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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Retired

I have been retired for about 33 months.  Most of that was spent preparing to go to China, being in China, and getting home form being in China--no small task.  I am often guilty of vast amounts of unaccounted for time.  I  can read days away or knit days away.  So in an attempt to grab time by the necktie, I got up last Monday morning and made a to-do list.  Here is my accounting of that list:

What I Accomplished
1.  Read 30 minutes of scripture.  This isn't a true confessional blog, but I will say here that I wish I could be the person who says they do this every day...

2.  Forty minutes of exercise.  Yes, I biked and glided all to the background of "Hello Dolly" on the VCR.  I did NOT know that Gene Kelly directed that!  It's a great one.  Go watch it.  I remember when it came out and I was working at the movie theatre, I went in three nights and watched the second movie after my shift was over.  This was Day 1 of my exercise recommitment.  Hold your applause.

3.  Mend two sweaters.  I'm pretty good at this.  I can take a snag or an unraveling and fix it!  A weird talent, I know.

4.  Finish alpaca mittens.  Mittens made out of alpaca, not mittens FOR alpacas.  My youngest son accuses me of ambiguity when I write.  I am trying to become a FINISHER of projects!  My problem is that I absolutely LOVE starting a project.  It gives me an adrenalin rush.  I have a closet of unfinished knitting projects.  I am committing to finishing one a week.  

5.  Finish It's All Relative.  Yea, verily I did!  Punish me with the briar patch of finishing books.  Go on.  I dare you.  This is a smashing book!!  I wrote about it on Goodreads.  Get thee there.  Everyone should be on Goodreads.

6.  Catch up on my Q&A 5 Year Journal.  I have been keeping this journal for four years this month!  I answer different questions each day on four lines--at the end of five years I'll have five different responses for 365 questions.  It's kind of a hefty little book, so when I travel I leave it home and consequently get behind.  Every October 22 it asks me to write a haiku about my day.  I ignore it every October 22.  Here's a random example:  April 18, 2017--Write down a problem you solved today.  My response:  Lots of problem solving today!  Five students came to cook Chinese food in our apartment.  Logistics.  Space management.  Ingredient substitutions!

7.  Catch up books read on Goodreads.  I am usually religious about this, but I finished a couple of books on the same day, so I was a little behind.

8.  Email students in Beijing.  I had to write a very sad note to tell them all that we passed through Beijing while they were all on spring festival holiday...We had been planning a get-together...

9.  Get plants from Sheryl.  She's been babysitting my plants for the past 5 weeks.  I am happy to report that my avocado that I sprouted from a seed is 14 inches high and has about 9 leaves!!!

10.  Get books from the library.  Yep.

11.  Do laundry.  Boring.

12.  Finish Jana Riess' talk on youtube.  Fabulous.  She gathered all kinds of stats about millenials.  Email me for the link.  I met Jana in our Princeton ward.  She had been a graduate student at Princeton some years earlier and often came to visit.  We chatted in the hall about Mormon kitsch.  She has a particular fondness for it.  Jana was introduced to the church at Wellesley by a good good friend of ours, Anna.

13.  Drink 64 oz. of water.  I only made it to 32.  Water consumption is not my strong suit.  But I soldier on.

14.  Eat only between noon and 6 P.M.  My new intermittent fasting regime.  I should post on it someday. 

15.  Transcribe 10 pages from my Survival journal.  I crank away at this.  It's a delightful crank.  

16.  Wash car.  I was a little concerned that the outside temperature of 27 degrees would freeze me into a Chevy  cocoon.  

17.  Practice piano for 30 minutes.  I'm teaching myself basically.

18.  Visit Virginia in the care facility.  She is 98.  We laughed and laughed, but that was after she shed tears as she told me about being left on the john for waaaaaaaaay too long right before I arrived.  It is very very painful for her because he spine is deteriorated.  She is the mother of my best friend from high school who has lived in Alaska for nearly 40 years.  

What Didn't Get Done
1.  Finish a blogpost I started a few days ago.

2.  Spend one hour working on photo sorting project.

3.  Do the business that I have been procrastinating for two months.  Shame on me.

4.  Find some yarn for my friend's summer hat.  I have to move a bunch of stuff, and I just wasn't up for it.

There.  I am kick-starting the new me--one who is productive!  Yeah, yeah, yeah...


Go Team Grammy!!!!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

In an Attempt to Explain Why



If the reading police stopped me today, I would surely get a ticket or a citation for the number of books I currently am reading.  My record is 15, but I usually hover around ten to twelve.  Who knows, they might even arrest me with a disgusted shake of their heads.  You might hear them mutter, "Why in the...?" 

My reading habit goes back to the very beginnings of my memory.  I have no memories of anyone ever reading to me, although I don't doubt that someone probably did as I was the youngest.  Nor do I have memories of anyone hounding me to read or making a chart to encourage me to read. I just did it.  All. the. time.  I have no clear recollections of anyone praising me for it.  I have never received any awards or prizes.  When I was a kid the library didn't have summer programs or incentives.  No fanfare when we entered the library EVER.  Yet, for some inexplicable reason I became a reader.  Perhaps if I brought this up with a sibling, one of them might say, "Oh, I take credit for that!  I did it!"  And then a long narrative would begin.  I think I'd have a little inkling of a memory if that were true.

We always had a bookshelf.  No one thought to cater to young appetites, so I read what was there as my skills grew.  I read my father's Farm Journal magazine, the newspaper, and even my mother's Relief Society Magazine  with its pitiful fiction.  I memorised all the titles in our bookcase too.  My grandmother's cases fascinated me because at least someone had added My Friend Flicka and a few other horse books there as well as a few children's classics  Her books were housed in old apothecary cases--one of which I inherited where I now store my Icelandic knitting wool.  These solitary bookcases shaped my early habits.  Their presence dictated that forevermore I would have a shelf of books or a bookcase of books or the library room of books that I now have.

My circle of friends did not always include readers.  Some of my friends had no interest at all.  I would play happily with them, but when the time came to go home, I knew my book friends were there to continue the same commradery my human friends gave me.  But then as I got older, my friends WERE readers, and we went regularly to the library, shared titles and carried on literary conversations.  My graduating class was unusual that way.  We passed around books like candy.  It seems we were ALL readers!  I still remember big thick books read in high school with yellowed softly worn pages or better still tissue-like pages which signified not only a book's extreme girth but it's classic nature.  As a junior and senior in high school I was employed at the local movie theatre.  I remember the intimacy of sitting in the box office with a little space heater perched on a stool reading reading reading.  Every now and then someone would come to purchase a ticket, but not very often. That suited me just fine.

I remember hiding books inside my textbooks in school.  I remember sneaking off to a quiet corner of the house to read where no one would interrupt or find something more productive (wash dishes, clean bathtubs) for me to do.  The reading habit is so ingrained in me before bedtime that I have been known to  read phonebooks when I get caught without a book in a hotel!  It has ALWAYS been about the book for me.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend with whom I worked in a university library thirty years ago.  When I asked her what she does she said, "Well, mostly I read.  Nonfiction."  One would expect as much from a retired librarian now widowed.  Isn't it wonderful?  She told me she'd recently been reading books about adult attention deficit disorder which she professes to have.  But I was fascinated by her reading habits.  She also has a "fetish" for printing off copies of what she reads.  She used to love standing at a copy machine during her librarian years!  Sitting in the presence of such magnificent life direction almost felt confessional.  I admitted my weakness, we smiled knowingly at each other, and the rest of the money-grubbing world can just blast right on by us.

Does reading get in the way of my life?  Most assuredly.  The dust accumulates, the conversations go unsaid,  the sonnets go unwritten, and the concertos go unplayed.  That is a choice I've made.  I read for joy, for knowledge, for reinforcement, for a foray into my soul, and for the quiet zen of the ages.  I buy books, I give books, I trade books, I crane my neck to see what strangers on trains are reading, and I jot down countless titles of books to read on any scrap of paper available.  I find those scraps everywhere and wish I'd saved them all so I could paper a corner of my library with them.

There, my attempt to explain why.  The why has never really concerned me.  Mostly I've just been about the how.  The everloving how.  And the when.  The nagging relentless when.  And of course, the what.  The what. The what.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"And then there were...111!!!!!!!!!


This is my family in 1975.  We're having a reunion this summer.  They're ALL coming.  All 111 of us and assorted dogs and cats!!  Minus my magnificent grandmother, I count 18 of us, so you do the math.  It's staggering.  Those little boys in their dad's arms were born on the same day--one in Germany and one in Utah.  The bald baby on my mother's lap is a pediatric cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic now.  He doesn't look like he's up to more than drooling and filling his pants here, does he?  Also from the peanut gallery are a smashing teacher, a driven accountant, an officer of the law, a game designer, a saavy business woman, lots of good parents and some roundingly good folks.  I think my parents would be amazed at the world traveling this crew has done.  We haven't made the 6 o'clock news, but we've tried to be decent and pass that on.  The unseen in this photo are VERY present now.  That's where this family's story gets interesting!  We look forward to updating this photo. It's going to be a rocking good time.

Monday, February 26, 2018

My 2018 Reading List!


2018 Recommended Reading List

1.     Brothers Karamazov (Thomas Giles)
2.     The Tao of Pooh (Thomas Giles)
3.     A Tale of Two Cities (Season Giles)
4.     Salt to the Sea (Season Giles)
5.     Woman in White (Season Giles)
6.     Lonely Polygamist (Steven Williams)
7.     A Gentleman in Moscow (Teri Zenger)
8.     News of the World (Teri Zenger)
9.     A Tale for the Time Being (Teri Zenger)
10. Beowulf—Seamus ? translation (Teri Zenger)
11. A Mother’s Reckoning (Amy Henderson)
12. Lonesome Dove (Jack Taggart, Azdyn Bartschi)
13. A Grief Observed (Craig Scheinost)
14. Sand County Almanac (Craig Scheinost)
15. Finest Hours (Craig Scheinost)
16. Food First (Craig Scheinost)
17. From Here to Eternity:  Traveling the World to Find the Good Death (Becky Watt)
18. The Worst Hard Times (Becky Watt)
19. Dreaming in Chinese (Sara Argyle)
20. Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Sara Argyle)
21. Queen of Katwe (Sara Argyle)
22. Undaunted Courage (Jeff Wright)
23. Sing Unburied Sing (Rebekah Westra)
24. Underground Railroad (Rebekah Westra)
25. Moonglow (Rebekah Westra)
26. The Hate U Give (Rebekah Westra)
27. Fates and Furies (Rebekah Westra)
28. Arcadia (Rebekah Westra)
29. Girl Who Drank the Moon (Jamie Thompson)
30. And Then There Was Light (Debi Clark)
31. Yearning for the Living God (Debi Clark)
32. Before We Were Yours (Debi Clark)
33. Just Mercy (Laura Whitely)
34. Killers of the Flower Moon (Laura Whitely)
35. Lucinda Riley book (Mary Nate)
36. City of Saints and Thieves (Nancy Minster)
37. Eyre Affair (Nancy Minster)
38. Chains (Nancy Minster)
39. A Man Called Ove (Nancy Minster)
40. Weeds: a Farm Daughter’s Lament (Vanessa )
41. Remarkable Creatures (Susan Hafen)
42. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (Susan Hafen)
43. Life is So Good (Susan Hafen)
44. The Hired Girl (Sheri Lonsdale)
45. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Robbin Hardegree)
46. Maximus (Robyn Homer)
47. After the Lusitania (Robyn Homer)
48. Homeward; Whispers of Hope (Robyn Homer)
49. Lemon Tree (Meghan Schwanke)
50. Alchemist (Janet Steele)
51. Death Comes for the Archbishop
52. Bomb
53. Tipping Point
54. Call It Sleep (Judy Everitt)
55. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
56. Franny and Zooey
57. A Story Like the Wind
58. Summerland
59. Cavalier and Clay
60. Life Everlasting
61. Seeking the Spirit
62. Icy Sparks
63. So Brave, Young and Handsome
64. Welcome to the Great Mysterious
65. English Creek
66. Dancing at the Rascal Fair
67. Ride with Me, Mariah Montana
68. Cleeve (Jeanne Sneddon)
69. Three Junes
70. People of the Book
71. Columbine
72. Divining Women
73. It’s All Relative
74. Secret History
75. Love Is All you Need:  The Revolutionary Bond-Based Approach to Educating Your Dog
76. Lilac Girls
77. How to Read Novels Like a Professor
78. Idaho
79. Spill Simmer Falter Wither
80. The Jesus I Never Knew
81. Peony In Love
82. Headmaster’s Papers
83. Two From Galilee:  The Story of Mary and Joseph
84. In a Sunburned Country
85. Vintage Munro
86. Our Oriental Heritage
87. Millennial Messiah:  The Second Coming of the Son of Man
88. The Boys in the Boat
89. Pearl S. Buck:  An Autobiography
90. Riding the Iron Rooster
91. Mornings on Horseback
92. Turn Right at Machu Pichu
93. The Shakespeare Stealer
94. Franklin and Winston:  An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship
95. Olive Kitteridge
96. Once Upon a Town:  The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen
97. The Violet Hour:  Great Writers at the End
98. Did Jew Know?:  a Handy Primer on the Customs, Culture and Practice of the Chosen People
99. Everyday Detox:  100 Easy Recipes to Remove Toxins, Promote Gut Health, and Lose Weight Naturally
100.                Come Let Us Adore Him
101.                Locally Laid:  How We Built a Plucky Industry-Changing  Egg Farm From Scratch
102.                Let’s Take the Long Way Home
103.                Ultimate Beginning Runner’s Guide
104.                Thrive:  The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder
105.                Last Night in Twisted River
106.                Larry’s Kidney:  Being the True Story of How I Found Myself in China With My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail Order Bride Skirting the Law  to Get Him a Transplant and Save His Life




Channeling the Bard


Today I checked myself into an airbnb in Logan that Paco (a true prince among men) booked for me for four days.  This topic came up in the midst of our recent  Chinese adventure--not the one that lasted three years--the month one that we just came off of.  I intend to post about that, but the long and short of it is that Paco OWED ME BIG TIME.  He knew it, and I knew it, so here I am!  My tasks are spread out around me:  7,000 plus China photos that need to either get the boot or become immortalized in some sort of photo/essay journalistic endeavour.  I can't decide whether to make that heavy on mops and brooms or Chinese faces old and young or a combo.  So I'm seeking inspiration this week!  I also brought along my Survival (45 years this September...) journal (complete with original dirt and grit in the creases) which I am transcribing into Word.  I have a handful of grainy photos to accompany that as well. If memory serves me, I entered some of that journal on this blog. AND I am hoping to crank away on an on-going Top Secret project which is so private that I daresn't even mention it here, so pretend I didn't.  If I can find him on one of the dozen or so thumb drives I brought, then I will also give Gnoggin some of my attention.  He is a gnome I listen to in my head sometimes--another peach of a guy and HIS story--oh me oh my!!!  And this blog!!!!  I'm going to pamper it back into functionality. I also brought two books and my dudester scarf I am knitting.  Furthermore, I've peppered the week with a few lunch dates, a couple of visits to convalescent centers, and a babysitting chaser with my grandkids culminating with Paco himself appearing on Thursday for a sleepover!  I have a little shopping to do to replace my toiletries and freshly laundered underwear which I regret to inform any kind readers I stupidly left on a curb in Chengdu, China.  Oh how I wish I were making that up... the duffel bag also contained some other truly unique items of striking intimate apparel which were gifted to us by our Chinese hosts.  Oh, to have seen the look on the face of the thief who snatched the bag when he discovered the contents.  Gotcha!!

One can hope that I will break into symphonic eloquence here, and my coming days will be filled to overflowing with writing profundity.   Calling ALL muses!!!   Report for duty!!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

ahem...


I picked up a book recently called The Renaissance Soul--Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One.  I think I've met my spirit animal in this book. Many would be quick to say, "Aw, Madd, you're just ADHD."  Au contraire.  I am a Renaissance Soul.  In my quest to do all, see all, read all, taste all, however, this blog has gotten lost in the shuffle.  I am reining it back in.

What inspired me?  I'm dejunking, sorting, sifting, throwing etc.  Specifically photos and mementos.  I found something I'd written in one of my classes last December in China:

"I think I have an identifiable problem.  Simply put, my problem involves my dread of many events.  Instead of living in and enjoying the moment, I find myself with a pit in my stomach and then hoping that something will soon be over--a subway ride, a particular Chinese class, a week at school, a dinner engagement.  These are not horrendous tasks or unpleasantries--just something I imagine that I want to have behind me.  The biggest and most understandable currently is wanting my body to be healed.  I want time to pass so that I can look BACK on falling off my bike--look BACK on limping around, look BACK on being physically conscious of pain in each and every step.

I am not sure of the origin of my dread complex.  I have always defined myself as someone who is optimistic--I try to find joy in each moment and most assuredly joy in the journey.  Nevertheless,  I DO enjoy crossing dates off on the calendar, and I am never happier that  when I can put on my pajamas and climb into bed.  Anticipating the end of each day gives me pleasure.  Thinking about the end of a week, month or year gives me satisfaction.


Perhaps my concept of the passage of time needs to be re-examined.  I probably need a good jolt of reality to bring me up short and force me to see the intrinsic value of each passing moment.  I am aging.  I see my siblings ahead of me greying and taking slow more methodical steps.  We are healthy, but we are growing older.  I need to wrap my head around that.


My suspicion is that subconsciously I am taking a good firm stock of my mortality.  My grasp of time is shifting.  What used to spread out in a vast carpet before me now appears more finite--I can see the edges.  I can see that the grass ends.  It has edges, and I am approaching them."


Not super writing, but it struck me when I read it.  There is so much power in seeing your thoughts in print.  And so I take up the cross again.  Not going to waste my time on apologies.  Let's crank it up...rrrrrRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRR...


A little blast from the past lurking in a box with some dead bugs and immunization records:



From the Provo Daily Herald, summer 1977.  I worked for a friend of ours who started Rent-a-Kid.  Basically I accompanied kids as they raked lawns, washed windows etc. all over Provo.  I am impressed here that I can sit cross-legged.  I'd like to be able to do that again.  This summer we were poor, expecting an October baby, and still quite idealistic.  My other part time job was as a Fuller Brush "man".  That's another story for another day.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Fun Rages on...

On the trail to Taggart Lake, Grand Teton National Park






Look for these two kids starring in the Milwaukee Mission soon--at a theatre near you!!
















West Thumb--Yellowstone National Park--Evidence of the rising Chinese visitor count.









Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley