Friday, May 29, 2009

give a book, get a book

I joined PaperbackSwap a few months ago and it's great. It's an online book swap networking site. You list the books you are willing to swap. You mail it out to an interested reader. You get a point when your book is received. And then you can cash in that point to request a book from some other member. It costs about $2.30 to mail each book.

I'm at a point where I've accumulated several points and want to order some sure-bet summer reading. There are a LOT of books to choose from.

Which brings me to the reason for this post. I would love to hear your suggestions, some of your favorite novels read over the past few years. Books that stand out as having been "one of the best books I've read in a long time." Or "books that I couldn't put down." As I said in my previous
post, I'm not into pain or violence or scary. So no murder mysteries or Stephen King, please.

Oh and I did see The Wrestler. As promised, I kept my laptop open through quite a few scenes, all of them, I think, took place inside the ring or in the locker room. I was glad I saw it. There were several emotionally wrenching themes presented in an intelligent, sensitive manner, having to do with substance abuse, parenting, and aging out of careers. It clearly was not about the wrestling so much as the man who is wrestling with his personal demons.

But back to the books. Here are a few of the books that fit this description for me. I prefer women authors but there is one favorite male author who has never disappointed.

For Love by Sue Miller. One of my favorite authors. The story of a woman whose mother enters a nursing home. She returns to help get the family home in sellable condition. She explores her long crumbling relationship with her mother and brother. She evaluates her teetering marriage. She revisits a key childhood friendship. I felt like I was listening to a client or a friend try to reconcile her past with her present. Oh, and if you don't know what a porte cochere is, like I didn't, you can see one here.

Fall on Your Knees by Anne-Marie MacDonald. I read this one years ago. I love novels that delve into childhood associations of Catholic teachings and how they interplay with other religions. I don't wonder why. I grew up a Catholic school girl whose next door neighbors were holy roller Presbyterian on the one side (we choreographed dances to gospel quartet music - her father played stand up bass) , and a liberal, somewhat eccentric (compared to my family's conservative conventions) Jewish family on the other. This novel is set in Nova Scotia. It spans the early 20th century and beyond WWI.

Three Junes by Julia Glass. This one I consider a found treasure. You know how you're walking along and out of the corner of your eye you see something that sparkles? You pick it up thinking it will be an old bottle cap but instead it turns out to be a gemstone? Three Junes was like that. The title caught my eye on the library shelf. I hadn't heard a thing about it. I brought it home to give it a try and I loved it. It's a story of a Scottish family with a matriarch who breeds dogs, her husband, their son who is gay, the family's struggle with acceptance, and the son's life in NYC.
Atonement by Ian McKewan. Although Amsterdam was the McKewan novel that drew me in first and probably is still my favorite. The movie, Atonement, was very well done. The mystery of the logistics of the library sex scene was answered, thanks to the visual aid that is film.

A Round Heeled Woman by Jane Juska. One of the bravest contemporary memoirs I have ever read. Real life "edge of your seat," interpersonal and emotionally moving tale of a woman, late in life, looking for love and connection.

The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve. Another of my favorite writers. This book of hers is my most loved. And I still have not seen the screen adaptation, starring Sean Penn. What is my problem? Adding to my "movies-to-rent" list now.

So how about it, reader? Have any suggestions for me?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

wrestling with the wrestler

Because I am such a generous and thoughtful spouse, I rented "The Wrestler" about an hour ago. SAM wants to see it. Me? Not so much. Not after hearing Fresh Air's Terry Gross interview director Darren Aronofsky. Several times she tried to pin him down on the issue of his seeming obsession with "pain." So right now SAM is sawing logs on the sofa and I am thinking I might not wake him up.

Because me? I am definately not into pain.

A love story between an aging wrestler and an aging stripper? Oh my, yes.

But I do not want to see men throwing themselves at each other in a ring, inflicting all kinds of unnecessary pain. I don't like seeing wrestling period, if you want to know the truth. Or boxing. Or fight clubs. No thanks.
So maybe I'll just keep my blog screen open and hit a few links whenever the pain begins.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

waking up from bad dream, mad at partner

Those of you who got to this post first and saw nothing but a title probably thought I was posting a reminder note to myself to write about this topic and then hit the publish button by mistake. Well, you would be right wrong. This empty blog post was intended as a little known psychological method referred to as a projective sentence completion device. Or, in this case, "projective title provided, reader supplies blog post." Psychologists are the only specialists who can use projective testing methods, doncha know. I have to keep my skills sharp.

But I was glad to see that virtually everyone who commented indicated I am not alone in this. Well, that's not accurate. I actually know I'm not alone because I hear it from my female friends and female clients. I have not heard of this phenomenon among any many men, unless it is to complain that the woman in his life blamed him for cheating in her dream. He usually is shrugging his shoulders in helpless exasperation, "How can I be responsible for something I didn't do?"

To which I always reply, "You must have done something. Now fess up."

I mean it isn't called women's intuition for nothing, right?

It doesn't earn me many brownie points as a friend or many return visits to my office. But I am just justifying my own f*cked up behavior keeping it real.

I am certain there is some scientific data somewhere to help explain this embarrassing fascinating curiosity of the female psyche but I have not personally read any. Maybe it's part of the emotional wave that Mars Venus author John Grey, PhD writes about. The dream brings on the tsunami. The poor guy doesn't see it coming. He doesn't get out of the way. Cold, harsh anger crashes all over him. He flounders.

The solution? Well, let's see. What does a partner do in real life when he actually has done something wrong? He apologizes. He grovels. He does an extra share of household chores. Or hundred. He promises to take the kids for the day while she gets an all day spa treatment. And then when all of that hasn't worked? He buys her flowers. Preferably roses. Red roses that signify passionate love. Because really? That's all she needs. Reassurance. Reassurance that he still loves her even when she wakes up with the emotional equivalent of an ice pick in her hand.

Is that so much to ask?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

the mind's playground

I woke one morning recently in the middle of a horrible dream. It was the mother f*cker of bad dreams. It hung over me the rest of the day even though I realized I was the lucky mom who got to wake up and say, "oh thank god, it was only a dream."

After waking, I pushed back the tears, calmed my wildly beating heart, and waved my kids off to school after hugging them extra close and extra long (hoping they wouldn't notice). I crawled back in bed. I couldn't move, or think, or function.

It was the kind of dream that I will not be talking about. It's the kind of dream I would not want to walk into just any shrink office and share, waiting for understanding or absolution. No way. Not with the kind of dream analysis I've heard, was trained in, rejected years ago as wasteful, misleading, sometimes harmful, often a form of the therapist's projection rather than meaningful to the owner of the dream.

I was not responsible for the dream, even though in the dream I was responsible for the terrifying elements.

My husband came home to find me nearly catatonic, mentally at least. I tried to tell him about the dream, feeling silly to have been found so affected by "just a dream." The attempt at retelling unleashed a well of tears so deep that I couldn't finish. No, I told him, in whom I confide just about everything. I couldn't even tell him.

But the part I did manage to get out, in the retelling, put me right back into the terrifying feelings of the dream, felt again, and sent me into another crying jag.

But sh*t. I had to shower. I had work to do, clients to meet. The shower, I hoped, would clear my head and let me get past the tears. But no, more tears during and after the shower. My towel dried more tears than bathwater.

The drive into the office did help, finally. And focusing on other people's real life problems helped too.

In the evening my husband and I took a walk. He asked about the dream. I was able to tell it all. And then I felt relief. Someone else knows the script that ran undirected through my head.
"Oh god!" He said. Yeah. It was like that.

I met with friends later but couldn't tell them about the dream. Wouldn't. I don't want to be judged, or figured out, or any other dimestore interpretation thrown my way. I don't want my terrifying, imagined ordeal to be retold.

Dreams do not represent us. They do not tell a story of what we want most deeply but cannot admit. Or not always. Sometimes they tell a story of what we most deeply fear, what we worry about for ourselves and our loved ones. And as any mother knows, we worry a lot.

And I have been worried much, lately. Life has thrown a curve ball that millions before us have faced, many have triumphed brilliantly, but too many have fallen under the staggering burden.

And while this dream only touched briefly and indirectly on the actual theme of my worry, the finality represented the loss that I fear.

Dreams, I believe, are the playground of the mind. The cat is away so the mice can play. The CEO is sleeping so the mind can take it's memories, experiences, and feelings and turn them into a story of it's own creation. Make crazy stories. Scary stories. Fretful stories. Hopeful stories. Sometimes the story holds value and meaning. Sometimes it's just a kalaidoscope of randomness.

Some dreams motivate us to take action. This one did. First I looked at the most dominant feelings in my dream: Uncertainty, fear, resignation, regret, grief. I looked hard at the uncertainty. How do I face this particular problem? What can I do? I decided I need to do something, to take action. To move past the passivity and into proactivity.

I reached out farther than I have in the past and have taken steps in a direction contemplated for some time.

Those steps? So far so good. My fears have settled down. Hope has taken up a larger space. Maybe some future dream will guide me toward the next step.

How about you, reader? Have you had a dream that motivated you into action?

Image, The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau, found here

Thursday, May 07, 2009

poodie baby

Here's another post about a dive-bar-in-Austin. With a "most beautiful baby" twist.

Poodie's Hilltop Bar & Grill is located about 20 miles west of Austin, in a little fork-in-the-road town called Spicewood.
The owner and namesake, Randall "Poodie" Locke, was Willie Nelson's longtime best friend and head roadie. AKA, the man-who-makes-it-all-happen for Willie's shows.

I went to Poodie's once, I think, with my best friend to see her drummer boyfriend's band performing. On this night, Willie's son, Lucas, was behind the bar. It looked like he was the bar back, fetching beer, as needed, to put in the coolers. Nothing fancy about the place. Just a down home, friendly atmosphere with a cold beer at the ready.

I always wondered where Poodie got the nick name and why it stuck. This morning, two local radio jocks (KVET) answered my question.

The story goes that when Poodie was a baby, he won "Most Beautiful Baby" contest in Waco, Texas. His big sister, then two years old, was apparently trying to tell others how "purty" her baby brother was. "Poodie baby." Aww. That brings a tear to my eye.

Poodie died last night. He was 56 years young. He had a long braid down his back, loved to play golf, and had "had a hug for everyone."

Poodie put a sign across the front of his Roadhouse, "There are no bad days."

I bet Willie would disagree today.

Willie was out in San Diego to accept some award when he heard the news. He's flying back to attend his best friend's funeral. That brings a tear to my eye, too.

Rest in peace, Poodie.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

update from the cold country

Displaced Yankee that I am, I don't get to say "from the cold country" anymore and I sometimes miss it. So I should be thankful for this swine flu mexican flu H1N1 Influenza A virus subtype H1N1 simple cold I have had the bad luck to come down with during a pandemic uproar.

But I'm not. I'm mostly semi-miserable in my non-H1N1 status.

I am posting from the same couch I always post from my sick bed to update readers and say thank you, bloggy friends, for your comments and emails asking after my health. I'm sputtering along. No flu diagnosis. I have stuck to my "just say no" to doctor visits promise. Our newspaper warned, afterall, that people showing any of these symptoms:



sore throat

body aches




should call their doctor but to not simply show up without an appointment. WTF?! The article says doctors may not want flu sufferers sitting in their waiting rooms breathing on the other patients. And since I don't know how to not breathe, I decided it was wisest to just stay home where I can, you know, continue to breathe without contaminating anyone.

Meanwhile, I vascillate between feeling incredibly irresponsible and incredibly superior to those numbskulls who would follow the advice of the CDC and visit their doctor, get tested, wait three days for confirmation and in the meantime be instructed to do exactly what I am doing already.

So my update is as follows: I'm alive and breathing. I am also coughing, sniffling, clearing my throat of ever thickening phlegm because I've never learned how to efficiently hock a loogie (I am not alone, I see). I am blowing my nose into Puffs with Lotion (a luxury: I normally buy the cheapo brand) and generally lazing around while taking advantage of appreciating my husband's efforts to appease the Queen of All Ills. This includes but is not limited to ordering in pizza and serving me Weight Watchers GIANT Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Bars at my whim.

It's a swine's dog's life but I'm suffering through it.

I am also drinking a LOT of water, as advised, about 16 ounces everytime I pass by the kitchen sink. Which means, when I am not drinking the water, I am sitting in the john powder room necessarium, catching up on my Newsweek subscription.
Which isn't such a bad thing. Just an annoying thing.

All this to say, I think I'll live. And thanks for asking.