Marrying Well for Fun and Profit: Pleasing Garden Statuary

Advice for the upwardly-mobile Miss from Persuasion’s resident social expert, Sir Walter Elliot.

Photo Credit: Xlibber (Creative Commons Flickr)

Why not immortalize yourself in the garden? Photo Credit: Xlibber (Creative Commons Flickr)

My Dear Vulgarian Miss,

With the approach of spring come thoughts of gardens and weddings—yours, I trust. Just after the honeymoon is the best time for making permanent additions to an estate, for it is then that a new husband’s heart is the most malleable. I suggest that you plan to add pleasing garden statuary. Naturally, the one immortalized will be your lovely self.

Yes, you will have your portrait painted for the gallery, but it could be delayed to include your children. Plainly stated, you will appear matronly. Garden statuary, on the other hand, will immortalize you at your youthful and most beautiful best.

Here are my thoughts:

Not too modern!  Photo Credit: Paul Stevenson (Creative Commons Flickr)

But not too modern! Photo Credit: Paul Stevenson (Creative Commons Flickr)

A classic figure, fully clothed, is preferred. Remember, your grandchildren (who will know you only as an old lady) will see it. Unless you wish to invite their snickers, do not expose inappropriate flesh.

Choose heroic or romantic over angelic. To sport wings invites comparison, and no one comes off well when compared to an angel. Winged Nike is therefore out. Venus, Aphrodite, Hermes, even Themis or Minerva are better choices.

Not too whimsical Photo Credit: David Catchpole (Creative Commons Flickr)

Not too whimsical either! Photo Credit: David Catchpole (Creative Commons Flickr)

Beware of your new husband’s desire to join you in a tableau. Greek gods are usually shown unclothed, a most unwise choice. Again, think of the grandchildren—and guests who will no doubt speculate as to how accurate the sculptural representation is. If you cannot talk your husband out of it, choose wisely: Triton, not Hercules. One of the Caesars instead of Bacchus. And please, no Cupid or frolicking cherubs, especially if a fountain is involved.

I must stress the importance of getting this project underway at once. Otherwise you risk being portrayed as you truly are: a warrior Valkyrie or worse, Medusa.

Cordially yours in the upward climb,

Sir Walter Elliot, Bart.


“I want to make something of myself. I believe it’s called a statue.”
~ Jarod Kintz

“The statue that advertises its modesty with a fig leaf really brings its modesty under suspicion.”
~ Mark Twain

~ For more advice from Sir Walter,
click on his image ~

Copyright (c) Laura Hile, 2015

The Faith of Children

The past couple of weeks have been quite hectic, but the last two days were downright frantic. Seven of my fifth grade students at Discovery School auditioned for, and were chosen to be in, the Lancaster County Children’s Honor Chorus. They practiced Monday night and Tuesday and performed Tuesday night, along with about one hundred thirty other fifth graders in the district.

The program opened with “The Star Spangled Banner” and continued as they performed “Rain Dance,” “I Am A Small Part of the World,” “The Not So Boring Minuet,” “Come Celebrate,” and “We’ve Got Music.”

The final piece was “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” It was a fitting end – a prayer, if you will – to the concert. I watched their faces and thought of all that they could accomplish toward that goal. Every child on that stage believed that peace is possible.

Lancaster County Honor Children's Chorus

Lancaster County Honor Children’s Chorus

I didn’t mean to blur the picture, but it worked out well. Since their faces are indistinct, I can post it. (This link will direct you to my Facebook page. A parent of one of the students posted a video of the children singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” on my wall.)

Perhaps I am too old; I’ve seen too much of the world. Seeing it through their eyes gives me hope. As I listen to the drums of war, I pray that this generation will do what mine could not.

Van versus Parking Structure

Photo Credit:  Myrone Delacruz (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo Credit: Myrone Delacruz (Creative Commons Flickr)

For an “epic fail” field trip, combine the following:

  • Oregon Symphony Young People’s Concert tickets
  • Driving rain
  • A ticking clock
  • Bumper-to-bumper downtown traffic
  • The twelve-passenger school van
  • Ten middle school boys
  • Me at the wheel
  • And a parking structure

Set to music this could almost be The Twelve Days of Christmas, right? Except that I wasn’t singing. Or even smiling.

The event organizers had arranged on-street parking, but only for school buses. So I was not only late, but I was on my own to park the van. Deep breath. A minor setback–or so I thought.

See, I’d forgotten just how tall a twelve-passenger van is. Who knew that so many downtown parking structures have scary-low height clearances? Was it time to cue the horror movie soundtrack? No need. Remember those ten boys? They provided a boatload of encouragement and sound effects.

Photo Credit: Hiroyuki Hosokawa (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo Credit: Hiroyuki Hosokawa (Creative Commons Flickr)

No SUV? No kidding. Photo Credit: Cory Doctorow (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo Credit: Cory Doctorow (Creative Commons Flickr)

No SUV parking? No kidding! I finally found a structure tall enough, and in we went. As you can guess, the spaces were both too short and too narrow. But I was determined to find parking, even if I had to hog several spaces.

“It’s…Inception!” The higher up we went, the lower the concrete ceiling became. I was now truly frightened. Our radio antennae was not only touching, it was bending, scraping. Would we become stuck? Would I wreck the school van? The boys were no help—they were downright gleeful. “It’s Inception!” they screamed.

So I called it. Then and there, like the coward that I am, I made for the exit. The expression on the parking lot attendant’s face said it all–I was lucky to escape unscathed. I texted the teachers in the other van–a normal-sized one, already parked–and high-tailed it back to school. Never mind the rain or the freeway traffic or the three-dollar tickets I’d squandered. I was free.

The guys watched Mr Beethoven Lives Upstairs in my classroom. This was more to their taste than a classical concert anyway. And when I unearthed a stash of candy bars for movie snacks, they were thrilled.

On Tuesday, we will again head downtown. Yes, for this year’s Oregon Symphony Young People’s Concert. Ah, but someone else will be driving. The bus, not the van. Ten sets of parents will not get to hear about a real-life Inception experience, and that suits me just fine.

And the Winner Is . . .

How could you not give this man an award? It's a travesty.

How could you not give this man an award? It’s a travesty.

The Oscars have come and gone again, and once more, after reading the lists of nominees, I have seen a total of two of the movies nominated for anything – Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past. There are six more that I will probably rent when they come out in DVD – Into the Woods, Unbroken, American Sniper, The Theory of Everything, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The ratings and language make one of those very “iffy” for me. I had never even heard of most of the nominated movies, and only two on either of my lists won anything.

The films that win aren’t generally popular with audiences. The masses (translated “we”) apparently don’t recognize which movies are worth going to see. They aren’t “arty” enough for those who vote for the awards. That’s okay. People involved with movies like Superman, The Avengers (and all the spin-offs), Maleficent, Frozen, Divergent, and other popular favorites are laughing all the way to the bank.

In fact, when a movie wins an Oscar, I wonder what’s wrong with it.

On the upside, Lady Gaga’s tribute performance of a medley of songs from The Sound of Music was a pleasant surprise. She can sing! And she wasn’t wearing a dress made of meat or metal! She kept on all of her clothes! And Julie Andrews herself joined Gaga at the end! It was, hands down, the best moment of the Oscars.


By the way, I think Chris Evans would make a wonderful modern Darcy. If you read Forever Yours, he’s my model.

Marrying Well for Fun and Profit: Chocolate, the Inexpensive Therapist?

Advice for the upwardly-mobile Miss from Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot.

Be still, my heart. Chocolate shoes!  Photo Credit: Will Thomas  (Creative Commons Flickr)

Be still, my heart! You can keep the bunnies and the bon-bons and the Cadbury creme eggs. I’ll have a chocolate SHOE. Photo Credit: Will Thomas (Creative Commons Flickr)

My Dear Vulgarian Miss,

Christmas, Valentine’s, and now Easter—the candy displays are everywhere. So I thought we’d best have a little chat about that luscious and much-adored treat, chocolate.

It has been said that chocolate is a girl’s best friend. It is the Inexpensive Therapist, no appointment necessary. Chocolate calms nerves, subdues sorrows, and patches together a broken heart. It also relieves menopausal symptoms, although I would not know. (Even if I were a woman, I am not at all old enough to experience those.)

In my day chocolate was often served as a hot drink, available only to those of discerning taste who were willing to stand the expense. In your modern times, chocolate candy is accessible to everyone. But unless you are prepared to spend weeks at the gym, it is best to indulge sparingly.

Chocolate’s health advantages add to its appeal.

  • Dark chocolate may benefit the circulatory system.
  • It can supposedly boost cognitive abilities.
  • Consumption of dark chocolate could contribute to a lower body mass index.
  • The flavonoids in chocolate make it a natural laxative. (A good thing? Debatable.)
A better alternative: Chocolate Diamonds and a gorgeous Aquamarine

Better: Chocolate Diamonds and a gorgeous Aquamarine (Photo Credit: LeVian)

You are allowed three decadent bites, my dear. Then it is time to face chocolate’s dark side:

  • Heartburn!
  • Obesity!
  • Lead poisoning!
  • Kidney stones!
  • Addiction!

In your bid to marry well, be aware of what chocolate can do to the size of your tummy and hips. And remember that Spandex, while tempting, is no solution to over-indulgence. Just because fat is immobilized does not make it any less unsightly.

Your gentleman no doubt enjoys gifting you with chocolates (let us hope not of the dime-store variety). As with flowers, encourage him to send them to the office instead of to your home. In this way you can enjoy the envy of your coworkers, a definite bonus. And how much nicer it is to share your bounty with everyone, rather than, say, eating them all as you sit alone in front of your television.

Cordially yours in the upward climb,

Sir Walter Elliot, Bart.


“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then does not hurt.”
~ Charles M. Schultz

“Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain.”
~ Dave Barry

~ For more advice from Sir Walter, click on his image ~


Copyright (c) Laura Hile, 2015

We decided to see it …

My husband and I had no intentions of going to the movies on Valentine’s Day. There has been so much hoopla about 50 Shades of Grey we didn’t want to get caught up in it. But, we went to an out of the way theatre we like. And though we were late we got great seats.

The opening was engaging and pulled you in. Even though the characters are somewhat stereotypical, they had some unique quirks that made you want to follow them.

The story is really about testing the limits of endurance, of the characters and the audience at times. There is definite physical violence but most of it is psychological and emotional to be honest. It is a movie that makes you question yourself and what you might do if placed in the same circumstances.

We went to see American Sniper two weeks ago and there were scenes that made me want to leave the theatre. I’m proud to say I hung in then, and I think it was apt preparation for this movie.

Many of the scenes are over-the-top, not very plausible, and out-and-out silly. But, with this sort of material the film needs that self-awareness and camp to keep from exhausting the viewer.

I do have to say that one scene was particularly sad, and a little disturbing. When Samuel L. Jackson shoots Colin “Darcy” Firth in the forehead and he falls to the ground in front of the church, I was pretty stunned. Firth’s character was the glue that held the plot together to that point. Fortunately, Mark “Knightley” Strong’s character, Merlin, stepped up and took over this funny and excessive spy thriller.

KingsmenKingsmen, The Secret Service is violent, funny, tongue-in-cheek, and vulgar in funny and tasteless ways. Considering Hollywood has been trapped in a Jr High locker room for decades, what else can we expect? Millions of heads explode on screen to the 1812 Overture, the villain dies by artificial limb, and the young hero saves his mum from a scummy boyfriend. The clothes are great as well.

I can’t recommend this movie to most of the people I know, but if you don’t mind frat boy humor with a British accent, Kingsmen may be for you.

Dishonorable Men

Dishonorable: bringing shame and disgrace on someone or something; lacking respect or ethical principles.

History is a funny thing. It makes heroes of horrific people and villains of honorable men. I have always been interested in the different ways people view the same thing. So much can color our perception of a person or historical event.

For most of the country, the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865. In the South, particularly South Carolina and Georgia, people who have lived here for generations feel differently.

William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman

The most dishonorable man I can think of who is now deceased is William Tecumseh Sherman. My father hated Sherman with a passion, and he told me stories, passed down by word of mouth, that aren’t in the cleaned-up history books. What is in the books gives credence to what my father said – Sherman was a vicious, cruel man who took pleasure in destruction. In early 1864, Lincoln made Sherman supreme commander of the armies in the West and Grant ordered him to “create havoc and destruction of all resources that would be beneficial to the enemy.” A couple of months later, with 98,797 troops and 254 cannons, Sherman began the Atlanta Campaign, declaring Atlanta to be a military encampment and eventually burning the city to the ground. He was allowed to do what no other military leader had done in our country against our own people. His men were encouraged to pillage and burn Southern homes, raping the women and killing at will. In his March to the Sea, Sherman cut a sixty mile wide swath through Georgia, destroying everything in his path. On December 23, 1864, Sherman sent a telegram to Lincoln stating that he was presenting him the city of Savannah as a Christmas gift. Following that, he went through South Carolina and North Carolina, right by the house in which I grew up. The house was spared because his soldiers used it. The orders came from Grant, but Lincoln allowed it in order to end the war.

I’m glad that the South lost the war. Had we won, our country would have been splintered and weak. However, the ends do not justify the means. There is plenty of dishonor to go around in our country’s history.

Actors who have portrayed George Wickham

Actors who have portrayed George Wickham

No Austen man comes close to the level of dishonor exhibited, in my opinion, my Sherman, but I’ll choose another military man from her works to stand by him.

George Wickham, selfish, self-centered, grasping, and despoiler of innocents is, to me, the most dishonorable of Austen’s characters. If you have limited yourself to watching the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice, you lack a full picture of his villainy. Read the book or watch the 1995 miniseries for a more complete sketching of his character.