Friday, December 2, 2016

Beginning ~ with his hair and eyes

Seeing Past Z: Nurturing the Imagination in a Fast-Forward World ~ by Beth Kephart, 2004, memoir
This is what he looks like:  dark lustrous hair and big curious eyes, cinnamon or chocolate eyes, eyes like phosphorescence.
That's the first sentence of the first paragraph, but I much prefer the first sentence of the second paragraph.
The night he was conceived, it rained.
That sentence made me smile.  I have liked Beth Kephart's writing for years.  Although I got this book from the library once before, I had to return it before I got around to reading it.  Here's what it's about:
Kids today seem to be under more competitive pressure than ever, while studies show that reading, writing, and the arts in schools are suffering.  Is there any place for imagination in kids' lives anymore?  In a dog-eat-dog world, why dream things that aren't there?  Through personal stories, Beth Kephart resoundingly affirms the imagination as the heart of our ability to empathize with others, to appreciate the world, and to envision possibilities for the future.  The star of her story is once again her son, Jeremy (as in her National Book Award-nominated A Slant of Sun), now fourteen years old ― a child who at first resists storytelling, preferring more objective and orderly pursuits, but later leads a neighborhood book club/writing group and aspires to follow Steven Spielberg into moviemaking.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Beginning ~ with the intercom

Booth Girls: A Love Story ~ by Joan Uda, 2013, fiction (Iowa), 10/10
Dee had just opened her mouth to say something when the intercom in the hall sputtered:  "Mary Louise, Mary Louise, please come to the office."
In 1954, nice girls kept their virtue intact.  If they didn’t and got pregnant, their families and society at large could be cruel.  At Booth Memorial Hospital, run by the Salvation Army for pregnant women who need a safe haven, Mary makes friends with Dee, a black girl from Des Moines who is determined to get Richie, the father of her baby, to marry her.  Too bad Richie’s engagement ring is on the finger of Dee’s sister.  Mary, pregnant with Kenny’s child, loves her baby and her baby’s father; but knowing that Kenny is not faithful to her, she refuses to marry him.  Ruby, a slightly older woman, is married to the head of the Iowa mob, has a young daughter, and is pregnant by another man.  The Salvation Army officers who run the Booth home and hospital are all good woman, except for one who is not what she seems.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Have you ever? – quiz

I saw this quiz today on Helen's Book Blog.  This sort of thing used to be passed along to friends in email back in the 1990s, but it's been a long time since I posted a meme on my blog.  Feel free to answer these on your own blog and/or in the comments.

Have you ever.....
  • Fired a gun ― yes, I had a 22-rifle to shoot snakes on our woodsy acre when my children were growing up.
  • Been married ― yes, and divorced.
  • Fallen in love ― yes
  • Gone on a blind date ― yes, it's how I met my husband whom I later divorced.
  • Skipped school ― no
  • Watched someone give birth ― only myself, though I had my eyes closed when my son was actually born.
  • Watched someone die ― yes
  • Been to Canada ― no
  • Ridden in an ambulance ― yes, as the top photo attests.  The EMTs laughed at me, taking pictures after I broke my shoulder.  This photo shows the emergency room while I lay there waiting.  Hey, it took my mind off the pain!
  • Been to Hawaii ― no
  • Been to Europe ― no
  • Been to Las Vegas ― no
  • Been to Washington, D.C. ― yes
  • Been to Nashville ― yes, to attend doctoral classes, to take a friend to doctor appointments there, to take our children to museums, etc.  We lived only a couple of hours away in Chattanooga.
  • Visited Florida ― yes, first as a 7-year-old riding the train there with my Aunt Bonnie, but a number of times to visit my Aunt Lillian and her family.  Oh, yeah, also on my honeymoon.
  • Visited Mexico ― no
  • Flown in a helicopter ― no
  • Partied so hard you puked ― no
  • Been on a cruise ― no
  • Served on a jury ― yes
  • Been in a movie ― no
  • Been to New York City ― yes, while visiting a Connecticut friend (by train to see the Vermeer exhibit at the art museum) and while working on my doctorate at Drew Theological School in New Jersey (by car and Staten Island Ferry to see 4th of July fireworks over the water with friends)
  • Been to Los Angeles ― no
  • Played in a band ― yes, while in junior high, high school, and college.
  • Sung karaoke ― no
  • Made prank phone calls ― no
  • Had children ― yes, twin daugters and a son
  • Had a pet ― yes, dogs and cats and fish and turtles and a hamster.  This photo shows Clawdia napping on a book I was reading recently.
  • Been sledding on a big hill ― no
  • Been water skiing ― no
  • Ridden on a motorcycle ― no
  • Traveled to all 50 states ― no, I've never been west of Kansas.
  • Jumped out of a plane ― no
  • Been to a drive-in movie ― yes, these were popular when I was growing up.
  • Ridden an elephant ― no
  • Ridden a horse ― yes, two or three times.
  • Been on TV ― no
  • Been in the newspaper ― yes, lots of times.
  • Stayed in the hospital ― yes, when I had my children, when I had foot surgery, and when I had quadruple bypass surgery.
  • Donated blood ― yes, and I was even called to come donate in the middle of the night once.
  • Gotten a piercing ― no
  • Gotten a tattoo ― no
  • Driven a stick shift ― yes, it's how I learned to drive.  I even bought a new car when it was time for my children to learn to drive, so they could learn the basics on a stick shift.  That means we can drive just about anything.
  • Driven over 100 MPH ― yes, just to see what it was like.  I was young and foolish.
  • Been scuba diving ― no
  • Ridden in the back of a police car ― no
  • Gotten a speeding ticket ― yes, but I wasn't going 100 mph that time.
  • Lived on your own ― yes, like right now, for example.  On the other hand, I live with about 300 people in this retirement center, many of whom I see every day.  The good part is being able to go to my own one-bedroom apartment whenever I want to be alone.  This photo shows the view from one of my windows.
  • Broken a bone ― yes, my right shoulder, as you see from the ambulance ride (and ER visit) photos above.
  • Gotten stitches ― yes
  • Traveled alone ― yes, lots of times, for business and for pleasure.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Beginning ~ with "God made me"

Opening lines:
As a boy, I never knew where my mother was from ― where she was born, who her parents were.  When I asked she'd say, "God made me."  When I asked if she was white, she'd say, "I'm light-skinned," and change the subject. 
The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother ~ by James McBride, 1996, biography
Who is Ruth McBride Jordan?  A self-declared "light-skinned" woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children.  McBride explores his mother's past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage. The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in "orchestrated chaos" with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn.  "Mommy," a fiercely protective woman with "dark eyes full of pep and fire," herded her brood to Manhattan's free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades, and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion—and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain.  "God is the color of water," Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life's blessings and life's values transcend race.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Books on my shelves I should read or re-read

1.  Words That Hurt, Words that Heal: How to Choose Words Wisely and Well ~ by Joseph Telushkin, 1996, ethics
Telushkin explains the harm in spreading gossip, rumors, or others' secrets, and how unfair anger, excessive criticism, or lying undermines true communication.  By sensitizing us to subtleties of speech we may never have considered before, he shows us how to turn every exchange into an opportunity.  He illuminates the powerful effects we create by what we say and how we say it.
Part One ~ The Unrecognized Power of Words
Part Two ~ How We Speak ABOUT Others
Part Three ~ How We Speak TO Others
Part Four ~ Words That Heal
Part Five ~ What Do We Do Now?
2.  Religious Right, Religious Wrong: A Critique of the Fundamentalist Phenomenon ~ by Lloyd J. Averill, 1989, religion
Averill considers fundamentalism to be faith turned in upon itself and consequently ungenerous and unlovely in its religion, flawed in its understanding of history, and dangerous in its politics.  Yet he is also able to delineate some important redeeming characteristics of fundamentalism that deserve acknowledgement.
3.  The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had ~ by Susan Wise Bauer, 2003, education
Offers brief, entertaining histories of six literary genres ― fiction, autobiography, history, drama, poetry, and science ― accompanied by detailed instructions on how to read each type.  If you can understand a daily newspaper, there’s no reason you can’t read and enjoy Shakespeare’s sonnets or Jane Eyre.  Bauer will show you how to allocate time to reading on a regular basis; how to master difficult arguments; how to make personal and literary judgments about what you read; how to appreciate the resonant links among texts within a genre and also between genres.
4.  Knowing Woman: A Feminine Psychology ~ by Irene Claremont de Castillejo, 1973, psychology
A noted Jungian analyst explores the division of the human psyche into masculine and feminine.  Characteristic of feminine consciousness is diffuse awareness, which recognizes the unity of all life and promotes acceptance and relationship.  The masculine attitude is one of focused consciousness, the capacity to formulate ideas and to change, invent, and create.  Concerned with the experience of women in a culture dominated by masculine values, the author discusses topics such as the animus (the masculine "soul image" in a woman's unconscious); women's roles in relation to work, friends, children, and lovers; and issues such as abortion, aging, and self-determination.
5.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks ~ by Rebecca Skloot, 2011, science-race-ethics
Tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.  Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa.  She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells — taken without her knowledge in 1951 — became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more.  Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.
6.  Biography as Theology:  How Life Stories Can Remake Today's Theology ~ by James Wm. McClendon, Jr., 1990 (new edition), biography
By looking at the lives of four significant persons (Dag Hammarskjöld, Martin Luther King, Jr., Clarence Jordan,and Charles Ives), the author discovers a theology that is adequate to account for the kind of lives these persons lived.  The book concludes with suggested methods by which the work of doing theology biographically can be carried further.
7.  The Psychology of Imagination ~ by Jean-Paul Sartre, 1948, psychology
France's leading existentialist writer examines the function of consciousness in creating a world of unrealities.  Sartre reveals a new way of conceiving of consciousness, the nature of psychic life, and the mind's complex relationship with the external world.
8.  Behind the Mask of Tutankhamen ~ by Barry Wynne, 1972, history
An account of the discovery by Howard Carter and the fifth Earl of Carnarvon of the last unaccounted tomb of a Pharaoh in the royal Valley of the Kings at Luxor, Egypt - a treasure vault unparalled in the history of modern excavation.
9.  The Bookseller of Kabul ~ by Åsne Seierstad, 2003 (in English), biography
This mesmerizing portrait of a proud man who, through three decades and successive repressive regimes, heroically braved persecution to bring books to the people of Kabul has elicited extraordinary praise throughout the world and become a phenomenal international bestseller.  This book is a revelation of the plight of Afghan women and a window into the surprising realities of daily life in today's Afghanistan.
10.  The Highest State of Consciousness ~ edited by John White, 1972, psychology
What is the highest state of consciousness?  St. Paul called it "the peace that passeth understanding" and Richard M. Bucke named it "cosmic consciousness."  In Zen Buddhism, the term for it is satori or kensho, while in yoga it is samadhi or moksha, and in Taoism, "the absolute Tao."   Thomas Merton used the phrase "transcendental unconscious" to describe it; Abraham Maslow coined the term "peak experience"; Sufis speak of fana.  Gurdjieff labeled it "objective consciousness" while the Quakers call it "the Inner Light."  Jung referred to individuation, and Buber spoke of the I-Thou relationship.  In this anthology John White brings together a diverse collection of writings by contemporary thinkers such as Aldous Huxley, P.D. Ouspensky, Alan Watts, Kenneth Wapnick, Richard Maurice Bucke, Abraham Maslow, and many more, and asks the question:  What is the Highest State of Consciousness?
11.  Crack in the Cosmic Egg: Challenging Constructs of Mind and Reality ~ by Joseph Chilton Pearce, 1971, psychology
The sum total of our notions of what the world is — and what we perceive its full potential to be — form a shell of rational thought in which we reside.  This logical universe creates a vicious circle of reasoning that robs our minds of power and prevents us from reaching our true potential.  To step beyond that circle requires a centering and focus that today's society assaults on every level.  Through the insights of Teilhard, Tillich, Jung, Jesus, Carlos Castaneda, and others, Pearce provides a mode of thinking through which imagination can escape the mundane shell of current construct reality (the "cosmic egg") and leap into a new phase of human evolution.
12.  Exploring the Crack in the Cosmic Egg: Split Minds and Meta-Realities ~ by Joseph Chilton Pearce, 1974, psychology
We go through early childhood connecting with the world through our senses.  With the development of language and the process of acculturation not only do our direct experiences of the world become much less vivid, but our innate states of nonordinary consciousness become suppressed.  Trapped in a specific cultural context — a “cosmic egg” — we are no longer able to have or even recognize mystical experiences not mediated by the limitations of our culture.  Motivated primarily by a fear of death, our enculturation literally splits our minds and prevents us from living fully in the present.  Drawing from Carlos Castaneda’s writings about Don Juan and the sense of “body-knowing,” Pearce explores the varieties of nonordinary consciousness that can help us return to the unencumbered consciousness of our infancy.  He shows that just as we each create our own cosmic egg of reality through cultural conditioning, we also innately create a “crack” in that egg.  Ultimately certain shifts in our biological development take place to offset acculturation, leaving an avenue of return to our primary state.  Pearce examines the creation of the “egg” itself and ways to discover its inherent cracks to restore wholeness to our minds, release us from our fear of death, and reestablish our ability to create our own realities through imagination and biological transcendence.
13.  Quartet in Autumn ~ by Barbara Pym, 1977, fiction
This is the story of four people in late middle-age — Edwin, Norman, Letty and Marcia — whose chief point of contact is that they work in the same office and they suffer the same problem — loneliness.  Poignantly and with much humour, Pym conducts us through their small lives and the facade they erect to defend themselves against the outside world.  There is nevertheless an obstinate optimism in her characters, allowing them in their different ways to win through to a kind of hope.

The only rule for Thursday Thirteen is to write about 13 things.  The New Thursday 13 is hosted by Country Dew @ Blue Country Magic and Colleen @ Loose Leaf Notes.  If you want to read lists by other people or play along yourself, here's the linky for this week.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

TWOsday ~ cancer

Nowhere Hair ~ by Sue Glader, illustrated by Edith Buenen, 2011, children's
This is the story of a young girl who tries unsuccessfully to find her mother's missing hair, only to learn that medicine has made it fall out.  She learns that she didn't cause the cancer, she can't catch it, and Mommy is still very much up for the job of mothering.  The book, written in rhyme, explains hats, scarves, wigs, going bald in public, and the idea of being nice to people who may look a little different than you.   It ends with the idea that what is inside of us is far more important than how we look on the outside.  It's silly, and touching, and real.
The Heart's Code ~ Tapping the Wisdom and Power of Our Heart Energy ~ by Paul Pearsall, 1998, social and spiritual
A synthesis of ancient wisdom, modern medicine, scientific research, and personal experiences that proves that the human heart, not the brain, holds the secrets that link body, mind, and spirit.  You know that the heart loves and feels, but did you know that the heart also thinks, remembers, communicates with other hearts, helps regulate immunity, and contains stored information that continually pulses through your body?  Dr. Paul Pearsall explains the theory and science behind energy cardiology, the emerging field that is uncovering one of the most significant medical, social, and spiritual discoveries of our time:  The heart is more than just a pump; it conducts the cellular symphony that is the very essence of our being.  Full of amazing anecdotes and data, this book presents research on cellular memory and the power of the heart's energy and explores what these breakthroughs mean about how we should live our lives.  By unlocking the heart's code we can discover new ways of understanding human healing and consciousness and create a new model for living that leads to better health, happiness, and self-knowledge.
You may wonder what connection I see between these two books.  My sister died of lung cancer on August 5th, and my daughter recently "rang the bell" after finishing weeks of radiation following her mastectomy, a ceremony that indicates she's still cancer-free.  So I've had cancer on my mind for months now.

My daughter got a wig so she wouldn't scare her three grandchildren (her words), so I was surprised to run across what I had written about Nowhere Hair on this blog five years ago.  I've never seen the book, but that post has a video of the author, and it shares her story.  I may have to buy the book now to share with my daughter.

I'm just getting into The Heart's Code, but I underlined a couple of things I'd like to share from the introduction.
"...cells can remember..." (p. 9).

"My cancer seemed to be the result of cells that had become heartless" (p. 3).
Heartless?  Let me put that in context:
"...despite what my brain said, I did not 'have' cancer. cells had lost their memory for how to multiply in a more connective, healthy way and, as a result, were engaging in a thoughtless 'cancering.' cells were not getting the right information to teach them how to stay in harmony with my other body cells because they had somehow become disconnected from their coordinator of healthy energy — the heart.  My cancer seemed to be the result of cells that had become heartless" (p. 3).
What an interesting concept.