Strangled Charity

I have a decidedly dumb dilemma. Books. Too many of them. Well, more accurately I have too many uncorrected proofs. Nearly 70 different titles. In the beginning…we’re talking 2006..I was asked to join LibraryThing’s Early Review program. Here’s how it works: ever month LT posts a list of new books to be published and you request one to be reviewed before publication. I have been honored to “win” nearly 70 early publications and I have reviewed them all. Well, let me clarify. I have faithfully reviewed every title I have received. I’m still waiting for two…

In the beginning it was a pride thing. I was so thrilled to be asked to join this program that I saved every single book I was asked to review. I wanted to keep an entire collection of “librarythings” to mark the accomplishment. But now they are taking over! Ironically, the two favorites I wanted to keep I loaned away and never saw again (The Translator and Losing Clementine). But, back to the books I can’t keep. I argue with myself and moi about what to do all the time.

Here’s how it goes:
Me: We donate them to a charity?
Myself: It’s uncorrected proof. No one wants to read an unfinished product.
Me: We could donate them to a library?
Moi: You wrote tags, notes and stuff all through them. You underlined and dog eared pages. (Shame on you, librarian!)
Me: We could give them to friends?
Myself: And how would you decide who gets what? Think of that Orgasmic Pregnancy one! Who would get that?
Me: We could offer them up free to anyone interested near and far? FaceBook? They would just pay my shipping costs?
Myself: And what if people don’t send you $$ to mail them? You are trying to renovate your kitchen, remember?
Me: We could throw them out?
Moi: You would hate yourself and chase after the recycling truck to bring them back.
Me: We could just keep them?
Myself: Out of the question. You don’t hold onto books unless you love them. You are running out of room with things you don’t love.
Me: I do hate clutter.
Moi: See?

So. What to do? Maybe when the weather gets warmer I’ll set up an alfresco book store with a big ole “Free” sign and see what happens. It could be a study in sociology. Do people like uncorrected proofs? Would they mind my in-page musings? Do people like free no matter what? And who will take that Orgasmic Pregnancy book?


To Heaven and Back

Neal, Mary C. To Heaven and Back: a Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again.Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2011.

I was supposed to deliver this book to my mother. My aunt bought a copy for all of her sisters and it was my charge to make sure my mother got hers. Of course I had to read it before passing it along. I read it twice.
I am not a religious person. I lost my faith when my father passed away. Unfortunately there is very little anyone can do to make me believe in Heaven, Hell, or even God at this moment. I do believe in spirits and angels and a reason for everything. I think my father is still with me in weird ways, but I do not believe in the Bible.
Having said all that, I had a deep appreciation for Dr. Neal’s story. While it is centered around a religious faith there were moments that resonated with me; passages that moved me to tears. Dr. Neal was kayaking in Chile when she had a terrible accident and technically drowned. she was pinned under water way longer than a person should/could survive. While she was dead she experienced heaven and Jesus holding her. She believed she was spared because her purpose in life on Earth wasn’t finished. Throughout the rest of To Heaven and Back Dr. Neal recounts different moments where her presence saved the life of someone else or God’s presence had a hand in guiding her to make the right decision. Even after her son is tragically killed she found a spiritual way to push through the pain. It is an uplifting story of inspiration.


May ’12 is…

Hawaii. Hawaii. Hawaii. This is going to sound sick but I am trying to get psyched for an upcoming trip to the islands. Not The Island that I know and love. The Sandwich Islands. Hawaii. Or, more specifically Oahu and Maui. My first time to either. Here are the books that are helping me learn about Hawaiian culture and history:

  1. Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen , Lilioukalani
  2. West of Then by Tara Bray Smith
  3. Six Months in the Sandwich Islands by Isabella Bird
  4. Volcano by Garrett Hongo
  5. Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl (don’t you just love his name?)

In addition to that (completely unplanned) list I am trying to stick to the reading schedule. That would include

  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott in honor of May being Eeyore’s birth month (in other words, something sad)
  2. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan in honor of May being Asian American Heritage month,
  3. and last but not least, Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks in honor of May being sex month.

It’s a bit of reading but I think West of Then and Kon-Tiki are going to be really quick reads. Volcano might also be quick…not sure yet.
Oh! Two last books! For the Early Review Program (LibraryThing) – I almost forgot! I have the United States Coast Guard and National Guard by Thomas Ostrom and Letters to Kurt by Eric Erlandson. Both arrived this month. The Coast Guard book is a January book and I think Letters is a February book. So, a little late, but I’ll get to them! Letters to Kurt I’m sure I’ll read in a weekend or less. Hello coffee in bed!
What else to tell you? In less than two weeks I will be walking 60 miles for Just ‘Cause. In less than four weeks I will be saying goodbye to my cousin. What can I say? I can’t wait for June.


May 2011 is…

THE LIST:

  • To Sir with Love by Edward Ricardo Braithwaite ~ in honor of National Teacher Day (May 3rd)
  • Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann ~ in honor of Brockmann’s birth month
  • A Child’s Life and Other Stories by Phoebe Gloeckner ~ in honor of graphic novel month
  • Antigone the play by Sophocles ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Greece.
  • Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong ~ in honor Asian-American Heritage month
  • Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham ~ in honor of Memorial Day
  • Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery ~ in honor of Eeyore’s birth month (I’ll explain that connection within the review). I’m listening to this as a training book.
  • House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferre ~ in honor of May 5th being Cinco de Mayo
  • City of Light ~ by Lauren Belfer ~ in honor of May being History Month

Lastly, for the Early Review program for LibraryThing – Art and Madness by Anne Roiphe.

I put so many books on my list because a) a few of them are really, really short so I know I can read I can read them in 1-2 days time and b) I don’t have plans to travel anywhere until May 20th so I should have more time to curl up with several good books, and c) AFTER the walk I have ten days of NOTHING to do. I am picturing myself on the back deck, a glass of wine in one hand and a good book in another.

Confession – Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham looked so good I started reading it on April 28th. Sue me.
May is also (finally) the Just ‘Cause walk. I am not confident I did everything to train (but then again, there is only so much walking one can do), and I know I didn’t fund raise as hard as I should/could have. I am $100 off from the amount I raised last year. I am guessing not asking aunts, uncles, cousins, (mother), grandparents….anyone from my mother’s side to donate played a big part. C’est la vie. Or, to quote mom, “whatever.”


February ’10 is…

Off the top of my head, I’m not sure what to call February besides another cold, cold month. I could get all giddy and self-absorbed in the fact that it’s my birth month (so maybe I should be reading something by me – ha), but that doesn’t seem to be all that productive. Besides, my published work would take all of two minutes to read! February is a visit with Mr. Richard Marx II (formally known as Mr. Bubblegum). We have a date in three weeks. February is more time with Dr. Ruth. No offense, but after this month I would like to think I’m on the road to recovery and will not need so much attention in that area in the future. I have started training for Just ‘Cause and have moved my feet over 50 miles so far.

I should point out the obvious. This is late. February has also started out as my month to be overextended in a big way. Not sure if that’s a good thing.

For books it has been and will be:

  • Company of Three by Varley O’Connor ~ in honor of February being National Theater Month. Okay, so if you can’t get there, read about it!
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin ~ in honor of Black History Month
  • Warriors Don’t Cry: a Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High by Melba Patillo Beals ~ in honor of Civil Rights month
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder ~ in honor of medical workers in Haiti right now.
  • Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences by Edward Tenner ~in honor of National Science month.

There is a rumor of another LibraryThing Early Review book. The publisher was nice enough to send me a thank you for reviewing the book, but until I actually have it in my hand I won’t be mentioning it here.


May (2009) is…

May is huge. Absolutely huge and positively late. So out of control! A 60 mile walk for Just ‘Cause has had me busy. The end of the school semester has had me frustrated. May also means time with my mom – which I simply cannot wait for. A retirement party for people I barely know. The pool opening. A birthday party with sushi and laughter. My kind of gig.

For books it is:

  • Off Keck Road By Mona Simpson ~ in honor of becoming a Wisconsin becoming a state.
  • Bordeauxby Soledad Puerolas ~ in honor of Cinco de Mayo
  • Rise of David Levinsky by Abraham Cahan ~ in honor of American Jewish heritage month
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson ~ in honor of teen pregnancy month. Note: this book is not actually about a teen pregnancy but the book is recommended for teens. I’m stretching this one a little, I know!
  • The Victorians by A.N. Wilson ~ in honor of Queen Victoria
  • Where the Pavement Ends: One Woman’s Bicycle Trip Through Mongolia, China and Vietnam by Erika Warmbrunn ~ in honor of National Bicycle Month
  • Quarter Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser~ in honor of Memorial Day.

There is also a LibraryThing Early Review book. Forgive me if I can’t plug the name right now.


Writing While Walking

I set up a blog page just for my donors. I guess I’m saying this here so I don’t have to explain my time there. Aside from the cd release party for Sean (already written but Sean just sent me the set list), I won’t be over here that much – except maybe for book reviews. I think it will be good for me to get away because this walk for Just ‘Cause has brought me to a better place.


Broken Beautiful

I was invited to a Girls’ Night In last Friday. It sounded amazing. Pedicures, manicures, massage, pampering, girly time. Despite the temptation of all those pedicures and manicures I concentrated on another cure. By 5:30pm I was hitting the streets training for Just ‘Cause. I don’t think I can call walking “training” without a little smile on my face, but after five miles my hips told me differently. They gently reminded me I may not be able to finish twenty let alone times three. Doesn’t matter. I’m here for the cure. I’m broken but I’m still beautiful.

The Sunday sunshine saw me out again. This time I had kisa drop me off at the public library. I’d walk home from there. 5.5 miles if I did it right. I’m noticing my new neighborhood. My new town is beautiful but in a very broken way. Bottles dropped by alcoholics who have had more than their share. Gamblers casting off their loser scratch cards by the hundreds. Flattened things. Unrecognizable things. Dirty things. Things that make my eyes slide away. My favorite moment: a young cat peers out from under a sodden, mangled box with worry in his eyes. I smile with conspiracy. Have no fear. I won’t give you away. Stay stone still and no one will take you away to anywhere. We will walk on by. Promise.

I have decided there are more important things than worrying about what everyone else is doing. I watch people become sulky and sullen when they don’t get what they want and I’ve decided it’s none of their business anyway. Instead, I will pour my energy into something more worthwhile. Petty you is not pretty to me. Everyone will be in for a shock. Maybe I’ll get that pedicure after all. In pink. Then I can say I am living it right. Broken, but beyond beautiful.


Cancer Come Get Me

Carver, Raymond. “What the Doctor Said.” All of Us, New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2000.

“What the Doctor Said” is about a patient receiving word from his (?) doctor that he has cancer, a cancer so lethal the doctor “stopped counting” the tumors on one lung. You can’t pray but it won’t make a difference. It’s heart breaking and stark. The message is beyond clear. You. Are. Going. To. Die. No bones about it. No hope. No cure. No way out. Imagine that. You are D-E-A-D.

This poem is perfect timing for me. I have mentioned before I have signed up for a cancer walk. 60 miles in three days. The attitude is yeah-yeah another charity. I’ve even gotten an eye roll. I hear the words: So what? Big freakin’ deal. I shouldn’t take it personally, but it still amazes me. No one has asked how they can help. No one has asked ‘how can we donate to the cause?’ They can’t wrap their brains around the fact that this walk could save a life. This walk, this dollar donated might make a difference. It’s amazing. It’s as if the world has become cynical enough to say “you won’t make a difference so I won’t throw my money away.”

What happens when you get a life threatening illness? What happens when you are told you will die? How does it make you feel to have someone say it won’t help you? The attitude is “so why don’t you go ahead and die? It will be painful but just die because I can’t make a difference. I won’t make a difference.”

Drives me nuts.


For a Reason

It’s like a mantra. Things happen for a reason. Things happen for a reason. Things happen for a reason. I know this to be true. We didn’t succeed with the first few houses because they were not ours to have. Something bigger and better lay at the end of Ivy. The timing was all wrong in November. February couldn’t be more perfect. Things happen for a reason.

When my friend decided not to walk the twenty miles for Project Bread. I was not surprised, yet disappointed all the same. It took me a day to think things through. Would I walk without? Would I want to? It took me a week to bail myself out. Things happen for a reason. In reality, walking for hunger is a good cause for someone else. I am wedded to the crusade against cancer and domestic abuse. Been there, done that. Keep doing this. I decided to walk away from the Project Bread walk and find my Just Cause. 60 miles in three days. For breast cancer. This I can do. This I don’t mind doing on my own. I walk for Nor. I walk for me. This is the walk I am meant to walk.

When my friend of 35 years had a heart attack I had mixed emotions. A long history of ups and downs, goods and bads clouded my real emotion – fear. You don’t want people your own age to die. It’s not your time so it shouldn’t be theirs. Butbutbut, things happen for a reason. For the past three months I have wallowed in self indulgences. Since Thanksgiving I have been giving into temptations of every persuasion. Fat and lazy, I have become. When someone told me I looked beautiful I knew it was a lie. A sweet lie, but a lie none the less. I’m heavy. My heart failing friend woke selfish me, myself & moi up. Things happen for a reason. As soon as this house thing happens I am running back to healthy. I swear.

When a good, good friend brought up a painful memory it was hard to face it. Hard to take ownership of it and say yes, I really did do that. It’s unimaginable now, but yes, I really, really did that. Blame game. Pointing you out for no reason other than to strike out. Things happen for a reason. I’m glad you brought up the past and that awful time. I’m still struggling with what happened and more importantly, why butbutbut I’m done burying that past. I can dig it up and say I take responsibility for being so awful to you. I take all the blame for the blame game. It wasn’t you. Never was you. Sorry I said it was you. I’m seeing things better now that I’m so removed.


Just ‘Cause

I think I found my next charity event. In memory of Noreen.


January Was…

January started off and ended with a head cold (damn you, kisa), a really nice dinner party, a re-commitment to the houses HOUSE (glutton for punishment that I am), a re-commitment to charities with a big one – training for a 20 mile walk for Project Bread, a huge re-commitment to friendships and huge changes at the library. For books it was:

  • Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather in honor of New Mexico becoming a state in January.
  • Red Death by Walter Mosely in honor of Walter’s birthday being in January
  • Biggest Elvis by P.F. Kluge in honor of both Elvis and P.F. celebrating their birthdays in January.
  • Devices and Desires by P.D. James ~ in honor of mystery month.
  • The Eleven Million Mile High Dancer by Carol Hill
  • Edith Wharton: a Biography by R.W.B. Lewis ~ in honor of Edith’s birthday on January 24th.
  • The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman ~ in honor of Barbara’s birthday.

For fun:

  • The Letters by Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger ~ a story that partially takes place on Monhegan. How could I resist? This is the blog that was plagarized by some dumb-azz.
  • 30 pages of Nutritional Wisdom ~ a Christmas gift from my sister.

So I didn’t get a LibraryThing Early Review book in January. That’s not a big deal. I have certainly gotten my fair share over the course of the program so I’m not complaining. I do have to admit, I feel a little guilty. For the first time ever, I am really late publishing the review for the last ER book. Maybe that had something to do with it…who knows?

ps~ I did get one for February, or so I am told! 🙂


Accidental Walk Two

I didn’t mean to walk today. Wow. That sounded weird. Weird and incredibly. What I meant to say was I wasn’t supposed to put in a training walk for Project Bread today. I have a partner for this endeavor and I would prefer to put in the walks with her. But, here’s the deal. I have had a sore throat to the point of pain for almost a week. Someone with a lot of medical credentials at the end of her name asked me if I thought not being able to swallow for a week was normal. Okay, she had a point. I had been living on a “hot” diet for a week – anything cold killed my throat. I wanted nothing more than another week in bed.

Instead I found myself on the treadmill. Trying to read and walk at the same time. I wanted to walk two miles just to say I did. Laundry spinning behind me. Snow falling outside. Kisa on his way home. Me, trying to read The Biggest Elvis, book bouncing up and down. Just to say I did. I ended up walking to a program called “Rolling Hills.” Alternating speed, alternating incline. It was funny, trying to balance the book while all this was going on. In the end it was 35 minutes, 1.6 miles…and no sore throat. Whle I didn’t make two miles I’m psyched. I think I could get used to this walking thing.


Project Hunger Walk One

Project Hunger Walk One – No Laughing Matter.

Gone are the days I can hitch a ride without feeling selfstupid. I hate inconveniencing anyone. I hate relying on anyone. Carpooling with kisa is completely different. We both end up in the same place each night. When it’s all said and done he’s always going my way anyway.
This night was different. She needed me to get her to the gym and I needed her to drive me there. Worked out perfectly that we could work out together. Truth be told, I’m more out of practice than out of shape when it comes to being in a gym. Signing in, finding an empty locker, scanning the cardio equipment for something not in use and a little less than out of order and never mind finding two together.
She got the treadmill in front of me and I ignored the people to the right and left. Or tried to. What is it about treadmills so close together? Like bald tires on black ice my eyes kept sliding over to the chick chugging along beside me. She wasn’t running…yet. But, she was cruising. To avoid further jealousies I busied myself with starting my workout. At first glance I couldn’t figure out my machine. It’s like reading a book in French for hours and then trying to read German. Everything looks nothing short of hieroglyphics. My treadmill at home is completely different than the machine I was now trying to decipher. Sensing complete ridiculousness I pressed “quick on” and started moving.
Speaking of silly, it felt completely stupid not to run. It took everything I had not to crank up the speed to at least a casual jog, an offhand trot. Walking seemed…well…slow. So slow! Out of boredom I pretended I was walking in my grandparents’ day. Ten miles. In the snow. Uphill. Both ways. Then, slowly, I started to feel shinsplints. My ankles started to ache. I wasn’t making fun of not running anymore. This was actually going to take some work. Suddenly this walking thing was no laughing matter.

So, seriously: 2.2 miles/35 minutes. So it begins.


And So It Begins…Again

Every once in a while an opportunity comes along that seems almost too perfect to pass up. They are the moments that grab you by all the attention you have; so much so that you can’t look away.

I was on Face trying to save face. Normally, as my sister can tell you, I fly under the radar on FB. If she catches me “on” she considers it just that…catching me. Then she chats. Most of the time I don’t mind. It’s early morning and no one will notice. But, as a rule I don’t spend more than a minute looking at my own face. I say a few things to other faces and I’m outta there. But, back to the other night. I allowed myself to be “caught” by four different people (none of them being my sister, go figure)…for almost two hours.
When I was finally let go I came away committed. And with that commitment came the profound understanding that not only was I back on the TrainingForSomethingBig bandwagon, but that I was actually happy about it. And what’s more – I was looking forward to every little thing about it.

So, here’s the deal. We are walking for Project Bread. 20 miles. May 3, 2009. You read that right. Walking. 20 miles. I have kisa on the brain when I think about running anything more than five. I see his stern face and his No.Remember.Your.Knee look. It’s a look of concern. It’s a look of caring. But, it’s also an I’ll Kick Your Azz look. He was the one who had to put up with me directly after The Fall.

Duly noted. So we walk.