Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year's Musings and Memories

Before the clock strikes midnight on 2009, I want to take one last look back at some New Year's memories....

-- Toasting the new year with ice cream sundaes and ginger ale with my kids. Early in the day, we would go to the grocery store and everyone would get their favorite flavor of ice cream or frozen yogurt, plus toppings, sauces, sprinkles and of course, whipped cream. We would pull out the sofa bed in the living room and watch the old year count down...and then at about 10 minutes to midnight, everyone would make their sundaes, pour glasses of ginger ale and run back to the living room to wait for the big moment. At exactly the turn of New Year's Day, we would toast with ginger ale and start eating the sundaes.

-- Going all the way back to high school, and the few years after...the annual New Year's eve party...the one night I could stay out past curfew. Knowing that every year, we would all be together to celebrate...seeing people I had known for years (some since elementary school.)

-- Going back even further...a couple of childhood trips to New York City to watch the ball drop in Times Square. I know it must have been cold, but all I remember is the excitement and the fun of being THERE, where the New Year really seemed to start.

This year, I will be at a friend's house for New year's eve. My fiance will be there. My oldest daughter will be there. My little one will be at her friend's house. My son will be up north. But I'm thinking...maybe I will go get some frozen yogurt and toppings to eat when I watch the ball drop. Just for old time's sake.

Happy New Year everyone! May the best of previous years be even better, and the worst soon a distant memory!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The return of Anam Cara

About a year and half ago, I wrote a post about the meaning of Anam Cara...soul friends.

Over the past few years, I've gone through some dark times. Times when I was so lonely I thought the pain of it would break me. Stress. Loss.

But I look around me now, and I see that despite all of that, I have built a life where I have good friends...and some of these people I did not know four years ago are Anam Cara.

These are handful of men and women who have become a part of the very fabric of my life. I cannot image NOT knowing them. How do I know they are Anam Cara?

When they arrive at a party or show up at the restaurant where we are meeting, the room seems brighter and warmer and friendlier. I like seeing their number come up on my phone and hearing their voice on the other end of a call.

These are people who would listen to a concern and genuinely care that I was hurting -- and they are the first to rejoice when something good happens to me. They share their fears and hurts and joys with me, too, knowing that I really do care. We matter to each other in ways that casual acquaintances just cannot. I can let them see the "real me" without fear, and I know that they trust me with their own genuine selves.

The hug is real, the "how are you" is sincere and the smile they offer when we meet in genuine.

So on the cusp of the New Year, I want to say thank you to these special people in my life. My family-by-choice. My Anam Cara.

(Image from Elfwood by Lydia Thomas)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A literary MEME!

From Book Group Buzz

A meme! A meme! Do you want to play? Tag, you’re it.

1. Which book has been on your shelves the longest?
2. What is your current read, your last read and the book you’ll read next?
3. What book did everyone like and you hated? (Or the other way around?)
4. Which book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?
5. Which book are you saving for “retirement?”
6. Last page: read it first or wait til the end?
7. Acknowledgements: waste of ink and paper or interesting aside?
8. Which book character would you switch places with? .
9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time)?
10. Name a book you acquired in some interesting way.
11. Have you ever given away a book for a special reason to a special person?
12. Which book has been with you to the most places?
13. Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad ten years later?
14. What is the strangest item you’ve ever found in a book?
15. Used or brand new?
16. Stephen King: Literary genius or opiate of the masses?
17. Have you ever seen a movie you liked better than the book?
18. Conversely, which book should NEVER have been introduced to celluloid?
19. Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Some quotes on love and art


For those of us who had to go through a few toads before finding our prince....

Lucky is the man who is the first love of a woman,
but luckier is the woman who is the last love of a man.
~ Unknown ~

We cannot really love anybody with whom we never laugh.
~ Agnes Repplier ~


All art requires courage.
~Anne Tucker ~

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college - that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?"
~ Howard Ikemoto ~

Art disturbs, science reassures.
~ Georges Braque ~, Le Jour et la nuit

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Those who seek to control: love of power or an expression of fear?

We've all met some of these people.

No matter what you're doing, they will always tell you how to do it better.

Or what you're doing wrong.

Or what actions you should be taking that you are not.

It doesn't matter if it's a task you've been doing successfully for years, or the dress you just bought for the company dinner, or the way you've arranged your furniture. I'm not talking about someone with a specialized area of knowledge who is passionate about sharing it. These are the generalists, who would appear to know most everything about, well, everything!

They are right there offering "helpful" suggestions. Put this here, get this instead, do it this way. These aren't the mean tyrants who scream and swear and demand. These are the people who always believe that you are in need of their help to avoid a potentially disastrous result. Their "suggestions" are phrased so carefully, that you might not see them for the control efforts they are. But here are some clues...

1) The suggestions are made when you have not asked for them, nor are you expressing any distress, uncertainty or doubt about what you are doing

2) The suggestions make you feel that you must say "Thank you," even when you would rather say "Stop!"

3) The suggestions are made across of a variety of situations, from car troubles to hairstyle to classes for your kids. In fact, there seems to be no area in which they do not have something to say.

4) Hearing the suggestions makes you feel less capable, less certain or makes you feel that you must at least consider whatever they say lest they be offended.

5) They offer suggestions to nearly, friends, your friends, strangers on the subway -- even career professionals like doctors, lawyers and others they may have hired.

And while these chronically helpful people come across as meaning well, the phrase "The path to hell is paved with good intentions" truly applies to them.

So is it a love of power? Sometimes, probably. But mostly it's fear. Self-doubt.

In most cases, these controlling people have lives that are out of control. Their own children are in trouble at school, but they are ready with advice about your parenting. They need to loose 50 pounds, but they can tell you what diet you need to follow. Their yard is a mass of weeds, but they will suggest where and what you should plant in your own garden.

So what do you do? They aren't acting out of malice, after all. But the effect can be damaging to us. Try this:

Next time you are on the receiving end of one of their "helpful" comments, say firmly but kindly that favorite-phrase of 4 year-olds everywhere:

"No thank you, I can do it myself."

And despite what they may tell you, know that you really can.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

On books and bookshelves

I've been moving my books to new bookshelves, in a new location.

Shouldn't make much difference. Shouldn't be a big deal. Still the same books, right?

But it is making a BIG difference. And I am discovering it is more of a process that a simple relocation of objects.

First, there is the removing them from the old shelves. I can't just take them off and stick them into boxes. I need to look at each one...maybe read a line or two. Remember where I got it, or who gave it to me, or what I thought about the book.

Then there is a keep or release decision to make. I have a big bag of books ready to meet new readers sometime soon. Books I read, and liked, but which seem ready to move on.

There are the books that must remain accessible and with me until the last minute. They cannot occupy a new home until I do. These books sit now, on dusty shelves with only the odd bits of paper or small treasures for company. These are the books I would take with me, if I was forced to travel light.

I am moving the books a few reusable shopping bags at a time. Boxes are too heavy and awkward for the stairs I must go down to get to my car. I find that I pick and choose as I fill the bags, as though there needs to be a relationship between the books in each.

And then when the books arrive at their new home (my soon-to-be new home), they must be placed on shelves. Another moment to look at each.

I am trying not to arrange them yet, except where size dictates a certain shelf. Big decorating books on the bottom. Paperbacks just fit into that narrow shelf.

I will arrange them on a rainy day when they have all been moved. For now, Judaica rubs elbows with physics, and mysteries sit side-by-side with a graphic novel and a book on raising ethical children.

The first two bookcases are full now. These tall black shelves stand a full foot or so higher than my old battle-scarred Bauder bookcases purchased years ago and in another state. The new shelves make the books look different. The colors of the bindings are more noticeable. The patterns they make fascinate me. I look at them, remember the travels some of these books have made, from one side of the country to the other and back again, and realize that there is almost as much to read on the outside of these books as in their pages.

I haven't moved my clothes yet. Or my furniture or my dishes or the toys. My antiques and my scrapbooking supplies still occupy their old spaces.

The books are the first to make the journey and stake out my place in a new home. And that precious few that remain on old shelves will be the last to go with me as I turn the key for the last time on my old space. Books as bookends to a new life...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The mad rush from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve

Okay, the feasts have been eaten, the relatives have arrived and departed, and what passes for Black Friday 2009 has come and gone.

And now the race is on, through Hanukkah and Christmas and Kwanzaa to New Year's Eve. Gifts are being ordered and sent or purchased and wrapped. Decorations are going up. And party plans are being made. And before you know it, the big ball in Times Square will be making its drop into 2010.

Before 2009 bows out, can we just take a minute and stop? Just a minute here and there to:

Notice the way an ice-covered twig or branch looks in the morning light

Take a deep breath of the scent of baking cookies and think back to memories of that same tantalizing smell from childhood

Go for a walk and leave the iPod at home. Listen to the sound of boots on the snow or the crash of waves on the beach or the laughter of kids on a playground

Call an old friend from school and trade memories of the silly things you did and thought back then

Stand still and look at a frozen pond at sunset, the winter woods in the middle of the day or a tree moving in the wind. Really see, not with your mind on shopping lists or guest counts, but on the beauty right there in front of you

Make a nice meal for two and take it to a homeless person. Sit down with them, and hear their story while you share the food you made.

Wake up early and watch the light change in your bedroom as the sun rises. Look at the colors, the shadows, the effect on things in your room, as each item is illuminated

2009 is almost gone. It will never return. Instead of rushing madly, blindly into 2010, make the remaining month of this year really count. Happy December.