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!