It’s Not About the Bike

Armstrong, Lance. It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.New York: Berkley Books, 2001.

I read this in one sitting, again as a passenger on a trip from Maine. I had the luck (?) of traffic on my side so instead of the usual 4.5 hours to get home it took us over six.

I will be 100% honest. I don’t know what to think about this book. When I first finished it I was expecting some sort of lesson to be learned, some sort of moral to the story. Instead I found the ending as well, an ending. The end. I’m not sure why it wasn’t more for me. I guess it’s because in comparison with Matthew Long’s recovery back to athletics Long’s process was more drawn out, more detailed. I felt that Long’s experience was more painful and not as easy to cope with emotionally. I think that was due, in part, to how little time Armstrong spent describing his road to recovery. In comparison to Long, Armstrong made it a much simpler process with much less emotion. To be fair, one man was hit by a bus and another was hit by cancer in three different areas of his body. Only two similarities really rise between the two men. Both men were ordained by doctors to die and both had an insane willpower to defy all odds and, ultimately, get back to the sports they loved so much.

Everyone knows Lance Armstrong’s story – man with cancer defies the odds and wins the Tour de France a shocking seven consecutive times. But, as the title of Armstrong’s story suggests it’s not about the bike. Instead it is about a different kind of competition. Fighting cancer. Ultimately, as near death moments will do, cancer changed him. It woke him up to the possibilities of a fuller, more meaningful life. He never would have become a philanthropist without the experience of personal pain. It’s Not about the Bike is that journey from hotshot cyclist to a powerhouse with a greater purpose.

Favorite lines: “If there is a defining characteristic of a man as opposed to a boy, maybe it’s patience” (p 65). “During our lives we’re faced with so many different elements as well, we experience so many setbacks, and fight such hand-to-hand battle with failure, head down in the rain, just trying to stay upright and to have a little hope” (p 69). Finally, “We watched the World Series and tried to act like we were interested in the outcome – as much as anybody really cares about baseball before brain surgery” (p 110 – 111).

Author fact(s): Two of my favorite details about Armstrong as the person (and not the writer) is he is also a marathoner (three times) and allegedly agnostic.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 23)


Fall Asleep Forgetting

Packard, Georgeann. Fall Asleep Forgetting. New York: Permanent Press, 2010.

I have a love-hate relationship with books like Fall Asleep Forgetting. The problem is Packard’s writing is too good. Like a delicious meal I couldn’t slow down when it came to eating it up; devouring whole chapters at a time. What’s wrong with that? In truth, this is a book meant to be savored slowly. The writing is delectable, deliriously rich and expressive. One minor distraction is character focus is a little out of focus. I would have preferred Claude as the obvious heroine rather than swirled in a mishmash of other incredibly strong personalities. Because Fall Asleep Forgetting really is about Claude and her strange involvement with a married couple, Paul and Sloan, that fact really needs to be teased out. Paul is dying and his wife is bisexual and mentally ill…sort of. Claude is caught up in their relationship until it becomes her relationship, her obsession, but as I mentioned before, she is not the only one. There is nine-year-old Six and her parents Rae and Sonny, Cherry the transvestite owner of the trailer park where most everyone lives and her partner Barton, and elderly Mr. and Mrs. Saugerties. Each one of these characters has a unique and tantalizing story.

Quotes that I really hope are kept: “Once your parents hate you for who you are, the scorn of others in mere child’s play” (p 42), and “I see now that equal parts repulsion and attraction make for the most voracious form of lust” (p 124).

Personal note: I was really excited to see e.e. cummings quoted at the beginning of the chapter called “The Curving Support of Feather Pillows” (p 129). ‘Milly and Maggie and Molly and May’ is a great poem. My only argument would be against calling it a poem about just Maggie because Milly, Molly and May all had important parts.


October 2009 is…

October is a full month of spooky. October is a small 5k charity run and a 10k walk. October is homehome and everything emotional. October is also Mary’s memorial, the death of a few trees (finally) and the end of warmer weather. For books October is the hope of:

  • Crocodile on the Sandbank  by Elizabeth Peters ~ in honor of National Crime Prevention month
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Freidan ~ in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month
  • The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis ~ in honor of October being Group Reading Month
  • Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis ~ in honor of Halloween (sci-fi being a little scary to read)
  • A Fine and Private Place by Peter Beagle ~ in honor of Halloween ( a story about ghosts)
  • House on the Strand by ~Daphne Du Maurier~  in honor of National Starman Month

For LibraryThing ~ I did get an October Early Review book. As always, I don’t want to name it until I actually see it.


Terms of Endearment

McMurtry, Larry. Terms of Endearment. New York: Signet, 1975.

I really should have a “on a whim” category because this was not on my list to read this month. In fact, this was not on my list to read until May 2010. Here’s what happened. I was home, had no desire to slog through Herzog, saw Terms of Endearment on my mother’s bookshelf (saw it there for years and years), knew it was on The List somewhere, and in a split second decided to read it. I don’t regret the decision. I was able to read it, start to finish, within two days.

Terms of Endearment is the kind of book that makes you feel things. Larry McMurtry has the ability to make you change your mind about the people you meet…several times over. In the beginning I saw Terms as a story about a bunch of miserable people. I was shocked by the hatred these people carried around (see ‘shocking quotes’ below). I didn’t think I would like a single character. I saw Aurora as nasty and Emma as just plain pathetic. By the end of the book I had completely changed my mind about everything and everyone.
The premise for Terms of Endearment is really quite simple. It’s the story of a mother and daughter and the relationships that orbit around them. Aurora is a Boston widow transplanted to Houston, Texas. She has five different “suitors” who tolerate her abrasive tongue and haughty manner and despite all that, continuously vie for her hand in marriage. At first she appears caustic and self-centered. Selfish and conniving, she bends situations to suite her ever-changing needs. Her story takes up the first 324 pages and by the end of it you realize she is a woman of conviction who simply tells it like it is. Emma, her daughter, at first appears to be one of Aurora’s victims – always manipulated and belittled. The strength of their relationship and the depth of their love for one another isn’t readily apparent until life gets complicated for Emma. Emma hasn’t married well. She hasn’t been educated and she has bad hair. On the surface she is poor and pathetic. But, true to McMurtry form, by the end Emma is a strong, defiant woman.
My only disappointment about Terms of Endearment is the inclusion of Book II, Emma’s story. 324 pages are dedicated to Aurora while Emma gets the last 47. I don’t really understand the need for separate “books” when Emma’s story – her bad marriage to Flap, her pregnancy, her lifestyle and relationship with her mother – are all woven seamlessly into Aurora’s story. Emma’s portion of the book seems weak and it’s inclusion, an afterthought.

Shocking quotes: “She was convinced that she could have stood in the driveway dripping blood, both arms amputated at the elbow, and Cecil would still have driven up, said “Hi Toots,” smiled broadly, and squeezed her stump” (p 16).
“She would have liked to have a heavy chain in her hand, and if she had had one she would have hit him with it, right across the lower part of his spine. If it broke his back, so much the better” (p 32).

BookLust Twist: In Book Lust in the chapter called, “Three-Hanky Reads” (p236).


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.