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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.
There are two brown sycamore leaves suspended by spidersilk right outside the window. The silk is grey and cottony with age; the spider is long gone. Now the leaves hang undisturbed, but at times they tilt, flutter, or twist, depending on the breeze. It’s –
the phone vibrates, the strand of thought disippates. Words fly away like autumn leaves.
Vibrations of an unfamiliar, yet cheerful voice travel through space to ear with greetings followed by a hesitant inquiry: “…do you have a moment to chat?”
It’s a perfect moment. A sacred and holy moment.
Pleasantries exchanged, a need expressed. Plans are tentatively made for the future and the connection is broken.
The leaves outside the window dangle in the breeze held by a thread of spidersilk.
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?
A friend is someone who knows where all your bodies are buried. Because they’re the ones who helped you put them there.
–Jenny Lawson’s dad
This morning, a dark, dreary Monday, was a perfect day for death.
The Devil handed me a shovel and through the mud and muck I followed him to bury the body. My rainboots were too cheerful for the occasion, but I wore them anyway, grey pajama pants tucked into the rims. Fuck Prada, The Devil wore work boots because he’s practical like that. The ground was squishy and sucked at the rubber soles. The wind flung leftover raindrops from tree leaves as he dug a shallow grave.
Hellcat (aka Baki, Lili, and Zombie Cat) was intimidating for such a soft, fluffy creature. She packed a surprising amount of viciousness in her little frame. She would attack anyone and everyone who was within claw distance without the slightest provocation. In her heyday, she groomed incessantly. When she wasn’t grooming she pranced around and preened to show off her fluffy coat. Her favorite pastime was to jump into the laps of unsuspecting guests as if she wanted affection and then lash out the moment a hand was raised to pet her. Maybe she was just misunderstood. One thing is for sure, she loved The Devil.
Hellcat’s final resting place is under the trees near the broken fence, just beyond the pond. RIP Baby Kitty.
Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when you were not: that gives us no concern. Why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be? To die is only to be as we were before we were born.
Yesterday I met the Braveheart of wasps while deadheading the Black-eyed Susans. I must have cut down the house he built on a flower stem because he went all sorts of berserk on me. I have learned to wear the equivalent of a spacesuit to work in the garden because I’ve come to the conclusion that everything out there is trying to kill me. The rose bushes, the poison ivy, the spiders, the mosquitoes, the ants, the wasps and the hornets – they all want in on the action. Even the grasshoppers, who once had the good sense to jump away and hide when they saw me coming, have become so fat and entitled that they don’t even bother anymore. They stand their ground, ok well their leaf, and stare me down like they’re daring me to do something about it.
But back to Braveheart. His flower stem was dead and it was time to go. Really, if I didn’t take it down, it would have eventually fallen on its own, so the intensity of his anger was a bit out of proportion to the facts of the situation in my opinion. I could practically hear him screaming, “I KILL YOU!” every time he tried to attack me, which was repeatedly, over the course of half an hour, from one end of the backyard to the other. If anyone (like the neighbors or someone from Google Earth) was watching (s)he probably thinks I’m insane because with each attack I would panic, shriek, flail, jump up, and run, all the while slapping at myself and screaming “Get away from me!”
Did I mention I was running with scissors? And just like in horror movies there was the inevitable scene in which the heroine (that’s me) stumbles and falls at a critical moment. I barely managed to escape being impaled. I scrambled up and ran some more and just when I thought I’d lost him, there was a menacing buzzing about my head and he began flinging himself at me all over again. Obviously he needed a moment to cool off, so I went inside for water and shelter. Ten minutes later, I went back outside and there Braveheart was again hurling himself at my back and head repeatedly, turning me into a raving lunatic. How one little wasp with a sand speck brain containing less than half a million neurons can have such a long attention span is completely beyond me.
I guess I’d be pretty upset too if someone came and cut my house down off my flower. Fortunately, neither party was injured in the making of this story.
[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.”
Out of the mist your voice is calling, it’s twilight time.
When purple colored curtains mark the end of day,
I’ll hear you, my dear, at twilight time.
–The Platters, Twilight Time
Catherine Soule, or Kiki, graced this world from August 1, 1914 to June 14, 2004.
She sometimes drove with her elbows propped on the steering wheel, her chin resting on her hands.
She smelled like roses.
She loved hamburgers.
Her living room was a sacred place to welcome guests. Everything in it was just so and it was off limits to grandkids. When she got new carpet, we had to take off our shoes and leave our socks on to walk on it.
She grew mint just outside the backdoor.
Before I knew her, she wore little dainty white gloves. I never saw her wear them, but she had a lot of them.
She would visit the beauty shop to get her hair done every week. Immediately following each visit she’d spend a very long time in the bathroom restyling it.
She kept all the greeting cards she ever received in a box under her bed.
She used Scotch Tape at night between her eyebrows to keep frown lines at bay.
She swore that ½ a banana would cure everything from headaches to nausea.
She would prop the end of her ironing board on her bed and lie on it upside down to undo the effects of gravity.
She referred to earrings as earbobs.
She watched Johnny Carson every night.
She once told me to “give the finger” to a person who cut her off in traffic. When I looked over at her horrified she gave me a little wave with her index finger to demonstrate what she meant by the phrase.
One of her favorite songs to play on her organ was Twilight Time. She also would play Love Me Tender.
When I spent the night she’d always tell me I looked like “the last rose of summer” in the morning when I woke.
She taught me to end each day by counting my blessings and praying for loved ones.
She was married to Hiram Soule for 72 years.
Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, and Realize.
-- Master Sivananda
This week I am amazed by other people’s capacity for patience where I have none.
I am grateful to be learning from your example.
And to the one who tries my patience near daily:
Thank you for being here doing what you do to help me work on it.