Monday, February 23, 2009

From Northern California

A week with my husband's sister and brother-in-law, my husband and I head home tomorrow with a day to rest before driving to West Texas for a week with grandchildren. Hoo-ha.

More when I catch my breath because Ranger Dave has kept our schedules and our stomachs full.

As my mom always said, "Chicken today and feathers tomorrow."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"So What Does It All Mean?"

This YouTube video arrived in my email today reinforcing the message I got from the book It's All Too Much. Whereas the book concerns the stuff that surrounds and clutters our houses,the video illustrates how information proliferation at exponential speed crowds our minds, displacing who knows what. 

I saved an article from the Dallas Morning News written over a year ago, January 6, 2008. In it Rod Dreher said, "I am becoming the ideal 21st century American: a soft-bellied physical slacker who knows everything going on right this very second but understands less and less of it. Information is not the same thing as knowledge, and 'data' is not a synonym for wisdom." 

Selah, a word occurring throughout the book of Psalms, means stop and think about it. I'm thinking that STOP may mean just that. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

"What you thank?"

My five-year-old granddaughter wrote a book today. Twelve pages, she asked for a stapler to bind the pages together. On the last page she asked, “What you thank?” and drew lines under the question, telling her mom to write either Yes or No whether she liked it, leaving room for additional comments.

I know what she’s getting at. You work on a writing project, say a blog, and you hope first someone will read it, then that they will like what you wrote, preparing yourself as much for a negative response as a positive. A girl after my own heart, my granddaughter just wants feedback.

So, what you thank? Check Yes of No, and then offer some comments. 

"Chunking" on President's Day

Interesting ideas embedded in this brief Washington Post article 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Portraits vs. Pictures

If you have any interest in a few celebrities nominated this year for Academy Awards or if you would like to see some fabulous unposed portrait photography, take a look. The audio commentary is interesting as well, lasts about a minute for each, but it's easy to skip if you just want to view the images. 

Note the wallpaper inside the Beverly Hills Hotel. Lots of details in pictures add to the 

stories. Although post-production work done on these images makes for a lot of the effect––e.g. vignetting––the use of light and reflections is stunning. 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

25 Random Things about Me

Requests and reactions on Facebook enticed me to share with blog readers. I made a few editorial corrections. Anything you think should I write about? 

  1. Once the FBI stalked me on the Desert Inn Golf Course before capturing me, saying I could have been shot for running around on the course after dark. I had ventured from Senator Brown’s house, where my mom and I were house-sitting, to look at the back of Pearl Bailey’s house.
  2. I ran away from home twice before I was 10-years-old.
  3. I married the guy who in high school signed my annual, “I don’t know you very well, but …”
  4. I saw Ella Fitzgerald perform at the Flamingo Hotel. She came to our table and signed a card to me, which I still have.
  5. I tried to walk from Las Vegas to Lake Mead. See # 2.
  6. Twice I got hit by a car while crossing the street. Different cars. Different cities. Ten years apart. Hospitalized both times. Wary of years ending with six.
  7. I know all the original Mickey Mouse Club days of the week songs by heart.
  8. A horse once dragged me under a tree limb when he failed to buck me off. I laid back flat on the horse’s rump to escape the hanging tree with only scrapes, bruises and a torn shirt.
  9. I had the lead in my high school senior play.
  10. I won a Dallas speech tournament for a Dramatic Interpretation from Gone With the Wind in which I portrayed Mammy and Scarlet.
  11. I have taken hundreds of photos in cemeteries.
  12. I love Paris.
  13. I like to camp.
  14. My husband and I are still best friends with a couple we were best friends with in high school.
  15. I attended at least 19 different schools by the time I graduated from high school.
  16. A packer of suitcases and slammer of doors, I love to travel but hate airports.
  17. I think people are the most fascinating creatures on the planet.
  18. My great, great aunt was the outlaw Belle Star. A distant cousin rode with Jesse James. When I met my mother’s Aunt Thelma, she still lived in the house where Bonnie and Clyde had visited her.
  19. I graduated 8th grade from El Rodeo School in Beverly Hills, CA where Debbie Reynolds, Dean Martin and Walt Disney attended our spring musical.
  20. My 9th grade English teacher accused me of plagiarism for my report on Wuthering Heights. He said, “Thank you, Clifton Fadiman.”
  21. He apologized when I told him I had met Clifton Fadiman because he came to our English literature class in Beverly Hills.
  22. I got suspended for three days in the 9th grade for taking pictures in the girl’s locker room; not because the pictures were naughty, the Principal said, but to make people quit talking. See #s 17 &18.
  23. When she was “The Flying Nun,” I met Sally Field in a hardware store in Thousand Oaks, CA. She signed the back of a package of nails and I wondered if she thought, “That girl looks like me.”
  24. At summer camp in 7th grade, I learned a song about the Titanic that I can still sing today, a song I remember because the Camp Director knew people who had died when the ship sank. Distraught, she stopped our performance. How could I forget?
  25. My four children attended the same schools from first grade through high school graduation, realizing my dream of living in one place instead of moving around. We joked that we had more pictures of the elementary school principal than his wife did.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Here, There and Everywhere

When I finished reading The Glass Castle, I expected to cry. I had fought tears and fury in balanced measure, relating personally to both the author’s truncated childhood and to her fierce loyalty to the persons she called Mom and Dad. I understand a child’s devotion to a parent that others think unworthy.

I had wondered throughout the story about the writer’s ability to recall so much detail of early childhood and to tell the story evenly from that childhood point of view beginning at age three. I had also wondered why a friend had given the book to me, eager for a response, as if anything I had endured could compare. No way. 

I recognized the characters Jeannette Walls drew; I had heard firsthand most of the snide, denigrating remarks spoken to or about someone; I did have a similar pillar-to-post, wild ride for about 16 years during the same era in the same three states of my early childhood—Arizona, Nevada and California. But the differences struck me too. 

First, she had two parents and I had only my mom after my dad died when I was nine. Secondly, she had three siblings who united with her to make a family that stayed together until one by one, they figured out they could leave. And then the siblings remained close in the sense that their memories bound them to one another in ways that ennobled them, each of them seeking to demonstrate love for their parents despite parental neglect bordering on abuse.

And then, perhaps most important, her dad loved her; he made her feel special.

The things I suffered as a child, I suffered alone. And that made the suffering acute. No reassuring voice from the lower bunk after my sister died the December she turned seven and I turned nine, just three months before my dad was killed. And though Mom tried in fits and starts to make a life for us both, she kept falling deeper into pits of her own tragic and twisted upbringing, or falling off the wagon—another of those expressions all too familiar.

Jeanette Walls did not offer a defense of her parents so much as an explanation of her own survival. When I look back, I expend emotional energy trying to exonerate my mom. Like Jeanette, I know the same self-recrimination for being ashamed of my mother.

Okay, so why did I like this book? It was painful to read. What struck me though was how life prepared the writer to tell the story. Each of Rex and Rose Mary’s four children dealt with their sorrow in different ways. Jeannette did the hard work of remembering.

Writing it out from experience rather than from an unbounded imagination can prove excruciating. I felt her pain.

When I finished the book, I didn’t cry because the writing was so beautiful. 

The writing eclipsed the pathos. Her story rose above the perfect metaphor: turbulence in chaos theory.

I believe God is here, there and everywhere.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Happy Reading Trails to You

Books. Can’t read all of them. Can’t part with them either.

I thought as I moved books from my nightstand to the bookshelf, I could say a word about the book itself or its effect on me.

Carolyn Jourdan’s Heart in the Right Place came at the right time to meet my own anxieties about ambition and place. What should a person settle for when it comes to the dreams for which one has spent years preparing? Where exactly should a person settle in terms of all the geographic possibilities? Can a life of service to few people you actually know account for more good than work done on behalf of millions of people you don’t know? Carolyn's story shows how those questions got answered in her life; she left the heady, rarified political environment inside the Beltway and settled back home in the hills of East Tennessee, working as a receptionist in her father’s medical practice. This story highlights both landing in the right place and a person’s right heart. 

It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh walks you through the steps needed not just to declutter your house but also to rid your life of the unnecessary burden of keeping up with all this stuff. “It is not about the stuff … it’s people lives hinge on what they own instead of who they are.” Peter unearths the problem of people’s relationship to their stuff and how it robs them of the life they want to live. It’s all too much to quote, but a couple I repeat every day. “If you don’t start piles they can’t grow” and “Make your bed. You’re not in High School anymore.”

Kate Braestrup tells her story in Here if You Need Me. As a young widow, she went to seminary—an attempt to carry out her husband’s dreams­— explaining to those who asked her, “I’m here because Drew isn’t.” Left with four young children after her husband was killed in an automobile accident, she could never have envisioned a career as chaplain to game wardens in Maine. The life-or-death situations she describes, the way her theological education and her own life experience trained her to respond—her ability to empathize with those in crisis—makes a compelling read. Because she declares herself a “Unitarian Universalist,” readers should expect to question some of her surmising about God. But it will remain hard to question her tender heart.

The book most difficult for me to discuss is Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea. I stared at the cover photos of young girls every time I picked up the book, especially into the face of a girl on the back. A fantastic story, yes, everyone should read this book, on the NYT bestseller list for 102 weeks and counting. American Mortenson’s failed ascent of K2—what climbers consider the world’s deadliest mountain—landed Greg in a remote village in Pakistan. Among these Moslem people the bonds of gratitude, respect and friendship resulted in his making a promise to come back to build a school. An extraordinary story both in its vision and panorama of human needs, Mortenson avoids any explanation of what spiritually sustains him. Something more than humanitarian impulse though has to account for the good works, especially life changing for girls. Schools constructed on the other side of the world bear witness to who or what more than why. 

Remember, a book is only as good as it is timely.