Saturday, May 31, 2014

every new beginning ...

And so it begins. The die is cast. The bearing is loosed in the Rube Goldberg machine. It matters not where the bearing lands; what number comes up. It matters only that it has begun. 

The couple beside me - so earnest, so young, so tacky, so lost, so happy. Playing grown-up together - she in her push up bra, platform heels, mini skirt, high-pitched giggle. He in his dressy jeans and 'not a T' shirt. They got engaged today, on this her birthday. You can see they want to enjoy the complimentary champagne the waiter has brought them, but ... they give up and ask for Caesars. 

The menu is a challenge. She just wants steak, but doesn't see it listed. There's sirloin, and tenderloin, but those are foreign words to her. He will take care of her now, as he has promised to do for always. "Just look for anything 'Angus'," he coaches her. She also doesn't know what chimichurri, aioli, or demi glace are, but at least she's willing to try what the waiter recommends. She's relieved when he tells the waiter "she doesn't like any red in her steak, but don't make it tough." The waiter understands. Is a pro. Smiles without a hint of malice or judgement. 

They can't stop checking their Facebook congratulations between bites. Reading to each other who said what. He has more comments for now, but knows she'll have more once she posts a picture of the ring. Her parents have weighed in online. Dad says she's too young. Mom says they already had kids by her age. Dad is right, but it doesn't matter now that the ring is on her finger, now that the status is updated. 

I wish them well and take a backlit photo for them. Cynic that I am, still I wish them well. The die is cast. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

your mouth is lovely: a review

"We all receive a life sentence at birth ... It is a sin to break under the weight of it" 

Your Mouth is Lovely, by Nancy Richler, has everything that I love in a book. Beautifully detailed characters who grow through time and circumstance. Philosophy that reads like poetry. Language that tells a hard truth gently. Historical relevance. A female focus. It has been a long while since a book has kept me awake until 2 am, and I was disappointed in myself when this one fell on my face as I simply couldn't stay awake any longer. 

Your Mouth is Lovely (the title comes from the Song of Solomon and is apparently a blessing Jewish mothers say over their children's first words that the words they speak will stay true and gentle), follows the story of 19 year old Miriam from her birth - and earlier - to her imprisonment in Siberia, from which she is writing her story. Although a story that bounces between the 'in real time' narrator and the story she is telling can be a difficult trope to manage, Richler does it elegantly, with few spoilers and none of importance. Miriam is writing to a daughter she may never know, telling the baby girl the story of how she came to be. In the process, it seems, Miriam also discovers how she came to be who she is, and particularly the influence of her step-mother and the other women who raised her in contrast to the mother who birthed her then immediately drowned herself.

Life in Russia at the end of the 19th century was hard for almost everyone (thus the Russian revolution), but especially difficult in the isolated Jewish villages such as the one Miriam calls home. Like the mist from the swamp their village borders, a harsh beauty and struggle colours grey the lives of the people in Miriam's village. Limited options, superstitions, bullying, poverty all encourage the young people - and in particular the young women - towards revolution. While life when she gets to Kiev is not easier, it is a life of Miriam's choosing. 

Although the men in Your Mouth is Lovely are a quiet lot, when he does speak Miriam's father Aaron Lev's words stay with you. His theory of water, as his theory of life, gives peace and encouragement. It's a peace and encouragement that linger after the book is back on the shelf. Revolution, riots, struggle, and in the midst of it peace and love and humanity. 

Amazon Associates Link

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Seriously . . . I'm Kidding: a book club review

Oh, expectations, you ruin things every time. I have really enjoyed The Ellen Show the few times I've caught it; I think her stand up was hilarious, and I expected to enjoy her book to the same degree. I have to say though, when it comes to Seriously . . . I'm Kidding, Ellen Degeneres is seriously 'meh.'

Actually, it's worse than that. Ellen wasted my time. She missed an opportunity to really say something. I know she has things to say, but this whole things struck me as wimpy. Even when she broached on a potentially meaningful topic, for example being a 51 year old lesbian Cover Girl, she would go for the cheap joke that erased any hint of social commentary or personal insight.

That's not to say that there weren't funny moments. There definitely were - times I actually laughed out loud. That's no measure of anything though; given the right set up or enough wine, I'll laugh at almost anything (too much wine and I'll cry at almost anything, but let's not go there). My overwhelming impression was the old 'enough about me - what do you think of me?'

I'm learning that I don't enjoy disjointed books with super short chapters that don't relate to each other. Especially when every one seems as though it should end with Fozzie Bear saying 'wocka wocka wocka.' I also think this book was a lame cash grab. There are chapters that are literally one or two sentence 'zingers' with no zing - her three-book contract must include page number minimums, or she has stocks in Weyerhauser.  I also wonder why I paid $16.50 (+ tax) to read approximately a bazillion advertisements for The Ellen Show. You're doing okay, Ellen, you don't need to alienate your readers. 

I like Ellen - I really do. I think she can be charming & entertaining in a very un-celebrity way (yes, that is a compliment). I wouldn't classify myself as a fan, but I enjoy her well enough. It might be that the audio book would be an improvement as you'd hear her cadence and delivery. That might be true, but since I am still old/fashioned enough to enjoy the feel & smell & experience of a printed book, I can't vouch for that. Read as it's written, this book just falls flat.

Image links to Amazon Associate page

Well, this was a first. Seven out of seven attendees at book club, and one write in vote, didn't like and wouldn't recommend this book. I think even Jennifer Weiner did better than 0 for 8, or at least if we didn't like her book there was some suggestion of it not being a total waste of time and it inspired deep conversation. Ellen's book didn't even offer that.

What is never a waste of time is getting together with the ladies. Being invited into each other's homes (in this case a very spacious and charming condo building meeting room with furnishings and red shag carpet right out of the 70's, but spotless. I really should have taken a picture). Chicken cacciatore, wine, squash, angel food cake (or a gluten-free coconut nanaimo bar - YUM!) with strawberries and whip cream. Babies, laughter, sharing, updates, Erin Long. What more could a book club want? If the occasional book is a dud, at least we still have dessert and wine!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


This thought has been reverberating in my head since I heard Dr. Henry Cloud say it at a leadership event last week: 

Ever since I decided/claimed/noticed/decried a couple years ago that I don't have an all consuming passion I've lived as though that means I don't have any passions at all. That's simply not true, but it has been a handy cop-out for not actively engaging in the things I am passionate about.

Yes, I have had a few other things to tend to in the meantime. Yes, life has a way of washing right over you if you don't set up some break-waters and sometimes all you can do is cling to a buoy (or in this particular case a boy). But eventually, you need to give your head a shake and get back to swimming.

And now that that metaphor is suitably exhausted, here is a random (in order and inclusion) sampling of the things about which I am passionate: 
  • my family
  • creating, seeing, recording, consuming things of beauty and interest
  • word wrangling and devouring the wranglings of other word wranglers
  • teaching others the power of their words
  • travel
  • trying new things
Clearly lack of passion is not an issue. As for item the second, ability, well I'm no Jill-of-all-trades but I've got some skills here and there - I'm pretty good with the words and stuff, and with telling people how to do things that I know how to do. I'm sure that if I sat down and did an inventory, I'd come up with a longer list - some things I love doing, and some things I know how to do but don'es necessarily want to.

So I have passions. And I have abilities. I suppose what has been missing of late is combining my passions & abilities to meet a need. I suspect that when a recipe is this simple, any single missing ingredient changes the outcome.

So ... I had a lot more I was going to say. Stuff about how a Venn diagram that showed my passions in one circle and how I spend my time in another circle would closely resemble a drawing of the earth and the moon, and how I'd like to change that. Some people have a passion project. I think, for the next while, passion is my project. Ya, I think it's time to step away from the couch and get into some passion action. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Daring Greatly: a book club review

From the top, this was a tough one. I was glad that Brené Brown's Daring Greatly was chosen for our book club retreat read as I was fairly sure from the get go that we'd need time and space for the conversation. That proved true, though maybe only because so many of us expected it to be that way. In truth, I don't know that I've ever finished a personal development book - I find them both dull and confronting - but the added impetus of book club was a good motivation. Brene Brown's work has been increasingly popular, particularly since her TED talk on vulnerability. I haven't watched that, but was intrigued enough to look forward to the book.

There's a lot to Daring Greatly - life, love, leadership and parenting looked at through a lens of vulnerability and courage. The link between vulnerability and courage, and important work of letting others in and connecting - of allowing love. The murderous power of shame and the power of vulnerability to weaken its power. It's all powerful stuff, and, if you're someone who has done a pretty good job of not needing people, it's not all that easy to take in. Shame requires us to keep people at bay. Vulnerability is the antidote to shame. It can be a bit vicious ... and damn freeing. I don't really feel I can give a clear review of the book as everyone will get something different from it - probably exactly what they need.

My big take-away from reading Daring Greatly was the encouragement to 'dare' to be the adult I want my sons to be. The funny thing is, I often want to be more like them - to have J's big-heartedness and courage and N's humour and honesty. Yes, there are lessons they can still/will always learn from me, but the lessons I learn from them are pretty amazing. To be honest, I got to the parenting chapter, which happens to be the last chapter, and stopped. My sons are adults and I've already screwed up - there's no changing that now, I thought. 

And then I got talking with my book club ladies, and was encouraged to read on (not to mention good girls don't show up at book club without finishing the book ;-)  and there on the second page of the chapter Brown says "Now, if you are the parent of adult children and you're thinking that it's too late..." I may have laughed out loud. Or I may have shuddered at her prescience. I'm not entirely sure, but I read on. 

It's never too late to apologize for when I used shame in parenting instead of correction. It's never too late to apologize for the role I had in my sons not feeling they are worthy of love and belonging. And, it's never too late to begin modelling whole-hearted living - being someone who is working towards always remembering that I am worthy of love and belonging. It's not too late to let people in, to shine light on my shame, to ask for what I want, to be honest with those I love and with those who love me. It's not too late.

If every weekend could be book club retreat weekend, what a happy life this would be. We booked two two-bedroom cottages at Beach Acres resort in Parksville, BC, which is the perfect balance of peaceful, fun, comforting and special to make a get-away a retreat. 
While not everyone in the club was able to make it, there were enough of us to keep it fun without being overwhelming. A loose schedule, room to roam, late talks, a trip to the spa, endless tapas, endless wine, open hearts. It's only been 9 months, and I can't imagine not sharing my life with these amazing women. 

Jazz hands make good-bye so much easier. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...