What I’m Into (September 2014)

Where has the time gone?
 
My trips out of the house in September consisted of a funeral for my friend who had died of cancer, and a trip to the hairdresser. (The dentist will just have to wait for another month). I’ve been enjoying the late summer sun, lounging in the back garden while he boy runs around killing mythical monsters.
 

At home, we have been into Art.
 

"Portrait of a Sauvignon Blanche butterfly: it looks real, but it's not" - The Boy

“Portrait of a Sauvignon Blanc butterfly: it looks real, but it’s not real” – The Boy


 

The boy painted on acrylics and canvas for the first time (as I was photographing him, I thought, ‘hang on, I have never done this! How come he gets to before me?’ Perhaps I shall rectify this if I have enough energy…)
 

image
Jon painted his first abstract, Poppies, which is my new J Marlow favourite. Jon is also writing on art on his blog, and I’m loving his analysis.
 

We have been reading the boy Greek myths (I thoroughly recommend this series of books by Lucy Coats – even for adults! I’m learning loads- which makes the Greek myths more accessible, and from what I can tell, includes Metamorphoses, The Odyssey, and the Iliad. (Do ignore the bits about ‘Atticus’ supposedly linking the stories – those bits are boring and irrelevant.) There’s nothing that can make you feel middle-class-literary-smug quite like being able to say, ‘of course that is reminiscent of the myth of Tantallus’…)
 

However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them for a four-year-old; they’d best be suited for 7-10 year olds. There was an unfortunate case of over-identification with Icarus: a boy, making craft with his Daddy was a little too close to home, and he sobbed when Icarus flew too close to the sun and died. I had a few minutes of frantic, “it didn’t happen! It’s just a story! It’s a warning against motorbikes!*” before he would calm down.
 
*This then has the advantage of feeding my son the subliminal message that he should never ride a dangerous motorbike. Not sure if the Greek author necessarily had motorbikes in mind when he wrote the story, but it’s pretty much the same principle – don’t fly too high, or you’ll die. Right???
We have the books in a series, but you can buy a one-volume edition of the Greek Myths series by Lucy Coats from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
 

All this is to say, the boy is All About Perseus. He wants to include Perseus in his middle name.
 
Jon designed him a Perseus-with-the-head-of-Medusa school snack:
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The boy went to a fancy dress party for a friend’s 5th birthday. At the party, there was a Spider-Man, a Batman, a pirate, a superman, a princess – and one Perseus. Here’s the shield that Jon and I painted for him:
image
 
And here’s Caravaggio’s head of Medusa, which I think is a GENIUS work of art.
 

Caravaggio's Head of Medusa - photo by Jon Marlow

Caravaggio’s Head of Medusa – photo by Jon Marlow


 
(Ours looks practically the same, wouldn’t you say?)
 

Books:

  • A Praying Life – Paul E. Miller
    So many people recommended this book to me over the last two years and raved about how amazing it was, that in the end I caved and bought it, a little cynical about whether it would be that good. But it really was.
     
    For me, the first section of the book, which represented about 20% of its content, held about 80% of the book’s value. The first section is all about praying as a child, and he completely blasts apart the unconscious barriers we have to prayer. I found myself that whole section in tears, partly because it represented such freedom, and partly because through the stories he tells of the relationship with his autistic daughter, I recovered again sense of God as an exuberantly-loving parent.
     
    The other sections are mainly about dealing with the problem of prayer in the midst of suffering. These sections were still good, though not as mind-blowing as the first section. I didn’t agree with some of his emphases (for example, he likes to identify a sin in someone’s life and then pray about it, and I didn’t know how comfortable I felt about that concept), but his insights on the damaging effects of cynicism and his insight into suffering and prayer were brilliant. He is a man who knows suffering, and it shows. He says that because of the chronic stress and difficulty of having an autistic daughter who couldn’t speak, his wife did not prayer for ten years. I just appreciated that honesty and ‘permission’ to find prayer difficult when you are suffering.
     
    This is the first ‘Christian self-help’ book (as opposed to a memoir) that I have read in a while, and I loved it. Highly recommended, even if you just have the time/energy to read the first section. One to read and re-read. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
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  • Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
    I had previously read her novel Half of a yellow sun, about civil war in Nigeria and wept for about a day when reading it, so my initial impression of the book was just profound gratitude that it was a book about ordinary life, and did not make me cry. It’s a love story, essentially, and follows the life of a Nigerian girl who moves to America, and then returns. The strength of this book was the insight of the culture differences between American Blacks and Non-American blacks. The character is a blogger, and we read her acerbic and insightful observations on racism in America, and I found this fascinating. Many books about racism are hard to read because of their anger, but this wasn’t an angry book. One of the other characters moves to England and becomes an illegal immigrant, and I found this portrayal profoundly moving. Adichie is a master-craftsman, where you feel the heat of the Nigerian sun, and the squalor of life as an immigrant in the UK because she writes so well, and so this novel is enjoyable as a reading experience, but even so, I found the plot a little lacking, the ending a little tired, and the characters a little cold. It’s also a long book, but I was glad to have read it because of the insights into American immigrant culture (and at under £5 it’s very cheap). Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
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  • For all those who loved Every Shattered Thing – the sequel by Elora Ramirez is out – Somewhere between water and sky (very cheap as an e-book). Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
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  • Preston Yancey’s book about the search for a church when you don’t feel like you fit – Tables in the Wilderness is also out this month. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

 
Music:

  • I repent of my former lack-lustre review of Ellie Goulding’s latest album, Halcyon Days – it has taken a few listenings, but I am now LOVING it (and it’s under £5 in the. UK). Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
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  • The boy’s favourite is Regina Spektor – Begin To Hope- amazing album, but although he loves singing “tangerines-so cheap and JUICY!’, we have to fastforward that particular song when it gets to the part where her friends OD’d from drugs… Fab, quirky, fun album, though. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

 

TV:

  • Gilmore Girls, Gilmore Girls, Gilmore Girls.

 

Miscellaneous blog posts:

 

On the blog:

 
I’m the world’s latest link-er with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into – do check out her site. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. That means if you click onto Amazon from my site and buy anything at all, I get a few pennies, at no extra cost to you. How good is that?
 
Over to you:

  • What have you been into?

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8 Responses to What I’m Into (September 2014)

  1. Rebecka 13th October, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

    Oooh, it sounds like I need to read (the first section of) A Praying Life!

    I’ve mostly been into resting lately. It’s very boring! 😉

    • Tanya 15th October, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      resting is SOOOOOOO boring. You are a respected and valued athlete in the resting Olympics – I salute you. (Hope it pays off.)

      I found it so healing to read that first section of A Praying Life – hope you’re well enough to at some stage. Sending you a whole heap of love x

  2. Janice 10th October, 2014 at 10:04 pm #

    “it looks real, but it’s not real” I love that! And I love his painting, too, I wish our kids could get together and play.

    I’ve been reading lately, which has been fun. I just finished I Capture the Castle which I really liked.

    Besides that I’ve still been writing and it’s begun to feel habitual, which I really like. It’s a habit I’ve been meaning to form for, well years.

    I’m also trying to potty train Liam who turned three and is completely opposed to the idea on some sort of idealogical level. He asked me yesterday if I could just throw the potty away because he’s never going to want to use it and he’d like me to stop asking him about it.

    I love all the Perseus and Medusa stuff!

    lovely to see the recap of your month! Hope you’re enjoying the fall. We’ve got changing leaves and bears rummaging around fattening themselves up before hibernating! Last week we saw TWO black bears about a mile from our house. Beautiful and a little frightening!

    • Tanya 15th October, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

      I wish our kids could get together and play, too! Next time you’re in the area we’ll do it.
      I LOVE I Capture the Castle – I read it as a child and thought it was okay, but weird, but boy, it stayed with me. I re-read it sometime later and thought it was genius.

      I’m so excited you’re writing on a regular basis!

      Liam sounds HILARIOUS. a conscientious objector to potty training – I like it.

      You live in such a freaky place. My boy would be spooked, I reckon. The only way i get him not to be afraid of stories like goldilocks is to tell him he will never meet a bear. but beautiful, all the same.

  3. Mark Allman 10th October, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

    Tanya,
    I do think with our children we should always look for those teachable moments. I laughed out loud how you worked motorbikes into the crisis. 🙂 I am sure Perseus road Pegasus only because he refused to ride a motorbike and knew how unsafe it was. Much safer on a horse that flys!

    I ride a motorcycle from time to time by the way. Great job on the shield.

    I am glad the Blacklist and Elementary are back on for new seasons. I am taping all the new Dr Who’s but have not started watching them.

    • Tanya 15th October, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

      Ah, so you’re a secret biker! Impressive.
      Even jon was trying to persuade me to watch the new Dr Who because of the new lead actor, (who is great), but I’m still holding out.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Leigh Kramer 10th October, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    Love the paintings! Glad you enjoyed Americanah. I was absolutely swept away by it but did find the ending to be disappointing as well. I should reacquaint myself with Regina Spektor. I was obsessed with her first album and then lost track of her.

    • Tanya 15th October, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

      Thanks so much for reading, even though it was so late! I remember you recommending americanah – thanks for that. Loved your Are you hiding? post – and I would REALLY love to get voxing you again – I’ve missed you!

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