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Tag Archives: non-fiction

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesdays  participants can add the book to their To Read Lists if they like your teasers!

Laura Hillenbrand’s biography of Louis Zamperini in her novel Unbroken “is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.”

The men had been adrift for twenty-seven days.  Borne by an equatorial current, they had floated at least one thousand miles, deep into Japanese-controlled waters.

I miss Molly Ivins (a snippet from one of her books)

How I miss reading Molly Ivin’s column!

Excerpt from Molly Ivin’s book You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You.

Heart attacks, grand juries, DWI’s, divorces–this isn’t a story, it’s a saga.  Of course there is a different between [Bob] Bullock in his drinking days and Bullock today–he’s not quite a different person, but he sure is easier.  He went off to “Whiskey School” in California in 1981.  Six weeks later he returned to Austin in the middle of the night, sober and alone.  Only one person came out to the airport to meet him–Ann Richards.  He has never forgotten that kindness.

Just a couple of stories from the drinking years: One night Bullock and pal Nick Kralj (Bullock used to have any number of reprehensible friends) got bad drunk, went into the basement of Kralj’s nightclub, and proceeded to shoot roaches with pistols.  They claimed it took great skill.

On another occasion, one of Bullock’s early wives kicked him out of the house, presumably for good cause.  So he went to crash with his friend Carlton Carl, who was himself out drinking.  Unable to get into Carl’s apartment, Bullock crawled into the backseat of Carl’s car, which was parked in an alley, got under a blanket, and passed out there.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t Carl’s car, just looked like it.  When Bullock came to the next morning, he was being driven along I-35 by a total stranger who had no idea anyone was in the backseat.  After pondering his options, Bullock sat up and said to the unsuspecting citizen, “Hi there, I’m Bob Bullock, your secretary of state.”  Poor guy almost drove off the road.

Finders Keepers

If you have not been to the McKee ‘dig’  in Seguin, take a trip out there and learn about all of the artifacts that have been (and are being) found on this property.  It is amazing.

Michael Cary wrote about this find in the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise June 17, 2008:

SEGUIN — Local archeologist Robert “Bob” Everett paid a visit Thursday morning to an excavation site where hundreds of arrowheads, spear points and other Native American artifacts were recently uncovered along the banks of the Guadalupe River.

“This is the richest archeological site I’ve seen on the Guadalupe River in 35 years,” said Everett, a steward with the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Archeological Stewardship Network.

Craig Childs writes “with lyrical grace” about searching for relics.  Finders Keepers is a Great Read.

From Child’s book:

“It is a job.  Workers go out and dig.  They pull up every artifact they find.  Perfectly legal and not entirely academic, it is a workingman’s science.  Plats and blueprints tell where to excavate.  Practitioners are known as “salvage” or “rescue” archaeologists.  In information circles, they call themselves “shovel bums,” toiling through cities and along pipelines, where they remove all pertinent archaeology in the way of development.

“There is a growing demand for this particular brand of archaeologist.  Backhoes are digging up slave cemeteries and ancient pagodas, forcing cities to cough up their dead, and somebody has to deal with it.  Roman burials are cropping up in London while archaeologists in downtown Miami ponder a circle of postholes that were cut into bedrock a couple of thousand years ago, doing so on behalf of a frustrated developer who has been planning luxury condominiums for this spot.  After thousands of years of traffic, a marketplace in Cairo recently revealed a temple containing a four-ton statue of Ramses II that had been right under people’s feet.  Even in the slums of Mexico City, pieces of the fallen Aztec Empire keep showing up.  In 2006, construction work exposed a thirteen ton stone carving of an earth goddess, and when salvage archaeologists went in they discovered it was topping the tomb of an Aztec emperor.  This could be the biggest discovery in Mexican history, as they dig through the city’s wet,mucky foundations to find it.”

“. . . In his essay on whether we can actually harm the dead, Geoffrey Scarre of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Durham, England, wrote, ‘Whilst a bone may be no more animate than a stone, it is the relic of a man or woman who once thought and felt, was happy and sad, loved and feared as we do.  To disinter or disturb it, or to subject it to chemical or physical analysis, is to take a liberty–not with the thing itself but with the person to whom it once belonged.’ “

snippets from books

 

. . . Subsequently the tabloids made much of our different backgrounds, the working-class Jewish boy from the East End and the Catholic aristocrat with her title.  But we were, in our early forties, a long way from our backgrounds and, as usual with the tabloids, these descriptions were more for headlines than accuracy.  Although Harold was technically born into the working class–his father worked in a tailoring factory–ever since the success of The Caretaker in 1960 he had been extremely well-off by most standards: he was able, for example, to retire his father, worn-out with his labours, to salubrious Hove where his parents would live happily for another thirty years.

Again technically, since my father was an earl and my mother a countess, I could be argued to be an aristocrat.  But my father, born Frank Pakenham, only succeeded to the Earldom of Longford when I was nearly thirty; my childhood was spent in a modest North Oxford house, my father, with no private income, teaching at the University.  My mother, being a Harley Street doctor’s daughter, was in any case convinced (and thus convinced us) that the middle classes were the salt of the earth whereas the aristocracy was feckless, unpunctual and extravagant, an assumption that our beloved father’s attitude to life did nothing to discourage.  I had no inherited money myself, and had earned my own living since the age of twenty-one, first working for a publisher and, after marriage, by journalism and books.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesdays  participants can add the book to their To Read Lists if they like your teasers!

It is wise to remember that, when we are reading letters never intended for us, any problems of understanding are ours and not theirs.

for better . . .

from the book:

In 1993, a group of German neuroscientists are believed to have been among the first to scan the brain to see what it looked like in various emotional states, including passionate love.  In the brain scanner, the scientists concluded, the patterns of romantic love look like “mental chaos.”

. . . Anyone who has ever loved doesn’t need an Arabic lesson to understand that all love is not the same.  The love we feel for our children is different from what we share with our friends, lovers, or spouses.  And even within a romantic relationship, we experience varying degrees of life, and even the type of love we feel can change over time.

. . . California State University sociologist Terry Hatkoff has identified six basic styles of love.  They are:

  • Romantic – marked by passion and sexual attraction
  • Best Friends – feelings of deep affection and caring
  • Logical – when practical issues like money, religion, and values influence feelings
  • Playful – the excitement of flirtatious and challenging interaction
  • Possessive – marked by feelings of jealousy and obsession
  • Unselfish – marked by nurturing, kindness, and sacrifice

. . . Getting divorced is listed as worse even than going to jail.  Here are the top ten most stressful life events.

  1. Death of a spouse
  2. Divorce
  3. Marital separation
  4. Going to jail
  5. Death of a close family member
  6. Personal injury or illness
  7. Marriage
  8. Getting fired
  9. Reconciling with a spouse
  10. Retirement

Ron Carlson Writes a Story

 

Ron Carlson Writes a Story

 

All right, let’s write a story, or rather: let’s examine the writing of the story.  Not the story, the writing,not the product, the process.  In reading we examine the story–and we are expert readers.  It’s what we’ve been trained and drilled in.  To read a story is to react to it, and to write a story is to stay alert and open to the possibilities that emerge as each sentence cuts its way into the unknown.  In writing, we “find” the story, and our training as readers is of less help than our training as human beings, as men and women who see, feel, and intuit and who are open to possibilities.

. . . Beginning a story without knowing all the terrain is not a comfortable feeling.  It’s uncomfortable enough in fact to keep most people away from the keyboard.  In our lives we’re used to knowing what we’re doing, where we’re going.  It would be strange to get in the car and think you were going to pick up the kids at school, but not be really sure.  But there are moments in the process of writing a story when you must tolerate that feeling: you stay alert to everything that is happening and by listening and watching, you find out where you are going by going there.  Somebody else may get in the car.

. . . The single largest advantage a veteran writer has over the beginner is this tolerance of not knowing.  it’s not style, skill, or any other dexterity.  An experienced writer has been lost in those woods before and is willing to be lost; she knows that being lost is necessary for the discoveries to come.  The seasoned writer waits, is patient, listens to her story as it talks to her.  Now I’ve started being a little mystical here, and I want to avoid the sense that writing is magic and not work.  The story isn’t going to talk to you, but things are going to happen in the heat of writing that cannot be predicted from outside the act itself.  Much of a writer’s work is exploration, and that involves so many things he cannot know from the outside.  And we all agree that it is more comfortable to be outside the story considering it, than inside the story struggling to see it.  Comfort isn’t an issue.

. . . We live in a society that doesn’t offer any support or approval for ventures that aren’t clearly articulated and aligned for a goal.  A writer gets past this.  It’s going to be a mess before you’re finished, and you may not have a name for the mess or understand its utilitarian purposes.  There aren’t words for everything.  For now, we’ll call it the draft of a story.

. . . I specify all types of things; if I don’t know the car, it’s a Buick.  I like the word Buick.  To reach for your atlas, the yellow pages, your book of names, thesaurus, dictionary there at your writing desk during your time is a mistake.  (Worse: Google, which didn’t exist when I wrote this story [“The Governor’s Ball].)  You aren’t looking for the right name, you’re looking for a reason to stop. . . . I try to get a name I believe right away, but if it isn’t right, there’ll be plenty of time to set that name right after my hour or two or six at the typewriter is over.  Burned-out and dizzy with success and the faint hum of carpal tunnel, I’ll have all evening to locate the right name and do a ten-second search and replace.

. . . What has invaded the writer’s room more than any of these editorial monitors, is the Internet, and I will jut say that the Internet is the enemy of a writer’s day.  The Internet is a heaping helping of what everyone else is thinking–and right this minute.  If you open your e-mail, you are asking to let go of the day.  I don’t want to belabor this obvious point, but we have welcomed this convenience right onto the very screens where we are writing stories, and e-mail is not a friend to the writer.

Quote of the Day

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Remembering, I’ve discovered, is curious work.  The memory is a house in which there are many mansions; enter into one of them, and a hidden door can spring open, luring you into a portion of the past you haven’t visited in years.  But there it is, and you slip inside, and another door opens . . .

Bury Us Upside Down

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from the Introduction:

This experimental unit became the most innovative air operation of the war.  “Misty,” as it became known, on account of the call sign chosen by the first commander, borrowed many of its tactics from the slow FACs.  But other techniques had to be developed on the fly.  To see targets as small as a single truck camouflaged beneath trees, the Mistys flew low–often below the minimum allowed altitude of 4,500 feet.  Anytime they buzzed over something valuable to the North Vietnamese, they attracted walls of antiaircraft fire.  Every day was an asymmetric duel between men in the air and men on the ground.  They had different guns and different advantages, yet the fight was as personal as if they were facing each other with bayonets.

It was a hush-hush mission.  The mere formation of the fast FAC unit indicated how successful the North Vietnamese had been at defeating the slow FACs that were getting blown out of the sky.  All the air defenses were being sent down the Trail–including surface-to-air missiles–were working.  If the slow FACs couldn’t find the air defenses and help clear them out, that jeopardized all the other aerial missions near the Trail–including the B-52 bombing runs that were a key U.S. advantage.  The Air Force wasn’t about to telegraph that vulnerability to Hanoi.

. . . There are still more than eighteen hundred Americans [in 2006] who presumably died during the Vietnam War and remain unaccounted for. . . . In little-noticed press releases, the Department of Defense announces the return of remains from Vietnam every week or two, on average.  The announcements get little attention.  yet across America, families that have been lacerated with anguish live through an experience they came to believe would never happen: the return of their loved ones.  This is the tale of one missing man, the family who went on without him, and the extraordinary unit he served with when he disappeared.  There are many, many other stories like this one.

seeing the holy in the ordinary

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Several years ago (probably 1999 or maybe 2000), I attended a Spiritual Retreat led by Macrina Wiederkehr.  I will never forget this retreat; it was special in every way and Macrina Wiederkehr spoke to my heart.

I’m re-reading her book,  A Tree Full of Angels , and I am revisiting the same feelings I had during that Very Spiritual Retreat.

Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB., is an author and spiritual guide and a Benedictine monastic of St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. She travels throughout the United States and Canada as a retreat director. In her retreats seekers are guided through experiences of silence, contemplation, and faith sharing. Many of her retreat themes come from her writings. She also draws extensively from literature and poetry and enjoys creating rituals.

From A Tree Full of Angels:

What God most longs to discover in us is our willingness to embrace ourselves as we are at our beginning–empty, little, and poor. . . . Acceptance of our littleness makes it possible for our greatness to emerge.  Our littleness is not a choice.  It is simply the way we are.  Our greatness, however is a choice.  When we choose to accept the life God has given to us, when we allow God to fill our emptiness, we are choosing greatness.

. . . We are not the only ones with an ache in our hearts.  God’s ache for us is immense.  Listen to God’s ache in my paraphrase of Hosea 11:3-4, 8:

I myself taught Ephraim to walk, I held them in my arms, but they did not know that I was crying for them, that I was leading them with human ties, with strings of love. . .. I was like someone lifting an infant . . . Ephraim, how could I part with you?  Israel, how could I give you up.

. . . To pray is to touch God and let God touch us.  It is a matter of presence and response.  Prayer does nothing to make God more present, for God is always present.  Prayer is our response to the presence of God in our lives.

Although I know of course  the importance of Bible reading, now and then I receive nourishment from writers such as Macrina Wiederkehr, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, C. S.Lewis, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Andrew Murray – the list goes on.

Every now and then I just need to stop, look, and listen for God in the here and now – and reading Macrina’s book helps to give me perspective and peace.

The other side of sadness

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The Other Side of Sadness by George A. Bonanno, according to Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University is ‘a game changer.  Bonanno carefully assembles evidence to show that most of what we thought we knew is just plain wrong.  If you want to know the truth about the human experience of loss, there’s only one book on the shelf.’

We have all experienced loss at one time or another.

A. Sachs writes that death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.

An excerpt from the book in a section titled Laughing in the Face of Death:

Probably the biggest insight into emotion and bereavement comes from positive emotions.  There is something counterintuitive about putting positive emotion and grief in the same sentence.  Historically, positive emotions received almost no attention in the bereavement literature and when they were mentioned it was almost always in the context of denial.  It was assumed that a joyous emotion during grieving could only interfere with or suppress the normal process of working through the loss.  As it turns out, this more folk wisdom than science.  Positive emotions do more than simply indicate that we are feeling good, and they occur in almost every kind of situation, even in situations as difficult as bereavement.

Author Bonanno quotes some lines in Joan Dideon’s character in the stage play which was adapted from her memoir The year of Magical Thinking:

The show opens with Didion’s character standing alone and withered before her audience, a harbinger of grief to come.  She quietly gives her audience the sobering information:  Her husband died on December 30, 2003.  “That may seem a while ago, but it won’t when it happens to you.”  Then, the clincher, “and it will happen to you.  The details will be different, but it will happen to you.  That’s what I am here to tell you.”


Death is part of life.


“We cope well with loss because we are equipped–wired, if you will–with a set of in-born psychological processes that help us do the job.  The most obvious of these is our ability to feel and express sadness.  When we feel sad, we are more likely to turn our attention inward, to reflect, take stock, and recalibrate to the reality of the loss.  When we express sadness, we tell others that we are in pain, that our minds are elsewhere, and that we are likely to need their care and sympathy, especially during the early days and weeks of bereavement.

“All emotions, including sadness, are designed to be short-term solutions.  If we remain in a constant state of sadness or feel sad for too long a time, we run the risk of ruminating and withdrawing from the world around us.  If we express too much sadness, we begin to alienate the very people whose help and support we most need.

“Fortunately, nature has provided a built-in solution.  Rather than staying sad for long periods of time, our experience of the emotion comes and goes.  It oscillates.  Over time the cycle widens, and gradually we return to a state of equilibrium.”

The last paragraph in Bonanno’s book is an observation from a woman (Karen Everly) about her feelings years after the death of her daughter.

It’s a bit like a fading light.  It grows dim but it never goes out, never, not completely anyway.  I find that enormously reassuring.  I used to worry that someday the light would disappear–that I would forget, and then I would really have lost Claire.  I know, now, that doesn’t happen.  It can’t.  There is always a little flicker there.  It is a bit like the small glowing embers you see after a fire dies down.  I carry that around with me, that little ember, and if I need to, if I want to have Claire next to me, I blow on it, ever so gently, and it glows bright again.

Teaser Tuesday

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesdays  participants can add the book to their To Read Lists if they like your teasers!

Shaped by a culture that exalted the individual and prescribed a stiff upper lip, we would discover that the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps rhetoric had been dangerous twaddle, for the women’s movement that began when we were in our twenties would change our lives profoundly.  it would teach us that problems we’d thought unique were anything but–and, at the same time, would give us a language to help us understand them.

Finding Celia’s Place by Celia Morris

Teaser Tuesday

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesdays  participants can add the book to their To Read Lists if they like your teasers!

Gradually, word of what was happening in North Platte spread from serviceman to serviceman during the war, and on the long train rides across the country the soldiers came to know that, out there on the Nebraska flatlands, the North Platte Canteen was waiting for them.

Each day of the war–every day of the war–an average of three thousand to five thousand military personnel came through North Platte, and were welcomed to the Canteen.

Once Upon a Town by Bob Greene

Teaser Tuesday

Posted on

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I read Lizzie by Frank Spiering several years ago (1984 to be exact), but picked it up again recently.  An aside:  Lizzie Borden is in my Borden lineage.

“She and her sister, Emma, had been overwhelmed by their father’s sudden betrayal.  Behind their backs he had given his interest in a house he owned on Fourth Street to his wife’s sister Sarah Whitehead.”

teaser tuesday (on Monday)

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Teaser Tuesdays asks you to: Grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

keeping the feast by Paula Butturini

The first few months, I would rest my bundles on the cold marble floor, kneel for a moment at the back of the church under the gaze of a painted Madonna, and try not to cry.  Months later, I would still kneel for a moment in the same spot, but when I felt the tears coming, I’d make a fist and pound once or twice on the pew in front of me.

Rewire your brain

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“Stress is anything that throws the body out of balance.  it can be the physical stress of an accident, injury, or harsh environmental conditions; a chemical stress from exposure to toxins, pollutants, or chemicals; or emotional/psychological concerns about a job or money, the loss of a loved one, health, or relationships.  Anxiety is usually the first emotional alarm warning us about stress.  The signs are hyper-vigilance, apprehension, and excessive worry.  Anxiety is generally a diffuse, vague, and dreadful feeling.  Fear, by contrast, is experienced when a particular object of focus triggers a negative reaction.

. . . Once the stress emergency is over, the endocrine system goes back to its business of cellular restorations, repair, and reproduction.  The nervous and immune systems return to business as usually as well.  But when the body is continually flooded with stress-related hormones and our behavioral reactions keep repeating the stress stimulus, we have chronic stress.  Our bodies are not designed to live under long-term stress.

For the first thirty minutes after the onset of an emergency situation, your system works for you at full force.  The brain has an internal timer to stop the body’s stress response after an hour or so.  But what if the anxiety or fear continues?  More stress chemicals are released and our body becomes overrun with them, resulting in more fears and anxieties.  Sound familiar?

. . . Research has found that, if stress continues beyond the sympathetic nervous system’s basic response time of thirty to ninety minutes for dealing with emergency situations, the continual exposure to high levels of stress hormones lasts from three days to two weeks.  There needs to be an outlet to release these stress chemicals.  A doctor friend of mine says, “Cells need to poop.”  We know that relaxation provides release, but all too often how we unwind and relax creates even more stress. The body’s reaction to stress takes a lot of energy and vigilant attention.  When it is chronic, it opens the way for disease to take root.

The Effects of Chronic Stress

  • Energy is continually diverted
  • Immunity becomes compromised
  • Digestion is affected
  • Blood pressure is chronically raised
  • Tissue repair and growth are constantly being turned off
  • Energy is diverted from the brain
  • Memory and learning are affected
  • Neurotransmitter function is compromised
  • Toxins attach the brain

  • LIFE STRESS TEST


Your brain at work

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Your Brain at Work by David Rock addresses “strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus, and working smarter all day long” – strategies I suppose we all welcome.  Rock writes that there seems to be “an epidemic of overwhelm.”

. . . “As the world digitizes, globalizes, unplugs, and reorganizes, having too much to do has become over biggest complaint.”  Does that sound familiar??

“Picturing something you have not yet seen is going to take a lot of energy and effort.  This partly explains why people spend more time thinking about problems (things they have seen) than solutions (things they have never seen).”

SCENE 5, page 62:

YOU AND INVERTED U

Researchers have known for one hundred years that there is a “sweet spot” for peak performance.  In 1908, scientists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson discovered a fact about human performance that they called the inverted U.  They found that performance was poor at low levels of stress, hit a sweet spot at reasonable levels of stress, and tapered off under high stress.  The verb stress means “to emphasize,” and it’s not necessarily a negative thing.  It’s wrong to think your performance would improve if stress disappeared from your life.  it takes a certain amount of stress just to get out of bed in the morning.  This type of stress is known as eustress, or positive stress.  Positive stress helps focus your attention.

To learn about your own brain functions by doing online tests, and to improve your brain through brain-training exercises, go to www.mybrainsolutions.com.

Teaser Tuesday

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asks you to

grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like your teasers.

The Poison King by Adrienne Mayor promises to be a very good read (I’ve not yet read the entire book).

Many beautiful queens sat by his side, but the King found true love with a woman as valiant in battle as he.  When the King died, his passing was echoed by a terrible earthquake.

bereavement

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“The human inquiry into the mysteries of life and the nature of the soul is acute during bereavement.  When a loved one dies, we have no choice but to face up to nearly imponderable questions, the kind of questions I mentioned at the beginning of the chapter.  Most of us open ourselves up to the questions death demands of us.  We don’t necessarily do this by choice, mind you.  Death does not ask permission.  Although we may accept death’s invitation with trepidation, many of us find that the experience is not as frightening as we anticipated.  many of us discover, in fact, that we have found something quite profound hidden in the experience.”

“The longest bereavement study that I know of spanned a remarkable thirty-five years.  Some things stay constant, the study showed, but many aspects of bereavement fade only gradually, after many years have passed.  In the first few years after a loss, for example, most bereaved people frequently reminisce about the lost loved one.  We find ourselves indulging in reflection, replaying old memories.  We do this at least several times a week.  Fifteen years later, these kinds of reflective thoughts and memories happen less frequently, but they are not completely absent.

“Anniversary reactions . . . reveal the same gently sloping pattern.  An ‘anniversary reaction’ occurs anytime a bereaved person experiences a dramatic increase in sadness or loneliness on the anniversary of an important date related to the loss: the lost loved one’s birthday, the first holiday after the death, and, of course, the date of the loved one’s death.  For most people, anniversary reactions last a few hours and not much longer.  The duration does not seem to change much over time.  What does change, though, is the frequency of these reactions.

“Despite the durability of grief, bereaved people often worry that they will forget, that they will lose track of their memories, even years after a loved one’s death.  This is an especially thorny issue for bereaved parents.  Once a parent, always a parent; there is no switch to turn that off.  When a child dies, parents never allow the memory to drift too far away.

“I asked Karen Everly about this.  I asked her if she could sum up what bereavement felt like years after the death of her daughter.  She looked thoughtful.  Her words apply, I think, to anyone who has ever mourned a loved one:

It’s a bit like a fading light.  It grows dim but it never goes out, never, not completely anyway.  I find that enormously reassuring.  I used to worry that someday the light would disappear–that I would forget, and then I would really have lost Claire.  I know, now, that doesn’t happen.  It can’t.  There is always a little flicker there.  It is a bit like the small glowing embers you see after a fire dies down.  I carry that around with me, that little ember, and if I need to, if I want to have Claire next to me, I blow on it, ever so gently, and it glows bright again.’

You Were Always Mom’s Favorite

Deborah Tannen interviewed more than a hundred women for her book You Were Always Mom’s Favorite.

The subtitle is “Sisters in Conversation throughout Their Lives.”

It has been some time since I read about the Delaney sisters and Tannen references these ladies in the preface of her book:

“No one is closer than a sister who shares your family, your past, your memories.  That connection is always there, whether you live together your whole lives, as the Delanys did, or see each other rarely or not at all–even if one has passed away.  And sisters are also immutably arrayed by age, with resulting differences in influence and power that also endure, in obvious or subtle ways, throughout their lives.  Those two dynamics, power and connection, work together and can’t be pulled apart: The Delany sisters’ lifelong devotion was inseparable from the fact that one was younger and the other older–and therefore protective, and maybe a tad judgmental.”

I am several years older than my sister and perhaps that is why we didn’t have any of the problems that I’ve read about in Tannen’s book.  Also, my sister and I both know that our brother was everyone’s favorite!

I enjoy my sister and I appreciate her.  I love her and cannot imagine a life without her.  [And, as I wrote above – our brother was our mom’s favorite – our dad’s favorite – and we absolutely adored/adore him!]

This is an interesting book even though I couldn’t relate to the segments about competition and/or anger.  For some reason (again – perhaps because of the large age difference), I’ve not experienced that with my sister.

Excerpt from the book:

I read accounts of dire circumstances where sisters literally kept each other alive by their mutual presence.  A Dutch woman who was with Anne Frank and her sister Margot in a concentration camp provides two examples, her own and Ann Frank’s, with starkly different endings.  Janny Brandes-Brilleslijper became gravely ill with typhus, but she survived because she kept herself going in order to keep her sister, who was even sicker, alive.  “Anne was sick, too,” she recalls, “but she stayed on her feet until Margot died; only then did she give in to her illness.”

. . . Few of us confront circumstances this desperate, but I heard many moving accounts of sisters coming through in times of crisis.  Joy, for example, drew courage from her sisters’ presence when she underwent emergency surgery to save her life.  It happened suddenly: One moment she was walking down the street, the next thing she knew she was regaining consciousness in a hospital bed.  “When I woke up,” Joy recalls, “my three sisters were standing there, side by side, like linebackers.”

. . . In Bible [stories] and the folk song [by Peggy Seeger about “Two Sisters”] — and in many other tales from legend and popular culture–the preferred sister is not only prettier but also younger.

{Now, as the Older sister  – ‘younger, prettier sister’  rings a bell!  . . . but I repeat: our brother was definitely the preferred one . . . perhaps because he was so dadgum good and sweet . . . and he still is . . .}