Thursday, March 29, 2007

On This Day in History


At the bottom of this blog I have a little widget that gives me a couple cool things I like: the word of the day and "On This Day in History". It's interesting to check out from time to time.

Today it just so happens is the anniversary of the indictment of Julius and Ethel Rosenburg who were later convicted of “conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States” for transmitting classified military secrets to the Soviets. They died in the electric chair.

Julius and Ethel had two young sons who were orphaned when their parents' executions were carried out. HBO aired a documentary about the Rosenburg family legacy called called "Heir to an Execution". I've not seen it, but would like to. I cannot help but wonder what those boys' lives were like.

What I want to be when I grow up...

I have a job interview scheduled for Monday. I'm trying to be confidant and optimistic without getting my hopes up too far. I'm pretty sure I'm a strong contender for the position, but there's no telling what my competiton is. I don't want to be cocky about it no matter how perfect the match seems to me. Also, I don't want to set myself up for bitter disappointment if I am not chosen for the job. But whether I am the candidate of choice or not, I haven't entirely decided whether I will take the job if it is offered. I KNOW that I want them to pick me, so that I will have the option available to me if I choose it. Still, I do not know whether I will pick them. Most confusing of all, I'm not even entirely sure what criteria to base the decision on.

There are things about my current job that I like very much. There are things about it that I like not at all. Isn't that the way it is with most jobs?? However, no matter what the good, the bad or the ugly...my job is like a container of yogurt with a set expiration date. I work for a particular grant that is going to end next year. So some time between now and then I will need to find a new position. I'm not opposed to sticking it out where I am to the very end of the grant. But I also have no sense of obligation to do so. If I find the right match with a new job that meets my needs and will be more permanent, I'd be a fool not to take it.

So I've been giving quite a bit of thought to what I want from a job and what I am willing to give. .

I've done a lot of different things in the past. PRE college I had the usual assortment of crummy jobs that I endured to pay the bills: phone solicitor, factory worker, dishwasher, clerical. I once was hired to stand outside of a health spa with a sign advertising their special promotion, waving at cars.

Since running the gauntlet of graduate school I've had different options... juvenile probation officer, HIV/AIDS intervention, crisis intervention counselor, consultant in a women's prison, adjunct college instructor, marketing director, training coordinator, survey research coordinator, executive director of a non profit where I managed a food bank, did homeless case management, protective payee services and more. So along the way I've picked up an eclectic assortment of skills and had some interesting experiences; But what next? What do I want the next chapter of my career to be?

Some days I think I'll just get some job that pays a living wage and plug away at it - believing that work is NOT my real life, it merely pays the bills so I can meet my temporal obligations as I follow my passions in other ways. But the reality is I spend more of my waking hours at my job than I do with the people I love or the projects I'm interested in. So I DO want my work to be something I can believe in and find meaningful.

I have no illusions that I'm going to go out and do grand things to change the world. But I do want to have a job that allows me to have a positive impact on the lives of the people I serve. In the end, the money is important, but is truly only a fraction of what keeps me motivated to pour my dedication into whatever work I do. I will do far more for personal loyalty to a boss I respect or commitment to a cause than I ever will for company bonuses.

So I'm praying for discernment as I go to this job interview, to be able to be sensitive to the cues people will give me that will indicate what sort of job this will be. I've had a couple friends tell me "if it is supposed to happen you will get the job, but if not then it simply wasn't meant to be." I don't buy that one bit. I don't really believe God cares what job I take. He doesn't give a rip if I am a plumber or a chicken farmer or a teacher or a circus ticket taker. I think all He cares about is how I treat people where ever I land and that I perform ethically to the best of my ability. I don't think there is any job out there that is my true destiny.

Still ... I know I am more suited to some sorts of work than I am to others. And I definitely know there are certain management styles I respond well to and some that I find abominable. I have worked for two or three remarkable people who were priceless gifts and a few fiends that taught me what to avoid. So I am considering all that as I prepare for this upcoming interview and considering my options. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Self Injury

The book I am currently reading, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn is remarkably well written. However, it brings up some difficult emotions for me.

The protagonist of the story, Camille Preaker, is a journalist living in Chicago who returns to her small hometown of Wind Gap to investigate and report on some gruesome child murders. The profile of that small town reminds me a bit too much of my own growing up place, a community I fled at age sixteen without ever looking back. Being a misfit, an outcast, a weirdo in a town like that was worse than a death sentence.

There are plenty of secrets in tiny Wind Gap. One by one some of the dirty laundry of the local residents gets aired as the police and and the journalist both peel away surface smiles over the course of the investigation. However, meanwhile Camille has a gruesome little secret of her own. For many years she was a cutter, one who repeatedly sliced and gouged words into her skin with razors and knives. Her entire body, except for her face, her hands, and the parts of her back where she just couldn't reach, are an erratic road map of scars. The scars that don't show, the ones in her head, come out throughout the novel is chilling eloquence.

My best friend of many years when I lived in Michigan used to do self-injury. Alison cut. She burned. She pulled out all her eyelashes. She was not a well girl. There were parts of Alison's spirit that were a joy to be around. But she had such a dark side, such a tormented, tortured part to her soul that it was hard work loving her well. She was in and out of psych wards every few months for a week or more at a time - wrestling with demons that led her to suicide attempts and days of hurting herself. During the times she was well she was truly a delight to be with. But when she got sick it was frightfully scary. I grieved so for her pain, but scarcely knew how to respond.

Whenever she went into the hospital I'd go to her apartment to clean out the food from the refrigerator, bring in the mail, water the plants. I was the designated person to call in case of emergency, so more than once I got calls in the middle of the night from emergency room doctors who had an unconscious body on their table and needed to know who my friend was and if she had any allergies. She had A LOT - from about a dozen different kinds of meds right down to latex. I'd whip out the list from my nightstand and read it off to the doctor on the phone...a routine that got too familiar and too creepy for words.

Alison went through a particularly rough patch the last year of our friendship. She sank down and down and down without seeming to bounce back up. She was hurting herself in more serious ways. She nearly died from an overdose. I was furious at her for hurting the friend I loved, and felt betrayed that she would do this again. All the counseling and the hospitals didn't seem to be helping. I was losing her to the demons. Bit by bit she was leaking away from me until the person who was left was nearly unrecognizable to me.

I loved my friend ferociously and tried every way I knew how to be of support. But something inside me snapped after that last serious suicide attempt. I just couldn't keep watching her try to destroy herself. So I pulled back. We had one last visit in the hospital where things were said that hurt us both. After that I didn't see her for three months. When I tried to contact her again, to see if she was getting better, she would have nothing to do with me. She felt I had totally abandoned her when she was down, so she'd lost all trust. She refused to speak to me or see me ever again. I kept hoping that over time she'd soften and we could reconcile. Sadly, that was not the case.

Alison legally changed her name (which is the only reason I will use the name I knew her by) and did everything she could to transform into a completely different person. I've always felt my friend died of suicide that night, even though her body survived. The person that came back to the world was not the girl that I loved.

In the book "Sharp Objects" Flynn writes:

"They always call depression the blues, but I would have been happy to wake into a periwinkle outlook. Depression to me is urine yellow.....washed out, exhausted miles of weak piss."

Those words remind me so much of my old pal who would sink to a level of despair so deep she didn't want to live anymore. I think of her more than she will ever know....remembering her crooked smile, her love of purple, her tie-dyed mania. I often wonder if she ever did get better, or if she is still battling her demons, or if she finally cut too deep or swallowed too many pills without someone nearby to save her. I have no way of knowing if she is alive or dead.

People who knew Alison has such serious problems would wonder why I would choose to stay friends with her for as long as I did. For me the answer is quite simple. We are ALL broken in some fashion or another. Her breaks, unquestionably, were more extreme than most. But between the cracks, she was a remarkable person, so worthy of deep loving. She was funny and smart, insightful and kind.

I miss my friend. I probably always will.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Light Pollution

Ok - I do realize it's nearly the end of March and most of us are celebrating the arrival of Spring rather than thinking about Christmas. But since Stacy just posted a photo of a bunch of chained up snowmen on her blog, I can't resist sharing this picture I took in Boise over the holidays. I'm all for being festive along with the next guy...but this blatant over-consumption of electricity was beyond belief. (Home owned by CEO of Idaho Power). If I had a wide angle lens you would have seen the OTHER side that had even MORE light.
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I suspect this could have been viewed from deep space. It totally obliterated the stars. Good thing there weren't any wise men trying to navigate or they would have been in deep trouble.

This was to Christmas lights what Tammy Faye Bakker is to eyeshadow.

Some people just don't know when to say when.

What is Ubermeat?

I was having a conversation with my beloved the other day and I said something in passing about Wikipedia - I think referring to an interview in TIME magazine with Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales.

Dearest husband looked at me blankly and said "what the heck is wikipedia?" HUH?? I forget sometimes that even though we live in the same house we really do inhabit separate universes in terms of what we read, listen to, and how we relate to the world around us. How is it possible he has never heard of Wikipedia?? I can totally accept that he might choose not to use it - but to be completely oblivious to it's existance? That sort of threw me for a loop. But since he seldom uses a computer for anything beyond playing spider solitaire, I really shouldn't be all that surprised.

So I tried to briefly explain to him what Wikipedia was - how it was created and maintained, what it's strengths are and the flaws inherent to the system. His response was - "Do they have a definition for Ubermeat? Try looking up Ubermeat." Oh brother.

I don't know if he was hungry or had just been watching too much TV, but apparently the Quiznos commercial about the ubermeat has made an impact. Well, I hate to let dear hubby down, but I did NOT find a wikipedia listing for Ubermeat. I DID however find THIS blog which had some interesting linguistic analysis.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Powerful Read


I'm about two thirds of the way through the novel "The Wedding" by Nicholas Sparks. This has been an AMAZING book for me to read in this season of my life.
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The tale is of a husband who forgets his 29th anniversary. The hurt and disappointment he sees in his wife over that error brings to head the fact that they are very much leading parallel lives. They do not fight, do not scream, do not accuse, do not throw plates. But neither do they laugh together or tenderly caress. He is caught up with his career as an attorney - working long hours and expending nearly all his focus and energy at the office. She has spent the bulk of her whole married life consumed with raising their children, managing the household, arranging their social lives. But now the kids are grown and gone and she seems...at least by his perception (which is the only point of view we have to go by) somewhat adrift in her own life.
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He senses a sadness, a loneliness in his wife. So Wilson goes about the next year trying to win back the love of his wife he fears he has nearly lost by sheer neglect. The passages that describe the passion, longing, tenderness our protagonist feels for his wife despite the fact that he's never been comfortable talking about or showing his emotions are a sheer revelation.
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I've written before about the extent to which I positively adore the man I married. Truly, I treasure, savor and relish the bond that is ours.Yet with each page I turn of this novel, I am reminded how easy it is to fall into the trap of a comfortable co-existence, being nice to each other, but not really putting forth the effort to lay the kindling of small gestures that can catch fire to true intimacy. Like Wilson in this story, my husband is a quiet man who is not one to speak of matters of the heart easily. So sometimes I don't give him credit for things he may well feel simply because I don't see or hear them readily. Yet I also have much in common with the story's protagonist. I have a very busy life, too often allowing myself to get caught up in my work, giving the majority of my spunk and vigor at the office with little left in reserve when I get home. Also, because after my day job I still have work to do online for the two classes I teach, there have been too many evenings of late where as soon as the supper dishes are cleared I'm sequestered off to my home office upstairs until one or two in the morning - not even noticing when my husband goes to bed. That pattern clearly needs to change.
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My beloved and I are no where near the stage of estrangement that Wilson and his wife were experiencing at the start of this book. But that does not mean there are not important lessons for me here.
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I have been drinking in deeply the message of the book of how important it is for long married couples to continue to court one another. I've been thinking long and soulfully about the things I might do better to help communicate to my beloved in a way he can relate to well how much I truly cherish him. So, like Wilson Calhoun, I am working on a deliberate campaign to woo my spouse. I do not want to fall into the trap of taking for granted this amazing human being I'm wed to. As we move through the 26th year of our marriage I want to remind him of all the reasons why I chose him, why I'm glad he picked me, and why I'd marry him all over again.
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In the Sociology of the Family course I teach online we discuss much about the factors that influence strong bonds in a relationship and the things that rip couples and families apart. In my lectures I talk about how loving ties with another are much like a garden - they require frequent tending and upkeep or even the best of beginnings can whither. But just because I've climbed the graduate school mountain and have studied all the grand theories of family systems theory doesn't mean I always remember to put the tried and true best practices into practice in my own home. Sadly, sometimes the cobblers children run around without any shoes.
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I am madly in love with this guy that sleeps in my bed. We're not just hanging out together. We're in it for the long haul, to share of our heart and spirits with deliberate intention to make it just as sweet as it possibly can be. Even so, that won't just happen all by itself because I want it to. If I've learned anything at all after all these years, it is that loving deeply is a CHOICE that involves taking action.
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There is an oft sung children's song in at my church called "I am a Child of God". There is a line in the lyric that was originally written "Teach me all that I must know to live with Him some day." Several years ago the leaders of the church asked that that line in the song be changed to "teach me all that I must DO to live with Him someday." While we are taught that none of us can earn our way into heaven by our puny obedience - for surely it is by the grace and mercy of the Atonement of Christ that any of us are saved - we still acknowledge that we must keep the commandments and LIVE what it is we say we believe. Likewise, no matter what I may know about relationship dynamics and family systems theory, it's what I do that really matters. Feeling love is not enough. Telling someone I love them is not enough. The choices we make each and ever day of how we treat one another are what will determine if we experience that love that we both want so much.
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Loving well is not something that lucky people get and others miss out on. It's something I do when I mindfully overlook small annoyances, when I choose to forgive things that hurt my feelings, when I sacrifice my own interests to do something nice for my partner. But it's not being a martyr or a doormat. To love anybody outside of myself in a significant way I have to be willing to acknowledge and respect my own needs as well. As much as doing kind things for the person I care for does matter, I am convinced true love also involves sticking up for myself and making my own needs clear, setting a standard for how I deserve to be treated--but doing that in such a way they can be honored rather than capitulated to. After all - the people in our lives are not mind readers. While I would like it if my husband could just somehow magically, intuitively KNOW what it is I expect or what it takes for me to feel appreciated, that's not very realistic. So it's important I tell him, and sometimes must to do so more than once, in different ways until he understands.
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Loving means taking the time, going beyond my own comfort zone at times, making a place in my heart for the magic to happen and CHOOSING it over self interest, over outside diversions, over apathy, over all else. Love is a choice.
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This goes way beyond just in marriage or any other romantic relationship. This has relevance to how I treat my siblings, my neighbor, my co-workers, and the little girl down the street who watches my dog whenever we go out of town. Instead of being self absorbed with my list of things to do or worries over my own personal concerns, I want to allow myself to engage more fully in the many different colors of love that I have with different people in my life.
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I've been very blessed in terms of having quite a collection of people who have touched my life in positive ways. They really do mean a lot to me. Yet one of the things I am realizing more and more as I read this story is how easy it is to have deep, significant feelings for another but just do a lousy job of showing it. So in the next few days, weeks, months ahead I hope to do a bit better job at showing not just my husband, but a lot of the people I care about what they mean in my life.
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This book is reminding me that loving my brothers and sisters, my old college buddies, my church family and all others is something I don't just FEEL, but something I need to express.
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I am courting my husband more tenderly these days. But I also want to reach out to some other people in my life to be abundantly clear how much I value them.
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This book is such a tribute to loving well. I heartily recommend it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Vista House

Marie asked in the comments of my last posting whether the Manucha retreat center was close to either Vista House or Stonehenge. The Stonehenge monument is across the river on the Washington side and down the road a piece near Maryhill.

However, Vista House is just a few miles down the road - walking distance really if you are up for a hike.

Having traveled all over the United States and in a few other countries, I've seen my share of "comfort stations". One of my strongest memories of a trip from Ohio to Georgia and back with a passel of squirmy kids was my 10 year old step daughter's absolute refusal to enter the county outhouses along the way yet tearful pleas that she had to go potty NOW in a real potty. It was a horrendous battle.

When I used to travel regularly from Cleveland to Washington DC I could name every rest stop along the way through Pennsylvania and tell you which ones were good and which ones to avoid.

Vista House, however, is in a class by itself. The gift shop, the historic displays, and of course the loo were all much appreciated. But it's VIEWS that make it worth going to.

I could easily relate to Marie's comment that she'd have difficulty concentrating on workshops in such a beautiful place as Manucha. The Columbia Gorge region is truly an amazing place.

One of things I enjoyed about the Pacific Northwest Great Teacher's Seminar that I attended at Manucha was they deliberately planned lots of free time throughout the week so I had opportunities to go hiking, exploring, and lay around reading/pondering/napping. The meeting times were vital and productive. But oh, some of those free time afternoons were absolutely delicious!

A couple of the other teachers and I did the waterfall loop one afternoon and that was very fun. The majesty of Multnomah is impressive, no doubt. But the trails and overlooks around some of the smaller falls away from all the gawking tourists are what ring my chimes.

Exploring scenic views was definitely a high point of the week I spent at Manucha. But connecting with the other teachers ranks right up there as well.

I remember one night a bunch of us sat up till about 2 AM swapping stories. I was the designated driver of the back porch while my compatriots sampled some local wines. (Normally Manucha bans alcohol but they made an exception for this particular conference.) Throughout the course of the evening things got sillier and sillier. I may have been sober, but it didn't matter. We all laughed so hard our sides ached, our jaws hurt and we could barely breathe. It was a hilarious time.

Yet perhaps the parts that were most meaningful to me were the very early mornings when I would get up to see the sunrise and hike alone around the 100 acre grounds of lush trees, flowers, shrubs before the conference events would begin. The earth was still wet with dew, somehow seeming fresh born each day. I'd quietly wander around, musing at scampering squirrels and chattering birds as I found new hiding spots for scribbling in my journal every morning. BLISS!

I don't know if I'll ever follow up on my dreamed up writer's workshop. But I do know I WILL go back to spend some time at Manucha. It truly is sacred ground.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Writer's Retreat?


I've been playing around with the idea of organizing a writer's retreat. Some days I think it's just a pipe dream. Other days I take it quite seriously and think I just may pull it off. I know the perfect place for it. Last summer I attended a seminar for community college teachers at the fabulous Manucha retreat and conference center. The mug I have from there says it all: "Sacred Space, Purposeful Work."
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You can get the details over on the hot link, but I can't help but gush a bit about the wonder of the place. It is a 100 acre sanctuary operated by the Presbyterian church as a non-profit gathering place for all sorts of groups (from private individuals who want some quiet reflection time to family reunions, work groups looking for "team building" or a place for strategic planning. Basically it is available for whoever has the good fortune to discover this sweet little gem!)
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The food is WONDERFUL, served family style. The accommodations are simple but comfortable. (Some rooms sleep anywhere from 4 to 8 in bunkbeds and others are private). There is space for people coming together to share / work / process together and space to be alone to think, read, write, pray, reflect. It's nestled in the lovely Columbia Gorge just minutes away from fabulous hiking trails with mindblowing waterfalls.
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Cost would depend on the number of people involved - they charge by the building, not by the person. (Lindsey house which holds up to 20 people goes for $240 per night - meals extra; If that were split between even just six or eight people it would be quite reasonable.) OR - if I were to open this up to a wider group, I'd find some well known speakers to come present some of the workshops and I'd promote the event through the writing departments of all the local colleges. If that were the case I'd charge a registration fee to cover the expense of the bigger buildings and speaking fees, etc. I'm not sure which dynamic I would prefer - a quiet get away with a few friends who enjoy writing or some structured workshop open to strangers. They both have their advantages & disadvantages.
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I've got several different scenarios rattling around in my head...but this is one of them:
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DAY ONE: (THURSDAY) People begin to gather, arriving whenever suits them. We get checked in - meet each other, have time to decompress and explore.
4:30 - 6:00 PM WELCOME SOCIAL - ice breakers and coordination of what the weekend will entail, checking for any special needs, etc. etc.
6:00 - 7:30 PM GROUP DINNER
7:30 - 9:30 EVENING KEYNOTE - maybe get a well known writer from Portland or Seattle to come address the group - perhaps include a panel of writers with different sorts of experience to talk about what writing has like for them.
9:30 QUIET TIME for those who are ready to hit the sack. But informal chat time into the wee hours of the night for those who care to continue in conversations.
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DAY TWO: (FRIDAY)
7:00 - 9:00 AM Buffet BREAKFAST
People get moving at their own pace. ALL workshops and breakout sessions are optional. If ya wanna lay around and do NOTHING that's ok. If you want to meet with others to talk about the craft of writing - that works to. VERY flexible throughout the weekend.
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9:00 - 9:50 AM Session 1 - BOOK EXCHANGE
Recognizing the relationship between reading and writing - everyone is encouraged to bring 2-3 books they are willing to give up. They go on a table for others to consider. Whoever brings a book is welcome to take a book.
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Then - we have a SEPARATE table where there are big sheets of paper for generating lists. Each person can list 2-3 books they recommend; different sheets will be for different genres. We have a group discussion where everyone gets a chance to talk a little bit about the books they are recommending and why those have been meaningful to them... A full list of all the books will be generated and made available for everyone to take home.
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10:05 - 10:50 Session 2 - The PROCESS of WRITING
Hands on / interactive workshop to generate some new ideas about writing.
11:00 - 1:00 FREE TIME
LUNCH ON YOUR OWN - carpools into town for those who so desire or fix something from vittles you bring.
For those interested, there will be Board Games / Puzzles / Walks / Naps / Geocaching
1:00 - 1:30 FEEDBACK SESSION
Anyone who wants to get some input on a writing project will have brought multiple copies of the piece which will be passed out ahead of time. During this session people will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of one another's work. Clear guidelines will be set down for giving feedback in a way that is honest & authentic yet supportive. This is not a place to go fishing for compliments. If you don't want to hear what people really think - skip this. But it's also not a place for bashing people. It's a place for writers to come together with the willingness to be a bit vulnerable with other writers to get and give feedback about the craft.
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1:45-3:00 PM GOING PRO
A structured workshop dealing with the details of selling what you write. How / when / if to get a literary agent. Tips on how to submit work to various types of audiences. Dealing with (and LEARNING FROM) the rejection slips. Everything that has to do with the commercial aspects of writing
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3:15 - 5:00 PM - WRITING FOR POSTERITY
The flip side of the earlier session - this has to do with writing for yourself, writing for your own family or for generations to come. Will deal with how to write your own life story, some issues and ideas about journaling, etc.
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5:00 - 6:00 PM FREE TIME
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6:00 - 7:30 PM GROUP DINNER
7:30-9:30 PM AFTER DINNER JAM - anyone who has musical inclinations bring your instruments. Those of us who have extras will share. Doesn't matter if you have any real skill or training - this is about feeling the passion of making music from your soul for the pure joy of it.
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9:30 into the wee hours??? Again, Quiet time for those who want to sleep but potential for small groups to gather for further sharing of ideas
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DAY THREE: SATURDAY
7:00 - 9:00 AM BREAKFAST
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9:00 - 10:15 AM Session 1 - Open for Suggestion
I've come up with four or five different things for this one and not sure if I like any of them. So I'm open to ideas. Afterall - right now this whole plan is VERY tentative, I'm not even sure if I'm actually going to do this at all... So I'll open this up to see what sort of workshop other people might be intrested in. Ideas??
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10:30 - 11:45 AM NAMING YOUR TAKEAWAY
Wrap up session to give people an opportunity to identify what they have gained or most valued from the weekend. Some challenges for how to keep the momentum going when we all go back to our regular lives.
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12:00 - 1:00
LUNCH / Check out
We all make our grand exodus to return to the world - having made some new friends, reflected on the craft of writing and maybe learned some new tips we can use.
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Yeah, sometimes it feels like just another pleasant fantasy. Other times...I think it might actually be worth shaping this into something for real. I dunno. I know I COULD pull this off. I may kick the ideas around with some others and see if they wanna play...
I'm open to suggestion from my blogger buddies. Does this sound too structured? What would you change?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Creative Blogroll


I've been doing some exploring over on Jaquandor's blogroll again. I like the way he has sorted the links into general categories so I can sample the ones more likely to be of interest and avoid the ones I'm pretty sure I would be bored with. I also like that he has the full meal deal on a separate page rather than taking up miles of sidebar.
I've been reconsidering mine...I have several blogs I pop in on very regularly that I have not added (just keep 'em in my FAVORITES) and others on my blogroll I no longer read as much as I once did. I've changed some recently, but may do more shifting in the coming weeks.
I'm curious - IF you have a "blogroll" what is your criteria for who you link to?
How much do you explore blogrolls on various sites that you read?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gothic Sibs

Ya gotta hand it to those Bronte sisters. Nobody does Gothic romance quite like them. I recently re-read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Tonight I watched the 1992 movie version of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Yeah, I know all about the argument that it was actually written by the brother Bronte, Branswell. But I'm still rooting for Emily.

What is it about the obsessive passion of Heathcliffe and Catherine that generations have found so captivating?

I can scarcely imagine what it would have been like to have been born into a time and place where women had no right over their own property, their own bodies, their own lives. Besides that, watching the scene of boiling clothes makes me darn grateful for some of the lovely modern conveniences I have at my fingertips.

Still, every now and then it feels good to get lost in fantasy of living in some stone castle on the moores (although it does look rather drafty and no doubt had marginal plumbing).

Anyway, it was nice to see a movie with no explosions or car chases or knife fights or profanity. Just good old lust, jealousy, bitterness and spite. Heathcliffe is such an absolute cad - contorted by his passion, driven to dreadful cruelty - and yet I can't bring myself to despise him. What can be said of Cathy? While my egalitarian sensibilities balk when she marries for money, position, ease - willfully turning her back on the one she had the deep heart passion for...can I truly fault her considering the norms of the day? It's a strange, convoluted tale within a tale that ends badly for most the major players. But it was a pleasant diversion for the evening.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Diverging points of view

This is NOT, never has been, never will be a political blog. Goodness knows there are plenty of those around. If that's your fancy, have at it. I get enough political argument at my own dinner table to thoroughly exasperate me. (My beloved and I tend to cancel out each other's votes in most elections). I don't have any intention of beginning a debate here.

But that leads to part of my point of THIS posting... why is it that people who have extremely different views about government have to be so mean and nasty to each other?

I have lived with and loved a man for 25 years despite the fact that we both think the other one is misguided, misinformed and just plain WRONG when it comes to several key political issues. (I AM right, by the way.) However, we have learned how to be kind and civil to one another even when vehemently disagreeing.

As we approach the next series of elections, feelings are starting to flame in homes and barbershops, on blogs and talk radio, among the simpletons like me and the mighty movers and shakers that influence opinion and policy.

My prayer, as we draw closer to decision day is that we all try our best to be respectful in our differences.

For some GREAT thoughts about politics, power and the process of government, see what some of our past leaders have said HERE.

(unfortunately, an annoying ad for ebay pops up, but when it does there is a spot to click up in the top right corner to opt out of the ad and get back to the quotes.)

I was VERY impressed by some of the quotes by some of the presidents I found to be quite unimpressive. I can't help but wonder who ACTUALLY coined those words... after watching many an episode of West Wing I've come to be immensely curious about political speech writers.

What Flower Are You?

Thanks to Mimi for directing me to this:

I am a
Snapdragon

What Flower
Are You?



I don't know what the basis for the selection is...some of the questions seem quite unrelated. However, the summary says:


"Mischief is your middle name, but your first is friend. You are quite the prankster that loves to make other people laugh."

I can live with that.

Monday, March 12, 2007

ON AGING

American rocket scientist Robert H. Goddard has been quoted as saying:
"Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and wrong...because sometime in your life you will have been all of these."

I like the quote. Yet in all my life I've never imagined that I would ever be old. I just couldn't picture it.

My mother died at 53. My father died at 55. I was in my early 20’s when I became an orphan. Somehow in my mind, mid fifties became a logical lifespan to me. As a young woman, those years seemed many, many miles away.

However, time has shifted and seasons have passed. I will turn 50 this October. As I am fast approaching the ages my parents were when they met death, it feels very surreal to me that I could be so close to the end of my wick. Holy Moses, I'm just BEGINNING to get this life thing figured out.

Obviously, I have no crystal ball to know how long I have to walk on this earth. I’m in reasonably good health. (But then, so were they.) One day my father was alive, hammering new shingles on his roof. He went to bed as full of piss and vinegar as ever, then woke up dead. My mother was having a surgery. It was serious, yes, but fairly routine. She never made it off the table. They say no single thing really went wrong. She just never came back again. Those events permanently marked in my mind that there are no guarantees...we can be here one day and gone the next with no preamble or warning. They also made me determined to live my life to the fullest each day with no regrets or words left unsaid, because I just never expected to have all that many of them.

When I was a little kid, I couldn't wait to be "all grown up". I would proudly tack on the "and-a-half" to my age just as soon as I could justify it. Each rite of passage of crossing over to maturity seemed like a special prize to me. Yet as I emerged into a stormy, rebellious adolescence, I began taking vast chances with my mortality, acting out in extreme ways, saying I didn't care if I lived to see thirty. Sadly, many of my compatriots from those wild and turbulent days did not. How I came through it all relatively unscathed is a mystery to me still.

My early twenties were spent in a trainwreck of chaos. At some point I reached an epiphany that allowed me to turn things around and climb out of the darkness. Gratefully, my thirties were a time of calmer, safer, saner days. There was much effort and striving, of nesting, achieving, sorting out. Life was unquestionably better then, but there was still a degree of reverberation in my emotions and my spirit as I wrestled with making my peace with the past.

It wasn't until my forties that I really felt I began to bloom.

When I hit forty an artist friend of mine created a beautiful card for me...I've still got it around here somewhere although right now I'm not sure where. On the front of the card there is a black silhouette of a woman running with delightful abandoned down the side of a very steep pointed hill. Her arms are outstretched and her hair is flying. It's a great image. The joy and satisfaction just seeps from the picture.

Then you open the card up and the inscription reads: "FINALLY! You are OVER THE HILL!"

I loved the metaphor. For me, coming of age into my forties meant being done once and for all with all the struggle to climb up the life mountain of self discovery and drive to prove myself. Days of graduate school, child rearing, entry level jobs and so many other life battles were finally behind me. I had loved raising my boys and had enjoyed my years as a stay-at-home mom. But I welcomed this new time when I could fully participate in the world in new ways.

Being "middle aged" meant I had earned the right to embrace my opinions, preferences, beliefs and desires with no apology. I never had to worry again whether others thought they were cool or legitimate. No longer burdened by other people's ideas of fashion or music, politics or housekeeping, I was done with agonizing over my path. I was comfortable in my own skin and ready to dig deep into the life I had chosen.

Because I had kids so young, both my boys were emancipated (geographically anyway). My forties were a time when I could travel freely and focus on career with new dedication. I had more time and energy to get involved in causes that mattered to me. I was more financially secure than I'd been in the past. Best of all, I could rediscover my husband as partner more than co-parent. That was a revelation to me. We had some grand adventures, a few horrible heartaches, and a lot of sweet days of bliss. I loved my 4th decade. It was a sweet, juicy time to be savored in my life.

And now the curtain is about to close on those years and I will begin a new season - my fifties. Already I am starting to see that this season will have some tough lessons. Coming to term with loss is inevitably a big part of later years. Already I'm finding I attend more funerals than weddings. There is no doubt in my mind that the next few years will bear more of them. I can see it coming as surely as the trees dropping their leaves in the fall.

My body will change...sooner or later the moon season will matter less to me; My skin will grow thin. My hair will get coarse.

And if I should live even beyond my fifties - outlasting my parents by decades or more, what then? Will I have health? Will I have enough money? Will I be a cranky old biddy or a serene matriarch? It's anybody's guess.

How will I face my next season? What will I be like as an old woman? I really can't say.

I've always maintained that it wouldn't matter how old I got, so long as I was loving, learning, and laughing along the way. But I'm pragmatic enough to recognize that days when doctor appointments and hope for a proper bowel movement take most of your energy can make savoring life a challenge for most anyone.

Many of my friends now are dealing with caring for ill, elderly parents. I never walked that path. Some days when I visit families dealing with dementia, diabetes, oncologists and proctologists, I wonder how our family would have coped. I've heard it said we never get given greater burdens than we can bear... maybe the universe knew that wasn't something for our brood to contend with. But without having crossed that bridge with a parent, I haven't a clue about how to do it for myself.

When I look into the faces of some of the elderly people I know, I see the struggle with failing bodies, failing finances, failing memories, and it causes a catch in my breath. I hope that the next ten or twenty or however many years I have will be good ones. I recognize there is bound to be pain and difficulty to be sure. That's part of life. But I'm crossing my fingers and toes and praying with all my might that my sense of self will remain strong, my ability to contribute will continue, my chance to connect in meaningful ways will keep expanding even as my vigor begins to fade.

My greatest fear in the world in terms of what I anticipate for the years to come is not death or even disability - but far more frightening, the possibility of losing my beloved. My husband is 12 years older than I and has a few health issues even now. That man is my life, my soul's very breath. I cannot imagine a world without him. I shudder to think of wearing the title of widow. So I mostly try not to think of it at all. And yet...the possibility that it may be some part of my future is something I have considered more and more in recent years, usually with dread.

In most respects, in my mind growing old means coming to terms with loss and letting go... letting go of my youth and some of my dreams. Letting go of my belief that things will keep getting better. Letting go of some of the people I've loved. I see it as a season of coming to terms with grief on a much more regular and intimate basis than the few kamikaze grenades I've had to deal with thus far.

I hope I can go into my fifties and further with some peace and pleasure. Right now I feel like a skittish swimmer standing on the edge of a pond, slowly, carefully, filled with apprehension, daring to reach across to just stick my toes in. I'm not sure what it will take to give me the confidence to just plaster a grin on my face and dive in with abandon as I did in my forties. I'm feeling cautious with myself. I am nervous about what's around the bend.

I want to hold on tight to all the love and strength and opportunity that I have in my life now. I'm not ready to give any of it up just yet. I'm like a little kid being told it's about time to go to bed, but instead of going quietly I'm desperately, defiantly pleading for just five minutes more. I'm not ready to be old.

Yet my sweet husband just laughs at my reticence. He says that rather than grow old together he will go first, blazing the trail for me, and then reach back to bring me along, showing me the ropes. Just like when we've gone hiking through snow drifts together, or bushwhacking in the deep woods...he'll cut the path to ease the way for me. The trail will be rough going in spots. But the vistas and views along the way will make the journey worthwhile. So long as I can continue to hold on to the back of his shirt, I know I'll be just fine.

********
For links to what others have said in the woman-to-woman conversation on aging please visit Morning Glory of Seeds From My Garden or Lei of My Many Colored Days.

Woman to Woman


Lei has organized a writing exercise for women bloggers. She is calling it Woman to Woman. Basically she and another blogger friend have put their heads together to set up a schedule to introduce a new topic to write about every other Tuesday to prompt other interested women writers to share their various points of view.
The topics planned for so far include:
3/13 Aging
3/27-Handling children under age 5 at funerals, weddings, concerts, theatre, church and such
4/10-Parenting/grandparenting difficult personalities
4/24-Enduring health problems, either your own or a child's
5/8-TIPS AND TRICKS Getting the family together
5/22-Getting advice from your peers rather than your parents
6/12-Pressure to have the "latest" baby everything
6/26-Share an important quote and what it means to you
7/10-TIPS AND TRICKS Keeping your marriage alive
7/24-Trying to be something/someone you are not
8/14-Dealing with aging parents8/28-Learning to say "no"
9/11-Overcoming the "people pleaser" syndrome
9/25-TIPS AND TRICKS facing your parenting fears
10/9-A book review TBA
10/23-Dealing with grief
11/13-Being single again
11/27-Infertility
12/11-addictions
I doubt I'll write on them all - but it seems like a valid way to explore some interesting topics and get to know some other writers in the process.
Besides the essay I've started on Aging, it's also prompted the beginnings of a fiction short story that I'm enjoying discovering. Don't know how far I'll take this piece, but working out the words for now is a soothing, rejuvenating process.
I may never be a great writer, but that is of little matter to me right now. I don't have to be profound or eloquent ...I just appreciate the chance to explore my own voice. Writing is something I've done for as long as I can remember as a means of sorting out my thoughts and feelings. Just in the last year or two I've thought about taking it more seriously. I have a framed picture in my office that says: "Use whatever talents you posses. The woods would be very silent if the only birds to sing were those who could sing best."

So I will keep writing, poking away at words. I have no illusions about their merit. I'm more concerned with learning to be satisfied with the PROCESS than picking apart the product at this point. I will learn as I go. Who knows? If I write stuff for most, if not all, of the woman-to-woman projects a lot of it may sound like crap. But a piece or two may come through to shine. That would be a nice thing.
The thing I've discovered about mastery in most any area is I can only get there by tolerating my own mediocrity along the way. Not every effort is going to sparkle. But if I just keep at it, open to feedback, taking it's measure from time to time, I WILL get better. So I'll give it a shot.

Winding Down

This is the last week of Winter term for those of us on a quarter system. I find I'm always filled with tremendous ambivalence as my classes wind down and come to a close. Teaching online is A LOT of work, so in some ways I'm ready to have a bit of a breather before the next sessions start up. However, I get quite involved with my students so I am always a little bit sad to see them go. Some of them exasperate me, and a few choose to stay more anonymous. But almost every term there are a handful of students who I really feel I get to know, even though I never meet them in the face-to-face world. I read their weekly comments in our discussion area and engage in some pretty fascinating conversations about things that feel important. I learn as much from them as they do from me. So now it's time to say goodbye to all of them. Most I will never hear from again. That's ok, and as it should be. There will be a fresh crop coming for Spring term and I will nurture them as well as I did this group. Still, I can't help but think about these students who are leaving, and wonder how they may be different as a result of our time together. I know I certainly will.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

COLOR


Many thanks to Lei for pointing me to the LINK for the Behr paint selection tool. As I responded to her, I've made WAY too many trips to Home Depot to use this same tool at the store, but had no idea it was available online. Now I can look at the color pallets in the very rooms where I want to change colors and get an idea of how they will appear in THAT lighting.


Am I any closer to making an actual decision of what color to paint? Well, no. Some days I throw my hands up and say I'm just going to leave it the way it is. But EVENTUALLY I'll pick something new.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Secret Life of Bees

I just finished reading the book "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It has some serious parts, to be sure, but one of my favorite passages from the book is when the Lily, the main character says: "Sometimes I didn't even feel like getting out of bed. I took to wearing my days-of-the-week panties out of order. It could be Monday and I'd have on underwear saying Thursday. I just didn't care."

Oh yeah, I can relate to that one.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Order out of Chaos

I'm finally back at work after taking a couple days off... I've been sorting through accumulated piles, answering e-mail, setting meetings, checking in with my team.

After a break to do some walking at noon I decided to tackle all the piles of accumulated STUFF in, on and around my desk. I just got a new set of wall shelves to give me a bit more order. It feels good to declutter the chaos.

As I went through all my various notes I found one I'd written to myself several months ago during a moment of introspection. It says:

"What one thing could I be doing that I am not presently doing that if I did on a regular basis would have a huge positive impact on my life?"

I recall what was going on when I wrote it. My answer to that question today is actually quite different than it was then. However, I've come to the conclusion that continuing to ASK myself the question is what matters, no matter how many times the response may shift.

I'm still a work in process, it seems.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Leapin Lizards! NO - it's RAINING FROGS!


In four separate instances between October 1987 and February 1988, small pink frogs rained down from the sky on to various parts of Great Britain. Scientists are still uncertain as to where these frogs originated, although some have traced them back to the Sahara desert. Source: The World's Most Incredible Stories, 1998, page 66. SOURCE


Or you can read more about it HERE


What an odd world we live in.

990 lb SQUID

Have you heard about the 39 foot long "Colossal Squid" that was caught in the Antartic Ocean last month?

According to the BBC News: There have only ever been six specimens of this squid recovered: five have come from the stomachs of sperm whales and the sixth was caught in a trawl net at a depth of 2,000 to 2,200 metres.

Scientists admit they know little about the large squid"It's been known since 1925, but no one really paid any attention to it," Dr O'Shea said.
"Now we can say that it attains a size larger than the giant squid. Giant squid is no longer the largest squid that's out there. We've got something that's even larger, and not just larger but an order of magnitude meaner."

In considering the demotion of "giant squid" to be second fiddle to "colossal squid", I'm reminded of when Pluto got robbed of full planet status.

All I know is that thing would make one heaping pile of calamari.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I got this list of humorous things kids have said/done from an old friend of mine from high school days. In our hearts we are still girls romping the desert in wild abandon, but we're both grandmothers now so we could share our appreciation for several of these.

********************************
My young grandson called the other day to wish me Happy Birthday. He Asked me how old I was, and I told him, "62." He was quiet for a Moment, and then he asked, "Did you start at 1?"

*********************************
After putting her grandchildren to bed, a grandmother changed into old Slacks and a droopy blouse and proceeded to wash her hair. As she Heard the children getting more and more rambunctious, her patience Grew thin. At last she threw a towel around her head and stormed into Their room, putting them back to bed with stern warnings. As she left The room, she heard the three-year-old say with a trembling voice, "Who was THAT?"

*********************************
A grandmother was telling her little granddaughter what her own child Hood was like: "We used to skate outside on a pond. I had a swing made from a tire; it hung from a tree in our front yard. We rode our pony. We picked wild raspberries in the woods." The little girl was wide-eyed, taking this in. At last she said, "I sure wish I'd gotten to know you sooner!"

*********************************
My grandson was visiting one day when he asked, "Grandma, do you know How you and God are alike?" I mentally polished my halos while I Asked, "No, how are we alike?" "You're both old," he replied.

*********************************
A little girl was diligently pounding away on her grandfather's word Processor. She told him she was writing a story. "What's it about?" he Asked. "I don't know," she replied. "I can't read."

*********************************
I didn't know if my granddaughter had learned her colors yet, so I Decided to test her. I would point out something and ask what color it Was. She would tell me, and always she was correct. But it was fun for Me, so I continued. At last she headed for the door, saying sagely, "Grandma, I think you should try to figure out some of these yourself!"

*********************************
Our five-year-old grandson couldn't wait to tell his grandfather about The movie we had watched on television, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." The scenes with the submarine and the giant octopus had kept him Wide-eyed. In the middle of the telling, my husband interrupted Mark, "What caused the submarine to sink?" With a look of incredulity Mark Replied, "Grandpa, it was the 20,000 leaks!!"

*********************************
When my grandson Billy and I entered our vacation cabin, we kept the Lights off until we were inside to keep from attracting pesky insects. Still, a few fireflies followed us in. Noticing them before I did, Billy whispered, "It's no use, Grandpa. The mosquitoes are coming After us with flashlights."

*********************************
When my grandson asked me how old I was, I teasingly replied, "I'm not Sure." "Look in your underwear, Grandma," he advised. "Mine says I'm Four to six."

*********************************
A second grader came home from school and said to her grandmother, "Grandma, guess what? We learned how to make babies today." The Grandmother, more than a little surprised, tried to keep her cool. "That's interesting," she said, "How do you make babies?" "It's Simple," replied the girl. "You just change "y' to 'I and add 'es'"

*********************************
Children's Logic: "Give me a sentence about a public servant," said a Teacher. The small boy wrote: "The fireman came down the ladderpregnant." The teacher took the lad aside to correct him. "Don't you know what Pregnant means?" she asked. Sure," said the young boy confidently. "It Means carrying a child."

*********************************
A nursery school teacher was delivering a station wagon full of kids Home one day when a fire truck zoomed past. Sitting in the front seat Of the fire truck was a Dalmatian dog. The children started discussing The dog's duties. They use him to keep crowds back," said one Youngster. "No", said another, "he's just for good luck." A third Child brought the argument to a close. "They use the dogs", she said Firmly, "to find the fire hydrant."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Kudos to the Cowpunk Momma!

Many thanks to Paula Spurr for walking me through the transition with the new blogger. I've been fighting it, kicking and spitting, mostly because I resented the beast for taking away my choice. For weeks now I have been offered the opportunity to make the switch. I always declined. I wanted to stick with the safe and familiar. Alas, finally Blogger balked, and would not let me log in until I changed over to the new Beta Blogger. Suffice it to say, I was NOT pleased.

I don't mean to be crude here, but the analogy that comes to mind is that the difference between fabulous intimate relations and rape is choice - the mechanics of the acts are very much the same. But whether it is something dreamy that poets will write sonnets over, a glorious, gasping frolick that sends rockets through your mind or a nightmare of horror to haunt you for many days all comes down to whether you wanted to be there or not.

Hey, I like ice cream. I do NOT want someone sitting one my chest and force feeding it to me.

Likewise, I did not want to play with new blogger.... but here I am. However, I was so busy grumbling and whining about what I did not like about it (and there was quite a list!) that I had not taken time to truly get familiar with it and find out all the new features.

Paula encouraged me and gave me some tips on how to access the new layout features. So thanks babe, I made it through the switch. You are right, once you get the hang of it, this is actually sorta cool. I can easily do things now that would have been a nightmare of HTML code with the old venue.

This makes me think more on how I approach change in general... there is no doubt that even when there is clear IMPROVEMENT waiting in the wings I have a tendency to hold on to what I know far longer than is needful. Familiar feels cozy sometimes even when that very familiarity is somewhat dysfunctional or holding me back.

Maybe it's time I got ready to take a leap or two in some other areas as well....

100 BOOKS

As an avid book junkie, I found this list intriguing...
It's a list 0f 100 books. I picked it up over at Josi Kilpack's blog.

Directions are thus: Copy the whole list to YOUR blog.
* Bold the ones you’ve read
* Italicize the ones you want to read
* Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in
* Highlight those you haven't heard of.
**Put a couple of astericks by the ones you recommend.

And of course - because I am a blabbermouth (or is it blabber finger when typing?) I will add a few vagrant comments along the way:

So to begin....
1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown) (I enjoyed this tremdendously but didn't take it all that seriously. Come on, it's a NOVEL.)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) **
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) **
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)** I LOVED this book. Movie was pretty good, but the book absolutely captivated me.
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) (I always wanted one of those translater fish you could put in your ear so you could understand any language..way cool!)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) (this is on my bookshelf, just haven't read it yet.)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One(Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True(Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) *** LOVED IT~
40. The Alchemist(Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible (God, with some help from his friends)**
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt) (too grim for my tastes.)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver) **
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood) ** POWERFUL!
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead(Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera(Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree(Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According to Garp (John Irving) (This may be the ONLY Irving book I haven't read)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)**( Sad tale, but lovely prose.)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries(Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding) I don't care about the great language - I HATED this book. Too mean.
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)(another on my shelf waiting)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch) (Book was MUCH better than the movie.)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

I must add I truly have no interest in any of the Harry Potter books... I started the first one and just couldn't get into it. I wanted to read them to be able to talk about 'em with my grandkids, but I just couldn't go there. The Tolkein trilogy is an old favorite from my high school days, and I've been back through them once or twice as an adult. But ya either like that fantasy world of middle earth or you don't. I used to want to be Goldberry...married to Tom Bombadil. Seemed like a life I could go for...

There are gobs of books that for one reason or another did not make this list that I wish had...but still, it was fun to go through and remember some tales I've read and compare notes with others. How about you?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

TECHNOLOGY


I've been giving some thought to the ways our lives have changed in recent years as a result of technology.
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I am a Sputnik Baby. I was born the day that the first ever Earth satellite went up into space. I came into the world just as science and new innovations were beginning to radically change the way human beings in the developing world would live and believe.
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My generation grew up discovering Tang, Jiffy Pop, TV dinners and saccharine. We got color TVs and microwave ovens. We got home size freezers for our groceries (I do remember when it was typical for families to rent a locker at the local butcher shop). We were thrilled by vacuum cleaners that weighed less and sucked more, ziplock baggies and more new cleaning products than we could ever find all the uses for.
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There were medical breakthroughs, space travel, and all sorts of keen inventions. But I keep having to ask myself, did life overall get BETTER as a result of technology?
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I have a dishwasher, a garbage disposal, a laptop, a cell phone, a palm pilot and all the typical toys of fat Americans. Yet I seem to have LESS time for relating to my neighbors than my grandmother did in an age when she ironed absolutely everything, cooked from scratch, beat her rugs and darned socks. (When I see holes in a sock I just say "that darn sock!" and throw the sucker away).
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Our work hours keep extending, our relaxation time seems consumed with invasive media. Granted, there are CHOICES to be made here... I can turn the TV off, I can choose to go for a walk instead of work on my computer, I can visit with a neighbor rather than run through another level of my "to do" list.
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All I'm saying is that it seems odd to me that with all these time saving devices we seem to have less time than ever before. And clearly, the social structure of this modern day is feels far more depraved and chaotic than in earlier times. I am ever so grateful that when I was in grade school I got to munch down sugar cubes holding the precious potion of the Salk Polio vaccine, rather than live in fear of the iron lung. I'm glad that when my vision became distorted I was able to get glasses to correct it, and later was able to have Lasik surgery to banish those glasses entirely. Yet I'm not so sure I am grateful for air conditioning and garages, things that contributed to the loss of front porches from most homes so neighbors no longer sat out on quitet summer evenings drinking lemonade and waving as others passed my. And I remain quite ambivalent about the development of 24 hr TV, or the introduction of a lot of other things that have become so ubiquitous in every day life. (Remember when the TV stations used to play the National Anthem to signal they were about to end broadcasting for the night?)
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Sometimes I hunger for slower, quieter, simpler times.
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But then, I suppose that longing is nothing really new. For that matter, the prophet Nephi, son of Helaman felt sorta the same way:
"Oh that I could have had my days in the days when my father
Nephi first came out of the land of Jeruselum, that I could have
joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy
to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and
slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto
the words of the Lord-- Yea, if my days could have been in those
days, then would my soul have had joy in righteousnes of my
brethren. But behold, I am consigned that these are my days,
and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow becouse of the
wickedness of my bretheren." (Helaman 7:7-9)
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Maybe David Chadwell is right when he says: The "times when things were simple" exist only in "selective memory." They are illusions that appear in the rear view mirrors of the "complicated now." As each generation ages, it looks back to "a simpler time" when things were not so complex and life was not so demanding. However, our backward glances suffer from a perpetual illness. Backward glances "see" from the pleasant light of "glowing memories." Those memories commonly focus on the "good experiences" (often exaggerated) as the person refuses to recall "bad" realities. "
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I can certainly support his summary line when he says:
Only one eternal constant exists in our complex world: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, yes and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). The ages will never be too complex for Jesus to rescue and sustain. Understanding Jesus will enable any generation to cope with and survive its age. "

Monday, March 05, 2007

To Fold, Spindle and Mutilate....


Wanna give your wait staff a smile along with his/her tip?

Try a little Origami with your bills. For step by step directions,
go HERE

Girl Scout Cookie time



Over on the Simple Human blog there is some good info on finding Girl Scout Cookies. Back in the day I used to sell 'em myself, so I'm always a sucker for a few boxes.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Too much free time in China??

I checked my stats recently to see where visitors to Mind Muffins were coming from. Just today I had three differnt log-ins from China: one from Sichuan, one from Beijing and one from Shandong. None of these showed a referring link, so I have no clue what brought them here.

I found that to be just a bit curious.

TUNES

In doing a bit of blog exploration this afternoon I came across THIS site. Due to my not understanding the language I haven't a clue what it is about, but I love the music.

On the other hand, while I enjoy reading Papa Herman's words and consider him to be a dear friend, I avoid his MySpace site entirely because his chosen soundtrack leaves me feeling rather frazzled.

I've always been intrigued by the way that music influences us. When I was in college I did a research paper on Muzak... there's a tune by Porcupine Tree about it that says:
"Hear the sound of music Drifting in the aisles Elevator Prozac Stretching on for miles The music of the future Will not entertain It's only meant to repress ..."

There's no doubt in my mind that rhythm and beat influence how we move, what we learn, what we notice and trigger emotions.

I'm not likely to ever include music with my blog, but IF I did...my soundtrack would probably be a compilation of tunes - some mix of Indigo Girls, Black Diamond, Poi Dog Pondering and the Cocteau Twins

Yeah, there are days I throw back to my old AC/DC impulses, but the older I get the less I relate to that sort of scene.

Peace Train


The song Peace Train by Cat Stevens (Now known as Yusuf Islam) has long been a favorite of mine. There is a wonderful little slide show of pictures of Terhan, Iran set to this tune which really touched my spirit.

Many thanks to Leo Sadorf for sharing this.The images are by Saleh Ara who maintains a photo blog of scenes from Iran.

I think it is tremendously valuable for westerners to get a different glimpse of the Muslim world than what we ordinarily have portrayed in our media.

These are our brothers and sisters.

When I was in Egypt this past November I had a wonderful conversation with my guide, Ossama Sharaf, about how media gives distorted images of other people and places. It works both ways. We are led to believe that the Islamic world is primarily populated by fanatic terrorists. In Egypt, many people there get their impressions of what Americans are like from the television shows like The Bold and the Beautiful and The Jerry Springer Show.

From the page on Jerry Springer Show it says: "The Jerry Springer Show is probably most known for its foul mouths, excessive fighting, excessive nudity and wacky stories. Nearly every episode, if not all, have at least one bleeped over foul word. Then there's the sound effects. A clanging bell indicates it's time for a fight! Whenever a fat woman shows her boobs, the sound of a cow going "MOO!" is heard. "

Is it any wonder we are perceived as immoral, self indulgent, violent, greedy monsters by some?

That picture is no more accurate of Americans as a whole than the images of women-hating extremists are that we are indoctorinated with.

There are cases of cruelty and shame that are tragically real in BOTH places - here and in the land of Islam. There are also wonderful, caring people who love their families and worship their God in both lands.

I pray for the day that we may know peace with our brothers and sisters, both here and abroad.

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