Saturday, July 04, 2015

About Time

Pat had me watch a DVR'd movie called About Time, starring a little known ginger actor named Domhnall Gleeson. He actually played a Weasley in the Harry Potters, the sidekick in Unbroken, and recently, Caleb the main character in Ex Machina. It involves Tim (Domhnall's)'s ability to time travel. Only he doesn't use it in the usual fictional way to alter the course of history. He makes little changes in his own life, and sometimes goes back when he doesn't like the result and undoes the change. The overall message is to take note of the life you are living and make it count, enjoy it, improve it for someone else.

The mood of the movie (the content, the music, the setting {England}, the odd choice of actors) was rather melancholy and reminded me different moments I've had where I wonder at the confluence of events that brought a particular group of people together at the same time and place. It usually happens at less everyday events such as a concert at ISU, an out of town ball game, a play, etc. where we are having a collective experience but are not otherwise connected. It reminded me that this fall will be the last of Eli's college music performances. Other parents will one day populate the CPA for their children's concerts. I won't be in that time and place again.

Tim also uses time travel to relive precious moments, notably at the end of the movie, which made me unbearably sad. Haven't we all had times we wished would never end...I've often thought I would like to go back and spend one hour with my babies again. Or my toddlers, teenagers, young adults.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Words

Reading is many things to me: an escape from boredom or stress, an education on history and the diversity of people, an elaborate fantasy world, a moving picture more vivid than HD. I can live in a book the way Miss Suzy lived in a dollhouse (one of my favorite childhood picture books about a squirrel who snuck into an attic to live). But most of all, reading is how I define myself.  Not only do I snobbishly categorize myself as a "reader," reading has helped me more than anything else learn who I am and who I want to be.

As a child, I was more of an indoor kid, and since our TV was kind of jankie, and my house had an endless supply of books, reading was the habit I formed. Since we didn't have many kids in our neighborhood, I spent a lot of my time reading. I was lucky to have a cousin Amy who not only handed down cool California clothes, she sent us the latest books. I was the first girl in 6th grade to have "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret." That was how I learned about puberty, boys and social interaction.

As an adult, I retreat into the fantasy world of books to escape stress and anxiety. Nothing captivates and distracts me like a 3000 page Ken Follet triology. I felt I could relate more to my grandfather who served in WWI after reading "Fall of Giants." I had little school training (or memory) in history, so I have filled in the gaps through historical fiction, one of my favorite genres. Sometimes I get mixed up on whether I have seen the movie or read a particular book, so vivid are the pictures I draw in my mind.

I am in awe of writers who can take ordinary words and combine them in an extraordinary way. It's fascinating how endless the arrangement of the English language is. I love to write down similes and metaphors from books that I find genius:

"Her voice, like some confused child, made my throat feel as if it were splintered by razors."

"The place was radioactive with memories." 

"He looked over his bifocals and rearranged some throat phlegm." 

Books are my friends when I have moved to new locations where I didn't know anyone and many other lonely moments of my life. I can curl up with a good book on a sunny day as easily as a rainy day. "Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy" had me laughing out loud and "Dark Places" had me internally vomiting but unable to put it down. The funny friend and the scary friend. "The Day I Went Missing" was the how-not-to handbook for my profession.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in "Infidel" helped me justify my belief that abuse and violence against women should not be tolerated in the name of religion or cultural diversity. Augustus Waters in "The Fault in our Stars" taught me I don't have to make a large mark on the world; my small mark is good enough. Marie-Laure in "All the Stars We Cannot See" gave me hope of a resilient, long life in spite of the most profound losses. And these are just a few of the recent lessons learned.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Divining Hour

My favorite time of day is between 3 and 5 o'clock on the weekends. All the busyness of the morning errands and rituals is over, my afternoon nap has just ended, and I am still fuzzy from awakening not quite sure what day or time it is. Relieved or longing for a moment more in that dream world. A diet Pepsi is bringing me slowly back to life, and the evening is not yet encroaching on my conscience, or is it conscious? Dinner plans are percolating in the back of my head, and I might take a stroll outside if the sun is bright and warm, stopping to feel the warm bricks on the buildings of Randolph Street. My cashmere sweater, puffy coat and fleece gloves are a bit much on this particular day. The clocks on the Square are confusingly disparate, leaving me wondering what time it really is, or temperature. I wish someone would come to the door selling Girl Scout cookies.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Head or Heart

From The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe:


I know that I am making this decision from the heart. I know it is the wrong thing to do. 
No, said Mma Potokwane. It is never the wrong thing to do. Never.

This exchange made me think immediately how I always make decisions from my head. I often write out a Pro and Con list when making a big decisions, and I became enamored with the Decisional Balancing Scale that I learned from a therapeutic workshop. My heart tends to be sadly pushed aside as reason and intellect and rationality seem a better basis for action.  

Recently I have been working with Dialectical Behavior Therapy which promotes a Wise Mind approach. Combining the Reasonable Mind and the Emotional Mind will result in a good decision or reaction to situations. This therapy was designed for people whose tendency is towards emotional decisions and reactions. The opposite of me. But when they talk about how your emotions can be a valuable asset to listen to, I have to agree.

I can think of a few times I have consciously let emotion guide decisions. Those that come to mind are when I have decided to break rules or ethical standards because I "feel" it is the right thing to do. For example, I have loaned money knowing I would probably not get it back, or done something that may be perceived as enabling because the person was down, or old or whatever. 

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Infidel

Just finished reading "Infidel" loaned to me by a friend who has similar taste in books. However, this was a totally different kind of book, biographical and politically astounding. Published in 2007, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born Muslim and was a 'true believer' experiencing many forms of violence I had only vague knowledge of. Her enlightenment began in her teens as she struggled with her faith, eventually immigrating to Holland to escape arranged marriage, lack of respect and inferior education and employment (that would be the mild version). She came to speak out very publicly against the intolerance and violence of the Islamic culture and the Quran itself. She was one of a very few Muslims to speak out against Islam and multiculturalism in the wake of 9-11. She was elected to the Dutch parliament to advocate for abolishing segregated religious schools, ending violence against women and keeping proper statistics on honor killings, female excision, domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. Her life has been threatened continuously since.

I'm wondering what my cyber friend http://ginniehart.blogspot.com/ thinks and knows of the book and life of Ayaan and Muslim women in Holland, since Ginnie is now Dutch herself.

If you watch Ayaan's short film, Submission Part I on youtube, there are so many disturbing, ignorant comments. I almost feel writing this barely read blog could endanger me in some way. Ayaan's collaborator, Theo van Gogh was murdered in 2004 by a Muslim after making and releasing this film. This is a very provacative topic, and all she is fighting for is what we, in the United States, take for granted: freedom. And for Islam to move into the 21st century so that all people can prosper.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Epic Hike

One of my proudest moments of 2015, although it's a little early to call a whole year, has to be the Epic Hike that Betsy, Cal, Ethan and I had in the icy canyons of Turkey Run State Park on 1/2/15. We decided on Trail 3, marked "very rugged" but only 1.7 miles, about what we were looking for. The trails at Turkey Run follow and cross ravine stream beds multiple times, a fact that was not lost on me, having fallen literally into a creek the day before while crossing on icy rocks. My entire right side was soaked and I had to go directly back to the Inn letting the others continue their "moderate" warm up hike on our first day of arrival. I did have a very peaceful swim at the Inn's pool so I didn't totally regret it.

Anyway, that Friday was a bit warmer day, as we crossed the suspension bridge which leads to the Rocky Hollow-Falls Canyon Nature Preserve and an abundance of wonderful and scenic trails, not to mention challenging. Betsy kept asking if this was the trail she had fallen on her behind and slid down a couple of years ago when she and I traversed it in a good firm snow pack of February. If it was, we had come through the opposite way, going down the ravine. This day we were headed up the ravine and the water was running but all the rocks and many other surfaces were slick with ice. A couple was ahead of us and turned a steep corner of rocks and disappeared while Ethan took copious pictures of icicles and minutiae he thought would make artistic photographs *we have yet to see any pictures from this professional grade camera he got about a year ago*.

So, we begin struggling up the slippery rocks, all the time I am keenly aware of how cold I will be and how far from the Inn we are this time, if I fall into the creek again. We are already questioning our ability to keep going and the warning in the trail guide that this particular trail can be impassable in inclement weather, when the young, healthy, dressed about like we are, couple comes back down the ravine, saying, "Nope, you can't do it." We're like, "Really?" They're like, "Yep, you can't make it without going through the creek and we don't have boots." So, they pass back down the trail and disappear and I'm like, "I don't want to give up without even looking at what we're up against."  We are now on a very wet, slick, pass but Ethan volunteers to forge ahead around the bend with Cal in pursuit. Betsy and I carefully continue on, hyper-aware of our middle age and health status, and that two whippersnappers just gave up. I have to admit I had the idea that I could will myself through this trail, and relished the challenge. Just the same I was a bit scared. I was last around the corner of lubricious rocks, gingerly and laboriously minding each step until I reached my companions who are eyeing said "impassable" part of the creek bed. Somehow we have to cross several feet of water (too far to jump), which is about a foot deep. We discuss possible strategies and while looking around for an alternative route, Ethan and Cal spy a large branch (ice covered, mind you) and decide we can make it into a bridge. They throw it down and don't have much trouble bouncing across, followed by Betsy hobbling over with a helping hand from her sturdy son. Now, it's my turn; I buck up and start across grabbing Cal's firm grasp about half way across, as most of the ice was on his end, and quite thick I might add.

We are all ecstatic and continue up the ravine. We end up back on the other side of the creek shortly thereafter, and Ethan, Cal and Betsy, scale a rock wall on a ledge above the water, telling me all I have to do is keep my body pressed against the rock so I don't lose my balance and fall backwards into the creek. I put my first foot in the hold and mentally start freaking out. I can't do it. I can't make myself trust these slippery rocks to not send me into the creek on my head causing a major concussion and possible broken bones. Nope, not gonna do it. The team gives me encouragement and a pep talk, but I flat out refuse. Ethan is standing in the middle of the creek above me on a flat rock that is somehow jutting out above the water line, but I can't get there without scaling that wall.

They start looking around again, and Cal has the brilliant idea we can bring the big branch up to this point and I can cross the creek on it, so Cal goes back down to drag the large branch back up. I side step across with an assist from Cal and we continue up the canyon, the next obstacle being to ascend a steep rock wall. Again, the other three make it up first, then Cal reaches down and drags me as I crawl upwards. From that point on, it remained rugged but passable. An older couple is coming the opposite way, and we warn them it's treacherous, but if they use the branch we left behind they should be able to make it through.

Finally, we emerge from the canyon, to wooded areas, however, we are still waiting for the 170 steps that are listed on the map. The hike goes on and on and we step down three ladders into another creek bed, and meet a family who was behind us initially with two toddlers in backpacks (obviously they had turned around and took the trail the opposite direction). I'm thinking, no way these people are going through because it's already been at least an hour and a half. They managed the ladders which I thought was pretty amazing, though somewhere they lost the grandma (grandpa was hanging in there with them). At one point, we pass the young couple and proudly tell them we made it through without falling in. After a full three hours and a pocketful of fruit roll-ups later, we got back to the car. It was like a being on a challenge course, and using teamwork and the resources at hand to accomplish a mutual goal. What a day, what a hike, I am so happy, and I have the bruises to prove it:


Those are pretty much the worst looking legs ever.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bob aka Free Booklet

I wanted to explain something from my last post, that is, why did I call God "Bob" and "Free Booklet?"  It's something my parents, especially my dad has been saying for years. First, Bob was the God of one of the planets in the science fiction novel "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy," a book I have never read but my parents revere. As for Free Booklet, there was a commercial at one time stating, "The creator has a name. Few know it: Free Booklet." Ever since that classic quote, Dad has favored calling God, Free Booklet.

As Betsy declared on Christmas Eve, I come from a long line of atheists. Well, not so much atheists as agnostics. Kind of odd, being that my father was raised by a God fearing, Bible toting, fundamentalist father and mother, and I don't mean that derogatorily. From all I know of my grandparents, they were the very best kind of Christian people, that practiced what they preached. They even took me to week long Revival Bible camp in Jamestown, ND. They would probably be horrified to know that 8 year old Susan was sneaking off to meet the caretaker's son, Brian Hettler, with whom I had fallen in love, and later claimed I would one day marry. So much for my religious training.

My mom's family was more traditional Protestant eg. Methodist. My mom's interest in church was more having an outlet to sing in a choir or listen to an inspiring speaker, which was last apparently the case in 1968. My dad can quote the bible with more ease than anyone I have met, yet views it more as piece of literature. One day, he will meet Free Booklet and know all the answers.