Monica Bielanko
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Shrimp Shelling Daydreams

Tonight I was peeling shrimp for the tacos I was making, lining the bottom of the sink with opaque shells staring up at me like accusing ghosts, and I got to thinking.

What if I weren't here to rally the troops from their respective corners of the house where they've gone to crash during mom-imposed afternoon "Quiet Time?" To turn on the porch light and lamps and light candles and cozify the home against the dark, cold evening hours bearing down on us whether we're ready or not.

What if I wasn't here to make dinner at five, to be sure the veggies were in proportion to the carbs and protein in the little, compartmentalized plate-bowls on which I serve the kids' dinner? To drop the needle on a record while they eat? To wipe sticky mouths and fingers and send them back into the playroom with a maternal squeeze? To pick up dirty socks from this inappropriate zone (the dining room table) and move them to their proper zone (dirty clothes pile next to the washer)? To move this potentially ankle-breaking toy (for the seventy-fifth time today) to its proper zone? To sniff out a poop like a bloodhound and swab a bum clean and re-diaper it within thirty seconds?

If I was gone would the civilized pretense I struggle to keep up each day fall away like mud on the tire of a speeding semi? Would cheap plastic dishes shellacked with old Spaghettio sauce collect in the deep crevices of couch cushions? Would sippy cups full of curdled milk start gathering like dust bunnies, under beds, behind bookshelves and in toy boxes? Would wax collect inside little ears until the neighbors' tongues began to wag?

If I, the seemingly civilized cog in this machinery of madness, suddenly disappeared would the whole works go to hell in a handbasket?

Probably not. The potential mayhem that I imagine unfolding is likely an egotistical shuck on my own shoulder. Probably Serge would seamlessly pick up where I left off, relieved to be relieved of my judgmental eyes and backseat parenting.

I defy him to clean ear wax like I can, though.


I finished Anna Karenina. After putting it off for something like fifteen years, in the end it took me a little more than a week to finish the thing. Strange, that. Not being able to finish the first chapter for damn near half my life and then tearing through it in ten days.

That says more about me than the book, I can assure you. A 25-year-old Monica wasn't ready for it. That's the funny thing about books and why they're worth re-reading. The book stays the same but you change and therefore come away with something different upon each reading. And Anna Karenina, hell, you could read the thing once a year for the rest of your life and tune into something new each time. The book is ten novels in one.

It's all about where you are in life. I read Catcher In The Rye when I was 19 or 20 and thought it was fantastic, totally relating to the plight of Holden Caulfield, but when I reread it a couple years ago I thought he was a huge pain in the ass... Fer Chrissakes, quit yer bitchin' already.

I'm in such a Tolstoy mood I wanted to get right into War and Peace (Look at me casually throwing around the undertaking of reading War and Peace! Before you know it I'm going to be one of those people who smugly informs you that I don't own a TV when you ask if I caught the latest episode of The Walking Dead.) but couldn't find it last night and, because I was so hard up for new reading material, started on The Unbearable Lightness of Being which was already on my nightstand as it was a gift from Serge a week ago after so many of you suggested it.

It has actually been a nice segue because there are so many allusions to Anna Karenina in the book but I plan on getting right back to Tolstoy after I'm done with this one. One has to be in the mood for Tolstoy, I think, as he can be a bit, how do I say, verbose and descriptive? So I may as well forge ahead while I've a mind to, you know?

Strange how just reading a great work of literature can change your outlook. I tried to watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta the other day and couldn't tolerate it. I actually shut it off, which, for me is like refusing a plate of nachos. Reading does a body good and I need to be reading more instead of watching my DVR list like it's assigned homework or listlessly clicking around the internet.

When I think of how many hours of 2012 I wasted on watching the trumped up, producer-induced dramas of a bunch of catty women I'm embarrassed. But I'm probably still high on Tolstoy. Give the Anna Karenina buzz time to fade and I'll be right back to Storage Wars and Honey Boo Boo. You can take the girl out from in front of the TV but you can't take the TV out of her heart. Or something like that.

Wait, what?

Reader Comments (8)

I feel the same way after reading a very, satisfying book. In a subtle way it makes me evaluate how I'm wasting time, and plomped in front of the TV can be a -time void- (or time sucker).

When you asked for book suggestions I forgot to mention anything by Nabokov. 'Lolita' has a creepy theme, but the masterful way Nabokov uses the English language is staggering... and it was his third language, I believe.

January 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Please continue to post what you read and your thoughts about it.

January 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarole

Color me impressed that you finished AK so quickly. I started it in July and juussst finished it in 2012 (although, to be fair, I read a bunch of other books during that time). Thanks for the reminder about The Unbearable LIghtness of Being and its AK connections. I read it years ago, and loved it, but I should probably pick it up again because I'm sure I'd get more out of it.

So glad to hear that you think Holden Caulfield is a whiny little sumbitch. I've never gotten into Catcher b/c I just couldn't stand him, but I've always felt rather alone in that. Franny and Zooey on the other hand....

January 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

@Liz - Finished Unbearable Lightness in a couple days. It. Was. Awesome. So thought-provoking! Am totally glad I read it right after Anna Karenina! Also, I just googled "Holden Caulfield is a whiny bitch" and the results are impressive. We are clearly not the only people to think so.

January 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

So good to know about the underground anti-Caulfield movement! I have a good friend who named her son Samuel Holden. The Samuel is for Samuel Hamilton from East of Eden (which if you haven't read, stop what you're doing and get it NOW) which told me that I was going to be good friends with her and that we could overcome the fact that his middle name is HOLDEN. (Also, her younger son is Hudson Atticus, so on balance, she wins.)

January 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

Holden Power. I think it's wonderful that people can name a child ANYTHING at all and then equally wonderful that a child can grow up and change it again.ON that note. I wrote a song for you. Just a few lines from the chorus." And the milk went bad and the bills came due and the little biggee people that depend on you..". that's all I've got.
HOW in ST. PETERSBURG did you finish that book in 10 days? Took me many MONTHS to read it aloud to the gentleman who asked and it was INDEED a job worth getting paid for. In the end I felt as if I ought to have paid him for the rich pleasure of his company upon that lovely train of thought. It really was a trip. Tolstoy understood human nature and emotional response so so well and captured it like, like light upon a tapestry, and what a weave it was. I wish I could read fast, but my eyes and mind are always pulled away onto something else...I am sitting here back in springtime Florida, front door open, slider behind me open and a cool breeze coming through. Old people are having work done outside and a plane is flying over. There is a tiny green treefrog hopping around in here somewhere, These creatures like to stick on windows with their suction cup feet. I must find him before he croaks. Found a dried up Geiko out on the porch yesterday. Apparently he was caught inside and I left to die and dry for 2 months. So, how did that shrimp dish come out? My sweetness made me a shrimp creole corn chowder dish which is still warming the cockles of my heart. oh....UPS truck!

January 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergina

I'm still not in a place when I can read Tolstoy. I never have nor will I EVER enjoy Catcher in the Rye. Crazy, whiny bastard! I did put The Unbearable Lightness of Being on hold at the library after seeing it here over and over again. I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower right before Christmas. That was a sweet but hard book to read. Has anyone read the Outlander Series yet?

As for the DVR...we cancelled the Uverse subscription. So far I have a small list of can't miss shows that we are planning to watch online and we have Netflix streaming which is great for the independent movies alone.

January 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterREK981

"then y'all woke up and they had a sippy cup and you danced all day in the bardle-dee dew!." ( that's it ) Shell on!

January 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergina

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