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How I would love to tell you that life has been all roses and frolicking this week.
In the last couple days alone the farm has seen accidents, injuries, delusion, anger, bloodshed, exile, and multiple deaths of various creatures. If it sounds like Lord of the Flies, it has been to some extent. In fact I believe one creature’s tailless corpse may still be wedged between two bricks in the sunroom now that I think about it. Yip, Moon Pie, and Nickel are savages in their play.
Still, we haven chosen to celebrate in spite of these things.
The voices of three generations rose up to sing gospel hymns and children’s songs.
We created new things from old things.
We fixed broken things.
We broke things that really needed fixing.
We recoiled in horror.
We stared too long at train-wrecks.
We simultaneously understood and didn’t understand.
We accepted that this is all part of the giant whirlygig.
…and then we went back to the roses and frolicking.
Synopsis: A cynical writer searches for the world’s happiest place
You might like this if you liked: Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert)
Recommended to: Grumpy people
What I loved about it: This was my first Weiner book, so I wasn’t sure whether I would like it or not. Truth be told, he seems like a bit of an ass, but he had me at the first mention of a PET scan. I’m one of those people who enjoy reading books peppered with sound-bites of science, culture, history, and philosophy. Like right here on page 41, in a chapter on Switzerland, he manages to work Einstein AND Bertrand Russell into a passage. Later on page 183, he combines Iceland, Aristotle, and Nietzsche. Gosh—it just makes me feel all heady and smart in the same way that sprinkling wheat germ in pancake batter makes me feel healthy, even if I do wind up drenching it all with butter and syrup.
So yes, I will be reading him again. Plus, I now have added two new places to my bucket list: Bhutan and Moldova.
What was unexpected: Weiner was a little mean to the Moldovans.
Best Quotes: There were so many fabulous descriptions of places and people, so I will give you a few:
In Bangkok, the sacred and the profane exist side by side, like a divorced couple who, for financial reasons, decide to continue living together.
Watching Brits shed their inhibitions is like watching elephants mate. You know it happens, it must, but it’s noisy, awkward as hell, and you can’t help but wonder: Is this something I really need to see?
India does not disappoint. It captivates, infuriates, and occasionally, contaminates. It never disappoints.
Qataris have no culture. Frankly, I can’t blame them. If you spent a few thousand years scraping by in the desert, fending off the solid heat, not to mention various invading tribes, you wouldn’t have time for culture either.
Synopsis: Nicholas takes a trip around the world with his brother and the two reminisce about their family.
You might like this if you liked: Message in a Bottle, The Rescue, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember (Nicholas Sparks)
Recommended to: Fans of Nicholas Sparks, people trying to make sense of loss
What I loved about it: In his fictional work, Nicholas Sparks writes sweet stories of love, family, and loss. His memoir moved along the same themes and provided insight into why he tells the stories he tells. The speech-language pathologist in me was also particularly interested in the intense work Sparks described doing with his son, Ryan, to help him learn to communicate.
What was unexpected: This book is not so much about the places traveled in real time as it is the places traveled in the past. That said, Sparks does deliver enough descriptions of places they visited that I added a few destinations to my bucket list (e.g., Machu Picchu, Peru and Phnom Pehn, Cambodia).
Standing next to Micah, I realized that there were times when we talked not because we needed to communicate anything important, but simply because we each drew comfort from the other’s voice.
A couple years ago, after a several year streak of holiday grumpiness, I decided to take charge of my own Christmas experience. Once I changed my approach to the holiday I found that it worked so much better for me than my old way of relating to the season.
My former approach could best be described as a frenzied scramble to meet the desires and expectations of others (or at least my perception of them) combined with my own unrealistic notions about what the season should be. You may even be familiar with the old routine — the frantic shopping for the “perfect gift” while simultaneously complaining about the commercialism and crowds of Christmas; the furtive listening to news
reports of people being trampled on Black Friday with a secret little twinge of schadenfreude; the excessive spending of money on gadgets and gifts too quickly forgotten; the overabundance of food, family, and friends at near-toxic levels.
Mixing and mingling with that off-note jingling was the most stressful time of the year in the life of an academic: the semester’s end. By December, college students are as high strung as the lights at the Rockefeller Center’s annual Christmas display. They come to your office shedding tears about their grades and their grandmothers — or worse, they sit and cry silently without telling you why at all. In class they band together and plead for another extra credit assignment, in spite of the fact you’ve told them repeatedly there will not be extra credit this semester. If you stick to your word and practice “tough love” you get creamed on student evaluations. You are an ogre and a curmudgeon and administration frowns. If you have a kind heart, extra credit makes double the work for you as you scramble to invent something for students to do at the last minute that is educational and relevant…and then scramble to grade it along with the mountain of grading you have for final projects and exams before the grades are due. After all that you’re still just as likely to get creamed on student evaluations.
It wasn’t exactly what I would call the most wonderful time of the year and definitely not the happiest season of all. Obviously, things needed to change.
So, I started working on me and my own inner Scrooge to align my deeper values with my behavior. This required a little soul-searching to work out exactly what my deeper values were. The process revealed a few changes I needed to make.
First off, the “perfect gift” ideal had to go. I had to break the shopping bag shackle to find more fulfilling experiences to share. This act alone opened up considerable space. Once I reduced the time spent in stores, and online shopping, I had more time and energy to think about and deal more productively with the end of the semester angst of my students. Freeing up that time also allowed me to pursue a much more relaxing pastime – knitting. The manual arts have a meditative, calming effect that work wonders on my disposition. I knitted in much-needed solitude and I knitted surrounded by knitwits and nutters (aka SoKaN), who provided a social support group, not to mention entertainment. Of course the manual arts also result in tangible and useable things – a happy byproduct.
I also came to the conclusion that I needed to give in ways that honored who I am at heart. On the gift-giving front, I admit, I have become a bit more selfish. For example, *I* wanted to take a holiday carriage ride in downtown Memphis, so I forced the parents to go with me for their “present.” But maybe Ayn Rand is right and there is virtue in selfishness. In the selfish spontaneity of this carriage ride adventure, a meaningful and memorable moment unfolded. We unintentionally wound up at the place my dad proposed to my mom and I heard this story for the first time. Of course, we are talking about Nanook the Barbarian and the Angry Russian here, so their story was couched more in terms of Archie Bunker comedy than romantic rhetoric. In fact the two did not agree upon what happened at all, which is no surprise really if you know them. Theirs was not quite a love story, but it was a story of a unique love, and a Christmas gift I’ll always treasure.
The most devastating blow to my inner Scrooge came last year when I refused to listen to media reports about Christmas mayhem in the community and decided to start expanding my own sense of community. One of my holiday highlights last year was wrapping presents at a local bookstore for contributions to Literacy Mid-South, a local nonprofit organization that helps increase the literacy rates of adult learners. There are 125,000 adults in Memphis who read below the third grade level. Literacy Mid-South and their volunteer tutors are helping reduce that number. I have served with them in the past, but time and logistics were a barrier to continued service, so I jumped at this chance to wrap presents for donations. I drug the Indentured Servant/Resident Teologist and Nanook along for the ride and it was a beautifully wonderful morning of do-gooding awesomeness spent surrounded by books! We were all up in other people’s present buying business, wrapping gifts for stranger’s grandkids, and drinking coffee. It was GREAT! Nanook told me to pick out a book for her present to me, so I scored a copy of Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, which mom wrapped so pretty that I couldn’t bear to open it on Christmas. It stayed wrapped for a whole year before the story called to unwrap it.
This year, I am all about Christmas…but that, dear readers, is a different post.
So how about you? Any stories of Christmas past – or Scrooge slapping you have to share?
I’m learning to be a “good” listener. These are the wonderful words I heard around the house this week…
“I can help.”
“I feel better.”
“I’m so glad we did this.”
“I thought you needed a ’poinsetter’…and here are those cookies I told you about.”
“I love you.”
“This has been the best day of my life.”
What words have warmed your heart this week?
It has been an eventful week for SoKaN.
I invite you to visit our wonderful new website: isokan.com Skattur did an awesome job designing it and I am just ecstatic that there is now a picture me in my “boobhat” publically displayed on the Internet for all to see.
Last weekend’s Broad Avenue Art Walk and Art Bark was a blast. The weather was perfect, there was music in the air, “Pawcasso” pups running around in costume, and an abundance of interesting people doing interesting things.
This little Dali dog with his melting clock made my day…
An artist across the aisle captured a couple SoKaNers in his sketchbook.
Skattur added a little holiday flair to her display.
The KnitWits of the bunch are back in action for the season…
And here’s a random picture of a picture I took through the giant earhole of Jimmy “Tightpants,” who looked smashing in his polka dot dress.
Next week SoKaN will be at MEMFIX on Cleveland Street from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. We invite you to come come see us if you’re in the area!
The Devil builds three-year compost bins from pallets. (There is no rest for the wicked.)
The Devil confers with his minion.
This rascal creates mischief.
Leaves fall all around the “Greek Ruins” ensemble.
Tasty treats are harvested from the garden.
…and there is more still to ripen..
Duck tails waggle.
Sweet wildflowers bloom alongside the mean roses. (One of the mean ones bit me on the thumb several days ago. To quote Charlie’s brother, “…that really hurt…and it’s still hurting.”)
…and we celebrate six years of a little person’s life.
[Your partner] will make you see more about yourself than any navel gazing in solitude could ever reveal. And if the process isn’t completely horrifying and frustrating, then you’re just not doing it right.
We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us. But if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. And it isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems—the ones that make you truly who you are—that we’re ready to find a lifelong mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person—someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.”
He sold a guitar to buy her engagement ring. He was going to give it to her on Christmas day, but he wound up proposing two weeks before because he couldn’t wait.
She was horrified by the thought of a public wedding because it would involve too many eyes looking at her all at once. Besides, who had money to waste on some stupid party? She wanted to elope. Eloping was perfectly fine by him. Their mothers were appalled by the very idea and pushed for a church wedding. Suddenly it was ok for the young couple to continue ”living in sin,” as the mothers called it, for many months longer if it meant they could plan the wedding. The mothers joined forces and just started planning the damn thing without the couple’s consent.
“Ok, whatever” the would-be bride said with an eye roll.
The day before the wedding, he got a new hairdo, trading in his 1980s rocker hair for a mullet.
The ceremony that took eight months for the mothers to plan lasted 14 minutes.
And time passed….the couple ate a lot of Totino’s pizza, they got a cat, they bought a house, they got a dog, he changed jobs, she went back to school, they argued, they made up, relatives died, relatives were born, he played guitar, they tried new foods, she graduated a few times, they took care of kids, he took classes, they lost touch with old friends, he studied Kung Fu, they went on vacations, they made new friends, they sold and bought cars, they took a lot of walks in the park, they reconnected with old friends, she took a job out of state, the cat died, the dog died, they watched movies, she got a new cat, they got a new dog, they sold a house, they bought a farm…
…and 18 years later, she still looks at him and thinks, “This is the problem I want to have.”
You know how the contestants on the Price Is Right jump up and down when they win something exciting?
That’s exactly what I did when I first laid eyes on the gift Skattur & Wendell created for the farmwarming party. In a fit of inspired genius the two transformed an old bike into a new sign for the upcoming business.
The sign will be posted in front of the office once The Angry Russian has completed rennovations.