Thursday, September 12, 2019

September 12, 2019 WE ARE THE WORLD

 9/11. Elvis' death. Pearl Harbor. Assassination of JFK. Apollo 11 landing on the moon. The Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Titanic sinking. Bombing of Hiroshima. Michael Jackson's death. Lennon Assassination. Sandy Hook. Columbine. Princess Diana's death. MLK assassination. Can you remember where you were when any of these events shook the world? I can remember exactly five. It's funny how these and many other events become a part of us. I thought about this yesterday because it was 9/11. It's hard to believe that it's been 18 years. AND yes--I remember exactly what I was doing when the first plane hit-- as do most other Americans of a certain age. What's really mind blowing is that most of my students don't really know much about it. It's just another day in infamy to them. Violence and wickedness are commonplace in the world they live in.  Every other day there is a mass shooting of some sort. Innocent people die and we are helpless to stop it. The world has definitely NOT become a better place since 9/11. So disheartening. UGH. That's why I read books--the great escape. And what better way to escape then in Rebecca Makkai's kooky novel The Borrower. 
Lucy Hull, the main character of this outlandish novel, is a 26 year old children's librarian in Hannibal, Missouri. One of her most dedicated  patrons is 10 year old Ian Drake. Ian is a precocious, insightful, avid reader whose reading list is limited because his mother is an extreme religious fundamentalist. Because she feels sorry for him,  Lucy helps Ian hide and borrow the books he wants to read. Lucy's concern for Ian grows after she meets his strange mother and learns that Ian has to attend anti-gay classes at his church. One morning when she gets to work, Lucy finds Ian camped out in the library. He has run away from home. Although she should bring him home, Lucy finds herself torn and the next thing she knows they are on a road trip together. This quirky book is about two "odd balls" who essentially kidnap each other and end up finding themselves. This clever novel with interesting characters and many hidden literary references only add to the fun. It's about 350 pages or a 4 mile run that will keep you guessing and shaking your head.

Friday, September 6, 2019

September 6, 2019 COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN

Did you know that only 7% of communication is verbal?? That means 93% of communication is NON-verbal.  I'm talking about --body language--gestures--facial expressions. Sounds crazy but I'm here to tell you it's TRUE. First week back at school--I get some VIRUS--and CANNOT SPEAK AT ALL. Crazy because TALKING is a huge part of my job. No Worries. I worked around it. It was the QUIETEST week of my life. Students REALLY PAID ATTENTION AND HELPED ME. I learned to incorporate other teaching modalities--AND--they in turn --utilized different learning modalities. It was very cool. A WIN-WIN. I digress now. Parents. Now that you know the statistics (they are real) think about them when you talk to your OWN kids. THEY ARE ONLY LISTENING FOR TWO MINUTES. Say what you need to say--QUICKLY--THROW IN A LITTLE BODY LANGUAGE --BE QUIET--or you're just wasting your time. ENOUGH SAID.

Do you like historical fiction? Love stories? Time travel? If you do, then you MUST read Lisa Grunwald's new book Time After Time. Set from 1925-1948 in Grand Central Terminal, Joe Reynolds one of the main characters in the novel, is a leverman for the station.  He is in charge of pulling levers and directing the flow of trains in and out of the station. Nora Lansing is a Manhattan socialite who appears in the station one morning in 1937 dressed in flapper clothing, looking totally out of place. After bumping into Nora in the main terminal, Joe is determined to find out more about her. After searching for her for several months, Joe finally finds her again-- in the exact same spot--but it's  1938  and she's wearing the same flapper outfit. Don't want to say too much more other then Nora's comings and goings have something to do with a solar phenomenon known as the Manhattanhenge (this was real) and Grand Central Terminal.  Grunwald does a great job with the history of the terminal--Biltmore Hotel, Oyster Bar, Whispering Gallery--she really brings this city within a terminal to life. I am a sucker for this kind of book so I really LOVED it. It's about 400 pages or a 4 mile walk that I literally read in 2 days. Couldn't put it down because I had to know what would become of their love.

Monday, September 2, 2019

September 2, 2019 KILLING ME SOFTLY

ALLERGIES. If you've ever suffered through them--you're feeling my pain. I didn't get allergy problems until I was in my thirties. One day I was fine and the next thing I knew--I was getting 6 shots a week for 5 years. Between the months of April and June I suffered-- stuffed up-- horrible rashes around my eyes-- sinus infections every other week.  I've been  Allergy Free-- since my desensitization--until the other day. THEY'RE BACK-- I've got post nasal drip--headache--tingly ears--burning eyes --and my throat feels SO raw it's painful to swallow. What the HELL. Thought I was done with  this crap. The scary thing is that I've never had allergy problems THIS TIME OF YEAR.  Praying this is just an ANOMALY. The thought of going through testing again and ANOTHER 5 years of shots makes me want to CRY. Hoping a cup of hot tea will make things better.

Tea and soup make everything better in Marsha Mehran's International bestseller Pomegranate Soup.  Not sure how I missed this heartwarming book when it came out in 2005, but I couldn't resist buying it while I was in Ireland because the author's first name was Marsha. This lovely book is about three sisters, Marjan, Babar, and Layla, who escape Tehran during the Islamic Revolution for a better life. After seven years in London working and saving money, the trio decide to settle in Ballinacrough, a small Irish town,  to open the Babylon Cafe. While many of the residents welcome the girls and their Persian dishes, others including Thomas McGuire, who owns most of the town, try to drive the them away. One of the things I loved about the novel was  that every chapter began with a recipe that had been woven into the story. I'm actually going to try making one of the chicken dishes later this week. So, don't hesitate to read a great story that's well written--and get a good recipe. What more do you want?? This little gem is only 250 pages--or 3 miles--and a real treat.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

August 22, 2019 FREE FALLIN'

 Believe it or not--I fell again.  How many times can ONE PERSON FALL-- Seriously?? I can NOT believe my bones are still intact. OK--So I've fractured my elbow a few times--my ribs a few times but NEVER A CAST. Knocking on wood right now. This time--I was running to my car in the rain and SLIPPED. Banged the SAME ELBOW--whacked my Back--Tailbone-Wrists. It's been 9 days and I'm still BLACK & BLUE --with a sickly tinge of YELLOW.  Actually--ICING 3 of my injures-- while I write this blog. Sitting on an ice pack--another wrapped around my knee--another wrapped around my elbow. Trying to recap my falling history. Fell off of a trampoline--hit by a truck--hit by a car- rollerskating/ice skating falls--Nine months pregnant tripped over MYSELF--sidewalk falls --sand falls--running falls--rain/ice/snow falls. OUCH. THERE ARE TOO MANY FALLS TO COUNT. No worries. Still out running--walking--and doing  some WRIST-FREE yoga. CAN'T KEEP ME DOWN FOR LONG.
The same could be said for Bhima, the main character of Thrity Umrigar's wonderful novel of 2018 The Secrets Between Us. Before I go any further, I need to tell you that this is the sequel to The Space Between Us which was a National bestseller in 2006. In the first novel, Bhima has been a servant for the Dubash Family in Mombai for over 20 years. After her granddaughter, Maya, reveals a crime against her by a member of the Dubash family, Bhima is fired and forced to find a new way to support her family. As  The Secrets between Us unfolds, Bhima's only wish is  that her granddaughter attend college and have a better life, and for that to happen,  she needs money.  As luck would have it, Bhima meets Parvati, and older woman with a sad past,  at the local market and the two become unlikely business partners. As their friendship grows, the two women learn to live on their own terms and make peace with the past. This is a story about second changes, friendship and the  survival of women at the lowest end of the caste system in India. It's about 350 pages or a 4 mile run worth every page.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

August 17, 2019 EVERY DAY I WRITE THE BOOK

REREADING BOOKS. I wonder how many people actually do it--besides me. There are actually many reasons to reread your favorite books--you know--the books that you hold dear to your heart. I spent the last week rereading ONE OF THEM. The books I reread are the books I'll never forget.  They are the books I buy and keep in my library because I want to keep them close to me so that I can reread them whenever I want. The characters in these stories speak to me and become almost real. They are people I'll never forget. I actually remember their names--which is crazy--because I can't even remember the names of my own kids. It doesn't matter that I already know what's going to happen--that's not the point. I guess I reread books because the writing is so special that I want to enjoy it again. They are like old friends--comforting to be around. Instead of reviewing a book today--I thought I'd leave you with a list of  books worthy of rereading to inspire you to either read or reread one.
Books I have REREAD:
-A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry 
 -A Widow For One Year by John Irving
-A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  -I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
-Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  -Bleak House by Charles Dickens
-To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
 -Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
-The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson Cullers
Books I NEED to REREAD:
-Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte     -Son of the Circus by John Irving
-A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles  -Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
-Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham -The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
-Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton          -The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
-Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout 
ENJOY!


Friday, August 9, 2019

August 9, 2019 ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT


There are many mental and physical benefits of yoga. Not only does it increase flexibility--balance--muscle tone--strength--circulatory health--energy--vitality--weight loss-- It also makes you more MINDFUL. And that is the KEY. Because it teaches you how to breathe--clear the mind-- AND--live in the moment--It actually reduces stress--anxiety--depression. Yoga has personally helped me get into the GRATITUDE HABIT. Living in gratitude has  changed my whole mind set-- focus on the POSITIVE.   Okay--so I can't run like I used to--that's okay--I'm grateful that I can run and enjoy it. It's easy. And it really works. It's a game changer. The power of positivity is underrated--it attracts others and even changes the atmosphere. Now that's power!  People really prefer to be around people who make them feel good.  Negativity poisons--Positivity helps people thrive. It's a NO brainer. My yoga teachers stress--We have to take care of ourselves first. Then we can take care of others by  shining  our light--gratitude--positivity--kindness-- on others to make the world a better place. If you're looking for other ways to make positive changes in your life, you might want to pick up Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project. 
The Happiness Project is essentially Rubin's one year personal journey to reevaluate her life and make some changes in order to make her life happier.  Rubin first identified the things that brought her joy. Then she made resolutions followed by actions that would help her attain her goal of living a more satisfied life. Some essentials of happiness in her book included--boost energy--remember love--aim higher--make time for friends--pursue a passion--pay attention and keep a contented heart. Rubin spent a month on each resolution and learned many things about herself and her family in the process. One of the interesting things about the book is that she draws on scientific studies about happiness as well as philosophy and the experience of others. There are definitely many parallels you will find between Rubin's struggles and your own as she tries to balance--work--kids--husband--and her own happiness. This self-help book is about 300 pages or a 4 mile run that could put you on the road to starting your own happiness project.

Friday, August 2, 2019

August 2, 2019 GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD

Plastic bags. I'm not a huge fan--but confess that I've been using "Paper in plastic--packed heavy"--at the grocery store for years. Until Now--I know there is a NEW tax on plastic bags--WHATEVER--but that's not what changed my mind. While at East Matunuck State Beach yesterday--I had a life changing experience.  I saw a poor seagull walking along the beach with a plastic bag in its mouth. Tried to lure the plastic bag out of the seagull's mouth by offering it some food but it flew away. So sad. That poor seagull either choked to death or will have a slow painful death after the plastic bag obstructs its digestive tract. I can't stop thinking about it. The story gets worse. While trying to help the bird--a woman walked by and said, "Good it will die now." WHO SAYS THAT. I was shocked. WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO?? I turned to her APPALLED and said, " How could you say such a thing about an animal?? And she ignored me. I wanted to jump on her and punch her in the head. WHAT DID THE SEAGULL DO TO HER---steal a few potato chips??? When did HUMANS become so INHUMANE??
Juliet Armstrong wonders the same thing after she becomes a spy in Kate Atkinson's novel Transcription. Set during World War II in England, Juliet is recruited by M15 to monitor and transcribe the conversations of British Fascist sympathizers. As the war continues, Juliet becomes a double agent charged with  turning over sympathizers to the government. Her intrigues during the war are somewhat questionable and she gains many enemies who come back for vengeance after the war.  The novel then turns to the 1950's where Juliet and many of her cohorts are now working for BBC. She is a radio producer trying to come to terms with the war. Just when she thinks her war days are over, she is pulled in for one last job that could get her killed. I am generally a big fan of Atkinson but have to confess that I found this novel a bit confusing because it jumped around too much. She is a great writer though--so it could be that I'm just a bit preoccupied with other things. If you like mystery, murder, suspense and spy novels then you should give this a try and see what you think. It's about 350 pages--4 mile run--that I could see being made into a movie.