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Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Out-With and the Fury

If you’ve read “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” by John Boyne you’ll recognize these two phrases.  (Tho I haven’t seen it yet, I imagine if you’ve seen the movie you’ll recognize them as well….)

One of the things I wanted to do when I started this blog was to write about the books I read and the impact they have on me.  I’ve done that a few times since starting this—tho not as often as I imagined I would.  Or as often as I’d like to.  I have so many thoughts flowing through my head when I finish a book they never seem to “gel” into anything that would make sense to anyone else.

After reading this book I don’t really care if it makes sense to anyone else.  I want to put pen to paper (even if it’s only e-paper) and record a few thoughts.  It doesn’t matter if it flows well, or if it’s something that interests anyone else.  I want to write about it anyway.

Holocaust books trouble and intrigue me at the same time.  They always have.  I’m not sure why.  This book was no exception.  It’s written from the perspective of a 9 year old German boy.  It’s charming, beguiling, abhorrent and disquieting all at the same time. 

I don’t want to re-tell the story or discuss the plot.  If you want to read what people think check out the reviews on Amazon.com or on Goodreads.com.  Plenty of people smarter than me have written lots of thoughts.

There is something so compelling, so captivating in Bruno’s story.  You see Auschwitz (or “Out-With” as he pronounces it) and the Fuehrer (or the “Fury” as Bruno calls him) through the eyes of an innocent, naïve 9 year old child.  The author does a remarkable job of showing his adult audience the horror of the situation while sheltering his younger readers from the full vileness of Auschwitz and the Holocaust.  I am truly impressed with how Boyne was able to successfully balance the two. 

As an adult reader of his book I found myself drawn into Bruno’s life more than I had realized.  At the end of chapter 18 I had to literally set down the book.  I set it aside and said out loud, “I don’t want to read the rest.  This will NOT end well.  I don’t want to read this anymore.  I don’t want to know how it ends.  He’s so innocent.  He has no idea.”

I picked it back up a few minutes later and read chapter 19 in almost total denial.  “Maybe it will be okay.  Maybe it won’t be as bad as I think.  Maybe the author won’t take the story where I think he’s taking it.  I’m jumping to conclusions.  Maybe it will turn out fine.” 

How did it end?  You’ll just have to read the book to find out.  (Or e-mail me for more of my thoughts offline.)  I’ll say only that the author impressed the heck out of me.

The thing that is staying with me (as much as the story) is the author’s note at the end of the book.

Boyne writes, “The issue of writing about the Holocaust is, of course, a contentious matter, and any novelist who explores it had better be sure about his or her intentions before setting out.  It’s presumptuous to assume that from today’s perspective one can truly understand the horrors of the concentration camps, although it’s the responsibility of the writer to uncover as much emotional truth within that desperate landscape as he possible can.”

Wow.

Maybe that hints at why Holocaust literature pulls at me so much.  Maybe it’s (at least partially) because I know that I cannot understand what happened.  What it must have been like.  What it must have felt like to experience it.  I cannot imagine how those who ran the camps managed to convince themselves it was okay to treat other human beings so horribly.  So brutally.  I cannot imagine how so many people knew about it and did nothing.  And how so many more people intentionally chose NOT to have knowledge of what was happening.  How many people chose to deny what was happening.

I can’t wrap my brain or my heart around any of those questions.  So I read, and re-read, as many different perspectives as I can.  I read as many different authors as I can.  Any well-written book that touches on the Holocaust in any way—even if the main focus is not present, first-person perspective.  From “The Reader” to “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” I am drawn to them.  With a curiosity to learn more.  To attempt to gain a better understanding.  To see things from a new perspective.  To answer in any small way possible, “Why?” and “What can I do to keep it from happening again?”

None of the answers are satisfactory.

There aren’t enough words in the universe to explain “Why.”  When I get to Heaven the first thing I’m going to ask God is, “Why?”  I am positive I will not be alone.   Faith (the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen) alone allows me to trust God will have an answer we can all accept.  I cannot imagine what it will be.

“What can I do to keep it from happening again in my lifetime?”  Yeah.  That question makes me want to scream.  And cry.  Look at the genocide/holocaust in Rwanda and Darfur and Zimbabwe.  Those were in my lifetime.  Those were in my adult lifetime.  What did I do?  What am I doing?  How often did I actively avoid news stories…..feeling there was nothing I could do.  I tell myself, those places are so far away.  Maybe it’s not so bad.  Maybe it’s not what they are saying.  Maybe……

But I know.  It is that bad.  It is what they are saying, and have said.  It is.

And I feel so helpless.  So powerless.

I pray, “God do SOMETHING!  End this!  End it now.  You can do that.  You can bring people to their senses. Please.  Please.  Please!  I’m begging.  Bring peace.  Bring love.  Bring understanding.”    And I see no change.

Maybe I’m drawn to Holocaust literature because I’m searching for an answer.  What can I do?  What can I do?  What can I do?

I have no answers.  So I continue searching.

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Back to the beginning for the potato.

In the two weeks after my last blog entry I found myself still locked in flight mode when trying to think about possibilities for the future.

I thought I had made a pretty good start with answering “How do I want to feel?”  Yet it didn’t really go anywhere after that.  I kept looking at my questions, thinking about them when they weren’t physically in front of me, and hitting a wall.

Coach Jim has helped me form the habit of trying to think of things as hitting a speed bump instead of hitting a wall.  It’s a really helpful visual!  Much more positive and manageable than a wall.  At least with speed bumps you know if you back up far enough and get enough momentum behind you you’ll be able to move forward over them.  With walls?  Not so much.

I kept trying to think of the screeching halt of forward movement as a speed bump.  I really did!  I gotta confess…..if it was a speed bump it was the world’s largest one.  Grin!  I couldn’t get over it.  I couldn’t find a way around it.  I couldn’t even see over it.  Very frustrating.

And I was NOT looking forward to the next conversation with Jim.  The ONE thing I want to be working on, the ONE thing I’m trying to focus on, the ONE thing I keep coming back to…..it keeps shoving me back.  I end up shutting down.  Getting stuck.  Not being able to pull back and see the picture from a different perspective.

So while I wasn’t looking forward to the conversation because I really, REALLY don’t enjoy admitting I haven’t been able to do something that on the surface seems to be really, REALLY simple…..at the same time I found myself really, REALLY looking forward to the conversation because I knew Jim would be able to help guide me through it.

I’d sent him an agenda prior to our conversation with three different items on it.  One of them was “general life direction.”  Jim asked, “So Spudsie, what topic do you want to start with today?”

“Well Jim, the one I don’t want to talk about is the one I think we should start with.  General life direction.  I keep hitting a wall.”

Am I the only one who does this?  I would rather have talked about ANYTHING other than my struggles (and self assessed failures) at thinking about my future.  Weather.  Sports.  Gardening.  Reading.  (Okay….that’s not a fair one.  I’d rather talk about books and reading with anyone anytime! LOL!) Even recipes for green bean casserole would have been preferable!  Yet “general life direction” is the topic I chose to talk about.  I figured if I was fighting it so much it was probably the one thing I needed to talk about.  (And really….who wants to exchange green bean casserole recipes anyway?!)

I told Jim I was stuck.  And he asked me a few questions to try and figure out exactly what I meant by “stuck.”  And he tried a different approach for getting me to talk about my thoughts for the future. 

WHAM!

No, not the 1980’s music group.  (Wake me up before you go-go…..opps….sorry…I distracted myself!)

That was the sound of a potato hitting a wall.  So maybe it was more of a SQUISH than a WHAM?

Okay.  Jim’s done this before.  He tried another approach.  Okay.  This one seems to be working better.

SQUISH!

Hmmmmm.  Okay.  We got a little further with that one.  How about…..

SQUISH!  SQUISH!

Wow!  Who knew potatoes could bounce when they hit a wall????  That was impressive Spudsie!

(GRIN!)

Yeah.  Several different approaches.  Same results.  Shut down of any flow.  Of any momentum.

So Jim took a step back.  And asked more questions.  Hmmmm…..Spudsie doesn’t typically have problems talking about the past, so let’s ask her a history question about this topic.

“What’s the first time you remember having this reaction to thinking about the future?”

A-ha!  (Hey!  Another 1980’s music group!  It must be a theme tonight…)  This question I have an answer to .  My paperweight story!  I turned into a puddle of crying, starchy goop whenever I looked at my “what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” paperweight.  That’s when I knew I needed help.

So we talked about that for a little while.  And then Jim asked, “So have you ever tried writing an answer to that question?”

Silence.

Ummmmmmmm.  Gee.  Now I feel silly!  No I haven’t .  Sheesh…why didn’t I think of that?!  Writing has been the one place I seem to find answers while working with Jim.  (Well…..besides in the actual conversations of course!)  I start to write something and some odd neural connections start connecting in different and new ways.  Things aren’t as overwhelming.  They aren’t as scary.  They aren’t as difficult when I write about them.

And the paperweight question was the start of all of that.  And since it doesn’t scare me anymore, why not try to write out an answer?!  Jim!  You’re a genius!!  (That’s said in all seriousness by the way.)

So here’s an attempt to start to answer that question.

“What would I attempt to do if I knew I could not fail?”

Number one.  Write a story/book.  Fiction.  I even know the general time period and a general theme-ish type thing I’m drawn to.  World War II and just after WWII era Germany.  Somehow tied in to Holocaust survivors. 

I would LOVE to do the research for this.  Research is something that really energizes me.  And there is so much raw emotion surrounding this subject that it helps me realize that emotions are a good thing—not something to be frightened of.  They can be something that strengthens you.  That carry you though the unbelievable horrors of war.   Of life.

A year ago I would NEVER have thought of this.  I scoffed at creativity.  Oh!  Not in other people.  I really admired it (and still do admire it) in others!  It was simply something I thought I didn’t possess.  And while creativity may not be something I feel I possess large quantities of, I definitely see sparks of it in myself.  My brain has had to come up with some really creative ways of dealing with some pretty lousy stuff to get me through to this point.  Now I want to see if I can redirect some of that ability in other directions.

Number two.  I would do something with animals.  Oh heck….who am I kidding?!  If I knew I could not fail I’d do something with birds—specifically penguins.  I’m serious!!  I love those crazy little flightless waterfowl!  When I volunteered as a docent at our local zoo I would watch them for hours at a time.  And at the end of my 3 hour “shift” I’d always have half a dozen stories to share with the zookeepers or with Mr. Spuds.  “Oh!  You wouldn’t believe Watson today!  And Tressel’s still refusing to eat—even when her dad dropped the whole fish right on her feet.  She just ignored it and kept begging for food!”

The more I watch the birds from my bedroom window the more I realize that birds are birds are birds.  The sparrows do so many of the same things the penguins did.  (Well no kidding Spudster!  They are both BIRDS!! J) It’s really cool to watch them and be able to understand why they are doing what they are doing.  Hmmmm…that probably doesn’t make much sense.  You’ll just have to trust me!

I know this one isn’t really specific.  I’m not sure exactly what I would do—I just know I’d find SOMETHING (other than being a zookeeper) penguin related.  Maybe lead tours to take other “penguin freaks” like me to visit them in their natural environments?  That’d be super cool!

Number three.  I would eat, drink and sleep books.  Again, I’m serious.  I love to read.  Love, love, love, LOVE IT!!!  What I’m missing now is someone to share that with.  Mr. Spuds is allergic to books.  Or at least that’s what he claims!  😉  He will read one or two books if he’s having a really good year.  Me?  I’ll read one or two a weekend! 

I’ve found a couple of outlets for my “You will not BELIEVE how amazing this book is!” thoughts.  But it’s not enough.  I haven’t found anyone locally who wants to read some of the same books at the same time and talk about them.  Sigh.  It’s frustrating to have all of these thoughts in my head and no “easy” way to see if anyone else agrees. 

So maybe I could start writing more “formal” reviews.  (As if any writing I do is “formal”!  LOL)  Or start trying to find a book club, or form a book club, or I dunno…..just do something to get more conversations going about books.  Goodreads is awesome!  And The Next Best Book Club within Goodreads is an awesome group for sharing book thoughts!  I still find myself struggling to communicate all of the thoughts I have about a book in a few paragraphs.  I find myself wanting to stop in the middle of a chapter and have a face to face conversation or a phone conversation with someone, ANYONE…….  “Hey in chapter 23 when Tom Builder went into that cathedral for the first time did it make you think of…..”  (Ahem.  Jim… just in case you missed that, it was a reference to “Pillars of the Earth.”  😉 No pressure or anything!)

Where was I?  Oh yeah…giving my coach grief because he hasn’t read “Pillars” yet.

What?  That’s not what I was talking about?  Are you sure???  J

Anyway, I’d do something talking about amazing books.  And amazing authors.  And discovering new ones.  And the classics.

Number four.  God.  I’d devote my life to God……………… and become a nun.  Although since I’m not Catholic that’s probably going to be a problem.

Okay.  The nun part won’t work obviously.  But whatever I do with my life it has to be something that can help bring glory to God.  To help me share with people how amazing God is and all of the amazing things he’s done in my life.  And is doing in my life.

I suppose this really should be number one…but I’m writing stream-of-conscious-ly and not in order of importance.  God’s definitely got to be an integral part of whatever I do.  And whatever I do needs to help bring me closer to him—to help me learn more about him.

So number four doesn’t really answer the paperweight question.  And that’s okay.  Because whatever answer I give God will be at the center of it.

Number five.  Food and traveling.  I’d do something involving eating food and traveling.

I could be the female version of Anthony Bourdain!  Without the past heroin habit.  Or the cooking skills.  Or the running-your-own-business skills.  Or the publishing connections.

Sigh.  Okay.  So I’m probably not gonna be the next Tony Bourdain am I?  LOL!  J

He does inspire me though.  I love that the voice in his books is the same as his voice in the TV show “No Reservations.”  When I read his books I can hear him talking.  I love that!  I’m not reading a lecture, I’m reading a conversation.  Even Mr. Spuds read a collection of his writings and enjoyed them.  So that’s saying something about his talent as a writer!

If I knew I could not fail (or go broke trying!) I’d develop my palate.  I’d learn to distinguish more flavors.  I’d be the judge on “Iron Chef” who articulates exactly why they love the fresh flavor of the mint in the dish rather than the judge who simply exclaims “This is amazing!!!!”  (BTW, thanks for that example Jim.  It’s really stuck with me!)  With each chef-prepared meal I eat I think I learn a little more about flavors and how they work together.  And it’s really fun!!

And traveling to new place is a blast!  Of course by the time Mr. Spuds and I actually visit them they aren’t really “new” to me…..I’ve researched them to bits and typically have a folder full of possible places to visit, to dine, to explore.  (That’s my capital J-ness coming through loud and clear!)

Number six.  Helping people.  Again, that’s not overly specific is it?  There are sooooo many people in the world hurting, searching, looking, in need and in want of help.  I just want to do something to make their lives easier.  To help them find peace.  To find calm.  To find motivation.  To give them hope. 

As much as I love animals (and trust me on this, I LOVE animals) if given the choice of contributing to a charity that helps animals or a charity that helps people—I chose the charity that helps people every time. 

So maybe I could take my administrative/organizational type skills and use them in an environment that helps people.  A non-profit organization with a mission that inspires me. 

The thought of that energizes me less than the other things I’ve written about—yet it would be better than what I’m doing now.  Hmmmmm…..it’s far more practical and far less energizing.

Number seven.  I’d pick winning lottery numbers.

What?????  Oh come on……it answers the question perfectly!  If I knew I could not fail I’d buy lottery tickets with the winning numbers before they were selected.  Wouldn’t you??

Number eight.  I’d talk for a living.  Yeah….I know ……the potato who communicates with her friends through e-mail rather than the phone or in person wants to talk for a living.

Scoff all you want.  I really enjoy talking to groups of people (or individuals) about topics I’m passionate about.  Back to the docent days…..I loved talking to the zoo visitors about the penguins.  It really energized me to give my 30 second “These are Humboldt penguins and here are a few amazing facts you may not know about them” spiel.  And then to talk one on one with guests who had more question?  It totally fired me up!!

Wow.

A year ago I was in a puddle just looking at the question.  What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

And now I have eight (okay…..technically seven since picking lottery numbers doesn’t really count) different answers!  Wow.  Wow.  Really.  WOW!

So now where do I go?

As always……to be continued.  (That one’s for you Bob!)

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“Called Out of Darkness”

Yesterday was kinda tough for this potato.  The damage I did to my foot while on vacation took an emotional toll.  While still in Vegas it kept me from doing a bunch of stuff I had wanted to do.  I didn’t let it completely sideline me, but I really did miss out on things I had wanted to do.  And the stuff I did despite the injury was marred somewhat by the limp and excruciating pain.  (Hindsight being 20/20 it would have been much less painful had I thought to have Mr. Spuds find an ace bandage to wrap my foot in and a cane so I could keep weight off of it and still move….but alas….I didn’t think of either of those things until I was back home and doctor told me they would help.  D’oh!) 

Basically Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were still fun vacation days, and at the same time they were so much less than I wanted them to be.

At the airport Mr. Spuds got one of Southwest’s special blue envelopes so I could board the plane before the “normal” passengers.  It sounds a little foolish, but I resented needing this special pass.  I really did need it—I was moving so slowly at that point I would have help up the entire boarding process.  But it was one more reminder (in addition to the brutal pain in my foot, lack of a shoe, and basic feeling of unwellness) that I was damaged goods.  And I really didn’t want another reminder.

I managed to get in to see the doctor on Saturday morning.  He didn’t think the foot was broken, but told me to stay off of it.  No problem doc!  It hurts too much to do anything!  He said it should start to feel better in 3 to 5 days.  And if it doesn’t, I get to go see a foot doctor. 

So naturally I spent all day yesterday wallowing in pity party.

Okay, that’s too harsh.  I spent all day yesterday trying to avoid wallowing in a pity party.  I was partially successful.  Despite that, it was essentially a wasted day.  I didn’t read anything.  I didn’t really write anything.  I spent the day staring at the TV, desperately wanting to do laundry, clean the bathroom, visit a friend; all of the stuff I had hoped to do when I returned from Vegas.  But I was stuck in my room—not allowed to do any of it.  I was helpless.  And I really, really, REALLY don’t like being helpless.

Today I decided enough was enough.  I have to return to work tomorrow, and I may as well do whatever I can today—without moving.  So I finished reading the book I had started on the plane.  (Have I mentioned how much I love my Kindle???  It rocks!  I had a dozen books to choose from….and didn’t have to cart around any extra luggage!)  And when I finished that one I decided to finish “Called Out of Darkness” by Anne Rice.  It’s the story of how she found her way back to God.  I had started it before vacation but hadn’t been able to finish it.

The first hundred or so pages were a little challenging for me.  Some it I could really relate to.  Some of it was foreign to me.  Rice grew up Catholic and she describes in great detail what that was like.  The education.  The saints.  The services.  The community.  The Latin.  All of that is pretty foreign to me.  I have a little knowledge, but I haven’t “lived” it and for some reason I found it difficult to relate to.

That was odd—the book I had just finished reading was about a zoo in Warsaw during WWII.  I’ve never been to Warsaw—much less a zoo there.  I clearly wasn’t around during WWII.   I’ve never helped people escape Nazi terrors.  Yet somehow I was able to relate to that book while Rice’s descriptions of a Catholic upbringing escaped me.

Odd.  I don’t really understand the difference.  But there it is.

There were parts of the first hundred or so pages that were easy to relate to.  They talked of Rice’s faith (while growing up) on a very personal level.  That was really neat to read.  She does an excellent job of describing what I would have called indescribable.   She gives words to feelings and thoughts I could not articulate.  Pretty neat stuff!

The final 100 pages of the book were mind-blowing. 

During the first half of the book I found myself thinking, “Get to the point Anne!  This is supposed to be the story of how you found your way back to God.  Why spend so much time describing your early faith?  Tell me about what your faith is NOW!”

I had to laugh when I found myself hit with those thoughts.  “LOL!  Come on Spudsie, it’s her story and she gets to tell it however she wants to.  That’s her right as the author….and as a person.  Just keep reading.”

I think Rice describes a struggle countless Christians have gone through.  Those of us raised on or with a parent’s faith have to go through a journey to make their faith our own.  Hmmmm…..that’s not quite right.  We have to go through a struggle, a journey to find our own faith.  Some of us abandon the original faith completely.  Some stay with the faith generally and make changes to how they practice.  Some cling to the faith of their parents so tightly they risk losing it altogether. 

For some the journey, the struggle is relatively quick.  For Rice the journey took thirty-some years.  As she looks back on those years she sees how her writing mirrored the struggle though she didn’t realize she was in the middle of it.

She talks about how her return to faith, her return to God was a deliberate choice.  One she made knowing it would require active participation on her end.  She didn’t stumble in to a blind faith.  She chose to return to God knowing full well she would have to wrestle with questions of what total devotion to God means.  Of what trusting God means.  Of releasing her own questions of “How can this be your will” to God, instead of answering them on her own.  She eloquently describes those struggles.  And how she went into them with open eyes.

Rice also talks of her fears of returning to God.  She writes, “I believed in God.  I feared Him.  I feared what He might ask of me.  I saw the shallowness of my commitment.  I saw the incompleteness of my life.  Mine was a negotiated abandonment, and that mean it was not a true abandonment at all.”

“I don’t recall talking to anyone about this.  It was too intensely personal to share with another.  And how pompous and foolish it might have sounded over a café table.  What if God wants something more of me?  I’m afraid.”

She struggled to find a way to make a deeper commitment.  And it hit her—she needed to write only for God.  Only for His purposes.  She needed to release that part of herself to Him.

Wow!  If we could all feel that, if we could all come to that place in our Christian lives, in our total lives, how different could church, could religion be?  Totally surrendered to God.  The thing we want to grasp the most—to release that to Him.  What would church communities look like then?  What would families look like?  What would our world look like?

More to the point, what would my world look like if I decided to make that choice?

I could be totally mistaken (I often am!), but I believe Rice wrote this book to tell her story.  To tell of her journey back to God.  Simply to share it because she had lived it.  (And she’s a writer—so that’s what she does.  J)  Perhaps she hoped it would be encouraging to readers.  Maybe she dared to think it might give inspiration to others struggling to find their way to God.

To me she did far more than that.  She challenged me.  She set the example.  She said, “I’m willing to let go of what made me a popular, successful author.  I’m willing to let go of the old characters.  I’m willing to leave them behind and to now write only for God.  I’m willing to ignore critics, willing to ignore doubters, scoffers, willing to be guided by God and God alone in my writing.  I’m willing to let go of the one thing that I know and go wherever God guides me.  Because I love and trust Him.”

What a remarkable thing to do.  What an example.  What a challenge.

Reading often transports me to unexpected places.  This book has been no exception.  And for a work of non-fiction to transport me to an unexpected spiritual place—that’s quite surprising. 

What is it You want from me God?  What am I trying to cling to?  And how do I let it go?

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Friends don’t let friends……

……..Kindle drunk.   LOL! 

Yup.  I did it.  I bought a Kindle.  (Yay Spudsie!)  I bit the bullet.  I quit straddling the fence.  I stopped “being of two minds” as the British would say.  (I heart BBC Amercia!)  I even paid extra for expedited shipping.

And Thursday afternoon, that magical Brown truck delivered my Kindle.

And I am TOTALLY IN LOVE!!!!

Before I wax too poetic (and make my coach even more green with envy….sorry Coach Jim!  I hope this won’t impact our next conversation too negatively…..hmmmm….maybe I should have thought of that BEFORE gloating???  LOL!)…anyway, before I wax too poetic I have one word of caution.

Friends don’t let friends Kindle drunk.

Well….I suppose in the interest of full disclosure I should admit I wasn’t really “drunk” per sey.  I’d had 2.5 glasses of wine during dinner and a movie at home.  (By the way, don’t waste too much money on the movie “21”….it has more fatal flaws than ….well…than a movie with a lot of fatal flaws!  It’s worth the 99 cents Mr. Spuds and I paid to download it from Amazon to our Tivo.  But I’m glad I didn’t pay more.) 

Where was I?  Oh yeah….Kindle-ing under the influence.  (Can I be cited for KUI???)  Pressing the “next page” and “previous page” and “back” buttons while slightly tipsy can become confusing!  Hey!  How the heck did I end up back at the “Table of Contents”???  Buy how often do I read after slamming down….er….I mean indulging in a glass or two of wine with dinner with my husband?  Never.  But the Kindle was new enough that I tried it.  My advice?  Stick to drunk e-mailing.  LOL!

Seriously, the Kindle is amazing.  (In my opinion.)  I cannot say enough good things about it.  (We’ll see what I’m saying 6 to 12 months from now.)  I wasn’t sure it I’d like it.  In fact I was a little concerned I’d end up like Opus from Bloom County….using the Kindle as a book light…or as a flat surface on which to attach a reading light.

 

 

In spite of my concerns I decided to order it anyway.  What the heck!  You only live once….and Amazon will still accept returns right?  What’s the worst that could happen? 

Evidently the worst thing that could happen is that I’d love it too much and spend far too much time reading on it.  And surfing the Internet on it.

Oh.  You didn’t know?  Yep.  You can surf the web on the Kindle.  I’ve bookmarked this blog.  And Coach Jim’s.  And Maggie Mae’s.  And my friend in Maine.  And…well….you get the idea.  I can keep up to date on everyone’s blogs wherever I am.  How cool!

And I can bookmark as many pages as I want.  I can add as many notes as I want.  I’m not limited to trying to squeeze my reactions to really meaningful passages in margins that are far too small.  AND I’ll never have to worry about not being able to read my own writing again!  Though if I continue to Kindle under the influence I may accidently refer to a character named “Joe” as “jpoe” in my notes and confuse myself later.  (The “jpoe” reference is for my friend BAM……….…thanks for setting the bar so high for tipsy e-mailing/blogging/typing!  J)

Which brings me back to my main point.  Friends don’t let friends Kindle drunk.

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To Kindle or not to Kindle……

Ah……the eternal question.

What?  It’s not eternal??  It sure feels like I’ve been waivering on this for an eternity.  LOL!

I’m trying to decide if I should bite the bullet and buy a Kindle from Amazon.  (It’s $50 cheaper with Oprah’s code!)

I read a ton of books–so I’d save money downloading the e-book format, and I’d save a lot of trees.  It would be much easier to travel with at Thanksgiving and on vacation.  If I don’t like it I’m sure Amazon will be happy to let me return it.  (Snort!)  Think of all the room I’d save in my luggage when traveling if I didn’t have to pack books! 

On the other hand…..think of what else I could buy with that $$$$.  While I don’t need any more boots…there sure are some super cool ones out there.  Or I could take my clothes to get altered so they’d actually fit again after shedding 15 pounds. 

Hmmmmm…..

So let’s get some reader feedback.  What do y’all think?

 

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“Memoirs of a Geisha”

This one had me fooled.  I’m big enough to admit it.  Through almost the entire book I was captivated, enchanted, drawn in, enthralled.  At the same time it seemed like it was “simply” a good story—not one that would have passages underlined or pages dog-eared because they really “spoke” to me.

Well…..I was wrong.  I got whapped upside the head on page 349 by author Arthur Golden.  (Ouch!  Rubbing the side of my head.  That hurt!)

The main character is a geisha (bet ya figured that out from the title didn’t ya??)  and she shares the story of her journey through life.  She spent many years longing after one man.  She devoted boundless emotional energy to him.  One day she was almost hit by an army truck and realized she had been so busy looking for signs about this man that she missed the signs telling her about the hazards of traveling on that day.  She said, “From this experience I understood the danger of focusing only on what isn’t there.  What if I came to the end of my life and realized that I’d spent every day watching for a man who would never come to me?  What an unbearable sorrow it would be, to realize I’d never really tasted the things I’d eaten, or seen the places I’d been, because I’d thought of nothing but the Chairman even while my life was drifting away from me.”  (Emphasis added.)

About seventy pages later she says, “…I’d done nothing but worry that every turn of life’s wheel would bring yet another obstacle into my path; and of course, it was the worrying and the struggle that had always made life so vividly real to me.  When we fight upstream against a rocky undercurrent, every foothold takes on a kind of urgency.”

This is one of the reasons I love reading so much.  There are so many amazing authors who have felt or experienced bits and pieces of what I’m feeling and have painted those feelings with eloquent, colorful, transcendent words and phrases.  They say in a few lines what would take me pages to even hint at.  My mind wanders aimlessly… looking about, casting around, trying to find the right words to describe my fleeting feelings.  Trying to give a voice to something buried so deeply in me that I’m just starting to feel it.  I grasp at it and come up far short in my attempts to match words with thoughts.

And with no warning, no hint that the answer is just around the corner, waiting for me to turn the page- BAM!  Out jumps the perfect set of words. 

Wow.

I love that!

My blog is largely (if not entirely) self centered. 

And since it’s a record of my thoughts and my stumbling steps along a journey I suppose that’s not entirely unexpected. 

So I’ve probably expressed similar sentiments in a previous entry.  I’ve gone through the past few years pretty blindly.  Holding my breath, hoping answers would present themselves, hoping things would magically get better.  When the cries of my spirit and my soul weren’t enough to get my brain’s attention, my body had to jump into the melee.  Up cropped the migraines.  There.  Do we have your attention yet Spudsie?

So I started trying to look at myself and figure out how to live life differently.  And quickly found I needed help.  And even with help would still prefer to remain blissfully ignorant of my shortcomings at times.  I got help and decided that I had gone through life for far too long not tasting the food I ate (yummmmm….Lola’s in Cleveland…….mmmmmmmm) and not seeing the places I went (fall leaf peeping in Maine…wow!).  I wanted and WANT to live each day.

So what’s the thing I struggle with the most?  (After the completely foreign concept of emotions…but that’s an entirely different post.)  I struggle with living each day for itself.

Where am I headed?  Where am I going?  What change is next?  What step is next?  Where’s my 15 page agenda?  (Quit laughing Jim!  J  Let’s not mention the number of lengthy agendas you have from me.  J) 

“This month we’ll work on identifying emotions.  Next month we’ll start with sadness.  The following month we’ll work on mastering hope.  Then we’ll move you along to……”

That’d never work.  I wish it would!  But it won’t.  Take it one step at a time with as much as I can handle at a time.  As much as I’m willing to admit to at a time. 

Life is a journey—not a destination. 

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve repeated that to myself.  It still hasn’t sunk though all the layers of…..hmm…layers of what?  I’m not sure.  But it hasn’t made its way to my core yet.  I still revert to looking for a destination.

In another post my friend Clark advises me to sit and listen.  Listen to life. 

That doesn’t come easy to me.  Even when I actively work at it I’m only moderately successful.  It doesn’t resonate with me yet.  I’m still thinking, yeah…..I hear life, but where am I headed after I stand up.  What exactly IS on the other side of that bridge? 

It’s so hard for me to stay focused.  Even with a number of practices Coach Jim has me working on, it’s still difficult. 

There is a book written in the year I was born titled “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass.  Though I’ve never read the book its title speaks to me.  It’s what I’m trying to strive to do.  Be here….now.  Be present in the moment.  Let go of the need to know what’s around the bend.

I want to stop worrying about what obstacle is further along the path.  I want to have the vividness of my life come from the experiences of my life—and not from my worry.

So why do I find it so difficult to consistently make that choice?

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Return to the 21st Century

 

Ahhhhhh….it feels so good to be back!

Where was I you ask?  Well, physically I didn’t leave.  Things left me.  Important things.  Things like hot water.  Things like lights.  Things like ice cream.  Thing like cable TV and the Internet.  Little things like ELECTRICITY!!!

Yup.  The remains of Hurricane Ike left the Spuds family with no power for about 25 hours.

Had someone told me when the power first flickered off that it wouldn’t return for 25 hours I probably would have hyperventilated.  And then would have planned the best, most efficient, least painful way to get through the next 25 hours.  I would have been annoyed, but I would have planned.

Had someone told me Monday morning (after the power had already been out for 12 hours) that it would be back on in 13 hours I would have hugged and kissed that person!  (Well….maybe not kissed….unless of course it was Johnny Depp…but I digress.)

Why the difference?  On Monday morning the power company was predicting that full power would not be restored or AT LEAST A WEEK.  Oh.  My.  Word.  A week.  Gulp.  Good thing I own a shelf full of candles and a stack of “to be read” books almost as tall as I am.  That’ll keep me busy for a week.

Fortunately my cell phone still worked.  So I was able to keep my Monday evening appointment with Coach Jim.  It was near the end of our conversation when the lights flicked back on.  I SWEAR I heard choirs of angels singing.  Ahhh…the beauty of artificial light.  Sniffle.  What a moving moment.  (Grin!)  I’m a little embarrassed that Jim heard my reaction.  (Sheepishly looking at the floor.  Mr. Spuds is typically the only one who is around when I’m completely unguarded in my goofy reactions.)  I don’t remember if I gasped, squealed, or clapped my hands…but I’m pretty darn sure my reaction was one of beyond-goofy delight.  Based on my reaction Jim (for the briefest of moments) probably thought I’d either discovered some deep meaningful insight about what’s keeping me from even recognizing my emotions, or I’d discovered the cure for cancer, or perhaps I’d won the lottery.  Nah…sorry to disappoint.  “The power’s back on!!!!!!” 

When you’ve lived for 25 hours without modern conveniences and hot showers (which are a necessity and should NEVER be confused with a mere convenience) it’s amazing how little it takes to make you light up like a Christmas tree!  J

So power returned Monday night.  Cable and the internet stayed inoperable for another 24 hours.

And now everything’s back to normal.  YAY!!!  I’ve returned!

So what did I do for 25 hours without power or TV?  Did I dig out my video I-pod?  Did I run out and buy batteries for my radio?  Did I rant and rave like a mad-potato, cursing the unfairness of life in general?

Nah!  I read.  And read some more.  And then read some more.

I read an 800+ page book titled, “The Way the Crow Flies” by Ann-Marie MacDonald.  I’ve had it on my “Currently Reading” list at GoodReads for months.  I’d read the first 2 pages and somehow never went back to it.  It seemed fairly daunting.  With the power out—no more excuses.  I read and read and read and read.  And finished it by Monday night.  It is a good book and a difficult/challenging one at the same time. 

Not difficult or challenging in the sense that the words were “too big” for me, or that I was constantly forced to Google some historic event mentioned in passing.  Difficult in that the childhood experiences of the main character Madeline were……well….not all happy ones.  I’ll try not to write about any spoilers—but my heart ached for her many times.

She felt about books the way I feel about books.  Listen to this.

“To be in a book.  To slip into the crease where two pages meet, to live in the place where your eyes alight upon the words to ignite a world of smoke and peril, colour and serene delight.  That is a journey no one can end with the change of a channel.  Enduring magic.”

Wow.  I LOVE that!!

Sometimes I wonder if I use books to escape dealing with life.  To escape taking a deeper look at myself.  To escape listening to the things Coach Jim says that irritate me beyond belief because they hit faaaar too close to home.  To live in “the crease where two pages meet” instead of living with real world problems of no electricity, of disagreements with a beloved minister, of working with coworkers who try to make me look bad for doing my job. 

Looking at it from that perspective, who wouldn’t want to escape?

To escape for at least for a brief respite……………. before returning to the 21st century.

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