Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Truth Universally Acknowledged edited by Susanna Carson

A Truth Universally Acknowledged:  33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen edited by Susanna Carson (with a foreword by Harold Bloom) is a collection of essays that serves as a celebration of Austen’s literary career, a celebration to which the reader is invited through the writings of others both past and present discussing why we continue to read and enjoy Jane Austen long after her death. 

Although the praise is nearly uniform, the voices represented are as disparate as one would hope.  Men and women share their personal reasons for reading Austen while also trying to objectively appreciate her works.  Some of Austen’s canon is focused on more closely than others—unsurprisingly Pride and Prejudice and with some surprise (on my part, anyway) Persuasion.  The essays themselves run the gamut from academic—complete with citations—to the more personal.  Whether one reads for intellectual stimulation or hopes to find an empathetic Janeite, there is bound to be at least one essay that shines bright.   

One could argue, however, that a more balanced anthology would include more criticism of Jane Austen’s novels.  Often alluded to but never fully addressed is the absence of the political furor occurring during the period in which Austen herself was writing.  No mention of class issues nor Napoleon manifest upon the pages of her novels and the essays included are unanimous in suggesting that it is this very “weakness” that has afforded the novels their permanence.  They are timeless because they are not overly timely seems to be the cant of those who have contributed to this collection.

The argument for a more balanced look at Austen’s works is itself negated in the very title of the text.  After all, the editor is asking why we read Jane Austen and not why we should reconsider reading Jane Austen or even avoid reading her altogether.  And while some of the essays seem more self-indulgent than emotionally or even academically enlightening, the celebration of Austen’s aesthetic is a must-read for any self-proclaimed Janeite. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

Once Upon a Friday

When I had a livejournal blog, I used to post a weekly “Friday Randomness” which typically included a variety of memes, random comments, quotations, etc.  I thought I would resurrect the idea without actually doing memes.  Instead, I’ll share links to sites I have discovered along the way.  I think this has something to do with my enjoying the act of “sharing” through facebook but since I no longer have nor can trust a facebook account, this seems like a reasonable compromise. 

This article addresses the benefits of chanting, repeating a prayer, or simply a sing word.  In other words, whether you are chanting Om or repeating an Ave Maria or doing a centering prayer, the healing goes beyond the purely spiritual.

A wonderful article on yoga and chakras with specific recommendations for asanas that help with each chakra. 

A discussion about Reiki that invites the practitioner to not just practice Reiki but to live it in every moment.  Wonderful.

Hopefully next week I will share some videos and/or images.  It all depends on what I stumble into while online.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Kitchen is a Disaster Zone

Around Thanksgiving, I noticed a sponginess in our kitchen floor. However, due to the vertigo, I actually assumed it was merely my inability to properly gauge my balance. If my feet felt the floor shifting beneath the tiles, was it truly my feet or merely my brain which was misinforming me with shifting countertops and doorways?

By Christmas the cracks in the tiles as the floor beneath buckled announced a problem that was not merely relegated to my own imbalance. But because of the holidays, people in and out of town, the problem had to wait and while we waited it continued to spread.

Now with the new year and all, we finally have people coming and going to look at what has gone awry. Long story short—there is a design flaw in the dishwasher that resulted in some major leaking that, instead of spreading along the tiles, sank beneath them, warping the wood below.

Which is how the disaster cleanup guy was called and why I am saying that the kitchen is officially a disaster area. He came on Monday with two large machines—one to dehumidify the air and another to blow dry the floor and cabinets. He was scheduled to come back on Tuesday morning but called to reschedule for the afternoon. Then he never showed up and never called. Wednesday he didn’t call and didn’t show up. We’ll see what happens today.

In the meantime we have these noisy machines which force us to practically shout at one another to be heard when we are in the kitchen. In the meantime, we have to wash all of our dishes by hand. In the meantime, the kitchen is so cluttered with chaos that we cannot comfortably cook more than a snack.

Yesterday morning, I turned the damn machines off so I could enjoy some silence. This is, after all, why I get up so damn early every day—to have some silence before everyone else wakes up. I turned them off again today. I’ll turn them back on after we’ve had breakfast which for me is going to be a protein shake because I really can’t deal with the mess in the kitchen.

I feel exiled without my kitchen and we have more madness to which we can look forward because even after the machinery is removed, we still have to deal with having the flooring redone and the dishwasher replaced. Frankly, I could live without a dishwasher so long as I have a pair of rubber gloves to protect my hands from the detergent.

Regardless, I look forward to the day I can reclaim my kitchen and cook without navigating the maze of mess and talk while eating without having to shout over the noise. (For the record, yesterday Rob and I agreed to turn the machines off in the morning and while we’re eating because it really is annoying. The dogs don’t like the noisiness any more than we do, btw. Can you blame them?)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dizzy by Jack J Wazen, MD, with Deborah Mitchell

Dizzy: What You Need to Know About Managing and Treating Balance Disorders by Jack J Wazen, MD, with Deborah Mitchell is the book I wish I had back in 2006 when I first woke up with vertigo. This is an invaluable resource for anyone with a balance disorder regardless of the cause.

The first section lays a foundation about what to do when you find yourself struggling with disequilibrium or vertigo or what have you. Until you see a doctor and have the necessary tests, you can’t really know what is wrong but knowing how to describe your symptoms to facilitate a proper diagnosis is essential. While this may seem obvious, it isn’t that simple. Wazen encourages the reader to describe how he feels without using the words dizzy, off-balance or vertigo. This will help your doctor understand better what you are experiencing. Is the room spinning? Does the sensation of falling only occur when you stand up or move your head a certain way? When you feel the floor tilting, what are you doing? Do you find it difficult to fall asleep because the bed feels like it is falling away from you? The variety of ways of describing the sensations associated with vertigo are critical to getting to the bottom line of a proper diagnosis.

He further recommends keeping a health journal. To be honest, I had to smirk when I read this because it is impossible to read or write when you are experiencing nystagmus, something that is not uncommon for those who have dizziness. I could not possibly have recorded a single word for the first few days. Still, it is excellent advice and perhaps dictating into an audio recorder of some sort—whether on a computer or even leaving a voice message—would be a good start.

There is also an excellent questionnaire in the first section. Unfortunately, most of these resources are probably useless to the reader by the time they have this book in hand. After all, who would read a book about dizziness before they or someone they love has a balance disorder? It isn’t very likely and, as a result, most of the information in the first section, while excellent, is a prime example of “a little too little too late.”

In its thoroughness, there are inevitably chunks of text which are irrelevant to the individual. The second part of the book focuses on various causes, sharing some examples from the lives of various patients, and suggesting various forms of treatment. Obviously, once you are diagnosed and know why you are dizzy, you won’t necessarily want to read information about every other cause and you can simply flip to the relevant section—whether it is neurological, cardiovascular, etc. Each potential diagnosis is addressed including symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

The third section is especially helpful because Wazen takes the time to explain the variety of tests that the typical patient will face during the diagnosis process—and it is a process. Unless the cause is immediately determined, the number of tests a person will take can be overwhelming and a little frightening, especially when the healthcare provider doesn’t take the time to explain why particular tests are necessary.

Furthermore, the authors take the time to recommend a variety of therapies including some physical therapy exercises one can do at home and complementary treatments such as tai chi and yoga. Needless to say, the validation of seeing recommendations made for things I have discovered for myself was thrilling; he even suggests walking as an essential form of functional exercise for anyone with a balance disorder. In particular, I appreciated the advice against using medication to make living with vertigo possible. Although he doesn’t say to get rid of medication altogether—and with good reason—his arguments against dependency on drugs is something that resonates deeply with me.

This book is an essential read for anyone who is living with a balance disorder or knows someone who is. I can’t recommend it highly enough and only wish I had read it much sooner. A huge Thank You to Rossana who gave me this wonderful book for Christmas.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Finally: Good News!

I do not need surgery.  The meds kicked in at the last minute and the swelling has reduced to nearly non-existent.

For those who have been around a while, this is not typical for me.  Usually I get a lump and I need surgery.  I never have cancer (knock wood) but I almost inevitably need surgery.  So this is very good news.  Finally!