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Lemon Sorbet for the Reader

August 10, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s that feeling when, after finishing a very good book, I can’t find another book that interests me as much as the one I just finished. I wander through the shelves of the library searching for a title or book cover to jump out at me. Or maybe I search online for an ebook. Often, however, and disappointingly so, nothing compares to the previous book. In this case, the culprit was Stefan Zweig’s “The Post Office Girl.” Although a bit slow at the beginning, the story of the unfortunate Christine drew me in expertly, literature in beautiful form.

So now what?

That’s where the lemon sorbet comes in. I’m not eating it; I’m reading it. The next book acts as sorbet in a multi-course meal–the palate cleanser. The palate cleanser removes lingering flavors from previous courses so that the following courses can be enjoyed without compromise. After I finish the palate cleanser, I will be in the frame of mind to surrender to a new story. I will have a fresh perspective.

The palate cleanser is a light story that’s as different from The Post Office Girl as possible. No graceful literary language. No deftly complex themes or characters. It does have a few funny lines and because I am getting to know and like the characters, it has been keeping me awake late at night–oh, the hours I spend reading. Well, no one said the palate cleanser has to be unpleasant. Lemon sorbet, anyone?

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime

March 15, 2013 Leave a comment

The quickest hour of the workday is lunchtime. Even if the morning seemed to crawl from one minute to the next at an alarmingly slow pace, the lunch hour is virtually guaranteed to make up for it. On the days when I don’t have a meeting or errands to run, I nuke my homemade lunch and sit at my desk reading and checking the news on Facebook, Twitter and online newspapers–sometimes simultaneously. Hey, the lunch hour is only so long, so I have to attempt to multitask.

Lunchtime at desk - tofu and rice and a salad (cookies later!)

Lunchtime at desk – tofu and rice and a salad (cookies later!)


The book on success principles is still perched on my desk’s bookshelf, waiting to give sage advice:

Principle #9 – Success Leaves Clues. What does that mean? Well, here’s a clue–actually, the answer. At that moment, when the feeling of admiration–or envy–crosses my brain and I think, “I would like to do that”, why not find a way to do it? Find a book, manual, website, teacher or mentor that will help the idea become a reality. Chances are, whatever I aspire to do has been done before (nothing new under the sun and all that). Tap into that resource and get going. Success leaves clues. Seek and ask.

Principle #10 – Release the Brakes. The “brakes” keep us secure and warm in our comfort zones. The trouble is, there’s no growth in a comfort zone (that’s what makes it comfortable). There’s a sad but effective illustration in the book, The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You are to Where You Want to Be. From their earliest days, some (not the wild ones, of course) baby elephants are trained to be confined in a very small space. The trainer ties its leg with a rope to a wooden post which confines the baby elephant to its comfort zone. Because the rope is stronger than the baby elephant can pull, he learns to stay in the defined area.

Eventually, that baby elephant will grow to the two-ton, vegetarian giant that we see in zoos who could easily snap a rope to shreds, but does he? No. Why not? Training. From the time he was a baby elephant, he was trained to stay in small space, a habit he keeps well into adulthood. Sad, huh? We do this to ourselves all the time: I can’t do that. I tried that before and it didn’t work (testing the rope). Or worse, it didn’t work for so-and-so; it won’t work for me. Ah, the comfort of growth-killing beliefs. The good news is that we can affirm what we want, create new internal images of having, doing or being what we want and change our behavior.

Principle #11 – See What You Want, Get What You See. The one-word synopsis of this principle is visualization. We have heard that term before. It can be conceptual–allowing your mind to create a mental picture of creating the goal, like imagining doing a great job of giving a presentation. It can be tangible such as finding or drawing actual pictures of what you want, such as keeping a picture of your dream house handy. It may sound crazy or unrealistic, but if a person can’t visualize the goal, how can it be achieved?

Having used up the final minutes of my lunch hour, I clean off my desk of the newspaper, books, notepaper, lunch debris and close down Google and reach for the stack of work awaiting my undivided attention. Three more hours until the workday is officially finished? Bring it.

Believe in Yourself

January 31, 2013 Leave a comment

This is for the other late bloomers. The great people who never had the foresight to create (and believe) their own hype, their story of how wonderful they are. The trouble is, in the absence of positivity, negative thoughts will invite themselves in and take over like weeds. The one encouraging word is quickly squashed by a louder negative comment. So, why do we focus on that? Perhaps it’s easier that way, easier not to succeed than to roll up one’s sleeves and do the dirty work: practice every day, stay late at work, or—dare I say it?—make mistakes.

I don’t feel like talking about mistakes today, though. I would rather talk about possibilities. I have a fat, paperback book at my desk that I packed and recently unpacked during a move from one desk to another. Now that I don’t have a cabinet, it is out in the open, so I have been looking at it.  The author grins at me from the cover. It is an older book, by that I mean not a new release; it’s from 2005. Last year, I read “Unstoppable” by Cynthia Kersey, which contained 45 stories about personal triumph. It was one of my favorite books of the year. It would be worth reading again, but I have this other book, this thick book about success principles that, even if I concentrated on one principle per week, would take just over a year to finish. As I flipped through the book, past the mildly self-righteous introduction and into the guts of it, I thought, “Well, why not?” Isn’t there enough negative stuff bombarding our existence? Isn’t life too precious to waste another minute telling myself that I can’t do something? I have some crazy goals swirling around in my head, and I can use all of the encouragement and inspiration that I can pack into my brain.

Twenty thirteen is already into its fifth week, so I will start with this principle—Believe in Yourself.

You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned,, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the earth by the Master craftsman. – Max Lucado (author)

Believing in myself is the attitude, the choice, that I will concentrate on this week. The words “I can’t” no longer exist in my vocabulary. So maybe my dad was right: “You can be anything you set your mind to, kiddo.”

If I Tell Him How I Feel, He’ll Leave Me

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment

If I could wake up tomorrow with one special ability, I would want the ability to speak easily to others. Not only the gift of language to speak to anyone with no language barrier but also to communicate with others no matter the situation.

Many people think they cannot talk about certain subjects because of the potential reaction of the other person or they fear not being understood or that they will say the wrong thing. The solution, they decide, is not to say what is on their mind even at the risk of damaging the relationship through extended silence, wrong conclusions or physical distance. Family members, co-workers and business associates all suffer from strained communication at times and feel held hostage by their own inability to express themselves in a way that is respectful, clear and non threatening. I often hear people say things like:

“I didn’t say anything because I knew it would come out all wrong.”

“I had to walk away because it wasn’t the right time to talk about that.”

“If I tell him how I feel, he’ll leave me.”

To all of the head nodders out there, I disagree. Perhaps, maybe, two percent of the time, it may not be the right time to speak up because the receiver is not in the right frame of mind to process your message. The trouble is, the longer we wait to have the difficult conversation, the harder it may be to bring it up again. In some instances, not having the conversation can be more damaging or even tragic than the actual discussion that needs to take place:

• talking to your kids about drugs or sex versus intervention or an unplanned pregnancy

• approaching a family member about his signs of depression versus a suicide attempt

• calling off a wedding versus an unhealthy marriage or a bitter divorce

All meaningful relationships encounter occasions that call for high-stakes conversations. These conversations have been happening—or not happening—since the beginning of man’s existence. Consider this exchange:

Nathan: Let me tell you a story. There were two men in one city—one rich, the other, poor. The rich man had many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb. The poor man took good care of it, even fed it from his own table.

David: Go on. Tell me more.

Nathan: Well, one day a traveler came to the city and stayed with the rich man. When dinner time came, instead of taking a lamb from his own flock for the feast—remember, he owned lots of sheep and wouldn’t miss one—the rich man stole the poor man’s one and only lamb, killed and prepared it and served it to his guest.

David: That scoundrel! What kind of man would do such a thing? He ought to pay for it, fourfold even!

Nathan: You are the man.

Life is messy, and sometimes we have to talk about it. The writers of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, define crucial conversations as those when (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong. The conversation between King David and the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12:1-9) had all of the elements of a crucial conversation with the added element that, if a prophet angered a king back in those days, it could be ‘off with his head’! Early in the book (page 3, second edition), the authors make this assertion:

“If you know how to handle crucial conversations, you can effectively hold tough conversations about virtually any topic.”

So, what is the first principle of dialogue? How can we ensure we won’t say something now that we will regret later? Start with Heart. Motive. Decide what you really want and stay focused on that goal.

King David and Nathan had a long relationship of friendship and mutual respect, and Nathan was loathe to damage their relationship, even in the face of a delicate, serious situation. The stakes were high, yet Nathan did not back away from the conversation that needed to take place. He began with the right motive and stayed focused. Dialogue skills can be learned, and it is possible to hold difficult conversations in a way that maintains the relationship—or even improves it—and results in a workable conclusion, even if the parties agree to disagree. No slamming doors. No silent treatment. No hard stares across the dinner table. Is this possible? The writers of Crucial Conversations assure that it is.


Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler (http://www.amazon.com/Crucial-Conversations-Talking-Stakes-Second/dp/0071771328#reader_0071771328)

The Dickens Dilemma

Is it pathetic that I’m over forty and haven’t read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens? After all, just how did I manage to graduate from high school without that literary trophy under my belt? I imagine it’s no reflection on my English teachers. Left to my own devices to choose a book for a book report, I would have no doubt chosen an easier read like One Fat Summer by Robert Lipsyte over any classic. Time can be forgiving, and Masterpiece Theater an enabler. Like the proverbial moth to a flame, I was drawn to the movie adaptation of Great Expectations shown recently. Sadly, I caught only the second part, so I have to backtrack to complete the story. I decided to skip the Sparks Notes and wield my semi-neglected, like-new library card and check out the book, hoping to pump some culture into my brain cells.

If the task of procuring the book is any indication of my anticipated journey though Dickens’ London, I may as well pull out a comic book right now. Seriously, what self-respecting library doesn’t have a copy of Great Expectations in its main circulation?

“What does ‘Media: Mobile Library’ mean?” I asked the librarian, expecting him to yak, yak, yak, then point me to the proper section of the library so I could be on my way and enjoy the rest of my lunch hour.

Apparently it means that the library’s one copy of Great Expectations lives in the mobile library unit. In order to get it, I would have to make a reservation, and wait until it makes its way back to the physical library. How long that would take, no one can say for certain. When I realized he was serious, I simply thanked him and left. What other classics are on tour? Just in case I watch Pride and Prejudice next week.

Until now, reading the book was just an idea. Tell me I can’t and it becomes a mission. I trotted down to the nearest bookstore, determined to do exactly what I had been trying to avoid—buy the book. The first store (yes, I said ‘first’), had the book BUT it was one of those two-for-one deals that I wasn’t prepared accept. Amazon’s ‘Frequently Bought Together’ is obviously rubbing off, but I wasn’t in the mood to purchase ‘Tale of Two Cities’ just because it was attached to Great Expectations for $26.00, especially when I had planned to get the book for free. I had difficulty even finding the classics section in the second store (my third stop, in case you’re counting). A calm store clerk came to my rescue and located Pip’s story. Lest you think I’m completely inept, just know she had to look it up in the store’s computer inventory to find it. How’s that for digging for buried treasure!

In the end, Dickens’ tale set me back $16, as opposed to $0, and a lunch hour for a copy that is about the size of an index card with print that is probably going to force me to wear my glasses. I anticipate many nights with Great Expectations as my bedtime story and plan to enjoy every minute.

Part Two – Watching the Movie

What is the saying about the best-laid plans? While I watched Part Two of Great Expectations on PBS and I became very curious about one particular character. Miss Havisham. In the movie version, Miss Havisham raised Estella to be part of a revenge plot to punish someone else for the hurt she felt after being betrayed by her fiancé. Estella became a lovely but cold and distant young woman. Miss Havisham had planned it. What she did not plan, however, was that Estella would be cold and distant toward her, too. Estella told her mother that she had become exactly what she had raised her to be. No exceptions.

Do you remember the 70s/80s television show, Fantasy Island, where guests would get what they wished for but it never seemed to turn out the way they had imagined? Causing us to shake our heads, “That’s not what I meant.” Forgetting that there is a little thing out there known as individuality. The literal application of our desires can derail any well-laid or well-meaning outcome. I guess that is what Mr. Roarke tried to teach everyone who came on de plane! De plane!

The lesson? People are messy. They don’t move like chess pieces at another’s whim or design. Once they start thinking and feeling for themselves, watch out. My hope is that I learn this lesson before I set myself on fire.

Day 9 – Here’s to Relaxing

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

The City in Lights

No, you haven’t missed anything; I’ve skipped. The past couple of days have been very laid back, I’m proud to say. Finished a book I received as a Christmas gift in the company of a glass of juice, sunshine through my window, and the solace of an empty room. The book was a distraction just for fun, for the pleasure of reading, to proudly tell the giver that I’ve finished it already. I’m laughing at myself for reading The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer because I never embraced the Cinderella/princess thing. But I managed to learn a thing or two about dieting and the struggles some women face every day in their quest for love and acceptance. That’s something most–if not all–of us can relate to.

The book, well written and entertaining, inspired me to push my computer’s ‘on’ button and write. After walking my dog this morning through the railway trails, I returned home in a creative mood. Is this how Hemingway felt?

C’mon doggie, let’s go home. I’ve got some words to put on paper.

“Write until your thoughts dry up” was my determination. Did fairly well. Wrote for hours. Hemingway, however, made a living at it, and that’s where the similarity ends.

About my to do list. While I may not be making the progress that I initially anticipated, I am enjoying my freedom to experience and notice something new every day. They’re not big things. Just things that make me smile. Like Christmas lights. It is almost New Year’s Eve, and soon the lights will be gone for another year. I will miss them, but I will still have my vacation photos.

Day 6- Quiet Reflection

December 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Gombeys

Time for reflecting

We don’t have a tradition here of spending the day after Christmas back at the mall to return gifts. Ninety-nine percent of the stores are closed, and most people are just chilling out if they don’t have to work today or spending time with family and friends. It’s Boxing Day, a public holiday. I got a brief glimpse of the gombeys performing in a neighborhood with their colorful costumes and festive dancing–which is a tradition here.

Of one thing I’m particularly proud–tearing myself away from lingering at girl time with old and new friends to stick to my exercise routine. Zumba on Boxing Day? Now that’s a new one for me, but it was worth it. Yeah, me.

After the frenzy of the Christmas build up, it’s a good day for quieter moments. I have some books on my things-to-do-while-on-vacation list, and I plan to find a comfy corner, curl up like a dog on the sofa and lose myself in them, including the new book by a friend, “Sacred Thoughts“. Well, except for the work-related reading I must do; that’s not exactly comfy-sofa reading.

Now, who wants pie?