what I am reading

My 2019 new year goal was to read a biography of each of our U. S. Presidents, in chronological order. It’s July and I am up to our fifth President, James Monroe. I was sidetracked along the way. So, let me share with you what I have been reading.

birdandbooks

I am an avid reader. Always have been. Reading books has saved my life. But I digress…more about that in another post.

books thoughts

Bruce is a prolific reader and we love to talk with each other about what we read.

bigbadbruce

We get the Sunday New York Times. Bruce reads it. I only read the Magazine and do the crossword puzzle. It takes me until Thursday and I complete about 95%, with Bruce’s help.  Freddy helps, too.

freddy and the nyt crossword puzzle

We buy The West Springfield Record, our local newspaper at the corner store, every Thursday. This week’s edition has a long article about one of my favorite authors, Gladys Taber, a sort of native daughter of West Springfield. She wrote more than 50 books and wrote popular magazine columns in The Ladies Home Journal and Family Circle. I have read about 20 of her books. They are memoirs or journals of her life, raising her daughter, working as a journalist, creating a rural life in Connecticut, away from NYC, with her friend and her children. She wrote in a lyrical way about nature, love, loss, housekeeping, pets, children. She died in 1980 and her books are out of print. Search for her books in libraries as I did.  Check out Gladys Taber; you will not be disappointed.

We get lots of magazines. The New Yorker is my all-time favorite. My nephew and his wife give us a subscription for a Christmas gift every year. Bloomberg Business is an easy way to keep up about what’s going on in the markets and the economies around the world. Yoga is inspiring. Catholic TV magazine. We are not Catholic, but we watch the mass each evening and the magazine let’s us know which priest is serving~we have our favorites. This Old House gives practical advise. Simple has good recipes as does Shape. Better Homes and Gardens and Country Living for recipes and decorating. Birds and Bloom, a gift from Bruce’s sister, filled with great photos and tips for attracting birds to your backyard.

taste and see

We also get Poetry, a monthly. I don’t read poetry; I don’t get it. Bruce does. And, we get The Daily Word.  It is a small booklet filled with biblical passages and an uplifting message for each day of the month.

We go to the town library about once a week and take out a cookbook or two for inspiration, even though we have lots of cookbooks.

kitchen hutch

In January, I started my presidential journey with His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis.

george washington

Next up, our second President,  John Adams by John Ferling was a great read and especially interesting as he was from Massachusetts. His relationship with Thomas Jefferson was played out in this book as well as in American Sphinx about Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis.  Jefferson was full of contradictions; an absolutely fascinating read.  Our fourth President, James Madison, by Richard Brookhiser, was an easy read.

In these books, I learned about the forming of our nation, the particularly genius minds of the time, how intractable differences were worked out [relationship with Britain, states rights versus federal government, central bank] or ignored [slavery], diplomacy, the conditions which led to the Revolutionary War. I learned about the formation of our two party system and the beginnings of the Democrat and Republican parties. Madison was quite a political animal, I mean, strategist. He assembled one of our nation’s first political parties, the Republicans, who became today’s Democrats.

I am up to our fifth President, James Monroe, another Southerner. He was not a very interesting person nor President from what the historians say and there are only a couple books written about him and they are not well written, lacking and biased.  I have chosen to read James Monroe: The American Presidents Series: The 5th President, 1817-1825 by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Gary Hart. It was written in 2005.  Monroe is known primarily for two things: being the last of the southern, Virginian dynasty, following Washington, Jefferson and Madison and for issuing the Monroe Doctrine. The Monroe Doctrine, written by John Quincy Adams, is a statement of principles that the western hemisphere was to be considered closed to European intervention.  I look forward to reading it and getting back on track. I estimate I will be reading the American presidents for the next few years.

freddyglobes

This is how I got off track in the Spring. It is my habit to read a spiritual book during Lenten season. In the past I have read Keep a True Lent by Charles Fillmore and The Week That Changed the World by Ernest C. Wilson. I highly recommend these books for reading any time of the year. This year I choose, regrettably, The Real Christ by Bernadette Roberts. It is 620 pages and it took me forever to read. I hated it, every single page, but I kept on reading it til the bitter end, because that’s the kind of person I am.  This is what the synopsis says:  “The Real Christ is simply the E=MC of theology, unfolding the deepest mysteries of the Trinity with profound clarity. This is a must read book for anyone who has struggled with remaining a Christian or grown frustrated with the banality of what seems to be the “Jesus industry” of corporate Christianity.”

WTF??? Had I read that, I never would have started this book. I wasted my time on this awful book. What more can I say? Except that I still felt the need to fulfill my yearly Lenten habit of reading a spiritual book. So, I read The Forty-Day Fast: A Spiritual Journey to Eliminate Toxic Words From Your Life by Tim Cameron. This book was a mere 258 pages. The premise of the book is that when you eliminate negative words [judgment, sarcasm, negativity, complaining and gossip] from your mouth, your heart will change and ‘ye shall be transformed’.  Definitely sound advise…I may need a refresher.

what you say

I saw an interview on PBS with a writer, Glory Edim, about the importance of telling stories about women of color. She edited Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves.  Of course, I had to read it.This is a beautifully curated collection of stories by and about women of color.

Book well read black girl

Next, PBS aired “Les Miserables”. I watched it and recalled fond memories of when my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, read this book, by Victor Hugo, to us each Friday afternoon. So, I decided to read it. All 1070 pages of it. Truly considered one of the greatest novels of the world, I enjoyed the universal moral theme of redemption, but did not enjoy slogging through French history and the French Revolution[s]. You can see how my mind gets caught going down these mazes….

Next up…While trying to find a good book about James Monroe to read, [remember my original goal] I started The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin. It’s a Harvard Classic, don’t you know? Here’s a description:

When HMS Beagle sailed out of Devonport on 27 December 1831, Charles Darwin was twenty-two and setting off on the voyage of a lifetime. His journal, here reprinted in a shortened form, shows a naturalist making patient observations concerning geology, natural history, people, places and events. Volcanoes in the Galapagos, the Gossamer spider of Patagonia and the Australasian coral reefs – all are to be found in these extraordinary writings. The insights made here were to set in motion the intellectual currents that led to the most controversial book of the Victorian age: The Origin of Species.

I am still reading it, haven’t finished it, yet. We are now at Tahiti; I trust we will be ending our trip soon.

But in the meantime….We were watching PBS Newshour and heard an interview with Arthur C. Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute talking about his latest book, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt. It sounded so interesting I was compelled to read it. I found this book refreshingly challenging and for me it echoes back to our founding fathers and the way they acted and dealt with conflict. Brooks’ premise is that we should not try to agree more; disagreement and competition are secrets to excellence. He offers suggestions for bridging divides and mending relationships, rather than feeling contempt and demonizing our enemies. I recommend this book to all of us who want to work towards a better civil discourse with our brothers and sisters.

And then, lastly, on Saturday, July 6th, I was at the West Springfield Public Library with my Nepali friends, when I saw an intriguing title:  How to Raise Successful People:  Simple Lessons for Radical Results by Ester Wojcicki. 336 pages.  I am not a parent; I don’t have children. Yet, I am a grandmother [to Bruce’s daughter’s children], I volunteer in the 3rd grade at a local school, and I am a friend to 3 Nepali children. I want to be the best role model I can be. This book is about bringing out the best in people based on the values of trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness [TRICK]. I recommend it as “a must read” for parents, teachers, managers and anyone who wants to have a positive effect on the development of others.

bella2

So, there you have it friends. That’s what I have been reading. Tell me what you have been reading.

susan at epic bookstore

 

 

Life is an Adventure

Some days it seems that nothing happens, like a Seinfeld show. “It’s a show about nothing.” We give meaning to our days by what we think, how we react. It seems no matter how mundane my day is, I always try to find some meaning or at least some humor in it.

“One way to get the most out of life is to look at it as an adventure.”  William Feather

When I am out and about, I come home and tell Bruce what I encountered and he listens with  attention and says “That’s amazing!” Of course, it is nice to have someone to listen to my yarns, a good listener such as Bruce Barone. “Susan, how was your day?”

Let me tell you.

yoga class 2

On Saturday after a yoga class at Transform at Amy Bourque, I brought Prashna and Prashik, my Nepali friends, to a musical concert at the West Springfield Public Library.

ppp christmas3

Aine Minogue played the harp and told tales for over an hour. She has an Irish lilt and the gift of gab that the Irish are so famous for. She told a folk legend about the selkies on which the movie, “The Secret of Roan Innish” is based. When I told Bruce about it, he knew of the man, John Sayles, from Hoboken, NJ who directed it. We’ll see if we can watch it On Demand. In the meantime, I ordered the book on which the movie is based, “The Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry” from Abe Books. When I finish it, I will pass it onto Prashna, in the hopes that she will read it. It is actually considered a children’s tale. Despite my prodding and bribing, Prashik who is now in 6th grade and is struggling with reading and writing, has no interest in books nor reading. He took out a video game when we were at the library and told me it was “a movie”, a flat out lie.

charles diner

I asked if they wanted to get something to eat. I suggested Charlie’s Diner, as they had never been there. Going out to eat is an adventure for them as it is not something that Nepalis do. Prashik ordered soda, scrambled eggs, bacon and home fries. Prashna had a hot chocolate, chicken tenders, and fries and a side of ketchup. Their table manners are somewhat lacking, but we got through, with a little direction. They know nothing about nutrition and healthy eating, but every occasion cannot be a lesson.

Okay, that was more of an adventure for them than for me, but it gave me joy to do something for them. And, I had my favorite western sandwich on toasted rye.

western990

Going to Costco can be an adventure. Bruce always tells me “Be careful.” Once when we went together, I confronted a woman who did not return her carriage, one of me pet peeves. She reacted by screaming at me and Bruce thought she might take out a gun and take me out. Last week, when I was at the Costco Liquor store, a man had planted himself in front of the wine bins, on his mobile phone. I asked him if he were “shopping or talking?” He said “Both” and I kindly pointed out to him he was not doing either well. I am on a spiritual journey and I think everyone would be better off if they, too, practiced “one pointed attention”, as Eknath Eswaran describes in his landmark book, “Meditation”.

Not all my shopping experiences allow me to share my spiritual wisdom. Here I am with Bruce at Ocean State Job Lot having some fun.

Susan at ocean state

 

Bruce sees beauty everywhere; the seed packet display. It is nice to be out and about with a photographer who “stops to smell the roses”, so to speak.

SeedPackets

“Fill your life with adventures not things.  Have stories to tell, not things to show.”

Having a dog lets me experience life in a whole different dimension. Is that true for you, too?

susan and freddy lake ontario

Our mini labradoodle, Freddy, is full of energy. I ride on his roller coaster of excitement, wanting affection, eating, sleeping, barking, playing. He has a lot of personality and is demanding of our attention. Rather than look at him as annoying, I choose to see him as a gift from God, someone to remind me to slow down, pay attention, take care of the basics, be nurturing, show love, affection and devotion.

Bruce and I are alike in that we enjoy the social connection with folks  when we are about and about, doing errands, volunteering, shopping, taking care of business. It is an opportunity to be kind and helpful to others, share a moment, build good karma.

bruceand students

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Helen Keller

I wasn’t always so joyful, uplifted, and positive. I have been racked with depression, had many dark nights of the soul and lonely days, felt that it wasn’t worth it to get out of bed. It seems so long ago, going through each day with a dark cloud over me. After many years of moving through to the light, I see that life is not a struggle for me any longer. It is an adventure.

How did I achieve this transformation? I took to heart the words, “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  and “You need to come up higher in consciousness to solve your problems.” It took years of therapy, mind-expanding work, prayer, travel, faith in God, enlightened friendships, spiritual reading, yoga, passage meditation, repeating the mantra, letting go of painful experiences, and the Grace of God to turn to the light, to see the light in myself, in others, in the world.

Sunflower2018

My wounds, hurts, fears, doubts, etc. were incurable to the extent that I held on to them; they don’t go away on their own.  In fact, they continued to accumulate and motivate all my thoughts, choices, and actions until I treated them.

I learned to ‘treat’ through the Mind of Christ,  each pain, each hurt, each insecurity by coming up higher in consciousness.  A “mind change” is essential if there is ever to be any “life change” at all. This is not a one time deal; our minds need to be tended to with constancy.

“I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye many prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

What is life but one grand adventure?

adventure

A song, “Say Yes” by Bob Franke may inspire you.