Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Journey from the Center to the Page by Jeff Davis

Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing by Jeff Davis didn’t have me too excited. I thought it was just another of those opportunities to merge two ideas—in this case yoga and writing—into an excuse for publication. After all, get enough writers who also practice yoga and maybe you’d have enough readers to justify the publication. Yes, my expectations were pretty low. So I was pleasantly surprised when I started the book and soon found myself charmed by the lessons that Davis shares. I don’t know why I was surprised. When I think back on the books on writing which have excited me most they have almost always had a spiritual quality infusing the practical. And after the first section, this book becomes very practical as Davis explains how the compassion and discipline of yoga can be reflected in how an author creates characters or revises writing. This is not, however, intensive yogic teaching nor is it a fluffy approach to yoga. When Davis describes in detail why certain asanas can help the writing practice, from approaching the writing with the same attention to your intention as you do your yoga practice, he draws on decades of experience, both as a yogi and as a teacher. He is, after all, a writing coach and leads workshops, so he shares how he has used what he describes in the book not only in his own writing but in helping others and their creativity. This book is a keeper and ranks as high up in my estimation as Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Reading (and Writing) Along With Satia

I’m determined to rid my life of the clutter of books on writing and to that end, here’s a list of books I have that either need to go or which may be of interest to someone out there to work along with me. I won’t say which of these I’ve already read or anything. Rather, I’m just letting others choose for me. This list is done in alphabetical order by author. The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell is a book I picked up when I was in college and remains one of those texts to which professors turn time and time again as a primary resource for teaching poetry. This can’t be a coincidence and I am confident I would learn a lot from this book. (Many of the exercises are for a group which is why I have never read it. I guess it would be best for me to find a group that wants to do this with me or just skip some of the exercises. We’ll see how it goes.) The Joy of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict is about writing sex scenes that rise above the mundane. My recent nanowrimo attempt has some sex scenes (including a rape) and I would like to make sure that what I wrote is more than merely titillating. I also need to make sure that I don’t fall into my own safe patterns of writing, using the same images or ideas in various scenes. (First he does this then she does that and this is how they respond . . . blah blah blah formulaic blah blah blah.) Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg is always appealing because I love Berg’s books. They are a safe place, the sort of book that makes me feel and feel good by the end. I would love to write stories that are less dark but that apparently is not my forte. In any event, being a fan of Berg’s writing means I am naturally drawn to her book on writing. (I think Berg may be one of the few women who writes for women who doesn’t make me want to hurl the book across the room.) The Writing Diet by Julia Cameron is appealing because I am trying to lose weight and I love her Artist’s Way although I am still skeptical if she can even come close to the quality of what she did in that book. (I have acquired quite a few of her other books and they remain on my bookshelf, unread, including The Right to Write and God is No Laughing Matter as well as her sequels to The Artist’s Way.) Writing Creative Nonfiction: Instruction and Insight from Teachers of the Associated Writing Programs by Julie Checkoway is a book I bought to be used in a writing group to which I belonged. Unfortunately, the group broke apart before we started and I have had it sitting on my shelves ever since. (No doubt, given the quality of contributors who are also AWP members, this book will be both inspiring and challenging.) The Writer’s Idea Workshop: How to Make Your Good Ideas Great by Jack Heffron appeals because I have several good ideas but am not sure they are great. If I could make them great, however, that would be something! Also, I have enough on my desk requiring revision that I’m in a position to explore some ideas for the next big project while revising the past ones. (With an awareness that I’m already focusing on a couple of projects for January, if I were to do this book then I’d be preparing for the one to follow the more immediate projects.) In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit is high on my list because I have two semi-polished chapbooks and three very rough draft chapbooks in my files waiting for me to get busy. I have a hard time revising my poetry and I keep hoping to learn more. (I also find that my prose has improved most from my trying to improve my poetry. The truth is, the more I learn about how to write poetry, the better my prose has become.) Writing Your Heart Out: Exploring & Expressing What Matters to You by Rebecca McClanahan has a sort of gentle sound to it and I ponder how biting it will actually be. However, there are some writers referenced/quoted in the book (after checking the index) and these indicate that the quality of this book may exceed the lightness of the title. (Of course, one would have to assume that I have a heart to begin with but I guess this book will reveal to me one way or the other whether or not I have one.) Wring in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity by Susan K Perry, PhD is the one about which I feel some skepticism. I am not sure how a book can teach an experience. It’s like reading a book on enlightenment and expecting to have an epiphany or ecstatic experience. Unlikely but you never know. (As prolific as I am, one would wonder if I ever write without flow. I know I’ve had moments when writing feels like pulling teeth.) Memoirs of the Soul: Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography by Nan Phifer is an obvious choice because so many people have been asking me to write about my vertigo and this book includes exercises which I think will be conducive to my at least initiating some ideas on what to write and how to focus my ideas into something cohesive. (One of my hopes is to infuse my vertiginous experience with the spiritual lessons I have acquired along the way.)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Puppies

So I thought that I had taken some pictures of the dogs and sent them to myself but they were lost in cyberspace. Not a surprise but a little disappointing. And since nobody else took any pics of the puppies, we don't have any of them wearing their holiday collars. Oops. Maybe next year . . .
This is what Snowdoll wore. It has no bells but I added three to it myself. Ha! So she jingled as she trot trot trotted all over the house.
This is Romanov's collar which has four bells on it that have a lovely sleighbell tone. He mostly made noise when he stretched and shook. We actually have a pic taken when he was wearing the collar but his fur is so thick around his neck you can't see the collar. Oh well.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of those iconic pieces of literature that can only happen at the right time, in the right place, to manifest into something brilliant and powerful. What more can anyone say? All the superlatives have already been properly applied and my praise would be just like any other. What I kept noticing are the rules Marquez consistently breaks, the ones that every writer learns from reading Writer’s Digest and books on writing. Do not use passive voice. Do not give more than one character a similar name. (If possible, do not even give them names with the same first letter!) Break up blocks of exposition with dialogue. And keep the prose simple. Whatever! Marquez hasn’t followed any of these rules and breaks them not only with impunity but to such excellent effect it makes me wonder if the rules are right. Then again, the rules are probably there for writers who do not have Marquez’ brilliance. Odds are, breaking the rules in the hands of anyone other than a master would result in a mess of words on a page that aspire to be more than a disaster.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Living Yoga: Creating a Life Practice by Christy Turlington

Living Yoga: Creating a Life Practice by Christy Turlington surprised me with its depth and breadth. A pretty book, I expected it to present yoga in a superficial manner, a sort of Yoga-Lite bit of fluff that would dumb down the deeper experience of yoga itself. Instead, Turlington is thorough in her explanation of the tenets of yoga, describing the various schools, the roots for the teachings, and explaining Sanskrit in laymen terms. It helps that she has studied comparitive religions, no doubt, and as a result her wisdom shines through the pretty pictures and poses. Interspersed with elegant photos of Turlington in a range of yoga asanas, from the simple to the challenging, the book condenses a lot of information without leaving the reader overwhelmed. Where this book soars is when Turlington allows herself to share her life’s path. She does not indulge in the behind the catwalk backbiting or gossip which is wonderful. Instead, she shares only herself—her sometimes destructive, often confused, always compassionate choices. The book ends with an odd abruptness. I turned the page and was startled to find the glossary of terms. This is unfortunate and complimentary. I wanted more. I want more. I hope that Turlington will choose to share more of herself and her spiritual path in future books.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares is a cute book about four friends who share a pair of jeans one summer, their first spent apart. One of the girls goes to Greece. Another goes to visit her father. A third goes to soccer camp. The fourth stays home, working a typically demeaning summer job. Ultimately, the novel is typical chick lit. There are so many predictable moments that only someone who hasn’t read many books could find the plot points surprising. Fortunately, this is a young adult novel so odds are the readership hasn't been overly exposed to predictable plot points. In some ways, it seems to be a sort of coming-of-age but the feeling that there is more story to tell is evident even when the summer has come to a logical (and obvious) conclusion. In other words, this book screams "There's a sequel coming!" Sweet without being cloying, slightly sentimental and unsurprising, it is one of those perfect quick summer reads, a bit of mental fluff that feels like a warm fuzzy hug when the last page is turned. Will I read the sequel? I don’t know. I’m tempted but I doubt it would be even as slightly satisfying as this first novel. This one was fulfilling in the way fast food can curb your hunger but doesn’t necessarily provide nutrition. In this case, what we have here is a cute young adult novel that doesn’t give the reader much food for thought.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is one of those classics I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I started it ages ago but remembered little to nothing of what I had read. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, spent three years in Auschwitz and shares his experience to contextualize his psychological theories. When writing about his experiences before, during, and after WWII, Frankl maintains a detachment that makes the horrors he describes no less horrifying than a more passionate expression would be. As he describes how his love for his wife was the focus of his hope for survival, he tells the reader that his wife had already been murdered in the gas chambers. The first two thirds tell his harrowing story and the final sections describe his psychological theory of logotherapy. Quoting Nietzche (He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how) and the Bible (Ps 56:8, et al), Frankl explains that humanity needs a reason for being. Without a purpose, each person is lost. Through his experience in the concentration camp, he came to see first hand the despair that would result in death. The loss of hope, above all other losses, was the one thing that assured doom. A man (or woman or child) who had lost a home, all possessions, and family would stand if there was a reason to hope.
This is not a book to be read lightly. Rather, it is one that provokes some thinking and awareness. I think that on some level I was looking for something else between the pages. Nevertheless, I was not disappointed by what I discovered. Like searching for one treasure and finding another, the lessons are still valuable and informative.
"It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Excuse Me--I Have Vertigo

When Janet Jackson cancelled some of her tours, her brother Randy announced she had vertigo. Almost immediately the media skeptically suggested that the real reason behind the cancellations was poor ticket sales. When Meatloaf showed up at a presentation a little less than steady on his feet his agent explained that the singer has vertigo and the newspapers said he didn’t have vertigo but was wasted. It is hard enough for people with invisible conditions to be taken seriously or understood. When articles such as this one tell people to use vertigo as an excuse to leave work so they can finish their holiday shopping, it makes it that much harder for people like me who struggle their way through even the simplest of activities to be respected. But hey! The article isn’t serious, right? So what the hell. Tell your boss you have cancer. Cancer is always good for a laugh. Or maybe you can say you have Multiple Sclerosis. It’s fun to say and the bonus is you get to complain about vertigo and people just might take you seriously. Unless of course you happen to be a performer. Then others are just going to say you are avoiding low sales or justifying your most recent addiction. I think my problem is that when I got lost in the vertigo I lost my sense of humor too. Oh well. Sucks to be me all over.
This is what I woke up to on my last day in NJ . . . a pretty dusting of snow. The perfect amount to make things pretty but not so much that my flights were delayed.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Home Again

I wrote a clever post. Hit publish. It's gone. Whatever. I'm home. Yay!

Friday, December 12, 2008

And The Dead Shall Rise

This is Snowdoll wondering why I am not getting out of bed. It had been a couple of days already and she was beginning to get worried.
But then Romanov must have had a talk with her because soon she was settled back on the pillow and pretending to ignore me.

Frankly, it looks like Romanov is doing a better job of ignoring me but don't tell Snowdoll. She was really doing her best.

But I'm better and just in time to go to NJ to visit my mother and her husband and . . . I probably need to think about packing. I think I'll go back to bed.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

RAWS: Read Along With Satia

I am going to visit my mother for a very short visit but even a short visit means time spent at the airport and on the plane so I need to have something to read on the flight. So most of what I’ve chosen is the type of material that will fill the time without my running out of reading because in the past I’ve finished the book one way and had to buy another book to bring me home. Not this time, dammit! The following are in no particular order. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu is the first novel ever written and I love that it was written by a woman. This is an epic tale of the emperor’s son, a classic in Japanese literature. I have this in one massive paperback but I can also borrow Marc’s two volume hard cover and take just the first book. I keep saying I’m going to read this book and then don’t so this would be the chance to take it with me and get it at least started and hopefully started enough to actually come home with the desire to finish it completely. But I have recently read a collection of haibun and am further inspired to read this classic because of its blend of prose and poetry. Definitely a book I want to read and maybe if I don't this year then I shall make it a priority for next year. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is another in the long list of “I want to read this before I die” books. I’ve read some of Marquez’ other works but this one is the one I’ve wanted to read most so why haven’t I read it already? I don’t know. Here is what they say on amazon.com: “One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women -- brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul -- this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.” Given its epic scope, it is very likely a good choice to carry me through the entire trip, there and back again. Red Azalea by Anchee Min I picked up after hearing her discuss her experiences in China during the more militant times under Chairman Mao. This is her memoir of that time in her life during the 1960s and 1970s in Shanghai, her youth in the Red Guard, and her love affairs both personal and political. I definitely want to read this book soon because I had forgotten I even owned it and I am once again excited about learning more about Min’s experiences. I remember reading a novel she'd written which was based on one of her life's experiences which is detailed in this memoir--Katherine. I also know that her book on Madame Mao received excellent reviews when it was released. This would actually have been an interesting book for the book group to which I formerly belonged but I don't belong to it anymore so I can't recommend it as a future choice. Oh well. The Temple Bombing by Melissa Fay Greene is a non-fiction book about the bombing of Atlanta’s oldest synagogue and its implications during the early days of the Civil Rights movement. I saw Greene lecture once and was fascinated by her passion for bringing history to life and also make it relevant to contemporary readers. I recently read a book about holocaust denial and this seems to dovetail from that one rather nicely. I mean, if one can use the word "nicely" within the context of racism and violence. There is a sort of thematic quality to reading this book at this time but is it the sort of light reading one takes on a trip? Probably not. still, I am not one to do the typical.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Wordles For Fun

This is based on the poetry a day challenge which explains NOVEMBER being the biggest word.

And here's my nanowrimo novel in all its wordle silliness. Guess what the names of the protagonists are.

And my blog because I can . . .

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Purge by Sarah Darer Littman

Purge by Sarah Darer Littman is one of those ubiquitous young adult novels meant to teach young readers a valuable lesson. While not crossing too far into pedantic preaching or self-righteous judgment, the novel is not so remarkable as to merit much praise. Littman would benefit from an editor who can recognize that young adults are intelligent enough to remember what they read in a previous chapter. The redundancy bordered on insulting. And I don’t mean the vague allusions to the melodramatic moments that led to the protagonist’s admission to the hospital for bulimia. Rather, the repetitious explanations of barfers vs. starvers and the epiphanies the narrator has but then has again. Thankfully, Janie Hyman, the narrator who shares her urge to purge, is a likeable character and much of the psychological dynamic behind bulimia is well explored through the voice of a sympathetic character. However, for the all “this is a cautionary tale about how bad bad bad bulimia is” I found it to be dangerously triggering and I have never been bulimic. If I found myself curious instead of disgusted then I can only imagine how a young girl with body image issues and an eating disorder would struggle with the content. And the conclusion is one of those tie-it-up-in-a-neat-little-bow endings that I suppose are meant to make the story end on a happy note but ultimately result in its ending on a disingenuous one. Also annoying and less remarkable albeit I am remarking on it now . . . why didn’t anyone point out to Littman that the term for practicing before a performance is called a “rehearsal”? Repeatedly Janie talks about her “play practice” when anyone who has done any theater work would know a “practice” is called a rehearsal. With all that said, I suppose someone wanting insight into bulimia and the emotional ramifications of facing this addiction would benefit from reading this novel, if only because of the excellent resources listed at the end of the book.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

And Again, So Much to Say

Friday was not only a special day but it was also a sad day. It is the anniversay of my having vertigo. Two years. Hrm . . . The following was recorded the day before Rob's 27th birthday. We would meet less than two years later and both of our worlds would change, much as they did two years ago.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yesterday Was All Kinds of Special

Yesterday was Romanov's Eight Birthday. Eight is my numerological number. In tarot it is the card of strength. There are seven major chakras but some teachings have an eighth, the higher self chakra. Eight on its side is infinity. The eight ray star is linked with Ishtara and Venus. The root for our word "eight" is also the root from which we get the word star.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Tradition

A part of our Thanksgiving tradition is to watch the national dog show on NBC. I've never seen a Siberian Husky get to the finals but I do keep hoping. So does Romanov. He pays very close attention to the program. Snowdoll, however, was not the least bit interested. She just slept through the whole thing first beneath the coffee table and then on the pillow.

Romanov lost interest after the husky didn't make the final round so he didn't get to see the winner: a pointer. I was rooting for the samoyed because if I didn't have a husky, I'd want a samoyed. When the show was over, Romanov took the pillow back from Snowdoll. He was obviously disappointed by the whole affair.

Also, last year I made a healthy alternative to pumpkin pie--something low fat and not nearly as delicious as pumpkin pie. This year, I chose to make a pumpkin custard in hopes of having a yummy alternative to the temptation of pumpkin pie.

Next year, I'm going to just have a piece of pumpkin pie. Save myself the trouble of making tasteless alternatives because ultimately the result is the same--I taste the disappointing "other" and end up having a slice of the real thing anyway.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

So Much

Gratitude should not be focused on a single day of the year, as we all well know. But it is nice to have a reason to pull the family together, to slow down and share some time over a meal mutually enjoyed. In Reiki, there are five principles (also called intentions) on which the practitioner is supposed to meditate each morning and evening. The third of these is “For today, be grateful.” The implication is not merely to be grateful but to do something for which others will be grateful. Today I am surrounded by reminders of why I have so very much to be grateful and opportunities to hear the words “Thank You” exchanged with frequency and sincerity. And I am reminded that there are those who do not have family surrounding them, who are suffering in the face of tragedy, and who pray for even a modicum of the optimism I have each and every day. Indeed, one day is not enough and it is more than some experience in a lifetime.
The following was written by my son's friend Matt Cruea.
The Gobbledegooker Once upon a night most dreary There was a man most weak and weary He sat upon his easy chair And gave himself unto despair For on this day when one gives thanks The men in suits had closed the banks His 401K was assuredly gone And his savings account was overdrawn As he sat alone in his study most dark He heard a noise; perhaps a bark? Twas not a bark, twas not a hooker He saw at once: The Gobbledeegooker A Hellish sight for a man most frail His flesh turned fast from peach to pale He ran upstairs to avoid a squabble From downstairs it came: "Gobble, gobble, gobble" The man he ran into his room To avoid most certain turkey-doom To see a picture above his bed He slowly but surely swiveled his head Within the frame lay sweet lady Ella A gorgeous catch for any young fella But alas, she left him, when his pockets grew bare And he sat day after day in his frayed easy chair But Ella, sweet Ella, she made his eyes moist Perhaps she'd have stayed had their problems been voiced? Oh Ella, fair Ella, indeed such a looker Came rapping at the door: The Gobbledeegooker The man dashed at once to his balcony door His nerves were so shot, he could stand no more His bedroom door, meanwhile, that he once did cobble Tore open with fury: "Gobble, gobble, gobble" Outside now at last, he climbed with his might To escape to the roof, to escape from his plight The shingles his father had applied here by hand Upon them our man did shakily stand He thought quickly of father and mother, so sweet Of this house that they built; a splendid retreat And oh how they loved him, their bundle of joy Oh father and mother and their innocent boy The man peered off downwards to the ground now below To jump now meant death on that grassy plateau Up the side came the beast, the man felt like a snooker He'd been cornered and trapped by the Gobbledeegooker The man thus did scowl, the thing didn't belong His beak as pronounced as his waddle was long He realized a jump might make him hobble The monster just laughed: "Gobble, gobble, gobble" The air whooshed around him as he made his descent He thought to himself of his life's great lament But softly he spoke to himself as he thought: "My life may be gone but what wonders I've sought" "A mother and father who loved me so well And a wife I loved too, she treated me swell I've lived through such wonders, seen rockets and tanks My life was lived well, and for that I give thanks." His body did fall to the ground with a crash In a moment a life was snuffed out in a flash And up on the roof, like a pressure cooker Came the thunderous tweet of the Gobbledeegooker The bird of prey wondered just why the man fled The Gooker just wanted to come and break bread To celebrate thanksgiving as his turkey legs wobble The Gooker just shrugged. "Gobble. Gobble. Gobble."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Course in Miracles List of Books

The obvious starting point: A Course in Miracles scribed by Dr. Helen Schucman. This will be the primary text from which I will be reading. I plan on doing the daily Workbook lessons along with reading my way through both the Text and Teacher's Manual. I plan on taking notes and I'll possibly share quotes and thoughts here in the blog. I'm not sure. I am rather protective of certain subjects--my spiritual beliefs being one of those. And there are so few that it behooves me to point them out when I occasionally come across an area of my life I won't share openly and oh too willingly. The challenge for me will be doing the daily lessons as prescribed because habits take a bit of time to establish but I'm optimistic that I can succeed.
A Workbook Companion: Vol 1 by Allen Watson and Robert Perry is optional but pretty high on my list of what I'd like to read in conjunction with the A Course in Miracles. This may be adding unecessarily to the daily readings, however. Then again, a commentary may help me better appreciate the primary text. This is open to debate but if someone else were to want to use this book along with the primary text and to read along with me then the fence sitting would end and I would definitely fall onto the side of including it immediately. Otherwise, I may try to do the Workbook with the companion and see how it goes. A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson is the book that introduced me and many others to A Course in Miracles and I have little doubt that I will want to read it while I am reading through the primary text. I read it ages ago and the entire time I wondered if Williamson's interpretations were accurate. I didn't have a copy of the text at the time and since then, of course, she's become one of the predominant teachers on the course. She does a radio program that streams online. She talks about the daily meditations. Odds are, and assuming I even remember to do so, I'll listen to the program as well. Multimedia study at its best. Of course, that's relying on my typically unreliable recollection.
Karen Casey's Daily Meditations on a Course in Miracles is more broad in scope than the companion above. It quotes from all three parts of the A Course in Miracles and once again offers some thoughts and interpretations which I assume include ways to apply some of the ideas and philosophies presented. I remember reading many wonderful quotes from this book before it was ever on my bookshelf. I didn't know who Casey was and have since lost the file in which I had all those quotes I adored. I'm optimistic that I'll rediscover them and some new ones. Based on what I remember, this book will probably be the least provocative yet a pleasant addition to the exploration. Whether I read the daily meditations each day is unlikely. Maybe I'll read a few days at a time which detracts from the concept but will still allow me to reap the benefits and pleasure of reading it at all. The Gifts of God by Helen Schucman is a poetry collection. I think it would be lovely to read this sometime after I've finished the text (while still working through the workbook, obviously). I don't know if I will enjoy the poetry on a technical level. Hopefully, the messages will outweigh any lapse in poetic talent. And maybe I'll let my judgment fall aside for once and appreciate the writing for what it is. It's hardest for me to do this with poetry because I almost always go into automatic analysis, listening to the rhythm, contemplating word choices. I tend to read poetry more critically than anything else and I would like to avoid that mindset while reading this book. I'm leaving it for at least after January, to allow me time to get into the habit of the rest of the reading I'll be doing every day. Jerry Sears's A Course in Miracles in 5 Minutes amuses me the way "The Bible in 5 Minutes a Day" would amuse me. This is one that's been on my shelf almost as long as A Course in Miracles. I vaguely recall reading it and maybe I even did the exercises. I can't recall. This doesn't bode well for the book itself and the likelihood of my doing it during my six months. However, if someone else wanted to read along with me then I could easily shuffle this higher on the list. With that said, I would prefer not to start it in January. Again, what with the Workbook and the daily lessons plus the possibility of using the companion and/or daily meditations book, this is one that will wait until I'm in the rhythm of doing the prescribed practices. The Silence of the Heart by Paul Ferrini is the second volume in his Reflections of the Christ Mind collection. I don't have volume one and the cover I have is very different from this one but I remember reading so many lovely quotes from some of Ferrini's other books (and possibly this one, for all I know) that I am eager to read one of his books. I also have Miracle of Love and Return to the Garden if someone has already read volumes one and two and/or, like me, don't have copies of all four books. I don't know that these books necessarily need to be read in order. I doubt it and if I quickly discover that they should be then I'll just have to forego doing so since I don't want to purchase a copy at this time. The Divine Matrix by Gregg Braden is one of those I have a feeling I'll read and give away. Not suggesting that I won't enjoy it but I really want to not have such a large permanent library that there isn't room for removing some clutter. The copy I received came along with a companion cd so if I get around to reading this book, I will also listen to the cd. I can't say off the top of my head what the cd contains. Hopefully not a collection of New Age music which usually distracts me the way muzak annoys most people. I am very curious about this book, however. Something about the title and cover appeal to me very much and my intuiton suggests that if I don't read this during the six months, I would be genuinely surprised. And last but not least is The Disappearance of the Universe by Gary Renard. I haev his collection of Enlightenment Cards and I enjoy the messages on them very much. I do not, however, own any of his books. But I suspect that I can find this one at the library. I've heard good things about this book but not from anyone I know personally. There is a long list of books, movies, and more that are highly recommended that disappoint me tremendously. This and Braden's book are both tentative reads, mostly because I don't want to be disappointed. I'll hold off on both of these books until I am fairly immersed in the primary text rather than allow myself to get too distracted by the extraneous.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Six Months Not Quite But

As those of you who've been reading along know, every six months I take the time to choose a new religion to explore. I am not suggesting that in six months I can fully delve into the riches that any spiritual path offers. However, I am already aware that in six months I can feel what paths resonate and which do not quite feel or fit my own life with its existing beliefs.
Earlier this year, Tantric Yoga was to be explored beginning in June. However, in late June Snowdoll surprised us all by having seven puppies and my time became consumed with puppies and taking care of them until we could find them new homes. By the time that had happened, I'd lost nearly three months of practice because it took me a while to get my post-puppy bearings again.
So here I am facing the oncoming new year and anticipating a new choice. I considered briefly that I would pick up with Tantric Yoga, since I did not get the chance to do it as I had intended. However, the second place choice from the last poll was A Course in Miracles. The reason I am leaning towards the second place is because ACIM is divided into three sections: textbook, workbook, and teacher's manual. The workbook is divided into 365 lessons so it makes sense to begin ACIM with the new year.
To that end, I am officially announcing my next spiritual exploration focus. This does not mean I won't continue reading texts on other spiritual paths or doing yoga or sitting zazen. It just means that I will make reading the textbook and supplementary books (by Marianne Williamson, Gary Renaud, et al) a higher priority.
I'll post a list of ACIM books I have or can borrow from my local library for those interested in joining me for the first six months of next year. Look for that later this week. Woohoo!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer's had a lot going against it. It's a romance and I am not especially fond of romances and can only list a very few exceptions to my position (Jane Austen writing most of them). And on top of that it is very popular. Hugely popular. This is typically the sign of a book I am very likely to loathe (Harry Potter being another example of an exception).

What it had going for it? It's young adult and I do love to read a well written young adult novel. And it has vampires. I love vampires. In a way, however, these can also be a strike against a book because I have exposed myself to both more than the average woman my age.

 It's always best to start with what you like in a review so here goes. One, the writing is good. Not brilliant but above par. Two, Meyer manages to add some details to her vampires without stomping on the tradition. (Her explanation of sunlight is interesting and the description offered about halfway through the book is lovely.) 

There. I got that out of the way.

First and easiest to explain, what I disliked is the cliche of the genre. Romance novels are tedious and this one does not rise above the rest at all. Right down to Edward Cullen's smoldering eyes and crooked smile, not to mention his devestatingly handsome good looks. And of course Isabella Swan, aside from having a name that is annoyingly overwrought, is completely oblivious to her own innate charms even after not one, not two, but three boys ask her out. The only other redeeming quality I could find in the novel is that the narrator is sixteen years old, otherwise this would have had overtones of pedophilia. At least I think she was sixteen. I was tempted to go back and confirm this but resisted because I honestly didn't need another reason to dislike this book.  \

I dislike this book so very much that I will avoid the movie. I suspect that the film removes many of the elements I find the most alarming but it boils down to this: If my adolescent daughter brought this book into my home and ooh'd and ahh'd over it, after reading it myself I would sit her down and strongly explain to her everything that I find so outrageously alarming. Because the scariest damn thing about this novel is not the vampires; it's that Meyers has taken a character who is showing many of the signs of being an abusive boyfriend and she's romanticizing them!

 Here is a list of questions/warning signs to look for, which I copied from this site, the early stages of potential abuse:

1. Does your partner tease you in a hurtful way in private or in public? Edward teases her constantly about her clumsiness.

2. Does your partner call you names such as "stupid" or "bitch"? When Bella first meets him, he looks at her with pure hatred. Naturally, she falls in love with him. WTF???

3. Does your partner act jealous of your friends, family, or co-workers? He confesses to being jealous of one of the many boys who want to take her to some school dance.

4. Does your partner get angry about clothes you wear or how you style your hair? Truth is, no he doesn't. Edward does however get angry with her for wanting to be around him and not being more afraid of him.

5. Does your partner check-up on you by calling, driving by, or getting someone else to? He doesn't have to. He actually comes into her bedroom and watches her while she sleeps. This is not romantic. It's creepy!

6. Has your partner gone places with you or sent someone just to "keep an eye on you"? He follows her when she goes shopping with some friends.

7. Does your partner insist on knowing who you talk with on the phone? They didn't give him the opportunity but so far that's only two points he hasn't gotten.

8. Does your partner blame you for his problems or his bad mood? Hello! "You smell so good." "You tempt me." It's all your fault is implied every step of the way.

9. Does your partner get angry so easily that you feel like you're "walking on eggshells"? See the chapter "Confessions" for the display of his strength and power because this is so fucked up it isn't even remotely charming. This is the sexiest chapter in the book and before the romantic part of it begins he shows Bella just how dangerous he is. Rather like the man who says he doesn't want to hit you punching a hole in the wall. This is an implied threat, the kind threat that emotionally and physically abused women know too damn well!

10. Does your partner hit walls, drive dangerously, or do other things to scare you? He constantly drives dangerously even though it scares Bella. See #9 above for the walls.

11. Does your partner often drink or use drugs? Ironically, he drinks blood but I'll give this one a pass because that is not a bad thing in his case.

12. Does your partner insist that you drink or use drugs with him? Again, no he doesn't. So far four out of twelve are no's.

13. Have you lost friends or no longer see some of your family because of your partner? I'm guessing that a character that is fairly minor in this novel is going to become more important and will probably end up being forced from her life even though he is far less dangerous to Bella as far as I can tell. If anything, he's dangerous to Edward so naturally this other guy is going to have to leave her life.

14. Does your partner accuse you of being interested in someone else? There's a scene early on where he is reading the minds of those around her to find out if she is interested in the long list of boys who find her adorable.

15. Does your partner read your mail, go through your purse, or other personal papers? He knows where she keeps the keys to her truck, her house, and watches her while she's asleep. So far as I know, she doesn't keep a diary but I see no reason to believe he woudn't read it if he had a chance.

16. Does your partner keep money from you, keep you in debt, or have "money secrets?" I am removing this from the list. It is not relevant because they do not live together.

17. Has your partner kept you from getting a job, or caused you to lose a job? Again. Not relevant to the context of the story. Perhaps this happens later but for now the answer is a tentative "no" although technically she does end up missing some days of school.

18. Has your partner sold your car, made you give up your license, or not repaired your car? Not relevant. 

19. Does your partner threaten to hurt you, your children, family, friends, or pets? Yes, he does. Frequently. Says he wants to kill some strangers early, expresses a potentially violent jealousy towards one of the many boys, and of course says that she is so tempting it's hard for him to resist killing her to quench his thirst.

 20. Does your partner force you to have sex when you do not want to? No. He does not. In fact, he's afraid to have sex with her lest his strength cause him to break her delicate loveliness.

21. Does your partner force you to have sex in ways that you do not want to? Again, a no.

22. Does your partner threaten to kill you or himself if you leave? He actually encourages her to leave but abusive men will do this during the "honeymoon stage" proclaiming they don't know why you are staying, you should leave but please don't because I love you so.

23. Is your partner like "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," acting one way in front of other people and another way when you are alone? Absolutely. Apparently this is a part of Edward's charm. And that's the problem. Abusive men are charming as hell. And unfortunately (apparently) so is this book which makes everything I hate most about romance novels pretty and popular and not the least bit tasteful or acceptable. Thank goodness my daughter never brought this book into my home. I would never have forbidden her to read it but I would not have condoned its presence.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

NaNoWriMo '08 DONE!

And today I hit 50020 so I am officially done. I haven't decided if what I have is too impossibly messy to be pulled together into anything worth reading but I don't need to make that determination at this time. I'm tired. I need to stop writing for a bit. Or at least until tomorrow when another poetry a day challenge prompt is posted and I write another poem.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Siberian Husky Food Recommendation

We had changed Romanov to mature food because he is soon to be eight and was ready for the change. Since making this change, Romanov has gained nearly ten pounds! He's getting fat and he's also nibbling little raw patches into himself. In other words, even though we were using Eukanuba still something was very wrong in his diet.
Snowdoll, in the meantime, has suffered from on and off again diarrhea and it took us forever to find a food that is good for her. Finally, she is eating something that agrees with her sensitive tummy and Rob and I have decided that we are switching Romanov to the same food because obviously, whatever his age may be, he is not happy with the mature dog food.
What we are going to feed them (along with the usual treats and extras) is Eukanuba's Naturally Wild North Atlantic Salmon & Rice. This seems the most obvious choice because in the wild their diet would be more likely to include fatty fish like salmon and with Snowdoll's ongoing need for rice to keep things good for her we saw no reason not to make the change.
I'm hoping we'll soon see a more slender Romanov. I'm sorry we ever made the switch and I doubt that when it's Snowdoll's turn to be labeled "mature" we will be so hasty in changing her diet.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett is another Discworld book which goes to show you just how much escapist nonsense I feel I need in my life at this time. And it is so nice to have this safe place (Discworld) to turn to when I am tired of reality.
In this volume we have a conman who gets manipulated into taking on a seemingly impossible task. As with all Discworld books, there are satire. Business and technology are the primary targets in this one. There's a bit of romance sprinkled in too. And there are Golems. DEATH makes one very brief appearance. A bit of a disappointment. More disappointing were the editorial errors (including a sentence where an entire word was lost somewhere along the way--WTF?). Above all else, this book proves there are some things only slightly better than death and one of those things is a government job. I suppose there are those who would argue that the other option is actually an improvement.
My favorite quote:
There was a pregnant pause. It gave birth to a lot of little pauses, each one more deeply embarrassing than its parent. (313)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama is a combination of his political experiences alongside his life experiences. And in keeping with my commitment to not wanting this to become a politically focused blog, my response to the book will not have much to do with politics. One of the observations my children and I made before, during, and after the election focused on the media’s focus on Obama’s being “African American.” Given that his mother is white, this seemed dismissive at best although it also seemed to hearken back to the archaic “one drop rule” that defined racial identity not very long ago. After reading Obama’s book I realize that he self-identifies as African American and while I would love it if we could get away from racial labels altogether I certainly respect his right to define himself in whatever way he chooses. Truth is, I don’t agree with every political position he takes, although I understand why he feels the way he does. It was, nevertheless, a delight to read about his behind-the-scenes experiences, including a few references to a certain senator who opposed him a recent election. It made me wonder if the attack ads that are so endemic during campaigns are not actually something the candidates regret having to do. I mean, I’ve often heard politicians protest their use but I have yet to see one not give into the temptation. Like most people I assumed this was just political lip service, a case of “methinks he doth protest too much.” After reading this book, however, I can almost believe it is a sort of political necessary evil although it would be nice to see politicians live up to their protestations and rise to the occasion. Too bad it would be a very expensive stance for any politician to take. The book ends with Obama writing about his family and his family values and here is where I had to slow down my reading because I kept getting tears in my eyes. There is an honesty about him, a self-effacing quality I would never have guessed at, before reading this book. Am I eager to read his Dreams of My Father? You betcha!