Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Does anyone recall how I always say, "Go see live music! You never know what you might miss. GO!"
The life of Christine Gibson, punk goddess and cool chick extraordinaire, is the latest in my long line of examples of why you need to see bands live. Christine was the front woman for one of Richmond, VA's proto-punk bands Beex.
Christine in her younger years was known to throw a punch or two if things got too rowdy at a show. Christine was known for her showmanship, her gutsy growl, and her wide knowledge of rock-n-roll. Christine was about as wide as a pencil and was known to carry a box cutter in her pocket at all times. Just in case.
In recent years, Christine was known for her longevity on the music scene, her love for all canines, her career with Vatex, and her phenomenally successful work as a wife to Tom and mother of Maria (two more of Richmond's coolest residents).
If needed, she could whup yo tail on the game cube, too.
Before I understood the complexities of motherhood, I used to pray to the goddess of all mothers that I could be a punk rock mama. I am not up for the job. Christine Gibson was up for it and is the image I had in my mind.
Chrisine Gibson died this week at 55. Her husband says (go to video - click on photo of Christine in glasses) that if you didn't see Beex live, you just can't get it. On January 13, 2007 they had their last show at Alley Katz. The Offenders played, too. I was supposed to go and didn't. My life is a little less bright because of that omission.
This Friday at 1 PM at Hollywood Cemetery Christine's family, friends, and fans will gather to celebrate her life. We are going to do this woman up right. If you would like to visit her remains before she is cremated there is a visitation this evening at Bliley's on Augusta. She is wearing sunglasses, as usual, and has a box cutter. Just in case.
May she rest in peace AND may her spirit keep on kickin' ass and giving 'em hell.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
So go get your tix now. I will see you there. Canal Club. Doors open at 8.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
See? Lots to be thankful for. Then there's the stuffing!
My father-in-law is a computer whiz, a crafts king, a cancer survivor, and the only person who makes stuffing I adore year after year. I had six helpings this year. Yes, six. But we did two dinners so that makes up for it, right?
There's a lot to be upset about in this world of ours. So many errors, so much to repair, so much work to do. But today isn't the day of repentance.
Today is ours to say thanks.
For the times we didn't say the wrong thing.
For the ones who won't leave you.
For the loyal pets.
For the good enough jobs.
For the courage to get up and try again.
For the heart to give and give some more.
For the beauty of the weeds who always find a way.
For the potential in each of us.
For all who forgive.
For those who know the right thing AND manage to do it.
For faithful cooks of good recipes.
For all this and more, today we give thanks.
Monday, November 12, 2007
#1 Richmond Symphony Pops & Out of the Blue Radio Revue - This was one heck of a show with the symphony conducted by Mark Russell Smith and the Out of the Blue Radio show hosted by Page Wilson linked. Smith "brought it" with the symphony sounding particularly rich and Wilson "brought it" in the form of the Piedmont Souprize and the Showdogs, along with Wilson's own Reckless Abandon.
I am not an unbiased reviewer since I knew at least 15 of the musicians onstage. For those who tuned in on radio, I could be heard shrieking my support most loudly during the Showdogs set since, unbeknownst to me, I was very close to a live mic. Ooops. But I loved the arrangements with the symphony composed by Doug Richards. I loved the symphony. I loved my bands. Fun night.
#2 The Virginia Opera's production of Tales of Hoffmann was spectacular. One of the greatest shows they've put up in the years we've had season tix. (This is our 13th, I think.) Great stage direction, powerhouse voices, good acting, nice costumes, great cast, coolest set in years.
In our seating area the average age was 55 and that's with my bringing it down about a decade with my presence. Please, people my age: I know how much you spend on eating out. Get a decent seat at the opera so I can talk about the show with you later.
#3 Lucero at Alley Katz. I had waited MONTHS for this show. Wore my boots, stood in the pit, did a little gentle thrashing with the crowd, had a blast and was home by 11. My favorite part of the show was singing along with the crowd who were at times as loud as the band. My least favorite part was the exclusion of 3 or 4 of my fave songs because the set was only 90 minutes.
In my thrashing area the average age was 21 and that's with my bringing it up a few years with my presence. Please, people my age: Buy some boots and earplugs and meet me on the floor of Alley Katz. Lucero is worth it and the beer that appears to rain from the sky in there does wash out.
#4 Hank Williams III and Reverend Horton Heat at Toad's Place. I can't print the name of the opening band here, but they did not thrill me. I had a blast otherwise. I was just trying something new by going to this show. I only have one Hank III CD of his country variety, and knew Reverend Horton Heat only by reputation. The antics of the bass players of both bands was worth the price of admission.
There was one teenage moment of the evening. At the end of their encore, the Reverend Horton Heat himself zinged his guitar pick into the balcony at me. It scratched my arm but I didn't catch it. However, I choose to believe he knew that I was his only colleague in ministry in the house and was giving me props.
THE ONE I MISSED After all my big talk about my friend Rex Richardson in a recent post, I missed his faculty recital due to a church meeting. I sent my mother. She said it was AMAZING. If you haven't seen Rex Richardson live yet, the time is now. I can't imagine he'll stay in our fair river city forever, and I can only coax him into a church gig once every 2 years.
I guess that's my general message. Get out there and hear some music. The seats aren't always great. Sometimes it rains beer and you have to wear earplugs. Other times it seems that no one around has anything in common with you. Who cares? Live music is full of amazing surprises and connection with strangers in a unique way. It is entertaining, instructive, and if you're lucky, inspirational.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
My husband was playing Sara Arthur's Talk of the Town in the car this weekend. I warned him weeks ago that Stephen McCarthy's stunner of a song "When You Get Back Home" makes me cry EVERY time. We've been together almost 20 years, why does he doubt me?
He played it.
He looked at me amazed and asked, "EVERY time?!?!"
I answered with my father's deflection trick.
The next night I was reading Berke Breathed's "Mars Needs Moms" for my son's bedtime story. There is a tough passage and I could not make it through. My son laughed gently and gave me a big hug. (He's 5! This is getting ridiculous.) In the end, I laughed and made it through, but in an effort to regain the adult role - the truth came bubbling out.
"Sweetie, mama isn't sad. I work with a lot of people and they tell me their stories. And sometimes some story reminds me of one of their stories and I cry. That's all."
That's all? I didn't even know that. But that IS it. At our best, isn't this why we cry?
At funerals we remember all the stories of the one who has died and sometimes cry. We cry for the stories we will no longer get to share with them. We cry for the ones they loved. We cry because this service reminds us of another service that we are not done dealing with.
In bittersweet moments that are not necessarily connected to death, we remember, too. Songs remind us, books remind us, smells and recipes and family gatherings remind us. We remember great trips, funny friends, fantastic nights, kind neighbors. I know that not everyone tears easily like I do but, if we are lucky, we still remember.
I just happen to have a memory accompanied by liquid. I try to think of it as my way of offering a toast. I try to think of it as family legacy. I try not to think about it because it makes me cry.
So today I was checking in at Cul de Sac Blues . I've mentioned this blog before. I think of this guy as the Franz Kafka of the blogosphere. (Day job of indistinct character, great writing on the side.) Check out the link. It made me cry. No real surprise there. But maybe it will remind you of something dear, too.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Sweet bouncing kids, dogs, dada -
Mama loves Heath Bars.
Raisinets and Junior Mints
Sugar high. Can't sleep.
Back to the gym
Personal trainer -
Buff, smiling until she says,
"BMI too high."
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
There are black crayons stuck in Darth Vadar's light saber. He cries and rubs his tears away with the sleeve of his dark lord turtleneck. Princess Leia demands that Darth Vadar hand over some of his cereal to her. I make the poor guy share. His lip pokes out and I see the little Anakin within.
We get to Darth Vadar's school just in time, but he still has to run in his big black boots. But he doesn't fall. Leia keeps hollering, "I wanna' hear my song!!!" from her carseat. Calm is not the mind of this Jedi mama.
At Leia's pre-school someone dares to tell her she's a fairy princess. She scrunches her face and stomps her tiny pink boot. With hands on pink, shimmering tu-tu-ed hips she declares, "NO! I'm Princess Leia." Hopefully her daddy will be Obi-wan later and get her in line. Obi-wan her daddy is my only hope today.
I returned home and re-dressed a few times. Once in costume, sort of. I pulled out my old black shirt and priest's collar from my hospital chaplain days. Made me look kind of creepy. Gave up. Went with black and orange stripey socks and boring everywhere else. People who know me have already expressed their disappointment. I bite my tongue to keep from expressing my...
Tonight I'll be on the front porch in our giant Winnie the Pooh costume handing out the goodies. The Star Wars gang will be roaming the streets gathering loot. I'd better improve my mood by then. Nothing scarier than a Pooh Bear who growls like Chewbaca. Now that I think of that image, my mood is lifting already.
If there is any overarching theme to my career in ministry it is: Laugh through it! To be grumpy on Halloween? Now that I've mulled it over awhile... that's kind of funny. I'm the only person I know who gets to smooch on Darth Vadar, tickle Princess Leia, call a Jedi master "Cutie", and do it all in a giant Winnie the Pooh costume. What's not to like about this day?
Monday, October 29, 2007
|I took the "If You Were a Poet..." quiz on gURL.com|
Do you tell it like it is, even if "it" ain't pretty? Then Sapphire, (aka Ramona Lofton) may be your poetic predecessor. Sapphire is a jewel of a poet, but you won't find any precious language in her books. Read more...
Which poet are you?
Our first evening service was last night. Over 70 people came. We had a wonderful poet in First UU member Susan Williams. We had an enthusiastic and generous artist in Lori Valenti, who not only made art but encouraged children to make an artistic response. We had the 6 man band of the century. Only two of these dudes had played together before I put them in a band for a week. All of them said they'd like to do it again. They were fun to work with AND they are all talented.
We had teens, young adults, wee ones, grandparents, the thirty-fifty somethings, and one service dog who prefers not to have her age revealed. We had ten to fifteen visitors, one of whom came out wide-eyed and exclaimed, "Is this what all of your services are like?!?" In a word... no. But more will be.
There are some details that need some ironing, parts I want more or less of, mistakes I don't intend to repeat, but for our first time out the whole thing was, well... great.
Thank you to the many, MANY who helped behind the scenes. And for all who not only came out, but also brought your friends. See you again on January 27, 2008, 6:00 PM when the theme is The Blues.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
An energetic sprite of an artist.
6 men in a rock/alt country/ funk band.
A minister on the edge, hopefully the edge of something good.
And a great theme...
Why haven't I blogged all week?
Night after night of preparation for our first evening worship service.
6 PM. Tonight.
All ages are welcome.
We will rock you.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
If the observer thought any of these things, he/she/you would be 100% accurate.
I have just arisen from a much needed nap, am about to stand in my kitchen (whose days are numbered) and wolf down a snack, and I am thinking about friendship. I'll be preaching on it twice in November.
In recent days I have had very brief encounters with my friends. To be a minister's friend you need to be the kind of person who has many other things to occupy your time. You need to have a calendar to plan out months in advance for a cup of joe and a 45 minute visit. You need to be comfortable with last minute cancellations. And, MOST OF ALL, most days you need no ministering unto.
This week I've exchanged emails with the college buddy who is super-realtor in Manhattan. It is even harder being the realtor's friend than the minister's friend. We are perfect for each other that way, and he knows my secret college nickname, so I'll never cross him.
I had a great phone conversation with my maid-of-honor, college roommate, I-performed-her-wedding buddy who is 9+ months pregnant. WAITING was the theme of that one. Bless that darling. She missed our high shool reunion in June because she was working in the Cloud Forest. I was sure that was a euphemism for something, but it is just Costa Rica.
I took the long way home from work one afternoon and stopped by to see my favorite music guru pal at the local record store. Our friendship is sustained by a shared sense of humor, his constant presence at his place of business, and my constant presence at mine half-a-mile away. In the two years of our friendship, we've never seen each other when one of us isn't working.
I had a 2 minute check-in with my country undertaker from Dinwiddie county while driving back from a wedding. He was setting up his house for his youngest's 1st birthday party. We promised to talk again before November. Are you sensing a theme?
My friends are crazy-busy people. Friendship in my circles is no longer sustained by dinner parties, beach vacations, and weekly interaction. We are held together by the bonds of email, telephones, and eating standing up. Sometimes I am sad about this. Today I am just grateful that we are able to maintain any connection at all. Sound familiar? I hear that this has less to do with my profession than with our culture at large.
So that's me on friendship today. You want any more you've gotta' show up in Durham, NC or Glen Allen, VA in a month. (Like you've got time for that. The fact that you made it to the bottom of this post is a minor miracle, right? As a reward, I leave you with the funniest of all the friend stories this week, and this time the preacher is naming names...)
My friend Rex. I love this guy. Rex's life makes my life look like a slow inner-tube ride down a lazy river on an endless summer afternoon. I'm not even sure we are allowed to call each other friends. We spend YEARS trying to find time to have dinner. A glass of wine takes 6 months to schedule. I called him today to check in. (Yes, I was waiting for my next appointment, but don't be impertinent. At least I called.)
Here's Rex's voicemail: Hi, this is Rex. I am in the UK right now and don't have access to this cell phone. You can reach me by emailing me at .... or, if it is an emergency my UK cell phone is 5767877902-34847486189111-0076582490-940825739404-727553. Otherwise, leave a message on this line and I'll get it eventually.
I laughed so hard I triggered some system and it booted me, so I had to call back to rag on him mercilessly. Which, of course, I did. The funniest thing of all? The last time that I had time to call Rex was a month ago and then he was in some other foreign country with some other foreign cell phone with 43 digits. Good thing we're friends.
Friday, October 19, 2007
For those who have yet to go out to Glen Allen, it is a pretty place, nice views, kind people, and they serve snacks! Services are at 9:00 and 11:00. Meanwhile at First Church, my buddy Rev. Jeanne will be preaching at 9:30 and 11:15 on Creative Interchange. Gallery (our annual juried art show with 100 artists of many media) is up at First Church and is quite lovely. I have already been relieved of some of my cash.
Next Sunday I'm at the 6:00 PM service at First Church. This is a cool new service with a band, a poet, an artist, and yours truly. The theme is "Borderlands". All ages are welcome.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The photo cannot do this gorgeous piece of art justice. The colors called to mind chocolate and hibiscus. It felt softer than anything I ever wrapped my precious newborn babies in. And the cut looked like Versace himself was resurrected to tailor this suit! Gorgeous.
Our man Anthony had it beautifully accessorized, too. His tie probably cost the same as a meal at the Stratosphere, and the shirt... perfect. I know I'm going on a bit, but give me a break. I'm a Unitarian Universalist minister - unless someone dies, where the hell am I going to see a suit like this???
As for our man Anthony, as you can see he is friendly and nice. He is fourth generation funeral service. I met his daddy, and he was also just as sweet as can be. (But the fashion sense is the junior Papavero's forte; the papa is more subdued.) Anthony says that he is always stopped and asked about his clothes. He said that even at the New Jersey convention where they all have access to this kind of tailoring, he gets comments. The guy can dress, no doubt about it. If I should make my earthly departure suddenly, somebody call Anthony to pick out the suits for my entourage of funeral directors.
Anthony, thank you for setting the bar, and for not calling security when an amazon blogger descended upon you with her camera and notepad.
Sorry for the delay. Vegas ain't a blogging kind of place. Baby.
(See? I almost got that Baby thing down!)
Monday, October 08, 2007
“That place is the pus hole of the world,” said another.
Somewhere between the two is where I find myself at this moment after approximately 12 hours in sin city.
Not much to report on the sin side of things. The energy and water waste is abominable. The waste of human potential and spirit at the omnipresent slots and tables is deplorable. The second hand smoke is gag-rageous. But I am not here for any of that, so my spirits are actually quite high.
As a reminder, I am here for the 126th National Funeral Directors’ Convention. It is the oddest thing I do all year. And I love it.
Odd- The opening session began with a gospel choir led by a Chaka Khan look-alike in the most extravagant wedding dress I’ve ever seen. She accessorized with a white feathered hat the size of a wedding cake and a voice that could carve the Grand Canyon. In a good way.
Love it – I’ve already seen a guy in a “Men of Mortuaries” t-shirt. M of M is a calendar that combines beefcake, lessons on the death care business, and funeral director pride. Also falls under odd, but I own a copy of this thing and am glad to see that it has taken off. I’ll pre-order you a copy. As for the guy in the shirt: very cute but I’m not sure he’s your type.
Odd –There’s a whole lot of praying going on with this crowd. Lots of “God bless” and praising going on. And I am saying this as a preacher. If I feel it’s a little much, it is more than a little. I’m also sniffing some ou want to roll out the holy, let’s have the convention in Iowa. In Vegas? Baby, I ain’t buying it.
Love it – The women are all shapes, sizes, shapes and colors. Meanwhile, there is an unbelievable percentage of the men who you’d peg as a funeral director no matter what they did. And then there are my perennial favorites – the Mack-Funeral-Daddies-and-Mamas These folks are styling. Now it is a conservative chic, but it is still chic. And the best part is, I know that the shiny wingtips, silk ties, pocket squares and Gucci glasses are their version of business casual.
I am standing outside the exhibit hall this very moment so I have to make this brief - but a few highlights...
A giant convention center full of coffins, hearses, and embalming chemicals doesn't seem one bit weird in Las Vegas. (The convention next door is for car washes. Now that's weird.)
I had a great green burial discussion. Will be letting you know more about the future of that worthy and essential movement.
No, I have not gambled unless you count ordering a salad for lunch in a convention center. It was pretty scary, but it worked out in the end.
Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, the Pirates of the Caribbean, and Cher are all here. I think they all work for casket companies and hearse companies now.
That's it for now. Got some cool photos and products to tell you about shortly. Hope this made your day seem just a wee bit more normal.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I've had some nature shock at the new church. At First Church we use the sound of traffic like white noise for meditation. At UUCC there is quiet, and breezes. At First the moon looks really cool when paired with the bell tower and the street lamps. At UUCC the moon is a powerful and palpable, but a lonely luminary presence. At First Church people walk by on the sidewalk with their dogs. At UUCC there's nature. NATURE.
I'm not real nature-fied. I'll fight all day long for wetlands, national parks, and natural habitat preservation. But that fight occurs in my urban home or office. I love to walk. On sidewalks. I love to watch the sky. From my front porch.
UUCC has given me some nature shock. Around UUCC things rustle in the grass. There is much hopping and flying away when my steps approach. Until I learned the way of the grass, I walked through a strong sticky spider web EVERY time I approached the building. And at my first fellowship event, butterflies were flitting about the picnic tables. Emerson would be in heaven. Thoreau would approve. It makes my nose itch.
But I am getting used to it. When I arrive, I close my eyes, relax, and sigh peacefully. When I leave, I look around and smile. Autumn is going to be great over there. But, isn't autumn great everywhere? Outside of First there is a gingko that turns yellow seemingly overnight. I take its picture every year. I will NOT be taking pictures of the hopping mysteries of UUCC, but there will be much sniffing of the air in reverence.
As long as I can still see my car, it is wonderful.
He went to the dentist last week and discovered he's going to have his gums deep root-scaled. As he shared his impending misery he quipped, "You're gonna' hate Thursdays." When I took on two churches and realized that I'd suddenly be working over full-time when I hadn't planned to go full-time for another 2 years, he said the Thursday remark. And, as is the case, when you hang out with someone long enough, his line is becoming my line.
I am thinking about this line now because I will be going to Las Vegas soon for the National Funeral Director's Convention. I can't wait for the convention. No, really. Check my blogs from last year's convention. I love this convention, but Vegas?
I'm not really a Vegas kind of gal. I don't gamble. I don't wear make-up most of the time. I don't like conspicuous consumption. And the water and electricity waste alone might put me into a funk for years. (I'm still not over a trip to Phoenix at the turn of the milennium.)
I met a man who travels for business at a birthday party a month ago. He talked to me for ten minutes and when I told him I would be going to Vegas he said, "Oh, you're gonna hate Vegas." Uh Oh. Hate it as much as Thursdays?
Why? "You're a Unitarian Universalist minister. You are going to hate Vegas!" Dang.
Well, I leave on Sunday the 7th. I will be posting while there. So you'll be finding out shortly whether I'm in funeral heaven or whether it is Thursday all week. Let's hope that it is better than projected. I mean: me and 1600 funeral directors for three days. How bad could this possibly be?
Besides. I 'll be back home by Thursday.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
It turns out that my copy isn't mine at all. It belongs to my husband from the days when he wasn't my husband. (The Glory Days, I joke. The Dark Ages, I mean.) It is thoughtfully inscribed by my mother on the occasion of his being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.
Little did she know that 7 months later he and I would be married 11 days before he rushed off to the first Iraq War. 3 years later he was out of the military and there was much rejoicing. 4 years later I would begin my journey to ministry. 6 years later my husband, like Jefferson before him, became a lawyer. 10 years later (almost to the day) I was ordained. 12 years later our first child was born and we named him Jefferson. 17 years later I finally give a sermon on the book.
My mother will happily take the credit for all of this. Or she'll give Thomas Jefferson the credit. Either way she is happy. I, on the other hand, feel like she should be giving this sermon. See you on the 7th of October and one of us will deliver a sermon. Who knows what wheels this could put in motion.
Monday, September 24, 2007
I am unaccustomed to good sleep, however, so my nightly habit of cracking open a book continues in spite of the fact that I can barely get to 10 on my sheep count. And what does a weary double minister read to escape from the day?
I was asked this at our Church Book Sale this past weekend. I was standing surrounded by very good fiction and people who love it, but I had to admit that my bedtime reading has been Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. Sometimes I am too ministerial for my own good. What kind of duckbrain clergy works too many hours and then fades to black at night wiith a holocaust/pschology memoir? Okay, well, most of us, but that's what I mean. So predictable.
I believe that accountants should go to sleep reading art books and poetry. Artists should be working their way through Carl Sagan and some string theory. Rock musicians should be slogging along through Sartre... again, undertakers need to brush up on their Carl Hiasen and absurdist Irish plays, and ministers... well, obviously I think something other than Frankl is called for.
I wanted to break the mold so I picked up The Confessions of Max Tivoli and gobbled it down in about a day. Why do I do these things? It felt like wolfing down a whole bag of Peanut M&Ms. I'd already read this book. It had a different cover, a different author and was called The Time Traveler's Wife, but it was the same book. Great premise, but the actual novel, ummm, it will be a very good movie.
I'm back to Frankl, now. Predictable? Yes. Geeky minister? Absolutely. But I had my walk on the wild side. It's not for me on a daily basis. I can't handle the pressure of popular fiction. When I finish Frankl, I'm headed straight for Bertrand Russell and no one can stop me. Except maybe Paul Ricoeur.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Like most other people of the heavy left leaning persuasion, I've had consumerism on the brain in recent years. My right leaning buddies don't seem to talk about this as much, but they do seem to warm to the subject when I bring it up in conjunction with, "Where the heck is all my money going? And how did all this crap end up in my basement?"
I resonate with those photo spreads in Yes! magazine showing the sea of abandoned cell phones and the island of forgotten Ford Fiestas. I'm forever frustrated by ridiculous packaging, the wasteful "simplicity" of so many items in grocery stores, and the inability of Richmond, VA to take up recycling 5/6 of the plastic containers I end up with. I don't find shopping relaxing. It creeps me out.
But then there's "social consumerism" which is the co-mingling of interaction with others and buying. This combination is very alluring to me. I LOVE charity auctions. We have one in our congregation, as does our sister congregation and I get all excited about those. In Cul de Sac Blues, Mrs. Wonders and other neighbors go on a second-hand-store odyssey. And here at our church quilting group, we love to go on a fabric and notion binge together. These are wonderful, memorable community occasions, but there's the eternal consumerism problem - I always end up with too much stuff.
I don't have answers to this. It is something I struggle with as I try to lead a sustainable lifestyle and be a good role model for my kids. Then my son and I go to the quilting store and buy twice as much as planned because he wants to make a quilt with frogs and race cars.
My daughter seems to have a plan, however. This morning in our ongoing struggle to get her potty trained she made the defining statement. She peed on the bag of quilting stuff.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
This summer, in addition to much travel and way too many conferences, I have had the joy of some summer reading. I always appreciate when others give me a thumbnail of the books they've read. Maybe you do, too? Maybe you agree, maybe not, but here's my take on some of the more recent books I've read.
Good to Great, Jim Collins - Non-fiction, business leadership. Believe the hype. Very thoughtful book, incredibly well-researched and mostly well-written. How his team comes to their conclusions is as interesting as the companies they profile.
Fish!, Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen - Non-fiction, business leadership. Skip it. Nice idea, but I'd rather read interviews with the Seattle fish guys. This felt like an infomercial.
Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard - Non-fiction, business. Better than I thought it would be. Borrow a copy just so you can be in on the jokes.
March by Geraldine Brooks- Fiction, civil war. I think I may be done with the "fill in the blanks on a minor character" books. (See The Red Tent, Ahab's Wife, etc.) But I loved Little Women as a child so this was a must. Brooks is a writer with a gentle and subtle touch.
Diary by Chuck Palahniuk- Fiction, pseudo-mystery. Chuck Palahniuk is a real cool guy in a creepy, cross to the other side of the street sort of way. Reading his uneven stuff is still better than other ways I could spend my time. My favorites on this one were the leitmotifs of what they don't teach you in art school and the weather reports. It's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind, but using your eyes instead of your nose. And it's way funnier.
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk - Fiction, oral history form. I was sick and in bed anyway so I went for a Palahniuk two-fer. I really think that this is his best work since Fight Club and Choke. Different feel for him because of the oral history format. Some weasel book reviewer ruined one of the best surprises for me, though. When I find you, evil reviewer, I will give you my ear infection.
Snow by Orhan Pamuk - Fiction, Nobel prize winner for literature. This is a re-read for me. I'm a big Kafka fan and had heard there were similarities. There are. One of which is that if you put the book down for more than a day, even if you are on page 347, you gotta' go back and start again from page 1. I make myself read a Nobel Prize winner a year to keep my literature degree feeling meaningful. This is certainly doing the trick.
I've read a couple of others, but they didn't make lasting enough impressions. I spent 20 bucks on one of those Harvard Business Review books only to find that it's written on a fourth grader's reading level. Grumble, grumble. And I've been reading things for sermons and Vespers but I don't usually count those because I read differently when I need things for work. Perhaps in a later blog I'll do a thumbnail of the half dozen religious book I've read this summer.
But I would like to share one more.
Possession by Susan Williams - Poetry. Susan is a member of my congregation and a delightful poet. I was looking forward to this coming out, but little did I know. I laid down to browse it on a hotel bed in Virginia Beach. 1 hour later I had devoured every poem like they were my beloved peanut M&M's. But Susan's poems are better because they never run out. I got to the end and just started reading some again. Congratulations, Susan! There was one of these on Amazon when I checked. Go for it or order from Finishing Line Press directly.
Monday, August 06, 2007
So now I'm back from outer space, as Gloria Gaynor says, and everything is a wreck. The server at work is angry angry.
A seal blew out as the guy was power washing the window directly above my desk. That was wet.
I have what the doctor called "air trauma" in one ear. I call it deafness.
And then there's just the usual summer stuff.
All of this is to say that maybe blogging is not what I should be doing with my half-deaf, soggy, internet-deprived self. But at least it's all in perspective.
In the past 3 days I've been to a funeral and a visitation for two different men I've known. One lived a long good life and I'll still miss him. The other died suddenly and tragically. All who knew him will be troubled by his death for a long time to come. That kind of experience makes the little things more obviously little things.
To show that I'm not all gloom and doom, I give you Lilly. Lilly is a Weimaraner who belongs to one of my mom's friends. She has some ailment, obviously. She's undergoing acupuncture therapy. And, sorry Lilly, but I can't stop laughing at you, girl.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
I mentioned that I saw my cousins while in Portland. It has been at least 15 years since I had seen them, and longer since I really had time to be with them and talk. It was so great to realize that I could meet these women and their families on the street and that I would like them as strangers as much as I do as family. It was also really helpful to talk to my women family about the joys and agonies of raising our own families.
I should not even try to capture this one in words. Last weekend was my high school reunion. Of those who attended, I had only seen two of them in 20 years. It was like meeting a whole room of adults who've been secretly picked to be compatible with you. They are all different. I found all of them to have aged beautifully both inside and out. I can't wait to keep in touch with them. And those of us who attended the Sunday service had an exchange afterwards that went deeper than I've ever gone with a group of adults before. Words cannot capture it, but I see the arc of life very differently now, and I'm a whole lot happier with aging and maturity.
One of my best friends who could not be there thinks I've gone off my rocker and that we all drank some kind of kool-aid. It was iced tea, Amber, and our classmate Ari made it so if there was doctoring, he was the master physician. Two caveats: I was not completely looking forward to the reunion beforehand feeling I'd gotten too... I don't even know what... in twenty years, so this was a wonderful surprise. AND: I graduated in a class of 56 so there were no strangers.
Immeasurable and Immutable #4 - Watching my cildren play together
After two years, it is finally happening. My kids are hanging out together and enjoying each other's company more than they enjoy mine sometimes. They chase each other. They roll like puppies. They laugh at jokes I don't get. They are building their own private relationship that is unattached to me or my husband. It is frightening, but also natural and beautiful.
Are you seeing a theme here? Maybe it's the death and danger of the past few months. Maybe it's the big milestones. Or maybe I'm just starting to see the breadth of the mysteries of time and love. Whatever it is, bring it on. But don't expect me to be able to blog about it regularly.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Went to the site and while I was there used the cadaver calculator. I'm only worth $4225 as a medical specimen. Bummer. Then again I guess it is nice to be confirmed in the knowledge that one has more value alive than dead.
Yeah, that's right mingle2. I said it. Dead.
Which reminds me, while at the funeral convention, I picked up some state anatomical board information for donating one's body to science. This will be available at the church next week along with more of the final wishes forms I handed out at services two weeks ago. Unfortunately, the groovy hearse pictured in my previous post will not be at the church on Sunday.
And then there's the belly dancing.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
And every now and again, one strikes some gold and writes something just beautiful. So is the case with my Canadian agent Guy Wonders who blogs neighborhood life in Cul de Sac Blues. Now, I've been a fan of "the Sack" for over a year. Mr. Wonders makes me laugh myself silly with his aptitude for capturing conversational nuances. I know that this kind of blog isn't for everyone, but he struck gold this week so I have to share.
Head on up to the Sack. I know all the characters, but you don't have to for this entry. A jogger has begun running through their cul de sac and everyone notices. Guy Wonders could be a woman named Sherri who lives in a high rise in Nairobi, but this posting is so true, so sublime, and, as is the Wonders way, so damn funny, it transcends space, gender and time.
Thank you, Guy Wonders, for this wonderful window into your life. Print this one out. Put a copy with your will. Have it read at your funeral services. And for the rest of you, if the Sack reminds you of any other blogs, send me a link please.
We played one of those childhood games in which the rules, equipment, and teams change with every round. It was like horseshoes, but with a scoring system trickier than Bridge, and equipment from the toy chest. The kindergartner was amused by it all, mostly because we made him in charge of rules and scoring. The rising seventh grader was willing to stoop to our level and was a good sport.
But the ones who had the most fun? The ones laughing until we almost cried? The ones doing the most G-rated but still adamant trash talk? You guessed it. The two retired guys and the mouthy minister.
That's what makes superhero Uncle Dan super. He's seen too much life to take any of it very seriously. He's absolutely devoted to his family. He brings out the kid in us all. For me and my Daddy, that's our best side. We have a tendency to get a little too serious and bookish and Uncle Dan smacks us right out of that. (Aunt Sharon was using her superpowers on the toddler, thus allowing me to play lawn toss for over an hour. Wonderful woman.)
I realize that I'm pretty sentimental these days. It's been a hard year with too much loss, illness, and close calls. But the flip side is that I'm really appreciating the time my family and friends have together. Savoring it more than I have in years. The weddings, the front porch dinners, the super yard toss tournament, the thunderstorms... it's all feeling like the sweet nectar of life right now. For that I am incredibly grateful.
Got a sermon on this topic tomorrow at 10 if you want to come. This is probably the better version, though. Lord knows it is SHORTER. And there are pictures!
Oh, one more thing. For the record, my Daddy cheats. Rematch!!!!
Friday, June 08, 2007
The Auspicious Jots clan journeyed to PA for my brother's wedding last week. The drive was horrible. The rehearsal dinner was great. My bro looked like a stud muffin and his bride was beautiful and gracious. (Trust me on that one, none of my pics turned out of her.) The groomsmen wore matching brown Converse. The band at the reception played that oldie and goodie whose chorus is something like "Then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like I love you" and the singer sang it to me. (Yeah, I'm a sucker for that move. If you're not, your heart has turned to cold slick granite. Or so I told my husband when he returned to the table after the song and asked me why I was grinning like a fool.) All around blast.
Weddings are times for nostalgia. Many of us talked of Grandma Frances who died a few years ago in her nineties. We sorely missed my brother who could not make it, but whose son stood for him in the groom's line. We marveled at the fact that Grace can legally drink a gin and tonic. ("For Pete's sake, I'm 26!") And some of us quietly said prayers of thanksgiving and hope for the family member undergoing radiation treatments who was loudly shaming the rest of us to join her on the dance floor. We could barely keep up with her.
One of my favorite moments of the weekend, I uncharaceristically managed to capture with my camera. There was a thunderstorm after the rehearsal dinner. My son and I were still awake and he watched the spectacle out the hotel window.
This picture speaks volumes about my life, and about my family. His little askew jammies with astronauts. His sister's little pink sandals and his father's big shiny shoes together. His attempts to be the big man, but still being amazed by all kinds of little things I take for granted. My attempts at capturing some of the dozens of charming, funny, sweet things that my family does every single day. It's all there. Luckily, wedding nostalgia had a hold of me and I got a picture of it.
Mazel Tov to the bride and groom. Last I checked they were in Istanbul being mistaken for American soap opera stars. Long live the beloved family. Somebody find that lead singer. I want to hear Cole Porter's "So in Love!"
Thursday, May 31, 2007
See D. Haffner's post on the emcee heckling she and other peace supporters received on Memorial Day.
Crib notes on peace for those with limited attention spans...
When soldiers don't die at war they can be with their families and hopefully die of natural causes at a much later date. This will make for less parades, yes. But, oddly... it seems to make the soldiers and their families happier.
It is an amazing thing, but you really can respect and honor the sacrifice of veterans while praying for peace.
From the Daily Mail...
Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid
offending Muslim pupils, a Governmentbacked study has revealed. It found some
teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students
whose beliefs include Holocaust denial. There is also resistance to
tackling the 11th century Crusades - where Christians fought Muslim armies for
control of Jerusalem - because lessons often contradict what is taught in local
The findings have prompted claims that some schools are using
history 'as a vehicle for promoting political correctness'.
The report concluded: "In particular settings, teachers of history
are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in
which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship."
But Chris McGovern, history education adviser to the former Tory
government, said: "History is not a vehicle for promoting political correctness.
Children must have access to knowledge of these controversial subjects, whether
palatable or unpalatable."
English and history classes in my day were sometimes rough. Emotions ran high. Teachers and students disagreed. Students and students disagreed. And I remember a couple of days when I seemed to disagree with everyone. We were different races, classes, genders and religions, but we all survived those discussions. I also recall getting into a good university and not being shell-shocked by in-depth class discussions because I'd already experienced them in high school.
As I stand on the precipice before my 20th (public) high school reunion, I (like every other reunion attendee in this world) am not thrilled by all of my memories or the thought of re-living them. But I am grateful for the times my mind was stretched. I am glad I shared years with people who tested me, annoyed me, openly called bull on me, and were honest in their mostly civil disagreements.
As adults we find ways to limit the human thorns in our sides. As high school students, we don't have that power and, yet, for many it is the most educationally significant time of their lives. I believe there's a connection. You can't take the edge and the ire out of adolescence by hinkying with history. Or biology. Or sex ed. The holocaust, species diversity, and sexuality are all hard to talk about in depth. Whether you agree with your conversation partners or not. Therein lies the education. We learn, grow, and sometimes change.
Speaking of which, my son and played on my public elementary school playground the other night.
"Is this where you went to school, mama?"
"Yes, indeed! The place where I learned to read. The place where I learned to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. The place where I learned how to boogie. I still have some of the moves. Wanna' see them?"
Come on now. You didn't think I got these moves from church did you?