Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A piece of history unwrapped...

I remember it was around 1:00 am when I turned the last page. 
 I can’t remember if I was sucked in initially but, regardless of how this one started…it became one of those books I couldn’t wait to finish…and yet...didn’t want it to end. 
The book is told in two narrative strands, past and present.  One of a woman looking into a mysterious past; and the other of a child looking ahead to an uncertain future.
It created a drama that was both bleak and optimistic.  It showed resilience and redemption.   
It was uniquely human.
Avery is a woman finding her roots, while Rill is a girl afraid of losing hers.  Two generations apart…forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice…a real-life scandal.
Georgia Tann and her Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage cast aside children for profit…
pure f*ck*ng evil.  
I can’t help question how a place like this could actually exist.  How could she do this?  How did she sleep at night?   
But she did…for years. 
All the while…robbing children of their pasts and changing their futures.
Memphis, Tennessee….1939 on the Mississippi River shanty, the Arcadia.  Five siblings live…to me…what seems like a magical life aboard a river shanty boat.  Their days are filled with laughter…fishing…telling stories…running free through the wild.
The story was so rich with details I could smell the river, hear the laughter…and once that was taken away…I could hear the creaking of the floor boards in the orphanage and feel the pain of loss. 
The power of money and politics.  It still exists today. 
As the book went on and the stories unfolded…I thought about all of the lies…the secrets.  Does anyone really know their own parents?  Do we really know our friends?  What questions do you ask?  What secrets does the person beside you in the elevator have…the person in line with you at the grocery store?
It awakens your senses…your curiosity and your wonder…but do you dare? I mean…do we really even want to know?  Should some truths be left undiscovered?  Should some secrets stay hidden inside Pandora’s box?
Stolen children subjected to horrors, a father with cancer, a grandmother with Alzheimer’s, an elderly woman whose sister dies and remains living with the body until discovered...
It’s a dark story to read at times…but in the very end…they find a little light.
In my opinion, it is definitely worth your time if you appreciate learning some history through engaging fiction. 
Peter Pan said, ‘All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”
yet, certainly not in this case. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Just live. Just live?

Me Before you
Novel by Jojo Moyes
I can remember closing the book and laying it on my chest.  Then sitting up wishing I had someone to talk to about it. 
 It is one of those books that gives you an emotional hangover. 
I asked everyone…have you read Me before You?  No one had, at the time.  Until last night. 
Amanda texted Vanessa and I and said, Melib, I was looking on Off the Cuff…where is your review on the book? 
She had just finished it.  I never wrote one. 
 I told her I would. 
My copy is stained with tears.  It’s no secret I’m emotional.  I had used tissue peppered all over the floor. 
Oh my god, this book is good. 
 A total page-turner that kept me up way past my bedtime. 
A year later…I still think about this book.
It is about the issues of euthanasia, which, in my opinion, is brilliantly written like a romance novel….but it’s not a romance novel and it’s not full of politics surrounding the choice.  I liked her approach.  I loved how it was thoroughly engaging and thought provoking. 
How could you read this and not ask yourself what you might do in a similar circumstance?
If you haven’t read it, in a nutshell, this guy had it all…and one day it was all taken away.  He was now a quadriplegic. Lou is an ordinary girl, leading an ordinary life and it seemed to suit her just fine. 
Then they meet. 
I will say Lou’s lack of dreams…of wonder and possibility bothered me, so I was happy she met him.  She couldn’t have predicted to find her place in the world and for someone else to see and recognize her potential…
we would all be so lucky. 
It was kind of like two lost souls with nothing to fight for had crossed paths.  Two blind people found their light…for a while…and for a while…it seemed like enough.

“The thing about being catapulted into a whole new life…or at least, shoved up so hard against someone else’s life that you might as well have your face pressed against the window…is that it forces you to rethink your idea of who you are.  Or how you might seem to other people.” 

I think we all innately want to fix things…and it’s easy to hold on to imaginary hope when you’re not the person who is trapped.
It did seem ironic to me that a man who couldn’t move was the one that woke her up from a life she had settled for. 

But, you can read the book to fill in the story line.  It leads you to the end and HIS choice. 
Don’t forget that when you close the book that it was HIS choice. 
Not yours. 
That’s what I loved about this book.  It makes you think.  It made me think about my choices in life, my fears, people who have affected my daily life…and if love is really enough…if you have nothing left. 
In my opinion, NO. It honestly wouldn’t be for me.  I would have done what Will did. 

 Vanessa and I just had this conversation.  I don’t have a medical directive put in place.  I have a verbal one though, with her.  I said, Vee.  Don’t…whatever you do, let your emotions get in the way of pulling my plug if my quality of life is vegetative…or if I can’t live independently.  I don’t want that life for myself.  It’s MY choice.  She agreed. 
Sometimes, you just have to accept things won’t get better.  That sometimes, even if they are family, you have to let some people go.   Even if it’s hard.  Life can be hard.  And cruel.  It can also be amazing.  Fulfilling and full of blessings. 

I honestly don’t think the book was so much about convincing Will to live, but for Lou to understand that he wouldn’t. 
He reminded us to stand on your own two feet.  Explore your potential.  Broaden your horizons.  I loved how he challenged himself, read, traveled, studied languages…every day, he lived. In whatever way that meant to him. 

Get out there Lou. 
Take the world by storm. 
 Just like we all should. 

 Oh yea...read the book.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Til Death Do Us Part

Five years ago today... 
It doesn’t seem to matter whether it has been a week…

a month…or, in this case… 

five years. 
The pain and grief…

I will feel it for a lifetime.

one of life’s bitter truths. 

 There is no point being in denial.  

You are gone from this plane.   
To this day…

death slips into moments it should have no part in. 

 Every grand moment is a reminder of your loss. 
The empty seat.  

The empty space. 
The number I wish to call but there will be no answer. 
But, I know you are there with me, in some way.
I have seen you in the faces of strangers. 

In fact, Ashley recently sent all of us a photograph she had taken. 

 She was in DC at a Memorial and on the far left…

it looked like YOU. 

The thing I’ve learned about death…is how alive it really is. 
You lose a parent and somehow it feels like a milestone. 
 It’s life altering. 
People may think, when you passed at 84, it was normative…or expected. 
Expected or not...It had a profound effect on me. 

Five years later…

I will characterize the changes now, as positive…

but admitting…that has taken a while. 

I continue to climb life’s ladder at a steady pace. 
I've stalled a couple of times...
regained my footing.
It happens.
 I am a late bloomer. 
I will confide in you that I have never really felt ‘grown up.’
I’ll speculate that perhaps one of the best-kept secrets of life;

is that no one ever really feels that way. 

 Wait, you died…

and suddenly, I grew up.  
 I was catapulted over that maturity barrier.
  Death provides a knowledge of our limits…
and oddly that feels like the beginning of being mature. 
Dad, your life will always be a vivid one,

 the epitome of greatness and sacrifice.

 I honor and celebrate you today and always. 
I’m sorry I don't write more often. 
You had asked me to.
I will.
Til Death Do Us Part

Sunday, August 23, 2015

All The Light We Cannot See in review

What an EPIC read by Anthony Doerr

A New York Times Bestseller…
A Pulitzer Prize winner!

I loved it.

If you haven't read this magical novel…
but you plan to…
maybe you shouldn't read this.
I won't be cautious in my writing 
or alert you to any spoilers.

Take a few days…
go read it…
and come back to this.

A quick synopsis of the book…
Doerr takes a moment in history, a rare gem, 
two people with huge obstacles and knowledge of 
 to weave a story that is 
ridiculously captivating, 
thought provoking and 
deeply moving.

In a little more detail…
A curious French girl goes blind... 
a German orphan boy 
with an amazing talent for working and building radios…
find themselves moving through life
and eventually…
their stories weave together.

The book was presented like short chapters
of a journal entry. 
It didn't captivate me until I got to
around page 80.
By the way, this is another doozie…530 pages.

Vanessa and Amanda had both read it and 
encouraged me to keep turning the pages.

I'm so glad I did.

I kept thinking about the title.
What did it mean?  

I thought…could he be referencing the light 
they found in the darkness of wartime?

As you read the dual story,
you wonder how soon it is before the two 
are going to meet.
Let me tell you...
You read almost the entire book 
before they actually
come face to face.

I was hoping for a romance and a fairy tale ending…
because it seemed like that is where it would go.

However, true love would be too predictable as an ending. 

We are often reminded that life doesn't always
turn out as planned.
I kept waiting for their lives to intersect…
and it was for less than 24 hours.


Why did she protect the diamond to then toss it away?

Why is there no resolution about her father?

Why was Frederick in the wrong place in life at the wrong time? 

The unknown questions were frustrating but created 
a realistic and real world.
No fairy tale here.

When do we ever get things wrapped up all pretty
and from what I have read about war…
you end up with a lot of things we may
never know.

You would think we would be hardened to 
the descriptions of war…
the chaos, the bloodshed, 
the evil.

so destructive.  
Yet these two…it never
annihilated their hope…
or mine for them.

This young man trapped in darkness…
listens to a girl's voice over the radio…
he hoped…she hoped.

I paused sometimes in my reading…
thinking about some of my why's.
I thought about the metaphors and his lyrical writing.

I thought about when Vanessa and I were little girls.
One day our brother wanted to show us a prism he had.
I can distinctly remember being in the back yard and he said 
watch this.
We watched him take this gem like stone and tilt it and 
it reflected light.
How was it possible this prism separated white light
into a spectrum of colors?
It was so beautiful…we wanted to hold it…
we wanted one of our own.

Our own Sea of Flames.

Light we cannot see.

It brought the book together for me in a way.
All the light we cannot see…could this be my interpretation.
His radio waves…unseen…but heard.
The stone…unseen…but wanted.
The journey.

The brain has power to create light in darkness…
he was in the darkness of the coal mine listening to her voice…
her blindness never shown as something to pity. 

The light in this book shoots from 
many different directions and every time I saw it…
it seemed like pure magic.

Gems are made valuable and in this case, powerful by
those who seek them but remain nothing
more than stones found in a creek to others.

What did he do with the stone?

Why did Doerr have them meet for literally an instant…
and then he died…
 his death came out of nowhere for me.

I loved his bravest moment…
when he confronts Von Rumpel.

It states, "All your life you wait, 
and then it finally comes, and are you ready?"

Are you ready to open your eyes and see what you can with them?
Do you want to be alive before you die?
Do you want to LIVE before you die?

Perhaps, instead of pursuing diamonds,
money, treasures…

instead of going to war and destroying lives…
instead of listening to nationalized propaganda…

instead of the mundane…mindless…meaningless
things we choose to pursue…

Why don't we pursue "all that we cannot see"…
Why don't we listen to and become more aware?

The plight of everyman is to live the life presented...
even under the most discouraging circumstances. 

These two lives are
beautifully embodied in this epic tale.

They lived.  

They plodded.

They held out hope.

They were the light.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

The View From Where I Sat

I woke up to the sun coming through the giant windows in my apartment.  
I smiled.  
I knew how I was spending today.  
I gathered my blanket, a book, some paper, a pen and my music.  
I made my way to the lake.  
I unpacked my bag next to the water's edge …took off my shoes and didn't see a soul around. 

I pointed my face towards the sun and soaked in the warmth…
the solitude…the sound of the lake and my thoughts.

I wrote this down.

I live in Sawyer, MI.  
A coastal town in Southwest Michigan and due to its seasonality…
it becomes very quiet during the winter months.  
The store I manage closes during this time and I didn't have 'to be' anywhere at a certain time…
my routine was what I wanted it to be and I wasn't unhappy about it.  

When you live like this…you become extremely conscious of time. 
 The time to realize that along with the shifting seasons…
brings shifting goals.

As the snow melted...it's like something else was thawing inside of me.  
I looked around my apartment and all of the stuff I had accumulated in a years time.  
A lot.  
Then my mind wandered to the garage space I rent in Elkhart with my gear…
bins of…who knew what?  
It all felt excessive.  
Like a burden.  

I called my sister Lucinda…can you help me?  
I just need some of your time.  
I need you to squash any doubt. 
 She is an awesome sister…an even better friend.  
We went through bins in my storage unit with unusual gusto.  
I filled garbage bags with clothes that belonged to another life.  
Even Lucinda would say as I held something up…
that doesn't even look like something you would own.  
Toss it.  
I emptied eight (8) bins of crap that day…
with the intent of tossing more.  

In my quest to rid myself of all of this baggage…
I came across letters I had framed from my late father. 
He gave solid advice.  
I carry all of it with me.  
My parents have always encouraged me to spread my wings…
yet, had open arms if I needed to have a place to come back to.  

Always reminding me to follow my dreams…
even if others presented doubt or judgement.  
To do what was best for ME.  
I cherish these letters and all of the love and advice in them.

It was a beautiful day.
 It was peaceful.
Out by the lake…
thinking about things.

I was watching two birds flying together.  
I wondered how they live?
Free came to mind.
F R E E 
Going wherever they wanted to.
Wherever they found food and felt safe. 

My mind wandered to feeling secure.  
Finding security.  
I don't typically find it with people…
or owning property or things.  
I tend to find security in sounds.  
Here in Sawyer, I've come to love the distant sound of the trains.  
Even the ones that wake me up at 4:00am.  
It is a sense that nothing is missing…
I think to myself…
ah, there it is…
running right on time.  

I was also thinking about a pending interview…
and that question they always ask you.  
Where do you see yourself in five (5) years.  
I can hear us all collectively groan.
But, my yoga practice has taught me not look too far into the future.  
Set goals, but don't lose sight of the journey.  
Be prepared (I'm still working on this one) and the one I find I am best at…
don't be afraid of change.  
It's no longer surprising to me that my career has ultimately taken care of itself.  
I seek fulfillment and keep an open mind to a future undefined.  
It's just how I roll.

A couple of hours had passed.  
I decided to pack up my things.  
I reminded myself that I can handle anything that comes my way.  
I am a smart girl.  
I have a good heart.  
I have good intentions.  
I'll land on my feet.  

I am here…
writing this…
adjusting my sails…
putting some space between things…
devoting time to others…
and ultimately…
moving on…

to be continued...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cowboys Are My Weakness...in review

My friend Cindy texted me before Christmas…
have you read Cowboys Are My Weakness?  
I hadn't.  
Next thing I knew…I had a copy of the book.  
She is so cool like that.

I'll be honest…
cowboys are a weakness…
have you ever seen or been around a real cowboy?


In truth, men are a weakness…
don't act like you don't feel the same way.  

Marlboro Man come to mind?  
He did for me.

 I was looking forward to reading it.  

I wrote this today because I finished the book this morning and 
it just so happened Cindy texted me asking how I was enjoying it.
I felt compelled to write her a review of my thoughts…
and overall, I liked it.

This book is a vignette of stories…
but I found the themes and characters wound so closely together…
it feels like there are barely any spaces in between them.  
There is a certain redundancy to the stories…
similar themes…kind of like a country song on repeat.

 Most of the time as I was reading..
I wondered if it wasn't really her story…
Not Cindy's…the author's.
I'd like to ask her…is this really fiction? 

The beauty I found was in her writing…
how it created this feeling…
the truth of her words…like I'd been there before.  
We all have.  

We've all dated that guy before.  
The one where we change who we are. 
Do we really love all of the adventure?  
Or do we become what we think they want?  

Like, you've never once thought of jumping out of a plane but he suggests it…
 or buys the opportunity for you on your birthday
 and you feel like you should because he is so excited about it…
 and you want him to like you. 
(Btw, this really happened to me…
 and I told him to take someone else…
I don't jump from planes…I can barely get on one).  

Or, you become a class five kayaker 
because every weekend you are scouting for the best rapid?  
Yea, I get it.

I really do. 

One of those weaknesses a few of us share…
we want the bad boys.  

It's funny…as I kept reading…I kept thinking the same thing.  
How does she stick around for this beating?  
(I am sure I have friends who have thought this about me)

She should have known better…
and she probably did…
but she did it anyway…
and then, somehow within the midst of it all…
 she got confused and then she was surprised
 and then thankfully…
she finally left.  

We can only hope that we continue to learn from each relationship 
and not keep repeating the same mistake…
even if we are smart…
independent and not really quite sure what we are looking for.
We hope that our fear of testosterone dependency 
doesn't get the best of us so we keep returning to…that.

"…I should know better, but I love it when he calls me baby." 
That about sums it up sometimes…
what he says…how he says it…
and you don't care how it really is…
you just take it for what it isn't.

The book, as it turns out…if you haven't picked up on it…
it's about the wrong guy, over and over.  

These smart women choosing the wrong man…and they know it. 
 I would guess…they don't think they deserve any better.  

"He was smart and selfish and lied by omission.  
I was addicted to him like cough syrup, and I didn't respect his mind."

We all have dreams about what our perfect man would be like.  
Maybe you date him…or maybe you married him?  
Maybe you are still looking for him?

Perhaps…like me…it would be the Marlboro Man.  
That's who I envisioned the entire time I was reading this. 

The reality is…
or what you eventually find out in life, is that they are all real men…
the kind of men you meet everyday.  

One of the characters says, "Is sex ever love?"

What is love?

Love is a drug.  
A person can become an addiction regardless of the commitment.  

For me personally…
the book made me want to head back out west.
With her writing I could see the sunsets…
and feel the water from the rapids.

We all want to be loved by someone…
regardless of what we feel we deserve.

I think I've said it before…
I have a knack for choosing the wrong guy…
just like these women.
It's the reoccurring themes in these relationships that I have been ignoring…
just like these women.

I keep searching for answers where the questions are unseen.

Advice for future lovers:  
Don't ask me what I'm looking for…
I only know how to tell you what I am supposed to want.

And, if you listen to what I am supposed to want…
how quickly that relationship will become boring
 and uninteresting...
as dull and ugly to me as the color yellow.

Now, I'm off to find some of those red cowboy boots...

Friday, October 31, 2014

Kindness At The Drive-Thru

I feel like I see these stories all of the time on my feed in Facebook…
 but it had never happened to me.

A stranger paid for your toll…your coffee…
your ice cream…maybe bought your lunch?

A grand gesture of anonymous kindness…
Then they drove off or left without waiting for a thank you…
or even a wave.

Paying it forward.

Gathering karma points.

However you look at it…
someone simply doing something nice for someone else.

It can literally turn your day around…
or perhaps, in my case, you weren't even having a bad day.

It happened to me!! 
Two days ago.

I was headed to Chicago to help a friend move.
Crusin along…listening to music…and decided to pull off and grab a Starbucks.

As I was in line, I thought to myself…I better eat something…
it was going to be a long day.

Rarely do I get food at Starbucks...but I did.

I was excited to let the Barista know I even had a complimentary drink…
 I am quite the regular.

But, as I handed her my card she said…
The guy ahead of you paid for your breakfast…
he also wanted me to tell you to have a great day!

It took a minute to register as I had my card dangling at her like…

She smiled…

I smiled…

I looked ahead to see if he was around…
I would have launched myself as far out of my window as I could to try and wave…
you know...show my appreciation…
But he was gone.

Then I thought…man, hope he wasn't bummed when she was like her total was $8!
Like he was secretly hoping I only ordered a tall drip.

I got a meal.  

Regardless, it made my already good day that much better.

What a good reminder.

Be kind.
Be nice.
Smile at strangers.

You don't have to spend money to be generous.

Offer your time.

You could even help a friend move.

**My complimentary iced latte**