Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Richmond in Spring

Richmond is my hometown. I have lived for brief periods in six other towns and small cities, none of which holds a candle to this gorgeous city. And the metropolis on the James is really stunning right now. Between the spring spectacle erupting in nature, the spring cleaning and sprucing of the houses, and the gorgeous people walking, cycling, and eating ribs at Buz and Ned's Real BBQ... this town is truly at its best.

Today the kids and I took Uncle Dan for a ride around town to see some of my favorite neighborhoods and do some blossoming tree gawking. Richmond is a beautiful place, but all Dan has seen on this trip is a hospital parking lot. However, he has developed an infatuation with Bradford pear trees in said parking lot (see above.) I decided to broaden his affections for our fair city. Here are some highlights of our trip.

The ponds of Byrd Park - the fountain pond is surrounded by trees in full white blossom, the causeway between the other two ponds was so stunning we almost wrecked. If you live anywhere near Richmond and you are in love, take your beloved to Byrd Park this week. It will only make you both more in love.

VCU along Main and Cherry - more blooming trees and an abundance of happy smiling students loving the luxury of not working 9-5. Have you ever noticed that everyone looks smarter in Spring? In Autumn you look like an idiot if you're not carrying a bookbag, in Spring you look like Einstein. At least, that's the impression I got today.

East on Canal down to the fishing area - Danny was mesmerized by the railroad trestle with thousands of rivets ("Do you know how many decades it's been since they stopped using rivets?!") I am still in awe of the flood wall and warehouse conversions. The kids were gawking at the canal tour boat. And we just stopped the car and all watched in awe as an incredibly fit man cast a line so far out we thought he'd made it all the way across the James.

Church Hill - Uncle D didn't remember having seen this part of Richmond before. I told him stories from Patrick Henry to Elizabeth Van Lew to where the best smooching spot was when I was a teenager. His best response, "You know Malcolm X was a big fan of Patrick Henry." (Uncle Dan is a man of varied talents and interests. Since he came to be with us during my father's hospitalization he has taught my son about the Cisco Kid, Tic Tac Toe, and he fixed the front door. He has also taken up reading from my library including "Malcolm X Speaks." When I give him any lip about anything he's taken to calling me "whitey." )

Jackson Ward - I noticed that at one corner to the left as far as I could see was wrought iron and down to the right, beautiful brick. I remember when the Fan was a beautiful sea of red brick. Now it's a sea of pastel vomit. My mother's theological opinion is that there is a special place in hell for people who paint brick. That makes Jackson Ward a slice of heaven.

Seminary Avenue - Hurricanes and Tropical Storms have done their best, but the canopy of trees remain. Best collection of wrap-around porches in this city.

Our front yard - Last week the ChemLawn man made his yearly visit into enemy territory and brazenly rang our bell. My husband took one look at his shirt and said, "No, thanks." The guy's parting shot, "So you like those purple flowers?!?"

Those purple flowers are repugnant to the chemical grass lover, but hippies think we are the coolest gardeners ever. We have allowed our entire front yard to be taken over with wild garlic. In about two days it will be at full flower. Thousands of purple flowers on our postage stamp front yard and it looks like the cherry tree may bloom at about the same time. Last year my son said it was snowing pink when the wind blew the cherry blossoms. We'll never make Southern Living's cover but it's a little kid paradise.

Speaking of beautiful flowers, there's a rumor that one of my old buddies has been following this blog. If this is true, please don't forget to plant the impatiens in the garage gutter this year. My favorite sight of summer is in your backyard.

Happy Spring, everyone! Get out from that computer and get to frolicking!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Real Moms Make Long Lists and Lose Them

Lizard Eater was kind enough to tag me with the Real Moms meme, but my sorry butt can't get it together long enough to respond. I was kicking myself about this today and realized how that's a very real mom thing to do.

So, here's the thing: Real Moms make long lists to get their personal, professional, physical, and family life in order. When the list is done we make a big relieved sigh. Within two hours the list has gone AWOL. The list disappears in a purse or diaper bag. The 4 year old rolls down the windows in the car and the list flies out. (True story.) The list gets dropped at the cashier, bank teller, changing table, front porch.

My latest list included putting up my Real Mom post in honor of all the other Real Moms. But I can't find my camera. I can't find the list. And I can't find the cord that links the camera to the computer. (Insert favorite expletives here.)

What I did find:
* my cold-eeze for the cold I've been fighting for 4 days (missing 36 hours)
* Lizard Eater's blog (missing 2 weeks)
* my purple leather jacket (missing all winter and was in the closet the whole time)
* toddler's hair clip (for once NOT missing, which was puzzling)
*4 year old's school folder (missing since Friday at 3)
* my sense of humor (missing 18 days)

Yeah, there's no photo with this Real Mom post. Real Moms know better than to provide insurmountable rules for other Moms. For those of you who haven't seen any of these Real Mom things, go over to Lizard Eater's blog through my links. She'll get you to it. I have a list somewhere that tells me how to link stuff but it's with my camera.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Band

Well, the whole problem with hospitals is a complete loss of perspective. That and the dying.

Here we are on Day 17 of my sweet daddy's hospital stay. 14 days of it have been in the ICU. Now I've been down this road with many a person, but never before with family for this long. We are a tired crew. Even the legendary Uncle Dan is getting a little droopy.

The good news: Dad is off the ventilator. The bad news: he was on it for 11 days, so we are battling the myriad major setbacks from ventilators. Hey, it saved his life. I know it. But we've got a long road before he is able to do anything himself, including sitting up or digestion.

So each day a band of tired, worried members of an extended family get up and go to the hospital or call in and get the latest. Each day the band takes the best of the news and tries to drum up the best possible scenario. Each day the band takes the bad news and tries not to let it worry away at us. Each day we repeat "I love you" a dozen times hoping that the words can make the love tangible and healing.

Each day "the band" is hundreds of different families in this one hospital alone.

There was a band who went to Bed 7 while we've been at Bed 6. We sat in the waiting room with them. We took turns being allowed back into the ICU with them. We shared magazines and a lobby for dozens of hours. The differences: they are a lot younger than we are. Their loved one is a lot younger. She's 29. Her name is Amanda. She's a mother of three.

Daddy came off the ventilator Friday. Amanda came off the ventilator Thursday. Her funeral is on Tuesday. I plan to go. And when we are told whatever we will be told on Tuesday about my father's condition, it may all seem like good news because of Amanda.

Thanks again to the lovely congregation I serve. Thanks to the friends and family who have been helpful to me and to my family at this time. Thanks to the wonderful bloggers who lift me up, make me laugh, share their own trials and triumphs. Thanks to a corps of ICU nurses who spend their days trying to keep their patients alive and giving the bands hope.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Blogging, The Media, ICUs and The Carpool Effect

When I started seminary many years ago, I carpooled the 77 miles each way with an assortment of in-flux characters. (We'll use code names here to protect the innocent.) It was a complex system. Mondays I rode with Andrew. Tuesdays and Thursdays with Rick, alternating semesters with Andrea, and I don't even recall why or when Sam was travelling with me. We were all in transit, from one city to another from one life to another.

Andrea was a stunningly pretty and very intense Baptist seminarian who held up her life as an example for all to follow. Andrew was a budding writer and adjunct professor. Sam was a law student. Rick was a PhD in philosophy and another adjunct, but he also waited tables with me. I was a former teacher turned seminarian who held three jobs to pay the bills. Other than being without health insurance and the road, there were no ties that held us all together.

What I slowly noticed about the carpool was that although I was the only link between all the carpoolers, we started to talk alike, share the same ideas, come to unexpected conclusions together. At first I thought it was kismet. Andrea felt that God was leading the way, to which Andrew quipped, "Shouldn't God be chipping in on the gas, then?" Sam by nature and training questioned everything including the meaning of "same" or "ideas". Rick said it was just too much time breathing the same air.

I was reminded of the carpool on several occasions recently. When a handful of other bloggers and I were all charmed by the "Leading Lady/Man" test... when I read a ridiculously perky Sunday edition of the Washington Post... when my family collectively ping pongs between hope and despair in the hospital waiting room as my dad is in the ICU. It is all the carpool effect. I've just made this up, but in my sleep deprived state, I think I'm onto something.

The Carpool Effect says that any group of people will begin to share significant personality traits if exposed to one another for long enough. The shared traits can be linguistic, emotional, sense of humor, philosophical, even their subsequent life decisions. The evidence of the Carpool Effect in the original carpool was:

1) Rick and Sam both left their careers and took up dramatically different ones. Rick went from philosophy professor to cop, Sam from lawyer to doctor.

2)Andrea was called by God to leave her perfect exemplary life and begin prophesying. Like Hosea, Jeremiah, and others before her, this did not go well. Unfortunately in our day and age the gift of prophesy is called by many names, all of them in the diagnostic manuals used by psychiatrists. It is reported that she completely forgot about her life during the carpool years and never became a minister.

3) Meanwhile Andrew almost died from some sort of organ breakdown and after his transplant had moderate amnesia. It is reported he was unable to continue with his critically acclaimed writing.

4) Less interesting, we all took up some of the same hobbies, shared recipes and colds, and told the same jokes for about 18 months.

The evidence of the Carpool Effect in recent weeks is:

1) When have UU bloggers ever agreed on topics (without the prodding of an umbrella group)? And of all things to agree on... the leading man/lady test? I know over 10 bloggers and others who have found this worthy of contemplation and posting. This could only be the Carpool Effect.

2) I take the Sunday Washington Post at the house. One Sunday the professional obituaries were centered on a theme of "Heartless Bastards Finally Die." The next week they were grouped around "Wonderful People Kick the Bucket. Drats." Other articles throughout other sections held the theme. I imagined all those Post journalists in a very large sedan working each other into the same mood, breathing the same air.

3) And then there's family. While my father is in the ICU my Uncle Dan is visiting to watch over his brother and help the rest of us. Uncle Dan deserves several sermons and a blog devoted solely to him. Uncle Dan is NOT in the carpool. He arrived one week after our ordeal began and he was like Mary Poppins rolling into the nursery. Until his arrival, when we were up - we were all up, and when we were down... ugh.

Uncle Dan has cheated death on numerous occasions, one quite recently. He has completely resisted the carpool effect. We all go up. Dan stays steady. We all go down, and he is still steady, hopeful, encouraging. The result is a new carpool in my house. The children are happier. My husband and I are calmer. Things seem less bleak. Uncle Dan is definitely the driver around our place.

I'm sure you've been waiting for a point here. I'm too tired for that. But on next great day you have, look around at those with whom you shared it. And next time everything goes to the dogs, look at your carpool then, too. We really do have a strong effect on each other. The people we share our lives with matter in this moment, and when we are no longer together. As I always say when we have a crop of new members join the church: now that you are here, we are different.

Finally a shoutout to Miss Kitty, a lovely blogger in the great Pacific coast of America. She breathed a little breeze of sweetness that made it all the way across the country and helped me through this day. Her blog is now on my links. Check her out.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Heart Disease is the Pits

No, I did not return to my lazy luddite ways. My dad has been in the hospital for the last eleven days, with no departure date planned. Needless to say, blogging has been way down on the list along with exercise, work, and personal hygiene. I now understand why people in crisis look so haggard. The emotional toll is rough, but the forgetting to rinse out hair conditioner is what really gets you.

Many thanks to the crew who follow auspicious jots. Some of you posted comments while I've been away. Others have sent me emails. And my buddy Sisyphus has done more for me than any good blogger should have to. Hope it's been a lighter burden than suffering through the American political climate has been for you, Sisyphus.

For those of you who have kept me smiling with the results of the leading man/leading lady test, thanks. I currently have the attention span of a 6 year old at the State Fair Midway, but I've been enjoying the Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Kate Hepburn comparisons. My apologies to the dear friend who was told he wasn't really leading man material. Dude, just because the rest of us found the results spot on doesn't mean you should believe these things. Ahem.

As for my dad, he is still stuck on a ventilator after a hurriedly scheduled triple bypass last week. He's been pretty doped out for the past four days, thank goodness. Let's hear it for Congress staying out of the doctor/patient/narcotics relationship. Sea World has used less opiates to drug a killer whale than it takes every 6 hours to calm my bear of a dad.

The daily grind of the "no change" status report is wearing the whole clan down, however. But Little Man, my 4 and a half year old, has let us know that "hospitals don't let people die" so we're all letting him steer the emotional ship right now.

For those of you who live with heart disease, I'm thinking of you. My dad is an avoider on this issue. Or was until 11 days ago. I can only imagine how hard it is to keep up with the meds, the diet, the exercise. I wish you Sea World strength, four-and-a-half-year-old good thoughts, and lots of support from the people who love you.

Friday, March 09, 2007

No good comes of blog surfing!!!

This is all Chalice Chick's fault. I went to her blog and found that she took this completely useless quiz that told her she was the next Katherine Hepburn.

Useless, I say.
Ridiculous, I scowl.
Where's the link, I mumble.

If beliefnet can send dozens of people to my church by telling them, they're UU, I can only wonder what happens now that I know I am...

Barbara Stanwyck!

"You scored 33% grit, 19% wit, 38% flair, and 21% class!
You're a tough dame, a bit of a spitfire, and you can even be a little dangerous, but you do it with such flair that almost all is forgiven (and even when it's not, you're still the most interesting woman in the room). You can be witty and charming, all right, but you have a tough streak that keeps you focused and sometimes deadly. You've had quite a climb to get where you are, but you're a hard worker and you mostly deserve all you get...and then some. You might end up destroying everything around you, but you must've got style. Your leading men include Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray, and when you forget yourself, Gary Cooper.
Find out what kind of classic leading man you'd make by taking the Classic Leading Man Test."

"My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender: You scored higher than 99% on grit, higher than 99% on wit, higher than 99% on flair and higher than 99% on class."

Follow the Leading Man link and it will offer the leading lady or man test. Waste of time? You betcha. Gotta' go to Netflix now and put the Barbara Stanwyck classics in the queue.

Embalming, Next-of-kin laws, Anna Nicole and YOU

The techno-world is a very weird thing. Since I briefly grumbled about Anna Nicole, the connections of her ridiculous post-mortem legal drama to my life have spawned like the tasteless t-shirts memorializing her.

Here are a few good ones...

The other night I had dinner with some of my funeral service pals. The subject came up, and it came up in a way I was completely enthused about. (Prepare for the funeral geek flag to unfurl here...)

The court prattle made a lot of people think about their own wishes and arrangements and wonder how next-of-kin laws might affect them. I'm ALL FOR that result. It also brought up the question of designee laws as opposed to next-of-kin laws. Again, I say "Yahoo!" (It was a quiet yahoo, but still, these are positive developments.)

If you have not put your wishes in writing and if your family tree is at all complicated... wake up. See that little hourglass to the right of my blog? See the word "NOW"? What happens if you die from the boredom of my blog? Who's legally in charge of your remains? Does that person have a single clue what you might want?

It has been clinically proven by countless independent studies that making your funeral plans will not kill you. So, NOW. Talk about it, write about it, let the people who love you know. It's not selfish. It is thoughtful for those you leave behind. And if you are alienated from family, absolutely spend the little bit of money it will take to have a legal designee who will see to your wishes. That will certainly help you out if you keel over in our fine Commonwealth.

Then there's the question of decomposition. People got to fretting about embalming.

"What do you mean she's decomposing? I thought she was embalmed."

Ah, good one. As a proponent of green burials and cremation, any opportunity to expose the misconceptions of embalming makes me happy. But even I firmly believe that there are certain very good reasons for embalming. In my book only a select few bodies that are embalmed need to be. Believe it or not, Ms. Smith is in that select few. However, just because she's chock full of chemicals, gauze, and nifty little cosmetic tricks does not mean she is not dead.

You know that thing your workout magazines keep saying about drinking water? Yeah, well, that's because we are full of it. We are basically ambulatory waterbeds. Ever had a waterbed spring a leak on you? That's a dead human body. Whenever I drive past cemeteries one word always comes to mind. Squishy.

So she may be beautifully embalmed, but that gives you time to get her in the ground. Not unlimited time to gaze upon her in the Florida morgue. WAKE UP. Dead people don't look like living people. One of the hard truths I always had to tell mourning families when I was in hospice was that the undertaker had NOT screwed up. Dead people are horribly, eerily still. And the slow movement they do have is not anything you want to be watching.

When we stop moving, we do not look the same. I've seen some cruddy body prep and some amazing body prep, but they still all looked dead. And if there was some delay in getting them in the ground, they looked more dead. Really dead. Decomposition was the wrong word for the judge and media to use as to why they needed to get her buried. But it sparked a lively discussion about what embalming really is and really does, so long live the misnomer.

Hey. Are you still sitting there? And you are still alive? Great. Get to making your plans. NOW. Do it for Anna Nicole.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Book abuse

Yes, I am still a luddite. Can't help it. Two children under age 5, a congregation, the biological need for food and sleep... it's too much to keep up with how to work the VCR, the DVD player, my XM radio, online banking, the office spreadsheet, my cell phone, mail merge, listservs, voicemail, and my camera. Now that I look over that list, I believe I am a modified luddite. I only want to destroy the technological advancements I can't figure out.

All of this is to explain why I have put the following link below in an unacceptable fashion. It is Schott's Sunday NY Times essay on the many ways to get your money's worth from a book. Schott is an unrepentant book abuser after my own heart. He is rather low-tech, too, which I admire greatly. Hope you can link. If not, well, life isn't easy either. Consider it a life lesson.

Rules for Church

Just because we are creedless doesn't mean we are rule-less. There are a few simple rules to being a Unitarian Universalist church member, or at least there should be. Here are a few that come to mind off the top of my head in no particular order...

* Try to sing along. Hymns are not about performance, perfection, or complete agreement with the lyrics or key signature. We sing hymns to lift up collectively ideas, questions, hopes, inspiration. The service is not about the service leader, it is about the congregation. Singing is one of the things the congregation does to lend its voice. Even when the voice is off-key.

* Look around and say hi. This isn't the opera or the movies. If you come to a church, the people around you are THE CHURCH. Check them out. Say hello. And if they look unfamiliar, start up a conversation.

* Your book addiction is encouraged here. Are you constantly interested in learning new things? Do you have multiple library cards, an Amazon account, and are on a first name basis with all the new and used book sellers in town? We are only going to encourage you in these efforts.

* Whine about money at your own peril. If you have some savings and are able to pay your normal living bills each month with money left over for movies and eating out, you are better off than almost every UU church I know. There is no amorphous "they" in a church spending "your" money. If you want to deny your friends' children new curricula and well-lit, well-heated areas to learn and play at church, then look those little kiddies in the eyes and say so. Otherwise, take part in the process to make your church successful in its mission.

* We are pretty free and easy on the dress code, but show some respect. The guy in the tie is always easy to spot, and we think he's cool for being a rebel. The guy in the "Bite Me" shirt, well, not so much.

* Church ain't no secret. Talk to your children about their classes and services you attended. Talk to your friends about ideas and questions that came to you during the service. Talk to other church members about theological and philosophical questions you have. And practice the name, it's tricky. Uni-tar-i-an Uni-ver-sal-ist. The order does matter.

* Admit ignorance. There is this faulty assumption that you have to be part of a brain trust to be a UU. Not at all. What I know as a UU I found out by asking the greatest question of humankind: Huh? You aren't going to hurt this church by asking questions. Just be prepared to get a variety of answers on some things.

* Come back. We aren't perfect. Someone will forget to say hi. Someone will wish you a peaceful solstice, forgetting that you are a practicing UU Buddhist. You'll come to a service that doesn't move you. These are normal parts of church life. But we keep coming back. And we strive to be gentle and honest with one another in ways that are not well-modeled in the rest of society.

Church isn't a gathering of people poised on the edge of perfection. It isn't a movie or a sitcom whose purpose it is to make you happy and comfortable. Church isn't always easy. But then again, neither are you. And neither am I. And yet, we are still welcome at church to share our finest hours, and our most difficult.

That is why we are not a social club, not a discussion group. A Unitarian Universalist church is a group of people of all ages who support each other through life's changes, encourage one another to spiritual depth and intellectual growth, work to improve the community we live in (and beyond), and celebrate what it means to be human in an amazing and fragile world. All of this we do in the spirit of a long and rich religious heritage and in the distant light of hope for a better future.

And with a few rules.

Friday, March 02, 2007

More on Celebrity

A follow-up to my last post. Just so you know that there is a heart somewhere in my angry little chest, let's talk about celebrity in a more positive light. I've been thinking all week on my disdain and disgust over the spectacle that followed the untimely death of Ms. Smith. I've divided my extreme reaction to a few basic causes.

Cause #1 - I don't even follow this stuff and I saw this woman dying young and in despair years ago. She was a prescription drug addict, objectified by an entire nation, and suffered the worst loss imaginable - the death of a child. How was it that America couldn't take its collective eyes off her when many of us didn't have the stomach to watch?

Cause #2 - I haven't watched TV in months so I had unreasonably high expectations of what I might find there. Hopes which were, of course, dashed miserably.

Cause #3 -I wasn't a fan of Anna Nicole. If I had been a fan, well then...

Unless afflicted with terminal narcissism, or chronic apathy, we are all a fan of someone. My four year old is a fan of Spider Man. My mama is a fan of some former presidents of the Southern liberal persuasion. I am a fan of... well, I'll come back to that. But we all have our people for whom we are willing to wait in lines for tickets, we'll drive hours to see, or we'll act like 1960's teenagers cheering the British Invasion if we encounter them.

So let me just say that I would not have been nearly so harsh if Fox News and friends had run marathon coverage of the following events.

* Dave Grohl's baby daughter's first steps.
* A six hour Billy Collins documentary including lectures, interviews, and a call-in show
* Clive Owen reading the ingredient list of Frosted Wheat
*Anything with the AbFab girls

I also would have been more interested if Anna Nicole had been alive and watching all this somewhere. I'm sure she would have had some oddly slurred malapropism laced commentary. God rest her poor soul.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Unpleasant Unreality

I had a lovely couple of days last week on my annual trek to the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival. I spent much of my 60 hours away from home (and offspring) quiliting, looking at quilts, talking about quilts, or buying tools to use for later quilting. However, even I can't totally immerse myself in quilt-ness, so I used the alone time to re-acquaint myself with America by watching television.

Wow. So this is who we are now?

It's really all about blondes?
Dead blondes.
Estranged blonde mamas.
Blondes in rehab.
Blondes on the run, the red carpet, the runway.

Wow. Pathetic.

At first I thought it was a joke. I thought it was just a blip in the news cycle. But then a reporter said that America had been watching the saga of the dead blonde's court battle for a week. A week!? Here's a news flash: she is still dead and she will have to be buried somewhere. Why does anyone but those who knew her care?

Honestly, I've been present at a couple of hundred burials and with all the opportunities for visitation before me, I only visit a dozen or so grave sites. Is America really planning on laying flowers at the grave of someone who was famous for being famous?

Of course not, you say.
Silly minister, you say. That's not why we are watching. We are watching because...

Now think.
Think a good long minute. There is no ending to that sentence that is at all flattering to you. None whatsoever.

Just as there is no good reason to watch serial killer movies, know the names of actors' offspring, or read any printed material in the grocery check out line. There is no good reason to gape at the misfortunes of others no matter how astonishing their physical appearance and public attention-seeking behavior.

I know why America is watching and I am disappointed in us all. It is unseemly. Tasteless. Disrespectful to self and others. Not to mention BORING. All the mysteries and marvels in the natural world around us, and we use our attention on this? If not star gazing or learning oceanography, we could at least be memorizing poetry, learning auto repair, feeding the hungry, curing athlete's foot. Instead we are keeping the Fox network afloat? Again, let me say, pathetic.

So, now I'm back from vacation and back to my crippled TV. Back to the world where people are all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors. (And where in my circles at least, the blondes are pretty much like the rest of us, but look better in pastels and white.) The world where potty training is news. The world where I wouldn't have time to watch TV even if my TV worked. (Netflix is making a fortune off of us.) And while I am disgusted at what passes for news in this country, I'm also wiser from the experience.

I noticed this morning that what drew my eye to the paper was a very lovely dress on an actor, not a well-written commentary or investigative report. I noticed that I read the comics before I read the world news. I noticed that I wanted to read the recipes, the personal interest columns, the weather even, all to avoid the news from the war or the local crime report. I noticed that paying attention to the stupid and ludicrous is easier than being a good citizen. And that is what all this pathetic gossip which is news in drag, bad drag is: EASY.

It's Easy, this celebrity rubber-necking. I understand but I'm just not a fan of Easy. When the time comes for the news networks to have marathons on where Easy will be buried I'll be otherwise occupied visiting the graves of Difficult and Unwieldy, Confusing and Depressing, and Amazingly Complex. Those graves have been around for years and could use some flowers. But then again, Easy doesn't look like it's dying any time soon.

Hot Topics in Book Groups

For those of you who have not made any of the book groups, just a taste of what the most engaging, enraging, exciting books of the year have been.

The Sparrow - This sci-fi surprise choice has brought about almost constant conversation. People in other book groups are talking about this one. Of all the books discussed this year, it would appear that this is the one you should be reading.

The Great Transformation - This one required the group to have two meetings. Further discussion has ensued in the Bible class and the New UU class. It appears that this is the book most likely to keep you thinking, talking, and re-reading.

The Wake of War - This non-fiction collection of first person interviews is a must read before you pick up the paper or listen to the talk radio pundits. The lack of commentary is a bonus in the book. The people of Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan do all the talking. Much of what is currently happening is predicted three years ago by the people interviewed in this book.

Snow - One of the most stunning pieces of literature, it is the beautiful writing that makes this one so amazing. And since it appears we won't be seeing any snow this year, the constant blizzard in the background is a bonus.