Category Archives: musings

Happy New Year, Friends!

I keep thinking it’s something like 2004, but apparently it’s 2012. This is THE YEAR that the Mayans gave up on time. Anyone taking bets on that one?

I love the start of the new year. It’s a great opportunity to look back at a fixed amount of time (365 days) and consider whether or not they’ve been what you hoped them to be, as well as to reflect on what you hope your next 365 days will hold. For the last few years I’ve spent my New Year’s Eve nights/mornings in Nashville, attending parties in the city and taking advantage of rare time with some of my favorite people. This year we went to a ’90s-band party downtown, and my friend Mandy even made an awesome pinata for us to burst at the pregame. Betsy took a dowel rod to it and really got things going.

Mandy filled the pinata with all sorts of favors, including these 2012 glasses  (photo stolen from Betsy). It’s a true fact that the glasses were SO beautiful that members of the band kept stealing them from us.

While I normally might lamely attempt to make some resolutions, I’ve decided that I’ve got more than enough to handle with my 30-before-30 list. After talking with some friends, taking advice from you all (again—friends who read this), and reconsidering my original choices, the tentative list is now solid. And here it is:

The list is not radically different from the first draft, but I’m happy with it now. Notice that the highlighted one is the only one I’ve actually completed, so . . . yeah. I have a lot of work to do!

That’s not to say I’m not in the process of progress. I’ve completed 1/3 of the quilt. I’m editing a couple of articles that someone out there might be fool enough to publish. I sewed myself a very basic Halloween costume, which is giving me confidence that I can actually sew myself a dress before long. Though there’s a lot left to do here, I’m not discouraged.

I do have to give a shout-out to several of my amazing friends who have made conscious efforts to help me reach these goals:

  • Chloe, who gave me not one but TWO shades of red lipstick for Christmas
  • Benji, who loaned me Reservoir Dogs to watch (and who also gave me some really interesting written commentary!)
  • Laura, who gave me a book of sewing patterns
  • Betsy, photographer extraordinaire who took (and is now editing) what will hopefully be my professional “glamour photo”
  • Sebastian, who offered to read Infinite Jest with me
  • Chris, who offered to help with my bike
  • Blake, who said I could stay at his apartment in Austin
  • and many others who have offered encouragement, advice, and support (ya’ll are rad people!)

I feel pretty strongly that 2012 is going to be a good year, and that turning thirty will be downright okay. I also feel pretty grateful to have so many fantastic people in my life, so who can go wrong with that, eh?

Cheers!

Joce

PS—What are your goals for the year? How did you spend your NYE?

Saturdays Are for Snuggling.

It’s a nippy, breezy morning here in Northwest Arkansas, and the only plans I have for the day are to read for comps, sip coffee, and watch my beloved Hogs on the boobtube at 2:30. Have I mentioned that right now we’re ranked #6 according to BCS? For the first time ever? Anyway . . . I expect the blanket with sleeves will figure into the plans somehow.

If you have a similarly lounge-y afternoon on the docket, here are a few ways to waste a little time on the interwebz.

Marcel the Shell is back for another round of cuteness.

Ya’ll have any big plans for the weekend? Whatever you’ve got ahead of you, I hope it’s a snuggly and snorgly one. Happy Caturday!

xoxo, Joce

PS – The winner of the London goodies giveway is lucky reader numero dos, Mandy P!

Occasionally Mandy P. has her own giveaways over on her fabulous website Fabric Paper Glue. Be sure to check it out, and congrats Mandy!

Making Good (Plus a Giveaway!)

Hello, Hello! I don’t know why you say good-bye . . .

Jocelyn here, with an update: I’ve been to London and back! I was serious about that list, folks; and even though I’ve not quite chosen my final “to do,” I took the opportunity of an unexpected fall break to grab my mom and carry her across the pond.

Many of you have already seen the lovely UK (this was my first visit), so I won’t spend too much time gushing. But highlights included:

Westminster Abbey! (home of Elizabeth I’s bones, Poets’ Corner, and the oh-so-famous recent royal wedding)

Buckingham Palace

Trafalgar Square (See, Nanch loved this place)

High Tea at the National Portrait Gallery

Tour of the Tower of London with a Yeoman Warder

. . . and all sorts of other things. We only had a few days, but I’ll say that we did pretty well to see the highlights, especially considering how the Tube was limited due to construction and the buses kept dropping us off at the wrong spots.

So! In celebration of bloggery, and in celebration of completing one of the first big tasks on my 30-before-30 list (“to go abroad again”), I’ve brought home some loot for one of you.

For a chance to win a box of Jasmine green tea from Fortnum & Mason (the Queen’s grocer) and a Beatles coaster straight from the British Library, leave a comment letting me know your favorite place you’ve ever travelled. Comments left before noon CST, November 1st, will be entered into a random number generator that will pick the winner. Update: The giveaway is now closed. Thanks to you all for the comments!

Have a happy Wednesday, friends!

Cheers,

Joce

PS – Here are a few links that might help you plan your own trip to London.

Help! (I Need Suggestions) Help!

In the immortal words of my darling Beatles:

When I was younger, so much younger than today . . .

Help me if you can—I’m feeling down, and I do appreciate you bein’ round!

(A quick aside: The Beatles are always right about everything, in case you were unaware.)

To the point, then. The date is Wednesday, October 12, 2011. In approximately 14 months (shy a few days), Yours Truly will be tabbing out of her twenties, only to enter into the next big stage in life: the thirtysomethings. In no way do I consider one in her thirties to be old (I’d say I’m a good 40+ years away from that), but I do think turning thirty is a milestone that shouldn’t go unacknowledged or even uncelebrated. While as an adolescent I had hoped I’d have cured cancer and won myself a Pulitzer by thirty, it just isn’t going to happen, my friends. And that’s okay with me! But that begs another question: What is it, exactly, that I do want to do before I hit the thirty mark? Now that I’m conceivably close to reasonably plotting out the course of my last twentysomething year? What am I going to do with myself for the next few months to make sure that my twenties account for more than economic instability and a long line of mistakes and foibles? To redirect (yet again) to an unnecessary piece of pop culture, how can I—like short-lived Jack Dawson of the HMS Titanic—make it count?

For the last few weeks, like many other almost-thirtysomethings I know, I’ve been thinking about building a 30-before-30 list. The goal of this list is not to challenge myself to accomplish a litany of absurd tasks (such as: Climb Mt. Everest by 30; Publish a series of science fiction novels by 30; Drop 4,193 pounds by 30; etc.), but instead to give myself a fixed set of realistic goals that I believe I will be grateful to have done. Some of the “to dos” may require more work than others, but I think that’s what I wanted this list to be: a combination of larger accomplishments, aligned with some smaller tasks that would perhaps get buried under the larger-task radar. This public broadcast of the list will hopefully bind me to my goals a little more fully, seeing as you will all find me a poor excuse for a woman should I not put my best efforts into accomplishing what I’m setting out to do.

So here, friends, is the list as it stands today:

So there it is: a combination of the large and the small, all of which will be worth my doing. But if you’re quick, you may have noticed that the list is one entry short—which is where you come in.

Help, friends. (I’m pretty sure it’s only those of you who I dearly love who read this blog, really.) What should be #30 on this list? What am I overlooking here? Or what would you challenge me to do, if you were making a list of your own? What could I add to the list that—unlike the more self-serving tasks—makes an effort to improve the world around me? Or, what is something on this list that needs to go, in order to be replaced by something more worth the time and effort? I want some help from you all—the people who know me best.

Take a look at this pathetic creature and tell me she doesn’t need you.

Whaddya’ll say? I need, trust, and value your ideas the most, so please be generous with them! And in turn I promise to you that this will not turn into some warped Julie/Julia project, whereby I curse like a sailor and treat my husband like garbage for the sake of a mediocrely-written blog, only to cheat on him so that I can write a book about that, too. This is my solemn vow.

Love,

Joce

PS – I’d love to hear if any of you have similar resolutions that you’re working on. Do you have your own list? Did you handle (or are you handling) the thirtysomething changing-of-the-decade guard with panache or panic? 

“forsooth for to do doom, and for to love mercy”

Do you know this man?

His name is Troy Anthony Davis, and he is scheduled to die Wednesday evening by the method of lethal injection.

Normally this blog has served as a place for C, J, and I to pursue lighthearted interests and to step away from the grind of our normal routines. But more often than we’d like, we all have to pause and consider the heavier aspects of a world that is not always glittery and golden. I’ve wanted to articulate my thoughts about this subject for a while but have been hesitant to do so; yet I think the imminent execution of Troy Davis demonstrates how this issue is most literally one involving life or death. So this serves as your disclaimer: No happy news here today.

If you are unfamiliar with the case of Troy Davis, a bit of research is insightful. Convicted of killing a white police office in 1991, Troy has maintained his innocence throughout 20 years of appeals. At the time of conviction, Davis’s case was based solely upon testimony and completely lacked physical evidence. Since his conviction, many of those testimonies have changed, casting extreme doubt upon the case’s foundation. Several of those who testified against Davis are now confessing that they only testified under police pressure, and seven of the nine jurors in the trial now believe that Troy Davis is an innocent man.

Last week CNN released an interview with a Pastor Johnson of Savannah, who says he drove Troy Davis from Atlanta to Savannah to turn himself into the police after the search warrant on Davis had been publicized. Johnson claims that though he spent several hours with Davis during the time prior to his submission to the police, no one at the DA’s office found him even worth interviewing. Evidence like this that has come to light over the last twenty years paints a picture of a legal operation bent upon convicting Troy Davis whether he was the guilty man or not.

Of course Troy Davis’s situation is worthy of note because the evidence against him is so, so unconvincing at this point. If the death penalty is intended to be an arbiter of justice, then one must question whether any person who (in the court of public opinion) is found to be probably-not-guilty ought to spend another moment on death row. At the very least Davis deserves another trial, because the odds are high that he has spent twenty years of his life in jail for a crime he never committed—which, in turn, means that someone else who IS guilty walks free. This is hardly justice, but rather a superficial solution to the very real problem of a very real murder.

But Davis’s situation is not completely exceptional, though I wish it were. Since 1973, at least 135 convicted murderers have been taken off death row due to overturned convictions. Others have been executed whose guilt has been called into question far too late (see this article about Cameron Willingham in the New Yorker). Unlike other forms of punishment, execution is one that cannot be stopped midway or rectified later. What’s done is done when it comes to putting someone to death: a dead person will always be dead.

Beyond the standard arguments regarding the surface-level “just-ness” of the death penalty, there are less obvious concerns as well. First, it is rarely acknowledged that the system that determines who goes onto death row lacks consistency. There are no standardized systems for determining whose crimes are “most flagrant” or “most vicious,” which is upsetting. I doubt anyone would argue that justice ought to be arbitrary. Second, many states have a history of executing people whose economic backgrounds prevent them from affording the best legal defenses. Some studies argue that around 95% of inmates on death row in certain states have relied on public defenders out of economic necessity.

Third, the death penalty demonstrates racist trends. In my state of Arkansas, there are currently 23 black, 16 white, and 1 hispanic male/s on death row. This alone does not demonstrate a racist system, but a closer look at the cases themselves does. David Baldus, a former professor of law at the University of Iowa, has frequently been cited as a source for his statistical work on death row cases because his findings suggest that while the race of the perpetrator may alone say very little, the race of the victim says very much. In fact, his statistical research demonstrated that a black person convicted of killing a white person is four times more likely to receive the death penalty than a white person who kills a white person. Building upon Baldus’s work, watchdog groups have pointed out that 253 black persons have been executed for killing whites, while only 16 white persons have been executed for killing black persons since 1973. This makes very little sense, considering there are roughly as many white persons as black persons currently sitting on death row across the United States. The numbers are striking.

Another set of numbers to take into consideration is the cost of the death penalty: cost picked up by the taxpayers. It is virtually impossible to argue that the legal fees associated with the death penalty are not exorbitant. Recent research in California—a state with its own present financial troubles—suggests that California’s taxpayers have paid $4 billion in death-row-related legal fees since 1978. Currently, that cost is $184 million per year in a state with hardly enough money to pay the bills. With 700+ inmates on death row, California could significantly save millions of dollars by simply placing a moratorium on the extremely costly system. California is just one state to prove that it is much more expensive to execute a person than to keep that person in jail for life.

While no one has been able to prove that the death penalty actually deters crime, most of the people in my life who support the death penalty do so because they believe that the Old Testament law upheld it. I cannot argue with this because there is no doubt that the old law relied upon it. In fact, children who disrespected their parents, kidnappers, those who trespassed the Sabbath, psychic mediums, adulterers, and others were also subject to the death penalty under the old law. The books of Exodus and Leviticus are filled with the phrase “shall be put to death.”

However, the people who most frequently refer to the old law are Christians, whose Christ came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). What sets Christ’s spirit apart from the old law’s spirit is that grace and mercy rule, rather than retribution in equal measure trying to settle the scales. Though the old law attempted to maintain justice, Christ’s presence taught us that humankind is too far gone to “settle up” with God; that we can never, ever deserve the grace he offers to all.

When Christ told us to love our enemies and pray for those who treat us badly, it is a radical command. And it doesn’t end there: we were commanded to do so because “He himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35). It’s no longer a law about what people deserve or don’t deserve, but rather about acknowledging the universal need for grace that trickles down from on high. I submit that I cannot understand how people place their faith in such an overwhelming love, and at the same time insist that Christ Himself would have endorsed ending a person’s life, no matter how guilty that person is found to be according to God or man.

Perhaps the one story that seems most applicable here—and the one story I have yet to have heard in relation to the Christian stance on the death penalty—is the story of the adulterous woman in John 8. The Pharisees bring a guilty woman to Christ in order to see how he will enact justice upon her. Though she is subject to death by the law, Christ knows that the law has become weak. He says to the Pharisees, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” For the Pharisees, the law is no longer even about justice, but about demonstrating outward superiority. But Christ’s point is that sin is universal, as is the need for grace; and that the woman’s outward sign of sin was no worse than the sinful hearts of the Pharisees before him. Christ reveals that the law, fulfilled, is one that recognizes the spirit of mankind, both visible and invisible. By refusing to condemn the woman, he demonstrates a new spirit that operates by grace and mercy toward every guilty creature.

Perhaps you disagree with my arguments, and that is okay with me. I appreciate nothing more than thoughtful debates regarding subjects of importance. The execution issue is doubly controversial due to its religious and political aspects, so feel free to leave me a comment, question, or complaint below. No debate will ever atone Mark MacPhail—the police officer who can never be brought back, whose death was senseless, and whose murder will never be paid for even after Troy Davis is executed on Wednesday night. No amount of mortal blood can offset such crimes, but perhaps the blood of God’s son already has.

Do some research for yourself. Check out your state’s records on the death penalty, and pray for spiritual guidance regarding how to make sense of justice and grace in light of pain. Opposing the death penalty ought not diminish the lives of the murdered, or those who suffer because of lives that are lost. Pray for peace to reign in the hearts of MacPhail’s family, as well as Troy Davis’s family. Pray for those who have lost loved ones to death of all sorts, and pray for that day when

He’ll establish justice in the rabble of nations
and settle disputes in faraway places.
They’ll trade in their swords for shovels,
their spears for rakes and hoes.
Nations will quit fighting each other,
quit learning how to kill one another.
Each man will sit under his own shade tree,
each woman in safety will tend her own garden.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so,
and he means what he says. (Micah 4)

Shalom,

Joce

PS – Consider contacting Georgia DA Larry Chisolm by clicking here and asking that he intervene on Troy’s behalf. Or, check out some other ways to help Troy avoid execution (including calling the Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles) by clicking here.

Coronation of Books

Catherine here with another post about books.

In my last post, I shared my lofty goals for summer reading.  While the pace of my reading has been steady, the volume has not been as exceptional as I might have hoped.  I’ll tell you WHAT has been exceptional: the amount of TV I’ve watched thanks to the wonder that is Netflix.  But that’s a post for another time.

A common bond uniting the three ladies of 2137 is a love of BOOKS.  We all boast (not sure that’s the right word, ha!) English majors (Jocelyn is working on English degree numero tres), and Jocelyn and Jennifer make their living by loving books. This shared love was the unofficial theme of Christmas 2010.  Jennifer gave us each Hatch Show Prints celebrating the 30 years of the now deceased Davis Kidd Booksellers.  (My print is now framed and hanging proudly in our entryway).

Jocelyn, delight that she is, gave me bookplates.  Mine have lain dormant until today when I chose books worthy of receiving a bookplate!

To choose the tomes worthy enough to receive a bookplate (and immortalization as one of MY books), I knew I had to go to the holiest of holies: my FICTION collection.

Beauties.

While there are lots of books throughout our humble abode, I hold my fiction dearest.  Try as I might to read nonfiction, I will always be a fiction girl.  So these are the books that live in our bedroom because they are my favorites.  (Not pictured: books on my nightstand, those that have been loaned, and the ones that still live in Chattanooga).

I plopped myself down in front of these lovelies to pick the 8 that would receive a bookplate:

Here are the winners (surprisingly, one book of non-fiction made the cut!):

Elite Eight

They are, in no particular order:

(Before I go any further, let me say that I think books are the ultimate home-decor item.  I long for a day when I can line entire walls with books.  See my Long Live Books pinterest board to see what I’m talking about…).

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Atonement by Ian McEwan

The Good Life by Jay McInerney

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (I love her)

And for the one non-fiction honoree:

Listening to Your Life by Frederick Buechner (so love-worn)

So there are the initial 8.  I believe that all of these are books I have read in the last few years so they do not necessarily (or exclusively) represent my favorites of all time. Some are loaned out and others are in Chattanooga but these 8 books are the ones on my shelves that I love most dearly.

I had two bonus bookplates (I gave bookplates to some graduates from my school and had extras) and so the two books that earned these were:

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

and

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Here are two in their plated glory:

Plate from Jocelyn

Leftover plate (from papermonkeypress, etsy.com)

So there you have it!  My initial inductees into the “Catherine Bookplate Hall of Fame!”  If any of these books strike your fancy, make your way to a brick and mortar bookshop and pick one up today.

(And in case you were wondering, here’s what Atticus and MowMow did during my bookplate-ing ceremony):

Useless creatures.

xoxox and happy reading,

catherine