Thursday, February 26, 2009

A World of Choices

I've been thinking about Mariam and Laila, the two women who become virtual slaves to the man they marry in Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns. Both women were coerced into a cruel marriage after the lives they'd had before were oblitereated. In a society increasingly intolerant of the rights of women, this one choice could not be undone. They were their husband's undisputed property. Failure to absolutely meet his demands and unspoken desires could result in knocked out teeth and blackened eyes. Serving him well could have the same result.

I live a life with multiple options. I think right now I am in the glory days of choices. My kidlets have grown into competent adults. My husband and I have managed to secure a reasonably comfortable retirement. My health is good. The same cannot be said of my hubby's health. His options diminish to the extent that he's being tormented by gout or arthritus or some new infestion that his body is not adequately fighting. His leukemia diagnosis casts its shadow in all directions.

I think I've made pretty good choices throughout my life. When I haven't, life has dealt with me relatively kindly anyway. In slightly more than one month, I will turn friggin 63. You'd think by now I'd have mastered this business of making choices. And yet . . .

An e-mail and blogger friend of mine told me about an assignment for her writing class. The students were to write "I wish" on twenty lines of paper and then complete the sentence with a particular wish. Following that, they were to describe one thing that they could do that would help transform that wish into a reality. I've given this a lot of thought and plan to write about it in more detail at some point in my other blog. The only wish over which I have any control
that I could think of is for me to get back the self discipline that I demonstrated when I successfully got rid of 65+ pounds. This was from approximately October 2001 through the following year and a half.

Instead of being self disciplined, my currrent guiding principal has been immediate self gratification. I'm troubled by that, yet so far not troubled enough to get off my butt. My elliptical cross trainer is 12 1/2 inches away from me as I write this. I measured the distance.

I glory in the multitude of my choices, yet I treat them carelessly. Even now, I find myself resisting the call to action. I want to work on updating my photo albums, a task I've resisted these past two days so that I could enjoy the taskless self indulgence of reading a good book.

It is 2:55 p.m. It is entirely possible for me to put in a half hour on the elliptical and still have time to work on the photo album. It is entirely possible for me to assume control over what I eat in the hours that remain of this day.

I'm going to take that first step now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Well I finished it. In less than a day and a half. At the expense of sleep and other projects (though not without certain interruptions).

Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns is an exceptional book. The setting is Afghanistan from the years before the Soviet invasion through that of the U.S. following the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001. The story is of two women born into very different circumstances and about 20 years apart. They, as well as those with whom they interact, emerge as fully fleshed out human beings who live their lives within the larger context of time, place and culture, a context that informs, but never overwhelms, the compelling narrative. What Khaled Hosseini delivers in this book is what I seek when I pick up a novel. I highly highly recommend this book.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Lure of Books and Unplanned Naps on Days Like This

With my paperwork pile finally conquered, I've worked hard these last several days on maintaining this current state of up-to-dateness. No charge receipt has gone unfiled, no bill unpaid, no mail unopened.

With gray skies and pouring rain and my time thus cleared to work on projects, to finally put into albums those photos going back to 2002 or to play downstairs with my glass, I've chosen the luxury of picking up a new novel and falling asleep while reading it. The projects will wait. Softly drifting into an unplanned nap is oh-so-enticing.

Another of my authors has fallen off my must read list. December Wedding is the eighth book by Anita Shreve that I've read and possibly the last. Her competence is unfailing, yet I found myself bored with her characters and their problematic lives. Was it that in all cases new love was purchased at the price of marital fidelity? Perhaps this contributed to it. I lost much respect for Barbara Walters when she disclosed her affair with a black married man. It was decades ago and she said that people back then would have judged her harshly while today people were more understanding of such things. I had the sense that she was focusing more on his race than his marital status.

I think I've come to a point where I want more from a novel than even a competent author such as Anita Shreve chooses to deliver. I like a sense of history and of place and of culture, particularly those that differ from my own. One of these days I'll write about some of my favorite books. There are so many wonderful ones. I'll be reading Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns next. I found his first novel, The Kite Runner, to be compelling, but a bit too brutal for me. With this book, I'll discover if Hosseini will be added to my GLA.*

*GLA stands for Grocery List Authors, those authors who I like so much that I'd even read their grocery list (once). I'd previously referred to them as my laundry list authors, but have since realized that I don't know what a laundry list is. I believe Margaret Atwood used the term in a lecture I attended. She described herself as such an author for many people, saying that she could get away with this only once.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Too Cute Note to Post

This made me smile.
It's 2 minutes 17 seconds long. The major cuteness starts at about 44 seconds.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Junk Mail and Disappointing Books

A little rant here about junk mail. I spend about 90 minutes a week going through the various solicitations that are sent to my hubby and me. Because we donate to a number of animal groups, we receive an average of 5 requests a week from groups dealing with abused pigs, mistreated donkeys, starving horses and the like. I try to avoid looking at the pictures as I sort through them. CARE, an apparently excellent group dealing with humans in wretched circumstances, asks us for money at least once a month. We made a donation to the group once following the tsunami in Indonesia. We answered "no" when they sent a letter asking if we'd like them to contact us in the future.

I go through the junk mail ripping off and shredding information about our names and address. The most time consuming of my junk mail task is cutting by hand the numerous address labels that I am sent. I can't use the shredder or they will muck up my machine. I remember when I used to pay for labels. I'd gladly do so again if that would keep away the ones that are sent to me with donation requests.

My desk is finally clear of piled up mail and financial non-junk, some going back all the way to August. I may yet be able to get on with updating the photo albums. The last time I did this was in 2002.

Today, I'm experiencing sharp pains in my back.
I don't know what's up with that. Mostly I'll be reading today. I'll probably finish Isabel Allende's Ines of My Heart, a novel taking place in the early 16th century and dealing with the Spanish conquest of Peru and Chile. With the first book that I read by her, Daughter of Fortune, Allende had become one of my laundry list authors, a writer that I'd enjoyed so much that I would read anything she wrote including her laundry list (once). With Ines of My Heart, I have stripped her of that honor. For the depth of character and situation that had marked the first book, Allende has substituted sex and violence. I feel somewhat like a voyeur and I don't like the experience.

With regard to a book I'd mentioned in my December 31st post, Snow by Orhan Pamuk, it was a challenge to finish it. This is a Nobel Prize winner and well recommended by a variety of sources including Margaret Atwood who is firmly anchored in her laundry list status but has lost credibility for me as a recommender of books. Snow is extremely well written at the sentence and paragraph level, but doesn't come together as a coherent story. It tells the tale of a "by accident" coup that begins with a theatrical event. The "actors" start shooting at the audience, killing some of those in attendance. Later we learn that the leader of the coup didn't really want to lead it, but felt that he had to following some braggadocios remarks that he'd made earlier. The behavior of the characters make no sense within the context of either the story or the real world. My advice: Do not waste your time on this book.

Enough for now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This Is Really Interesting

I'm going to do this pretty much daily until I can easily and accurately complete it.

What is this? It's a fill in map of the Middle East. With my first attempt, I learned how truly ignorant I am. As I continued with it, I found myself understanding more about the relationships between these countries. Learning in this way becomes a game. The prize is knowledge and a context through which to understand events in this region of the world.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Just Checking In and What Is Your Word?

I'm busy with a long deferred photo project. Before I continue with it, I should get current with too long deferred paperwork. I'd like to freeze time and the activities of the rest of the world while I complete both. I'd be most grateful to anyone who can do this for me. A bit of good news is that I've rediscovered sleep, courtesy of a house guest for whom I provided an extra blanket which I've since added to the ones I'd already been using. I hadn't felt cold before this, but apparently the extra warmth lets me ease into Sleepland. I attended my first Weight Watcher meeting of the new year on Thursday weighing more than I've ever weighed. I've been on track for the last three days.

Last Saturday, January 31st, I woke up at 4 a.m. so that I could participate in an "Epic Bird Tour" with a local environment group. We went to three bird refuges. My pictures did not turn out as well as I had hoped, but I'm sharing four of them anyway. The coolest moments were when thousands of geese flew above us.

Onwards now to my various projects.

Oooops, I just checked Cory's blog and came across this wonderful 5 question quiz. I can't believe how accurately it describes me.

Your Word is "Why"
You see life as complicated and intriguing. The only thing you know for sure is that you haven't figured it all out yet.
You question everything and believe very little. And whatever you believe is likely to change.

You are interested in theories, philosophies, and religions... even if you don't buy into any of them.
You are also fascinated by how things work. You'd like to understand as much in the world as possible.