Sunday, December 13, 2009


I was disappointed last week when the president said there would be continued and escalated US military action in Afghanistan. I was disgusted when this week he used the platform of the Nobel Peace Prize to talk about "Just War." You have to do what you have to do when you're president, but that was gross. I had to turn off the radio. I trusted that guy to make his moves so that he wouldn't have to justify them with something that is fundamentally wrong. I would probably never be able to listen to a John McCain speech all the way through, but at least his wouldn't have been from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Project 50: October (belated)

“Red Planet” by Robert A. Heinlin
This book was a little confusing to me, not really in terms of plot, but there would be parts that were going really well, but suddenly the main character and the secondary main character would switch personalities, and I’d be thrown off. I also think that the author took quite a few creative liberties with science to make a colony on Mars livable, and threw in a few random plot twists that hung there awkwardly for too long and when they were finally resolved, were pretty worthless. You know, what I didn’t like about this book was that it was so similar to the writing that I used to do when I was 9 or 10. Painful. C-

“Matilda” by Roald Dahl
I started reading some books that I’d read when I was younger, to see what they were like when I was old enough to get everything. Matilda is a cute tale of a girl genius (yay girl geniuses!) who doesn’t rage against the people who put her down and call her a twit. Nope, she just gets even. Everyone gets their comeuppance, although I have to say that the magical powers at the end are a little too deus ex machina for me. B

“Freak the Mighty” by Rodman Philbrick

I remember this being really inspirational to me when I was young, but reading it again, I can’t really remember why. I know that my best friend and I made up our own dictionaries, or at least the letter A and B. As a kid, Freak’s imagination and courage in the face of illness and danger were something that I really wanted to access, but as an adult, it just seems really sad and tragic. I also felt like the way that other people treated Max was a little bit over the top. Maybe it works differently for kids. B-

In November, all I finished was "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer, which I have already reviewed and stand by it as being one of the best books I have ever read.

Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo Winner!

This is what I have been doing all November instead of reading books (though I did that too) and putting up my October reviews. And I made it! The fifth time's the charm, eh? And no, no one will be reading it besides me because it is complete crap. As a lover of great literature, I still find it difficult to create.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Project 50: September

I just have to get through one more book, then I've accomplished my goal for the year and can concentrate on National Novel Writing Month in November!

“The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal” by Jonathan Mooney
The author, labeled “learning disabled” because of dyslexia had grown up being looked down upon, but graduated from Brown University with a degree in English literature. The book is not a story of “short bussers” overcoming the odds to become awesome. Mooney bought a little yellow bus and set out to see the experience of living with a disability label. I feel that his writing was really honest. Before meeting a young man with cerebral palsy, he gets really nervous because he’d thought he would only interview people with learning disabilities like himself, not conditions like cerebral palsy or Down’s Syndrome, but naming his own fears of encounters with people who are “different” gives a lot of depth to his project. A

“Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the musical Rent” by Anthony Rapp
I really like Rent, so when I stumbled on this while looking for books on bereavement, I nabbed it. Rapp focuses on three areas of his life: his mother’s illness and death, his sexuality and relationships, and anything involved with Rent, from the workshop where it began to the film version. It was emotional and touching. I didn’t find scenes from his sex life as a gay teenager to be too graphic. I laughed at the scene where he and a bunch of friends played Spin the Bottle and gave each other “ear sex.” The only thing that I didn’t like was that the only language he used to convey excitement was “shivers ran up my spine.” Over and over and over, especially when first hearing songs from Rent. I wish those scenes had had a little more varied language. B+

“Doctor Who: The City of the Dead” by Lloyd Rose
This book starts off like a good whodunit mystery but as questions are answered, it gets more confusing than before and crumbles into a bunch of disjointed scenes. Maybe it’s an 8th Doctor thing, but there was too much dark magic and other wacky stuff going on for my taste. At the end, I really didn’t have any clue what had happened in relation to the murder at the beginning. C

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon
I liked this book mostly because of the structure. The author writes from the perspective of an autistic 15-year old who wants to discover the murderer of his neighbor’s dog. The structure of the writing is such that every action or sense that he experiences gets processed and analyzed, right down to seeing a certain number of cars of a particular color in a day. The book jacket said that it was about a young man who can’t experience emotion, but I don’t think that whoever wrote that must have read the book, because he definitely reacts to his emotions. As the plot gets more intense for the main character, the sentences start to run together and you feel his panic translating to the inability to separate his thoughts. A

“The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” by Kim Edwards
This was a good story that went on for a bit too long and didn’t end the way that I thought it should have. It’s about a couple who have twins, and one is born with Down’s Syndrome. The husband is a doctor and delivers the babies in his office during a snowstorm, and the only other person there is a nurse. He gives the baby to the nurse and tells her to put her in an institution, but she ends up running away and raising the baby as her own. The husband tells the wife that the baby died and the secret creates an emotional rift between them for the next 20 years. I found the story, mm, a little too feminine, all about children and housewives and insensitive husbands, and clichĂ©d in that the wife becomes an alcoholic housewife, bitter about her role in life. C+

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Threat of Obligation

I like to volunteer. I've been doing it since high school, when I far surpassed the "service learning hours" required for graduation. I used to volunteer at Hosea Youth Services giving sewing lessons to any of the street kids who wanted them. I volunteered as a "tutor" at Nuestro Lugar Teen Center which mostly meant hanging around with teens and shooting the breeze, playing Clue and learning to juggle. I sometimes would come to the youth group organized by my church leaders to help out. I'm learning to run the planetarium at the Science Factory so I can be a volunteer presenting planetarium shows.

But this weird thing happens when I sign up for something. I get exhausted. The stress of something on my schedule makes my neck and shoulders hurt so bad that all I want to do is lay in bed and act selfish. There are tons of people who work through pain and serve themselves to the limit and they love it, but I just get cranky. Also, things that I want to do for fun always seem to pop up on the days that I've got to do volunteer work, so then I'm cranky because I wanted to go have fun.

Maybe there's really something up with my body that needs rest, but I'd like to work on my motivations. I'm passionate about all these different things, but I can't expect all my wishing to fix them. I also can't expect to fix them all myself. "Obligation" is this dirty word that makes me bitter; so is "commitment". I don't equate relentless volunteerism with being amazing, more like a responsibility because I've got it so good and there's so much work to be done that I can't bear not to be a part of a solution. I don't really care about being amazing. So what is it about my optimism that turns sour once I sign my name to the clipboard? There's no epiphany here. Just the tension of 24 hours in a day.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Project 50: August

If I spent as much time reading as I did Harry Potter on a regular basis (does that sentence even make sense?) I'd be reading many more books per month. Novels are good stuff.

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by J.K. Rowling
This book had the same kind of plotline as the first in that the three main characters had to find something hidden at Hogwarts and broke all the rules to find it, but the twists and turns and reveals at the end were absolutely brilliant. I’m still trying to figure out the motivation of some of the characters, kid and teacher and this book changed my mind about some. At first I thought Draco Malfoy was a harmless snotty brat, but now I think he’s going to be a much more serious player later on. A

“Talking with Alzheimer’s” by Claudia J. Strauss
This month has the potential to be a really depressing reading list, since I went to the library and checked out a metric ton of books about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, and a couple on grief for good measure. My grandpa has been diagnosed with dementia, and I wanted to read up on what to do when he starts forgetting my name and things. This book is short and simple. It offers phrases and techniques to use when talking with someone with Alzheimer’s, for example, asking “yes or no” questions instead of open ended ones like “What would you like to eat?” and leading conversations in a way that won’t frighten or confuse them if their reality tells them that they need to pick up their kids from kindergarten or be picked up by their parents. The book is written mostly to “visitors” who come to see people in homes without family, so some things didn’t apply to people who have known their loved ones for a long time, but I still think it will be useful. A-

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
I really want Snape to be not such a bad guy. Or at least I’d like it to be a little less obvious. I’d seen the movie for this book, so there wasn’t a lot to surprise me, but I’d forgotten about the dementors, which are a pretty cool beast when you think about it, if what they did wasn’t so awful. They guard the wizard prison and suck the happiness out of your soul. Heavy. This book tells a little more about Harry’s dad, since all of the new characters were friends of his.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
When my grandma’s eyes bugged out at the size of the book I was carrying, she asked how many pages it was. It’s over 700 pages, but there’s never a dull moment. I appreciate the way that Rowling doesn’t go off on unrelated tangents. This one was a kind of cute because all the little wizards have crushes on each other. There was another twist at the end that I totally wasn’t expecting, although one secret had a kind of lame reveal. This book also started differently than the others, not with Harry, but with a foreshadowing scene of Voldemort. I thought it was kind of inconsistent for the characters in this book to refer to Peter Pettigrew by his nickname throughout, when no one really had in the previous book. Minus for those sticking points. A-

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
The danger really ramps up in this one. How do I write these now without giving away any spoilers? I will say that Dolores Umbridge, the Ministry of Magic approved Defense Against Dark Arts teacher is COMPLETELY insufferable. The Ministry of Magic is trying to discredit Harry, Dumbledore, and anyone else who tries to talk about Voldemort, and every move that Umbridge makes is to that end. But she does it in such a crafted, bureaucratic way…I definitely felt the frustration that I was supposed to get from the story. The saga of young wizards in love also continues…I don’t know why Ron and Hermione don’t just get it over with and stop arguing like an old married couple. A

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Even though a major part of this book involved Dumbledore giving Harry lots of information about the task they were about to carry out, I can’t help but think that he’s hiding a lot more than he’s telling. I still want him to be merry old Dumbledore, who just looks out for Harry, but he’s creating an awful lot of mystery and not answering any of Harry’s questions. Ooh, tension. I felt like the “Half-Blood Prince” twist at the end was kind of unbelievable, though. I have a feeling that the “big spoiler” is not the last we’ve heard of that. A-

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Honestly, I was kind of bored with most of this book. Watching Harry and Ron and Hermione running and hiding from Death Eaters and arguing with each other for three-quarters of the book is not really my idea of an engaging story. Too much use of Invisibility Cloak, I say. That said, I did cry a little, when the “ghosts” of Harry’s loved ones showed up to help him. I don’t know how I feel about the whole truth about Snape…I still wish he had been a little nobler. The rest’s all spoilers, so you’ll just have to read it yourself. B+

“When A Family Member Has Dementia: Steps to Becoming a Resilient Caregiver” by Susan M. McCurry
I think this book was written by a counselor who works with families in which someone has dementia or Alzheimer’s. It contains a couple of acronyms with steps to dealing with a loved one’s condition in a way that keeps you sane and respects his or her dignity. I thought the acronyms were a little unnecessary, and the one titled “POLITE” was a little absurd in that it had little to do with being polite. Along with helpful tips, the author includes anecdotes about families that she has encountered that put them into practice. It’s going to take some creative thinking to make life livable as my grandpa progresses, and it helps to see other families doing the same thing. B

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


(I saw the title of this post on a bumper sticker this week. I kind of want one.)

As you’ll have read from my last post, I just started reading the Harry Potter books. Now plowing my way through the fifth book, I’m getting around to that blog post I promised on why a (practically) grown woman is reading the series for the first time. I also figured out how to read and knit at the same time. Hardbound books may be cumbersome in a knitting bag, but they stay open better than paperbacks.

When the Harry Potter books started coming out, I was a teenager, just starting to get really serious about being a Christian. I think somewhere before then, I’d given my “testimony” which involved turning from a wanna-be witch into a God-following Christian. As 10 and 11 year olds, my best friend and I had made up a book of curses and spells to put on people that treated us like weirdos (believe me, it didn’t help). I read all the books that The Dalles Library had on witchcraft, mostly juvenile fiction ones that involved wanna-be witches like myself. And I continued to do this until a Christian friend told me “You know that’s against God, right?” So I “put the darkness behind me” and got rid of my stuff.

Enter J.K. Rowling. My school librarian was really excited about Harry Potter because kids were actually reading them. But Jesus told me not to. “That’s not stuff to mess around with!” I insisted. I steered clear of the books because people told me that the author used verses from the Satanic Bible in the spells. I was terrified that I would be led into temptation and want to be a witch again.
After a while, I stopped caring so much about the peril of my soul and just never bothered to read them. I learned to be terrified of other things, like someone from my Christian co-op seeing me linger too long at the Pride Day celebration and asking me to leave the house. Because, you know, Jesus says no.

It’s only recently that I started to laugh at all I bought into because other people said that Jesus said things were bad. I missed out on all the great Harry Potter parties at bookstores! I missed out on all the drag shows! I started reading “Dungeons and Dragons for Dummies” and bemoaned all the fun and imagination I could have maintained in high school if I hadn’t been scared away from “evil” things like D&D. I started doing yoga, which was amazing and relaxing. And I found that Harry Potter books are very moral. There’s good, and there’s bad, and it’s clear that you want to be on the good side. And you know what? Jesus doesn’t seem to care.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Project 50: July (in which Hannah reads Harry Potter for the first time!)

“Born on a Blue Day” by David Tammet
David Tammet is a man with Asperger’s and Savant Syndromes with a thing for numbers and languages. I don’t have such a thing for numbers or languages, which is why I’m glad that Tammet uses this book to really give a picture of the way he experiences and processes the information that makes it possible for him to access it, like memorizing pi to 20,000 some places by visualizing a picture of waves and colors. There are pictures in the book that help. I think that this book more than others I’ve read by people on the autism spectrum helped me understand the way he experiences the world. He sometimes jumps around to what seem like completely unrelated topics, which gets confusing, but I do the same thing when I’m talking, so there you go. A-

“The Anglo Files” by Sarah Lyall
Even though this book was funny, it was kind of a downer. Sarah Lyall is an American reporter who married a British man and moved to London, and maybe in a moment of homesickness she set out to expose all that is wrong with the British with a few quaint things thrown in. Her chapter on the misinformed and stunted sexuality of British men and women her own age and older is kind of frightening to me, because I prefer the way we mostly have information out in the open in the US. The caveman sexuality and immaturity of British Parliament doesn’t make me fall in love either. I think she spends a little too much time digging back in time to find examples of British people behaving badly to prove her point, but I think that comes with her being a reporter. B+

“Cuckoo” by Madison Clell

This is the graphic novel autobiography of a woman with disassociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personalities. Madison had been sexually abused by various people in her youth, and to escape the mental, she would disassociate and “create” another person who would take her place during the abuse. When she became an adult, these “alters” started to pop to the surface because of flashbacks. I think that the graphic novel format of the book really works for her story, because the facial expressions, depictions of her alters, changes in font give the feel of what happened much more than a square paragraph would be able to communicate. A

“The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul” by Douglas Adams
This story starts off pretty good, but after a while, I was wondering why I was continuing to read it, because it really wasn’t all that interesting. Sure there were a couple of gods bouncing around and making mischief, but I’m not really sure what the point was. Everything got wrapped up at the end, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how it ended, because it was that forgettable. C’mon Douglas Adams, I know you can do better! C+

“Tunnel Vision” by Keith Lowe
I think that this book could be made into a pretty good movie, maybe a romantic comedy or something. It has all the makings: weird friend, cranky fiance who doesn’t like weird friend, man who makes stupid bet with weird friend while drunk. The bet happens to be that Andy, who is obsessed with the London Underground, must make it to every stop on the tube in one day. The day is the one before his wedding, and he bets the train ticket that would take him to his wedding in Paris. It’s a pretty intense day, with heart stopping delays and suspicion of fellow passengers who could be spies. I enjoyed the whole thing, except how much Andy’s fiancĂ© hated the London Underground. That was a little bit too fierce for me to be convinced that she actually wanted to marry him. A

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
I’m cooking up a good blog post in my head about why I haven’t read Harry Potter until now. But I’m really kicking myself for not reading it earlier, because I could have gotten in on some KILLER parties. I’ve never heard of any other fans getting dressed up and going to a BOOKSTORE for a midnight party. I think the best way that I can describe the book is “delightful.” I only give A+’s to books with amazing language, so this one was a bit too simple for that, as a kids' book, but it had a really great plot and plenty of intrigue to keep me reading. I finished it in two days. Some make-believe writers will plug in a lot of jargon that you’re supposed to figure out along the way, but since Harry had lived his life so far with no knowledge of magic, the reader learns at the same pace that he does. A

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Miserable Mill” by Lemony Snickett

This one was a bit more intense than the others because it involved some pretty close up mortal danger. Also, hypnotism. Fun. I thought the new vocabulary in this book was top notch and a bit more clever than in the others. B

Saturday, July 25, 2009


This is a concept that I kind of like:
by Pace at Freak Revolution (just found it today) It's about how people have more at stake when they are friends with a diverse group of people, so they tend to act more in the interests of those friends, even if they are different than themselves.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Project 50: June

I don't know how I did it, but I mowed through nine books this month!

“Green, Greener, Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-Smart Choices a Part of Your Life” by Lori Bongiorno
I found this book, printed in three shades of green ink, in the new book section at the library. It starts off with the subject of food and the importance of buying local and organic. It was all well and good, but was written in a way that made me not want to take the author seriously. “Studies show that organically grown foods have less pesticides than conventionally grown foods.” Really? And all this time I thought they just had more carbon! It does get better though, and as for the first chapter, she does make a good case for eating organic once she starts sounding like she knows what she’s talking about. Even though I thought that the shades of green were cheesy, it’s helpful to know that if I can’t put solar panels on my apartment building or compost my poop, I can make little changes for my health and the environment, and maybe I’ll get greener when I run out of this brand of toothpaste. B-

“The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv
I definitely take issue with the sub-title of this book. That said, eh, it was ok. There’s really only so many ways you can say “It’s important for kids to play outside guys. No really. No REALLY!” The author offers nice antidotes about how some kids with ADHD felt calmer in the woods or the benefits of taking at-risk youth on Outward Bound trips. He bemoans the expansion of Scouting to include more things that are not nature related. He thinks that schools should have more “natural playtime” and that it would do more for test scores than being in class, and highlights a school that doesn’t have computers until high school age. I can see the point, but he acts like just going outside is the all-purpose cure for things. Of course in a book about returning to nature he’s not going to talk about how students who take band (and practice their instruments) do better in school, but hey, whatever your platform. It has encouraged me to make sure the student with autism that I’m watching over the summer gets out and about a lot. C+

“Just This Side of Normal” by Elizabeth King Gerlach

This is a book written by a Eugene mother of a boy with autism. I kind of needed to read it. I’ve read other books where parents have just talked about the amazing breakthroughs that they’ve had with their children, but since I’ve been watching one of my students all day for 3 days, with the whole summer ahead of us, I needed to see that someone else was encountering the same issues I am. Even though the story isn’t very uplifting, it makes me feel not so alone as a caregiver for someone with autism. It’s poorly edited though, minus for that ;) A-

“Vaginas: An Owner’s Manual” by Dr Carol Livoti and Elizabeth Topp
Ok, ok, so I picked this one out purely because of the name. I chose it from the women’s health section of the library when I was looking for information on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It’s pretty informative, though not really for my original purpose. I think that young ladies in high school could handle it. It’s written by a gynecologist and her daughter in an easy going way that makes it clear that not much about “down there” is going to be a surprise to a doctor, although the gyno is pretty opinionated in that she thinks that women who use pads are crazy people who like to wear diapers. It’s pretty detailed about sexually transmitted diseases, which is why I think ladies should read it before they start having sex, although the tone definitely is aimed at sexually active ladies. The chapter on abortion was kind of hard to for me read because the doctor doesn’t refer to a “fetus” in describing each method, but “evacuating the contents of the uterus.” Also, the chapter on sex could have been more of a user’s guide. :-o B+

“Survivor” by Chuck Pahlniuk

I went looking for “Choke” in the library and it wasn’t there so I picked this one. A man who survives a religious cult that committed mass suicide works for a rich couple, lives alone, and puts up suicide hotline stickers with his personal phone number. Whenever anyone calls, he tells them to kill themselves. When it becomes known that he is the only living survivor of the cult, he is groomed by agents and Hollywood types into a kind of Jesus Christ Superstar so they can make money off of his books and products. If anyone knew that his brother also survived and was murdering other survivors, his life of fame could be shot. As intriguing as the plot sounds, I wasn’t all that impressed with the book. I don’t feel like I gained much from it, and it wasn’t all that artful. Take it or leave it. C

“Imagined London” by Anna Quindlen
Quindlen was probably like me and read books that were pretty advanced for her age. I didn’t read Dickens as a 12-year old. This is a short book about the author’s own tour through London to discover the corners and addresses of her literary upbringing. It’s good in a confirming sense, that literature can take you to a foreign place when you can’t go there yourself, but there isn’t too much substance or fact, just one author’s experience with the literary vs. real London. B-

“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
I had heard good things about this, so when I saw it on the “Staff Picks” at the library, I grabbed it. But I was pretty disappointed with it. It’s supposed to be set in present times, but as if something had gone horribly wrong after the sexual revolution and within a few years the government instituted laws which legislated morality and took away women’s value except for their ability to have children. The main character had once had a husband and child, until they were chased down and she was forced to be a Handmaid, a surrogate who would have children in place of a man’s wife. It ends up being bizarre and just too unbelievable to have happened in such a short period of time. If it had been the far future, maybe I would have bought into it. The back of the book compared it to 1984, but 1984 it was not. C+

“A Passage to India” by E.M. Forster
This had been on my list of books to read for a long time. It started off good, with British and Indian characters that represented a variety of opinions on the British occupation, but then it kind of dissolved into a bunch of finger pointing and shame that I didn’t want to keep reading. I wasn’t even sure where the book was going at the end of it. I wonder if Kipling has anything better. C+

“Inside the TARDIS: The Worlds of Doctor Who: A Cultural History” by James Chapman
First off, I was thoroughly crushed that this book had no pictures. Other than that, it was a good resource for a Doctor Who fan who didn’t grow up in the 60’s in the UK, because the author went through each Doctor in chronological order, highlighting his personality with an especially meaningful episode. The author also brought in cultural information about how Doctor Who reflected and affected British culture at the time. For someone who had seen all of those episodes, it could get pretty boring, but I’ve only seen the first of the classic series. B

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Project 50: May

“A Wind in the Door” by Madeline L’Engle
This is the second in the series after “A Wrinkle in Time.” Charles Wallace is ill because something is attacking his mitochondria, or the critters that give the mitochondria energy, which Mrs. Murry just happens to have discovered. What’s attacking them? Oh, the Devil. The story itself was a little too overtly religious for me, just with different names for the Devil and temptation and hell. Again, the action was not very action-y. Several pages of “You can do it! Come on, fight it!” “Oh, no I can’t!” “Yes, you can!” “No, I can’t!” “Well then someone has to!” Then it got near the end of the book and everything wrapped up quickly and they were all back in Kansas again. I was expecting a slightly different formula from the last book. C

“Douglas Adams’ Starship Titanic” by Terry Jones

Douglas Adams came up with a great computer game, and since it was Douglas Adams, the producers of the computer game thought that there should also be a novel to be released at the same time. Douglas Adams didn’t want to do it himself, so he enlisted the help of Monty Python’s Terry Jones, who agreed on the terms that he could write the book in the nude. It was funny enough, but I don’t think it does justice to Douglas Adams. My biggest issue was this sexual side story in which one of the women threw herself on an alien she’d just met in a moment of peril and they spend the rest of the story finding ways to add more gratuitous sex scenes to the book. Now, in Monty Python style, Jones does a self-referential bit that acknowledges the previous smutty chapter, but still, it’s rather distracting. B-

“Callahan’s Secret” by Spider Robinson

Spider Robinson insists that he did not write a trilogy. This was just his third and final book about Callahan’s Place. I didn’t read the middle book, but I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. This was less of a collection of short stories and more a whole novel of how a bar full of weirdo drunks saved the world. It’s intense and heroic and ends just the way it should. A-

“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer
Like “Everything Is Illuminated,” this book goes back and forth in time, between the life of Oskar Schell, a nine year old boy whose father died in the September 11th World Trade Center attacks, and the lives of his grandparents, who had separated when she became pregnant with Oskar’s father. Oskar finds a key labeled “Black” in his father’s things a year after his death and sets to scouring the entirety of New York City to find the lock that it opens, and hopefully someone who knows something about his dad. I like this story because Oskar is such an oddball little kid, with hobbies like learning French and writing letters to famous researchers asking if they need an assistant, and who personally sends a cabbie his fare when he doesn’t have the money to pay it. Foer’s writing style is such that every little action, like writing down a name, seems magical and important to record. A+

Friday, May 29, 2009

My job and what I get out of it

I've been working as a special education aid for 2 and a half years. When I applied for the job as a substitute, I wasn't sure if I would like it, but my second day, subbing for a day at the school where I've been most of those 2 and a half years, I fell in love. A boy who will be graduating out of my class this year was compelled to drink with vigor out of every drinking fountain we passed. I was fascinated. What makes you tick? I wondered. Will I ever be able to see or hear you communicate those ticks?

This week was particularly wacky. We've had subs on and off all week. Yesterday was a county-wide event for all the Life Skills classes. One of my students soaked me with a giant water balloon popping device similar to a dunk tank. Another, weighing about 80 pounds (I'm 115 myself) climbed onto my back like a backpack and we climbed up a huge inflatable slide that way. And today I was part of a two-person clean up crew which neutralized a situation involving a dirty diaper and wandering hands.

I used to think I wanted one of those jobs that really made a visible difference in the world. By golly, I was going to put folks back on their feet and inspire others to do the same. But I care too much about people's lives to watch them screw them up again and again, and I'm too much of a results driven person to not feel like I'm a failure at my job when it doesn't happen. I can handle volunteer stuff without the pressure, just not as a job.

So now I do this thing that seems futile, yet noble. More than likely, none of my kids will become astrophysicists (but maybe falconers or paleontologists) or great artists (unless Disney plans on making another Buzz Lightyear movie) like some autistic savants. I'm sometimes torn in my principles, demanding that talented and gifted programs be a top priority, but not wanting to shaft kids like mine with the volume of staffing that will give them respect and dignity. I dare anyone to see what I do on a daily basis and not maintain that those students are precious in the eyes of God, even when they are throwing heavy things across the room or drooling or screaming. At the end of a child's time in my class, he may only be able to let someone know he's hungry and put on a shirt, but to me, that will be a thousand little victories. I don't make a lot of money, and I doubt I'll be an Annie Sullivan, but being hit, sassed, and drooled on in the course of everything else gives me more purpose to my life than I think tutoring gifted kids would.

While my job means a lot to me, I don't think it's special and amazing as some people who tell me it takes a special kind of person to do my job. Maybe my whole life has been building up to this, or maybe people don't give themselves enough credit.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

It's not easy being green

I've been trying to change my environmental impact in small ways since I moved out of my parents' house. I started looking at thrift stores or getting old stuff from family first before buying new things like spatulas, kitchen towels, a microwave, a bookshelf (which I repainted and put a back on and it looks FABULOUS). I'm a big tea drinker, and it was starting to bother me how much waste I was making with my daily cup: the foil package each bag came in, the tea bag itself, the paper tab on the top, the string, the staples that held them together, not to mention the box they came in and the plastic they were wrapped in. So I switched to loose tea, and let me tell you, it's wayyyyy better. About two weeks ago, I stopped washing my hair with regular shampoo and started switching off between Dr. Bronner's 18 in 1 soap and baking soda dissolved in water, inspired by Stephanie Langfore at Keeper of the Home.

This year I moved into an apartment and didn't have anything with which to clean, so I went on the search. I thought I was doing great choosing "Green Works" dilutable cleaner and toilet bowl cleaner. Then last night on OPB I heard about a couple of websites that rate the health impact of various products including cleaners, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. I spent a horrifying night finding out that nearly all the products that I use every day are bad for me and bad for the environment. (The sites are Good Guide and Skin Deep, given, some of the ratings are vague and incomplete; they just give the Green Works cleaner a big red dot for "long term health," but it also lists all the cancer causing ingredients) It's good to be informed, and I care about things like a company's environmental practices (the PETA cruelty-free and bad company lists were my Bibles back in 8th grade when I didn't buy anything) but man, I thought I was doing something right! I should have known better than to buy a Clorox product.

I think it would be more wasteful to throw a whole bottle of cleaner, followed by a couple tubes of toothpaste and my shampoo and conditioner into the dumpster, so for now I'm just going to have to deal with using those carcinogens sparingly. I've come across some good websites that show you how to make your own cleaners with baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and borax, so once I have an empty bottle to use, I'll probably try that for a while. It sure beats spending $5 on cleaner when I could add a few tablespoons of baking soda (from a little baggy that cost me 38 cents) to a bottle of water (basically free). I'm doing my best. I'm learning little by little.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The end of the Trinity

My cousin married a man whose father was a Lutheran pastor. Now, Fred is a professional juggler, comedian, and all-purpose smart ass who has no problem offending people's sensibilities, and at least once in a conversation he can usually trick you into embarrassing yourself. He doesn't really hold to a particular belief, if any, but he attends church regularly for tradition's sake. I'm sure all that doesn't accurately describe my cousin's husband, but it's a start.

Anyway, today I was wearing a sweatshirt with "Trinity" printed across the front. Trinity is the name of the Baptist co-op where I lived for three years in college. Fred tried to make a wise crack about how there was no Trinity and that there was only one "Jehovah God." I said, "Well, I don't think it's true, either." He asked me "You don't believe in the Trinity?"

So there I was, asked the question that separates me from liturgical churches and most statements of faith of other churches by my joker of a cousin. And I said "No, I don't." He called me a Jehovah's Witness and went on being Fred, and I thought, "Huh, that was easy."

I wish I did, sometimes, because things like Celtic spirituality really appeal to me in their mysticism and prayers, but it's very much focused on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I would probably become Episcopalian if you didn't have to stand up and recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday. I believe there's one God, and it's a disservice to call God "Father." I believe in the virgin birth and the crucifixion and the divine nature of Jesus' life. I can even buy into the idea of Jesus being God in human form, but if that is so, than I cannot call him the Son of God because that implies a separation. But more I believe that Jesus' life purpose wasn't to be God, it was to show people a right way to live, because there's no evidence that I've seen that implies otherwise. The resurrection gets a little wishy-washy with me, and I'm not really sure what I believe about that. I don't believe in the Spirit of God as an entity in itself. I think that God speaks to people, and there's no reason to create a whole other being to describe that.

For me, to say "I believe in the Trinity, even though I don't understand how it works" is to say that I'm willing to suspend belief for the sake of fitting in with other people. I wonder how many people do that, say "I believe in the Trinity, whatever that is." I don't think that dogmas are all that important to faith in God, which is why I wonder why churches put so much emphasis on this abstract theological thing that no one really gets rather than practical life that reflects the way that Jesus lived. I'm cool with believing unitarian.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Project 50: April

“I Sing The Body Electric” by Ray Bradbury
This is the first collection of unconnected Bradbury stories I’ve read. Reading them put me in this happy, dreamlike, “anything could happen” state. Once I started reading the title story, I recognized it as an episode of the Twilight Zone that I’d seen. I think my favorite story was the one about the men who come to visit Ireland, but the effect of the story when reading it depends on me saying no more. A

“When the Music’s Over” edited by Lewis Shiner

My coworker slipped this into my box with a “read and return” sticky note. It’s an anthology of stories against war and violence. I think the editor contacted a bunch of authors and told them the premise and let them have at it. They aren’t at all pastoral stories about a society of love and peace; some of the stories are totally terrifying, and they do contain violence, but in a way that shows how horrible and unnecessary it is. Most of the stories are futuristic or set on other planets, so the whole book has a sci-fi bent to it that I like. A

“A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle
I had not read this book since I was about 8 or 9 years old. I think I did a book report on it back then. I got really caught up in reading it because the heroes are genius oddballs and they go on a fantasy adventure and the language is rich and descriptive and challenging enough for an adult. Looking back on the story as a whole though, I think it was a little too simple. There’s a mystery to be solved, good fights evil, good wins within a few pages and it all gets wrapped up rather quickly, as if the author had a word count limit that she wasted back when the characters were fighting over who would go back to save Charles Wallace. I think there are more books in a series after this, so I’ll have to see if there’s more to this story. B

“The Way We Never Were” by Stephanie Coontz
One of my college roommates had to read this for a class, and one day she read some out loud to me. It sounded interesting enough, but it really wasn’t. The author sets out to prove how different actual life in a couple of “golden ages” compared to the idealized version, where mothers didn’t work, but stayed home with the children and fathers were able to support an entire suburban family. The reality was that a very small fraction of the population lined up with that model, but what I didn’t like about this book was that it was about 300 pages of statistics which only proved that some, but not all, of her students “Leave it to Beaver” dreams of the past were real. This book could be summed up with “Yes, but not as much as you’d think.” I guess it was assigned in a college class for a reason. C+

“Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon” by Spider Robinson
My coworker is getting good at lending me books I like. I would describe these stories as “Cheers, but with weird visitors.” Callahan’s is a bar where people come, Jake the narrator says, because they’ve got some kind of hurt that they need to share. These people include time travelers, immortals, alien androids programmed to destroy Earth, and the like. The regulars at Callahan’s don’t usually offer solutions, just support, a non-judgmental ear, and a toast followed by pitching one’s glass into the fireplace. Sounds pretty good. A-

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Internet Free

I moved into my new home in mid-March. Internet was not provided in the rent, and I haven't set it up yet because $30 a month is a lot for one person when I may also have to pick up the full $700 rent next month. So I've been going to the library every few days to check my email, check up on the blogs I follow and hopefully catch a friend or two on AIM. Here's some of the ways that not having internet at home has changed my life.

I get a lot more done. I'm sure that I would have a lot of things still in boxes if I'd had internet when I was moving in. I spend the hours that I would have spent dicking around on the net each night READING.

I get to bed at a reasonable hour. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, because I usually stop reading around 11:00 and try to wake up at 7:30, which is probably too long to sleep, and it gets me in a bad habit.

I have to remember things. I can't just run to Wikipedia and look something up, or jump online and tell my friends about the sweet rainbow that I saw on St Patrick's Day. I also don't spend a lot of time brooding over blog topics like this one because I know that the money on my meter runs out in 15 minutes. So maybe I don't communicate with the world as much, but that's ok, because I'm not wasting time. Maybe I won't get internet at all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Project 50: March

I'm reading a lot more now that I live in a place with no TV and no internet. It's kind of nice. I curl up in a chair around 8:00, or if it's cold I crawl into bed and read for several hours a night.

“Dune” by Frank Herbert

This is supposed to be the greatest science fiction masterpiece of all time, but honestly, I was a little bored with it. It was a little too Star Wars for me, what with its futuristic religion and prophecy about one man who would lead the desert people to victory, plus a bunch of political stuff that I really didn’t care about. I kept hoping for some great action scenes, but what I got was the semi-hero Paul getting cockier about his rightful place as the savior of the planet. I suppose that was probably a set-up for the thousand and one other Dune novels. I could take or leave this one. C+

“The Spiritual Traveler: England, Scotland, Wales” by Martin Palmer and Nigel Palmer
I keep dreaming about a time when I’ll be able to visit the homeland again, this time when I’m old enough to choose my own sights to see and appreciate it. I like this book not only because it lists a ton of sacred sites (with a whole chapter on henges) and pilgrimage routes, but for every church or holy well or shrine, the authors tell the story of the saints or historical events associated with the place. They write to an audience who would take a religious pilgrimage seriously, not just as a touristy thing to do, and are very matter-of-fact about the miracles that happened in each place. The book focuses on Christian sites, but also gives respect to pagan landmarks and the authors draw up an “interfaith pilgrimage” at the end that includes Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Baha’i sites. I’ll probably buy this book before I actually go to England. A+

“The Way I See It” by Temple Grandin
This book differed from others I’ve read by authors with autism in that it isn’t an autobiography, but more a book of suggestions for teaching and parenting children and adults with autism with a personal perspective. I like that she doesn’t beat around the bush about things. She’s very forward with the idea that kids with autism should be taught table manners and etiquette, not just because she thinks “kids get away with anything these days” but because as a person with autism, she would not have just “picked up” acceptable social behavior like a neurotypical child would have. She had to be repeatedly told when she was being rude to be able to generalize what rude behavior was. She’s very thorough, including topics like alternative medical treatments, sensory adjustments, relationships, and how to get and keep a job as an adult with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. I started this book the day before I found out that my good friend’s son had been diagnosed with PDD, a pre-autism diagnosis. Even though I was only halfway through with the book, I insisted that she read it. I think it would be especially beneficial for parents with autistic children. A+

“The Rules” by Sherrie Schneider and Ellen Fein

When I was first introduced to this book, it was given to me in a brown paper sack. The cover features a large photo of an engagement ring, and I was told to never let anyone catch me reading it. I remember reading the first chapter and giving it back. This time, it came recommended by some progressive women, so I figured it couldn’t be as bad as it seemed at the beginning. I was wrong. One of the first pieces of advice is, roughly translated, “For God’s sake, fix yourself up a bit! Slobs don’t get married.” It goes on from there to tell readers that the way to win a man is to be manipulative and hurtful. The authors qualify themselves by saying “Yes, acting completely uninterested in the man you are dating for the first few months may confuse him, make him angry, and make him possessive, but at least he wants you and you’ll eventually get married!” To those who don’t use the Rules, they have only self-righteous pity.
Now, I can buy into playing a little hard to get. I can even buy into waiting for a man to make a date-initiating phone call more often than I would. I can understand that no challenge in a relationship makes it boring. I’ve been there, with someone who took it for granted that I would arrange my schedule around him. I’ve also been there fawning over someone who took no interest in me and didn’t have to, because I wasn’t otherwise going away. But I’ve tried these kind of rules before, and STILL ended up alone. When I found that I was making all the phone calls and stopped…the phone calls just stopped, and I found out rather quickly how I rated. Playing hard to get didn’t make the guy I fancied want me more, it just meant that I had no one to hang out with. As far as relationship advice goes, I much more recommend something like “He’s Just Not That Into You,” which gives women a little more power in deciding when he’s not worth it, rather than leaving you feeling like you’ve broken a rule that would have otherwise put a ring on your finger. D+

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sing. Sing a song.

A friend at church brought up a few weeks ago that hardly anyone ever sings with him during church. Now, we've only got 8 or 9 people at most on a Sunday, and one of those people has yet to speak her first words. But sometimes, I don't. Sometimes it's because I don't know the words. And sometimes it's because I know them far too well. I like to think that I take my poor experiences with big church and its young adult group in stride, but I never realize how much baggage I've got until those songs start playing. It's hard to describe the flood of emotions and memories of being parked in a room of people who have worked themselves into a feel-good state, and their faces are just glowing and I was on the outside of that. Even in the middle of people doing what worship is "supposed" to look like, after the first year of crushing loneliness, I couldn't tap into it anymore. I knew what I was, still a weirdo, still a tagalong. Except for the few close friends I made, I felt like I wasn't free to be myself, or even to show the pain I felt about it for fear of being dramatic.

Don't get me totally wrong; I'm a big believer in mystical worship, feeling the presence of God, and the overwhelming joy that goes along with that, and I wouldn't dare venture to say that any person in those big church worship times was just following through. But during those times, I could not speak the words of those songs and be honest. Despite living in a place called Trinity, I really don't believe in the Trinity, so singing about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit feels like I'm lying.

But there are songs that break through that shell. Songs of honest sorrw and the hope of repair, songs where I can admit my faults and brokenness as a messed up human being are freeing to me.

On Doctor Who, the Doctor and Donna encounter the Ood, a race that's been enslaved and had their external brains, which allow them to communicate telepathically, connect with emotions, and SING, they have that cut off and replaced with a translator that gives them a pleasant and compliant voice until they plan their revolt. They can't even express their feelings about being slaves. In a holding cell, they find "unprocessed" Ood who still have their secondary brains. The Doctor can hear their painful, sorrowful song of slavery, but Donna can't until he opens her mind. When she hears it, she's so overwhelmed by the sadness that she asks him to take it away.

I identify with those kind of songs. I've never been a slave, but I love the honesty and hope of songs that throwback to the Israelites in Egypt or in the desert. At the end of that episode, the Ood give the Doctor and Donna their song to take with them, this time a song of freedom and the triumph of good. It has no words, but to me, it's a song that lifts my heart in hope like those church songs do for other people. It brings be tears of joy.

And sometimes it's not even that I've got baggage connected with a song, but I feel more like contemplating the words that day. I did spend a significant amount of time with some Quakers, you know.

I like singing. I wish I was better at it, but I'm mostly stuck with singing in the car or doing karaoke. I just hold my God-related song life close to my chest.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Project 50: January/February

I got behind on writing reviews right after I'd read the book, so I don't think these are my best. I'm hoping that moving into my new apartment with no cable will increase my reading time.


“Cosmos” by Carl Sagan
I just devoured the first half of this book. Sagan digs deep back into the history of science and pulls out all these fascinating events that brought humankind to its current knowledge of outer space. He takes breaks from the hard history and science to gush poetic admiration and wonder about the universe. And this book was written in 1985, just as the Space Shuttle Program was getting started. Nothing stood out to me as dated because c’mon, I’m not Carl Sagan, but imagine everything that we’ve learned in the twenty-some years about “out there” that he never knew. I’ll admit though, the book was pretty long, and with really tiny type, so I kind of wanted it to end sooner, but if you’re interested in space and have the stamina for a lot of science talk, I really recommend it. A

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: A Bad Beginning” by Lemony

Lemony Snickett warns you to put down the book, then launches into a small segment in the lives of three unfortunate siblings. He does it so well, though! I especially like how he stops every page or so and defines a word that one of the characters has used. I think it would be a great way to expand kids’ vocabularies. And to crush their souls until there’s no hope, but eh, what are you going to do? I also want to read a bunch of these because they're short and will get me to 50 books. I'm a cheater. A-

“Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle
Astronaut” by Astronaut Mike Mullane

This is by far one of the best books that I’ve ever read. Mike Mullane was part of the first astronaut class of the Space Shuttle program. His story of NASA behind the scenes is hilarious and irreverent, starting with his determination to have the cleanest colon in his selection group, followed by adventures in peeing in radiators and admissions of guilt for being a sexist pig. It had me in
stitches, but also in tears, because Mullane’s friend and crewmate Judy Resnik
died in the Challenger disaster. I understood his drive to get into space at any cost, and appreciated that he saluted his poor wife’s absolute terror every time she had to go to the roof for a launch. He identified a lot of problems with the NASA administration that led to Shuttle accidents and a Survivor-esque workplace, and I felt the frustration with him. The book was 400 pages, and I was glad, because I didn’t want it to stop. Seriously, read it now! A+

“Doctor Who: Dreams of Empire” by Justin Richards

This book features the second doctor, who isn’t quite as wacky as the fourth, but he has his moments, like when he tries to cover up a security camera by climbing a wall and leaping into space to throw a handkerchief over it. The novel centers
around politics on a prison asteroid, chess, and a little bit of drawn out action with robots, so take that for what you will. There’s a twist at the end, but it kind of falls flat and I feel like I should have seen it coming anyways. B-

.. ......


“The Stargazing Year” by Charles Laird Calia
When a man who had grown up an amateur astronomer rediscovers his love for the stars his pocketbook and wife’s sanity suffer. That’s the basic message of this book, written month by month as Calia starts to build his own backyard
observatory. Given, there’s a nice bit of history around the production of telescopes through the ages, but I kind of felt like the author was trying to build himself up as an eccentric backyard astronomer in the company of people who had discovered comets and planets and stuff. B

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room” by Lemony

Poor Uncle Monty! When you know that bad things are going to happen from the beginning of the book, and the author keeps telling you to give up hope, it’s kind of predictable. I can see where these books are headed, and I’m starting to wonder just how much a person can do variations on a theme of doom and gloom. There’s 13 of these absurdly curmudgeonly books to get through! Again, I liked it for what it was, and it kept me smirking. A-

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Wide Window” by Lemony
I liked this one a little less than the one before for its drawn out detective work. The Baudelaires are supposed to get the clues right away, but there’s a lot of them sitting around and pondering how to point the finger at Count Olaf and be heard. Poor kids. B

Monday, February 23, 2009

This one goes out to all the ladies out there...

This weekend I went to my second Covergence, a gathering of Christian women leaders. Now, I don't really consider myself that much of a leader, but I'm a supporter of gender equality, women's empowerment, and the emerging church movement, so I went. It was just the thing I needed. First, it was a weekend away from the Bosco House, which has been very stressful and frustrating since I've been trying to get out of the job for several months. I got to see my friend Bex from Oregon State for the first time in six years. But besides all that, it gave me a lot of hope for womankind.

I got to join women of all ages and marital statuses in a discussion about sexuality (in a warm soaking pool! rawr!) We talked about our hope that the church would step up to give a sex-positive education to our young people. Women who had been married for a few years said that they wished they had known so much more about sex and intimacy before their marriages, even if that didn't include sex itself. A non-Christian woman who joined her friend and who had had a child at a young age said that she now considered abstinence sexy and exotic. A married woman shared that she was looking forward to some "sexploration" with her husband in their 50s. We talked about the stigma against "self-love" and agreed that being blessed with the possession of our own bodies and being forbidden to understand how they worked was more than a little ridiculous. We agreed that we should affirm the external beauty of our friends and ourselves.

Later that night, over drinks with the gals, I had the opportunity to talk about honoring the external beauty of signs of aging and the things that life does to our bodies. A woman shared a story about her friend's son, who, tracing the stretch marks on her skin, asked "Mommy, where did you get your rainbows?" There is hope for our men after all! Together we wondered what kind of education growing boys and men needed to really start treating women with respect and fully realize equality. The single girls and I agreed to expect the men we date to treat us like equals who have ownership of our own bodies and minds instead of objects made to nod our heads at whatever they say.

I think that the diversity of ages at Convergence totally made it what it was to me. I benefited so much from the wisdom of the elder women at the gathering, and in turn, they affirmed me and the other younger women by saying things like "You girls are so much farther along than I was at your age." I didn't have very many elder women who gave me a positive and empowering view of myself and other women growing up, and I think that's something that's been missing from my life. I hope that I can somehow still be that woman to someone else a few decades down the road.

I wish that some of my CCF friends could have been part of those conversations. At one time I also internalized that patriarchy that has held women hostage as perpetual servants to men. And when I finally started to think outside that box and asked if there was anything that I didn't have to submit to my husband, I was asked "Why would you want to?" and told "Oh, when you find the right guy you'll understand." What a colossal cop-out it is that we tell ourselves so that we don't have to feel frustrated at our lack of equality. But I see the women at Convergence taking ownership of their rights and abilities. Women can lead congregations in the way of Jesus. We can expect an equal partnership instead of a head of household and servant relationship. We are not angels and we are not whores, but we are strong, and we are more than an old fashioned view that's been misinterpreted as biblical. Ladies, start roaring. Men, start listening.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What happened to the idealist?

Last year about this time, I was hopeful. I'd just left a roommate situation that made me want to spend more time out of the apartment than in. I moved close to work and the church plant I was involved in was just getting off the ground. And man, I was going to move mountains. Maybe that vision I'd had the year before, hallucinating on Percocet, where I was flying over the city, seeing everyone touched by God...maybe that would soon be coming true. (Note to reader: don't try to numb a broken heart with Percocet)

And then the shit hit the fan. I broke my toe, which brought out all my minor frustrations with the kids in my job. I had a performance review in which my supervisor basically told me that I was in danger of losing my job if I didn't shape up. The roommates I thought I would be living with spent nearly every night away from the house. I started looking for another job, and I found that the Bosco House, a Catholic Worker community with a mission to house single mothers and their children, needed a live-in staff person. Perfect! I thought. I could get away from my supervisor and actually make a difference in the world.

But it wasn't what I'd planned on. I knew that my social life would suffer somewhat, but I didn't count on having to spend everyday from 4:30-11 sitting on my butt waiting for residents to get home so they could come home and tell me about all the drama they'd gotten themselves into that day. I couldn't spend time with my aging grandparents or my new baby cousin. It turned out to be a former Catholic Worker house, one in which a former worker had damaged ties with the outside community of support. My coworker was negative about the residents and it rubbed off on me. My church continued to meet in a suburban living room instead of a downtown retail space that used to be a strip club. I got grumpy, cynical, bitter, everything I didn't ever want to be. I started to say to myself what I hoped just a year before I would never say, "There has to be more to life than this." I honestly felt, and still kind of feel like God ditched me.

So what really happened?
This Sunday, my church talked about when Jesus going out to the desert for 40 days. Wallowing in my funk, I just sat through it and listen because it didn't seem relevant to me at all. Who sits around talking theology when they're dying inside besides like, David? But one person said "Maybe Jesus didn't know that he'd only be there for 40 days. Maybe he went out there knowing that he had to experience trials, and never knew when or if it would end." That spoke to me. I don't know when I'll finally learn some skills to deal with times when I'm depressed. I don't know if I'll ever not feel lonely. I'm not really ok with that, but recognizing it somehow makes me feel better. I don't know what I believe about God and Jesus at this point. But I know I don't like feeling bitter about being good to people. It's hard to think of people as beloved creations of God when you feel like God has cursed you, but there's a crack in that, and it gives me at least a little ability to wish.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Feel good soundtrack

Sometimes I don't feel good. Sometimes music helps. Here is a list of some feel good songs that I've been into lately. You'll see that I don't really listen to music of my own generation. They don't get it. I was born about 30 years too late.

“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
This song breaks my heart into a million tiny pieces every time I hear it. Sometimes I cry because it's so beautiful.

“Chelsea Hotel #2” by Leonard Cohen, sung by Rufus Wainwright
If in was physically mate with someone's voice, I'd pick Rufus. I think the voice is all I'd be able to get, if ya know what I'm sayin'.

“Kathy’s Song” by Simon and Garfunkel
I like this one because it makes Eugene rain seem not so bad.

“Shelter From the Storm” by Bob Dylan
This is just a nice song that perks me up.

“In Spite of Ourselves” by John Prine
A dirty little ditty that makes me giggle.

“Illegal Smile” by John Prine
I grew up listening to one John Prine album that my dad recorded on tape. In my adult years, I was visiting my parents home and went out to the garage, and my dad was listening to that tape and singing along. To a song about marijuana.

“Waltzing Matilda” by Banjo Paterson
I don't think this one needs explanation.

“No Rain” by Blind Melon
I want to dance like a bee girl to this.

“Cry Baby” by Janis Joplin
I can just feel all the soul and energy that Janis poured into this one and it reminds me how good it feels to empty all that emotion out until you've got nothing left to feel. Then you go to sleep.

“Solitary Man” by Neil Diamond
I heard this on one of the last Stargate Atlantis episodes sung by Johnny Cash, and it's been stuck in my head since then.

“And Your Bird Can Sing” by The Beatles
It can. But you don't get me.

“Paradise” by John Prine
Sometimes paradise gets hauled away and all you've got are memories of the way things were.

“Helpless” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

“The Man Who Sold the World” by David Bowie
Bowie wins at practically everything.

“Hold Me Now” by The Polyphonic Spree
If you ever need a pick me up on a grey day, this song delivers.

“April Come She Will” by Simon and Garfunkel
There's always next month.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Project 40: December


“The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century” edited by Harry Turtledove

It’s hard to write a review when the stories in a collection are so diverse. They really are the best of the 20th Century, at least (with the exception of the Connie Willis story…I’m not a fan) they were all really good. It was a good mix of traveling forward and traveling back in time. I think my favorite was the man from the early 20th Century who fell in with the clan of Vikings and they deemed him not even useful enough for “women’s work.” A-

“Promised the Moon” by Stephanie Nolan
In the early 60s, a group of twelve female pilots went through a series of test exactly like those endured by the Mercury 7 astronauts, with the impression that NASA would somehow recognize the tests and accept women into the astronaut-training program. They were wrong. This book is a dramatic history of the unknown women who never had a chance to go into space because of their sex. The book is good…the story itself is rather disappointing because even though I know they never made it, I wanted them to win! A

That's it! 41 books! I'm shooting for 50 this year, so recommend some good ones when you see me.