Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Good Samaritan

"Excuse me!", an older, bordering-on-filthy, woman yelled at me this morning on my way to work. As if she had been hollering at me all day and was finally able to break my sound barrier.
I gave her a smile and the ol' 'may I help you' raised eyebrows, "Yes?"
"Do you have change for a dollar?", she shouted more than asked.
I said, "I'm sorry, I don't have any cash on me."
"Well, f--- you!", she spat!
"F--- me?" I asked. "You don't have change for a dollar, either, and I'm not mad at you!"
And while we're at it. I'm sorry that I don't know the directions to where you're going right off the top of my head. It's a small miracle I even know how to get to where I'm going! And I certainly do apologize, Homeless Hungry Person, that my doggy bag doesn't contain the exact food you were craving, but - what's that saying? - beggars can't be choosers?!
I really should try to be more accommodating to all the people out there who so desperately seem to need my assistance.
I'll work on that!

Happy Birthday, Princess!!

Our adorable middle girl, Wednesday, turned eight over the holiday weekend! She played with her sisters in the yard, and her Golden cousins, Jake and Amy, spent the whole weekend with us! They all had a lot of fun!! Wednesday wanted to go to the park with us on Monday for a Memorial Day picnic with friends, but she chickened out at the last minute and stayed home. Maybe next year.......

I Have Fallen

I wish I were one
to read poetry at dinner
Sip wine and smile
at interesting strangers

I wish I were one
to set the mood
with amber and candles
a language less crude

I wish I were one
whose eyes would twinkle
with crooked smiles
and foreheads wrinkled

Instead I have fallen
red, yellow, orange
Like trees in mourning
for summers past
I am changing

I wish I were one
to court my reflection
And call it a dance
in the moon's sweet protection

I wish I were one
to contemplate flowers
Compare them to lovers
lost over these hours

Instead I have fallen

Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon

I was tricked! Duped by some book review writer chick in People magazine who told me this was a good book and I believed her!
It wasn't even until after I had read the stupid thing that I noticed the rave reviews listed on the back cover were actually for the author's first book, not this one!
I found the book trite and predictable. There were no unexpected twists and turns, no shocking revelations. I had it all figured out loooonnnnnnnggggggg before the last chapter and honestly had to force myself to finish it.
Maybe I really do need Oprah to choose my books for me!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

grayson ... by Lynne Cox

I would love to convince you that there is a bit of cleverness involved in my book-choosing process, but I already let the cat out of the bag when I wrote about Middlesex, so you know that the whole process is, for me, purely aesthetic. I chose “grayson” because I have a nephew named Grayson. That's it. Nothing clever about that a’tall.
That being said, however, “grayson” is an enchanting recount of the morning seventeen-year-old Lynne spent helping a baby whale find his mother. On a surface level, this is a delightful adventure and up-close glimpse into a world most of us will never have the pleasure of experiencing. And if you dive just a bit deeper, it is a story of love and the potency of positive thinking. Positive Energy. It is proof of making a connection beyond our limited vocabularies and lets us believe, once and for all, in interspecies communication and the power of love!
This is a quick little read you can share with your whole family. I couldn’t help but think of my sister-in-law, Lise’, and her son Grayson while reading this, and how she would love to share this book with each of her precious little ones. It is a story of mothers and children, of humans and animals, of strength and support.
“grayson” is as refreshing and intoxicating as the sea itself!
Dive in!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

None of us chooses the hands we’re dealt in life. No one asks for heartache or poverty, illness or abuse. In spite of our sometimes bad decision-making, we don’t actually invite these tragedies into our lives. And while we have little choice in the matter of bad circumstances, we do have a choice in how we handle them. So we find that place inside ourselves that gives us strength. We embrace the love that is given to us and we try to return it. We find that momentary ray of sunlight in our hearts and we hang on to that for as long as we can. “The world will give you that once in a while, a brief time-out; the boxing bell rings and you go to your corner, where somebody dabs mercy on your beat-up life.”
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a wonderful journey into the power of love and strength and finding the truth. We follow sweet, flawed little Lily and simple, rough-around-the-edges (yet terribly endearing) Rosaleen on their ill-conceived escape from a life of pain and suffering in search of answers and a safe home. They find all of this when they knock on the door to the pink house of August Boatwright, her honey bees, and the Daughters of Mary. All of this wrapped perfectly in the most beautifully written tale I have ever read. It is filled with delicious similes, metaphors, humor and tenderness. It is a coming of age trek into the deepest places within ourselves.
While we all have a certain need to find answers to the darker questions shading our lives, we must be careful to search only for the answers we can actually deal with. Sometimes the truth is a far tougher pill to swallow than the bitterness of not knowing.
That being said, it is a journey worth taking.
Dip your feet in the water, lie back and let the sun warm your face for awhile and simply relish the moment. I know sometimes they seem few and far between, but when those moments come ... they are sweet as honey.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Crazy Train

If you know, or even suspect, that you are going crazy ... is that a good sign or a bad sign? Because I am pretty sure I am there or very, very close!
I was riding the Metro this morning, forced to watch some woman slurp her overly beefy thumb each and every time she turned the page of the newspaper she was evidently speed-reading, and trying desperately to concentrate on my book. Meanwhile, another incredibly large woman was rooting around in the seat behind me, grunting and squealing like a big ol' wild Snort Pig, kicking the back of my seat in a surprisingly rhythmic succession. I tried to hold my book close enough to my face and high enough in the air so as to block out all the picking, and tapping, and smacking, and breathing, and .... and all the stupid noises and sights that infiltrate my brain on a simple 40 minute train ride. Another woman was trying to sing loud enough to block out all the same irritants, or perhaps merely the voices in her head (really, who can be sure), and I am wondering when that little guy with the DON'T DO IT!! sandwich board parading around in the front of my brain is just going to chuck the whole futile mission!?!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

I decided to reread Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. However, when I started reading it, I realized I had never actually read this book. I honestly thought I did. I know I wanted to. I only vaguely remember seeing the made-for-tv movie.
And this is actually sad because Tuesdays with Morrie is a book you should read with a highlighter handy. It is simply and humbly written about this beautiful, beautiful man by his student and friend. It’s a book you will want to read and reread and wrap up as gifts.
I am late in reviewing this book - most people read it ten years ago.
But ten years ago, I didn’t know my beautiful sister-in-law and funny friend, Linda, would be diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease). I didn’t know that this story would profoundly touch and change my life. I knew absolutely nothing about this progressive, disabling, fatal disease.
Morrie was special. He looked at life as precious and each day a gift. That is difficult to do sometimes. As I mentioned after reading A Lesson Before Dying - how could we possibly know what would go through our minds if we were in the same situation?
We can ask a friend.
We can talk to Linda and the other courageous heroes we have in our lives who wake up every day and face the unknown and put on their bravest expressions, and they smile and laugh and set their fears aside ... and they do it all for us!
We can visit our friends and touch them and hold them and we can tell them what they mean to us and how precious each and every second with them is to us.
Morrie said that a life may end, but the relationship doesn’t. I keep that in my heart.
To Linda - I love you. I tell you that when I see you and I tell you that when we email. And knowing that you know that, and knowing that you love me too, means more than anything else in my life. It always will.

The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality, and the Moving Image

Part 1: Dreams
"Dreams addresses film’s ability to transport viewers out of their everyday lives and into states that lie between wakefulness and sleep, sending them on journeys into the darker recesses of the imagination."
To all the people who attended this exhibit at the Hirshhorn yesterday in the hour and a half prior to closing...
the people who didn't understand the concept of "using your indoor voice", much less "your indoor IN A MUSEUM voice"....
the people who think an art gallery is the perfect place for a nap or some heavy petting....
the young adults who can't see a penis without giggling....
the not-nearly-young-enough people who think sculptures and jungle gyms are one in the same....
the people who couldn't just be quiet and contemplate the amazing, raw, graphic images and perhaps walk away a slightly better person....
to all of those people:
Shame on you!

Late Spring (Photographic Evidence That I Sometimes Leave the House!)

Late Spring (Photographic Evidence That I Sometimes Leave the House!)

Throw Like a Girl

If you're like me, and I know I am, you have a short little span of attention. Throw Like a Girl is a collection of short stories by Jean Thompson.
They're good.
Read 'em.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

I picked up A Lesson Before Dying when I had just a few pages left to read of No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. I was feeling completely indifferent about No Country and, frankly, just couldn’t wait to be finished with it. I can see why they wanted to make a motion picture out of it, and I still wouldn’t mind seeing that, I just didn’t really enjoy reading it. I finished it feeling next to nothing, and that kindly made me sad because I usually try to take away something from everything that I read.
Then I began A Lesson Before Dying.
About 40 pages in, I thought, “Wow, this narrator, Grant, is really a jerk!” I didn’t know how I was ever going to warm up to him or really, any of the characters. I was nervous! Slowly but surely, however I began to feel compassion for Grant and Jefferson, Miss Emma and the Reverend. Even Grant’s domineering aunt worked her way into my heart.
I do not honestly look forward to crying my eyes out in public places. I suppose on some level I must not mind, though, I mean “A Lesson Before Dying”? Seriously, what did I think was going to happen? But, these were not just gratuitous tears for the obvious. A Lesson Before Dying really left me with something.
The story is set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940’s. A young black man is wrongly accused and convicted of murder and sentenced to death by the electric chair. In the trial, Jefferson’s defense lawyer calls him a hog, not a man, and therefore, should not be put to death. There would be no reason for it, but Jefferson is sentenced anyway.
Grant Wiggins is another black man and a teacher at the small plantation school. Grant’s aunt and Jefferson’s godmother convince Grant (against his strong will) to visit Jefferson and impart his wisdom and pride to him before his death. Teach him that he is a man - not a hog.
I like a book that raises questions and awareness. Not just questions like “What is the book about?”, but real Life Questions.
How do you hold your head up high when you are chained down? How do you stand up like a man when your hands are literally tied? How do you take pride in yourself when the world thinks you are less than human?
What would you think about if you knew the exact date and time of your death? If your physical options were limited, what would go on in your mind? What would you say to your loved ones? What would you write if you had a tiny pencil and penny notebook?
How would you become a hero when no one has ever, ever been a hero for you?
The truth is very simple, really, we just don’t know.
We don’t know what’s going to flash through our minds or what we will see when the time comes...
We don’t know exactly what to believe in....
We can only try to be the very best we can be and we try to make our loved ones proud of us. We don’t think about how we look to strangers or what other people think of us. We hold our heads as high as we possibly can.
We honestly have only one thing.
Pure and Simple.
We have faith.

Tell Nannan I walked.