Saturday, December 27, 2008


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! 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):

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.