Saturday, September 04, 2010

Ashtanga Yoga by Vicki Will

Ashtanga Yoga by Vicki Wills is perhaps the best book on flowing yoga I've ever seen.  The illustrations are quite effective in communicating how one moves through one asana and into the next.  Each asana flow to the next is also identified by its level of difficulty--the easiest being "advanced beginner" and moving forward into "intermediate" and "advanced."

This is not a book for those who take the asana practice of yoga lightly.  Over time, the practice of working through this book will make anyone stronger, more flexible, etc.  And for those who prefer to follow along with a video, this book is possibly a welcome transition from dvd to text and when one considers that some yoga traditionalists suggest yoga should be practiced in silence, there is a strong argument for using a book like this to gradually build a home practice.

However, I also have to confess that I am unable to do most of the sequences presented in this book.  Not necessarily because I find the individual asanas difficult but because moving from one to the other in the manner displayed in this book is too challenging for me and my vertigo.  Perhaps if I were less likely to lose my balance I would only praise the book.  Because of the degree of difficulty some of this practice introduces, the beginner yogi(ni) may do better to either seek out a class or forgo this book altogether.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday Randomness--Post-It and a little something something

I was looking for a post-it prank from about 15 years ago and instead of finding what I wanted to find I found something else altogether.

Post-It Note 4

I realize that there's some redundancy if you click on the links but it's worth checking out the sites because I only chose the new ones that I liked and my tastes may differ from your own!

And I just thought this is fun . . . a paper clip holder . . .

bath tub paper clip holder

Last but certainly not least, this woman has a Travel Sketch Tutorial.  She shares her travel sketchbooks but then takes it a step further by offering a sketchbook w/ tutorial, replete with notes about how she created each page.

From the artist/writer:

A NOTE FROM IRENE: Thanks for stopping by ~ I hope you enjoy my journals as much as I do. I keep going back to them again and again for a mini-vacation. My guess is that they'll inspire you to create, improve, or get new ideas for your own sketch journaling adventures.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Another Lust Alert

This one is actually one I lust for myself.  But how perverse would it be for me to have a velvet coat in a household where dogs that shed run wild?  Still, isn't it pretty???

One Reiki Family � Reiki for Our Time

One Reiki Family � Reiki for Our Time:
"My greatest joy would be to know that we are all one Reiki family and that we function and support one another as equals although our individual practices do vary."
This woman's discussion of her own Reiki experience is profound. I wish I could leave a comment but I don't have an account and don't wish to create one.
I especially appreciate what she has to say about students treating themselves and their spiritual growth cheaply by seeking cheap Reiki.

Flowers for Algernon and Charly

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes is one of those often referenced novels that almost everyone has either read or has been meaning to read.  I first read it when I was 8 or 9 and recently re-read it because a book group to which I belong had chosen it as the book to be discussed.  I was unaware, at the time, that the book was a short story before it was ever a novel.  Surprise!

Although I remembered much about the novel, including its conclusion, I was too young to understand much about what I was reading.  The religious allusions completely escaped me because I was not raised with any awareness of the Bible so references to the Tree of Knowledge (within the context of this novel’s plot about a mentally challenged man who has an operation that gives him the intelligence with which he had never been born) had no meaning to me.  Nor did I appreciate the relevance of his needing to connect with others.  And obviously at nine I would have no way of recognizing the overtly Freudian themes running throughout much of the protagonist’s thoughts and experiences.

Still, knowing how the book would end should have made the reading less compulsory but I found myself devouring the novel with an eagerness that I would typically only experience when reading something new.  I remembered far more than I would have expected while appreciating with a more mature insight the more subtle things that are going on in the novel.  Perhaps it’s because I grew up at a time when people were still brutal enough to look down on others for anything and everything or because I remember when scientific discoveries were labeled sinful because they went against how God wanted things to be.  I remember all of this and how the novel ended and still wanted nothing more than for it to be different, somehow.

My son Joe, who doesn’t like reading much, says he really liked this book which was required reading when he was in high school.  Rob also remembers reading it in high school and liking it very much.  I remembered reading it as a child and feeling the same.  Now, as an adult, I have to say I loved re-reading this novel and wonder if there aren’t others I should be re-reading.


After reading (devouring) the novel, I eagerly sought out and found the short story online.  I read that as well and I am very glad that Keyes thought to flesh out the short story into a more fully realized novel.  There are minor changes made that I think are curious and even amusing.  For instance, in the short story Charlie ponders if the reason Algernon, the mouse, is so smart has something to do with its being a white mouse.  I can see where this sounds unintentionally racist.  I also feel that Charlie’s character is more fully realized in the novel.  We learn more about his childhood and his family background, details that would have been ponderous in a short story but make Charlie all the more sympathetic.  His own transformation is more emotionally experienced as a result of the novel allowing for more depth.  Spending more time with Charlie before and after the operation, it is easier to see the metamorphosis that occurs.

The Freudian implications that underlie the novel are completely absent in the short story.  I have to question the rationale behind all of that; I wish Keyes had not chosen to infuse so much of this into the novel. But then, I’m not a Freudian and I tend to smirk or even frown when it is shoved in my face.  (I once wrote a rather amusing paper on the Freudian imagery in 2001: A Space Oddysey for a college course I took but I digress.)  However, I greatly appreciate the addition of the literary references to various canonical texts.  References to Robinson Crusoe, Paradise Lost, Don Quixote, and other classics add meaning to Charlie’s experiences.

Over all, I think the novel is far more effective than the short story because the time it takes to get to know Charlie, to read about his experiences through his journal-like progress reports, makes his story more universal and relevant.


After reading the novel and short story, naturally I wanted to see the movie which was made after a made-for-television version aired.  Both the television program and movie starred Cliff Robertson as the titular Charly.

If you like or even love the book and/or short story do not see this movie.  Rob and I suffered through it and just kept marveling at how the integrity of the story is completely compromised.

What's worse is that they add something to the plot that is offensive to anyone with any sense and actually reinforces the ideas that the novel itself tried to expose as stereotypical thinking about those who are not developmentally average.  I can't say more without spoiling so very much.  I may tuck a comment into this post so if you leave a comment, try not to look at anything I may have written.  Right now, I am too angry to even put into words how outraged I am that this film has anything to do with such a wonderful novel. Yet another example of a movie not living up to the superlative standards of the novel.  An utter outrage.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lust With Lousy Timing

For a long time I've been lusting after this bracelet, not so much for myself as for someone I know who I think will love having tiny flowers on her wrist to remember that there is always spring somewhere happening even in the midst of a too dreary winter.  Unfortunately, Romanov's recent adventures forestall me.  Ironic, really.  Had this bracelet gone on sale last week I'd have already ordered it and been excited but today I see it and sigh with disappointment because now is simply not the time for me to pamper my lovely friends with lovely things . . . not even teeny tiny flowers on sale.

Yesterday, A Crisis Averted

One week ago, Romanov was fixed.  Rob and I have been debating this for a while and we finally made the decision to have the deed done.  He was home and healing well when we noticed on Sunday his stitches were not looking right at all.  Monday morning it was worse.  Much worse.  So we dropped everything and took him back to the vet.

$350 later, he has more stitches, some antibiotics, and a new collar to wear because the big hard plastic cones are not comfortable.  This puffy one must be comfortable because Romanov's head isn't even touching the floor in this photo.  And he's snoring.  Loudly.  Yep.  He was out like a light last night.

Between the car problems and then his initial surgery and now a second surgery . . . we may not be exchanging Christmas gifts again this year.  We'll see.  It'll depend on my ability to get a seasonal retail position, I think.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wellness & Writing Connections Newsletter -- August 2010


    AUGUST, 2010
In This Month's Newsletter

  • Opening Thoughts from Dr. John Evans
  • Interview With Roy F Fox, Keynote Speaker 2010
  • Wellness & Writing Connections Book
  • 2010 Wellness & Writing Connections Conference Blurb
  • Healing Words:  Poetry & Medicine
  • 2010 Wellness & Writing Connections Conference Presenters  
  • Closing Thoughts from Satia Renée
Early Bird Registration for the Conference
Now Through September 15 
 Opening Thoughts from Dr. John Evans
Dr. John Evans
Dr. John Evans Image
As I write this morning, I am thinking of those of you who work in the disciplines of writing, psychology, medicine, counseling, and education.  It is for you, who see therapeutic value in writing journals, memoirs, essays, fiction, poetry and drama, that I wished to provide a lively resource such as our annual conference.

Now, I am delighted to announce our 2010 Wellness & Writing Connections Conference program for October 22-23 is complete.  Early registration discounts are available.  Please take a moment to visit our web site today and make your selections from the dozen excellent workshop choices we are offering over the two-day conference at the Georgia Global Learning Center.

In today's newsletter you will find Satia's insightful interview with Professor Roy Fox, our Friday morning keynoter, and a list of our conference workshop presenters with their respective web site links.  Also, Satia reviews the PBS special Healing Words which includes the work of 2007 keynoter, John Fox, founder of the Institute for Poetic Medicine.

I hope you will attend this year's conference and encourage your friends and colleagues to become part of our community.

Please write to me or call me if you have any questions about this year's conference, want to learn more about our work, or wish to schedule a local writing workshop.
Best Wishes,
Interview with Roy F Fox,
Keynote Speaker for the 2010 Wellness & Writing Connections Conference


Photo_BarbaraStahuraWould you please introduce yourself to our readers? How long have you worked with the Missouri Writing Project and how has this perhaps informed your own research?
I have worked with the National Writing Project for many years, even before it was "The National Writing Project." Since graduate school, I have worked with the teaching and learning of writing. I directed a writing program at another university before coming to the University of Missouri. I have taught most types of writing at most levels-technical, professional, creative, expository, developmental, personal and expressive, ESL, advanced, creative nonfiction, you-name-it.

My research in writing has taken several paths: from writing apprehension, to writing under timed and specified conditions, to response and evaluation of writing. Since the early 1980s, I have focused on the roles of mental imagery processes and image products on one's thinking and writing.

For the past several years, these various threads have "fused" into my work in "writing as a way of healing"-especially using verbal and visual elements as a means to restore the self.

At this year's conference, you will be talking about "restoring the self through writing" and I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to hear more about this. Without giving too much of your presentation away, what does restoring the self through writing mean and how have you seen this in your own life, both personal and professional?
"Healing" or restoring selfhood or "deep identity" is something I have engaged in all my life, professionally and personally. (No term is quite right; some people use "resiliency"; as a discipline, we're all still struggling with what to call this thing we so fervently believe in!)

As a child, I often drew and painted. My mother kept me supplied with blank paper, while my father grumbled because I was not interested in working on cars. At the same time, I developed an interest in language-reading and writing. I won art contests as a kid and for my first two years of college, I was an art major before switching to English. I would usually engage in these activities separately, but one kept finding its way into the other, without my hardly realizing it.

Then, as my teaching and learning grew and deepened-and as I learned about the work of cognitive psychologists, such as Allan Paivio, Rudolph Arnheim, Stephen Kosslyn, and others-I viewed them as much the same thing.

I have seen these "different-but-same" processes and products work in my life and in the lives of my students. Because images and words generate their own forms, as well as the other's, they are, in tandem, highly combustible sparks of meaning. And, if we can harness this energy for purposes of "healing," then what could be better?

I would like to ask one more question about your use of imagery. Can you possibly expound on that a bit?
I long ago described the image as "the DNA of language, media, and mind." The picture, regardless of whether it's rendered in words, brush strokes, pixels, or brain waves, is the foundation for most of what human beings are about.

The image-in a variety of forms, from poetry, to book titles, to articles, to research projects, to teaching reading and writing, to writing about baseball, you name it-has premeated everything I've done.

In my "Teaching Therapeutic Language, Literature, & Media" classes, students are required to find and manipulate images from any source, as well as to create their own imagery, at the same time that they compose in language. Here is a sample assignment, one that I will talk about (in all likelihood) at the conference:
Fixing the Photo:  See the example presented in class. Select a photo that is in some way related to your issue. The photo should include people and/or places that represent a relationship(s). Scan this photo into your computer and use Photoshop or other program to manipulate it and change it in a variety of ways (think adding, subtracting, substituting, altering color, background, etc.). You can even draw on the electronic photo. Place the original photo and your altered photo into a PPT, along with your analysis and explanation of each photo re: why you chose the original and why you made the changes you did, especially, how and why does the photo better represent your perception? Include a brief reflection on both photos and the whole experience.

Wellness & Writing Connections
Cover Image of Wellness & Writing Connections Book
Two of the top experts in the field of writing and wellness join with 15 others to show us how writing is used to heal physical illness, emotional trauma, and spiritual pain.
James Pennebaker, who was the first to research the connection between writing and wellness, and Cindy Chung present 25 years of experiments that demonstrate the benefits of writing to heal and point the direction for more studies.
Luciano L'Abate discusses his use of writing and discusses how the techniques can be used to significantly lower health care costs.
Debbie McCulliss shows how she uses writing to engage us, so we are able to examine an experience, compare it to other experiences, and apply the new insights to ourselves.
Leatha Kendrick looks at finding our true voice to lead us to recovery.
Gail Radley presents techniques to move us from feeling like a victim to finding solutions.
Fran Dorf tells how she turned her grief into a best-selling book (Saving Elijah) and shows us how to use fiction to ease our pain.
Emily Simerly gives us six starter chapters to show how we can adapt to our lives.
Belinda Shoemaker proposes that the act of adding craft and style to our writing increases our understanding of what we have written.
Noreen Groover Lape and Kristin N. Taylor continue Shoemaker's theme by describing their interaction as student and teacher, improving Taylor's writing and understanding.
Diana M. Raab shares tips about her journaling that we can use to keep our precious insights from slipping away.
Julie Davey shows how we can use the Writing for Wellness program she has been leading for cancer patients at City of Hope for the past seven years.
Sara Baker reminds us that we can write about our hurts in ways that don't retraumatize us by telling it slant.
Angela Buttimer describes the Cancer Wellness groups she leads at Piedmont Hospital and teaches us how to use some of her techniques.
Austin Bunn describes the Patient Voice Project to teach expressive writing to the chronically ill.
Lara Naughton champions the Voices of Innocence project, which demonstrates how we can help non-writers create written works that aid spiritual and emotional healing.
2010 Wellness & Writing Connections Conference
 Early Bird Registration NOW through Sept. 15

Now, more than ever, creative expression, writing and the arts are being used in medical settings to process experiences of illness and trauma. Research led by Dr. James Pennebaker has shown that the use of writing has physiological benefits to health and can aide in healing from a physical or emotional trauma.

How can you use writing for wellness effectively in your practice and community? Attend the annualWellness and Writing Connections Conference, held October 22-23, 2010 at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center in Atlanta, GA.

This two-day conference brings together a number of powerhouse leaders in the field of writing for health and healing. Breakout sessions include writing and healing in wartime, writing and compassion fatigue, and writing in integrative medicine, in addition to topics in journaling, memoir, psychological journaling, student writings, and more.

The Friday evening keynote address will feature Roy Fox, Professor of English Education and Director of the Missouri Writing Project at the University of Missouri. The keynote address on Saturday evening will feature Brenda Stockdale, Director of Mind-Body Medicine for the Radiology Clinics of Georgia. Additional speakers include Lucille Allegretti-Freeman, Tim Blue, Susan Borkin, Angela and Dennis Buttiner, Claudia-Hill Duffee, Carolyn Graham, Claudia Hough, Elaine Handley, Leatha Kendrick, Laura Miller, Diana Rash, Jean Rowe, and Barbara Stahura. 
Healing Words:  Poetry & Medicine
Healing Words: Poetry & Medicine
Healing Words: Poetry and Medicine by James Cavanaugh and David Drewery is about more than poetry and healing although the emphasis is on the work John Fox and others are doing. The one hour program, which was featured on many PBS stations, is both inspiring and informative, sharing the lives and stories of various patients as well as the thoughts of doctors and caregivers.

From the PBS website:

Healing Words reminds viewers that the best medicine involves a doctor at the bedside listening sincerely to a patient. The film follows Dr. John Graham-Pole and poet John Fox as they enter hospital rooms and help patients write poems as part of the healing process. Compassion, Healing Words shows, can flourish in the unlikeliest of places: a sterile hospital room.
If you haven't already seen this documentary, we encourage you to seek out a copy and see for yourself the power of words through this surprisingly intimate look at how healing can be expanded beyond the physical and meet the suffering of the patient in ways that can also build community.

Here is a link to a podcast where this film and how writing can help everyone from the doctor to the patient is discussed:
2010 Wellness and Writing Connections Program 
Friday Key note: Roy Fox
Roy F. Fox
 is Professor of English Education and Director of the at the Missouri Writing Project. Roy will speak about restoring the self through language and will share his research into how words, when integrated with imagery, can extend and deepen the positive effects of expression. He will also report on his current research into how mental imagery affects the language and thinking of literacy experts who themselves employ writing as healing.
Saturday Key note: Brenda Stockdale

Brenda Stockdale is Director of Mind-Body Medicine for the Radiology Clinics of Georgia, and, for over a decade, she has helped clients apply the latest research in mind-body medicine serving as an adjunct to medical treatment. Brenda will speak about how writing heals: the biological underpinnings of writing for health which link writing and psychoneuroimmunology
Workshop Presenters

The Three A's of Mindful Journaling: Attention, Awareness and Acceptance
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn: "Mindfulness means paying attention, in a particular way: On purpose in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." Mindful journaling helps bring clarity to any situation. By being present to the moment, expanding awareness, and staying with an experience you learn to delve deeply while cultivating your wise inner guide. This workshop will focus on ways to bring more mindfulness to your journal writing.
Bridging the Gap
Tim Blue

To promote discussion among teachers of how to bridge the gap between personal and academic writing, Tim Blue will present multiple assignments that he has used with students (ie. "The Personal Thesis Statement" wherein the students seek to define themselves in a concise, thesis-like paragraph) as well as other assignment options. Afterwards, a group discussion about how to healthily promote personal writing in an academic context will conclude the workshop session.
Psychological Journaling: Write, Creativity & the Pursuit of Happiness
Susan Borkin
This highly experiential workshop offers practical (and fun!) application to increase joy, happiness, and life satisfaction. Developed by Susan Borkin--psychotherapist, author, and council member of the International Association for Journal Writing--Psychological Journaling© is an evidence-based approach to writing that integrates journal writing with cutting edge research in positive psychology.
Writing as an Essential Practice in Integrative Medicine
Integrative Medicine (IM) is an approach to wellness and recovery for both healthy people and those recovering from or living with illness. IM addresses the whole Self: a person's physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. In this workshop we will review some of the latest research in integrative medicine, discuss the importance of writing as an integral tool in this approach, and practice experientially the ways we can each use writing personally and professionally. We will discuss how we can all benefit from this approach to achieve optimal health.

Jailed: Writing to Cope for the Inside Writing for Health on the Outside
Claudia-Hill Duffee
Designed for an hour presentation workshop, the first half hour will consist of a presentation with handouts to provide for a broad overview of startling national incarceration statistics, living conditions, and lack of coping opportunities on the inside which also contribute to a "doomed to recidivism" rate upon release.  The major focus of the presentation is on the writing model the presenters developed for their GED essay writing classes to promote healthier daily life management, wellness, and coping skills in the highly charged environment in which they now live, and to transfer their healthier, more confident gains from this writing program when released to the "outside." Techniques, student writing samples and success measurements will be shared. A booklet written by the team members will be used that includes chapter commentaries from a consulting psychiatrist.
Majesty in the Journey: Fortifying the Immune System
Carolyn Graham
The workshop intention is to demonstrate the combination of mind-stream journaling and music to fortify the immune system. An experiential style is used throughout the workshop. Only evidence-based techniques are demonstrated. An inspiring story of recovery is threaded throughout the presentation. Necessary materials are supplied and a bibliography is distributed.
War Stories: Writing and Healing
Claudia Hough and Elaine Handley
In this workshop, Hough and Handley will share some of the exercises and assignments they have used in their course they created: War Stories: Reading and Writing About the Impact of War. Drawing in the research of James Pennebaker, the course seeks to create a communal academic environment where people can write the truth, as they know it, about life-defining experiences while also creating a safe place to read, discuss and reflect, and write about the war. Part of the workshop will be dedicated to an open exchange of ideas, experiences, and questions.
Healing: A Change in Perspective ("What is healing but a change in perspective?"Mark Doty) Leatha Kendrick
Through brief exercises, Kendrick and participants will explore writing's role in create a therapeutic space in which personal perceptions can shift. Telling and refining "story" enacts a healing change of perspective and in this workshop the role of revision and craft will also be addressed as participants begin creating healing narratives.
In Their Own Voices: Students Present Writing and Healing Class Projects
Laura Milner
Five students from Georgia Southern University bear witness to the benefits and limitations of writing, telling, and revising traumatic narratives in a Writing and Healing course in spring 2010. Using poetry, music, photographs, and interactive writing assignments, they share what they learned from interdisciplinary research, writing and reading aloud their own stories, and listening to classmates. They describe what it is like to be black, gay, overweight, sexually assaulted, addicted, abandoned, and/or ill, and where/how they are now. 
Memoir: From Notebook to Manuscript
Diana Raab
This workshop will discuss how to transform journal entries into a completed memoir and how to use the notebook as a powerful tool in writing a memoir. The workshop will address the key elements of a compelling memoir and how to bring your story to life. Participants will be given writing exercises, receive memory-retrieval tips, and learn how to journal effectively for future use.
Healing the Healer: Addressing Compassion, Fatigue, and Burnout Through the Journal
Jean Rowe
All of us in helping professions are vulnerable to being overwhelmed with the challenges and pain our clients and patients share with us. In our commitment to helping others, we often overlook the toll it takes on our own lives. A sneak peak at a 12-hour workshop for CEU and contact hour credit, this breakout session will touch on the research about compassion fatigue and burnout and offer participants 2-3 journal techniques to address them.
Journaling After Brain Injury
Barbara Stahura 
After a brain injury, it's important to be able to tell the stories of one's new life. This experiential presentation will introduce the concepts of "After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story" journaling workshops that help people with brain injury to clarify experiences, deal with life changes and strong emotions, and focus on the positive. People with brain injury, family members/caregivers, journal instructors, and therapists can all benefit from this workshop. Bring a journal or notebook.
How Do I Read a Sick Human Being? : Teaching Reading and Writing to Enrich Students' Abilities to Interpret Illness and Cultivate Healing
Jennifer R. Thomas
This interactive workshop examines how integrating literary studies into health professional education supports healing. Participants will read and write as we explore how narrative medicine assists with interpreting illness stories. Ultimately, participants will learn how literary studies empower students with a perspective that (1) enriches their understanding of illness experiences and healing, (2) fosters more accurate health assessments, and (3) assists with developing a professional identity. Participants from various career stages are welcome.
Closing Thoughts from Satia Renée
 Dear Readers,
It is so hard for me to believe that summer is already coming to a close which means that this year's conference is just around the corner. For months I've been updating the blog with links to so many interesting resources, including articles by professionals and lay people and still I find it hard to believe that October is almost here.
If you're like me, you probably find yourself missing opportunities without even realizing that you allowed yourself to get "too busy" to slow down. That is how I felt when I realized in 2008 I had missed my local PBS station's airing of Healing Words: Poetry & Medicine. I had wanted to see John Fox, CPT and keynote speaker at the 2007 Wellness & Writing Connections Conference, share how poetry is being used to help patients heal emotionally and spiritually. I was, therefore, all the more thrilled to see I could borrow this dvd and found myself watching it more than once in a 24 hour period. It is so inspiring!
Also inspiring, as those of use who have attended past conferences realize, is the Wellness & Writing Connections Conference. The Early Bird Special ends in only a few days--September 15 to be exact--and although registration will obviously still be open, you don't want to find yourself preparing for Halloween only to realize that you missed out on a wonderful gathering of like-minded people. And it is all the more exciting to see that this year's conference is returning to span two days rather than one. There will be ample opportunity to meet other people, share ideas, resources, and learn from one another throughout the weekend.
As anyone can see from the list of presenters, this year's conference promises to be wonderful. Hopefully, you agree and I'll see you there!
Satia Renée
 Copyright 2010 Wellness & Writing Connections.
All rights reserved.

Fit to be tried: Reiki treatment - Diet & Fitness, Health -

Fit to be tried: Reiki treatment - Diet & Fitness, Health -

"Medical researchers at the University of Texas carried out a series of reiki tests, and found anxiety and blood pressure levels were reduced due to the heightened state of relaxation in patients treated with the therapy.

Another study, carried out at the Institute of Neurological Sciences in South Glasgow University in 2004, divided 45 patients into three groups, and found that the heart rate and blood pressure decreased markedly in the reiki group."

I try to be fair and not share only articles that praise Reiki so don't be surprised when you read this one and find it less than adoring of Reiki.  

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thanks, Uncle Robbie

Today is Rob’s niece’s birthday so a Happy Birthday to Isabelle.  We sent her some birthday gifts and I had to fight for Rob to get her a Jonas Brothers cd.  He doesn't want to pander to plebeian musical tastes but I pointed out to him that 1) Nick Jonas was diagnosed a couple of years ago with diabetes and 2) he had written a song about this experience and 3) I had listened to the song and found it surprisingly good.  So he bought her the cd begrudgingly at first but with enthusiasm when he put it in the context of her liking their music and his having diabetes.  The connection she can make with a musician she likes with her uncle, etc.

Apparently, in spite of all of this and my also choosing to give her an art set, she made the connection with him but not at all with me.  How do I know this?  Because Shawn, Rob’s brother, sent him a video of Iz rocking out to the cd and, at the end of the video she says, “Thank you, Uncle Robbie.”

Pfft.  I chose the gifts.  I wrap the gifts.  The only thing I didn’t do is physically go to the store to buy the one cd but everything else I was there buying.  (Remember Monday when we went out all day and I wore myself out?)  I even chose the card.  All this and I don’t get a thank you?  Hmph!  It’s a good thing she’s only 5 years old.  Grrr . . . 

Okay so I’m totally kidding (no pun intended) but it was pretty funny pouting yesterday because of it.  

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth had me on the edge of my seat, a remarkable statement in light of its being a fictional account of an alternate history.  What if, Roth supposes, instead of Franklin D. Roosevelt winning a third term as president his opponent were a Nazi sympathizer and American hero?  In other words, what if Charles Lindbergh had run against FDR and won?

What if, indeed.

What is most compelling about this novel is its plausibility.  One change in history leads to a spiral of events, rippling beyond the one moment, wherein characters both real and imagined behave in ways that are not surprising.  It is his ability to transfer reality into the unreal and make it all so incredibly believable that kept me glued to the pages.  Historical figures, put in a context that never occurred, behave as you would expect them to behave, making choices that never contradict the integrity of who they were in our reality.  In this, Roth lends a weight to the novel that would otherwise be lacking in a less controlled imagination.

That is up until about 2/3 through the book where, plausible or not, I felt some of the content was spiraling out of control.  I don’t know if it is when the novel tries to be too big or tries to stay too small that it begins to falter for me.  The fact that I can’t even tell which it is suggests that Roth straddles a fence of trying to do both and doesn’t maintain the novel’s integrity until the very final pages.

And yet this novel is powerful in ways that cannot be undervalued.  Not long ago I got into a debate with a friend of mine who claimed that there were more Jews living in NYC than there were in Israel.  When I demanded to know where he heard such a ridiculous statistic he had no answer beyond the fact that he knew it to be true.  A quick google search later proved him to be incredibly wrong.  And perhaps I am more sensitive to anti-Semitism because lately I’ve been confronted by it in various media.  Reading “the Jewish agenda” in a book on atheism and seeing a Jewish woman talk about the greediness of American Jews who control the media in a documentary has perhaps made me sensitive to the reality that we have not come a long way.

What this book does very well is show how insidiously fascism can infringe upon even our presumed American freedoms.  Roth, through his re-imagined family, even suggests how one might find one’s self ignoring the writing on the wall or turning a blind-eye to the obvious dangers of compromise.  This is another book, like so many, whose clarion call will likely not be read by those who most need to hear what it has to say.  Those who think it could never happen, never again, never here will find the premise too ludicrous to believe.  Perhaps some will read and find it surprising to learn that Ford was openly anti-Semitic, that there were pro-Nazi groups in the United States long before the neo-Nazis of today, and that once upon a time southern states were adamantly Democratic.  Then again, my friend was surprised to find out that he was horribly wrong and that his assumption was a subtle form of anti-Semitism.  And that is what makes this book so powerful because we live in a world, in a society where -isms are more the norm than not and when faced with racism, sexism, etc. silence is simply not an option.  Books like this and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale should be read with an open mind and open eyes especially because the truth can so often be hard to face.