Saturday, October 29, 2005

Traveling Mercies: Some thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott

I grew up Catholic. People did not get up on the altar on Sunday and testify about their beliefs or experiences. Retreats in highschool and college were incredible because people did do it there. Not up on an altar but in a circle of their peers. They shared experiences from their life and how God had helped them through it. It was amazing.

It was not until I started going to the Wednesday “all-faith” services when I worked at World Vision that I found that Protestants do this every week. It was still amazing.

Anne Lamott does it in book form. Anne doesn’t tell you why you should believe what she believes. She shares experiences. My life experiences have been nothing like hers but I agree with much of what she has come to believe.

Her life, while imperfect, has made her wise and she shares her simple wisdom. She asserts that the two best prayers that she knows are:

Help me, help me, help me


Thank you, thank you, thank you

They are simple but powerful. Her father’s parents were Presbyterian missionaries who raised their children in Tokyo. She mentions how much disdain her father held for Christianity and they all proclaimed that they did not believe in God mostly to win favor with their father. Her mother went to an Episcopal church on Christmas Eve. She was not brought up with any type of religion whatsoever. She was surprised and bewildered to find God when she was a college student. A professor introduced them to Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and she says her life changed forever. They talked about the story of Abraham and when she left class that day, she knew there was a God. It made no sense to her and she could not explain it but she suddenly or finally believed that God exists. She was bat mitzvahed and even learned Hebrew.

About fifteen pages after that, after much drinking, drugs, bulimia, pregnancy and an abortion, she finds Jesus sitting in her bedroom. Now, while I’ve not been lucky enough to sense His physical presence that close to me before, I believe that she did. She tried to ignore Him for a while but eventually gave in. She has stopped ignoring Him and even looks for Him; then she shares how and where she finds Him.

It is not about a particular denomination or a certain set of beliefs. It is not even as serious as I’ve made it sound. Ms. Lamott is hilarious. She can be relating a story about a sick friend or something her son is going through and just when you’re ready to cry with her, you are laughing out loud at the next thing she says.

The title comes from something that the “old people” at her church say to people when they are leaving for a while. “Traveling mercies: love the journey, God is with you, come home safe and sound.”

This is another book that has sat on my “list” there on the left corner for a while. I read a few pages at a time, and received a little more inspiration each time. I highly recommend it. If you do not have time to settle in with the whole book at one time, just read a page or two. You may learn something about yourself, you might find a new way to relate to people or you might just laugh. Chances are you will experience all three on one page. Posted by Picasa

I am an idealist

I like this quiz much better. Of course, in an ideal world, I should be doing something more productive with my time!

Your Personality Is

Idealist (NF)

You are a passionate, caring, and unique person.
You are good at expressing yourself and sharing your ideals.

You are the most compassionate of all types and connect with others easily.
Your heart tends to rule you. You can't make decisions without considering feelings.

You seek out other empathetic people to befriend.
Truth and authenticity matters in your friendships.

In love, you give everything you have to relationships. You fall in love easily.

At work, you crave personal expression and meaning in your career.

With others, you communicate well. You can spend all night talking with someone.

As far as your looks go, you've likely taken the time to develop your own personal style.

On weekends, you like to be with others. Charity work is also a favorite pastime of yours.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Your assistance, please

I should have learned with the whole seasonal test but now I'm curious. My result was WAY off but that could be because I took the "test" with my second glass of red wine in hand!?

I got this from SV's blog and I'm just curious to see if I am the only one who received an inaccurate reading. This is purely for research. (They need another question for people who use the word "curious" far too often. I do not own a large yellow hat, nor do I own a monkey but I'd like to know how you all fare with this quiz...)

(For those of you who know my true identity and how many siblings I may possess.....this test pegged me as an ONLY child!) (I've never had ALL of the tendencies of a "first-born": the "second-in-line" wore me down a bit....then I married a "youngest" who has had some influence...but still??!?! ONLY child??!! Sure, I had fantasies but...) ; )

The Russians are coming!

Well, they're here! At least one, in any case.

Mikhail Gorbachev is in Kansas. In our town, in Kansas! It seems to me, as a parent, I should make my children aware of historical opportunities like this. Honestly, how often do you have a chance to be in the same room with someone who won a Nobel prize? How often do you have a chance to be in the same room with a former leader of another nation (ANY nation)?

Of course, my children are 7 and 4 and not yet interested in many current or historical events that do not revolve around them. I still may make them go--they can color quietly in the back and still be able to say that they were there.

In any case, you can view what's going on here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


We all have these days... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

All Hallow's Eve

Well, technically the Christians appropriated this one too. I wouldn't expect the schools to use Halloween as an opportunity for a history lesson, in any case. Posted by Picasa


I've been lamenting that I can't seem to finish a book in a timely manner but I read The Three-Martini Playdate in three days. Those of you who know me might guess why I finished this one so quickly over, say, something like "How to stimulate your child 24 hours a day!" 90% of the material in this book is common sense parenting that everyone already knows but provides good reminders with plenty of humor and even a few easy (that's key!) recipes! The illustrations are great and the helpful side-hints are priceless.

Sadly, Ms. Mellor does not suggest actually drinking 3 martinis each day but she does say that you should teach your children how to serve them when adults drop by your home around 5pm! She even suggests that they ask your guests "Olive or twist?" when they arrive, being helpful and making a cute literary joke at the same time.

It's light I said, you already know this stuff! I love the way she presents it all though--darling book!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 24, 2005

Theme and Variations II

Do you remember when you were in school and studying different “units?” You know, your teacher had a theme for the whole week on her lesson plan. Maybe you were studying the life cycle of plants and each day you talked about a different element: sunshine (and maybe the solar system), water (maybe touch on weather), soil (and environmentalism). By the end of the week, you knew that you needed nutrients in the soil, clean water and plenty of light for your plant to grow and that healthy plant would contribute oxygen to the air that you breathe. Your teacher had the whole day planned out, each day.

I finally started reading The 3 Martini Playdate and found Mary P’s link to Anne Taintor all in the same week! I love it when a broader plan unfolds and things all mesh—like it was a planned lesson or something! I have not finished the book yet but expect to very soon!

I read a few pages this morning and then made myself get on the treadmill, thankful at least for this time to listen to “my music” as I have various Disney soundtracks playing in the car about 80% of the time. (I thank the good Lord that Disney has at least employed Phil Collins on many recent tracks so I can listen to them 40 times in a row without driving into a building).

After running and walking and still not getting anywhere, I came back upstairs and snuck in one more chapter. This one was aptly title, “Children’s Music: WHY?” This book has given me many “slap on the hand” moments as well as “slap in the head” times too. Of course! WHY?? My parents didn’t have a CD player in the car. We had a few Disney soundtracks ourselves back then (on LPs!!!) but those were not quite portable! We had to make do with what was on the radio or singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” like this author.

I love music. Though I did not graduate with a major in music, I started off in that direction. I want my kids to love music. However, in succumbing to playing some of the tunes repeatedly, I had not considered the harm I’ve done to all of us until recognizing it on page 96.

In discussing “music with a moral” she explains that while there may be nothing wrong with telling your kids to brush their teeth…

…The messages are innocuous enough, but you are introducing your children to
prosaic, overly literal lyrics, coupled with dispirited, mostly lousy music. If
you are preparing them for a lifetime of listening to Top 40 pop hits, then you
will have given them the perfect start, as they will develop no discernible
musical taste.
But there is also a very real mental health danger to bad
music that is rarely mentioned: The melody and lyrics will get stuck on a
continual loop in one’s head, often for weeks at a time. Your child will be
humming the tune under his breath at all hours of the day, and you will
absentmindedly sing it while making coffee in the morning. What little sanity
you had left will slowly crumble; you will soon find yourself making
smiley-faced pancakes, collecting colorfully costumed teddy bears, and
decorating with plaid. You will begin to think that mother-daughter matching
outfits are really cute! Your friends will no longer drop by, because you offer
them healthful fruit snacks instead of a glass of wine, and they have to hear
about all the funny things your child said. Avoid bad music and you avoid an
insidious and downward descent into sheer blandness.

I had no idea that this woman had visited my house! I know I’ve been feeling mental illness creeping up but I did not attribute it to the music! It’s time to put the Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald and Gershwin back into the car! I can’t forget Harry, either. I was so thrilled a few years ago to find that Harry Connick, Jr. had recorded an album of children’s songs. He included many of my old favorites, some of which were already on my daughter’s list too (the album came out when she had to watch the Wizard of Oz on a daily basis)—but they’re much more fun when Harry sings them! Not that I have my own schoolgirl crush on the man, I just like his music. Really. Just because his name pops up in my posts from time to time, you should not go jumping to conclusions.

Well, my week started off according to some vague plan. Now I’m distracted. Yep. I do remember when I was in school. I remember how my teacher tried to have us follow her schedule. This was the part of the day where I’d hear “Lory? Are we daydreaming again?”

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I've been trying all day to make this appear in the previous post but at least you can see it now! Posted by Picasa

Thought for the day

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about YOUR plans.

This is one of my favorite quotes. I was sure I'd found it in Bird by Bird but I just flipped through the thing and can't find it. Of course, I recall Anne Lamott as saying "tell Her about your plans" but the idea is the same!

As it turns out, from my extensive online search, this quote is attributed to Woody Allen. That sounds right. (Ms. Lamott quotes lots of other people in her book).

I repeat this quote to someone at least once a week. This being an especially odd week for some reason, I thought I'd share it with many of you at once.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Round and round she goes...

Track Wilma

I know this is not the most poignant question of the day, but why does the hurricane name list end with Wilma? I realize they recycle the lists every 6 years or so, and I'm sure everyone prays that we don't actually see 26 hurricanes; however, if you're going to make an alphabetical list, why not go all the way to the end? Is it just that Xavier, Yolanda and Zoe might be on the list every year? I'm sure we could add Xerxes, Yancey and Zach. Maybe that's it.

I hear if there is another one this year, they're going to start over with Greek names. Alpha would be the beginning of the list, obviously.

As far as the name of the current storm, I do wonder sometimes where they get their inspiration. Hopefully Wilma Rudolph was not the inspiration for putting “Wilma” onto the hurricane name list. Being strong, fast and able to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds are fantastic qualities in an athlete but they’re not quite what you’d be hoping for in the case of a hurricane!!

It would have to have been something much worse than coming home late from bowling to get another famous Wilma into such a tizzy! Maybe that’s why this name made the list. Hurricane experts had to be thinking that if we’d get all the way to “W,” we’d be hoping the storm would have a slow, resigned “Oh, Fred!” quality to it.


Sunday, October 16, 2005


I found this link at Mary P's blog and followed it, thinking it sounded like harmless fun.

Now, I'm not so sure...
You Are Changing Leaves

Pretty, but soon dead.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

I was reading an interview of an author a few weeks back. (Plenty of time has elapsed for me to forget just who I was reading about!) Anyway, the author was talking about the importance of reading many different books. I remember the comment that it was okay to put down a book without finishing it. The point being that you should expose yourself to various authors and ideas but don't waste your time with the ones you do not get anything from. I have trouble with this. (Well, I put them down all the time but keep claiming I will get back to them. This might explain the stagnant list of “books I’m reading now” to the left of this blog!) Even when I find that I just don’t like a book, I feel like I am not giving it a fair chance if I don’t read it through to the end. The last chapter could always be brilliant!

However, I have now been “reading” The Heart is a Lonely Hunter for over a year. I’ve had to start over because it had been so long I forgot some of what I’d read. I picked it up during our move last summer. It was sitting in the store with the big “Oprah’s Book Club” sticker on the front cover. I needed something else to read during our trip so this looked like a good choice. I could not get into it during the move so I put it aside, thinking I’d enjoy it more once we were settled in the house. Nope. I brought it with me when I flew with the kids to Florida last summer, thinking I’d read a few pages on the plane or in the evenings when the kids fell asleep. It didn’t happen. Then I left it at my parent’s for a month or so before asking them to send it back to me. I made it through a few more pages the other night but then picked up a new book at the library on Thursday and McCuller’s book is still lying on my night stand. (The book itself can’t be lonely. It is sitting there with the other books you see there on the left side of this page!)
The characters seem interesting. I love the details she has included. This seems to be a work of a truly observant person. However, I still have not made it beyond page 44.

Maybe life is too short to finish every book I pick up. However, I have this nagging feeling that this seems is an important book that I should want to read. Then again, that nagging feeling is just coming from Oprah. I received a degree in English without having read this book and I had not put it on my personal list of books that I really want to read.

There are important books in fiction and non-fiction that are calling for my attention. There are literary classics that everyone should read at least once that I still have not opened. I do not have time to read every book that I want to. Yet, being a successful product of our society, I feel like I need to at least read every book listed in “Oprah’s Book Club” list to be well read.

Perhaps I should put in a call to Dr. Phil. Obviously, this is not working for me.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini


Lots of novels incorporate all of the above. In the context of Hosseini’s novel, I had to give them capital letters.

I wanted to warn you that reading this novel is heart-breaking but that term is not strong enough. It is heart-shattering.

Many times, I wanted to put the book down and walk away so I would not have to witness what was coming next. In the end, I could not do it. These characters have so much at stake. You can’t just close the book in the middle and leave them where they are with only your bookmark to clutch.

Hosseini creates characters that we can cry for, and cry with, but also gives us a glimpse of a world far from ours. Hosseini doesn’t give you the nightly news account version, nor does he give you a map at the front of the book. He just grabs your hand and takes you into Afghanistan, whether you’re ready to go or not.

As chapter one opens, you see the date “December 2001” hovering over the first paragraph. Knowing it’s a novel about Afghanistan, and knowing that the date above was a three months after the tragedy that unfolded on our soil, I kept waiting for it to happen again on one of the pages. Occasionally, I’d stop and look back to check the date, just to make sure I hadn’t missed it. Admittedly, it was also a tactic to take a break from some of the intense chapters in this book. I don’t know if I was looking for a tragedy that I could “predict” or just hoping that there was some way we could avoid that one this time.

Then in happened. In one paragraph the twin towers came down, in the next the U.S. bombed Afghanistan and ordinary Americans in San Francisco Starbucks were discussing the towns that had been a big part of Amir’s life. I thought he handled this part perfectly. We witness enough in this novel and he knows that his readers have already witnessed 9/11 many times. We don’t need to watch it unfold again. He did manage to include the right details though.
One Tuesday morning last September, the Twin Towers came crumbling down and, overnight, the world changed. The American flag suddenly appeared everywhere, on the antennae of yellow cabs weaving around traffic, on the lapels of pedestrians walking the sidewalks in a steady stream, even on the grimy caps of San Francisco’s pan-handlers sitting beneath the awnings of small art galleries and open-fronted shops. One day I passed Edith, the homeless woman who plays the accordion every day on the corner of Sutter and Stockton, and spotted an American flag sticker on the accordion case at her feet.

Hosseini includes small details throughout the novel to make you feel like you are in the streets of Kabul or Peshawar with Amir. The pride in his country and its people shines throughout the story. A few sentences about the burst of American flags and national pride that erupted in the wake of 9/11 put me right back in my own country in 2001.

Afghanistan is a character in this book as well as the people but Amir and his family experience as much or more turbulence in their individual lives as the country faces with the Soviet and Taliban occupations. I do not, however, want to give the impression that the entire story is under a veil of tragedy. There are beautiful, bright moments of pure joy and love throughout as well. Our first trip into Kabul in the early 1970s is wonderful.

I am impressed by this writer and I recommend the book but with caution. The quote on the front cover from The New York Times Book Review simply says: “Powerful… Haunting.” That last word is quite accurate. I just finished the book today but have not been able to put it out of my mind for a few weeks now. (I did not have the time or the stamina to read this one in one sitting!) While I feel better now having seen the story through to its resolution, I will not be able to let go of these characters any time soon.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Our aspiring artist

My daughter brought a note home on Friday telling us that a local coffee shop would be displaying artwork by some of the students at her school for the next two weeks, complete with an opening “reception” this afternoon. Of course, she did not want to go and was very shy while we fawned over her work and talked with the teacher but I did catch a little gleam in her eye as we admired her (framed!) artwork on the wall of a busy coffee shop by the university. The owners also have children in her school and they teamed up with the school’s art teacher to put on this exhibit. We found a few other budding artists while we were there.

I am so thankful that there are teachers and members of the community who will come up with things like this to inspire and encourage these kids. My daughter has always loved coloring, painting and “crafts” but during the school year doesn’t do so much on her own at home anymore. Today, though she vehemently protested going anywhere near the coffee shop, she started on some new secret project in the basement the moment we got home. It’s amazing what a little outside encouragement can do for a person!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

We're back!

Well, we have returned from a few glorious days in Los Angeles.
Thanks so much to my Dad, who flew up and stayed with the kiddos--took them to school, Taekwondo and even Baskin Robbins--so we could go!

It was sunny, it was beautiful, it was expensive, it was L.A. It was great. Of course, it could have been anywhere--for me, it was enough of a vacation to know I could sleep as late as I liked and no matter where I went or what I did, no one would be calling "Mommy" except on the phone.

We stayed in downtown L.A. and found that we have already turned into small-town folk, but that's OK!
(Hubbie--I don't mind paying $20 for my entree but this is a garnish and me--Does that say $11 for a GLASS of wine?) I thought I knew what was what...I've worked in big office buildings in big cities and I thought I knew what to expect. What I forgot was that those experiences were a DECADE ago!

Ah well---it was relaxing (after drinking the $11/glass wine) and fun but it's good to be back home too. Now I just have to catch up with my blogging friends! ; )