
Miriam Laiya
Hyrum Seth
(Footnote 4).

By this point it was almost dawn, and so Avram and I gave up actually pretending we were going to go to bed, and just sat talking until it was seven am, and time for me to go to work in the morning. I went inside and changed for the day, and brought two bowls of cereal out for us to eat, as Avram was not allowed in my apartment until Nine AM, and then Avram walked me up to Wymount for my custodial job. Then he walked himself home, skipping a whole day of classes - a momentous occasion for Avram. As he walked home, Avram would fall asleep, while walking across streets. I'm lucky he didn't die right then and there. As for myself, as I cleaned out refrigerators, I found myself nodding off to sleep while standing and wiping, and then jerking back awake after a second or two. My first experience staying up all night, and working the day after, and I was beat, but happy after all that I had not caused the end of our relationship.

I still somehow wished for a painless resolution to my life, but I had realized that an early, pointless breakup with Avram was not in the works. Rather, mine and Avram's relationship was stronger than ever. Oh well for the quick and painless breakup that he would initiate. After this I decided to stop trying to get Avram to break up with me. I also decided to just sit on the fence. I made a fine art of sitting on the fence. But, I also decided that Avram was still Plan B. Although I loved Avram, I still planned to break up with him at the end of the summer, and then to go to Egypt, come home, and try to marry Dennis. Only at that point, if Dennis and I didn't work out, would I try and marry Avram. I did not spell this all out immediately - it slowly grew clear to me over a matter of weeks that this was the path I had chosen to follow.

Avram didn't like this path, but he did like me, so he stayed. But under the circumstances I felt it was the best I could do - at least I loved him and we were still dating, right? Although we had our own set of emotional difficulties, I felt much happier in the route our relationship was taking than mine and Gui's had through a rushed engagement.

Footnote 1. This phenomenon, of comparing Avram and our relationship to my previous two serious relationships, Gui and Dennis, drove Avram crazy. He called it Dancing between Heaven (Dennis) and Hell (Gui), and felt that he never came out positively from it. I called it working through my emotional issues.

Footnote 2. Notice that in my mind the only outcome to mine and Avram's relationship was inevitable breakup, disappointment and heartache. I think I was channeling my previous failed relationship, but also I sincerely could not imagine not wanting to marry Dennis. It never really occurred to me at this point that Avram and I could manage to not have a messy breakup.

Footnote 3. An Othello test, it would have been. Avram thought for weeks that this was the explanation behind the whole experience. I actually hate tests like these in literature, and think they are a horrible method of discovering true devotion. Good thing my true purposes were so much better, huh? Avram also wants you all to know that he didn't stop me fast enough. But I was also his first relationship, and his first kiss, and as I had been the one who set the physical boundaries in our relationship, he had counted on me to be the first upholder of those rules. After this in our relationship we both upheld our mutual agreements, which worked much better.

Footnote 4. Until Avram and I got married, I could never understand people having a difficult time naming their children. After all, Avram and I churned out eight in a half hour! No problem at all! Except, Alexander is the 15th most popular name, and I like uncommon names. And Avram hates names that are virtues, like Charity. "The only way we'll ever have a Charity is if we also have a daughter and name her Chastity." Hmmph! And Helamen just isn't doing it anymore for either of us, and although Nephi was a great prophet, sometimes he's just a little...pompous as a young man. And we both like Miriam, but somehow it just wasn't right for Elisheva. And Hyrum and Reuven are still fine (although Reuven just isn't appealing too much for me either, but since so far we have two girls, and our first son has to have the initials of ARS [a Shannon family tradition. Avram's initials are ARS], a second son is so far in the future that I don't even worry about other boys names). I have no idea what we'll do to find a name for another girl, if we had another one. Probably call her Bertha Butt--one of da Butt sisters.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Price of Written Genius (Or Verbosity, At Least)

I find it to be an axiomatic truth that the rate of my posts is inversely proportionate to my social life. The more I actually do, the more people I see, the more (witty?) comments I make in my life, the less burning need I have to shout my thoughts out into the vastly large Internet, hoping to make connections with random strangers, friends and family.

You may be able to tell from my blogging lately that I have actually been seeing people, and, what's more, being social with people. Now when I make my way to the computer, I can never muster my esprit, my vive, my je ne sois quoi. In English, I can never channel the barely controlled need to write, my forceful thoughts and opinions running helter-skelter from my feverish mind to my speedily typing fingers.

Instead I lounge around, reading but rarely commenting on others' posts, and either rushing off to my next social moment or wallowing in loneliness, awoken from my most recent social connection.

Back in college, as you move from large social complex to basement apartments, and other fine examples of slum lord student housing around Provo, it was trendy for people to often ask what you did, what your hobbies are. And you were in turn expected to spit out a few sentence description of oneself, from city of origins to siblings number, major, age, state of romantic interaction, plus a long list of description, defining hobbies and interests. These lists made their entrances into ward prayer social clearing houses (hey, don't knock it - I once met a former fiance at a ward prayer. Although we didn't work out - but I attribute that to ourselves, and not the place of our meeting), first (and usually last) weekly roommate meetings, FHE groups, and of course the ever ubiquitous Ward phone list.

I am not opposed to small synopses of oneself, but I did often struggle with defining what my hobbies actually were. Sure, I was in the Medieval club, I cooked for fun with friends every weekend, I read voraciously, and I scrapbooked. But that wasn't what I did most of the time. My favorite thing to do was to see people, to be with others, to sample and partake of a social atmosphere from a tete-a-tete to a large party. I finally realized that this truly was my hobby - being a social butterfly. I loved social events, and what's more I loved to make them happen around me.

When I was president of the Quill and the Sword, one of my major agendas as a president was providing plenty of social activities. We had a movie night, a silly date night, extravagant birthday parties, and a potluck Halloween party, complete with costumes. Later in my college career instead of planning large group events I often gathered others to my homely cottage, where we made rancid shortbread, but then spent the remainder of the evening inventing religious homilies and metaphors for rancid shortbread to life. Other memories run through my mind, rose tinted reviews of carefree socializing from one end of the week to the next.

Oh, sure, I treasured quiet as well. Friday afternoons I had a weekly tryst with my eight foot long gold couch, where I leisurely napped. Most weeknights found me in the locked Hugh Nibley study room on the fourth floor of the Harold B. Lee Library, where silence reigned supreme and I alternated heavy studying with power naps at the wooden tables.

Even after graduation, when Avram and I were married and I had absconded to Wymount at the periphery of BYU, I still held sociality in high regard. Whether friends met us at our home to talk into the wee hours, or I made odd visits to cook and talk with Michele, I kept our social calendar far more busy than Avram ever desired.

But with moving away from Provo, and the simultaneous rise of this blog, I left my social heyday behind. Whether surviving Summers sans AC in the wilds of Virginia, freezing in the genteel countryside of England or living the life of a homemaker in Ohio, my desire for connecting with others in person has far outweighed any experience of doing so.

Over three hundred posts since I began my great outpouring in search of a tenuous connexion, I have finally seen that in order to produce my highest quality writing ability, I need to feel so starved of humanity that it wells up inside of me, a force greater than inertia and entropy, that I cannot stop, but can only channel into print. And yet for all this verbosity, I would rather spend my evenings exploring deeper meanings of life and all it contains with others. I would perform the delicate and complicated dance of social interaction, with its intricate curlicues of segues and asides, and a rhythm best shown in groupings of two to four. I would spend my time delving the depths of human thought and lightly skimming humorous anecdotes. I would be the social butterfly, flitting from one social flower to another, feeling complete in my favorite hobby of all - people.

When we first came to Ohio, I felt myself often apologizing for my rusty social skills. I felt that I could not remember what comments I should say and when. I find that the more cut off I feel from humanity, the more my social occasions are marked by interior (and sometimes exterior) worries that I have forgotten how to be social at all. I am a social caterpillar, blindly inching through social occasions. But look at my blog output!

I sometimes like to talk about someday writing a novel. I began to think that the only way to actually achieve this phenomenon is to lock myself in a tower that only lets food up through a basket. I shall be so emotionally starved that literature shall surely flow from my very fingertips, a modern day Rapunzel with heaps of manuscripts instead of hair.

I know part of this extends from leaving the college atmosphere with its excessive sociality behind. Part of this is early Motherhood. My own Mother has told me that the years she had very young children were the loneliest of her life. I believe the great output of Mormon Mommy Bloggers (as well as those from other denominations) extends from this great well of loneliness that encompasses our lives. I also know that the halcyon sociality of my college years are tied to unique social atmosphere and lack of responsibilities that college entails.

But sometimes, after spending a week with house guests, then a de-cluttering party, and finally dinner guests last night, I find the rest of my normal social-less life thrown into stark relief. At least I have 'recovered' enough from people to find the inner energy to write about it. At this rate in a couple years you will see my first best selling novel. Just don't be surprised if all of the social interactions in it are stilted and reminiscent of social caterpillars. It's the price of genius I will have had to pay.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Frustration! I went one dollar over my food budget, and being that this was the end of the month, and I do a zero based budget, I went one dollar over our checking amount. We have plenty of money in savings, but I didn't want to transfer extra, because I wanted to stay in budget. And as I was checking out, I thought that it would go over, but decided that the purchase probably wouldn't post immediately. I was wrong. Grrr! And now I have to pay the bank $25 for the privilege of them covering my money for me for a total of half an hour (when I transferred the money when I got home). At times like this I wish that my card just hadn't been accepted, because then I could have just put an item back. Or that I had just put an item back anyway, just in case. But I felt silly doing that.

And then when I was home online dealing with this, Lydia had an accident out in front of our apartment. When the Ice Cream truck was driving past - so I know it didn't go un-noticed. Grr!

I find annoyances like this harder to deal with than real, actual trials. Especially the wasted money. If I was going to spend $25 on something, I want it to be exciting, not stupid. Grrr!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Will Dream for Money

Avram's adviser decided that he would flip a coin to decide between the two of them, so Avram and he don't have to. That's right - Avram's entire financial future next year - a Teaching Position that includes a tuition waiver, health insurance, and a monthly stipend of $1256 all comes down to which way lincoln's head lies after a coin toss. We don't even know when this coin will be tossed - so we're also on pins and needles until further notice.

A couple nights ago, after finding this out, I had a dream that the state gave us bags and wheelbarrows of dirt for us to grow vegetables in. We had our own poor dirt, but they were shocked at how destitute we (either our dirt or our vegetables, I can't exactly remember) were. Then the dirt/state people wondered why we weren't on more government programs, and decided to sign us up for them. I think my subconscious does not trust that we shall be favored by random chance.

Also, a few weeks ago, I dreampt that Avram got a job that paid for his tuition and gave him a stipend. He was Barack Obama's personal secretary - but only for twenty hours a week. Obama was very accomadating of Avram and his school schedule. I was very happy with the position too - because we were able to afford the old and character ridden one bedroom apartment in New York City, where we and Obama both lived (along with many other millions of people). (We all lived in New York, that is, not millions of people living in our one bedroom apartment).

My dreams seem to indicate I should turn to the government in case the school does not deliver. Anyone know the number of the DFV (Dirt for Vegetables) program, or Obama's personal hiring number?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Guilt. GUILT.

In three hours we have the first real, formal houseguests I'll ever have had. At least, the first ones staying longer than a day who also don't share any of my blood. Just Avram's. But still, a brother in law, Samuel, and his wife Aleatha feel pretty official and formal to me right now. I'm at zero hour minus three, and the fact that I'm writing a blog post does not speak well for my preparedness. The idea today was that, while babysitting James, I would take the three kids grocery shopping to two different stores, while also picking up the bathroom (Avram will be doing the sanitizing this evening) and cleaning Lydia and Elisheva's room, which is the only pigsty left in this house.

The reality went something more like this: Ho, hum, I'm tired (from staying up late and reading a new Robin Mckinley book. 'New' meaning two years ago, but I'm really out of date on my teen fiction). I think I'll just read the rest of the book - I'm almost done, after all. And then Elisheva and James both need their morning naps - in both bedrooms. Which means that I can neither leave for shopping, nor clean the Girl's bedroom. I'll just dust the living room instead. But maybe I can see if my lost keys are in the car. Nope, but this car sure is messy - let's clean it out. Would you look at that! Eleven am, and here comes the mail! Only a magazine, but it's one I want. I'll just read a couple of pages in the Smithsonian Or....Cover to cover (good issue - I love the Smithsonian - it's better than the National Geographic in my opinion, becasue it doesn't play the 'guilt, guilt, you're making this tribe/animal/ecosystem/world go extinct' every single month tactic). I did some dishes - hey, I can't be all lame. And, the kids slept long, and I'm a slow mover, and Lydia had a meltdown over cracking nuts, and wow, look at the time! There's no way I can get the kids out of here and to two stores before Avram gets home in an hour! Not to mention that suddenly I feel this strange attraction to cleaning out the coat closet.

Yup, so although I've managed to do lots of finicky chores I never dream of attempting (next I shall pull out the iron I have used once since moving here.), I have yet to actually accomplish any of the necessary matters. The stuff that has to get done before we have company come and see the third world country that my daughters room in. I tell you, it's Lydia. That girl has no civic pride in the state of her room. I should publish a little magazine, with articles about the endageered ecosystem of a girls' room. guilt. GUILT.

Speaking of guilt, Avram's funding for next year, from having lots of options, went down to practically zero. We've been hoping that if I can add on a full time babysitting kid, and Avram could get a Graduate Assistantship at the Library (which would provide a small stipend, but more importantly a tuition waver), but it has been something very much on my mind lately, since this does essentially cover whether Avram has a job next year.

Avram was supposed to teach a Mythology class, but his department has been hit very hard by the recession, so they couldn't add any new classes - and hence TA's - that weren't taught last year (which it wasn't) to the curriculum. All I have wanted was some miracle to come through, and to get an email or letter telling us that funding had come through. That it would all be okay.

Yesterday Avram and another colleague in the department who's in the same boat Avram is, were told that the department had one other TA position (which they did miraculously dig up out of nowhere), and that one of them could put their name on it, while they both looked for other jobs at the Library, with the idea that one could work at the library, and one have this TA job. Avram and he just have to decide whose name goes on the TA position.

Great. Now I have monstrous guilt, that the penguins in the Antartic never caused in me. Do we give up the fellowship to the other deserving guy? Do we ask for it for ourselves? I don't know if I could handle watching a sure monthly stipend, insurance and tuition waver waft out of our hands. Sure, Avram could still get a library job - but it wouldn't be a sure thing, and the stipend for thelibrary isn't nearly as much. But how could I feel like a Christian if we just took it for ourselves, and left Avram's colleague out in the cold? It's not as simple as this - the other guy is actually about 40, is an ordained pastor (although not currently working as one, since he's in school), and his wife works as well. So they're not penniless. But they do own two houses (one of which they're trying to sell), and they have two children, one of whom is still at home - so they also have a lot more financial responsibility than we do.

I feel so selfish. And instead of wanting to learn to be selfless, I want someone to come along and tell me that it's good to be selfish. Guilt. GUILT.

And now they'll be here in two and a half hours, and there is no dinner started, etc & etc. GUILT.

(But we are going to have a lovely visit. I have no guilt there. They will be here for five days, and we're going to go to an Amish style restaurant, and for walks in the Metro Parks, and we're going to have loads of good food and Avram and Samueal are going to watch Kirasawa movies to their hearts' content.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Stealth Teether

Avram just noticed that Elisheva has her molars in. Four of them. How did we miss four teeth - molars no less - coming in? Her sleeping hasn't even been disturbed lately. I love how Elisheva stealth teethes! Now she has ten teeth.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Light Bulb went On

She just did it - walked from me to Avram (the whole way, unlike this video). The light bulb went on. Elisheva can only walk a few steps at a time, but I'm sure now that she has realized she can walk, it'll increase quickly. She was pleased as punch with her newfound ability. Half the time she couldn't walk at all she was laughing so hard.

Remember how we are so busy? Well, Avram just got called to be the Young Men's first counselor, and we have suddenly become busier. Then I look at people ten years older than us, and they are soccar moms and career dads as well as everything else. Remember when you were single, and spent weeks reading through series (if you were like me). Remember when you were a kid, and Summer was forever long, and you spent most of it outside playing? I never feel like I'm outside enough, now. But then when I go outside, I'm always at a loss as to what I should be doing (unless it's going on a walk), because what I really miss is going outside to play. To climb trees, to play pretend that I was going to live with my great aunt in England, who of course lived in the moors. Everyone worth knowing in Literature must have some relation to the Moors. And I'm worth knowing in Literature, after all. I need to find a secret playmate, and go play outside again. But I don't think I could forget I was 26 and a mom long enough to do so....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Head Is Spinning

It's just one of those weeks. Monday I did four loads of laundry, folded them and put them away, cleaned the living room and kitchen, made and cleaned up after dinner, and Avram was at school until 6 pm, when he came home and studied Akkadian like mad until past 10 pm for his Akkadian test on Tuesday. Plus Lydia was in a rare mood of sleep deprived frustration, and needed lots of extra TLC.

Tuesday Avram had his test (which went well, he thinks), and I went to a Park Day that a SAHM group from the three wards that meet in the same building sponsor, and then in the afternoon prepared a dinner for the missionaries who were coming over. After Avram came home, I went and donated blood while he entertained the missionaries. I came home after they had left, and then Avram did more homework.

Today I'm babysitting James, plus a toddler Jaina, whose mother is with a campout with her kindergartner son for school. That means I have three kids under the age of two today, plus a three year old. And today at Six pm, we are going to a dinner that the OSU Hillel (Jewish Organization, like Institute) is putting on for Avram and other recipients of scholarships and prizes. Avram won first place in the graduate division of the Roth Essay contest for his paper on King Saul and the Necromancer "Lo how the mighty are fallen, a reversal of fortunes" (I think that's how the title goes.) Besides this nifty dinner we get to go to, Avram also gets $500 off his fall tuition. We hope that he'll have funding (which we still don't know about yet), but this is still nice, because then maybe it would be refunded to us. Regardless, Avram can now say that he has earned money through writing - an exciting place to be.

In order to get us all there in time, Jaina's dad is getting off work early to be here by five to pick her up, then I'm driving James and the girls to James' Mom's work, and dropping him off there, and then we'll continue down to OSU campus to meet Avram at the Hillel.

Then tomorrow I'm hosting the final Playschool group Lydia has been a part of for the last four months, where various Moms in these three wards have taken turns hosting the playschool once a week on Thursdays, and providing an hour and a half lesson, snack, activity, etc. The final one is tomorrow, and my theme is Insects. Now if only I had any sort of snack or activity planned!

Finally Avram has start this semester's papers this weekend, because next weekend we're having family come and visit us (yay, Samuel and Aleatha!), and we're helping at the Primary Activity on Saturday morning.

Then after the craziness of this week has subsided, next week we have family in town, the next week is finals for Avram, and then we're going to go camping, and visit Virginia, and then Avram has a Gaming Convention here in Columbus, and he also starts that same week an intensive Arabic course, with one year of Arabic in two months, and then the next week I fly to Utah for a family reunion for a week and a half.....

And by this point, we're at mid July, and the business has never stopped. And I know it's just going to get crazier. I think I'll just go and read a book now, and pretend that I am eleven years old, and have no cares in the world. You can reach me after July....

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Little Elisheva - Now With Pictures

Post Edit - I've added lots of pictures.
Elisheva turned a year old two weeks ago today. I've been in the midst of making a large picture heavy post detailing the first year of her life, but realized that what I really want to do is muse a little on my second daughter, and what she is to me. This post meanders through memories, descriptions and thoughts, but I'd rather have my raw thoughts than a polished narrative.

Once we knew that we were having a girl, Avram and I worked and worked to find a name we could agree on, that also seemed to fit our as yet unseen baby. We both had favorites, but could not agree. Finally, in desperation of finding a name any other way, I wrote down every woman mentioned in the Bible from Genesis 1:1 on. After compiling a whole page, we sat down together and took turns crossing names off the list we knew we could never use. When there were under twenty or so names left, we looked at each one carefully. Elisheva was a name that Avram had suggested early on in the name search, but it did not appeal to me then. As it came up this time again, I agreed to give it more thought. Elisheva means My God is my covenant, and the name Elizabeth is the English version of the name. Elisheva was the wife of Aaron in the Old Testament.

We were also kicking around some other names, most notably Freya, but we agreed to try calling our baby Elisheva for a couple of days, and see how we felt about it. One morning as I sat in my bath, I looked at my baby "bump" (such a Britishism), and asked her how she felt about being named Elisheva. I tried to imagine a baby with that name. And although the name itself had never meant much to me, calling her Elisheva seemed to fit.

That was my first real moment of connection with Elisheva. After her birth the name connected to her immediately, and never have I thought that she doesn't seem to be an Elisheva.

Elisheva Anne entered the world at 9:17 pm on April 28. Immediately after her birth the midwife placed her on my chest and then she and her apprentice left the room while Avram and I spent some alone time with her. As Elisheva was still attached to the umbilical cord, we could not move her around much, so I had no clear visual picture of her. She was this heavy weight on me, and yet such a slight one as well. I will remember forever holding her small, slippery body, a solid red torso, and dark, thick hair. After nine months of pregnancy, and a brief, if intensive, labour, the room in the half dark was so quiet. Avram and I could hardly believe that another soul had joined us, that we had a second daughter.

Lydia as my first child was so...large. Sparkling. Everything she did was a first for us. We did acrobatics over her first smile, over her small amount of blonde hair and her tiny little body that soon filled out into the normal baby dimples. Lydia defined Motherhood for me, and we spent months glorying in each other's company, with few other distractions.

Elisheva, starting with when I held her in the twilight of that April, has been a softer, quieter experience of love and Mothering for me. Oh, I knew I loved her from the moment she came, and from before, when I carried her in my womb. Elisheva was a baby deeply wanted. I knew that there is always enough love for more children. I just never realized how differently I would feel love towards my two girls.

Elisheva's babyhood did not send me into paroxysms of joy every moment, every glance, every feeble arm wave. Six weeks after her birth we moved from England to Virginia, and much of that time was spent in preparing for the impending move. Elisheva was a model baby for times of such change - she immediately took to sleeping well at night and napping. A confirmed thumbsucker from early ultrasounds on, after birth Elisheva could not find her thumb, and so would try and suck on any thing she could find. After spending literal hours having her suck on various fingers of mine and Avram's, I caved on my "no pacifier" stance, and we bought her a guckie (as we call them, from the guck-guck noise they make).
Elisheva loved to suck on her guckie, and was quite happy those first few months wrapped well with her guckie, while lying in a bouncy chair being gently rocked. I certainly spent less time holding Elisheva than I had Lydia, but every night I looked forward to her gentle weight in my arms as we slept. I loved the quiet closeness of co-sleeping. Elisheva felt like mostly a dead weight bundle of swarthy torso in those days. She had red-tinged skin, and a sturdy build that sat like a lump in our arms. In fact, her nickname for her first few months was, in jest, Lump. While in Virginia we lost the guckies, and the small American ones didn't cut it for Elisheva's tastes, so she prematurely ended that love.

While we sojourned in Virginia for a couple of months, Elisheva moved out of the newborn stage. She learned to smile, although not until two months old, and gained weight rapidly. Soon she was a mass of dimpled thighs and three chins, a baby's delight to kiss. Still of a gentle disposition, Elisheva made less of a splash in the family dynamics. Lydia had been a high need baby, one who did not nap well unless held, and who demanded a lot of personal attention. Elisheva was happy to go with the flow, and as long as she was fed and changed when desired had few if any complaints with the world.

Elisheva rolled over for the first time the day we moved to Ohio, when she was barely four months old. At six months, she sat up and could play contentedly with toys around her. At seven and a half months I moved her out of our bed into a crib in Lydia's room. Once she could army crawl (at about seven months), our nightly trysts of sweet and gentle sleep became torture sessions of movement and kickings. At the same time, Elisheva started sleeping through the night, and adapted to being put down awake in her crib instead of being nursed to sleep for nappings and bedtimes.

Meanwhile, at six months, she topped out at 20 plus pounds, and so earned her second two nicknames, Chubbery Bubbery and Chunkers or Chunker Monkers. Elisheva no longer deserved the moniker "Lump" - when she began crawling on Christmas Eve, at almost eight months, she immediately took off all over the house, and shortly was pulling herself up to furniture and cruising along them as well. By Christmas Elisheva had had six teeth come in (which is the number she still maintains), and took off with solid eating at a run. Elisheva will eat anything and everything, and quite decidedly, once she is done with an item, will drop it off the right hand side of her high chair. If you have the impudence to think she dropped it by mistake and return the morsel of food to her, she'll catch your eye, and then deliberately hold the food over the right edge and drop it with emphasis. One of her favorite places is her high chair (although now she has decided she likes Lydia's better), and for a few months most pictures of Elisheva are of her in her high chair.

In the second half of her life thus far Elisheva has changed for me from a quiet, warm lump of love that I first held right after birth to a cheer, chubby little girl, inquisitive and physically adventuresome. Although still in the main undemanding, Elisheva has plenty of personality now, and shows it aplenty! Elisheva loves dolls, and from 10 months onwards would smile and grin when she would see any doll. She received a present of a baby doll for her first birthday, and loves to alternately bite the vinyl arms and legs, hug the soft body, and take turns sucking on the doll bottle and then providing a turn for the doll herself. Elisheva will hug her when sleeping as well. Elisheva also loves climbing, and can climb up onto the couch or onto Lydia's toddler bed (to Lydia's eternal frustration).

Elisheva gives a grin that shows all her six teeth and makes your heart melt. She will emphatically shake her head back and forth, and has for months, for no apparent reason.

Just as I love Lydia because she is my first child, and defined the very act of Mothering to me, Elisheva has broadened the definition. She has shown me how much a second personality, one so unlike my own, has its own captivating charms. Elisheva, during most of her first year, has not been blessed as a traditionally attractive baby. But I love the looks she can give, and the sheer determinism in her face.
Elisheva is on the verge of walking, which I look forward to with great anticipation. Three weeks ago she started standing for upwards of 15-20 seconds, and two and a half weeks ago she took once step. Then yesterday she took two steps (or completed a whole step, depending how you look at it), and she can also stand upwards of a couple of minutes now. Lydia was slow at physical things, so it's fun to see Elisheva forge ahead in what feels like quick time to me.

Elisheva is still easygoing - she will play for long periods of time crawling around, getting into whatever is in her reach. She will sing along to music, and often makes crooning, high pitched noises while engrossed in her play. That's usually when I have the sudden urge to snatch her up and kiss her all over.

Lydia has always loved Elisheva, but has often shown that love through exessive physical contact. Over the months, as Lydia has learned to be softer and Elisheva has been able to interact more, they have spent increasing time playing and entertaining each other. They love to play peek-a-boo together, and no one can make Elisheva laugh as hard as Lydia can.

Elisheva continues to hover at 20 pounds, and her once dark hair has lightened to a honey brown. As her face slims out in toddler-hood, her eyes come more to the fore. They are dark Grayish Blue, with hints of brown and green - Hazel eyes, but not lost in the muddle of different colors, but rather enhanced by the hints of the depth of color.

Happy Birthday Elisheva! I love you, and look forward to discovering new sides of your personality as we grow together.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Brief History of Homemaking

Elisheva doing her part to increase disorder, one pretzel at a time

I finished reading A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking today. Despite my college education and despite it being a layman's book, I often found myself having to re-read a sentence or paragraph more than once. Sometimes I even was reduced to reading it aloud, word by word, trying to understand what Hawking meant by some principle or another. Avram had to dumb it down for me a few places, until Hawking went even beyond him. I did grasp one principle exceedingly well, while finishing up the last couple chapters while eating lunch.

For every part of the universe that becomes more ordered, a greater part becomes disordered. So for everything that adds order to the universe, such as you reading this post right now adding new information to your brain, an equal (actually greater in the specifics) amount of disorder is released, usually in the form of heat given off by your body. This has a lot of consequences, but there is a simple correlating aspect that I am sure Hawking has never contemplated on, but as a homemaker I recognized immediately.

Suddenly I understand why since this morning I have been working away without ever a break (until now), cleaning and doing laundry and helping children and making lunch, etc. & etc., and yet the house only seems to get dirtier, the dishes pile up faster than I do them, and more dirty laundry is found in various piles hidden around the house than I can do it in. As I increase the order in Lydia and Elisheva's minds - as they grow and learn every day, increasing disorder must be maintained by the very physical laws of the Universe. Thus my house must increase in disorder to offset my children's growth.

Let me repeat that. As my daughters grow in mind and spirit, my house will descend further and further into chaos. It's a proven theory. Even the simple daily act of cooking and eating three meals a day, to simply maintain your life, at the same time sends your life further into chaos. As Hawking pointed out in his book, you should just stop reading his book, or in my case blog post, right now.

For every word you keep reading, your life will disintegrate around you. Your children will become crazier, their clothing will enter further stages of dishabille, and you will probably have to start sweating, thus leading to ever more laundry, to maintain the balance of the universe.

The fact I read this book (another line to highlight in my BYU list of books!) only means that as my mind is now more ordered, I shall have to personally pay for it through blood, sweat, and children's tears. Truly ignorance is bliss (and less laundry).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"Mother" Avram (Complete with Earrings)

Avram would like to wish all the fellow mother's out there a Happy Mother's Day, compliments of the Westerville 2nd Ward Singing Time Activity.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I've Got the Bling

While observing the weekly ads, Avram and I noticed that Meijer (the local store, like Target) was having a Mother's Day sale on jewelry. Since we want to buy a colored gemstone for a ring, and since we don't want to spend any money at it, since we already know we're committed and married and also because Avram is still a student, and our ship won't come in for several more years yet, when he gets his Ph.d. and gets a tenure track job (and tenure track jobs are more like a sloop than a freighter), we've been looking for rings in the smaller end of the price range spectrum.

So, when we ventured out to Meijer on Tuesday, I was very happy to see an Amethyst ring that was 70% off. Its original price was $339. Not the finest of gold - only 10 karat - but just what we want for now. Its sale price was $101.70. Very impressive. The ring even fit me as well, at the "off the rack" size of 7. Except that was the size of my last ring. You know, the ring that fell off all the time when I was pregnant with Elisheva? The ring that since we could not keep it on my finger, Lydia pulled off and played with it, and we found it near a door, bent into an oval? The ring that we had been meaning to fix for a year, and was sitting out on our desk to remind Avram to take it to a Jeweler? The Ring that was stolen? Yeah, that ring.

I wanted this ring to not follow that pattern, since in times of cold or pregnancy or both 7 is a little loose for me. They have free sizing (basically they just keep different rings sizes at the main whatever place, and they send you a ring in your size), and I sized in at a 6 1/2 on their official ring sizer. I wouldn't get the ring for a while, but on the plus size, it would never fly off into the grass while walking around outside.

Then today I received a call, and they have discontinued this ring (probably why it was on sale), and so were giving me an extra 10% off so we could pay for another jeweler to resize it, since they no longer have the ones in the central stock. So today we went and picked up the ring, which in the end only cost $67.80. And I got the ring immediately. Here it is:
I like how colored stones are huge compared to diamonds. It makes me look like a Nineteenth Century social maven, with large be-ringed hands. (Please, ignore the oddly puffy, white fingers in this photo. Super close shots of hands are not flattering. At least not of my hands). And the Amethyst has a very nice sparkle to it, and I like the diamond chip accents (three on each side).

My last ring, the sad misshapen and stolen one, was originally around $950 that Avram got on an after Christmas sale for $267. This one was $339 that we paid $67.80 for. My next ring the jewelers will just have to give us gratis, because we are so impressive.

Of course, there is the worry that this ring will be too large. That is why I'm hoping that either the orbit of the planet will alter permanently until Ohio has the climate of Southern California, and it will never be too cold, or that I will as of this moment go on a ring finger weight training course, that will scientifically put weight on that one finger, while leaving the rest of me alone.

(Have I mentioned that I hate the word Bling? It sounds like something that would be said about Paris Hilton or Britney Spears.)

Someone's In the Kitchen With Thora

I have caved to the popular pressure (of two of my sisters), and have condescended out of my magnitude, nay, even my pulchritude to begin posting my personal recipes and gourmet whole wheat cooking advice, methods, etc & etc.

They may be found at my new blog, Someone's In the Kitchen With Thora. If you want to be in the kitchen with me, please come and check it out.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

An Eschatological Obsession Understood

For years now, I have felt a vague desire for the world to end. Although I do look forward to the Second Coming of Christ, this is not because I think that any day now the Green Mountain Boys will come and save the constitution. Nor do I think that any specific disaster, whether natural or economic, foretells the general apocalyptic state. I am not so naive as to believe that because I could be affected by difficulties that these must be the specific difficulties foretold in the scriptures. That all being said, I do count myself as a firm eschatologist, or one who is concerned with eschatology, which is a super fancy Greek way of saying the beliefs surrounding the end of the world, or rather the Second Coming, since the world will not actually end. Perhaps this is why the announcement last October of the temple in Clay County, Missouri, only sixteen miles from the center of the foretold Temple in Independence Missouri, or Zion, excited me so much - yet another sign to myself of the filling of foretold signs.

I have often wondered why I look forward to any Apocalypse with such interest. I don't actually want anyone I know to die, not even large groups of anyone in the world to die or suffer, whether from disease, or tsunamis or wars and rumors of wars. I don't enjoy hardship, or pain, and despite my sometimes wishes, am not, nor ever will be I presume, ready to walk "back" to Missouri with my faithful family. A sizable chunk of my Patriarchal Blessing talks about the last days and myself (I think it says that although the world will suffer, I will be blessed both temporally and spiritually, and become a millionaire with perfect children, and an awesome blog. Really.), to the point that when I got it I went home discouraged, because it seemed so dark. Because of this, I've always had the pet belief that the Second Coming could happen during my natural lifetime. Notice I said natural. And people have been known to live to over a hundred and twenty, so this could be a hundred years from hence. And I could still be wrong. After all, Paul was convinced that the last days were upon him then - and that was almost two thousand years ago.

Excepting my Patriarchal Blessing then, and my apparent subconscious wish for pain and hardship and lots of general deaths, instead of peace and prosperity and a book deal involving my memoirs (I've got millions of memories, and if Luisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder can fictionalize their childhoods, why can't I?), why should I be so anxious for the end of the world?

I have thought long and hard on this subject, and just over the last couple of days, a glimmer of enlightenment has glowed softly in my mind. I'll expound all in a long story, but it will all be worth it, because it has a heading in bold type.

The Eternal Quest for Meaning and Valour and the Chance to Prove All

All my life I have read and loved fantasy books and stories. I love many stories, but one of my favorite (besides the kind of true life plucky girl stories, and also anything well written and character driven) kinds often involve normal people who rise or are plucked up into greatness. Who leave their homes, families, occupations, whining teenage selves, and become someone who stands up to evil, to crazy uncles, who take quests risking life and limb to save their loved ones, nations, worlds, or even all good anywhere. And sometimes they even get to learn cool magic and have romances along the way. The real draw to me in them is the aspect of larger than life, of pulling the eternal battle of good versus evil, right versus wrong.

The way for us to choose is made plain, as Moroni tells us, and the choices are black and white. I know this is true, but when every day the only choices I make are so minuscule as how to discipline Lydia when she rips a newspaper into twenty seven pieces (I counted, because every rip meant a minute in time out. Yes, Lydia spent twenty seven minutes in time out on a chair today, for willful disobedience, complete with smirks. I think it was the right method.),, or what portion of my house I should once again attempt to clean, that none of them seem black or white, or any color at all. None of my choices seem to make much impact one way or the other. Sure, if I never got dressed, and when Avram came home from work he found me sitting in the living room eating bon-bons with the kids squalling in dirty diapers, with a messy house and no dinner even thought of, let alone groceries in the house, then that could be considered a black and white choice in the aggregate. But when I sort of muddle along, and get dressed every morning, cook and clean up three meals a day, change three sets of bottoms (counting my babysat charge James), and continue with the rest of my day in the same happy, yet monotonous way, I feel that I'll never be someone who makes large over-arching decisions again.

I know that a lot of fantasy is written about the period of coming to age. That many of our life choices are made in a few choice years, and after that we live out the remainder of our life fulfilling these choices. We go to college. We pick careers. We marry. We have our young children. And then for the next twenty to forty years we simply live.

Thora Spends A Moment Tooting Her Own Prowess, But Don't Worry, She Was Only Amazing in Junior High

In junior high, at the age of thirteen, I felt destined for great things. I went to Brighton, a camp for Beehives in the mountains above Salt Lake City, and we went on a blind-folded, silence-only hike, led only by a rope attached to trees. At one point the slowly groping line of girls stopped, and I waited in my turn, waited for the line to start again. But nothing happened. Finally I felt my way over and around girl after girl until I came to head of the line, where the head girl had encountered a particularly large tree wrapped in rope, and in confusion of some sort had stopped. I felt my way around her, and continued on, and thus the whole line began moving again. At the time, I thought little more than interior impatience, but after the hike was over, my counselor took me aside and commended me for having foresight and independence of thought. Are these not the marks of a great future?

Then, also in Junior High, in seventh grade, I had a beloved History teacher, Mr. Gordon. He was the shining academic light of that year. He was young and vibrant, and had brand new darling twin children, and knew how to make History come alive for us all. In a neighborhood beset by poverty, immigration, second languages, and very hard working parents to make ends meet, Mr. Gordon could integrate everyone, at every level.

One day on entering the class, he had us pull out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil, and copy down every thing he said. As an innovator of difference, yet effective, teaching methods, we were used to following whatever various announcements he made, so we all quickly did as he told us. Mr. Gordan began with a couple of obvious platitudes; "Mr. Gordan is my teacher. My principal guides this school. The Teachers of Glendale want me to learn." This went on for a while, with every student carefully copying each pronouncement Mr. Gordan made. I thought this was some exercise in reminding us to have good behavior, as problematic behavior was ever an issue at Glendale, and perhaps there had been some flareups, and so he was helping us remember that our teachers only wanted us to get a good education, and were here to help us do so.

As he went on, the content of the sentences changed. "Mr. Gordan knows what's best for me. Mr. Gordan knows better than I do what I need." I looked around in concern, at the classroom carefully copying down these sentences that I no longer agreed with. "I will do anything that Mr. Gordan tells me to do."

At this, I put down my pencil, and refused to write anymore. I looked at one student, who was helping another student copy what he had said, word for word, repeating it to make sure. I listened to them, and I could not believe that they so calmly gave up all their agency to Mr. Gordan. I could not in good conscience say that I would do anything Mr. Gordan would have me do, and I would not continue the lesson, although I have never been a person of rebellion.

Mr. Gordan came to me when he saw that I had stopped, and I don't remember if I objected verbally to the whole classroom or just to himself, but his usual cheerful self was stern as he told me to go wait in the hall, and that I would soon go to the Principal's office for disobedience, and he quickly bundled me out into the hallway to wait. I had never in my life been to the principle's office. Once in second grade I was chewing gum in class, and another student told on me (although they were chewing gum when they told! The unfairness of it all), and I was issued a green slip as a warning. My mother kept the green slip in memento, and it was the only time of punishment from that year to this one. I waited in fear in the empty hallway, until Mr. Gordan came out after a while and calmed my fears. He told me that he had been showing the class how a whole country could be taken in by Hitler, how among even good, ordinary people, step by step, can come to say and believe other's persuasive leadership. We had been doing a unit on World War Two, but none of this had come to mind of any of us students that class period.

Mr. Gordan expressed that he was proud of me that I stood up for what I believed in, and did not blindly follow. And, of course, he had never intended to send me to the principle's office.

I still remember that day. Why? Because it was probably one of the last times I stood up publicly for what I believed in against oppression, and it was all a set-up in a Junior High School.

Which brings us back to fantasy. In fantasy, people are called upon to prove their mettle. I often feel that I should like to prove my mettle, and not by seeing how many diapers I can change before my brain leaks out my ears. Nor do I think that outside the home has too much charm in this area, either. Every day Avram goes to and from school, he attends classes, studies, and takes tests. Although the nature of his minutiae differs from my own, the essential smallness remains the same.

When have I ever been called to make long, probably deadly, treks through the snow to save my country? When have I been forced to hide others to save their lives? When did I get really cool magic (oh, wait, that's not part of this discussion...)

I believe that herein lies the appeal of Eschatology. In the normal routine of my life, between childcare, reading lots of books, blogging, church attendance and other daily religious rituals, I may never have large, stark, life changing moments when I must let my home be burned to show my testimony. But, at the end of the world, where diseases rampage, anti-Christs spread ruin and destruction, and seas boil. Then, then will I be somebody. Then will I be able to go the head of a blind folded line, and blaze the trail of faith forth. Then will I stand up to an unjust government, and speak out for the freedom of Moral Agency. Then I will probably die the first death, in ignominy, and laid under an unmarked grave of scorn. But at least I will not have died of piles of dirty laundry. I will not have read so many books and done so little action that I am ashamed of my blog's sidebar (I'm a quick reader....) Then I will not feel that, like Anne of Green Gables when she stays home to teach school in Avonlea instead of going to college that her path narrows down to a small one, lined with small flowers and grass, but will rather have walked the cliffs and ravines, sailed the ocean, and at last found my berth through valiant-ness, though my life I have lost. Plus then I will be able to get away with all of the over-worked metaphors I want to, I can feel it.

I know that life as a young homemaker with young children is a "times and seasons" thing. I repeat this to myself daily, I think. And I also know that making small, infinitesimal decisions day to day now will help shape myself and my children to be women of temperance, with bridled passions (it's that 27 minute time out I can account to this), and women of Charity. I know that being good, doing good, day in and day out for my whole natural span of life is in many ways more important than just being able to make a large good decision once. I know that in this life we shape our characters and persons to become God-like, and that I am being tempered through out my life for this, as slow as the process is.

But sometimes, I want to chuck it all, and find a good wagon and become a pioneer. Then you know you're making the right choices every day by keeping on moving west. Or I want a large, preferably impossible, task laid upon me by wise, mysterious and arcane beings, that involves going over mountains and under rivers and could even involve golden rings.

I'm sure that if tomorrow we found out that Avram has cancer, Elisheva is developing into a deaf/mute, I'm barren, and Lydia has to go out at the tender age of three to sell match-sticks to support us all, that I will take this whole post back, and beg for the easy days, where my largest concern is; 'to blog, or not to blog?' I don't actually think that underneath all this soft exterior I have the makings for a greater heroine than any that surround me. I'm sure everyone reading this post have moments of pride deep within, and that, unlike mine, involved something from real life that happened after puberty. But within my bonds of mediocrity of normal life, I know that somewhere, I could be a heroine. Even just to myself.

So bring on the last days. I'm building food storage, and keeping tabs on the eventual building of a temple in Jerusalem, when a spring will flow down from the temple mount and heal the Dead Sea. Because when the constitution hangs by a thread, watch out, you'll be hearing about me.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Jane Austen and "Another Lady"

While at my weekly Library Trip (yes, with dried pee on my capris), I noticed a book by the name of Sanditon under the Jane Austen section. I pulled it out, and indeed, it was by Jane Austen and "Another Lady" (complete with quotation marks). Apparently the year before she died Austen began a book, but was only halfway through the eleventh chapter before she grew too ill to work on it any longer. Sometimes I wonder how I have managed to obtain the age of 26 1/2 without being aware of this (as well as another unfinished novel, the Watsons).

I gave the book a try and was pleasantly surprised. On Goodreads I gave it a three out of five. The second author was not Jane Austen, and the further the story line went the more un-Austen like it became (although immediately I could tell the break. For one thing, Dobbs, the second author, used words like jealous. Austen wouldn't say jealous, when she could say, 'a vague feeling of unease stole over Charlotte's consciousness, which she effectively repulsed by squarely turning away from the vignette of Mr. Parker and Miss Brereton in conversation at the window, and inquiring after Lady Denham's health.') The end of the book ends in a most un-Austen like manner more reserved for the later Bronte sisters, who do not mind a bit of melodramatic villainy, nor exposing their heroines to walk homeless over the moores.

As well, in the first 10 1/2 chapters there were delightful moments of pure sardonic wit that is what I love the most about Austen novels. Ultimately I can get romantic plots from any library shelf, but only in Austen do I usually have gems of sentences; "Mr Parker's character and history were soon unfolded. All that he understood of himself, he readily told, for he was very openhearted; and where he might be himself in the dark, his conversation was still giving information to such of the Heywoods as could observe." The rest of the book does an admiral job of affecting the general style of Jane Austen, nor does it fall into the common problem of sounding like a "historical novel" rather than one written in the time period, and not just about the time period. (Of course, I enjoy many historical novels. The Work and the Glory certainly do not sound like novels written in the 1830s and 1840s. Nor would I want them to. But Jane Austen's style is not about the time period as much as her writing.), but it falls short of being Austen prose.

Occasionally later in the book, I could almost feel that perhaps this could be Austen, but then all too soon I felt I was seeing Austen through a glass darkly - the characters became more shallow, less bound by the mores of their day, and rather more unpleasant to read. Plus Austen does a combination of third person narrative and third person omniscient. She will have descriptions of people that the main character could never know, such as this one; "Sir Edward's great object in life was to be seductive. With such personal advantages as he knew himself to possess, and such talents as he did also give himself credit for, he regarded it as his duty. He felt that he was formed to be a dangerous man, quite in the line of the Lovelaces. The very name of Sir Edward, he thought, carried some degree of fascination with it."

After the changeover, the book proceeded only with third person narrative, thus missing some of the greatest Austen moments when she describes directly to the reader the world, without an intermediary heroine's perceptions. One of the defining qualities of Austen is her subtlety, and this point comes to the fore when reading prose attempting to be Austen herself. The main characters as seen through Dobb's eyes are all more gross, more plebeian, painted with broader and brighter strokes, defined more by their acclaimed hobbies and quirks and less by the casual verbal interplay that over time displays their multi varied personalities. Charlotte, the heroine, becomes more critical and debased, and even the villain loses out.

With all this said, I still felt it was the best fan fiction of Austen I have read. In a fit of weakness this week, I also picked up a book called Emma and Mr Knightly, which was rather ghastly. The author tried, but with phrases like "naked flesh" and "white bosoms" thrown around, not to mention a strongly hinted lesbian friend of Emma's, and of course the necessary half year misunderstanding between Emma and Mr Knightly, a year after their marriage, that results in, shall we say, separate bedroom arrangements that leads to no conjugal bliss, shall we say. Sure, for a modern romance, it was positively prim - but I think if Austen herself read this novel, she would have unleashed the full scathing force of her pen against such a book. I did not actually read the novel - after a couple chapters I began paging through to the end, only stopping so Avram and I could chuckle at yet another improbably plot twist that the world of Emma and Mr Knightly could no more exist in than their marriage moving wholesale into our modern world. Compared to this book, Sanditon was quite the masterpiece.

As Jane Austen meticulously records life for the gentry and the delicate social dance of courtship of the early 1800s, she is so much more than a romance novelists. Her plots extend beyond placing two persons together in marriage. Sanditon devolves into merely a romance - striking in some areas, decidedly mediocre and dragging in others, but ultimately "just" a romance. And this is, for me, the most striking difficulty with reading fan fiction of Jane Austen. So many love her for just the romance, just the Mr Darcys and the love letters of Captain Wentworth, that perhaps to them any Austen-like romance will do. I suppose for myself and others like me, I shall have to wait until the Millenium. Do you think then Austen could be compelled to keep her pen flowing?

(I do recommend the book, especially if you enjoy regency romances in general. Then this book does a very good job of delivering a good romance, and the Hero, Sidney, is quite enjoyable. Just don't think of it as an Austen novel.)