Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bibliophilia


Just like with animals, I've had a lifelong love affair with books. I learned to read several years before I started school (in the time period when pre-K and Kindergarten wasn't required.) My mother once told me that as she was trying to teach my brother to read (he's four years older) I would sit and try to read the print upside down in books while she sat beside him. She mentioned that she worried I was dyslexic.

I went on regular trips to the public libraries with my mother before I started school, and of course, after. My father introduced me to classics when I was in grade school. I didn't know it wasn't "normal" to have read things like Brave New World, Lord of the Flies or works by Shakespeare and others before fifth grade. It just happened for me. My father would take a book from his shelf and say "Read this." So I did, and often we'd discuss the book after I'd finished. Sometimes my perception of the book's contents changed with reading it over various stages of my life, but I always was able to glean something from it.

Now the libraries don't seem to have the books I am interested in, or I'm on a waiting list...a long one...when a popular book comes out. This could be related to living in an area where there isn't a large library. Enter Amazon.com! When online book ordering became possible, I stopped going to the library as often. I've also been to local bookshops (which sometimes have the same problem the public library does...the book isn't available, though sometimes I get lucky.) They very kindly say they can order it for me and have it in two or three days, but I can do the same thing online. Admittedly, I have a bad case of "bibliophilia."

I'm currently reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows. One of my favorite quotes from the book (so far) is:

...That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive--all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.


In my case, that's very true. I've learned a lot about Guernsey Island since reading the book and looking up information about it available online. It's a melding of reading for pleasure and reading for knowledge.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Speaking "Frank-ly"


One of the hard things for me this time of year is the season causes me to reflect on times past. Both of my parents have been deceased for many years, but that is what happens with the passage of time. It's difficult, however, to sometimes think of broken friendships, broken romances and then tragic events ending a life way too early. That was the case with my friend, Frank.

I first met Frank when my parents moved to another city when I was attending college. Frank was attending a different college, closer to where my parents lived. Frank and my parents attended the same church. So meeting Frank was, I guess, one of those things to be expected.

We discovered we had the same sense of humor, and because Frank was one of the "hippie types" of that era (and all that entails) we shared some common interests. My parents liked Frank, but probably secretly prayed that nothing serious would develop between us. They needn't have worried. Frank was, well, my buddy (but not the kind that some people think of these days.) We talked for hours, and because Frank was an unashamed smoker of the popular substance at that time, we got into some really interesting conversations. My parents, no doubt, thought that I was guilty of similar smoking behaviors because I hung out with Frank, but that wasn't the case. Someone even labeled me a "fake hippie" because I never intentionally used recreational drugs (second hand inhalation at a rock concert was another matter. I couldn't hold my breath forever!!)

One of Frank's favorite songs was "Don't Bogart That Joint" (or as it appeared on the album listing: "Don't Bogart Me") known from the movie Easy Rider, played during a scene which pushed actor Jack Nicholson into stardom.

Frank and I only saw each other during college breaks. Christmas and summers, mainly. He wrote to me (in those pre-email days) and told me he was in love with me, but sadly for him, I didn't love him in quite the same way. He moved on. Our friendship remained, but we saw less of each other.

Several years later, word came that Frank had died while awaiting a transplant. By the time I had learned about it, the funeral was long over, but I still grieved for a while remembering the fun we had. He was there for me during times of heartaches of my own. He also had an off-kilter sense of humor, remarking one time that the day after Christmas, which I have known as "St. Stephen's Day," was a "day to get stoned." Not that he chose that particular day to do so.

So each Christmas, I remember Frank and his love of puns, our interesting conversations that went on for hours and veered from serious to silly. He loved the comic strip Frank & Earnest because of the puns it often contains. One of his favorite lines when we'd meet up was "I'll be Frank, and you'll be earnest." How true. Spoken like a lover of puns.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dewey Readmore Books


I'm a lifelong animal lover. Starting with a cat who entered the life of my family when I was four years old. There have been many animals/pets in my life since then. As a result, I've read a lot of books involving animals since my childhood. One of the more recent books I read, Marley & Me, has just been made into a movie. But recently, I read a book titled Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. His full name was the title of this post, "Dewey Readmore Books." As a lover of puns (and cats, among other animals) I adored the name this cat was given when it was discovered by a librarian one cold night in Iowa. I won't say anything else about Dewey's story, but it was an emotionally touching read. I will only add that I never heard of Dewey until I read this book, so was surprised at how far-reaching his notoriety was.



Saturday, December 13, 2008

Survey Says: Do you text message during sex?


Normally, I'm not a big fan of telephone surveys, but I decided to participate in one today as I was not really involved in something at the time of the call. The questions covered a wide variety of topics, so that just when I thought I'd figured out who was sponsoring this survey, another crop of questions went in another direction. Samples: "How do you feel about a root canal as opposed to tooth extraction?" "Have you heard of these brands of water coolers?" "Do you know about the Heritage Foundation?" "How do you feel about the Brookings Institute?" and one that REALLY made me laugh "Have you ever text-messaged someone while having sex?" She had to repeat the question. I could tell that the questioner was also a bit reluctant about asking that one at first and her initial phrase was "while in the throes of passion," but then she said "If you think that one was funny, wait, there are more questions about sex." I was intrigued and was thankful the caller was female. My sex life is not something I wish to discuss with many people, but I told her (the caller/questioner) that my mind kept coming back to that "sex while text messaging" question and I kept trying to supress my laughter. One of the follow up questions was "Do you know anyone who has admitted having sex while text messaging?" Sadly, I had to say "yes." I really do know someone who admitted that to me. Other questions involved political issues, economic and social issues. As I mentioned, it was hard to figure out who was sponsoring the survey, but as surveys go, it was definitely one of the more interesting ones.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tired of being Malled during the Holidays

It's that time of year when the Malls become the destination for many holiday shoppers. Not this one (yours truly.) I was talking to someone the other day about their recent trip to the Mall some distance from my residence and it occurred to me, I haven't been to a Mall in two years or more. It isn't that I have anything against the retailers, maybe it's just something to do with my perspective. I was beginning to feel claustrophobic with all the crowding and shoving that shoppers were doing making their way from store to store. It was like the oxygen was being sucked out of the space I was walking. Then there were people to dodge who would stand in the middle of the pathways and obliviously chat with each others (or use cell phones) and jabber unaware that there were others trying to walk around them. Or they plain just did not care. One of my pet peeves is rudeness and at this time of the year when there should be a "holiday spirit" of "peace and goodwill" people turn into, well, "jerks." Maybe it's the way they were parented (or weren't parented,) never being taught to show respect for others, or maybe the the nation has just become so "DO IT NOW" with instant gratification piled onto it, that people just don't care how they are perceived by others.

Don't get me wrong. I was an adolescent years ago and at that time, I acted age appropriate (translation: I sometimes could be a bit of a jerk myself,) but I had been taught manners. I also grew up.

One of my fondest memories of Christmas as a young adult was going with a friend to do Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. Mind you, we were both in our twenties then, didn't attend the same college but saw each other during semester breaks. It was a lot of fun....back then.

But several years ago, I began to really, really dislike going to the Mall when living in Lafayette. Ironically, it was some place my now exes (boyfriends, signifcant others) and then-friends would go to together and have a decent time, especially at the coffee shop at Center Court in the Acadiana Mall (now known, as I recall, as The Mall of Acadiana.) It isn't painful memories of relationships lost that makes me avoid the Mall now. Again, it's the crowds and a lot of rude behavior. Add to that trying to find a parking place while someone waits and blocks a lane of traffic just so they can get two spaces closer to the Mall. Does it really hurt THAT much to walk a little further (assuming a person doesn't need a handicap spot)? Not to mention the gas being wasted idling or circling for "just the right spot" to park.

These days when I Christmas shop "in person", I tend to do so at stores not located in a Mall, but local shops--and many of them are losing business and closing due to hard economic times. That reflects also on the remaining choices I have.

While it causes me conflict as an activist trying very hard to stay environmentally aware, I tend to shop mostly online these days. I have to consider the miles something travels, the packaging used and other things that can impact the environment, but it is less stressful to shop from my home at my computer than to wade through people who act rudely.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Espresso Yourself: Do the Truffle Shuffle!

Where I am currently living a Starbucks opened within the past few months. This is my first holiday season being aware of their "Holiday Drinks" which are available only during this time of year.

Equally new to me is espresso. I know that it is a highly caffeinated beverage, as well as a little of the history behind it. It's better in small quantities of consumption, much like the dainty demitasse cups I inherited from my mother (who inherited them from her mother) which I've never used. The delicate little cups normally are used to serve strong coffee, and I rarely drink coffee. I gave up coffee years ago as a steady beverage when I left home to attend college. Prior to that, I drank the familiar concoction of "coffee milk": one-third coffee, two-thirds milk and of course, sugar, from childhood through high school graduation.

Since I tend to drink tea at the "new" Starbucks, I decided to try one of their holiday drink offerings on a day a percentage of the purchase was donated to AIDS research. This deviation from my normal "tall" (which actually is a "regular size") hot tea order caused me to have to write down beforehand my order so that I wouldn't get confused with all the "barrista-speak" Starbucks employees learn as do regular customers who order the fancier drinks. I ordered a "short espresso truffle with two percent milk" after reading about the holiday drink on Starbuck's website. It also came highly recommended by the Starbucks staff. My verdict: Very good. It tasted a bit like hot chocolate with a mild coffee undertone (forgive the gourmet-speak, please.) I enjoyed it enough to look forward to ordering another one soon. There are two others offered by Starbucks this season, but I'll probably stick with the "truffle"--which due to the sugar rush and caffeine jolt can really give you a peppy shuffle--and that was just the "short" size!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thinking outside the Christmas gift box



During the Spanish Civil War in 1936, a Midwestern farmer named Dan West was ladling out rations of milk to hungry children and had a thought "These children don't need a cup, they need a cow." His idea grew over the years and now is known as Heifer International, but don't have a cow, man, because cattle are not the only things Heifer International offers in the way of helping impoverished people become self-reliant.

Heifer International publishes a Christmas catalogue (and has an online site, too):

http://www.heifer.org/site/c.edJRKQNiFiG/b.183217/

Their work goes on year-round, but at Christmas when people are thinking of what gift to give someone, what better way than to help others? For as little as $10 you can contribute to the purchase of an animal which will provide nourishment not just for one meal, but for many. Cows, pigs, geese, ducks, goats and sheep are all used not just for one meal, or for one item of clothing from wool, but to sustain a village economically. Additionally, trees and honey bees can be purchased for less than thirty dollars to help areas of the world in need. You can make a donation in memory or honor of a loved one and help those less fortunate and receive or have sent a card noting your donation. You might just make your own life better and understand the gift season of Christmas a little more.

Monday, December 1, 2008

December 1: World AIDS Awareness Day


I trained as a volunteer for an HIV/AIDS awareness organization when it first opened in the city where I lived. At the time, there were a lot of fears about AIDS: about how it was spread from person to person. People in the gay community were targeted as "the enemy" being "cursed by God" as expressed by some people both locally and nationally. Even now, in other ways, those infected with HIV are still persecuted--but now we know (at least those of us who have been educated) that HIV/AIDS can't be spread by a cough, shaking hands or a hug (which was part of the early fears.)

As a heterosexual, others in the early years of this growing epidemic often wondered why I would want to help "those people" (who were primarily members of the gay community.) I couldn't see why I WOULDN'T want to help them, and I hope the time that I worked as a volunteer did help in some small way. During those early years, people I had come to care about died within a short time frame and I grieved. Today, some I met are still living with the help of improved medications which aren't cheap and it isn't just one pill a day. Because those infected are living longer, some people are thinking that HIV/AIDS is no longer a problem. Don't be fooled.

It wasn't until heterosexuals began to be infected with HIV/AIDS through drug use or unprotected sex that the public began to show concern and educate more, to increase research for medicines and hope for a cure. Now HIV/AIDS Awareness is a worldwide goal. How far we've come, but how far we have left to go.

Here's thinking of you, Tim (my volunteer training "buddy" who was HIV+ and died many years ago.) May a cure come soon for others, when it came too late for you.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reprieve!



Shortly before Thanksgiving, I was called about a pending execution. This did not make me happy, and I realize that such events are becoming more frequent due to hard economic times.

The call was from an area animal shelter about a Yorkshire Terrier estimated to be about three years old who ended up as an unwanted pet, or perhaps just another mouth to feed in an already strained budget someone had.

After a ninety minute journey to the shelter, I was introduced to "Johnny"--the name given to him by shelter employees. Someone had obviously loved Johnny because he is so friendly, but no one came to claim him or called out of concern. After attempting to reunite him with his "family," the clock was ticking. "Johnny" was going to the gas chamber in twenty-four hours.

Admittedly, I'm a sucker for some hard-luck stories, especially when it comes to animals. So the animal control people (some knew me from a prior adoption there) knew who would be interested. I would.

As I drove home with "Johnny", I couldn't help but think of all those animals who won't be so lucky. Having worked in animal rescue efforts in the past, I also know how emotionally draining it can be. My worst experience was taking part in a puppymill "clearance" due to orders from the local law enforcement agency near the puppymill. Trust me, if you've ever seen a puppymill situation, you've had a glimpse of Hell.

For my own well-being, I had to get out of animal rescue work, and I've admired those who could hang in there (and not all of them are like the case you heard about involving Ellen DeGeneres.) I know some of you are reading this and thinking "it's only an animal." But there are just as many who think differently.

Like most who have worked in animal rescue organization efforts, I can tell you what to do. With Christmas rapidly approaching, some are looking to get a puppy or kitten for a Christmas gift. Think long and hard about this idea. Make sure your adopted pet didn't come from a puppymill (or the equivalent for kittens.) Spay or neuter your animal unless you plan to breed them...and keep the breeding to a minimum. If you see dollar signs related to "future income" when you look at a cat or dog after you've purchased it, remember that not everyone can afford to pay $100+ for a pet these days, not to mention what comes with taking care of it.

I can also tell you from personal experience that for every purebred animal, there are several mixed breed dogs or cats who need love, too, and can be found at your local animal shelter (purebred animals can be found at shelters, too, if rescue groups have not intervened.) But their time is limited.

"Johnny" got his reprieve just in time.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Reading: Rice and "gravy"





I've tried many times to read several of the works produced by Anne Rice, a former--and famous--resident of New Orleans, but haven't ever succeeded to the end. Though I know several people who have talked positively about her vampire chronicles and her newest spiritual fiction related to Jesus. I am, however, currently reading her autobiography Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession. From advance word about the book, Rice's spiritual journey has been reflected in both her vampire fiction as well as her other fictional work. I have always been interested in spiritual journey/conversion stories (not just limited to Christian matters,) and thought that Rice's autobiography might give me some insight into her spiritual journey as well as her creative process and subject focus.

The "gravy" in this entry's title is related to a book by Isabel Anders, Awaiting the Child: An Advent Journal. Anders, whom I met about a month ago has published several works, mostly related to spiritual or theological themes. Awaiting the Child is not only related to the season of Advent, it is a journal she kept during her first pregnancy, giving the title a dual meaning.

P.S. Rice (the food) and gravy has been one of my favorite "comfort foods" since early childhood. Reading has always been the "comfort food" for my mind and soul.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Trees in November?



I know it is a sign of consumerism more than getting into the Christmas season when living Christmas trees (OK, they're actually dead for the most part) are being purchased this far in advance of Christmas Day. It's annoying enough with radio stations dedicating their twenty-four hour format to Christmas music, or seeing Christmas decorations put up in the city before Thanksgiving.

In my childhood household, it was pretty much a "no-no" to put up a Christmas tree before Christmas Eve, due to this religious season called "Advent." My parents believed the old adage "Keep Christ in Christmas and Christmas out of Advent." I'm sure R. Catholics have heard of Advent, and I know it isn't a religious season observed by every Christian denomination. But whatever one's religious affiliation (I've some Jewish friends who refer to it as a "Chanukah bush" when buying a small Christmas tree.) The Christmas tree, after all, has its roots (I know there's a pun) in pagan observances co-opted by early Christians. Buying a severed tree to me this early just means a lot of dead needles and a fire hazard before Christmas Day. But that's just my opinion, humbly expressed.

Of course, anyone who has waited like my family did to purchase a non-artificial tree on Christmas Eve often was confronted with the little spindly leftovers like the little tree made famous in the animated holiday program A Charlie Brown Christmas. But as Charlie Brown's friend Linus noted, spindly little trees need love too. It wasn't always the case that the trees of my youth purchased on Christmas Eve were that sad-looking.

I also remember the year my mother introduced a "new" family custom when I was a teenager which she had learned as a child and young adult growing up through the Great Depression of the 1930s. It's taking a branch, spray painting (though I don't know if spray paint was available then for household use.) the branch a shade of white or whatever festive color related to Christmas you liked, and then sticking gumdrops (or spice drops) on the the tips of the branch. I thought that was kind of interesting, and I've noticed you can now buy a special silver plated tree to stick the gum drops on, but that doesn't sound as interesting or creative. Though the gumdrops may be safer to eat (if you like to eat gumdrops, which I don't since childhood.) With current economic hard times, I thought I'd just share this with those who don't know about it as an option.

I still wait until Christmas Eve to put up my tree, and some years, it's been a live tree that can be planted, which shares space sometimes with a menorah related to Chanukah. (That's Hanukkah to others) because the seasons sometimes overlap. Chanukah is often thought of as the "Jewish Christmas" but it isn't. It's a very minor but important event in Judaism. Remember, without Judaism, there would be no Christmas. And if you are wondering, I am not a member of the Messianic Jewish group, just one who has studied and participated in several different religions both major and minor. If you haven't heard of Messianic Jews, here's a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messianic_Jews

Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving not always a time of thanks: personal perspective

While visions of food and families gathered together are the traditional view of Thanksgiving, it will never be the same for me again. Seven years ago today, my mother died from post-surgical complications. Complications, including death, always are a possiblity of many types of surgery,but even though it was written in a consent form my mother signed prior to surgery, I was not prepared for the outcome. The only "thankful" part of her death was it ended a coma she had been in within 24 hours of the surgery which had lasted a week. Initially, I blamed the physician, as did my sibling, but we never took the matter to court, reasoning that our mother wouldn't want that, and no physician is perfect. I suppose I can be thankful that she had lived for nearly eighty years, but it wasn't a consolation then, nor is it now, seven years later though the grief has subsided a bit. Mind you, my mother and I were never close after I reached adolescence, and often got "on each other's nerves" as the expression goes, but I still miss her. Even though Thanksgiving's date changes, I will always remember the season as a time of sorrow in my life. This year it's even harder as I watch a co-worker in emotional pain because like my mother, her own mother has lapsed into a coma from which it is doubtful she will recover due to brain injury. I can only offer prayers and my support should my co-worker need it. It's tough to be thankful at such a time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bonding


Craig....Daniel Craig. With the recent release of the film Quantum of Solace, things have changed for James Bond. Gone are some of the things associated with the classic Bond ("Bond....James Bond") and his penchant for martinis which were "shaken, not stirred." A recent Newsweek magazine article (see the link here: http://www.newsweek.com/id/168849) discloses a lot of information about the evolution of the fictional secret agent 007. I was in elementary school when my parents took my sibling and me along to watch a double feature of Dr. No and Thunderball, forever getting me confused at that age about which film came first (it was Dr. No.)

While I didn't understand why the first version of the film Casino Royale was such an odd film (with a good musical soundrack, and several well-known actors of that time, however) I learned it was remade because the original was done the way it was because of property rights.

While there were several good James Bond "opening songs," I'd have to agree with some who have written about such things (including Newsweek's recent articles) that the honor of best opening theme belongs to Live and Let Die, written by Paul and Linda McCartney (that's SIR Paul McCartney to most of us, and a former Beatle as well.) McCartney still performs the song brilliantly years later.

Like many females of my age who saw the first James Bond as Sean Connery, it's pretty darn hard to accept any other, but having seen the remade Casino Royale with Daniel Craig, I can say that Craig is probably number two on the list of best Bonds. I know there are some who will disagree with me. Some of the females who first became aware of James Bond during Roger Moore's take on that role, insist that Moore is the quintessential Bond. Admittedly, I haven't surveyed that many people, and it's been mostly females, but I've wondered about who guys think is the real Bond.

James Bond was in the first film I saw on my own as a teenager (You Only Live Twice) when films were not so strictly rated as they are now, so it is part of my on personal history of adolescent transition. But by that time, I had already "Bonded" with Sean Connery. I would look back and think "This is the same guy who was in the film Darby O'Gill and the Little People?" which I saw with my mother as a child of five (and didn't remember much of Connery's performance.)

Before conclusions are drawn that it was my mother who wanted to see Sean Connery as Bond, all I can say is that she was fonder of Roger Moore as an actor as I remember (she liked his television series, The Saint.)

I did not see Daniel Craig's turn as 007 in Casino Royale until it was on pay-per-view (I rarely go out to movies any more.) I saw few of the Bond movies during the years following Connery's portrayal of the man in Her Majesty's secret service. But Craig seems like a good fit for the role which is has been around for quite some time, starting off in the mind of writer Ian Fleming and growing to a cultural icon over the years, especially in the 1960s.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Political Doom and Gloom

I'm still amazed at the "Chicken Little" climate that seems pervasive around me following the election of Barack Obama. Someone in another blog has sarcastically referred to those who support his election as seeing the "Messiah" arrive. Sheesh. While it seems a century ago (and it was, technically, because it happened in the twentieth century) I recall how people were excited about the election of William Jefferson Clinton, elevating it to a "bridge to the future" (OK, even Clinton himself promoted that view.) While I could not vote in the election of 1960 since I was a child, I was vaguely aware that a "new era" (later dubbed many things as well as "New Frontier") I admit that this election does have significance historically, but I won't forget that President-elect Obama is a human being, prone to having failures just like any other person.

In the South, the backlash against the president-elect has been particularly vicious, which is shameful. But it's also not just limited to the South. There are racists in other parts of this nation as well.

Friday, November 7, 2008

From a blogger's site

I took the cartoon below from another blogger's website. Here's hoping that the U.S. Constitution CAN be put back together again. (Credit Mike Lukovich, artist, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The blogger's site remains anonymous.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Crystal Blue Persuasion


Look over yonder what do you see?
The sun is a-risin' most definitely
A new day is comin' people are changin'...
(Crystal Blue Persuasion--Tommy James and the Shondells, composed by Eddie Gray, Tommy James and Mike Vale)



When I heard this song as a teenager, I was an idealist caught up in the promise offered by my young dreams and the atmosphere that was going on around me in the world, some bad, but a lot of idealism. While other songs of idealism from that era resonate with me, perhaps this one came to mind because of the "blue" associated with the Democratic candidate.

Last night, as I watched the nation elect Barack Obama as the 44th president, I was happy to see the joy shared by so many people, especially in Grant Park, Chicago, the scene of a very ugly confrontation I also remember the Democratic National Convention rallies held in that very park. Maybe there IS hope for this nation, and maybe we can dare to dream of a better future with this historical event.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Freda Payne and Onward Christian Soldiers



This morning my husband and I were sitting in the local Starbucks having our usual Sunday morning outing (he drinks coffee, I drink tea and we each find pastries to our liking) and we were listening to the various songs playing in the store. One caught our attention, titled "Bring the Boys Home" and Husband wondered out loud "Who's singing that?" "Freda Payne" I replied, remembering her songs (like "Band of Gold") being banned on Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam War (ok, it was technically a "Conflict," but still, too many people died.)

I found it a bit eerie that last night I had been thinking of how much I had sung the song "Onward Christian Soldiers" as a child, because it was one of the first songs I learned as a child (besides "Jesus Loves Me" and excluding Christmas carols.) While I have nothing against the Salvation Army in terms of their humanitarian efforts, I remember that "Onward Christian Soldiers" became one of their anthems, if not their main anthem. (which I suppose befits a group calling itself an "Army.") I shudder at the lyrics of "Onward Christian Soldiers" now. So militant, so intolerant, so...."Un-Christ-like" in its sentiment. Sort of like the Crusades in the past and some of the current "Crusades" happening now.

As for Payne's song, yes, it's a sentiment I share now. I'm still amazed that it seems we as a nation learned nothing from the experiences in Vietnam. The only thing that should change in the lyrics is that now it is not just "boys" serving on the front lines in combat situations, it's "girls" as well. Which is another factor overlooked in the past. While certainly more men died in combat situations in Vietnam, there were female casualties on both sides, too. That is the face of war.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Jesus Year


Currently reading My Jesus Year: A Rabbbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith by Benyamin Cohen.

I tend to read a lot of spiritually-related books, but my reading habits are eclectic and vast. This particular book caught my interest as it was in a blurb by the writer A.J. Jacobs, the author of two very good books, The Know It All and The Year of Living Biblically. In the first book, Jacobs sets a goal of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a year's time. No easy task. In his second book, Jacobs takes on the tenets of his Jewish faith placing them in the context of the Torah and the Bible and living "by the rules" set out in both.

Because I liked Jacobs' books, I decided to read Cohen's book. Because I have lived in the Bible Belt, I was intrigued how he would carry out his journey. One of the interesting things is that Cohen is an Orthodox Jew who married the daughter of a Methodist clergyman. Since she was no longer interested in the faith of her birth, she converted to Judaism. Orthodox Judaism. Like many converts, she tends to be a little more adherent to her "new" faith than her author-husband.

As I write this, Cohen has just attended his first "Megachurch" service in Georgia. The journey of the year has just begun, and I'm along for the ride.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The University of the South, Sewanee, TN



One of the places visited while in TN was the University of the South, known by many as "Sewanee" denoting its geographical location. A small private liberal arts university (which also has a seminary on the campus where my father attended classes years ago when I was in second grade) was formerly an all-male university. In the early 1970s, the university became co-ed.

While the university and town have remained small, there have been a few signs of growth (including an interstate which didn't exist when I lived in the area as a child.) Several coffee shops now are in the area (we visited two of them, Lorena's in nearby Monteagle and The Blue Chair on the edge of the campus.) Both we enjoyed and frequented while there. We plan to return in the future. Another coffee shop on the campus, Stirling's, was closed due to a week-long break for the university.

What was an additional new discovery since our last trip to the area a decade ago is about something that has become a bit of a controversy. The Chancellor of the university will not allow the university seal to be used on very many items for sale, with the belief (or so I'm told) that selling t-shirts with the university seal (something we purchased on our last trip there and hoped to purchase again) somehow degrades the university. I was flummoxed at learning about this from bookstore personnel. It's not like I'm approving of the sale of the university seal on toilet seats, rugs, blankets, etc. But even keychains and other jewelry except class rings, appear to be a without a seal available in the bookstore. The bookstore personnel are as confused by this as I am.

The university has had its share of controversy over the years it has been in existence. It went co-ed as I mentioned, after having been founded as an all-male college in the 1850s. The seminary became somewhat liberal in the 1960-70 decade in terms of anti-war sentiments (making conservative students and alumni rather aggravated, my father being one of those.) In recent years, I've learned that the very name "The University of the South" is seldom used now and reference is made to it as "Sewanee" due to people from outside the South being disturbed by the notation of the "South" in the title (despite the fact it IS in a southern state.)

The university's roots in terms of architecture and original structure are related to Oxford University in England. Sometimes Sewanee is referred to as "The Oxford of the South."

While I still love the place, I did register a complaint with the Vice-Chancellor's office while there regarding the removal of the seal from certain articles for sale in the bookstore, such as the aforementioned t-shirts. It just doesn't make sense to me. Sometimes the small extroverted side of me flares up and this was one of those occasions.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Home Again


Back from our vacation trip to TN, arriving home late yesterday afternoon. It was VERY hard to come back home. This was not a "let's just go to TN" sort of trip. This was a "scouting trip" to see if we might actually relocate there in a few years (meanwhile going there to visit.) It's a long drive from where we live, but I still have not come down "off the mountain" as it is. I have a few more days of rest until returning to work. Now if I could just get my brain and/or heart back here where I live. Part of the reason we visited where we did is because I spent a year of my childhood in TN as my father attended classes at a university there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On the road again....With some sorrow


Husband and I will be headed out for vacation early tomorrow. One of the hardest things about going on vacation (besides the preparations and traveling to the destination) is leaving our furkids behind. We have quite a menagerie of four-legged "beasties." The cats are fine at home alone (or actually with each other) and an adequate supply of food and water is provided for them (as well as the initially clean litter boxes.) Unfortunately, the dogs have to go to the vet clinic for boarding due to their particular needs. I have searched everywhere for someone willing to "pet sit" but there appears to be no one in my town. So, it is with a heavy heart that I leave them penned up at the clinic.

One of the things I marvel at is how QUIET the house becomes when the canine furkids are boarded. It's got to be the equivalent of having kids grow up and move out of the house. I guess, childless couple that we are (by choice), it is the closest we come to the "empty nest" experience.

The cats will no doubt bug us when we get ready to walk out the door early tomorrow, but it's not the same as with the dogs. Cats are usually more low-key about such things as being left alone.

One of our beloved elderly canines disappeared about ten days ago (small Yorkie) somehow managing to get out of a well-watched (and fenced) backyard. It is troubling that despite plenty of ID attached (including an embedded microchip) we have been unable to locate him. Several people have called in reference to an ad we placed in the local paper, but they have been in regard to other dogs spotted roaming a neighborhood.

My suspicion is that the little Yorkie has gone someplace quiet to leave this life behind and did not want us to find him. I understand from past experience and talking with others regarding pet loss that sometimes elderly pets will go somewhere they can't be found, to die. People who do not equate pets with the same love as a human, don't understand the feeling of loss. Others know well about the phrase "The Rainbow Bridge" pets cross at the end of their life here on earth.

No matter how many pets have passed through my life (and there have been plenty,) I still mourn the loss of each one. Even if it was their "time to go."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Perhaps this is why I'm viewed as an Extrovert by some


How to Go from Introvert to Extrovert


from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

If you're an introvert, how do you balance the introvert and extrovert parts of yourself, such that you enjoy both types of activities equally, rather than looking forward to one and dreading the other? If you’re very introverted, you may undervalue the positive role people can play in your life, such as knowledge, friendship, growth, laughter, and so on. The optimal outcome is to strike a balance between the two and become an ambivert, or someone who enjoys social interaction and solitude equally.

Steps


  1. Stop undervaluing extroversion. Spending time alone and with people are equally important. You don’t have to give up the introvert activities you enjoy. In fact, when you balance them with more social activities, you’ll probably find them even more satisfying. After several nights of being around people, you might really look forward to a night by yourself to read, meditate, write, etc. And after lots of time alone or with your family, you might find yourself itching to go out and be around other people. Introversion has its benefits, which you're probably already familiar with, but have you thought about how your life could be more fulfilling if you included more people in it?
    • Enhance your career - By networking, you have more job opportunities available to you, and you're more likely to get a position that gives you the experience and/or package you prefer. Whether we like it or not, there's some truth to the phrase "It's not what you know, it's who you know".
    • Find your soulmate - If you have trouble meeting someone who's compatible with you, then expanding your circle of friends will increase the probability of meeting that special someone. And when you do meet him or her, social skills will help you tremendously in turning an acquaintance into a relationship.

  2. Envision the type of extrovert you’d like to be. If you find the extroverted people around you shallow and perhaps even annoying, why would you want to be more like them? You wouldn’t. Maybe your vision of an extrovert is an in-your-face salesperson who only wants to build a shallow relationship with you so they could sell you something. But you needn’t choose such a limited vision for yourself — you’re free to form your own vision of a positive way to be more extroverted. You can be an extrovert who builds genuine relationships with intelligent people you respect (as opposed to random, shallow socializing).
  3. Find the right social group for you. Why would you want to spend more time with people you don’t like? If becoming more extroverted means spending more time with people you’d rather avoid, you’ll have no motivation to do it. Again, you’re free to break this pattern and form a social group that you’d love to be a part of. Consciously consider the types of people you’d want to have as friends. There’s no rule that says this has to be your peers or co-workers. Don’t be afraid to stretch beyond the most obvious peer group and hang out with people from different ages, neighborhoods, cultures, countries, etc. You might find the variety to be a lot of fun.
  4. Develop your social skills. One reason introverts shy away from social activities is that they don’t feel comfortable because they don’t know what to do, especially if the unexpected were to occur. Being able to start up a conversation with a stranger AND feel completely comfortable doing it is a learnable skill. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Embrace the fact that you’re a beginner, and don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t need to be shallow and manipulative about it, but genuinely build these skills because it will greatly enhance your life. One approach you might find extremely effective is to ask the other person how s/he got started in his/her current line of work. 80-90% of the time the person will say something like, “Well, that’s an interesting story….” And you might genuinely like hearing these stories. A small basic set of social skills can go a long way because you’ll get to reuse them every time you meet someone. Approach your social abilities the way a student would approach a class, or an athlete would approach a sport. Do your homework, give yourself assignments, and test yourself until you get it right:

  5. Take your social life offline. Online socializing has its place in your life, but it’s a pale shadow compared to face-to-face, belly-to-belly communication. Voice and body language can communicate a lot more than text, and emotional bonds are easier and faster to establish in person. You don’t have to do away with online socializing, but don’t allow it to crowd out meeting people locally. If you do that, you’ll only cause your interpersonal skills to lag further behind. Instead, see if you can use the Internet as a starting point for real life friendships. Many introverts have no trouble socializing online. In that environment they’re able to play from their strengths. But you can also use your strengths consciously as leverage to branch out into more face-to-face socializing. If you use forums, for example, focus on local ones and search for opportunities to meet up offline.
  6. Join a club. It’s old advice, but it still works. The advantage is that you’ll find people who share similar interests, which makes it easier to build new relationships. One good club can fill your social calendar. If you join a club and find that it’s not right for you, quit and join something else. You may go through a number of local social groups that just don't resonate with you (too boring, too slow, too disorganized, too many alcoholics). But one good group is all you need.
    • Join or start a book club. This is a great way to turn a solitary activity into a social one.
    • Join a band. If you play an instrument or sing, find a group you can harmonize with. Not only will you meet them, but if your band gets really good, people will introduce themselves to you.
    • Join Mensa. Having trouble finding people who can hold a conversation with you? This might be your ticket to friendship.

  7. Think of relationships in terms of what you can give, not in terms of what you can get. If you seek to build new relationships based on mutual giving and receiving, you’ll have no shortage of friends. Identify people with whom you’d like to build a relationship, and start by giving. For instance, geeky knowledge is actually a tremendous strength when it comes to socializing because there are an awful lot of non-geeks who’d like to understand geeky stuff better, and you can explain it to them in ways they’ll understand. Think about it: What can you bring to a relationship that will be of benefit to someone else? When you figure out what that is (and it’s probably many different things), you’ll have an easier time attracting new friends into your life.


Tips


  • Being introverted is not the same as being shy. An introvert genuinely enjoys solitary activities more than social ones, whereas someone who's shy stays away from social situations because of fear and anxiety. If you're someone who wants to talk to people and socialize but feel paralyzed, or if you don't feel self-confident, you're probably grappling with shyness. Take a look at How to Overcome Shyness.


Warnings




Related wikiHows




Sources and Citations





Article provided by wikiHow, a collaborative writing project to build the world's largest, highest quality how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Go from Introvert to Extrovert. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

At least I'm consistent: I'm still an INFP(Introvert, Intuitive,Feeling,Perceptive)

Seems like no matter how many times I take this test, I come out the same.Thanks to Eileen the Episcopalifem blogger for helping me find this link.

INFP - "Questor". High capacity for caring. Emotional face to the world. High sense of honor derived from internal values. 4.4% of total population.
Free Jung Personality Test (similar to Myers-Briggs/MBTI)

Friday, October 10, 2008

The countdown begins!

In less than a week, I'll be heading for vacation. I'll finally get to see some Fall color (I hope) and look forward to returning to one of my childhood homes. In fact, probably the favorite home of my childhood. Just wish I could return there year round!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Yom Kippur begins at Sundown





Tonight is the beginning of Yom Kippur, a solemn day in the Jewish calendar. It also is the conclusion of the days known as "The High Holidays" or "Holy Days" to Jews around the world (which began with Rosh Hashana.) May we all find peace throughout the world very soon.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Blue Merlot Rocks!







Went to the local Arts and Crafts festival, and my ears pricked up! BLUE MERLOT! I went searching for the origin of the sound, figuring it was just a CD playing at the festival and...There were two members of the band, Blue Merlot (yes, it was a CD I heard, but two of the members were "warming up.") One, I'm happy (and honored) to call a friend: Brenda Lowery, who is gifted in so many ways. Music is one of her passions, but she also wears other professional and personal "hats." How can one person have so much energy?? I had not seen her since one of the band members, Joshua "Bubba" Murrell won a Grammy. If you've never heard them, go to www.bluemerlot.com and sample their music! One of my favorite songs by them is "Big Ovaries."

(Photos courtesy of Blue Merlot Website)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

In the Midst of a Holiday: The Jewish New Year


To all my Jewish readers (if you're out there) and the Jewish community I know and love (though I am no longer a member, you remain in my heart): L'Shanah Tovah!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Oy! My Aching Head!


It didn't start with the jack hammering/drilling that has been going on outside my residence in recent days, but for a few days now, I've had a persistent headache. Fortunately, this afternoon it slacked off. While it felt like it might be what some people describe as a migraine type, I'm not exactly sure how a migraine feels, because those who have described their misery have had such headaches over an extended period of time and I haven't. This headache, however, is one those few times I've had an excruciating one that has made me sensitive to light and sound (two things migraine sufferers have told me about.) My usual go-to pain relief medication for headaches didn't even stop the pain. The pain migrated to other areas of my body, so I'm guessing I can't say this was "all in my head."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When Autumn Leaves Begin to Fall


It's my favorite season of the year, but it doesn't feel like it yet. Or look like it, ever, where I live. I live in a region where there are vague seasonal changes. No glorious shows of crimson and gold leaves, just leaves dropping off the trees as winter grows near. So there's no transition. I've mentioned to people it's like this area has two shows with nature: Leaves and no leaves. The leaves appear in the spring, grow through the summer, turn brown and drop. I miss those seasonal changes ablaze with colors and transitional temperatures, which I experienced living elsewhere, but personal commitments keep me here in this region of vague seasonal change. For now, I have to make do with photos of other areas with their glorious color changes. One day, perhaps like the colors change in the seasons, I too, will have a change of scene. It's just a waiting game: which reminds me of the classic standard "September Song."

Monday, September 29, 2008

It isn't an earthquake, but...



The wisdom of the town where I reside: do noisy road work at night on a street outside my residence because it has traffic (though not heavy) during the daytime. As I type this, my computer keyboard is shaking while a pneumatic drill vibrates everything in its vicinity. I wonder how people cope with this stuff in some large place like NYC? And where did I put my earplugs?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Those Blue Eyes Are Closed and I'm in Mourning: Paul Newman is Dead


I heard about it Friday and I'm trying to "get over it" even though I didn't know the man personally. Yet it's still painful to think about. Paul Newman is dead. Humanitarian. Actor. Icon. Fallible. Private person. Until his health issues were leaked to the media, Newman was obviously keeping his illness private, because he never mentioned it and instead mentioned he was "retiring" because his mind was not as sharp as it once was to memorize scripts. I'm not sure why his wishes for privacy weren't respected though it probably is related to his celebrity status. I'll always remember him as "Cool Hand Luke" where his antisocial character had some very Christ-like qualities onscreen.

What the heck is an "Anchoress" and who is this Dame,Julian of Norwich?



Curious as to what an Anchoress is (or was) and why I chose it as a name for my blog on the web site, Beliefnet? No, it isn't a person who handles an anchor. Here's a partial explanation from Wikipedia:

Anchorite (male)/anchoress (female), (adj. anchoritic; from the Greek ἀναχωρέω anachōreō, signifying "to withdraw", "to depart into the rural countryside"), denotes someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic and, circumstances permitting, Eucharistic-focused life. As a result, anchorites are usually considered to be a type of religious hermit although there are distinctions in their historical development and theology. The anchoritic life is one of the earliest forms of Christian monastic living. Popularly it is perhaps best-known from the surviving archeological and literary evidence of its existence in medieval England.

The most famous Anglican Anchorite was Julian of Norwich, an image of her seen above (which may or may not be historically accurate, given the time in which she lived.) Part of an entry for her on Wikipedia is as follows:

Julian of Norwich (c. November 8,1342– c. 1416) is considered one of the greatest English mystics. Little is known of her life aside from her writings. Even her name is uncertain, the name "Julian" coming from the Church of St. Julian in Norwich, where she was an anchoress, meaning that she was walled into the church behind the altar during a mass for the dead. At the age of 30, suffering from a severe illness and believing she was on her deathbed, Julian had a series of intense visions of Jesus Christ. (They ended by the time she overcame her illness, May 13, 1373) She recorded these visions soon after having them, and then again twenty years later in far more theological depth. They are the source of her major work, called Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love(circa 1393). This is believed to be the first book written by a woman in the English language Julian became well known throughout England as a spiritual authority: Margery Kempe mentions going to Norwich to speak with Julian.

Although she lived in a time of turmoil, Julian's theology was optimistic, speaking of God's love in terms of joy and compassion as opposed to law and duty. For Julian, suffering was not a punishment that God inflicted, as was the common understanding. She believed that God loved and saved everyone. Popular theology magnified by current events including the Black and a series of peasant revolts assumed that God was punishing the wicked. In response, Julian suggested a far more chimerical theology, universal salvation. Because she believed that beyond the reality of hell is yet a greater mystery of God's love, she has also been referred to in modern times as a proto-universalist. Even though her views were not typical, local authorities did not challenge either her theology or her authority to make such religious claims because of her status as an anchoress.


Woke Up, Got Out of Bed....


Woke up, fell out of bed /Dragged a comb across my head...(Lennon/McCartney, A Day in the Life)

Can't explain why the above lines (including that whole passage written by Paul McCartney) was going through my head when I woke up this morning. But I always seem to find a snippet of music and/or lyrics going through my head. Especially in the morning. When that song was written in the 1960s, (and yes, I'm THAT old,) I couldn't have told you who really wrote the lyrics. The Beatles to me were a talented group of guys and I couldn't distinguish between who wrote what until after they split up. Now I know the back story of how John Lennon started writing the lyrics to a very dark song ("I read the news today...") and couldn't seem to finish it. Likewise, McCartney had started a song with the lyrics quoted above. Creatively frustrated, they combined the two separate lyrics they'd written into the song it was to become.

But why that song was in my head this morning, I can't explain. I suppose worse things could be there.

By the way, there's a quiz where you can find out which of The Beatles you match. My result: John Lennon. I was initially surprised, but the more I thought about it, I wasn't.

Spiritually Speaking


What a journey my life has been, spiritually-speaking. I've been a member of three major religions, taken several courses related to religion and/or spirituality and still hunger for more. Sometimes I just get exhausted and pause. But after a while, I'm on my way again. My journey always makes me think of a song written by Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam,) On the Road to Find Out. It fits.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

So Many Blogs, So Little Time...

A decision just has to be made. I've got to quit having so many blogs in the "blogosphere." So, I'm gradually weeding out those I've tried to maintain but decided to end. One such now inactive blog I've had is on the website, Beliefnet. Those of you who read the blog of Anglican Anchoress, that was I. I also maintain another one called Writerleft (a pun, not necessarily a political statement) via a newspaper's sponsored blog site--most of the entries I've read there seem to address politcs, not something I'm overly comfortable in sharing to a large audience. I am a political activist, I am just selective about it: that is, I try to do something instead of just grumble about it in a blog (though, admittedly, I've done that too.) Lastly, I have had a long running blog (until about a month or so ago) which I wrote daily on the Windows Live blog site called Peace Seeker in a Chaotic World. I was thoroughly devoted to it, and found out that many were reading it. But a series of personal events caused me to eventually write there less and less. I decided to import the name to Blogger, because it was almost like I had a copyright on the name! I have no plans to import the previously published blog material, though.

So now, I wonder, should I maintain this blog here? Time and thought will tell.

I love to write, but I have a life outside of writing (dammit--if only there was more time to live as a writer!) and I just can't juggle all the different sites. I'm still contemplating my activity here.

Know this: I tend to keep an eclectic blog, so there's no "common theme" like politics, religion, etc. I've done separate blogs with that in mind, but as I said, it's just getting too hard. Feedback is welcomed. Anyone reading this?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Back....

I'm back. I've been at another blog I maintain and learned that sometimes keeping up with more than one blog is VERY challenging.

For those of you who have emailed me wondering if I am in Scotland, the answer is no. I'm in the United States. My ancestral heritage, however (which may be a redundant phrase) is Scottish and Irish. Meaning I'm pretty much in the Celtic mold.

I'll try to write more here as time permits. I'm also still getting accustomed to the format here as it's different every blog site I have encountered.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

I'm Here!

Since many of the bloggers I know are using Blogspot as their "place to be" I decided I would give it a go. Hope to link up with the others whose blogs have been here for quite a while.