Book Review: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Book:  Shanghai Girls
Author:  Lisa See
Pages:  336
Format: Hardcover, paperback, audio book, Kindle/ebook
Publisher:  Random House (2009)
Book Source:  Private Loan
Category:  Historical Fiction
Style:  Character-driven, tragic

Synopsis from GoodReads:

In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour, the home of millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Though both sisters wave off authority and tradition, they couldn’t be more different: Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree . . . until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides. . . . read more 

This book is well-written with a compelling and tragic story line. However, were it a movie, I would rate it a strong R due to the violence and sexual content. One would argue that its subject matter, Shanghai of the 1930's, the Japanese invasion of the Sino-Japanese war, and the horrors that accompanied it, demand such treatment. However, I believe the best authors capable of conveying the concepts and evoking the proper visceral responses in the reader without such graphic detail.

Tidbits: Piper's Survivor's Guilt

Today, I'm off to College Station and then to Austin to help with the driving as my #2 son and his family relocate. So, yesterday, since I had already written two entries, I thought a quick Tidbits would serve as a post for today. 

Piper Durant is a soldier, and he went through a period when he really struggled with the consequences of the war. Since he was alone and isolated and cooling his heels in Paris, he started writing sonnets in lieu of phoning home. He must not have been able afford the roaming charges on his mobile bill.

Book Review: These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

Book:  These Is My Words
Author:  Nancy E. Turner
Pages:  416
Format: Hardcover, paperback, audio cassette, Kindle/ebook
Publisher:  Harper Perennial (April 2008)
Book Source:  Private Loan
Category:  Historical Fiction
Style:  Gripping action, compelling romance & desperate heartbreak
“My life feels like a book left out on the porch, and the wind blows the pages faster and faster, turning always toward a new chapter faster than I can stop to read it.” ― Nancy E. Turner, These Is My Words
My friend, Ginger, showed up on my porch the other day with this book and Shanghai Girls by Lisa See in hand.  "You need to read this," she announced unceremoniously as she shoved These Is My Words at me.  "We're doing it for book club."  Shanghai Girls was an afterthought.  I could read it and pass it on to whomever wanted it.  However, These Is My Words she wants back.  I know because she wrote her name in it. 

The last book I borrowed from Ginger was Catching Fire, the second of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  I had picked up The Hunger Games at Sam's Club on the cheap to see what the fuss was about, finished it in the middle of the night, and was desperate to get my hands on the next installment.  As always, she came through for me.

Note to Self: Somebody Always Notices

The Fatal Flaw

I read a book once with an interesting plot line (familiar premise but with plenty of originality in the treatment), likable characters, and wonderfully flawed protagonists with plenty of room for improvement.  The writer's style is fluid and very readable.  I have a terrible habit of picking apart grammar skills if the story fails to engage me.  However, this book drew me in and I escaped the plague of terminal editing.

Book Review: Identity by Betsy Love

Book:  Identity
Author:  Betsy Love
Pages:  304
Format: Paperback, Kindle/ebook
Publisher:  Walnut Springs Press (July 2011)
Book Source:  Independent Purchase
Category:  Suspense/Romance
Style:  Character-driven with some action

They say everyone has a doppleganger, even in LDS fiction.  Savannah is a middle-class Mormon girl at a turning point in her life.  Amelia is a spoiled cosmopolitan heiress on vacation.  Everyone loves Savannah.  Amelia not so much.  Their looks are similar enough that they are mistaken for one another when both are wearing sunglasses.  They sit down next to each other on a flight from Mexico to Arizona.  Mayhem ensues.

Typical topics for LDS books, with the Gospel being shared, lives changed, hearts are won, etc., etc., Identity differs with its plot of murder, intrigue, industrial espionage, blended family politics, alcohol dependency and surprise developments.  The blood and guts seem an odd juxtaposition to father's blessings and scripture study, but, it actually works.

The first published work of Ms. Love, it is ambitious.  While not ready to face off with Tom Clancy or Dan Brown, she manages to pull it off with few contradictions and plausibility issues.  I had a few problems with it, not the least of which was the bad .mobi formatting of the Kindle version and lack of a table of contents, but such difficulties could be eliminated with a new edition.

Book Review: Supreme Chancellor of Stupidity by D. Ogden Huff

Book:  Supreme Chancellor of Stupidity
Author:  D. Ogden Huff
Pages:  287
Format: Kindle/ebook
Publisher:  Amazon Digital Services
Book Source:  Provided by Author
Category:  Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Style:  Character-driven but light

I had fun reading Ms. Huff's second installment of her Beau & Bryce Blair trilogy.  Like Master of Emotion which I reviewed here, this story is told in first person.  However, Supreme Chancellor of Stupidity speaks with the voice of Beau's twin brother, Bryce, a smart Alec, charmer, and terminal flirt.  

Nicely juxtaposed against Beau's brooding isolation and channeling of emotions without thoughts, Bryce, a semi‒ Big Man On Campus, reads  thoughts without the emotions.  He uses his talent to anticipate football plays and connect with the ladies.  Think What Women Want (Paramount 2000) with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.  Unfortunately, like all rakes with true hearts of gold, Bryce falls and falls hard for the one girl who refuses to give him the time of day because he's that kind of scoundrel. What's a guy to do?  Enlist the help of a dating coach, of course, and instigate a faux relationship to practice his new resolutions.

Tidbits: A Knight's Tale (MFS)

Excerpt from Book 1 Chapter 8: A Knight's Tale

by Penny Freeman
(In the wake of his father's untimely death, Durant slips into Sandy's sickroom in the dead of night where she battles life-threatening pneumonia.)

     As Piper watched Sandy, contemplating exactly what he should do, she tugged at the collar of her nightgown and fretted at the bedclothes despite her drug-induced torpidity.  He thought to cool her fevered brow, but, before he ventured to her bedside, he moved the lamp to the far side of the room and lowered its flame until it almost guttered.  With only the light of the low fire at his back, his face would be completely veiled in shadow, as dark as the far side of the moon.
    “Hush, precious” he breathed as he replaced the cool compress upon her head. “Rest now. Be still.”
     To his dismay, Sandy struggled against the physic and managed to pry open first one eye and then the other, although her lids were heavy indeed. “Dragon?” she peeped. She reached up to touch his face, and he could not bring himself to deny her. “My dragon, is it you?”
     Piper forced his voice as deep into his chest as he could manage. “No darling. This is only a dream.” She fell into a fit of coughing, then curled into a ball in an attempt to relieve the pain. Tears seeped from her closed eyes. “It hurts,” was the extent of her complaint.

Book Reviews: Elephants of Style and Lapsing into a Comma by Bill Walsh

 Book:  Elephants of Style: A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary English
Author:  Bill Walsh
Pages:  238
Format: Paperback
Publisher:  McGraw-Hill
Book Source:  Independent Purchase
Category:  Language Arts/Reference
Style:  Funny, smart & eminently readable

 Book:  Lapsing Into a Comma:  A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print—and How To Avoid  Them
Author:  Bill Walsh
Pages:  256
Format: Paperback
Publisher:  McGraw-Hill
Book Source:  Independent Purchase
Category:  Language Arts/Reference
Style:  Funny, smart & readable

Okay.  I can hear you already.  You think I've lost my mind in calling a book funny that's about the do's and don't's of Style (meaning, where to underline titles, where to italicize them, how and when to use acronyms, etc., etc., etc.).  I can't really say that I disagree.  It is crazy.  But, Mr. Walsh manages to pull it off.

As a stickler for correctness and very old school when it comes to dangling participles and split infinitives, not to mention the whole issue of constantly morphing comma usage, I find myself wandering through mine fields of doubt when writing in a contemporary voice.  American English is not what it was fifty or even thirty years ago when I was diagramming sentences in sophomore English.  We've loosened up.  We've accommodated change.  Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is a matter for debate, but it is so, and so we adapt or become obsolete.

Book Review: Sting by B.J. Rowley

Book:  Sting
Author:  B.J. Rowley
Pages:  272
Format: Paperback
Publisher:  Golden Wings Enterprises  (March 2001)
Book Source:  Private Loan
Category:  Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Style:  Page-turner

Here is a classic case of "don't judge a book by its cover".  I guess it could also be a lesson on how the right cover art is vital to that all-important first impression.

When I saw this book sitting on the shelf in my family room, I confess, I didn't think much of it.  It looked rather—well—cheesy unprofessional.  However, when my daughter-in-law recommended it and I understood her friendship with the author, I felt courtesy demanded that I should read it.  I was quite pleasantly surprised.  That was earlier this year.

I was reminded of it again when I read this book, Master of Emotion by D. Ogden Huff.  Like that work, a socially outcast teenager, Stephen Ray "Sting" Fischer, who shuns physical contact out of necessity, is rescued from his lonely fate by the new girl in town, Connie Phillips, who hasn't been around long enough to learn the "rules" about him.  His "abilities" (a great word in speculative fiction) capture his attention.  Her mysterious past intrigues him.  Romance ensues.

Book Review: Master of Emotion by D. Ogden Huff

Author:  D. Ogden Huff
Pages:  279
Format: Kindle/ebook
Publisher:  Amazon Digital Services (December 2011)
Category:  Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Style:  Page-turner

YA speculative fiction isn't usually my thing (I usually go for meatier fare), but I've been devouring a lot of different books lately and the premise of this plot seemed intriguing.  I confess, once I got to the action sequences, I couldn't put it down until the climax resolved. Unfortunately, that was 4:30am.

Ms. Huff does a pretty good job of capturing the emotional walls built up by an isolated teenager, as well as his starvation for human contact and blossoming of character when he finally connects with someone he trusts.  I also liked the camaraderie between Beau and his twin brother, Bryce, his lifeline to humanity until Rose helps him break out of his shell.

Reading it brought to mind another YA speculative fiction book I read this year, Sting, by B.J. Rowley.  I review that book here.  The premises are very similar: outsider boy shuns physical contact until "new girl" who doesn't know better, they make a connection, danger and skullduggery ensue.  I won't draw further similarities so as not to spoil the plot.  Despite the familiar ring, the plot stands well on its own in both originality and execution.  Ms. Huff's voice is her own, and she draws out the disparate sensibilities of her various characters with skill.

Book Review: Paradise Unveiled by Joan Day Brady

Book:  Paradise Unveiled
Author:  Joan Day Brady
Pages:  304
Publisher:  American Book Publishing (September 2011)
Book Source:  Independent Purchase
Category:  Historical Romance
Style:  Page-turner

This, my friends, is my aunt, Joan Day Brady.  Okay, technically, she is not my aunt, but she is my mom's close-as-sisters friend since they were teenagers.  So, she's always been my Aunt Joanie.

Joan Brady is my hero, and not only because she anchors so many of my warm recollections of fun and family.  Joan is a do-er—of lots of things, but, specifically, in 2006 Cedar Fort Publishing released her cookbook, Daily Meal Planner.  It's terrific, chock full of good ideas, and bespeaks all the homey wisdom and common sense I have come to identify with her.

Joan is somewhere in the vicinity of her 80th birthday (a year or two shy, I think).   Last year (2011), she published her first novel, Paradise Unveiled.  I love that at a time of life when so many consider their adventures over and done, Joan has seized the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream.  Forget about a bucket list.  How about an onward and upward list?

Book Review: New Spring (Wheel of Time Book "0")

Book:  New Spring (Wheel of Time Book 0)
Author:  Robert Jordan
Pages:  337
Format:  Hardcover, paperback, Kindle/ebook
Publisher:  Tor Fantasy (July 2011)
Book Source:  Independent Purchase
Category:  Fantasy
Style:  Page-turner

One of the shortest books in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, New Spring differs in several ways. First, it is a prequel, beginning some eighteen years prior to The Eye of the World, and rather than the three youths, Rand, Mat, and Perrin, focuses on the Aes Sedai, Moiraine, her best friend, Siuan, and her warder, Lan Mandragoran. It also is much faster in pace, with less attention to the details of setting, countries, and customs and more to the characters and the plot development. Written after ten previous volumes, Mr. Jordan seems to assume his readers are already comfortable in (if not natives of) the Wheel of Time world, which approach lends greatly to the enjoyment of this book. Two or three of his other late-in-the-series books could have benefited from this same approach.

In this book, two of our favorite supporting characters, Moiraine Damodred and Siuan Sanche are young Accepted at the White Tower when they witness a Foretelling prophesying of the birth of the Dragon Reborn. In the meantime, Lan Mandragon is outside the walls of Tar Valon fighting the last skirmishes of the Aiel War. Over the course of the book,the two friends begin their perilous quest to find the new babe who will one day hopefully save the world, and sweep up Lan into it as together they battle against the dreaded Black Ajah.

I enjoyed this book and finished it quickly. Mr. Jordan initially intended to make this a three-volume series, but his untimely death prevented it, as it did his completion of the last volumes of The Wheel of Time. Brandon Sanderson has thus far done a marvelous job completing two of the three last volumes of the first series with the help of Mr. Jordan's extensive notes and writing. It is to be hoped that completing the youthful tale of Moiraine, Siuan and Lan is on his to-do list.

Final word: I own this book. It goes on my 'enjoy again' shelf.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was independently purchased. I received no compensation from the author or their agent for this content.

Setting My Sites On the Ivy League

I wrote about my career challenges and my distaste for junior college a few weeks ago, so it may not surprise anyone to learn that stumbling upon this article caught my attention.  The Atlantic covered the unveiling of a joint effort between Harvard and MIT to develop exclusively online higher education opportunities.  I listened to the whole press conference, eager for the least bit of information.  My heart went pitter-pat.

Video streaming by Ustream

This I could do.  This I am excited about.  The greatest part is, the courses will be Harvard- and MIT-quality.  The exact same material and expectations.  A real opportunity to learn.  They will only be offering certificates—no degrees—but that's okay with me.  It's the education I want.  They don't yet indicate exactly what courses they will offer (I hope they offer writing), but I have signed up here to get on their mailing list.  I want to know just as soon as it's time to click on the dotted line.

In the meantime, I'll make the concession, do the prudent thing and sign up for this course in Excel.  It's offered by Harvard Business Review, a product of Harvard Business School, so it will still look good on a resumé.  When Paul took an Excel course at BYU-I, they gave him the link and said, "pass this."  I don't mind taking the course.  I just think it stinks that the world won't take me exactly on my own terms.

But, maybe I just might learn a thing or two at Harvard.  If you could take any course you liked from an Ivy League university, what would it be?

—A Chaotic Mind

Book Review: The Napping House

Book:  The Napping House
Author:  Audrey Wood
Illustrator:  Don Wood
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Board Book, Audio Cassette 
Pages:  32
Publisher:  Harcourt Children's Books  (May 2009)
Category:  Children's Picture Book
Style:  Humorous

We chew through children's books out our house.  A lot of books.  We love them to death, which is fine by me.  A worn-out dog-eared barely-holding-together board book means lots and lots of time being abused and dragged about the house by adoring toddlers.  And, the adoration stems from generous dollops of time spent by grandmas and grandpas and mommies and daddies reading with little ones snugged in the crook of their arm, with their heads leaned against their shoulder.

As I said, we go through a lot of books in our house, and this is one of our favorites.

The Napping House written by Audrey Wood and delightfully illustrated by Don Wood is a wonderful cumulative rhyme (e.g., this is the house that Jack built) about a sleepy little house on a dozy, rainy day, a snoring granny, a slumbering child, a dog, a cat, a mouse, and a surprise at the end.  The absorbing, humorous illustrations in quiet and cool colors set the mood and enrich the tale, providing lots of fodder for discussion, discovery, and imagination.

I picked up this large board book off a Sam's Club bargain table (a grandmother's best friend), drawn to it by . . . well, just about everything:  the napping, the rain, the granny, and the androgenous any-child.  Maybe it's the doziness of our too-quiet house, but it spoke to me.  I could not resist taking it home.  It also comes in hardcover, board book, and padded board book.

You will love the quiet laughter and gentle humor of this book.  It's perfect murmured into tender ears at that certain time of the afternoon when eyelids grow heavy and yawns prevail over stubborn wills.  It not only invites slumber but serves as a wonderful reminder that, inevitably, rain stops, naps end, and brilliant sunshine invites play once again.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was independently purchased. I received no compensation from the author or their agent for this content.


As I mentioned in my last post here, my #2 son, Dallas II, is a writer.  (When writing, for disambiguation, I refer to him as D2). He was the editor of his high school newspaper, The Bearchat, his senior year, and penned a widely followed and eagerly anticipated humor column in it for two years.  

I, of course, am his #1 fan.  I claim this distinction over his wife, Lynda, because I have been cheering for and laughing with him the longest.  Even so, it delighted me to learn that  he found an eternal companion who laughs at his (admittedly occasionally obscure) jokes as much as I do.

D2 has just graduated from Texas A&M with a master's degree in mechanical engineering.  He, his wife, and their 15-month-old son will be moving to Austin, Texas, in a few weeks, where he will begin making microchips at Samsung.

While I hope I can claim some of the credit for his love of reading, I blame him at least partially for my eclectic taste.  Through him, I discovered authors such as Orson Scott Card (The Ender's Saga), Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time), Brian Jacques (Redwall), J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), and J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings).  He writes engrossing speculative fiction with a delightfully wry voice.

D2 is currently on vacation, and I thought it would be a perfect time to hit him up a guest post for this blog.  I guess he's bored because the following was his response to my query.  Enjoy.
— Penny Freeman


by Dallas Freeman, II

Note To Self: Ambiance, Ambivalence or Ambush?

"My dear fellow, there are in fact only so many notes the ear can hear in the course of an evening."  Emperor Joseph to Mozart in Amadeus (Orion Pictures 1984)
The same can be said of words.

While this particular post is part of the "Lessons Robert Jordan Taught Me" series, my reading of the Wheel of Time has primarily reinforced what I've already learned on my own: sometimes, there is just too much information.

I first started writing The Famous Mrs. Darcy out of sheer boredom.  The problem was, I didn't really have a plot in my head, so I decided I would make up for Miss Austen's lack of contemporary detail and historicity.  I would make my story about the difficulty Lizzie had adjusting to her new life and Mr. Darcy's unyielding family and fill up my tome with lots of luscious locales, grand palaces and fancy clothes beautifully illustrated in a vivid pallet of words.  The end result was a disaster.  The atmosphere was so thick, you had to use a machete to hack your way through it.

Film Review: The Three Musketeers (2011)

When I first stumbled over the previews for this 2011 Summit Entertainment release, I got the goose bumps. I mean, who wouldn’t? A timeless tale, swashbuckling heroes, stunning cinematography and Matthew McFadyen, Orlando Bloom, and their other manly men co-stars all rolled into one. How can you go wrong with that? I found myself counting the days until its release date. Then, I promptly forgot all about it. Only last week did I realize that T3M had been released on DVD, and so, of course, I picked it up from Red Box.

The cast: Matthew McFadyen (Pride & Prejudice, Little Dorrit) plays Athos, the high-minded leader of the band, with a tormented past. Milla Jovovich (The 5th Element) plays the evil seductress without a soul. Luke Evans (Clash of the Titans) plays Aramis, the ambitious cleric soldier discontented with his lot, and Ray Stevenson (Return of the Native) plays Porthos, the muscle-bound giant with a heart, as well as a taste for finery and women who can afford it. Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & the Olympians) plays young D’Artagnon.

Gloria Gay Neves Garrard

I wrote about my mother-in-law, Maurine, in this post last week.  Today, I need to talk about my own mother and how her greatest strengths have influenced the person I have become.

Mom & Grandpa Bob
Here's my mom, Gay Garrard, with her husband, Bob.  My mother is amazingly talented and creative.  My memories are packed with vivid images of art she has created, songs she has composed, poems she has penned, clothes she has designed, houses she has decorated, photos she has taken and words she has written.  It seems there is nothing that my mom can't do and do well.

My mom is currently working on a fabulous Book of Mormon novel about the People of Ammon and the 2000 Stripling Warriors.  It's amazing.  The work is scholarly, enlightening, spiritual, and engaging all at once, which, in a nutshell, is my mom.  I truly hope she gets it published and doesn't give up on it.  It's something that needs to see the light of day.

Mitt, Mormons & Me

While we're discussing politics . . .

Where the Church Stands On Politics:

One of the biggest misconceptions about the Church is that the rank and file march in lock step with the leadership of the Church, which is anything but the case.  The Church encourages stresses independent thought, investigation, and critical thinking.  A strong foundation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ can only come from conviction gained through personal revelation.  That principle of moral agency and accountability in all aspects of life is fundamental to the Gospel.

Here's a video put out by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to explain its policy on politics:

Aren't All Mormons Republican?

Rep. Harry Reid &
Pres. Barack Obama
Ummm . . . no.  There are members of the Church of every political persuasion.  What about Democrats?  House Speaker Harry Reid (D-Nev) comes to mind.  As does Gladys Knight.  (A-mazing lady, BTW—faith as powerful as her voice).  She had this to say when asked about about being Mormon and voting for Mitt Romney in an interview here:

Channeling Maurine

Maurine and Milton Freeman with all their grandchildren
in 1983; seven more would follow
Working in the kitchen, chatting with Desireé.  She's making chocolate chip cookies for Alora's baptism on Saturday.  I'm cutting up a cantaloupe for dinner.  I halve it, clean it, slice it into wedges, then make vertical slices through the flesh, just to the rind but not through it.  Then, I slice off the rind and bite-size pieces of fruit fall into the bowl.  I'm well-practiced.  It's fast work.  Just like my "mom" showed me.

My husband's mother has been gone for more than nine years now.  She hasn't lived with us in twelve, but her presence in this house can be almost palpable.  It happens most when I'm with my daughters-in-law, when we're working together, when we're laughing and chatting, or when I am sharing some skill she taught me.  I want to be for them what Maurine was to me.

The Politics of Hate

I have a confession:  I have precious little patience for politics—American politics as presently constituted, at any rate.

What passes for journalism these days is just one more brand of reality TV.  Entertainment for the angry.  If it bleeds, it leads.  Barring that, if you can get an angry economically disadvantaged person to yell at the camera about the oppression of "the Man", do that.  Anything to tear someone else down.  We buy into the 30-second sound bite with our MTV attention spans and believe we know all the "issues".  We have endowed the roles of judge, jury and executioner all on the 6 o'clock news.

Even "articles" on the Internet and in print lack any substance.  They have degenerated into little more than a headline, a teaser, and a two-paragraph blog post.  McNews—information of the lowest common denominator.

Novel Sequels: the Sequel . . . and sequels and sequels

This is the first in my "Note To Self" seriesor Lessons Robert Jordan Taught Me.  The advantage of reading the same author through a large body of work, particularly marathon style, is that their writing style, habits, strengths, and idiosyncrasies all become very apparent.  I am currently about 20% through Knife of Dreams, Book 11 of The Wheel of Time Series.  That's more than 8,461 pages of content (yes, I did the math).  You can learn a lot about an author reading that much of their work, especially if you're hyper-critical, like me.

So, brilliant me that I am, I'm sharing a few of my observations. And, since I would never wish to malign the revered Mr. Jordan who is not only published and very popular but, well, dead, I'll use examples from my own writing to illustrate the point.  I have to say here that I greatly admire Robert Jordan.  He died with his boots on, as it were, a worthy goal to strive for.

Lesson #1:  Beware Character Creep

Writing for me is creating a world.  It starts out a tiny microcosm as first one and then another character is developed, as they interact with each other and as I, as a writer, get to know them.  (I don't develop characters so much as grow acquainted with who they are).  Then, as they move through the plot, they interact with more characters who in turn start to reveal their personalities, and with them their back stories, in an ever-expanding spiral.

A Change of Pace

"Oh, Jo, how could you? Your one beauty."
— Amy March in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Me (back), my dad, my sister, Carrie, and my Grandma Haskell of the pin-curls 1980
I've always had pretty hair.  I've worn it long most of my life.  Long is easy, and cheap.  And pretty.  Then, more a decade ago, I decided there was nothing sadder than a fat old lady with stringy hair hanging down her back, clinging to the last vestiges of a glory long past—rather like the wisps of hair still clinging to her head.

So, I cut it.  My stylist, Melanie Knapke, suggested a bob.  Long hair and short both at once.  Melanie is very good.  She's also very expensive, so the length of my hair has waxed and waned with my finances.  For a while it was very long again.  I was content.

The other day, Dallas and I went shopping because I had a job interview and my clothes no longer fit.  I knew I have lost quite a bit of weight over the past year or so, but I hadn't gone down a dress size.  I had gone down two.  And, I got into a skirt a size that I haven't been able to wear for nearly 30 years.  I tried it on by mistake, but I even got it buttoned and zipped.  I didn't buy it, but I felt like one of those Progresso soup commercials.  It fits!  It fits!! [happy dance].  I didn't call Progresso.  I just told Desireé.