Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Extraordinary in the Ordinary

As I work to sharpen my photography skills, one of the things I've been reminded of often and have attempted to take to heart is to find the art in the every day moments. Having the camera ready to capture the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Like ladybugs.

And dill.

And early evening sun.

Another bit of inspiration advice I've been given is to not be afraid to take my camera (and use it) to the places I go. Thanks to that bit of advice, I was able to capture these moments at Spruce Meadows a couple of weeks ago.

Current Read :: September 24, 2013

People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

I just started this one. It's been highly recommended and awarded so I figured it was time to give it a go. It's about history and books. Two things I thoroughly enjoy. So here goes...

 It's been a long time, months (egad!), since I shared the pages that I'm perusing. Never fear, the reading has not stopped here. The pages have kept me entertained and sane, they traveled on vacation with me, they have given me escape, joining me in the heat of summer and they lulled me to sleep when my mind wouldn't slow.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak - Perhaps it was the timing of this one (and I know I'm going to sound dramatic as I say this) but it went straight to my heart. Written in Nazi Germany, it follows the life of a 13 year old German girl, sharing her fears, sorrows, and small joys - including books - in the midst of the war. She connects to books in some of the same ways I do (although, I don't steal them, FYI) and carries many of the same feelings about that time in German history that I imagine, from the stories of my Grandparents, many Germans did.

I've recommended it to a few people already: it is intended and marketed as a young adult fiction (not that that's ever stopped me before) and is written as such but it's so unique. The narration and structure are unlike anything that I've ever read it before. At first, it almost took away from the story for me - sort of like the beginning of a movie with subtitles - but once I got deeper into the story, it became an addition as opposed to a distraction.

The Mortal Instruments (Books 1-4), Cassandra Clare - I fully intended to avoid these but then my husband and my best friend and her husband all started reading them and talking about going to see the movie together so I jumped in. I honestly thought it would be another Twilight debacle but was pleasantly surprised. They are light, there's no question about it, but still have a descent story of things a little bit fantastic. Just waiting for my handsome husband to finish number five so I can finish up the story.

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen - This is another one that came highly recommended. From the cover (and the actors in the movie which I have not seen due to certain actors who shall remain nameless but I avoid whenever possible), I was concerned it would be some sappy romance but couldn't make that assumption coincide with the recommendations I was given. Always best to give it a chance, right? Another pleasant surprise and another pick that reminds me that there truly are books for seasons and situations. I read this one while I was with my family for my Grandpa's funeral so the whole concept of a man at the end of his life looking back at the stories of his youth, events and places long passed, felt especially poignant. Glad I picked it up.

Gardens of the Moon (The malazan Book of the Fallen #1), Steven Erikson - Tough slogging. Fantasy. War. Magic and mages. Things that normally keep my attention but there was something in the writing style that I found very difficult to engage with. Of course there's eight books in the series so the question is whether this is as good as it gets or if this is only the beginning and I should stick with it. Do I keep going? We shall see.

Cinder (Lunar chronicles #1), Marissa Meyer - The story of Cinderella...sort of. If Cinderella had cyborgs and evil queens from other planets and terrible diseases in Bejing. It was just fun brain candy and, in typical marketing genius, is definitely not a stand alone. A cliffhanger ending has left me waiting impatiently for the paperback of the next one.

Bossypants, Tina Fey - Written just like I've seen Tina Fey talk, Bossypants is a laughable collection of Tina's experiences on Saturday Night Live (loved the part about the Sarah Palin sketches) and 30 Rock and her thoughts on being a woman, wife, mother and career woman. I was surprised by how relatable some of her positions and opinions actually are, particularly those on being a woman in a man's world. Those I related to far too well.

The Third Secret, Steve Berry - I think I've now caught upon all the Steve Berry books that are out. Since I have a bit of a problem with leaving things undone or unfinished, that actually does matter to the experience. Like the other Berry books I've read, this one is rife with conspiracy and drama. I've gotten a bit attached to Cotton Malone - he's not in this one - so it felt a little "off" having a different main character but all in all was a good book to read by the beach.

The Hobbit, J.R.R.Tolkien - LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Hobbit. What more can be said, really?

The Zahir, Paulo Coelho - I have truly enjoyed a number of Coelho's books but have to admit that this one felt a bit contrived and overdone.

Peony in Love, Lisa See - I never would have expected a ghost story but that is exactly what I got. I expected the love story and the dramatic components for sure.  I even expected the education in Chinese culture, superstition and belief.  That's one of the aspects of See's writing I appreciated and was hoping for. But the ghost story. Surprise! Yes, I read the jacket. Yes, I still somehow missed the fact that it was a ghost story. But somehow it was okay. It worked. In the midst of the story and the culture and the emotion, it worked.

The Foundation Series (1-3), Isaac Asimov - I still think these should just be one book. You really can't read just one to make any sense of the story...and perhaps that's why it got better as I went through it.

Inferno, Dan Brown - If a book is exactly what you expected and exactly what you needed, that makes it a good book, right? Assuming that Brown held to form, I wasn't expecting this to be as intense a story as I enjoyed in "Angels and Demons" but I was expecting a story that touched on an issue, had a fair amount of drama, and had a life or death story. I got that, and with a small unexpected twist. Good for some light entertainment.

Blood of Dragons (Rain Wild Chronicles #4), Robin Hobb - I'm so sad this series is done. Or maybe it's not? Could there be more? Please?

I'm convinced that I have a problem. Life is too full of responsibility to give me the time for all the books I want to read. Or maybe there's just not enough hours and energy in the day. I have a wish list a mile long and a pile of books by my bed. One by one by one, I will devour them.

One of the ones on my wish list is "the Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. Has anyone read it? Or her other one, "Happiness at Home"? I would love to hear what you think about them. Sometimes life could use a little more dedicated focus to finding joy and practicing the art of happiness.

There's a couple more in the series I mentioned above that are waiting for me. A few best sellers and a new author or two. Another duo by a recent new author find. Then there's the series my handsome husband has been reading and recommending...yes, series plural. Have a I mentioned that I love that he's a reader too? Have I also mentioned that I enjoy that we can share books back and forth? At least he can be somewhat sympathetic of my affliction and he at least humors me when I remind him that I want my 'Beauty and the Beast' library one day (or maybe he thinks I'm joking).

So as the summer fades into fall and sunny days in the back yard with my books are almost gone,  I'm at least looking forward to evenings with a cup of tea, a blanket and a good story to keep me warm. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Entitlement hurts

More and more I find myself unsure of how to react to a culture that says that if you want something you should go for it, the underlying addition to that message, unwittingly or not, being that you go for it regardless of the cost to those around you, the advice of those who have gone before you or the risk to yourself. You can have what you want, do what you want and be what you want. It is entitlement plain and simple but the sad thing is that no one really gains. No one. Entitlement hurts. Maybe not the one embodying it and maybe not right away, but it hurts. 

There are always consequences, even if you are not the one to pay them. 

Today at work, we had a harassment session by some lady from corporate. She told us that intent does not play a part in harassment. The perception of the one being descriminated against (or perceiving descrimination) is what defines descrimination. 
So one's intent can be to help someone but if it is not perceived as such, one can then claim that they are a victim. 

In a society where everyone wants, what they want when they want it, how they want it, regardless of the impact on those around them, it seems like a dangerous and slippery slope. 

There are consequences. There is always the ripple affect. What's good for you (perceived as such) might not a) actually be good for you and b) be good for others. But how do you determine that if you are living solely with an isolationist mindset that says "it's all about me and what I want, following my heart and dreams and achieving for myself."?

But what to do? How does one stand against it? How does one model and effect change, saying "stop. Wait. Think about your (insert friend, neighbor, brother, father...)    Is you getting your way worth the hurt it will cause them?" Without being considered a lunatic? 

I believe when the bible said "Love The Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF" that it was for our own good and the good of those around us. I believe it meant that our passions, our wants and our goals are meant to be chased and considered within the greater context of community and within family, not in isolation. We are not as individual as we would often like to think. 

So please, think about what you want and how it impacts others and then let's work together towards happiness that doesn't hve to hurt. We'll all be better off for it.