Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'll own it.

I was way obnoxious at Costco yesterday.

Here's what happened:

It started out as an innocent shopping trip with my friend Karen.  We were being efficient shoppers, staying to our lists and zipping down those aisles as fast as the extraordinarily heavy carts would let us.  Seriously, those carts are HEAVY! They're heavy even before you put anything in them.   Add 144 jars of peanut butter and a case of water and, shoot, you've got one heck of a job as pusher.  Olympic bobsled teams should train at Costco.

Then we got to the book aisle.

It's like the La Brea Tar Pits and just like a mastadon bogged down in the tar, I get stuck in the pit of inexpensive and Oprah recommended books.  I can't just walk on by.  Oh no, I have to stop and be more than a little obnoxious.  Hard to believe, I know, because normally I'm the picture of gentility and grace.

You might want to clean the vomit off the floor before you leave the room.  Someone might slip and fall.  I don't want to be held accountable for any injury.

Meanwhile, back at Costco, I start playing the"Read That, Didn't Read That, Won't Read That, You Should Really Read That" game.  I also like to play that game at BevMo, but substituting the word "Drink" for "Read".  It's charming.

Apparently I have a voice that carries because after one round of the game, I accrue an audience.  No, really, several people come over to our side of the gigantic table and watch which books I point too.  Then they ask my opinion.

Silly people.  They have no idea the Pandora's Box they have just opened.  The only difference are my Furies are either hard bound or paperback.  That and they don't destroy things unless you throw them but that is an entirely different post for much later.

I gladly hold court on the aisle of cheap paperbacks for a few moments while my wonderful, long suffering friend waits patiently with our basket of bread, bagels and economy sized cereal boxes.  I don't know why she puts up with me.

Clearly I need to find place to work my book suggesting magic.  Anyone want to pay me?  I'll work for cheap.  I do love those Costco hot dogs.  They're cheap.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

3 Things I Realized When I Finished Reading Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

1.  It's a very good thing that I did not major in business or any other business type concentration.  Or law.  Or medicine.  Or computer science.
2.  When it comes to success, some people are just luckier than others.  The rest of us get to buy books about the lucky ones.  Lucky us.
3.  I might feel really horrible about how unlucky I am if I had the same definition of success as the author of this book.  Good thing I don't.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I'm still working my way through Cutting for Stone (Vintage) by Abraham Verghese.  It's a very long book.  Did you know that Ethiopia has a strong Italian influence, especially in the years following World War II?  I didn't.  I learn so much from reading.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I sometimes think that God might be a librarian.

For some time now I've been thinking a lot about heaven; what happens after our bodies are done working.  If heaven exists, what is it like?  Is it the "pearly gates, streets of gold" thing that I was taught about in Sunday School?  Is it a specific place?  Will I get bored?  How long is eternity anyway?  Will Ben & Jerry's be served?  I hope so, I love that Cherry Garcia.  There is a new flavor called Maple Blondie that is pretty darn awesome too.  That would be so cool to eat Maple Blondie ice cream in heaven.  I wonder if Jesus will want a bowl?  He might have to get his own pint.  I don't know if I'll want to share, even in my heavenly state of wonderfulness.  Ice cream is a pretty personal thing.

Wait, where was I?  Heaven and librarians.   In any case, I've been thinking about heaven for a while now. I have spoken at a women's retreat about longing for heaven.  I find myself wishing and wondering about the whole thing more often than I think might be normal.  Given my recent streams of thought, I thought it interesting when I opened my most recent read, Cutting for Stone (Vintage) and the epigraph (A poem that the author chooses to use to lead the reader into his book.  Thanks Lita, you are a wonder woman of all things literary! What color shall I make your cape or would you prefer a tiara?) is a wonderful poem by Rabindranath Tagore that reads:
And because I love this life
I know I shall love death as well.
The child cries out when
From the right breast the mother
Takes it away, in the very next moment
To find in the left one
Its consolation.

Funny that I should be thinking about life after death and the very first thing I read in a randomly chosen novel is this poem.

The other book I picked up that very same trip, just because I love the author, not because I was looking for books on the subject:  Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright.  Is is way too geeky to have a favorite theologian?

God is many, many things.  Creator, protector, redeemer . . . librarian.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

 Just breathing.

Thanks Eddie Vedder for the reminder.

Love that song.

Watch a great version here:

Eddie?  Would it be weird if I told you that I have a mad crush on you?  I loved you in Singles.  You, Matt Dillon and Campbell Scott all in the same movie at the same time?  Oh, and that guy who played the cute professor on Thirtysomething.  Bridget Fonda is pretty cute too.  But you're my favorite.  Glad we're growing old together.


On second thought, it would be weird.   Never mind.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Last night I attended a Taize service at a local church.  We entered the church, which was completely dark, lit only by candles at the front and the back of the sanctuary.  We were given an order of worship, copies of the songs to be sung and a tiny flashlight so we could read both.  I love flashlights.  It was all I could do to keep myself from switching it on and off the entire service.  I exercised incredible self-control.  Praise God for small miracles.

The service was beautiful.  There were large periods of silence interspersed with short chants led by a woman with a clear and beautiful voice.  There were times to pray silently, to pray aloud and to light candles as an expression of worship.  As my singing voice is sketchy at best and Latin isn't a language I jump easily into, I spent most of the time in silent contemplation.  I found myself praying that God would remove all the worry and burden and sadness that seems to be holding me back from being the woman I know deep in my heart that I am supposed to be.  There's a whole lot of all that stuff.  God might need a forklift to haul it all away.  It will probably take several trips.  Lots of worry.  Lots of sadness.  Heavy burdens.

As much as I would like to say that there was some supernatural lifting of my spirit and I left empowered and changed, I left pretty much the same girl as I was when I walked in.  I wasn't disappointed.  I just wasn't transformed in a dramatic way.  No big deal.

I woke up today, went for a run, stopped off at the market, baked a cake and then sat down for lunch.  Tuna salad.  Yum.  I do like to read while I eat if I'm home alone and today was a day to start a new book.  Cutting for Stone (Vintage) by Abraham Verghese is my latest read.  I'm on page 13.  It's amazing.  I'm sure there will be many entries about this book.  I more than kind of think I was supposed to start this book today, especially after my Taize experience last night.  Here's why.

Marion is an orphaned boy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopa.  He goes to Matron, "Missing Hospital's wise and sensible leader" (Verghese, 3) for guidance.  She advises him to do the hardest thing he could possibly do as his life's work.  When he questions her advice she tells him, and this is the part that stopped my tuna salad laden fork in awe of timing and providence, "Because, Marion, you are an instrument of God.  Don't leave the instrument sitting in its case, my son. Play!  Leave no part of your instrument unexplored.  Why settle for 'Three Blind Mice' when you can play the 'Gloria'?"  (page 6)

Marion takes her literally, protesting that he can't play any musical instrument, so how could he possibly play Bach's beautiful "Gloria".

Hold on.

Here comes the part I love.

The Matron tells him "'No Marion,' she said, her gaze soft, reaching for me, her gnarled hands rough on my cheeks. 'No, not Bach's Gloria. Yours!  Your Gloria lives within you.  The greatest sin is not finding it, ignoring what God made possible in you.'" (page 6)

Not Bach's "Gloria" but mine.

I have to think about this more.

I think I use too many words to be a blogger.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Still working on  Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  Now not only do you need to be supernaturally lucky in order to be "successful", but you need to be in the upper middle class with highly educated, overly involved parents.  Hmmm.  Oh, and you need to have been born in very specific years, depending upon your area of specialty.  Yikes.  I'm more than kind of screwed.

In other news, just finished a sweet little novel called Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale, about a young woman who spends three weeks at a Jane Austen themed camp like thing.  I would call it an Austen-immersion program maybe?  Very sweet.  A quick read.  Made me want to go on a three week vacation to anywhere.  I wonder what literary vacation I would choose to be immersed in.  Most likely not Beowolf.  Hmmm.  What would you choose?

Friday, March 12, 2010

In my last post I asked, rhetorically of course, about the nature of success.  As it would happen, I was listening to "Morning Edition" on NPR this morning and the Rabbi Harold Kushner was being interviewed and he mentioned a book he had written in 2007 called Overcoming Life's Disappointments.  He talked for a bit about how our culture has linked power with success and what happens to us when our lives do not turn out the way we had planned them.  I will be reading this book.  I wonder if it is on Itunes as an audio book.  I may have to listen to it tonight.  Amazing how God works.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Upon suggestion from two friends, I've started reading a book called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  Granted I've only read the first few chapters, but what I can surmise so far is that his premise is that success lies mainly in the hands of luck.  Some people get those extraordinary opportunities and some don't.  Yes, what one does with said opportunities plays a huge factor in the person's success, but the mitigating factor is the lucky chance that just happens to land in one's lap.  As a spectacularly unlucky person, I am guessing that Mr. Gladwell's response to my apparent lack of success would be a big ol' "sucks to be you."  Huh.

I am interested to read the rest of this book in hopes that it doesn't turn out that way.  What it has made me think of, however, is how I define success.  What does successful look like?  Can it be whittled down to strokes of luck?  Can an "unlucky" person who never gets that big break be considered successful?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

"Life forms illogical patterns. It is haphazard and full of beauties which I try to catch as they fly by, for who knows whether any of them will ever return?"
~Margot Fonteyn

Patterns are cool. If you pay close enough attention, you can find all sorts of patterns in pretty much every arena of life. I have a tendency to seek out patterns in my world as a way of trying to figure out the "why's" of my life. Sometimes the patterns I find are significant, sometimes trivial and if I wait long enough, each one of them has a reason.

I have recently read two books that are similar thematically enough for me to consider the start of a pattern: Still Alice and Deaf Sentence: A Novel. Both are stories of people, experts in their fields, who find themselves afflicted by whatever it is they are experts in. In Deaf Sentence: A Novel, the protagonist is a linguist who is losing his hearing, becoming unable to hear those sounds he has for so long studied and taught. Still Alice, tells the story of Alice, a professor of cognitive psychology who develops early onset Alzheimer's Disease, going from one who studies thinking to one who cannot think clearly enough to put a sentence together.

So here's the pattern I noticed in the books I have been led to read:  it seems as though the crosses we bear are inextricably linked with how we are gifted.  A linguist, a lover of language, loses his ability to hear.  A psychologist loses her ability to think.  I think about Beethoven, brilliant musician and composer becomes deaf.  Accomplished athletes lose limbs to disease.  A singer is robbed of her voice.  Those in the most need of community are continually left alone.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

While watching "The Bachelor" finale last night (Vienna? Really?), I finished Deaf Sentence by David Lodge. I often read while the television is on. I read with music playing. Shoot, I could probably read sitting in the front row of a rock concert. At least if it were an older band there would be enough light for reading from all the lighters. Do you still raise lighters at concerts? Crud, I'm getting old. In any case, I suppose you could say that I more than kind of like reading.

Deaf Sentence is an interesting book, the story of a retired linguistics professor who has developed high frequency deafness, which allows him to hear and comprehend most consonants but very few vowel sounds. It follows him through several everyday seasons of life: the birth of a grandchild, the death of a parent, the challenges of marriage, all seen through the lens of his increasing deafness. The plot line itself is not extraordinary. What would prod me to recommend this book, however, is the intelligent, gentle, vulnerable and real voice of the protagonist, Desmond. I bet Desmond could read at a rock concert. He's deaf. He wouldn't be distracted by the noise.

Monday, March 01, 2010

I am working on a book right now called Deaf Sentence by David Lodge. I'll have something to say about it when I'm finished. More important that WHAT I'm reading right now, is WHERE I'm reading.

I had some time before D's hockey game this Sunday in Escondido, CA. I wandered about and ended up at the California Center for the Arts. The museum didn't open until 1 o'clock so I had some time to crack open a book.

The sky was a perfect blue and the temperature 68 degrees. I found a great bench and did what I do best, I read.

Yet another reminder why one should ALWAYS have a book handy. You never know when you will find the perfect spot.