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I think I do more reading in the colder months than the warmer ones, how about you?

My leisure time in the summer seems consumed by flowers, bull frogs, and butterflies. In the dark of winter I will spend hours reading in the bathtub or bed, but in the summer I’m usually too exhausted by daytime existence and heat to read in my usual haunts. Reading for fun happens mostly in little snippets of time, mostly while I’m in transit –  like in the car being shuttled to a family function, or while waiting for someone’s luggage at an airport, or in a too-long line at the bank.

 

If you’re looking for something to read this summer, here are a few Book Quickie Reviews of the stuff that occupied my winter nights:

Title:  Fowl Weather 

Author: Bob Tarte

Why I Read It: It has a duck on the cover! (I’m a bit bird-brained in case you haven’t noticed).  I spotted it on the shelf at the Goodwill.

Synopsis: It’s the memoir of a kindred spirit who chronicals life with his menagerie. In his own words, it’s the story of, “how thirty-nine animals and one sock monkey took over my life.”

Highlights: Bob Tarte makes me seem normal by comparison. He’s funny and taught me a lot about my ducks.

Most Relate-to-able Quotes:  What can you ever say to a dead duck?  

It bothered me that I’d exhibited more patience with a duck than I seemed capable of extending to my mother…

 

Title: Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Why I Read It: It was a good book day at the Goodwill.  I hadn’t read anything by Gladwell, but I’d heard good reviews about his work. The idea of thinking without thinking was compelling.

Synopsis:  Through a wide range of case studies and behavioral research Malcolm explores the cognition behind “gut feelings.”

Highlights:  I am in awe of Gladwell’s ability to synthesize information from many different lenses into such a coherent picture of unconscious cognition.  He weaves together research and examples from such far flung fields as marital communication to military strategy (actually those two domains may not be as disparate as they seem on the surface) to museum curation.  It was as fascinating as it was well-written.

Recommended to: Folks interested in psychology will love this book. Also, firefighters and police officers, and others who must make quick, high-stakes decisions would benefit from this information as well as educators and policy makers.

Best Quote:

We live in a world saturated with information. We have vitually unlimited amounts of data at our fingertips at all times, and we’re well versed in the arguments about the dangers of not knowing enough and not doing our homework. But what I have sensed is an enormous frustration wtih the unexpected costs of knowing too much, of being inundated with information. We have come to confuse information with understanding….we are desperately lacking in the latter (Gladwell, 2005, p. 264-265).

Title: Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses

Author: Claire Dederer

Why I Read It: Yoga and Memoir – these are a few of my favorite things!

Synopsis: Dederer shares her experience of coming to terms with motherhood and balancing a career with family life through a (sometimes reluctant) yoga practice.

Highlights: I love stories about the transformative power of a yoga practice.  Dederer tells her story with a wickedly funny kick.

What surprised me: I wasn’t expecting from such a funny flippant lady the depth of knowledge and insight with which she wrote about the women’s movement of her mother’s generation and the cultural trends in our own generation.  She challenged me to think more deeply about my own relationship with my mom and the social and political factors that defined mom’s generation and how that might have led to some of her baffling behaviors.

Best quote:

Without our mothers and their mass 1970s exodus to who knows where, we might not have gotten those crucial years of learning who we were.  I am not sure any of the mothers meant to give us this gift, this terrible gift of freedom…they bought our freedom with their courage (Dederer, 2011, p. 297).

——-

Disclosure: I signed up to be an Amazon Affiliate, which means 1.) I can use their book cover images in my posts without having to worry about them suing me, and 2.) if you use one of the links I provide in the blog to purchase the book on amazon.com I’ll get like a nickel or something.  I’m disclosing this so you will be aware that if you click on a book link, our electronic “footprints” will be walking together toward amazon.

 

 

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Spring1

“The daffodils are blooming!” Kiki announced in a lilting voice as she breezed in the door.

The granddaughter, who didn’t know the difference between a daffodil and a geranium – and who didn’t much care, sat in the kitchen playing Donkey Kong on Colecovision. Her eyes were nearly glassed over from staring for so long into the screen and her thumb muscles ached from over use.

This would not do.

“Come outside and see!”

The glassy eyes slid her direction for a moment, then back to the screen, where the jumpman had just cleared another barrel.

“Come on, Valley.”

A barrel hit the jumpman. The child groaned. So much for saving the princess. She sighed, turned off the little TV, and stood up to get this over with.

Outside, the daffodils were indeed blooming.  Not just blooming – they looked like they were singing.  Trumpeting nearly.

“Heralding spring,”  Kiki said.

They looked like fairy princess dresses – perhaps the princess was saved afterall.

She most certainly will not be getting out of bed to get dressed for school, thankyouverymuch.

From the kitchen Momma has hollered for her to “GET UP!”  and with an edge in her voice added, “…and that’s the last time!”

This happens to be the second of Momma’s “last time” warnings. The warnings started after an entire series of ineffectual attempts to get her out of bed.  Momma went so far as to pick out an outfit and physically  try to force her into it. This was a grave offense.  She is six and a half years old and can dress herself. A lot of screaming and wrestling went into that fiasco before Momma abruptly aborted the mission to try out a new tactic: cooking breakfast.

But all the clothes and breakfasts in the world will not make a bit of difference.  She’s not budging. It is so cold in her bedroom it hurts to breathe. To protect herself from the temperature, she has ducked her head under the blanket to breathe her own body-warmed air. Her feet are pulled up beneath her flannel gown.  She has folded herself into a little ball to preserve heat.  She has gathered all the loose edges of the sheets and blankets and tucked them under herself to keep the mean air from biting her.   So Momma can threaten spankings all she wants. There are worse things than Momma’s spankings – like being attacked by the cold air outside the semi-warm cocoon she’s created beneath her covers.

It’s not just the cold terrorizing her, it’s also the snakes. Daddy killed one in his bedroom just the other night.  He chased it around the room hitting it over and over with his guitar until it was dead. She didn’t actually see it happen, but she did hear the accompanying soundtrack.  The oddly musical killing featured forceful, pounding rhythms and vibrating, jangly strings that reverberated inside the instrument’s hollow body with each blow. It was definitely not a song usually played in Daddy’s repertoire. She was horrified when she found out the cause behind Daddy’s improvisation. Now she imagines the coiling and roiling pit of snakes that surely resides under her bed. Daddy, the Slayer of Serpents and her Champion Defender, has already left for work.  So no ma’am, she will not be getting out of bed today.

Momma’s footsteps now creak down the hallway and stop at her room.  Uh-0h.

“Come on and get up. I made biscuits and it’s warm in the kitchen.  The oven door’s open.” Momma says sweetly.

The brat beneath the blankets cries, “Nooooo, it’s too cold! And biscuits are so yucky. They’re mushy and gross. And there are snakes!”

“There are no snakes. And I’ll toast the biscuits.  You like them like that, remember?”

Momma steps closer. Under the covers the child braces herself in anticipation of the coming struggle.  When it doesn’t come, she realizes Momma’s footsteps are fading down the hallway. She hears rustling and softly percussive kitchen sounds. The oven door creaks then snaps shut.

She hugs her knees in and shivers.

A few minutes later, the oven door creaks open, then Momma is standing by her bed again, working loose a corner of the sheets.  Delicious warmth touches her skin. Her clothes! In her blanket cocoon, she dresses in her oven-baked shirt, warm pants, and toasted socks, then she emerges a new creature.  She jumps off the bed and runs out of her room before the snakes can get her.  She follows the scent of toasted bicuits to the warm kitchen. For the rest of the day the scent of biscuits and love lingers all around her.

~~*~~

ReminisScent I

The Devil

The Devil

“Why do you call your husband that?” It’s usually the folks that don’t know him doing the asking.

People in the know make him identity bracelets with “The Devil” spelled out in beads.

He’s also been lovingly refered to as “Squidward” by a self-identified “Patrick” who dubbed me “Spongebob.” If, like me, you need a reference point for these accusations, I give you two:

The Devil can be grumpy for sure. Naturally, he’s a bit of a Grinch about Christmas.  This year in a rare moment when he wasn’t complaining about how ridiculous the holiday is, and how stupid all the shoppers are clogging up the traffic home, he asked for “kill shirts.”  Kill shirts, as in the shirts TV serial killer, Dexter, wears. It was a sincere request.  Not that he’s going to kill anything; the Devil is a vegetarian.

He’s the kind of guy who listens to Heavy Metal, Death Metal, and who watches the Vegan Black Metal Chef.

His lounge-wear reveals his devilishness clearly:

EL-D

He often conceals his dark nature behind various disguises.  When we make public appearances (because, you know, we’re rockstars), it’s customary to see each other on the way out the door and wonder aloud who exactly the other is supposed to be in regard to the costuming, then to promptly answer our own posed question.  It goes like this:

I’ll say, “Who are you going as tonight, a literature professor?”

He’ll say, “What are you supposed to be, a woodland fairy?”

We tend to create the most unlikely pairings: country gentleman and baglady, serial killer and Sporty Spice.

We are always so different, even when we’re exactly the same.  When I morph into Lilith he suddenly becomes Michael the Archangel.

In our relationship’s default settings, I lean towards a chirpy sort of joy while he does all the moody brooding.  We remind me a lot of these two:

But somehow underlying it all is just this…

Tulsa October 026

He fires up his joint and takes a deep inhale.

She watches, a little afraid and a lot disappointed, as his eyes go flat and boring.  It’s stinky and smoky and dark and she’s cold.  She doesn’t like it here.

He is usually so much more fun than this, especially when they watch Saturday morning rasslin’ together. Between commercial breaks he roars and picks her up over his head like he’s Jerry “The King” Lawler and she’s Junkyard Dog.  He turns in a slow circle showing his imaginary audience how strong he is while she clings to his wrists for dear life and screams, “No! No! Put me down!”

“Down?? You want down?”

“Wait! No! Stop! Please! Maaaaamaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”

She screams in terrified delight as he body slams her down on the couch.

She lies there stunned for the 3 count while he flexes and makes his face look mean like he’s the Incredible Hulk. Then he lumbers off to the kitchen to get a Coke out of the ‘fridge.

Momma always yells at him at this point in the routine, “Stop doing that! You’ll break her ribs!”

“Well, I have to win the match somehow,” he replies.

“I mean it. Don’t do that. You could make her lungs collapse and kill her.”

“Nah, I’m just toughenin’ her up.”

Saturday morning rasslin’ is the real He-man rasslin’ and definitely not to be confused with that “kissy face” wrestling that they do in the Ol’-limp-kicks.  She is still trying to work out what exactly the Ol’-limp-kicks is.  It is a sports thing, she knows. They’ve explained that it happens every 4 years.  She is 4.  It is something to do with her birthday?  They said no. They said it happened even before she was ever around – before she was even thought of.  There is something deeply suspicious about this.  How could things go on without her around? The question makes her head feel funny, so she thinks about something else.

She wishes it was Saturday morning.

But it’s not Saturday. He passes the joint to his friend, who takes it, glances at her, then back and him. Between hits he asks, “Do you think she knows what we’re doing?”

Of course she knows what they’re doing. They’re being bad.  Momma would be so mad. Daddy smokes Lucky Strikes, which is bad Momma says.  But Daddy doesn’t smoke “wacky tabacky,” which is way more bad.  She doesn’t say any of this. Even though she is looking at them, they are looking through her and talking about her like she doesn’t understand English or like she is deaf.

She knows about being deaf because a really long time ago, when she was 3, she lived in Texas and her best friend in the whole world lived next door and she was deaf for real.  Daddy had explained it all to her then. He told her that her best friend was deaf and dumb.  It’s not nice to call someone dumb, she told him.  He said he wasn’t being mean – it wasn’t that kind of dumb.

He said, “You know how some people can’t hear and they’re called deaf?”

Well, no, in fact, she didn’t know anything about that. How come they couldn’t hear? What did they hear if they couldn’t hear?  Was being deaf like when the wind blows everybody’s words away? Or did they not even hear the wind? Do deaf people’s ears ever ring when nothing is actually ringing like hers sometimes do? Does being deaf sound like the way you hear under water? Do your ears feel full of water when you are deaf?

Sometimes Daddy seems to know a lot and sometimes he doesn’t seem to know much of anything at all. She sorta-kinda got the idea, though.

Daddy went on, “When people can’t talk they are called dumb. It’s just a way to describe someone who can’t talk.”

Dumb isn’t a nice word, Daddy,” she reminded him again.

Besides, she understood everything her best friend said.  Her best friend didn’t say things the way everybody else said things, so you couldn’t listen with just your ears.

She misses her best friend. When her family moved back to Memphis, her best friend stayed in Texas.

She remembers Texas and the night they met.  She was outside her new house with Momma and Daddy. The sun was about to go to bed for the night when the neighbors came out of the house right beside theirs.  And there was her best friend.  They both squealed and immediately the chase was on.  Running, running, running. Cool grass on bare feet. Lungs aching with the effort of breathing around giggles, squeals, and exhaustion. The sheer joy of having a friend. Of being seen!

That night as she scratched at her berjillion mosquito bites, her parents murmured in sad, serious tones things she didn’t comprehend.

“… woman in a child’s body”

“Can’t imagine…”

“…must be hard.”

“What a shame.”

She didn’t understand her best friend was “different” until one day during another endless game of Chase, she tripped over a broom in the driveway. Face slides across bumpy concrete. Pebbles scrape tender skin on palms and knees.  Best friend sees her fall and panics, collapsing to the ground beside her. Hands flapping. Moaning. Best friend didn’t fall, why is she crying? Oh, oh, face on fire. It hurts. Best friends crying together. Blood-curdling screams.  The scene strikes fear in the heart of both Mommas, who rush out to fix their injured children.

Mercurochrome is dabbed on her scrapes – even on her nose.  “Hey Rudolph, what happened to you?” Daddy will say when he gets home from work.

Momma decides it’s better for her not to play with her best friend, who is so much older. She might hurt her, accidentally.

Bruises and scrapes will heal in a few days.  Other kinds of hurts take much longer.

Morning light.  Tired eyes open, squinty. Through the fringe of eyelashes the air is alive with fairy dust.  Eyes wide now. Mamma and daddy need to see this! There are whys that need to be answered. Why did the fairies come and decorate the air? And why did they leave?

She doesn’t yet know the word “mote,” but she is an expert on glitter. She decorates paper plates with glitter and glue.  And she can make a necklace with macaroni and string. The macaroni necklace needs glitter and glue! She’ll have to tell mamma.

The air is so pretty.  It’s just like the water drops in the bathtub that turn to diamonds when you look at them right.  No one else seems to see them.  It’s always, “Hurry up.  Get out of the tub. I’m tired” or “Come on, we need to dry your hair before you get sick.”

She discovers momma and daddy still asleep, oblivous to fairies and air that glitters.

Daddy is better at why. She pads over to his side of the bed where he is asleep on his back. She stands there patiently waiting for him to wake up. An eternity of 10 seconds passes.  She stares at him trying to force him awake with her will.  Nothing. She stands there wondering what is the best way to wake him up without making him grumpy. She has an idea! She  will open his eyes for him so he can wake up seeing the sparkly air.  She positions her fingers above his eye lid and then pops it open.

He jumps awake like he’s been shot.

She runs away as he  yells, “Valentina! What the hell are you doing?!”

She adds another why to the ever growing collection: Why does nobody ever seem impressed that the whole world sparkles?

9-3-13 001

Here is a list of stuff I’ve recently traded for the fresh eggs of Myrtle, Pearl, Gertrude, and Freebird:

1. two jars of homemade pickles

2. a loaf of whole grain organic bread

3. two hands full of home grown green beans

4. a bag of home grown cucumbers

5. a bag of home grown jalapeños and bell peppers

Also, a friend recently offered to house/dog/cat/duck/chicken sit if and when I ever go out of town again, in exchange for fresh eggs.

Personally, I find this an impressive list given I’ve had the girls less than a month. The farmy bartering makes me downright giddy. Let it go down on the record that I have not eaten any of the eggs myself. I gave up eggs January 11, 2011 as a strange experiment with “enlightenment.” On a side note, when I just went back to find the link to the first blog post in which I announced this decision, I realized that the date translates to 1-11-11 . I suppose I won’t be forgetting that date again. It wasn’t an intentional “oooh-here’s-a-date-with-a-buncha-ones-in-it,-let’s-do-something-crazy” sort of decision.  But apparently it was a good date for new beginnings, especially since the post I wrote right before that one was aptly named Conflict and Crisis.

a mama carrying her silver orb

a mama carrying her silver orb

On another tangential note…2 years, 10 months, and 1 day after beginning my enlightenment quest, my mother and I are still driving each other nutters. (Hi Mom!)

Looking back, it’s funny to see all the obvious patterns you missed as you’re moving through a life unfolding in real time. It’s also a little embarrassing. There I was, ego bare, for all to see.

And here I am still….

*TaDA!*

I wonder what obvious things I’m missing even now that I will look back on someday and snicker about.

duck eggs

duck eggs

The self-imposed egg prohibition was largely a symbolic gesture, which I attempted to explain many times to others (and to myself), as in the post: The Incredible Inedible Egg.  In spite of all this, it has never made much sense to any of us I’m afraid.  As a result I caught a lot of flack from family members who were baffled, horrified, or just plain outraged by my perceived havoc-wrecking habits on our family feasting functions.

My life is so different now from when I started all this. I am different. And I am the same. As life continues to unfold in real time, one pattern that has not escaped my notice is the irony.  For someone who has worked so hard to avoid eating eggs, I’m now surrounded by them being laid before me on a daily basis.  This certainly wasn’t planned, but it is welcomed.

 

darkness

A spiritual practice is one that brings us full circle – not to a new self, but rather back to the essence of our true selves.                                                                   

-Rolf Gates

 

b4peace

I have been away from home for a (WHOLE!) week. When I came in my office this morning I open both doors to get some life back into the air that had staled.  The summer semester is over and I had a morning to luxuriate in free time, so I decided to catch up on my blog reading.

I was delighted to discover that Music and Peace is the topic of Kozo’s Monthly Peace Challenge for August.  What a great invitation to pause and ponder what peace sounds like.  There is a fabulous array of interpretations that have been posted on his site, from classics like Edwin Starr’s War (from Many Little Drops) and Cat Steven’s Peace Train (Dianna’s choice)  to modern versions of familiar favorites like Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Claudia‘s pick). I’ve also discovered new treasures like Deva Primal, Moola Mantra (on Leigh’s playlist).  Good stuff!

After listening to the wide range of songs that said “peace” to others I sat here thinking about what songs meant “peace” to me. While I was busy with that mind jazz, a joyful noise breezed in unnoticed through the open doors.  It was the soft, but persistent sound of the cicadas.  Their clicking rhythms swelled huge enough to overcome the noise of my own mental chatter. It continued growing, filling in the spaces between the trees. The rhythm abruptly synchopated before dissipating. In the short rest that followed I heard the faint susurrus of the ducklings. A hawk called out from somewhere in the sky and momma duck added her voice to the mix. Call and response. I am here! I am here! I am. I am.

And that is how those durn ducks managed to work their way into yet another one of my posts about peace.

Back to the human music…

I’m positively giddy to be back home, which might be why all the music I’m drawn to today is peaceful in an exhuberant sort of way, like this rendition of Imagine:

…and as a child of the 80s, We Are the World resonates with me as a peace activist sort of song, so I was delighted to find this recently updated version:

Then I found a hardcore version of a peaceful song El-D favors:

And this afternoon Skattur showed me this little singer passionately crooning peaceful Elvis songs…

Her song starts around :59 seconds in, but the whole video is well worth watching.

 

What songs speak peace to you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was but a wee lass, my mother would deposit me at my grandparents’ house at the onset of summer vacation to “spend the night” and there I would stay all summer. I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a change of clothes or even a toothbrush, but my grandparents, resourceful people that they were, managed to provided whatever was needed. Year after year this was the routine.

My grandparents’ storage shed, where they kept the dryer and a deep freezer full of hamburger patties and freezer-dried buns, had the most intriguing scent.  I’m convinced it was the lingering fragrance of the 1950s, though probably it was just a bouquet of old insulation, dryer sheets, and mildewed wood.  Whatever it was I have never smelled anything else like it anywhere. Somehow the scent persisted through the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Inevitably, other family children wound up at the grandparents’ house to stay the night (for real just the night) while I was there. My grandmother would occasionally ask one of them to go to the shed to get the laundry out of the dryer.  I was rarely asked to perform this chore, probably because I was the youngest and least reliable. Plus, going to the shed by myself scared the heck out of me. In fact, I might have left an accidental trail of her panties from shed to house once when on this mission by myself…out of fear, mind you, not out of spite.  It’s hard to run away from imagined monsters while burdened with a load of heavy laundry.

Despite this fear, I didn’t mind accompanying the appointed laundry retrievers to the shed because I loved smelling the room and because all the other family kids were bigger than me, better at fighting off offending monsters, and thus terribly interesting.  I didn’t want to leave any of them alone for even a minute for fear of missing something fantastic that they might do.

So there we would stand with “not enough room in this shed for both of us” (whatever) while he or she dealt with hot laundry and I huffed the scent of the 1950s.

I really miss that scent.

Any scents from childhood that you miss?

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