Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace

I'm Book: Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace
Author: Anne Lamott
Edition: eBook, on OverDrive from Fresno Public Library
Read: December 17, 2014

256 pages
Rated: 4 1/2 out of 5

20+ essays, most of which have been previously published. They deal with Lamott's family, problems-both past and current, death, life, forgiveness, and an assortment of neurosis.

In the first chapter, she makes a statement about a couple of friends, one who was dying. She says they are willing to redefine themselves, and life, and okayness. This is an in-eloquent, but powerful statement. Not to lose who you are, but yet changing how you approach your life to meet the circumstances you are in. It is so easy to lose yourself when you get carried by the tides of what is around yourself. Also it is a bit harder to stand like a breakwall against the change-pounding tides without adapting. How to wisely adapt and not get out of sync with your world, that is a good trick.

Such a phrase, obseince of delight. Says to me we humble ourselves to that which resonates to our soul. It is not just for pleasure, but delight. Delight is such a different experience. Delight is like waking up in the mountains and enjoying the sunrise on distant peaks. Pleasure is more sensual than spiritual. Let me always strive for the spirit, mind and body experiences to build a total me.

Parental units were simply duplicating what they'd learn when they were small. That's the system. (Chp 2). How do you break that cycle? Lamott's books, at least the ones I have read are a result of dysfunction in her parents. She is striving to break that cycle and is dealing with the effects. Probably the first thing is to recognize where your background negatively affect you and your children.

Lamott takes a chapter to talk about forgiveness. She starts off a bit humorously by saying that she is not one of those Christians who is heavy into forgiveness. But then she talks about how heavy a burden not forgiving is. Her line is not forgiving is liking drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. She hits the nail on the head-exposing her own problem as a way of showing me the problem with my own actions. She admits that forgiveness is not easy, but it is essential. 

Just look whose the budgets are being cut-the old, the crazies, the young...-that is where Jesus will be.

The chapter on Matches is hilarious! She talks about how she needs a man in her life, not so much for sex, actually definitely not for sex, but to feel loved-you know the cuddly type of relationship. So she joins and goes through a list of dates. Some possibles, some improbables. Here, as in the rest of her writings, she reveals herself and the issues she has. In this case, just re-entering the dating world and the new types of connections. It is worth the read. The perspectives she faces-on her side-and the different personalities ranging from a person whom she really likes but which he has no emotional component to his personality, to a person way to the right of her who portrays himself as middle of the road.

This chapter ends with her talking about her family and how her Mom and Dad were in a relationship which was not where love was present. She notes that her parents could not take their pleasure in themselves to the next level of a deepening. Even them loving their children did not bring closeness to each other. Even with their own high level of intelligence, they could not see themselves as growing closer-two people whose orbits brought them close, but the gravitational pulls could not bring the, together. When she went to other families, even though the food was inferior, it tasted better due to the love which wax present. 
Gary's Note: If a relationship is not deepening, it stagnates.

 As was true with dating, it is true here-Lamott talks about her relationships. So a note to Gary-do not get into a relationship with her, or you end up in one of her books. As a note to readers: I am married and am not looking to change out my wife.

She says that Awareness dawned on me in these years that the values of my parents' lives, of the good life, were going to be part of an evolutionary journey-the marvelous food and story telling, bookstores, hiking... she also goes on and talks about the friends who had religion and the contribution they had on her life. This goes to point that we are not just ourselves, but are made up of both what we start with and the influences on our lives. Lamott recognizes this-we are not formed in a vacuum. Two important parts to this. First we are formed as well as created. The second, as I travel my life, my life has impact on others. Two simple, but important, truths.

Do not take Lamott as fact, but more as a person who thinks the best of things, unless you happen to be a right-winger. Her Christianity is more of  a humanistic bent than one based in the Bible. So there is very little Bible verse quoting. Also she probably cannot really support some of her thinking. So when reading her, I need to look more at the underling current and recognize what God is speaking through her rather reading for fact.

Silence of an ideal life.(Chp Voices) interesting phrase. How does silence and an ideal life mate? Probably because it give you space to listen to yourself, listen to the voice of God. But is that what she is saying? Upon contemplation, I think it means more like the ideal life will leave little behind, such as a wake behind a boat being non-existent. And that brings up the problem which i have with this phrase. I think a life well-lived will leave order and goodness in its wake, rather than emptiness. Why else does Lamott write if she did not want to leave something behind and that something being good?

My pastor Veronica(Goines), says that peace is joy at rest and joy is peace on its feet. (Chp Ham of God). Not sure that this is an exact formulation, but I think it is a good one.

The second best thing about reading an Anne Lamott book is her honesty concerning herself. But what makes her worthwhile reading is her insight and way she puts her insights. I could do without some of the rawness, but what I get for sticking with her is ways of looking at the small things of life in a broader picture.

Small Victories is a collection of Lamott's essays. At first I kept thinking, have I read this book already? Why does this story seem so familiar? It was because it was. If you have read Traveling Mercies, you have read about a third of the book already.

Is that a bad thing? At first it was disturbing. But then I started to understand some of what Lamott was doing. Life is not full of the BIG battles, but the everyday struggles we have, with some big battles interspersed between. How we fight these small battles is what shapes our lives. We get battered, we get thrown around.there are times we do not feel good about ourselves, but still we carry on. I think that is Lamott's message.

New Words:

  • Sanpaku (chp 2): originated from a Chinese term, as well as a Japanese term means “three whites” and is generally referred to in English as "Sanpaku eyes". The term refers to eyes in which the white space above or below the iris is visible.
  • Bruja (Chp 2): Brujería is the Spanish-language word for "witchcraft". Brujería also refers to witch-healers who did practice and do practice their craft throughout Latin America and the United States. Both men and women can be witches
  • Patchouli (csk 3): a species of plant from the genus Pogostemon. It is a bushy herb of the mint family, with erect stems, reaching two or three feet (about 0.75 metre) in height and bearing small, pale pink-white flowers.
  • noodge (chp 4): o be nosey, pushy and a general pain in the ass. It sometimes means having an attitude the size of montana on your shoulders and projecting that all over the place. Generally this is not a nice thing but can be used in a nice context.
  • Erudite (Chp Dad): having or showing great knowledge or learning
  • soupcon (Chp Dad): a very small quantity of something
Book References:
  • Rumi
  • Joy of Cooking- more like f comparison than anything else.
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Virginia Wolf 

Good Quotes:

  • First Line: The worst possible thing you can do with you're down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends.
  • Last Line: Yet here we are in February, with war drums and daffodils everywhere and poppies waiting in the wings.
  •  If generosity is nothing, then what is anything? (Chp The Book of Welcome)
  • Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure. Rumi
  • not forgiving is liking drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. (Chp Forgiveness)
  • Getting found almost always means being lost for awhile. (Chp Tail Ducks)
  • Forgiveness is the hardest work we do. (Chp Dad)
  • Grace threatens all my normalities. Quoted from Gerald May
  • Through love all pain will turn to medicine. Rumi
  • The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship. Emerson
  • To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. Lewis Smedes
  • Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again. Dag Hammarskjold
  • It's because music is about as physical as it gets: your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, your breath. We're walking temples of noise, and when you add tender hearts to this mix, it somehow lets us meet in places we couldn't get to any other way. Chp Knocking on Heavens Door
  •   No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden from te present little instant. Take peace! Fra Giovanna Giocondo
  • My pastor Veronica(Goines), says that peace is joy at rest and joy is peace on its feet. (Chp Ham of God)


      Tuesday, December 9, 2014

      Make a The Most of Your Time On Earth: Rough Guides

      Book: Make The Most of Your Time On Earth: Rough Guides
      Author: Rough Guides and Phil Senton
      Edition: Fully Updated Second Edition, eBook from Fresno County Library
      Read: Skimmed on December 8, 2014
      1,881 pages
      Rated: 3  out of 5

      A 1,000 exotic places on this earth which can feed your sense of excitement.


      Title is trendy, but does this book really do what it says? So far the titles sound fun, but taken as a complete picture of a life, it is hollow. Isn't there something more to life than going from one experience feeding your own experiences to another? Shouldn't your experience make you more satisfying, a bigger person than when you started out? Maybe like that age old thing of helping someone else?

      The authors asks a good question at the start of the book: What makes the best kind of travel experience? Their answer is, the experience should be something you would recommend to others, something you would remember. The authors point out that it is not about the travel, but how you are engaged in the experience. Also how you are engaged with what is around you.

      I will start by saying, I only skimmed the book. If you are looking for a book to provide a wide range of places to visit on this earth? This is the book for you. It provides a short description of 1,000 places around this world on every continent. The descriptions are short and exciting.

      So why only a three stars? The trips described in this book is just not my cup of tea. First, most of the places and activities are not things I would be interested in-some of them are and some of them I have even done. Second, the premise which the editor has concerning things which one should do before you die. Shouldn't ones life be more than places to visit? Isn't there something more to one's life than wandering this earth from pole to pole from ocean to ocean? Hence, the reason for the three, it does not fulfill the premise of the title.

      Good Quotes:

      • First Line: Experiences have always been at the heart of the Rough Guide concept.
      • Last Line: There are many Antarctic cruise operators but one of the best is Exodus.


          The Navajo Code Talkers

          Book: The Navajo Code Talkers
          Author: Bruce Watson
          Edition: eReader on Overdrive from the Fresno County Library
          Read: December 9, 2014

          25 pages
          Rated: 3  out of 5

          This pamphlet size booklet gives the reader an overview of Native Americans who played a vital role in keeping American communications secret during World War II. It outlines their experiences, both before, during and after the war.

          From other sources, such as Wikipedia, some of the wording seems almost identical.

          The reason to fight on the side of the united States was not really clear to me. The reason given was that the past wrongs were social conflicts. But the Japanese fighting against the United States involved Mother Earth being dominated by foreign countries. I would think the Navajo would consider the whites of the united States as a foreign power which had invaded their land. A fuller explanation would have been good.

          In talking about the Navajo language Watson quotes a native speaker as saying words paint a picture in your mind. This seems similar to what Temple Grandin  talks about in her book on autism,  Thinking in Pictures. I do not think there is a connection-there is not enough in Navajo Code Talkers to tell. But just the similarities in phrasing really makes it seem like there is.

          This pamphlet, I hesitate in calling it a book, gives you a quick view of the role the Navajo people played in World War II, despite the injustices inflicted on them by the United States. As a pamphlet, this document is more into telling about rather than understand the people. Even the telling about is more of a terse statement of what happened. So it is a good introduction to this history, but it did not leave me wanting more-I have that from other readings I have done over the years.

          New Words:

          • Dineh (5)-The People, Navajo

          Good Quotes:

          • First Line: Cloaked in secrecy and syntax, code machines were the pride of World War II cryptographers.
          • Last Line:And they spoke Navajo.


              Sunday, November 23, 2014

              Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life

              Book:Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life
              Author:Cloud, Henry, Dr, and Townsend, John, Dr
              Edition:eBook from Fresno County Library on OverDrive
              Read:November 2014
              514 pages
              Rated: 2  out of 5

              The authors talk about how many boundary issues can be traced back to improper parenting. Either the parent(s) did not respect the boundaries the child growing to maturity tried to set, defining themselves, or the parent(s) did not set appropriate boundaries for the maturity of the child.  

              From here the authors talk about various myths and laws of boundary setting. This is as far as I got.

              Throughout Scriptures, people are reminded of their choices and asked to take responsibility for them.  ... Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. Chpt 2

              I only go through about a third of this book, even though I am interested in the subject matter. Cloud and Townsend approach the subject from a Biblical point of view, reminding the readers that it is a matter of defining ones self is the essence of setting boundaries. I am this, but not this, so I will or will not do this. Failure to set and maintain these boundaries encroaches on who we are as a person.

              Now the question is why did I not make it farther than a third of the book? I had enough time. But I found the more I read, the more I was skimming. I think it was because Cloud and Townsend was not presenting anything relevant to me, and what they were presenting was pretty much a done in a way not to interest me. Given that several books which I enjoyed and received good information from references Boundaries, I suspect there may be more in the book than what I have read.  But at this point I will not read more.

              Good Quotes:
              • First Line: The alarm jangled.
              • Last Line: It is our prayer that your biblical boundaries will lead you to a life of love, freedom, responsibility and service.
              •  Boundaries are anything which helps to differentiate you from someone else, or shows where you begin and end. (37)

              Table of Contents: