Friday, December 31, 2010

writing about books

If I'm at a loss for things to write about I can always write about books. As you might know, I've been 'reading' a lot of audio books lately. I've always been drawn in by radio drama and audio books. I just think they're the neatest thing. I have found myself in Alabama for a month or so, staying with my parents while I regroup and prepare for my move to Montana; back to my roots. So I find myself with a lot of time on my hands...

I haven't written seriously about anything for awhile. I just haven't felt inspired. However, some books I've been reading are very inspiring. For instance, I rented The Confession by John Grisham to read on my drive down from Maryland. If you're a Grisham fan you may know that he also wrote The Innocent Man, which was a true story. I have not written about this book but I have wanted to.

What makes The Confession such a good book is that there is so much truth and fact in it's pages. As I read it I can tell that he drew so much of it from The Innocent Man. (By the way, I 'read' both as audio books, very well done by the narrators.) As I'm reading The Confession I also feel like Grisham has read a lot of the same books as I have recently. In The Confession the boy on death row is Black, which differs from The Innocent Man. This is not surprising because it's not the same story. BUT I've recently read two other true books written about two different Black men that were arrested. One innocent, one not. But what happens in The Confession is surprisingly similar to what happened to these two men. So The Confession is quite interesting to me personally for these reasons. I love it when books & stories connect like that. I feel like it was written just for me.

Those other two books I read are: In the Place of Justice by Wilbert Rideau and A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger; who wrote The Perfect Storm. Both excellent books which I may have to go into later.

If you know anything about my reading habits you probably know how much I like to read true crime. But I also like a well written novel. I had to share with you my enthusiasm for the connection of these books. I hope that if you read The Confession you will be inspired to read The Innocent Man. It's quite an eye opener and quite frustrating at times. The people who work on these cases are amazing people and should be commended.

The Innocence Project worked on Ron Williamson's case in The Innocent Man and they are still fighting to exonerate more innocent people. The system is still very broken in places and there really are police officers and detectives out there who do not care about finding the truth, only about making their own convictions stick. How does an innocent man come within 4 days of being executed? People should know; judges and lawyers should do the right thing. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

my beautiful grandmother

1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 (New International Version, ©2010)

14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

This is my grandpa and grandma, Melvin and Gladys Johnson. Married 58 years. They are the most beautiful couple I've ever known and such an inspiration in so many ways. They were always so involved in the church but were never in-your-face about it. It was in the way they lived their lives. My grandmother died Wednesday the day before Thanksgiving, this 2010. As of today it was just a week ago. We are all still reeling from this incredible loss. She was an amazing woman. Really amazing. I can still hear her voice and keep thinking she's gonna walk into the room. I miss her so much. She has been such an important part of my life for so long I never imagined not having her around. I can only imagine how my grandfather is feeling. But at least we all have each other and we will take care of each other and God will help us through this. I love you grandma. You are an inspiration.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder 

You get your fill to eat 
But always keep that hunger 
May you never take one single breath for granted 
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed 
I hope you still feel small 
When you stand by the ocean 
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens 
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance 

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance 
I hope you dance 

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance 
Never settle for the path of least resistance 
Living might mean taking chances 
But they're worth taking 
Lovin' might be a mistake 
But it's worth making 
Don't let some hell bent heart 
Leave you bitter 
When you come close to selling out 
Give the heavens above 
More than just a passing glance 

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance 
I hope you dance 
(Time is a real and constant motion always) 
(Rolling us along) 
(Tell me who 
Wants to look back on their youth and wonder) 
(Where those years have gone) 

I hope you still feel small 
When you stand by the ocean 
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens 
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance 

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance 
I hope you dance 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Like Woah!

I've fallen off the blogger band wagon. Is that even accurate or correct? I guess I have just been very busy and am starting to wonder the point of it all. I'm thinking blogging, other than for personal enjoyment and contact with family, is pointless. For awhile there it was great but as a use for professional advancement... not so great. Maybe it's because in my professional arena people don't take much stock in blogs. I suppose if I were to really get into it it could be helpful down the road, if I wanted to stay in psychology. But I'm not at all certain that's what I want to do. It's a really rough road to be on and I'm getting tired of the crap pay. If I want more pay then I need to go back to school for a helatiously long period of time; like 6 years JUST for school. That is helatiously long, believe it or not. I know, all you 50 and older crowd are thinking it's not a long time, and you may be right, but right now it seems like an unbearably long time. Espcially going it alone with just my income. Full time school for 6 years? And even then you don't just get to jump into work... and it's still in the crap pay area. I just don't know. I'm feeling very lost. So any words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated right about now.

I've talked to my boss about leaving and she doesn't want me to. And I'm gonna get some more training which will get me more money and make me more desireable down the road. But I am SOOOOOOO busy. I work 6 days a week on a good week. On a bad week I work 7 days. And this is just surviving. It's rediculously expensive out here. It's impossible to live on one income these days. This life is rediculous. That's why people go out and get jobs that they're not passionate about; to survive. Trying to work in something that I enjoy does not pay and it's killing me. I have no time to do things I enjoy. I live in this great city, so close to Washington DC where there are so many things going on, and Baltimore and all these other great cities. I'm a day's visit to New York. But I have no time to partake in any of these wonderful things. I love doing activities but all I do is work and it's driving me mad and depressing me. Sure, I take time off. I do. Some days I'll just call out sick. But this pace is really getting to me. I'm still amazed that I haven't contracted an ulcer or some other kindof strange illness from stress. I guess it's because I do manage stress well. But I am tired.

thank you for your attention and appreciation and letting me have my vent.
In other news... MOUNT ELLIS ACADEMY got the money! So thank you to everyone that voted. They were one of 20 schools I believe to recieve money for the school.

Also, I will be staying in Maryland for awhile longer but am moving to a new apartment. Well, it's a house actually. I am looking forward to getting away from my roommates. Hopefully it works out better than my current arrangement.

I am still really into my audiobooks. I "read" about 1 every week and a half on average. I've devoured some wonderful books. check them out. Some I recently recommend are:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Lord God Made Them All
Too Late to Say Goodbye
The Innocent Man
The Monster of Florence

I would love to do some more book reviews. Maybe that is what I will do to get back into my blogging. Because I really love books and I love to share them and talk about them. So be looking for my reviews on these above books and more!

til then I will leave you with a wonderful quote...


Friday, June 18, 2010

Bribing Kids for School

Man we get so hyped up over everything don't we!? Education, Religion, Sex... We are so touchy! The most recent freak-out (besides the oil spill) has been paying kids for school.

Education has been such a huge issue for us. We're constantly complaining about it. We get upset because kids are being sent on to the next grade without actually passing, and then we standardized tests and we started complaining that "grades don't measure success!" And then we found out that some teachers were cheating on the SATs and that does not make us happy either.

This is one of our most frustrating issues in the US. We are constantly debating it. One of our biggest frustrations is getting kids more interested in their own education.

So why do our feathers get so flustered when someone comes around to do some experiments with paying kids for performance in school? Because, we cry...

"Children should be intrinsically motivated to do well in school!"

But are they? Should does not equal IS. Let me ask you this... When you were 15 did you go to school everyday because you really wanted to learn about math and grammar? Or did you go to school because that's just what you did? Because Mom and Dad made you? What was your favorite day of the week? Monday or Friday?

Let's be honest. Kids are not intrinsically motivated to learn. Kids, just like the rest of us, are motivated by incentives.

Schools have started experimenting with the idea of paying kids for excellence and it's been in the news. Some people are furious with the notion. the Times recently published an article asking the question DOES IT WORK? Some guy named Roland Fryer Jr. decided to find out, and people were infuriated.

Steven D. Levitt at Freakonomics finds it interesting that people get so upset about bribing kids to do well in school. He points out that we offer all sorts of financial incentives in society all the time. Why do you go to work? For fun? We pay for people to recycle and some parents pay their kids to do chores. Jobs offer 401K matches, banks offer cash incentives as well.

Sure, I agree that kids should do well in school just because they should. I also think that at work we should do our best and not try to cut corners. But often we do not do our best unless there's an... wait for it... incentive.

IF bribing kids with money WORKS then what's the harm in it. If it doesn't work then let's stop. But what's so bad about testing the theory?

Roland Fryer Jr. conducted several experimental studies on this very subject in several cities and in different types of schools. He used different methods to find out what worked best. What he found was that every school was different and not all the methods had equal results. This is what resonated to me...
Times said: "Kids may respond better to rewards for specific actions because there is less risk of failure. They can control their attendance; they cannot necessarily control their test scores."

If children are rewared for things they can control they do better. When they are rewarded for things they cannot neccesarily control they don't do quite as well. I'm sure you can relate. Some people test better than others. Some people have test anxiety, and I think most people would agree that a test score doesn't measure you're inteligence or ability to perform. It's just a number. You may try hard to study but still get a B instead of an A. So if you are paid for something that you do not have direct control over it doesn't effect you the same way as if you were told, if you are on time every day you will get an extra $20 in your paycheck. I'd be on time.

I used to work at Target. If you're ever been to Target you were probably offered the opportunity to sign up for a "Red Card" (ie: a Target credit card). We were told that if we sold a certain number of cards then we would be put into a drawing to get a reward. I tried to convince them that that wouldn't work but they stuck by it. Who wants to put out all that effort to get people to sign up for a credit card for the CHANCE to get a prize? I finally convinced them and they changed their minds; if someone 'sold' a card, they got a candy bar or a soda for free. Period. No CHANCE of getting something. And it worked.

So what are your thoughts on bribing kids for school? Are you for it? Against it? Open to it? We all have reasons for our opinions. What's yours?

Monday, June 7, 2010

June Goals

Well it's June now. Officially summertime and time to review my goals.

May's Goals
Meet with the mover truck people - I didn't talk to them but I did check out the website and now at least I have an idea. They're all about the same and it's not cheap.
Practice my calligraphy - I didn't make the calendar or practive very much. shame on me.
Find a good gym - well I didn't do that. I know I sound like a whiner but I really do not have free time.
Recycle! - TOTALLY COMPLETED. I recycled everything!
Gardening - didn't get any gardening done. booooooooooooooo!!!
I am totally wiped out. Today I'm just feeling worn down and bummed about how I don't have any free time. I've been working 7 days per week. I get that overtime which is nice and helps out a lot, but I'm seriously pooped.  Therefore I am not doing goals for this month. My goal will be to relax when I can and just get through each day doing what I can.
I feel like I want to post a giant entry about everything that is pissing me off. Maybe that will make me feel better!

You know what I DID do last month though!? I updated my resume and sent out some applications. I'm hoping that I can get a job with a bigger salary. The job market right now is so frustrating! But that's another post :) 
I haven't posted a new post in a long time and I need to get back to doing that. I've been listening to a lot of good books on cd from the library and I want to post about them. I just finished the most amazing book The Innocent Man by John Grisham; his first non-fiction book. It deserves a post or two; the men that it's about deserve a post or two. I also "read" Her Last Death by Susanna Sonnenberg, a great memoir. My two most favorite types of books; true murder mystery/justice system and Memoirs.
So here's to June!
This painting is called "Flaming June" & was painted by Lord Leighton in 1895
I thought it was appropriate because it's June :)
That and I love the orange color.
Doesn't she look peaceful?
like what June should be? peaceful and relaxing.
I should go to the beach.

Friday, May 21, 2010

what's a girl to do!?

" Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes. "
~Clare Boothe Luce

I do not have a sister. I am the oldest of my close cousins and therefor I never really had a close female bond with anyone my age. I was however, close to my mother, my grandmother and my aunt Julie. So in some ways I can very much relate to Dinah's upbringing. Like Dinah I had the influences of older women and I believe that helped shape me into maturity maybe a little faster than I might've otherwise. It also forced me to think for myself and about bigger things.

The one continuous truth throughout the book The Red Tent is the bond of women. In an interview Diamant says "many readers say that they love the book because of the way it affirms the essential DIGNITY, POWER and INTEGRITY of women's lives." I had to quote her on that because I couldn't have said it better.

We, as women, all have the same thing in common no matter what. All women everywhere are connected by this simple fact; that we give life. Throughout Dinah's story what keeps her going are the women and the bonds they form; the unity of their togetherness.

The second truth I notices about her book is the changing times. In the beginning she tells the story of the mothers and how The Red Tent is a place to celebrate being a woman. As the story progresses the tent is lost on other culture. Women are seen as weak for bleeding. Their time is not celebrated, instead it is an inconvenience and young girls coming into adulthood are cast out to deal with this newness on their own.

In the beginning of the story men and women do not eat together. They do not talk to one another casually either. As the family moves from place to place and Dinah ages, they encounter other cultures. Men and women begin eating together and even working near each other in the same fields. This signifies the changing times. Feminists & women's groups discuss this book becaue it illistrates the way the world has changed and how women eventually became involved in the lives of men.

This book is based in a different time, but the changes it went through are changes that we are seeing today. And that makes The Red Tent a timeless book. The world will always be changing.

Diamant states that we have started to notice the silences in the Bible like Dinah's. Even the women whoare prominently featured are not discussed in great detail. This is true for many of the male characters in the Bible as well, but more so for the women. The point is that people are starting to notice the silences.

While the integration of women into the workplace and other such areas of the world is definately a positive thing, I think we as women have lost our connection. Being a women is seen as a weakness to many an organization. And as women trying to fit in with the men we shun our female counterparts and our very natures, in order to be more like the men. We don't need to but we feel that if we put aside our gender that we will be more valued to a company. But then we are expected to come home and be a woman again.

People tell us that forming women's groups is making us into victims. I believe that it depends on what goes on in those groups. If it's a bunch of people getting together and whining then yes, that is being a victim. But getting together to learn from other women is not a bad thing! We know that men and women are wired differently. Why are we trying to force the femininity out of our lives? Why don't we use it? We can learn from other successful women how to use our different thinking and problem solving styles.

Ladies Who Launch claim that women are not linear thinkers. We think in circles. Everything connects. You see a commercial, which reminds you of a friend, which reminds you of a conversation, which reminds you of a business idea... men don't think the same way. Nobody is wrong, we're just different. Why not celebrate it.

It's a complicated world we live in and we women have a lot of shoes to fill. We take these issues and work them every day. We are mighty.

"I am woman! I am invincible! I am pooped!"
~Author Unknown

what is your opinion on women's groups? does it make you uneasy to think of being part of one? If the answer is yes, why is that? Have you had unsavory experiences with women's groups?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Gargoyle - a book review

"You'll swoop from incredible highs when you're just glad to be alive, to those lows when you wish you were dead. And just when you start thinking that you've accepted who you are, that changes, too. Because who you are is not permanent"
— Andrew Davidson (The Gargoyle)
The Gargoyle is about redemption. It's about realizing that you are special no matter your past. It's about becoming a better person, taking joy in the people around you and valuing them. And in valuing them, valuing yourself.

Andrew Davidson writes a different story. The New York Times describes it as uncategorizable.

“only after my skin was burned away did I finally become able to feel.”
- Andrew Davidson, The Gargoyle

Now as I am writing this review I am trying to remember the main character's name. I cannot. The only name I can remember is Marianne Engle. This is just one of the interesting facets of this book. The narater is looking back on his life, telling you every nasty little detail; including the details of his accident where he was burned in a car fire. It's not pleasant, I'll tell you that much right now.

His story is raw. It is truthful and painful. And yet it is filled with undying love and tenderness.

This is one of those books that you don't forget. It's like 2 books within a book, but Davidson weaves them together expertly and keeps you engaged. Something I especially loved about The Gargoyle are the ministories about lovers in different cultures. I loved Davidson's skill at description. The little things all fit together, like a mystery or a puzzle. It's really a magical story that gets into your soul. It is beautifully molded and weaved by the author.

I feel that I must add that I did not read The Gargoyle from the the pages of a book. I listened to it on cd. It is narrated by Lincoln Hoppe. (He also narrated these books). Lincoln is also an actor and writer. I really enjoyed his narrating of the story. He got all the accents down pat which really made the book come to life. I don't know what the book is like to read from the page so I can't speak for that part, but I did enjoy listening to it on cd. If you find it hard to read I would suggest listening to it. It adds a little extra special touch and makes the book's difficult parts easier to follow. For example, when the author is talking about food, it makes it easier to listen to all the different types of food than to read them, at least I would imagine it so.
I think everyone can take something away from this novel. You will fall in love with Marianne in your own way. There is a spiritual element to the book that is written in such a way that whatever your faith it can fit into the pages of this story.

The Gargoyle is a beautiful love story told from the perspective of a broken person. I think you will enjoy it.

The Red Tent - religion & feelings

                  "Looking out of the red tent"

This would not be a good book review whatsoever if I failed to mention the controversies surrounding it. When I read it for the first time in college I recommended it to my aunt, who hated it. We never really discussed it much and what we did discuss I have forgotten. When I realized that there are people who disklike The Red Tent I tried to find articles or entries about why people dislike it so much.

Here is what I did find, as well as my own speculations about why people have unfuzzy feelings towards one of my very favorite books.


(please someone correct me if I am incorrect on any of my information regarding Diamant).
I didn't realize until I started researching that Anita Diamant is Jewish. She has been writing for 35 years. her fist book is called "The New Jewish Wedding"
She has written 8 other books dedicated to the Jewish faith and lifestyle. She didn't write The Red Tent until 1997. So she had a large Jewish following when she published this, her first novel.

I am not Jewish and know almost nothing about the religion, so maybe whatever Jewish parts that could have been going on in the novel definately went right over my head. Diamant did not write this book for any specific religion or with any specific agenda in mind, BUT, many Jewish readers are critical of some aspects of the book that they believe have been misrepresented.

Diamant says that several readers refer to her book as "midrash" which she describes as "creative biblical commentary". In other words, it's like an addition to the Bible that tells a story in a creative way or gives you other ideas to ponder. Diamant says her book is not midrash because it can be read with no knowledge of the biblical story. (of course in my opinion it adds to the joy of reading the book). Midrash reflects back on the original text. The Red Tent stands alone. Plus it is written about a character that is not well known. You can't really reflect much on her story.

Clergy , Rabbis, Ministers and Priests have used thos book as a teaching tool and a way to bring people back to the Bible by making it interesting. Showing them that these biblical characters lived like real people and making them come alive.

"The painful things seemed like knots on a beautiful necklace, necessary for keeping the beads in place."
— Anita Diamant (The Red Tent)

Religion is a very touchy subject. It is a personal thing. We hold it very dear to our hearts and no one better dare try to change our minds about anything! Anita Diamant takes liberties with this story. She takes the very limited information there is on this forgotten girl and tells what could have been her story. Some things may be true. Others not. I think what angers people is that when you read a story based on the Bible you expect certain things to be the same. Diamant changes things.

The main example of this is Dinah's rape. I don't want to ruin any of the story but it is written in the Bible that Dinah's brothers avenge her rape. However, Diamant sees this part of the story differently. Think about what is written, according to the Bible; the prince of the city of the city goes to Jacob and asks to marry Dinah. Jacob says no. The prince returns and Jacob (after speaking it over with his sons) tells the prince that in order for him to have his daughter as a wife all the men of the city (or palace) must be circumsized (according to the customs of Jacob's family). The prince is horrified but agrees. The men are circumsized and during the night while they are recovering Jacob's sons murder every man in the city. (or at least in the palace). The details of this story didn't sit right with Diamant and she wrote the story differently. I won't ruin it for you.

I can see why some people would be upset by her changes. In the Bible, Jesus and God are the center of every story. That's what the Bible is about, right? Diamant's book focuses very little on faith. It hardly mentions God at all. This most likely angers a lot of people. But Diamant's intentions where not to focus on religion.

Look at it this way. We are told that Bible times are not different from today in regard to miracles. We read these remarkable stories and the preacher tells us that we can see miracles every day if we look for them. SO, if the Bible times are not so different then a lot of what Diamant writes is probably pretty accurate; at least in regard to daily living. She writes of Jacob's 4 wives. Since when is it okay to have 4 wives? Back then it was. And that doesn't make us mad. But I think seeing it written this way kindof puts in in our faces and makes us acknowledge that everything that happened back then wasn't always so noble and perfect, so maybe some other stuff that happened wasn't so noble and perfect either.

The women of the story did not worship God. I'm just guessing, but maybe the women of that time in that situation may not have been so informed or involved in Jacob's God. Maybe because their lives were so separate ( I mean, they didn't even eat together ). And since the book is written from the women's perspective there wasn't much of a reason to mention God or Jesus.

The biblical characters are not magical. They had real lives. It is shocking to us to read about them as having real emotions, fears, and mistakes and that probably makes us a little bitter because after hearing Bible stories we expect something different. Maybe it's because we think that stories based on biblical characters and in biblical times should talk more about God. The Red Tent does not really talk about God; at least not as a central character.

Does that makes us angry? Why do we get so bent up over religion?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May Maddness GOALS

Well it's that time again. Time to evaluate my goals and plan for the month. So depressing. I think I'm putting too much on myself. I made all these plans and then stuff comes up and they all go out the window. BUT I did make soooome progress! Let's review...

April's Goals
Call my IRA guy - well I didn't call him but I did send him an email.  Also I've been listening to Suze Orman's book, Women & Money. And therefore I have been working on refocusing my investment and money management goals and strategies. I did find out that my investment with Sharebuilder is not what it should be, which is not a fun thing to find out. But now I know what I need to do. Suze explains investment strategies VERY well. Although I agree more with Dave Ramsey's approach to debt management and wealth building, Suze explains investments better than he does. I could go on and one about this topic, but I will save it for another time and an entry of it's own because it deserves it.
I am calling this goal accomplished because I have done a lot of research on the topic even though I didn't actually talk to the guy.
Get those Recycle Bins - I put that one off AGAIN all the way up until May 1st! But I got it!!! I got a giant tub to put all my recyclables in.

Meet with the mover truck people - I did not do this at all. Ok, I called once but they didn't answer. I shall carry this one forward because I need to know how much money I need!

Practice 30 minutes of Calligraphy every day - Totally didn't do this one either. SHAME ON ME! I shall refocus my energy.

Go for a walk outside 2 nights a week - I'm not sure that I did it as often as I planned on but I did take several walks in the afternoons. Went on a long one lastnight actually. The weather is getting hotter and the house is stuffy so maybe that will drive us out of the house as well.

Get up early every Sunday morning - Nope. Didn't get that one done, BUT I did have this whole last weekend off, so the boyfriend and I went to the park on Saturday and did some biking, then on Sunday we went to the Shenandoah national park! We did a little hiking and a little biking. But now we know kindof what the area is like and what to expect. I would love to go camping up there or take a day hike sometime. I am calling this goal completed because while I didn't get up early every Sunday we did do a lot of things outdoors together and made good use of the weekend.

Read for 30 minutes to 1 hour every Saturday - Well now. My schedule got all mixed up the week after I planned this so I didn't have the time to really get this one accomplished. But I have been listening to books on cd in my car so I think that counts to some degree.
Like I said, I would post my thoughts on Freakonomics and I still plan to do so. Here is the link to the blog I previously mentioned if you should be so inclined to checking it out... 
Okay, having reviewed my goals I realize that I didn't do so bad after all!
Meet with the mover truck people - Even just giving them a call and finding out their price will satisfy me. I have a quote from UHaul but I think Budget trucks are cheaper.

Practice my calligraphy - Gonna try to do this at least 4 times per week for half an hour to 45 minutes. And this time I am going to make a callendar to keep track.

Find a good gym - I need to get into the gym. It's too hot to be doing any exercising outside on a regular basis. This goal would also include finding a good place to swim.

Recycle! - I have my box, not I just need to make sure I'm putting all the recyclables in it, and that I'm taking it to the correct place.

Gardening - I would love to do a bit of gardening, even if it's just getting a few tomatoe plants on the patio. But I'm being realistic in realizing that I might not get this one done this month. But I would like to. I hear good things about those topsy turvey tomatoe plant things. They say you can put them outside. Perfect! DONT' BUY FROM THE WEBSITE THOUGH! They sell them in almost every store now. Target, Walmart, even Giant has them. Their website says &19.99 buy one get one free. They are $9.99 in stores. BUT you do have to buy your own dirt and your own plant.

Wanna be a proactive goal setter? Here's how it works...

Post a list in your own blog of your career/personal goals for the current month, along with your checked off goals from the previous month if you like.

Visit the Monthly Goal Meet-up Post at Brazen Careerist and post the link to your blog in the comments. (if you don't have a blog you can just post a comment).

Then check out other people's posts/blogs and see what they're up to. Read their comments, Leave your own, Check out other people's blogs, you never know what you might find! Support each other and get to know each other. that's what we're here for!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Red Tent - the story and writing

"If you want to understand any woman, you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully."
- Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

I am revisiting The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. She can be honored by the fact that it is the first book I have ever re-read (as an adult); not counting the countless times I re-read The Chronicles of Narnia as a child.

This time around I am listening to it on cd as I drive from place to place. The narrator, Carol Bilger is excellent and brings a new kind of magic to the story. She has acted in several Adventures in Odyssey stories and has narrated other books. As I sit here, I am thinking about Dinah and wanting desperately to return to her story, but dreading the knowledge that it will be over soon.

The second time is different because I know what is going to happen and because it is on cd. But the magic of the story is not lost in these two fact. I still find my eyes wet and I still find myself wondering what piece of her story will speak to me this time.

My goals in the review of The Red Tent is to...
1. Discuss the writing and author
2. Discuss the religious ascpect and controversies of the novel
3. Tell you why the book is important

"I am so honored to be the vessel into which you pour this story of pain and strength."
-Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

The story is that of Dinah (Deenah), the only surviving daughter of the bliblical characters Leah and Jacob; the story told in Genesis. To refresh your memory, Jacob is the younger twin of Easaw and with his mother's help, cheats his brother out of his birthright by fooling his blind fauther. Jacob is sent away to his uncle Laben's land where he is instructed to mary Rachel  (who I guess would be his cousin). He meets Rachel at the well, falls in love, and goes to Laben with his intentions. As a bride price Jacob offers to work for Laben until Rachel is old enough to be wed (aka: has her period). But at the last minute Leah is switched for Rachel and becomes Jacob's first wife.

Jacob agrees to to continue working for Laben and later marries Rachel. Jacob has several sons with Leah and eventually has a son with Rachel (who, if you'll recall, was "too old to have children"). Their son is Joseph who is eventually given "the coat of many colors" and is sold into Egyptian slavery by his jealous brothers, where he goes on to interpret dreams to the king.

This story is well known in the Bible. But not much is known about Dinah. The Bible tells of her rape by a prince and how her rapist then asks Jacob to marry her and agrees to be circumsized, along with all the other men of the city, as a bride price. While the men are recovering and sleeping, Jacob's sons murder all the men of the city, including Dinah's new husband.

That is all that is known about Dinah.

Diamant originally intened to write a novel about the relationship between Leah and Rachel, rival sisters with the same husband. But while reading, she realized that Dinah's silence and decided to write her story instead. In doing so she also tells the story of her mothers.

In writing The Red Tent, Diamand researched the lives of women in the ancient Near East. She wanted the book to come to life and be as accurate as possible in regard to the everyday lives of women in that time period. The information in the Bible does not include the details you would expect to find in a story; what is the weather like? what does it feel like to pack up your house and garden and move accross the land on foot. what do the characters look like, what do they say to each other before going to sleep at night, what do they eat, what games do the children play?

The Red Tent takes place inbetween the lines the Bible. Major landmarks are there and if you remember the story from the Bible you will find yourself exclaiming "oh! I remember that!" It's such a treat to read this book. It makes the biblical characters real and it makes the Bible come alive for many people.

I myself am a sucker for good writing. Not only is Anita Diamant's writing good, it is excellent. I have been devouring books since I could read (thanks to my grandmother and my aunt). Some writing just draws you in. I felt like I was inside the tent with the other women. I felt like I had attended the births and been there when Dinah came of age. I felt the anger she felt and the love of ther mothers. I felt her despair and her courage. When Dinah describes a cucumber as tasting like the moon, I could taste it! The next time you eat a cucumber see if it doesn't taste like the moon; cool and refreshing. She gives you such an appreciation for the littlest details; the taste and smell of water, the color of a woman's hair, the color of dirt.

You know, I also think there is a little something extra in the book especially for women. Diamant describes the red tent (the menstrual tent) and tells you what goes on inside, but not quite. It's as if she's keeping a secret. Even in describing the events of the red tent she keeps certain things private. As women we know these secrets and that makes it more special for us.

I would like to pause here. My following post will discuss the religous aspects of the book and why some people dislike it.

If you have read The Red Tent, what did you find special about her writing and the way she weaves a story?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Reviews

I don't believe that one can really do a proper book review unless one is in the midst of the book itself, which is why I am revisiting my old friends.

I have read several emotionally charged and moving stories and I think they deserve to be shared. I want to tell about what I learned and what I loved about each book; the writing, the characters, the tears, the anger... and I don't feel as if I can do them justice unless they are freshly in my mind.

Some books have a deeper meaning to me and offer a wider range of additional topics of which I can write about. Others are simply captivating stories but are no less deserving of sharing because of the remarkable draw that the story or adventure had on me.

In all books that I wish to share there is substance and growth. They effect me and they stick with me.

You know how when you read a book and the characters are so real that you love them? They stay with you throughout the years of your life and sometimes you think of them as if they were a real person. These books deserve to be talked about. It's one thing for me to read a good book but I would like to do them justice and write about why I loved them.

So that is why I am going to start doing book reviews. Some may bridge off into other topics and some may just be about the book itself.

I am beginning with The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant.

What are some books that you wish to share? What is the most recent book that moved you?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You're Not My Friend!

I read this entry recently from Generation Meh about cutting your ties with those people who make having them as a friend a difficulty. It's perfect timing actually because I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Actually the topic has been on my mind for about 2 years since I moved from Alabama. The entry I read put my thoughts into beautiful sentences.

In college I had a lot of fair-weather-friends. Not because they weren't good people but because I was in a sorority and we were all forced to be friends. Granted a lot of people really did make life long friendships, and I can't knock it because one of my dearest friends was an Alpha Delta Pi with me. But I'm not a "group" kind of girl. I learned a lot during my time there, including that just because you value someone as a friend doesn't mean that they value you the same way.

You know the ones, the friend you have that no matter how much effort you put into the relationship you still get nothing back. There's another kind too, the friend that is always getting mad at you for the littlest thing. The friend that takes your own life personally and offers you judgements right and left, but then when you really need to talk all they can do is talk about themselves.

I've come to realize that it's okay to let those people go. You don't have to hold onto them. Like Generation Meh says,

"...stop martyring yourself on the altar of someone else’s indifference."

You don't have to run circles for these people. They don't make your life any better. Don't sweat the small stuff! My roommates have really tried to make my life miserable. My roommate has made her boyfriend swear that he will not share the internet they just signed up for. When I take dishes out of the sink to make room to use it I find that they have put the dishes back in, just for kicks. I realize that this is a little off the beaten path of discussion about those friends who don't want to be YOUR friend but you try to be theirs... but, for me it's the same idea. I'm not martyring myself, I'm not going to try to make things better when my attempts in the past have failed.

I'm not gonna sweat it, because it really is small stuff.

I'm taking my ball and going home.

Are there people in your life that you've had to let go? How did you feel about losing that person? Was the friendship lost because you just couldn't do the legwork anymore? Or did they push you away with their actions?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Personal Branding? Sounds Painful

So I have been reading the posts about personal branding. I think I get it. No really I think I do! But I don't know if it's something that you can go out and "create". Everybody is talking about it like we all need to hurry up and brand ourselves! ouch? But that just seems impossible when you don't have a direction.

I mean, I want to blog. I want to write inteligent entries that make people think or at least respond to. But my life and experiences are all a mish mash, like scrapple. Maybe that's a good thing though because I can appeal to many different types of people... but then how do you get people to follow your blog if everything is different? I guess that's the point of a 'personal brand'.

How do you bring all the mishmash together...
My degree in psychology - I have a fascination with law and psych (forensic psychology).
My work - I currently work in the mental health field and with the foster care system.
My volunteering - I volunteer with CASA, aka: i'm a guardian ad litem. (spelled right?)
I love books
I love to cook
I love to do things outside.

But what I really want to do is build a content website for profit and learn calligraphy.

I have a lot of thoughts on the foster care system and psychology, and I have recipes to share and pictures of my food, I'd love to share the books I'm reading...

But all that probably wouldn't do much for my artistic calligraphy-based website. They are completely unrelated. But I want to write about it all.
So how do I bring it all together in a personal brand?

I don't know. But I am very much an individual, not afraid of being myself and letting my true colors shine through, so to speak. So I have faith that eventually it will all come together and that lightbulb moment will happen. Maybe the brand just comes about on it's own. You know, I've been reading several different people's blogs and what I've found is that the ones I like usually have topics that I enjoy even if the main point of their blog (ie: their career path) is completely uninteresting to me. They blog about other things too.

Until then I just have to keep learning and growing and writing because after all that's the whole point of a blog, right? It's my personal path to self discovery, as Penelope says.

Writing seems to help me sort through my thoughts. Does it work for you as well? Why do you blog? Do you feel like you have created a 'personal brand'?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools & April Goals

So today is April 1st! I don't even remember when I stopped doing April Fools jokes. I remember one year I replaced the chocolate-ball cereal in the box with dog food that lookes a lot like the cereal. Nobody ate it though, I suppose the smell had something to do with it.

Here's my recap for March:
  • Send Birthday Cards - I didn't get a card to my mother but I did call her. I think that counts. I also sent about 5 birthday cards to my brother as a birthday joke. I think he enjoyed it.
  • Get Recycle Bins - I definately did not do this one; thought about it every day for the last week in March but didn't get it done. Will carry this one forward. The beer bottles are longing for a special home.
  • Call my IRA provider - Nope. Didn't do this one either. Carry forward.
  • File Taxes - YES! D-O-N-E! Feels hella-good not to worry about it. I ended up paying for it instead of doing it myself, but this being my first time I think it was worth it.

So, thinking about April... It's starting to get warm here in Maryland so I want to do stuff outside. It's too bad that my boyfriend and I work nights so we can't spend the best part of the evenings together. Big bummer cuz I love this time of year, the time when it's not to cold and not too warm but you still have to bring a light jacket just incase.

  • Call my IRA guy - do I really need to explain that one again?
  • Get those Recycle Bins - Yep. Nuff said. Also gotta figure out where I can drop them.
  • Meet with the mover truck people - I'm moving back to Alabama. Yep. I gotta look around and find the right moving truck. Already checked in with UHaul but now I gotta check out the Budget Trucks. I'm a little bit excited about moving back because my mommy lives there. I miss my mommy, and who says you can't go home. Whoever said that must've not had a very good relationship with their family. Gonna have to find a new job when I get there but that's where the following goal comes in...
  • Practice 30 minutes of Calligraphy every day - I just have to JUST DO IT! My problem is that I keep going from one style to another instead of sticking with just one. I don't know if that's good or bad. Anyways, my long term goal is to create a website and do calligraphy.
  • Go for a walk outside 2 nights a week - It's so nice outside and I miss going for walks. The only thing missing is that I don't have any dogs to walk. Bummer.
  • Get up early every Sunday morning - Sunday is the only day that Boyfriend and I have together. We are both working our butts off and Sunday is our day (it's not even every Sunday because every other Sunday I work from 9 to 3) ... but that's just me whining. So every Sunday I want to get up early and spend time together, maybe make breakfast, drink coffee, go for a walk... and then do something afterwards. For Easter Sunday I think we are going to go to the park and rend a boat of some kind, take a picnic (and maybe some beers) and go paddling. I also want to go to one of the Caverns in Virginia. I haven't been to a cave in forever! And then for dinner maybe go out to eat or cook dinner at the house and watch a movie from the Redbox.
  • Read for 30 minutes to 1 hour every Saturday - I've been listening to books on cd every day on my way to and from work, but I miss actually holding the book in my hand and reading. I started "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" by David Wroblewski and I'm on page 225. It's very very good so far. These past several weeks I've "read", in my car, "The Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson and "The Strangler" by William Landay. They've all been very good books and I recommend them all. I'm currently listening to "Freakonomics" by Steven B Levitt & Stephen J Dubner. While Googling this book I found this website/blog, from The NewYork Times; it's pretty interesting. When I finishe Freakonomics I shall post my thoughts.

So those are my goals for April. I don't think it's toooooo much, but we'll see. Maybe I'll get those recycle bins first...


Wanna be a proactive goal setter? Here's how it works...

Post a list in your own blog of your career/personal goals for the current month, along with your checked off goals from the previous month if you like.

Visit the Monthly Goal Meet-up Post at Brazen Careerist and post the link to your blog in the comments. (if you don't have a blog you can just post a comment).

Then check out other people's posts/blogs and see what they're up to. Read their comments, Leave your own, Check out other people's blogs, you never know what you might find! Support each other and get to know each other. that's what we're here for!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Happiness is a Frame of Mind...?

I'm not really a big fan of Dr. James Dobson, but I like talk radio and as I am driving home from work at night, I listen to the only chanel I can get that has talk; which is the Christian chanel.

[can I say how sad it is that I don't get more chanels in the Baltimore/DC area?]

I would also like to point out that I have nothing against "the Christian Chanel". For the most part I enjoy listening to the discussions. There are a few that rub me the wrong way - like when they talk about how being gay is wrong. I just don't listen to it because I am a big supporter of "the gays"... but that's another post entirely.

So, I was listening one night and Dr. Dobson and 'some other guy' where discussing an interview that had been previously recorded. The interview was with a man who had kept a diary of his journey when his wife became paralyzed through a car accident possibly... and he was left to take care of her for the rest of their lives.

*Kudos* to anyone who has to go through something like that.

He talked about how he chose to remain positive for his wife. This was when Dr. Dobson's friend said that "happiness is a frame of mind"; he said you can have two people in the exact same situation and one is absolutely miserable and grouchy to the world and the other is happy and smiling. ... Not a direct quote but close enough.

The part that got to me was when he said "two people in the exact same situation". I'm not opposed to the idea that you can choose to be happy, but two people's situations are never exactly the same. (I know, never say never)... but it is true that two people's situations will never equal each other. It is also true that no two people are the same. Maybe the other person has a different chemical balance in their brain, maybe they take medication for anxiety or depression. If that person loses a job they will probably react differenty than the person that does not have the same chemical imbalance.

Yes, I do understand the point of why he said what he said. But it got me thinking. People's journey's are different. I do not believe that you can judge another person's happiness. In fact I don't believe we should be judging anybody at all!

All that being said, I do believe that you can choose to be happy. I believe in choices.

Like today, after my taxes pissed me off and I dropped my phone down the rain drain in the parking lot and I got an email from my ex... I am NOT happy right now! BUT, I am choosing not to let my UNhappiness get in the way of my life. I am not going to let my mood affect how I treat other people and how I do my job.

I think that was his point.

My mom has drilled this concept into my since I was 12. She used to tell me (and still does to this day) "you don't have to decide anything right now".

So I take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture. All in all my life does not suck because I lost my phone and my taxes are pissing me off. I have a job and phones can be purchased. I don't know what to tell you about the taxes, but who does, really?

Granted, my problems are not as big as the guy who has to care for his paralyzed wife. But you can be happy if you choose. If I need to, I take a moment to call my mom and whine. And she listens. And I have my little pitty party.

I think that when you start to ACT happy, you realize that you just might BE happy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

TP as an olive branch. or How to Live with Roommates

What is that saying? Something about an olive branch? Or maybe it's not so much a saying as it is a well known symbolism. The olive branch as a peace offering, or maybe a white flag.

I read somewhere that you can learn something from everyone. I have also heard that moving in with your friends can be a very bad idea. I have been living with my current roommates for about 6 months now. They teach me things all the time. Things like how to change a door lock and how to move your living room into your bedroom. I've also learned how to rewire my tv and how to remove gum from my kitchen table.

Really? Gum on the kitchen table? That one really got me. We ended up having a very polite "conversation" and since then the lessons seem to have ceased. . . for the time being. Keep in mind that I use the term 'polite' very loosley.

About the toilet paper. I had 'learned' that in order to not be the constant supplier of TP for the whole house, I needed to keep my supply in my bedroom, with my new door lock. Well, this resulted in everybody keeping their own individual rolls & only taking them to the bathroom when nature called.

[the silliness of this makes me giggle a little even now]

Well, I found my olive branch the other day. A shiny new roll of TP nicely presented on the roller. It brings a tear to my eye!

Okay but seriously... What do you do when you're in a desperate situation and you are forced to live with people that prove to be the opposite of supportive friends. I'm in a lease for goodness sakes. I joke about my "learning experiences", but really I have learned. I am better at standing up for myself. I am not a confrontational person; I'm pretty much an introvert. I prefer to ignore negative comments, turn the other cheek, kill with kindness... Before moving in with these people I probably would not say anything about the dirty sink and the overwhelming trash...the unvacuumed living room, But I know what I deserve and I have found my voice.

Some people cannot be killed with kindness. Some people just really have to be slapped around a little and shown that you won't roll over. I'm a little sad that it had to get ugly. I think my mother would prefer to hear that I triumphed with my soft voice and that they eventually got bored of giving me hell. But the truth is that sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. I feel better about myself knowing that if need be I can get scrappy!

Have you ever been in a situation like that? Did you ever have to get down and fight a little dirty?

Monday, March 8, 2010

March Goal Meet-Up

So... there's a group at Brazen where you list your goals for the month; to keep you focused and to share with others. This will be my first goal meet-up. I am going to start small for the main purpose that I am so freakishly busy as it is that I couldn't possibly fit in anymore big goals.

March holds my mother and brother's birthdays so I am planning on sending birthday cards/letters. There, goal #1.

I am also big on recycling, but my apartment complex does not recycle. So I want to get some big garbage cans to put my plastics in. There, goal #2.

Fairly simple goals. But I can't start too big because I don't dare overwhelm myself. I work almost every day out of the week. Some weeks I only work 6 days a week. It's too much, but it's only temporary and right now I can't afford to drop a job.

Goal #3 is one that I am thinking about working on but it might be one that flows over into April... I have an IRA account with Sharebuilder and I need to call my local Dave Ramsey endorsed investment provider and ask him some questions about my account. I know it's a him because I talked on the phone with him one time to tell him that I would call him back later. haha. talk about procrastination.

If you have questions about insurance, investment, taxes... check out the providers that Ramsey recommends because I've talked to a few and they are really in it to help you, the normal person, understand these complicated topics... Which brings me to goal #4... I gotta do my taxes. Hooray!

So there you go. My monthly goals:
1. Send birthday cards
2. Get recycle bins
3. Call my IRA provider
4. File taxes!

When April Fools rolls around we will see how I did on my goals and see if I procrastinated so much that April has the same goals :)

Here's to following up!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

along came blogging

Welcome. How do you start a blog? I have this one right here, but it just exists for my own amusement. That and to keep my family up on what's going on in my life. I'm not sure that's such a good idea but oh well.

What exactly do you put in a first post? Does it even matter? Is anyone even gonna read my first post?

I struggled with what to name my blog. For right now I'm sticking with self titled mostly because I can't think of anything else. I also had to figure out the http address. I went for rummaged and ransacked because I like those words and they seem to fit my life right now.

Rummage: a jumble of things to be given away. search haphazardly. a thorough search for something (often causing disorder or confusion).

Ransack: plunder; steal goods, take as spoils. to comb. to make a vigorous and thorough search or examination of a location or thing, usually leaving behind a state of disarray. looted. to rummage and steal.

Ha! You could say that about describes my situation in life. The search for my self identity, so to speak, is definately causing disorder or confusion leaving behind a state of disarray.

I'm a writer. Not in the professional sense, but in the sense that in my life I have always written. I write letters, diaries, blogs, notes... If you asked my family what I like to do they'd probably say reading and writing. As a kid I always had a notebook and a book. I had a great immagination. It's a shame that I can't really do anything with my love of writing. Oh wait! ... along came blogging.

I used to think blogging was stupid. I thought it was just an online diary. I would see blogs here and there and I would think "this is so boring, why would anyone want to read this". But then I realized that people do blog for good reasons and people do read each other's blogs. And then my mom directed me to Brazen Careerist and I realized what blogging is really about, or at least what it can be. A search. Perhaps a thorough search for something?

I don't know where this is going; where this 'blogging for real' will take me. But it can't hurt to build a network, or at least attempt to. It can't hurt to practice my writing skills and try to figure out my life with the whole world watching (I should be so lucky). My goal is to be honest and write with purpose. Penelope says to offer the reader something they are looking for. I don't know that this first post will neccesarily do any of that. I didn't plan this out, I just wrote it because I needed a first post.

So, welcome to my first post. Let's see where I go from here.