Monday, March 24, 2014

15 literary influences

There is a meme circulating on Facebook right now. It invites people to list the first 15 literary influences in their lives - in under 15 minutes.

Because my husband, BMG, asked, here are mine, organized by the type of influence they had on me:

Stories I remember reading in my childhood:

  • Carolyn Haywood - Hers were the first mindless serials I remember reading obsessively. To this day I still find an author I like and then inhale her/his books. The author du jour is Deborah Crombie. I continuously stalk the library shelves for books by Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child, and Jonathan and Faye Kellerman
  • Ray Bradbury (ONLY because of the short story "All Summer In A Day," which I had to read in 4th grade. It horrified and fascinated me and I've never forgotten it.)

These two guys wrote the first "adult books" I ever read:

  • Stephen King - "The Stand" was the first long form adult book I ever read. (My pal Erika gave me the Stephen King gateway drug, "Night Moves." Yup, I mean business when I read
  • John Irving - My aunt loaned me her copy of "The Cider House Rules," which started a ridiculous love affair with his work and helped me become a feminist. "A Son of the Circus" was nothing but irritating to me, then I learned that John Irving has an elitist side IRL, and the love affair ended. 

These authors wrote books I read during my college years - some because I had to, others because I wanted to. All introduced me to new ideas and world views that had an impact on me:

  • Margaret Atwood - "The Handmaid's Tale" was on the reading list the summer before my freshman year
  • Aldous Huxley - "Brave New World"? Woah. 
  • William Golding - "Lord of the Flies" is still a useful cultural reference today. Go banana.

Yep, I love to escape inside a good, all-consuming fantasy world, and these are the masters, IMHO:

  • Johnny Gruelle - Boy did I get lost inside the Raggedy Ann and Andy books of my youth. Perhaps these books helped launch my love affair with gnomes? 
  • William Goldman - "The Princess Bride" rocked my world. If you haven't read it, you need to because it is pure genius. 
  • J.K. Rowling
  • J.R.R. Tolkein - I read "The Hobbit" while camping and backpacking in Yosemite National Park. The redwood forests are a terrific place to to imagine the world of hobbits really exist.
  • Gregory Maguire - "Wicked" was the first and best. All the others he has written are too derivative of the first and don't come close to capturing the magic of his reimagined "Wizard of Oz." 

And just a few that can only be categorized as being the authors of memorable books that help me see the world in different ways:
  • Amy Tan - "The Joy Luck Club" because it and her other books, like those by Lisa See, opened my eyes to the cultural peculiarities of the mother/daughter relationship
  • Mark Salzman - I truly and seriously love the book "The Laughing Sutra" for helping me appreciate the value of adventure for adventure's sake.
  • David McCullough - Who knew history could be so engaging?!
Which authors are on your list? Why? 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A pal recently sent me a chain letter, inviting me to share words of inspiration with her and a friend.

"Send a quote? I'm full of quotes!" I thought, so I passed it along with this message to eight friends:

My pal Angie invited me to play Buddhist chain letter. Who can't use a little more inspiration in their lives? (And luckily, you won't die if you don't play.)

Here's how it works.

I'm participating in a collective, constructive, and hopefully uplifting exchange. It's a one-time thing and I hope you will participate. We have picked people we think would be faithful, and make it fun. Please send an encouraging quote or verse to the person whose name is in position 1 below (even if you don't know him or her). It should be a favorite text verse/motivational poem/prayer/meditation that has lifted you when you were experiencing challenging times. Don't agonize over it--it is one you reach for when you need it or the one that you always turn to.

(Minimally, I invite you send some inspiring love to Angie.)

Imagine two names and email addresses here

After you've sent the short poem/verse/meditation/quote/etc. to the person in position 1, and only that person, copy this letter into a new email, move my name to position 1. and put your name in position 2. Only my name and your name should show when you email. Send to 20 friends using BCC. (I can't think of 20 people to send this to! Pick as many as you think is appropriate.) If you cannot do this in five days, let us know so it will be fair to those participating. It's fun to see where they come from. Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new ideas and inspiration. The turnaround is fast, as there are only two names on the list, and you only have to do it once.


I share with you what I received in return. 

1.  You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.  Desiderata

2.  Art & Fear:Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.


Sometimes, hidden from me in daily custom and in ritual
I live by you unaware, as if by the beating of my heart.
Suddenly you flare again in my sight
A wild rose at the edge of the thicket where yesterday there was only shade
And I am blessed and choose again,
That which I chose before.

4. See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little.

5. "Dear Crazy, Crying Heart" by Barbara Pescan
Oh, my hear
dear foolish on,
sweet crazy keening heart---
Get ready -- hush ---
let the winds sweep clean the hidden corners of your lies
Stop crying and wrap your arms
around that child in htere
the one in the crash helmet
the one with the broken leg
the baby in the dark
the one with the broken heart
the baby knowing its hand for the first time
the child full of milk and lullabies
the child with not food in its belly
It is all God
It is all God
the food         the baby     the hunger
the starfish hand with translucent fingertips
the wrinkles of your face
the memories of seventy years
and knowing your wholeness at another's touch
the brokenness
the cry at the bottom of the mine
the song from the top of the tree
All God, All God
all pouring itself out 
for you, heart
dear crazy crying heart
listen to your song.        Ah.      Amen.

6. "I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will." ~Edward Everett Hale, Unitarian minister

7. Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. 

8. Some lines that I love, from Dylan Thomas's Fern Hill (I hope he'll forgive me for chopping his poem down to a few lines):
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green, The night above the dingle starry, Time let me hail and climb Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means, Time held me green and dying Though I sang in my chains like the sea. 

Golden Girl

I'm the golden girl at work right now.

It is both flattering AND extremely uncomfortable.

The flattering needs no explanation. The extremely uncomfortable? I said to my boss this week, "When you are the top, the only way to move is down. I'm not looking to move down right now."

I'm not looking to move down. But given my performance of late, everyone is asking me, "What DO you want to do here?"

I used to want a career. And the attendant power and authority that came with being an Executive Director or CEO. My career ambition in high school? A very modest "to be the first female president of the United States." (Sorry Hillary, but it isn't yet your time.) In fact, I remain $19,000 in student loan debt (down from a high of $90,000, thank you very much) as a result of my pursuit of not one, but a greedy TWO graduate degrees.

But now, when asked this question, I simply respond, "I want to make a positive contribution, and earn  enough money to have a life worth living." I want to travel worry-free, I want to share exciting experiences with my loved ones experiences, I want to have a beautiful home.

So, this golden girl is taking a step back, evaluating her options, and choosing the path that will help her live a robust life without the hassle of a career.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Narcisselfie: A new word

Narcisselfist - someone who shares an irregular number of random self-portrait on social networking sites for no other apparent reason than to passively solicit some sort of empathic reaction from friends both real and virtual. I experience narcisselfists as needy, attention grabbers - regardless of whether the reaction they seek is a "You look mahvelous" or "Gah! I'm so sorry that happened to you!"

I understand selfies taken and posted when something extraordinary is happening - sharing the euphoria of a visit to the Taj Mahal (or the Grand Canyon or even America's Stonehenge), documenting a special date with family or a dear friend, or even showing off a particularly flattering haircut. To me, these selfies are best understood with clear explanations - so no opportunity for misinterpretation of the intent of the photo. "Look! I'm at the Taj Mahal! "lucky" or "Yup, I really DID get my hair chopped off. I love it."

But selfies taken and shared for selfies' sake? I read them as pure, irritating narcissism.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

In a past life...

...I was clearly an animist.

The evidence, you ask?

I intentionally rotate my underpants in the drawer, out of a concern that underpants that might not get as much wear will feel bad because I'm not using them.