Of Coffee and Jellies

April 23, 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the annual San Antonio Public Library’s Book Festival. Out of a good many speakers, I chose to hear Juli Berwald the author of Spineless–the science of Jellyfish and the art of growing a backbone. She was very good–entertaining and well-versed in jellyfish. So now I am about half way through the book. The hubby is reading it as well. Who would have thunk it! Jellyfish are quite the animal! I’m looking up Jellyfish documentaries on Netflix asap.

I recently read The Monk of Mokha a tale of Yemen, coffee and a tenaciously motivated young man who resurrectes the coffee trade in Yemen. If you think this would be a bland read, guess again. It’s as rich as Yemeni coffee itself. And, there’s the volatile, multi-leg journey racing across Yemen–as it turns into a war zone–carrying his coffee samples to the conference that will make or break his multi-year efforts. Dave Eggers is the author and he never disappoints.

The newest book from Yan Martel, author of Life of Pi, is The High Mountains of Portugal. Three seemingly different tales weaving together with a slightly surreal tinge. Parts of it seems to go on a bit, but stick with it for a fine reading experience.

I dearly love British crime/mysteries whether they be books, TV shows or movies. Author Alex Marwood was recently recommended by Stephen King on Twitter. I figured her books were damn good if he recommended them. The Wicked Girls and The Darkest Secret are psychological thrillers hard to put down till you get to the end. And, as the Brits might say ‘bloody good characters’ as well.

Get a book or three this week and happy reading.


Our time as an illusion

March 30, 2018

Albert Einstein’s famous declaration “time is an illusion” is explained in his book Relativity. Einstein writes: Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent “now” objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated. It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence. ( read more) 

It’s hard to believe that my grandson Justin Carter was arrested for an alleged terroristic threat five years ago in Feb. 2013. To some of us, the years may seem to have gone fast. To Justin it was probably an eternity of waiting, his life on hold, unable to move in any direction–a stagnant place of worry and inaction. This week, a plea deal was made–thanks to his amazing lawyers–and Justin is a free man. He moved to Colorado with his dad where he ‘begins a new chapter’ of his life. (read for details of plea)

Justin also set up a GOFUNDME page to raise money to help him get started in his new life. He was unable to use the internet for five years, even to seek a job. He did work at a restaurant for minimum wage for the past few years.

In this week’s time that I spent reading, I immersed myself in New York’s Bohemian world of the late 60’s-early 70’s with Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethrope in Smith’s amazing prose memoir “Just Kids.”  

In what seems like both a long time coming and a short time to get ready, we are in the real time of planning our big vacation trip to Minnesota during two weeks in May. Grandsons to see, one for the first time and their parents, we have been looking forward to this for months. 

As I approach my 71st birthday in June, time seems to have gone by rather quickly. I lie in bed some nights trying to remember events throughout my life, just for the sake of remembering.  As the implications of time swirl in a no particular order, I try to I keep in mind the biblical concept that “God’s time is the best time,” as I appreciate all the times past, present and future.


Last week’s mind expanding info

March 1, 2018

A couple of things I learned last week:

Some veggies, like carrots and spinach, are healthier cooked than raw–from Prevention Magazine

I also found that frozen, cooked spinach is very inexpensive and great to add to soup, rice, casseroles…the opportunities to go green in your diet are endless.

The Black Panther movie was very good, determined by the fact that I thought about it quite a lot afterward–one of my ways of judging a movie or TV series. Also, the women characters in the movie kick-butt.

Emma Gonzalez kicks-butt and my hope for a new generation of smart leaders is renewed. For undoubtedly Emma and her fellow students activists are those leaders. She also has more Twitter followers than the NRA. Yay!

Donald Trump is still lying every time he opens his mouth and he still doesn’t understand how the government functions.


Hallelujah for bringing in another new year

December 31, 2017

As I approach my 71st new year I am eternally grateful for all my blessings. What with multiple national disasters this year–fire, wind and water–me and mine have managed to be unharmed. Of course, no one remains unscathed (unless you are already filthy rich) from the disasters of our fake president and his administration. This has been the year of more fervent prayer than usual.

A tradition which began about 4,000 years ago, marking the new year seems intrinsic to our human nature.  It is the time of year we appreciate and celebrate the cycle of renewal and rebirth. This practice probably made more sense when the new year began at Vernal Equinox or the first day of spring.  Even so, about 400 years ago, when January became the first month of the year in the Western world, we continued the old tradition–just at a different time.  It is an opportunity to reflect on the previous year, to start afresh, begin anew, and, maybe make those new year’s resolutions.

New Year's foods

A Texas tradition is eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s day for good luck.

During the past year and into the present, I will continue trying not to envision a horrible outcome of any particular situation; panic, worry, or obsess over things that are not in my control. I hope to do more attending of events, movies and such as well.

As you contemplate your own New Year’s resolutions, think about how you can: spend more time with your family and/or friends; go outside; broaden your horizons with a book club or class; exercise 30 minutes a day; bring joy into your life; bring joy to others.  Let me know.


Thawing out

December 24, 2016

So here it is.  ‘tis the “season to be jolly” has come ‘round again. I’ve been stuck these past few weeks in the post-election blues and my brain felt frozen. But today I did my “Merry Christmas” phone calls to grandsons and a couple of old friends. It worked somewhat to elevate the spirits without actual spirits, but that will surely come later.

I decided to make a Christmas wish list/New Year’s resolutions:

I wish the next Congress will not slash and burn Medicare and Social Security.

I wish my grandkids won’t end up glowing in the dark.

I wish for the cream of humanity to rise to the top and leave the sour milk behind.

I wish for us to be kind to one another.

Next year:

I will try to experience something new at least once a week.

I will spend less on food and eat healthier.

I will not let social media freak me out and stoke fear.

I will hate the cat a little less, maybe…

This a beautiful Christmas picture I saw today on my daughter-in-law’s Facebook page. I think it came from Realm of the Faerie Garden

christmas-picture

So, Merry Christmas, dammit!

 

 


So many books, so little time

August 6, 2016

It’s past time for another list of books I’ve read. And, I have been busy. Earlier this year, I reacquainted myself with our San Antonio Public Library’s availability of Kindle downloadable e-books. It has grown much since I tried using it a few years ago and found it lacking in the books I typically read. Now, it seems they have acquired many more titles and ‘copies’ of titles. Thank goodness, because it was about to come down to food or books, and you have no idea what a hard choice that would be.

galloway booksA friend of mine recommended the Ruth Galloway series of mystery books written by Elly Griffiths. I decided to make sure we read the series from the beginning and in order. We made the mistake of reading all the Louise Penny Inspector Gamache mystery books out of order, mostly because of availability from the library. That kind of sucked because the development of the recurring characters relied on timeline events.

Both the hubby and I read the first Galloway book The Crossing Places and were hooked. Interesting realistic characters, intriguing mysteries, great setting in England. Ruth is an archaeologist so there is some ancient English history thrown in as a bonus. I have always been a sucker for English mystery authors. They solve the crime in a way that pulls you into the story, with rich characters and always a touch of wry British humor.

Now we’ve finished the lot and I’m on to other books on my list created from various “best of“ reads from the internet and magazines.

euphoriaEuphoria by Lily King is an amazing book. I think I read it in about three intensive days. Euphoria is a fictional story based on a 1933 expedition to New Guinea by Margaret Mead. “Told through the eyes of Gregory Bankson, a fellow anthropologist and friend of Nell and Fen Stone, the book describes a fractured marriage under further pressure in a botched field trip. Interspersed with Nell’s journal, the author gives a very realistic characterization of the culture they are studying.” This from a review from The Library Thing

oliveTwo more very good books were Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout, which I found strangely personal. It is a Pulitzer Prize winner, which always means a quality rorchardistead; and a mini-series as well.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. This is one of those books that makes you sad when it ends. This is a first novel for Coplin, but she must have an old writer’s soul, because it is epic and beautiful.

I just finished a rather long, detailed non-fiction book about Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mina Crandon and others, titled quite aptly, The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and witch of lime streetHoudini in the Spirit World. If this doesn’t intrigue you and you don’t like long books, it might not appeal. Took me a while to get into it, but once I did, it was very good. Though Houdini adamantly fought against spiritualism, it left me (at least) feeling not so sure there aren’t spirits floating around and someone might be able to channel them. You also learn a thing or two about Houdini and Doyle you probably didn’t know.

Happy reading!


Oh, the horror of it all

July 3, 2016

The exact definition of a scary movie can be frighteningly hard to express. There are hauntings, thrillers and paranormal activity. Movies with sinister classic characters, monsters, sci-fi with monsters; movies with slashers, or just a lot of blood and guts. There’s lots of cross-over, and much discussion and difference of opinion. But for the purposes of my ‘small blog’ suffice it to say “I love scary movies across all genres”

When I was about nine years old and my brother just five, our mom would drop us off at a downtown Columbia, SC movie theater for the Saturday matinee. The house was full of unaccompanied kids watching a creepy 50’s creature flick—good scary fun! Tarantula, The Blob, Fiend without a Face, Invasion of the Body Snatchers were just a few. My little brother and I were terrified. We would scream, hold each other and try to crawl under the seats to hide our eyes from the horror of it all. When I began to have nightmares and walk in my sleep on Saturday nights, Mom finally decided we couldn’t go have the bejeezus scared out of us anymore. I think I was relieved and sad all at the same time.

Ah, but I was already ruined.

I have wondered why we humans like to be frightened. So I asked the almighty internet guru, Google. “There’s also a hormonal component when it comes to fear and enjoyment. The hormonal reaction we get when we are exposed to a threat or crisis can motivate this love of being scared. The moment we feel threatened, we feel increasingly more strong and powerful physically, and more intuitive emotionally.” This was written in a fairly recent article on the ‘science behind the scream.’  The psychoanalyst Dr. Carl Jung believed horror films “tapped into primordial archetypes buried deep in our collective subconscious – images like shadow and mother play important role in the horror genre”. Read more from Psychology Today.

From the article Our fascination with horror, “There’s something about horror that speaks directly and instinctively to the human animal. Millions of years of evolutionary psychology have ingrained in our minds certain fear triggers – a survival instinct.”  Think back to our more primitive days. Everything must have been fairly scary—hunting, fire, animals, anything new or unknown…being scared stimulates the imagination and our brains work on an adrenaline high to figure out how to handle the situation. Scary or adventurous tales told by the fireside and handed down for generations are part of our human cultural.

aliensLater on in my teens, Vincent Price was one of the favorite sons of scary movies. Every Tuesday night, we would make tuna fish sandwiches, gather in the family room and watch “Vincent baby” on our black and white TV.  This was also the era of Alfred Hitchcock, the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits.

Then I saw Psycho. This proved to be somewhat of a milestone in scary movies. It wasn’t even in color! I can tell you it took years before I didn’t at least think of the chilling, shower scene with its eerie little screeching sounds when I took my daily shower. I was eight months pregnant when I saw the Exorcist. I was petrified and couldn’t sleep for days.

Granddaughter Eve and I gave created a somewhat creepy tradition of our own as we gather the snacks and watch scary movies two or three at a time. I must admit I am not crazy about some of the new genre of horror films—the too much blood and gore. And Eve, thinks some classics like The Birds and Rosemary’s Baby were boring. We did agree on The Conjuring, The Grudge, Paranormal Activity (all of them) and The Ring.

Favorites? Oh yes. There is a startling number of favorite scary movies lists on the internet. This is a short list of a few favs of mine:

Aliens –which is probably one of my favorite movies of any genre

Dracula –the PBS series with super sexy Frank Langella

The Fly -Jeff Goldblum—be afraid, be very afraid

Freaks –if you haven’t seen this you should. A 1930’s classic

The Haunting –late night, no lights, home alone, best possible.

Repulsion –Roman Polanski made some great movies.

Penny Dreadful is a very good Showtime series that encompasses all your favorite classic scary characters is one show. Add all the American Horror Story seasons, especially “Hotel” with Lady Gaga.

This is a fun little scary video.


May you stay forever young

June 1, 2016
Me at 6 months

Me at 6 months

This is me with my mother at about six months of age, 68 1/2 years ago. We were living in Germany where my dad was posted for three years. I really don’t remember anything about Germany.  I used to think I’d had this dream about looking down and seeing all these tiny houses, people and trees. But, after talking to my mom about it, I realized it was what I had seen through the airplane window as we were landing back in the good ole USA.

This is a picture of me almost 42 years ago. It’s my son Jack’s, first birthday party and we are at the Besson family’s house in Austin, Texas. As my 69th birthday is Me at 28 years old, Jack at oneright around the corner, I’ve been reflecting, once again, on what an awesome life I’m living. Nah, I’m not rich or famous, but I am for the most part healthy and happy.

I am grateful for the many times in my wilder years God pulled my butt out of a metaphorical fire so that I can continue to enjoy life. I am grateful He gives me the energy to keep on learning. I am blessed to continue to meet and make friends with some smart, creative people—young and old. I’m glad I’m still around to grow older together with my hubby and kids and grandkids.

I know 69 years is not that old in these times.

But, it does feel like it’s down the road a piece.

I extend to you Bob Dylan’s words sung by Joan Baez “May you stay forever young”

May your heart always be joyful

May your song be always sung

May you stay forever young

 


Little Zen Moments

March 10, 2016

I wonder, if like me, everyone occasionally experiences moments where the world seems to stand still and the cosmos aligns itself in perfect harmony.  These experiences might last for a few seconds or several minutes.  But, before the gears of chaos engage again, I always have the overwhelming feeling “Woo hoo, life is good!”

I’ve thought perhaps these moments of clarity and tranquility could be a spiritual thing…maybe a split-second glimpse of what heaven would be like.  Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, believed there must be a little bit of Zen in all creative and spiritual experiences.  Not counting any drug induced euphoria, I believe each of us can experience our “little Zen moments” during our lifetime-if we tune in.

Here are some of my little Zen moments:

Sitting in the sun, by the pool. Watching the clouds drift by, listening to the birds, I feel my body and soul warming, the tension washing away, and I experience “the eternal happiness of the spotless mind.”  Although not all Zen moments can be recreated, this works for me almost every time.

Waking up in the morning and walking into the living room where all my grandchildren have flung themselves to sleep in the blankets on the floor.  I look at their beautiful, sleeping faces and think, “Yeah, this is the best moment of their visit.”

Walking downtown during my lunch break, soaking in the sights and sounds of the city, sometimes gives me the feeling of being so completely alive it is a Zen moment.  It is especially meaningful if you just say “howdy” to strangers.

At the Botanical Gardens, I sit on a bench and stare out at the riot of plants and colors and feel in ‘shock and awe’ of nature’s divine creativity of which all our lives are a part.

Listening to a “kick-ass” song on the radio driving home after a great workout at the gym.  Go endorphins!

Having a cup of Oolong tea on the back patio with my hubby.  Sitting in the breeze, watching the bats come out at sunset, I feel the multiple activities of the day moving out of my mind.  This unfortunately does not last as long as I would like, ’cause the evening’s tasks soon take up residence.

If you don’t recognize your Zen moments, I urge you to learn to do so and then, please share.

PS I wrote this several years ago, but was reminded of it today.


Confessions of a Streaming Addict

August 30, 2015

OK, I admit it’s true. I am addicted to streaming.

Several years ago we cut the cable TV and bought a ROKU box. The ROKU is a magic box that allows you to watch a variety of streaming channels including Netflix, Amazon Prime, news and movie channels and a whole lot more on your TV set.

My first favorite was watching TV shows in binge mode. No commercials, pause when you want to, watch a whole season in back to back episodes. Who could ask for anything more. I started out with “The Tudors” and nip tuck“Nip Tuck” and progressed to “Mad Men.” Recently, I watched all 196 episodes of “Supernatural”–not all at once, silly.

My grandkids share their favorites and they have surprisingly good taste. Or, at least we agree on genres. My granddaughter and I watch horror movies–the old classics and the new not-so-classic like “Paranormal Activity”.

One grandson suggested “Six Feet Under” six feet underHe said it had the best ever last episode of any series. I watched it and agreed. I like “Hell on Wheels” and lots of the BBC murder mystery series–some of which are many years old. And, of course, “Downton Abbey”. Nature and science programs also show up on my recommended list.

orange is the new blackThe new Netflix originals are a great addition to the already amazing amount of choices. “Orange is the New Black” and “Sense8” are super.

Another really nice feature, for a person hard of hearing as I am, is to activate the closed captioning. It has made a world of difference in my viewing pleasure.

I list more of my streaming favorites on Pinterest and books I read too, if you are interested in more recommendations.