Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Reading!

Let's just let my feet soak a little more! :-D

The guests are gone and we have the house to ourselves!

*What to read...what to read*

Well I haven't finished YofMT yet. I put it down during the end of our guests' stay. I really hate to miss something b/c I'm not concentrating. I'll pick it back up tomorrow after the new year hullabaloo is over.

I was thinking I should write a little intro to the newspapers as a "get to know me" piece. Publish it or not...then send them the YofMT article. Which is a wonderful book, btw...

I got a couple of leads on some older books I need to read sometime. Sue, my husband's sister and her husband highly recommend Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. It was written in 1932 and sounds like a book I will love. 'Posed to be funny.

The book that had my mother-in-law in stitches is A Zoo in My Luggage by Gerald Durrell. First published in 1960, it is the story of an animal loving boy that grows up to start a zoo of his own. After his third trip to West Africa, he comes home with much more than just his wife and a suitcase. Their menagerie ends up in the backyard where neighbors become quickly alarmed.

So, what are my plans for the new year? With this blog I hope to train myself to write everyday...every other day. With my articles for the papers I hope to inspire others to read at least one extra book during the year. With my new job I hope to maintain a positive attitude and inquisitive mind. With my weight, 20lbs, Ha! I also want to make sure I talk with/listen to those friends I met through the Como library. I'll be honest...I miss the human contact.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Notes from YofMT (3)


"I tell you that I shall not live two days," Gawain 153p
This is a recurring sentence that suggest one can tell when the end is near. A sign that may indicate their last days. A feeling of foreboding that haunts the breathing. Didion uses this quote as her way of explaining signs she may have missed, but see clearly now in John's absence.

The clear divide between life and death. 149p
One is walking on the earth one day then gone into the darkness the next by sudden unexpected death. Didion refusal to believe this went against her Episcopalian upbringing. She sees now that she never actually believed the Apostles' Creed about the "resurrection of the body".

"As he saw it, he now had a death sentence, temporarily suspended." 157p
After John's 1987 angioplasty he felt he knew how he would die. I agreed with John, as she wrote of his first bout with heart problems. My grandfather had a triple bypass done in 1973 (1 of the 1st at Vanderbilt) and we all thought it was a temporary lease on life. We just knew his death would be the result of a heart attack. He died in 1991 and was afforded eighteen more years of quality living. His heart attack was sudden and brought on by a cold that had gotten into his chest.

Panic attack as an old Hitchcock movie. 177-8p
This is a great scene and it has to be included in the play version of YofMT. It is serious while it is happening, but comical in the retelling. This could be her chance to lighten up the play and my chance to lighten the review. It is just hard to see this book working as a play without some reason to laugh. We recently saw Doubt in New York and it had a nice balance of serious (70%) and fun (30%). The subject matter was so "tough" that you needed the good natured laugh for relief.

Didion has the annoying personality quirk of always wanting to be right. 174p
She admits to it and tries her best to control it. We all know people like that and probably do it ourselves. We easily forgive Didion for she tries to suppress it.

Didion's passage through grief has a breakthrough. 183p
She has spent the last 8 months constantly trying to rewrite her history with John and Quintana. On Aug. 30, 2004 she has her first memory where she tries reconstructing her history instead of rewriting it. Why do we focus back to change an outcome that has already passed? Easy to say "water under the bridge" but an entirely different concept in practice.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

PW PR on Didion!

In the December 12th issue of PW it is reported that Didion will turn her YofMT into a one-woman stage adaption possibly opening in the spring! Reminds me of Julia Sweeney's play and movie "God Said, Ha!". Sweeney's tale of her family's cancer battle, first her brother than herself, is packed with raw honesty and wit.

I picked up YofMT last night and it sounds like I missed her true meaning of vortex and just morphed it into my own meaning. All of the sudden it sounds to me like something totally different. I guess it is the act of trying to read it while you have guests in the house. One eye on the book the other on hospitality, neither fully focused on a single task.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Year of Magical Thinking (2)

From pages 62-122 or chapter 5 to chapter 11 the book focuses on Quintana's heath problems and various hospitalizations. It is hard to believe Didion has enough energy to face these huge medical emergencies. I see how she balances on the fence of sanity. The belief that your husband really isn't dead although you watch as they place his ashes in the cathedral vault, is a little unbalanced.

Didion finds a study to explain why she doesn't grieve for her husband. If "a delay in the funeral" is caused by "an illness or second death in the family" one might put the process off to attend to the more urgent need. She then becomes rather mad at the author of the study when he goes on about "the patient's need to keep the lost one alive." He explains it demonstrates an unbalanced mind, thus Didion is un-balanced.

I have to agree with Didion and Emily Post on the funeral etiquette. Only family and intimate friends should sit near the front of a funeral service. I love the idea of a relative staying in the home to tidy up while others attend the funeral. The act of handing warm tea or broth to the returning widow instead of asking them if they would care for any is brilliant. No one would actually turn down the warm container once found in their hands, but if asked, would surely refuse. That Emily Post is one smart cookie!

Didion's explains a memory trigger and the accompanying journey back in time as a vortex. She actively avoids routes or places that trigger the uncontrollable vortex that follows. What a unique word for this natural human occurrence. I find that reading stimulates memories and slows down my progress. Sometimes it is a situation and sometimes dialog, but once I drift into the memory I'm gone for a good fifteen minutes. No avoiding the unseen, I would have to stop reading altogether.

I want to thank Mrs. Didion for her explanation of fixed and dilated pupils(FDP). I have seen the same reaction in my dogs when they die, but lacked the vocabulary to define it. Our beloved Reba's eyes actually blackened then brightened again after fluid was administered for heat stroke.

This is an observation and NOT a criticism or judgment...Didion talks about the Catholic or Episcopalian churches they attend [ed] (funerals, weddings, masses, sermons) yet she hasn't mentioned any prayer. She is writing in a step-by-step, not to forget any detail, that if she took a moment to pray, feels like she would have mentioned it. Her demeanor is so honest I have to believe she just didn't pray.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Year of Magical Thinking (1)

This is such a tough book, I'm seriously wondering how to treat the article. I'm only on page 62, but the mood is depressing and the talk is all about death. Didion has her "cool cucumber" act to a perfection as she stands back and recounts her story of loss. It's easy picturing her at the hospital and alone in the house with this same cool demeanor. I'm wondering if she ever comes out of her shock and just breaks down.

In the first four chapters Didion has quoted many a poem and scientific study. My favorite lines are from WH Auden's "Funeral Blues" which is also quoted by Gareth in Four Weddings and a Funeral:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

It is within the 3rd chapter we find her meaning of the title, A Year of Magical Thinking. She feels her husband isn't really dead and will return.

I discussed this with my mother-in-law and she knows how Didion feels. She explained that it didn't happen with her late husband, but with her father. Her father had a long white Cadillac and rode around with a Greek hat on. She said there was another gentleman that happened to be her father's friend and had the same white car and silly hat. Every time she crossed paths with this oddity, she just knew her father was returning home. What she didn't mention was her father's occupation...traveling salesman. So, it is understandable she might think he returning from a trip.

I have a trick I use prior to someone's death. I kill them off way before it is their time to go. I don't literally take the person's life, but pretend they have already died and have a huge cry over it. It is very effective for people I'm real close to. When I found out my grandfather had sold his farm and retired, I pretended he died that day. I went out to the farm and just had a huge guiltless boo-hoo. When he died a year later, I found myself very accepting of his fate. All the memories that flooded my mind were welcomed and quite pain free.

My system isn't flawless. There are still those people that die too young and I find it a struggle to understand or let go. The grief is uncontrollable and embarrassing for me when an unexpected death occurs. I guess most people experience a shocked state when young, vibrant people die. In all cases the same nagging question is on everyone's mind. Why?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Footprints in the Sand...

I'm starting a brand new job under a great new boss and I have so many ideas that I can't wait to get started. But, let's look back today and move on tomorrow ...

First of all, I worked for 9 years as a librarian in my small town of Como, MS. The dream job for me because I love books, love people, and love being creative in different areas.

I know...who would really think of a librarian as a dream career.

For me, it has always been much more than just getting books people ask for. The job has allowed me to offer programming for all ages, displays with local collectors, exhibits with local artists and traveling museums, non-threatning meeting areas, and a open arena for readers to spout off about their latest devoured book.

I took advantage of questions asked through the patrons to further my own inquisitive mind. Anyone who loves to learn would find this act of basic research heaven ... and to be paid for it! Also, the library serves a number of disadvantaged youth with free heat and air. It is my hope this captive audience benefited from many program ideas and secret literacy promotions. Nobody likes reading shoved in their face.

So, as I embark on a new job in the academic arena, it is with sadness I leave the beloved public behind. I say a huge thank you to all I have encountered in the past 9 years and hope the next librarian will have half as much fun as myself. :-D

Thursday, December 22, 2005

See Maggie Read!

A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read.
Mark Twain