Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Category: New Reads Page 1 of 20

Disneyanity: New Read

It’s been a while since I bought a book because I saw in advertised in a magazine, but when I saw Disneyanity: Of “Walt” and Religion by Douglas Brode in Reason magazine two months in a row, I had to have it.

Background: Just in case you don’t know this, I am an avid Disney fan. How do I explain this? Here is one photo from high school to shed just a little light.

This is my “backpack,” or what I called it back then, “my travelling locker.”

I had everything I needed in here. All my books, my binders, my pens, along with various high school sundries. I had a locker at school, yes, but using it would require forethought and planning. I was more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl, so I kept everything with me, just in case.

Me. Backstage as always. The “magic” maker.

Just in case what?

Well, what if I were in math class and already done with the assignment? I could work on history instead. And what if I were in the theater, which was where I was most of my day, and I found some downtime between rehearsals? I could work on whatever needed to be done…if I didn’t have to run to my locker and find it.

Knowing me, I’d forget what I was looking for while walking to my locker anyway, wander off and get a coke and a cookie instead.

Writing this I just realized something. This squirrel brain is not being caused by old age.

Like I was saying, I was (and still am) a huge Disney fan. You might even say more of a devout worshipper than a fan. I’ve fallen away at times, especially recently, but I always come back around. Don’t even get me started on the effects of the pandemic on my pilgrimages.

When I started working there, I was seventeen years old. I felt like I was entering the holy of holies, “maybe I should take my shoes off” kind of awe in my whole being. When I was ceremoniously cast outside the gates (fired) at 20, I was a “lost toy,” one of the darkest moments of my life.

And again, when I returned at 26, and finally chose to be home with my kids at 30. And then today…

Well, let’s say I’m worshipping from afar, dreaming of the day I’ll be able to return to the source of the magic.

disneyanity

When I saw this book promising, “a cogent and thought-provoking meditation on Disney Magic as Religious Belief,” I swooned. Could that feeling I’ve had since I was kid be a real thing, not just something I created for myself? Could others feel this way? I had to know more.

I’m 67 pages into the book already and loving it. It’s not what I expected. I’m not sure how I’ll share pieces of it with you, but something will come up, I’m sure. As the religious say, the spirit (or the muse) will speak somehow, if I allow it room.

I’ll leave you with one quote for today, one that sums up my feelings about fantasy and storytelling.

“’Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality,’ philosopher Lloyd Alexander stated, rather a ‘way of understanding it.’ As Disney realized, most people find everyday reality so unbearable that they must seek what appears merely blithe escapism as an alternative. Then again, what’s wrong with that? ‘Why should a man be scorned,’ J.R.R. Tolkien asked, ‘if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out or go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison walls?’”

from Disneyanity by douglas brode

Does this sound familiar, dad? I’ve heard you say it a million times. “I don’t watch movies to see real life.”

In some ways, it is an escape. And there is nothing wrong with trying to move away from what is hurting you, to get some relief. In other ways, fantasy and story helps us explain our reality. It’s easier to hear the underlying problem and solutions offered if we’re talking about aliens instead of foreigners, talking trees instead of gods.

Disneyland was my escape in high school, my happy place where I wasn’t just another theater nerd, not another kid at school to be corralled and contained until I was old enough to be let loose on the world. I was a whole person there, especially once I started working there. Then I was “part of the magic” that millions came to see every year, one of the chosen.

So, yeah, I’m looking forward to reading this gem cover to cover. It feels like more of a collection of short essays about each film, so I may just pull out my favorite pieces, the ones that speak directly to issues that are dearest to me. I’ve found a few I completely disagree with already, so I’m sure you’ll read at least one where I disagree with Walt’s vision of the world.

…sigh…

It feels good to be back here. Thanks for reading with me!

Want read more posts about the book Disneyanity by Douglas Brode? Check out:
Storytelling in the Form of Movies

Something Wicked: New Read

Let’s talk about Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury for just a few minutes. Have you read it? Did you see the Disney movie back in the 80’s? I have done neither. In fact, I didn’t even know what the book was about. Why did I get it? It was all part of a meticulous plan!

something wicked
Here he is, in my hot little hands! 😀

Nope! You know me. I saw it at the bookstore, love Ray Bradbury, don’t have that one, and dropped on top of my pile at the bookstore in which I swore I’d only get a cup of coffee and maybe buy ONE book. I wrote about that glorious day where I made a modest attempt to brighten the world a bit.

Sheesh…just realized that was nearly two months ago. Time flies when you’re…which brings me right back around to this beautiful book!

I thought it was high time for a novel, so I grabbed the first one I had sitting on my TBR shelf, noted it down in my reading journal and settled down into my comfy spot on the couch.

Two hours later, chills running up and down my spine, and warily looking out the window into the dark wondering if a creepy carnival might set up in my town while I sleep, I closed the book and made a few notes.

“I can see the Music Man movie while I read this. Has that feel. Trouble with a capital T!”

And “Bradbury…the way he writes I fall into the story and can’t find my way out. How does he do that!?”

The next day, after reading for a straight hour and half, I got a text. “Good morning! Come have coffee with me!” Virtually. We’re online friends, states apart.

I reply, “Can’t! I’m in love with a book and I cannot leave it now!”

“Who?”

“Bradbury.”

“Shit. I can’t compete with that.”

“Writers! Put your pens down, this man cannot be beat!”

“Someone has a crush!”

“Shut up. I’m busy!”

I didn’t think I had a favorite author, but here we are. And you know what’s strange? I never was a big fan of Fahrenheit 451. Anyway…

Something Wicked This Way Comes! What is it about? Facing time and death, something I could really use wise words about right now, creative and poetic ones. I love the Stoics and the philosophy does speak to my mind, but sometimes you just need some beauty. You know?

Here’s what I mean.

“…the carnival feels ulcerated egos miles off and lopes to toast its hands at that ache. It smells boys ulcerating to be men, paining like great unwise wisdom teeth, twenty thousand miles away, summer abed in winter’s night. It feels the aggravation of middle-aged men like myself, who gibber after long-lost August afternoons to no avail. Need, want, desire, we burn those in our fluids, oxidize those in our souls, which jet streams out lips, nostrils, eyes, ears, broadcasts from antennae-fingers, long and short wave, God only knows, but the freak-masters perceive Itches and come crab-clustering to Scratch. It’s traveled a long way on an easy map, with people handy by every crossroad to lend it lustful pints of agony to power it on. So maybe the carnival survives, living off the poison of the sins we do to each other, and the ferment of our most terrible regrets.”

Did you get that? Did you look back and realize what poison we fill ourselves with, regretting the past, worrying about the unknowable future? We sit and waste what little time we have with that crap, all the while calling to ourselves more misery to lament tomorrow.

We only have today. This moment right now. Live it just the way it is.

And by that I don’t mean run out and get crazy, spend all your money, or leave what you have in the lurch. I mean actually be aware of the glory of this day.

There are times, too many, when I get angsty about time. I’m wasting it sitting reading this book, doing the dishes again, or laying on the couch watching a movie. Am I? Only if I’m grumbling about what I could be doing instead, pissing and moaning that life could be different. Instead, I take a deep breath and look around me. I have the money and leisure to read. I have made meals and shared them. I am with a person I love enjoying a program we love, making memories.

Anything you are doing is not time wasted if you love what you’re doing. My son told me that.

But what if you don’t? Then do something right now to love it or change it. Make that date, buy that thing, go to that place. Make a plan and do it because tomorrow may never come. It’s cliché, yes, but it’s true.

One more thing before I go. Why do we fear death so much? Everything on this planet dies. It is inescapable.

“Death doesn’t exist. It never did, it never will. But we’ve drawn so many pictures of it, so many years, trying to pin it down, comprehend it, we’ve got to thinking of it as an entity, strangely alive and greedy. All it is, however, is a stopped watch, a loss, an end, a darkness. Nothing. And the carnival wisely knows we’re more afraid of Nothing than we are of Something. You can fight Something. But…Nothing? Where do you hit it?”

The Stoics say, “Memento Mori.” Remember death. And it took me a long time to understand why. Humans try to forget there is an end to everything. We’ve built up whole words to explain away and hide the fact that this consciousness ends, as far as we know. How do you fight that Nothing? You can’t and that’s what’s so scary.

Or is it? The older I get, the more I start to see that it’s not death I fear, but a life not lived. When we come up to the end, we look back and realize how much we didn’t get to do. Reminds me of my dad’s story of dragging me out of Disneyland when I was little.

It’s the ultimate acceptance of something we cannot change. The end comes and we must face it. Time does not speed up or go in reverse, not without dire consequences.

If I could get across one thing to people younger than me, to everyone really, it would be to live. Do what you want to do, enjoy the moment you are in, because tomorrow we die. Sounds depressing? I don’t think so. It’s permission to live without regrets.

Oh…and let others do the same. They are not living their life for you and to make them do so would be a tragedy for you both.

Norse Mythology: New Read

What is mythology?

The dictionary says: A body or collection of myths belonging to a people and addressing their origin, history, deities, ancestors, and heroes. But does that help define it? I don’t think so, so I’ll give you my definition of what mythology is.

Mythology is humanity attempting to describe, define, and explain their surroundings, where they came from, and why they are there, in creative and imaginative ways. All mythology expresses the creativity of the people in the context of where and when they are because humans love a great story.

And what are gods? Again, I’ll give you my definition.

The gods are our subconscious minds, swirling that context around in our heads and coming up with an explanation as to why things are happening. They speak to us in dreams and visions, tell us what we should do or which way to go.

Norse mythology

I picked up Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman because I am of Scandinavian and Irish decent and am not well-versed in the history or the mythology other than the Thor and Loki from Marvel comics, and that is just sad. I’ve been interested in heathenry and ancient religion for a few years now, only taking small forays into the subject, and it feels…real?

That’s not the right word though. It just resonates a bit, the whole acknowledgment of our natural surroundings, not worship in a godlike sense, but an awareness of it, acceptance of this reality instead of attempting to use spiritual means to change what is. It feels so human.

So why Neil Gaiman’s book instead of something more academic? Because I’m just getting started and I’d like to learn the stories in a similar way that children would have, around a campfire or hearth, through stories well-told. And Gaiman is the master of that.

I was not disappointed. This book is beautiful, and I highly recommend it, especially for kids. I can imagine reading this at bedtime with my sons, as we so often did. They would ask a million questions, come up with their own creative answers, and have vivid dreams to tell me in the morning all involving the imagery of the stories we had been reading about Loki’s cleverness and the Giants tricking the gods.

That reminds me…I mentioned in my post yesterday, I have a story to tell. The gods spoke to me in my dreams while I read this book.

My husband and I have been watching Outer Range in the evening. There’s another great story! I’ll be sitting here waiting as patiently as I can for the next season. Oh, there better be another season! Too many questions left unanswered! It’s like a western Twin Peaks.

But I digress.

In the morning, I read Norse Mythology. In the evening I watch Outer Range. Then my youngest son texts me, emotional and stressed: college semester ends in two weeks, work is overwhelming, relationship struggles. Teenage years have nothing on the early twenties. I went to bed that night wondering (in true Mom fashion) if there was anything I could do to help.

I have always had vivid dreams, even as a small child. I was a sleepwalker too, which led to some pretty funny family stories about my night adventures. This night, I dreamt as well.

My son fell into a wormhole of light in the ground and then it closed up behind him and I couldn’t reach him. I put my face to the ground and yelled to him. He could hear me; he would respond to my voice. I tried talking to him, asking him to describe what he saw and so I could possibly help him find his way back. It was so confusing.

After some time, I yelled to him that I was going to go find help, that I’d be back. I wasn’t deserting him. He didn’t respond and I was torn between staying there until he heard me and running for the help I knew I needed. Crying, I ran for help.

The next scene was my husband coming out of the shower. I frantically told him what happened, and he was completely non-plussed. In real life, that is his natural state, at least outwardly. His guiding principle is to let things go, relax, and see what happens. Only things that stick around are things you have to do anything about. And “do” usually means accept it and move on.

I kept explaining how upset he was and that we needed to get back there and help him. My husband smiled and went back to getting dressed. He said that our son would find his own way, he’s smart and capable. Besides, he can hear you for reassurance if he wants it.

That’s when I woke up. I got up, got my coffee and sat down next to my husband and told him the story. He laughed at the hole in the ground, just like Outer Range. Later, I texted the dream to my son. He thought it was bizarre too, sounded like a Twilight Zone. “It’s a big step, granted, but it’s just one.”

I went about my day, finished reading Norse Mythology, did my yoga practice, ate breakfast, and got in the shower. And that’s when it hit me. The gods have spoken.

In the night, my subconscious kept working on the problem. What can I do, what should I do, to help my son? It pulled in all kinds of imagery from my current physical reality, a tv show, a book, a conversation, and solved it the best way it could. Musing about it all morning, I finally heard the message.

Be there to listen and give advice if he asks, but ultimately, he’ll find his way. All of us find our way through life.

If I had been a Norse Viking, a medieval peasant, or an Arabian king, I would have seen much different images in my dreams. My gods would have spoken a different language. But the problem of what to do when your child is struggling with life would have been the same. Humanity just hasn’t changed that much.

I want to know more about the Norse people and what’s left of their culture, not because I want to emulate it, but because I want to honor where we came from. I want to put those pieces of my cultural puzzle in the box with the rest so that eventually I’ll be able to see as much of the big picture as I can.

A new online friend I’ve been chatting with on Boo (Yes, it says dating but it also says friends and I’ve met some fascinating people there) suggested I look into Jackson Crawford’s work. I’ve only taken a cursory look, but it does look promising and I’m excited to dive in. That is IF I can keep my squirrel brain on that track. For now, I’ve squirrelled the information away like a winter nut storage. The topic will come back around again, and then I’ll be ready to feast!

The Game of Life: New Read

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that I’m a little disappointed with The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn. “A little” doesn’t begin to describe my feelings, and of course I’m here to tell you why. I’ll start with the basics, how we got here and what I was thinking going into this book.

the game of life

This book was this month’s read for one of those book clubs I told you I joined recently, and I was excited to read it because I am a big fan of self-help books. Unpopular, I know. We’re all supposed to poo-poo them, but I love them, and I will not hide it. I especially love older ones, the tried and true that are still in print years later. They give me perspective, so many ideas and thoughts about how one can make their own lives a little better. What’s not to love?

When I saw the title, I thought it would be a fun read. I like the idea of looking at life as a game to play. My personal philosophy is similar, and I celebrate my birthday every year as a “level up” day, taking stock of the special skills I have accumulated and the companions I’ve chosen to help me along the way.

When I looked the book up online, I found that it was first published nearly 100 years ago and by a woman. That was intriguing. I wondered how her life must have been so different from mine and what kind of ideas she would have about the game.

The description had me excited to read as well. “First published in 1925, this book has inspired thousands of people around the world to find a sense of purpose and belonging. It asserts that life is not a battle but a game of giving and receiving, and that whatever we send out into the world will eventually be returned to us. This little book will help you discover how your mind and its imaging faculties play leading roles in the game of life.”

Yes, please!

But then I started to read it.

I did assume that the book would have a Christian point of view because of when and where it was written, but I didn’t realize that the whole basis of the book is to use Jesus as a magic wish machine. All you must do is think what you want, speak it to Jesus, and you will have it.

What?

I’m not going to unpack each chapter, but I will say that for me, this idea never really held water, even when I was feeling deeply religious. I’ve read the bible several times through, done many bible studies, and I never found the idea that God grants wishes. The best we could ever do was to pray to be aligned and accepting of God’s path for you. Peace comes from letting go of desires, accepting what is, much like the Buddha’s path of non-resistance.

After the first chapter, I felt like putting the book down and walking away, but then where would I be. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, clearly, and neither can you judge it by the first chapter. It’s only 111 pages long, so it’s not wasting too much time. Besides, I may find pieces that fit into my life, change my thinking, or at least come to understand someone else’s point of view.

So, like Adler said to do in How to Read a Book, I kept reading to understand.

I did find a few gems to hold on to. Things like, “Man has an ever a silent listener at his side – the subconscious mind.”

That’s very true. And how we speak to ourselves in our minds is how we perceive the world around us. Better to keep up the positive talk instead of shooting ourselves down before we even get started. Like reading this book, I can’t sit here grumbling. I have to take deep breath and listen to learn.

“You can control any situation if you first control yourself.”

I’ve found this not to be very helpful. I can’t control any situation, but I can control how I react to it and that makes all the difference.

I learned that the word “acme” means perfection. Acme is always the company the coyote gets his tools and contraptions from to catch the roadrunner. Funny.

“Life is a mirror, and we find only ourselves reflected in our associates.”

This…yes. All my life I’ve been so irritated with the people around me. That driver, that food service person, the post office guy…what the hell, people? But these days I find myself thinking, “Well, maybe there’s something wrong.” “I could have made that same mistake.” And “Everyone has bad days.”

What’s different is how I’ve been learning to treat myself. I’ve been talking to myself in new ways, learning to forgive mistakes and not have to be perfect, to allow myself to feel loved just the way I am. It’s made all the difference.

And then there was, “The robbers of time are the past and the future.”

Oh, wow. We know that! Right? Sitting here lamenting our past mistakes. Nothing we can really do now but move forward and do better. And spending all night worrying about what tomorrow will bring. Wastes the time we could be getting a good night’s rest so that we’re at our best no matter what happens.

See? I did find some little tidbits even though I felt repulsed at first. That’s what happens when you listen to people you don’t agree with, even fundamentally. We find common ground and move forward on it instead of staying at a stand-still.

No, I don’t believe that Jesus will put money in your bank account if you believe hard enough. But we can relax and know that things generally do work out eventually. Less attachment to outcomes, more acceptance of what is, does make life nicer.

No, mothers can’t attract illness to their children with worry. But mothers can make themselves sick with worry and cause their children to be nervous and timid because their protector seems so helpless.

There were more crazy things, like “death can be overcome by stamping the unconscious mind with the conviction of eternal youth and eternal life.”

And more great ideas, like “Real love is selfless and free from fear. It pours itself out upon the object of its affection, without demanding any return.”

Now my question is, what will the book club think about this book? Will they be in love with it? Are they going to be a group full of that kind of Christian? That’s me, worrying about the future, wasting time. Does it matter? Nope. I’ll go and enjoy whatever experience is presented to me because that’s what the game of life is all about.

God’s Hotel: New Read

I’m reading God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet for one of those clubs I told you about yesterday and I’m already halfway through it. I started it now, even though the meeting isn’t for nearly three weeks, thinking it was going to be boring and I wanted enough time to slog through.

And now I can’t put it down. Wow. It’s like a memoir mixed with history and current events. So far, her story is filled with some of the most beautiful AND tear-jerking scenes that I’ve ever read; real scenes, too, which makes them all the more painful.

I also feel like the author is pretty fair. The book doesn’t seem politically motivated or too one-sided. It describes problems she’s experienced as the healthcare system in the US has evolved over her career without making it sound like it’s all easily fixable. “If we only did X, then everyone would live forever in a happy state of bliss!”

I’m enjoying the read immensely.

I posted these two quotes to my Instagram this morning, not that anyone has seen them. Can you feel the sad? Sometimes that place makes me feel more like a misfit than I ever did in high school, which is saying A LOT.

god's hotel

“…I learned that medicine had once had a name for this, this something present in the living body bout was missing from the corpse.
Spiritus was the breath, the regular, rhythmic breathing of the love body that is so shockingly absent from the dead.
Anima is the invisible force that animates the body, that moves it, not only willfully but also unconsciously- all those little movements that the living body makes all the time.”

This caught my breath because I was there the day my grandmother died. (I’m not using a euphemism. She died, end of line.) And I was there the day after, just in time to sit with her body and say goodbye. It was an amazing experience; one I wish everyone could have.

There is nothing like it in this world.

The last time I saw her, she was in a hospice bed in her living room, unconscious but alive, filled with “spiritus” and “anima.” Even though she could not respond to our attentions, she was there, probably listening and wondering why she could not move her body or give us the “look” for our playful rudeness to each other. She had pancreatic cancer and was in so much pain. I squeezed her warm hand and told her I loved her very much, that we would be ok if she wanted to go, and that we’d take care of grandpa and each other.

Early the next morning, my mom called to tell me she had died, and I headed over to be with her and grandpa. Grandma was still in her bed, just as I had left her. On the way over I was afraid to see her, wondering how I would feel. We were so close all my life. But when I sat on the bed next to her, everything was different. My grandma’s spirit had left her body behind and there was nothing to do but get rid of it.

So strange to feel nothing holding the hand of a body that no longer held the woman I loved so much. Wherever she is, I know she heard me the day before and there was nothing else I needed to say to this…corpse. The ancients knew this. Why have we lost the knowledge?

And then there was this:

god's hotel

“Palimpsest seemed to be a perfect way of describing what I was beginning to learn at Laguna Honda: That underneath our scientific modern medicine was an earlier way of understanding the body – erased, to be sure, just a faint shadow of our consciousness, but active in our thoughts and desires, nonetheless.”

Palimpsestwriting material (such as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased

Humanity lived on this planet for thousands of years before modern science. We had ways of staying alive as best we could, things that did work and things that didn’t. Some of those things simply made us feel better about living and dying. Why do we believe we can just throw all that information out and rely on only the modern science of numbers, tests, and forms? Do we really believe that humanity lived in utter darkness, fumbling around, a miracle of survival, until a mere hundred or so years ago?

Like I said, I’m very much enjoying God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet, and I never would have heard of it if it weren’t for this new book club that I am GOING to GO to, whether my anxiety wants to or not. Have you heard of it? Read it? Have any thoughts you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Something Crazy, Hold on to Your Potatoes

My dear, dear reader, I have done something crazy. You may want to sit down while you read this. Oh, wait, most people ARE sitting down while they read. At least, I hope they are. Maybe you’re one of those, “I’ll read on my phone while I walk” people. What? Why?! Explain yourself!

Never mind that. Here comes the news.

I have joined an in-person book club.

I know! I warned you it would be crazy!

And guess what? It’s local, like right here in my own town kind of local. And I’m going. I have the book and I’m reading it, now all I have to do is summon (that world does not look right at all) up all the courage I have and actually get in my truck, drive over there, walk in the door, and introduce myself.

“All I have to do…” Ug…my heart races and I feel sick just writing that. But I’m going to do it!

There are lots of reasons not to join a book club. First of all, there are people there. And second, they may be reading books that mean absolutely nothing to me. And then…did I mention people?

But, you guys, I need to get out and meet new people. I’ve gotten out of practice and THAT’S why it seems so complicated. What better way than at a book club? Nothing can go wrong, not really. And I’m not bound to keep going for any reason. The worst can only be showing up and feeling a bit awkward for an hour or so. I can handle this. I’ve been awkward all my life!

Just writing that made me think of something I could use to get through this first encounter with new people. During my meditation practice, I’ve been learning to simply BE in my feelings, allow them to hang out even if they are ugly, and not react to them. What if I did that at the meeting?

Instead of working myself up these next few weeks, worrying about who they might be, what they might say, or whether or not I’ll make a fool out of myself, I’ll just read the book. And that day, when I’m supposed to be getting my stuff together and driving over there, I’ll simply do that.

I’ll be nervous about getting there on time and not getting lost. I’ll feel sick about it and not be able to eat dinner before I go. But that’s ok. That’s only ancient instincts reminding me that new people, new situations, may be dangerous. This is not dangerous, so I’ll calm myself by taking deep breaths and giving myself a hug, maybe bring a nice, iced lemonade with a shot of tequila hidden in it.

Want to know what my other biggest fear is? My mouth running out of control.

When I’m nervous, I fill any pause with incessant chatter, and sometimes it’s not pleasant. It’s like I’m two people, the person making noise and the person in my head saying, “Shut up! Oh, my…why must you open your mouth?! Wow, that’s just great. They are never going to invite you again.” Which only makes me more nervous and then more talkative.

I’m wondering how I can solve this problem. How do I find a way to be ok with some pauses in the conversation? How do I relax and think, instead of filling up space with anything that comes to mind? I really don’t know. Tequila probably doesn’t help.

Wait…there’s more to this book club thing. You’re going to laugh.

I’ve joined two of them. Yep. I heard that Meet-Up was a good place to find groups, so I joined it…again (I have run away from it before) and started looking around. I found several that meet online, but virtual people will not help me get back into the swing of making friends, so I kept looking.

something crazy
I have a new book journal too!

One that I settled on is local, like right here in River City kind of local. And the books they’ve read over the past year are ones that I would read. One book is actually sitting on my TBR shelf! The book I’m reading for that group is God’s Hotel: A doctor, a hospital, and a pilgrimage to the heart of medicine by Victoria Sweet.

The other group is a little more outside my comfort zone. It’s a little farther away and it’s only for women. You know how I feel about women, right? That’s a whole other story. A sad one. A “Why do I not fit in!” kind of story. But it’s time to face my fears and get out there. Besides, they are reading an awesome little book called The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn, a self-help book written by a woman and published in 1925. If a self-help book is still in print 100 years later, it has to mean something.

The best part, the part that says these women might be fun? They’re meeting at The Yard for drinks while we chat about the book. Drinks AND books? Yes, please!

The book club reads mean that I’ve had to put aside How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler to read other books. How funny is that?! I haven’t completely abandoned it. That would be so cruel. I’m reading it for about a half an hour in the morning each day, like an appetizer. The first chapters have been depressing, talking about changes in the education system and how it had been affecting college students and university professors.

It was written in 1940, so we can see where those changes have gotten us, but then again everything changes and it’s not the end of the world. Reading The Opening of the American Mind by Lawrence W. Levine softened my stance quite a bit. But that was written in the 90’s in response to the same changes that Adler is complaining about, so things have kept changing for sure and we all see the negative effects that Adler was worrying about.

I’m hoping he gets to the part that tells me how to read better soon. I love to read, but I find myself forgetting most of it and I’d love to be able to connect the dots between books more often, which is why I picked up the book in the first place.

And here I am, over one thousand words later, on a day in a month that I said I wouldn’t post. It looks like over the last four months I’ve created a habit that I don’t want to break. I think what I’ll do this month is keep it up, but instead of making sure I write and post every single day just to get that dopamine hit when I see this:

I’ll not make myself (more) nuts trying to create and post on days when I need to be out of the house at 7am.

So, you WILL hear from me in May after all! Aren’t you excited?! I am. I like sharing my thoughts here, what I’m reading and thinking, what I’m seeing and experiencing. I hope you enjoy reading it.

How To Read A Book: New Read

Four straight months of daily posts, you guys. That’s a personal record. And now I’m facing a dilemma. Do I keep going? Part of me loves habits, the other part loathes them.

Should I keep writing daily? Yes, I believe so, but what? Posting about what I’m reading doesn’t seem to be catching anyone’s eyeballs or interest, but it is what I love and that’s why I started this blog in the first place. I wanted to share my daily thoughts about the books I read. I learn more than what the author originally intended when I read. Every book I read triggers new ideas and memories, links one thought to another, and pushes me forward. How do I do a better job of conveying those ideas here?

Should I change my posting schedule? For the past four months, I’ve been posting every day what I wrote that morning after I read. It’s more of a stream of consciousness, triggers, and reactions, than planned thought and ideas. I don’t know what I’ll end up telling you every day. Is there a way to change that?

Should I take some time off from posting completely, but keep writing daily? THAT is what I think I’ll do in May. I’ll keep reading and writing every day, and then work toward a more manageable posting schedule to start in June. For the month of May, I would like to commit to one post a week to keep myself accountable though, I’m just not sure what that post would entail. Maybe only posting when I start or finish a book?

So, my faithful reader, you may not hear from me much the next few weeks, but rest assured, I am not dead.

how to read a book

I’ll leave you today with the book I began reading yesterday, How to Read A Book: The Art of Getting a Liberal Education by Mortimer J. Adler. This author was a bit of hero of mine when I started homeschooling 18 years ago…sheesh, I just said that, scary. I first heard of him when I heard Oliver DeMille speak at my first homeschool conference. That presentation changed the way I looked at education and how I ended up educating my kids and myself.

Reading great books was the basis of our whole system. No curriculum, no testing, no writing essays or answering detailed questions. We simply read books, any and all books, together every day. We talked about them, questioned the story and what the author intended, looked up words we didn’t know. We found other books (both fiction and non-fiction), movies, and documentaries, related to what we were reading. And we learned so much.

I found this book in a friend’s collection of giveaways and saved it for myself. I’ve decided to read it now because I feel like I need a reminder of why I read, and a refresher course on how.

Sitting here, writing this, I’m not sure where I’m going, both with my reading and this blog. And writing? Well, I’m not sure that’s my main focus anymore. I just don’t know. What I need is some quiet focus time and I’ve never been very good at that.

Do I need a goal, a reason to write here? Do I need a purpose at all? I’m not sure that I do. Can’t my reading and writing follow my interests the way my mind and heart always has? It seems to have served me well this far.

From Strength to Strength: New Read

Just before my glorious weekend out of town, I started reading From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life by Arthur C. Brooks. Why pick this one up? I can’t possibly even BE in the “second half of life” since I’m clearly far too young, but alas…I am…chokes…nearly fifty years old. And I am already starting my “retirement,” so I think I qualify.

And now I hear you asking, “Retiring from what, Michelle? You haven’t had a career or even a job in nearly twenty years!” I may not have worked outside my home, but I have been a housewife AND homeschooling mom and since my boys are finally (mostly) out of the nest, “Hello, Retirement!”

Let me tell you, it is a big shift. One I didn’t even realize was starting or would hit me this hard. Retirement is rough, especially if you’re a driven kind of person and you fully enjoy your career.

I found myself asking, “What’s next?! Is life over? Does retirement mean sitting here, reading a book until I die?” And then running around screaming and crying from time to time, much to the dismay of my poor husband who is NOT retired and works from home.

I’ve been doing some serious soul searching the last few years, and this book is only another chapter of that story, some research into another point of view. I decided to order it after I read one of Arthur C. Brooks other books, Love Your Enemies.

This morning I read this:

“The aspen tree, it turns out, is not a solitary majesty, as I learned by sheer coincidence later that day from a friend who knows more about trees than I do. He explained to me that each “individual” tree forms part of an enormous root system. In fact, the aspen is the largest living organism in the world; one stand of aspens in Utah called “Pando” spans 106 acres and weighs 6 million kilograms.

That “lone” aspen I was looking at was no such thing. It was simply one shoot up from a vast root system – one expression among many of the same plant.”

from strength to strength

I made a mark there in the book, a bracket around the paragraph and a small heart. I need to remember this picture, I thought.

Then I started thinking back to yesterday, when I met my sons for dinner out and spent over an hour talking about college classes, work, surfing, and philosophy, over some amazing tacos. We somehow got onto the idea of Buddhist enlightenment, when my eldest reminded me of the one drop in the ocean idea, where we discover we are everything and everything is us, a part of the whole and the whole at the same time. Once we realize it, we see ourselves in everything. My youngest chimes in with “Like a bubble popping. You float along, realize you are the whole and pop, you’re gone, dissipated and there but not there.” We stopped and thought about. Yeah. Nice.

This morning, on the way back from coffee with a local friend, I stopped at the post office to pick up a package. Waiting in line, I looked around me. The woman in front of me smiled and set down her package on the counter. We laughed together at the face the woman behind us made at having to lick an envelope. And it hit me: these are other aspen trees.

I smiled slightly, internalizing the moment of realizing that I AM connected to these seemingly disconnected people. My reaction to them changes them and theirs changes me.

We may look like we’re each a standing “lone” tree in this world, but we certainly are not. Like those aspens groves, beneath the ground our roots are all one system. Each of us has an affect on the other. When one falls, another grows taller. When one sways, the others sway with it.

Here’s what he says on the next page:

“The secret to bearing my decline – no, enjoying it – is to be more conscious of the roots linking me to others. If I am connected to others in love, my decrease will be more than offset by increases in others – which is to say, increases in other facets of my true self.”

My extended family, my friends, and those I connect with online and in person every day are what make life and death beautiful. Those connections, that love, lasts forever in the roots beneath the soil.

The Mayfair Bookshop: New Read

Four non-fiction books in a row means it’s high time for a novel, especially since I finished my previous read the night before a holiday. And this time it’s The Mayfair Bookshop by Eliza Knight! Why did I choose this book? Well…that’s a bit of a story.

My TBR shelf has turned into shelves, and you know that’s not allowed. Generally, I keep my TBR to one shelf, but with the windfall I accumulated a couple years ago due to a friend’s sudden move out of state (and she had to leave her books behind), I’ve allowed myself more than one shelf for a while now. I swore (a not so solemn oath) that I would read the books I had before I bought any more, but alas, here we are.

In my defense I have slowed down and this month promised I would refrain from purchasing the darlings and make an attempt at whittling down the pile, and then we went to Costco.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t usually buy any books there, but I do almost always peruse the stacks, just in case. There are sometimes fun novels there that beg to be taken home. Honest, they beg. I hear them.

This time as we moved toward the aisle where my precious coffee is located, my husband glanced down at the cart and looked back at me. “What’s this?” I smiled. “A moral imperative.” He laughed. “Why these ones?” I point to the words on the covers, “bookshop” and “library.” “Ah, I see.” I cannot resist a book about books and readers. They’re like friends coming to visit. He knows this.

At the checkout, I had to rescue them before he threw them on the conveyor belt right along with the meat and frozen vegetables. Seriously.

I posted on Instagram that I had begun a beautiful Easter Sunday (although I had forgotten it was Easter until I opened Facebook) with this fun book and several extra cups of coffee. That post led me to receive a comment from the author herself, which thrilled me to the bone.

I read for three hours yesterday morning, and my first thoughts were, “Charming.” and “I’m in love with these characters.” Last night, when I couldn’t fall asleep, I thought I’d get up and read a bit and see if that helped. I sat down, opened the book, “No, wait. I need a cup of tea.” Put the book aside to start the kettle, went back to get the book and read while my tea steeped.

I imagined the characters becoming exasperated with my indecision. “Is she going to read, or not?” I’m sure they are all in there waiting, their action paused, for me to pick the book back up. I wonder what they do while they wait.

This morning, I’m already halfway through this delicious book and I’ll probably read a bit more before I start the rest of my day. You know, the part of the day I spend off the couch, outside a book. The boring part!

I’m sorry Ms. Knight, but I do have one complaint. I feel compelled to add all the books you mention in your story to my TBR list. And call me ignorant, but I didn’t realize this was historical fiction when I picked it up, and that Nancy Mitford was a real author. So, thanks for that!

That’s sarcasm in case it didn’t come across that way. Almost every book I read adds two or three more books to my list. Reading is never-ending entertainment and information accumulation. And a TBR list is always one step forward and two steps back, or three, or four. It’s beautiful.

I have many Costco adventures. Click over to Shopping Cart Antics for more!

Want to read more of my thoughts on this gem of a book? Try Beautifully Relatable Characters.

Drug Use for Grown-Ups: New Read

Back in February, I posted in Podcast Roundup that I had heard Dr. Carl L. Hart interviewed on People I (Mostly) Admire for the second time. The first time was back in May of 2021. His reasoning and research about legal drug use was so good that I wanted to know more, so I purchased his book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, back in March and I’m finally getting to reading it.

He starts with this quote:

“If people let government decide what food they eat and medicines to take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” -Thomas Jefferson*

“*I recognize that Thomas Jefferson and other revered historical figures enslaved black people. This was reprehensible even during their time. But the cruel hypocrisy of these individuals’ actions does not negate the noble ideal and vision articulated in their writings. These enshrined principles give us goals to which we continue to aspire.”

With that presented as the first words of his prologue, I’m now open to not only learning more about his views on drug use but also his views on racism. The book is a two-for-one deal.

“Too often, the conversation about recreational drug use is hijacked by peddlers of pathology as if addiction is inevitable for everyone who takes drugs. It is not. Seventy prevent or more of drug users – whether they use alcohol, cocaine, prescription medications, or other drugs – do not meet the criteria for drug addiction.”

Two things here, the first of which is the phrase “peddlers of pathology.” Why is it that everything lately is a pathology, something to abnormal to diagnosed and cured by a professional?

The second is something I’ve been thinking for a long time. If all the nasty headlines and studies are true, that all the drugs are so terribly addictive with horrible consequences for taking any amount at all, then why do I know so many healthy and productive people, living normal lives while occasionally taking them? I’m hoping this book will shed light on that.

“Outside the drug world, each one of us, on a daily basis, takes measures to prevent illnesses and to improve our health and safety. We brush our teeth, wear seatbelts, use condoms, exercise. We don’t call it harm reduction; we call it common sense, prevention, education, or some other neutral name.

… the term harm reduction obfuscates the fact that most people use drugs to enhance experiences, to bring about euphoria – for pleasure.

For example, traveling via car presents potential risks to one’s health as well as potential benefits that impact one’s happiness. Wearing a seatbelt, replacing tires so they are not worn, and making sure the brakes and windshield wipers function properly – all can be conceptualized as “health and happiness” strategies.”

That is a great point. I’ve only recently heard the term “harm reduction” and I thought it was a useful idea. Why not, instead of allowing people to kill themselves on a product, help them use it more safely? But we don’t do that at all. We have deemed a product dangerous and if you kill yourself or others doing it, then that’s on you. You’re the idiot that did what we told you not to do.

It sounds so…parental. Like we’re all children that just have to do stupid things the adults tell us not to, for no other reason than to be contrary. FYI – I don’t think children do this at all. They do what they feel does them the best good and we’re supposed to be helping them learn to listen to themselves and make the best judgement for themselves.

Instead of screaming, “DRUGS BAD! And you’re a horrible person if you want to try them and you’ll die if you do!” I’ve taught my children the positives of drug use, why someone would want the drug, and the dangers of drug use that I’m aware of. There are positives. We do know that, right?

This book has already begun to enlighten me upon another point of view, that maybe the “research” has been interpreted in some fairly biased ways, that possibly the outright banning of a substance that brings many people plenty of happiness is only increasing the chances of problems, violence and death, instead of lessening it. And, as I already suspected, hurts the poor and ignorant more than anyone else.

Why do we have such a need to control what other people do with their own bodies?

More posts on this book…
Steering Toward a Better View on Drug Use
Is It Time to End the Drug War?

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