Moment to Remember: A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip by Alexander Masters

life-discarded-clouds

So instead of doing a photo and then the text in the post, I tried Canva.com to make a cute little picture.  Confirms that I am not a graphic designer, but fun to try something new.

In other news, I also left my job recently so this quote is especially resonating with me at the moment.  It’s a beautiful fall day here in Minnesota, and I’m ready for a change.  Adventures await! And hopefully more regular blog posts!

This quote came from my second book selection from Heywood Hill bookshop in London.  My spectacular parents bought me their monthly book subscription as a gift and it is just so much fun.  You answer some questions and then you get a personalized selection mailed to you.  My first book is still TBR, but I’m more motivated now that it’s been selected for the Booker Prize short list: “All That Man Is” by David Szalay.  I might yet have more of an official review of “A Life Discarded”, but for now, it is just a Moment to Remember.

 

 

Moment to Remember: Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott

(This is the first of what will become regular posts where I just share a quote that resonates with me or is particularly thought-provoking to give you a taste of the book.  I hope that you enjoy me selections and go on to read the book for yourself!)

 

Wows come in all shapes and sizes, like people.  There are the lowercase wows.  These are the times when we sink into something modest that delivers above and beyond.  When you crawl between clean sheets after a hard day, you are saved.  You feel like you are the best sandwich ever. You’re being taken care of from the top and the bottom, with not a crumb or a lump or a wrinkle.  Wow: you can’t believe you felt so low and lonely till you thought to change the sheets.

 

Photo “Bed Linen” by Maria Morri via Flickr

Review: Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

Or, I think that Mary-Louise Parker Scares Me a Little

So a funny thing happened when I went to write this review last night.  I picked up the book, which is a series of “letters” written to various men in Parker’s life, to give myself a little refresher because I had finished the book before my grandmother died.

I had picked up the book from a Little Free Library, and it was an advance reader’s copy. From reading the book, I discovered the Parker has an adopted daughter from Ethiopia.  I have a son adopted from Ethiopia, so I immediately Googled Parker’s daughter to see a photo.  What comes up on Google is gossip about Parker’s break-up with Billy Crudup while she was pregnant so that he could date Claire Danes.  I knew none of this, but the articles described a chapter in the book called “Dear Mr. Cabdriver” and how it was the first public description she’s given of how she felt when it happened.  I was really disappointed because I hadn’t read that story while I was reading the book, so I figured that it must have been added after the advance reader’s copy went out.

Fast forward to last night, when I discovered that I had not only somehow skipped that letter, but about 11 other letters as well.  I knew that I took a little snooze in the hammock while I was reading it, but it still surprised me that I managed to miss that big of a chunk of the book!

I didn’t have any expectations when I started reading the book – I’ve seen a few of her movies/shows, but nothing more than that.  I was really blown away by her writing style from the very first letter to her grandfather.  She recalls a story of her grandfather, clearly an alcoholic, sending a bottle of whiskey wrapped in a loaf of bread and frosted to look like a birthday cake to her father who is serving in World War II in the Philippines.  The next story “Dear Daddy” is one of the most powerful in the book, telling the story of how her father was shot in the thigh and then kept walking for two days, never resting, so that he wouldn’t be at the end of the line because that was where soldiers were getting picked off by the enemy.  I love this line at the end of the letter:

This is your family I’m running here.  I can’t take credit for more than remembering to point to you when I do something right and for continuing to put one foot in front of the other when I lose heart.

All the chapters after that, they make me slightly scared.  Or perhaps not scared, but rather convinced that Parker just lives life on a different emotional level than mine.  And not just because she’s a famous actress, but because she presents her life as just so intense all of the time.  Here she is having a wild love affair!  Here she is almost dying! Here she is castrating a goat!

What I found interesting in my reaction to all of this is that I read memoirs to learn about the different experiences people have had, and yet here was the first memoir I’ve ever read that made me feel inferior about not having those experiences.  I think because there is this idea that everyone should have had that adventurous time in their young life when they hitchhiked to San Francisco, or worked at a health food co-op and had friends who wore loincloths, or traveled to Europe with a boyfriend and had sex in public.  Even if you aren’t famous, you should at least have a brief but intense relationship with a man dying of cancer or tap your own maple trees.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the book and I’d be interested in reading her other short pieces.  I thought that the letter format was unique and probably a good way for her to structure a memoir so that she didn’t have to talk about the things that make her famous (all of her award-winning performances, celebrity relationships, etc.)  I’m just now going to keep an eye out for other memoirs that bring out this same unexpected reaction and see if there are any similarities between the authors/narratives.

Moment Three

So I haven’t been posting the way that I had imagined that I would after the BEA Bloggers Conference – a longer review every Monday and then a shorter post Wednesday or Thursday with Instagram photos along the way.

But then life can surprise you.

This past week I’ve been face to face with end of life issues in my own family.  My 103 year old grandmother, who has never had a health problem in her life (seriously, she started weight lifting after 90 years old because her daily swim wasn’t enough of a weight-bearing exercise) had a stroke on Tuesday night.  She had a very clear medical directive written and so once the doctor determined that she was probably not going to be able to swallow again, it was time to let her go.

While I’m sad that I wasn’t able to see her before she died and my heart is grieving, my head knows that this is exactly what she would have wanted.  The last year or so she has been ready to let go. Life was just no longer bringing her the joy that it once had despite nothing being physically wrong with her. She was just tired out.

One of the habits that made me sad to see in these past few years is that she had started reading old Danielle Steele novels.  My grandmother had been an assistant superintendent in the Beverly Hills school district, and an avid reader of books about current events and biographies all throughout my childhood.  As she got towards the end, she just wanted to read novels where she didn’t have to pay much attention to the plot.  In my eyes, these reading choices betrayed her dynamic mind, but I also had to respect that we each have seasons in our lives when different books bring us comfort and enjoyment.

One of her favorite books was “The Color of Water” by James McBride.  She respected all of the sacrifices that McBride’s mother made for her children and thought that it was only fitting that McBride write an entire book celebrating her efforts.  I had to chuckle that when I finally read the book it extensively discussed race relations, but that important topic didn’t even make it into my grandmother’s conversations about the book.  Apparently living through a century of social change makes it unnecessary to comment on it.

So, while all of this has been happening (and let’s be honest-the week before too when I ditched you all for the Beyonce concert) I have been doing a lot of reading.  I’ve got reviews of “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren, “Becoming Maria” by Sonia Manzano, “The Whipping Boy” by Allen Kurzweil,  “Dear Mr. You” by Mary Louise Parker, and “Seven Good Years” by Etgar Keret in my head, ready to write and share with you.

I look forward to getting back on track with this blog and continuing on this journey with you.

In Loving Memory of Marcella, 1912-2016

 

 

Review: The Death Class: a true story about life by Erika Hayasaki

The Death Class Cover

While I have written other reviews in preparation for blogging, as soon as I started reading “The Death Class” by Erika Hayasaki I knew it had to be my first posted review.

First off, it is a terrific read.  Hayasaki is an award-winning journalist and you can tell by how she immerses you in each scene.  I was on the edge of my seat as I read the opening account of her friend’s murder in high school.

The structure of the book is equally compelling and pulls you along effortlessly.  Hayasaki starts by simply shadowing Norma Bowe as she attends her Perspectives in Death and Dying class, but is so engrossed that she ends up following Bowe for four years.  The book shares the powerful stories of a handful of Bowe’s students so that not only do we have Hayasaki’s story, but those of Bowe and her students as well. These stories include a young woman dealing with her mother’s drug addiction, her boyfriend facing the schizophrenia running through his family, a young man escaping from his gang, and a homeless teenager changing her destiny.  So, as you can imagine, emotional and hard to put down while reading!  

Each chapter ends with a thought-provoking class assignment that you the reader can do, and the response of one of the protagonists. I have been working on these assignments on my own and may share them with you as the blog goes along.  Perhaps we can do them together?

Secondly, end of life issues and “perspectives in death and dying” has been a passion of mine for about a decade.  I can’t explain why a normal 20-something would find the subject so fascinating, but there it is.  I have been a hospice volunteer for the past 2 years and recently participated in a train-the-trainer course on helping people write their medical directives.

This blog will be a merging of these two passions of mine: reading memoirs about the experiences of people’s lives, and exploring end of life issues about how people reconcile how they lived with how they want to die.

I hope that you will enjoy reading this blog and help to make it a dynamic conversation about three fascinating subjects: good books, good lives and good deaths.  

Moment Two

This post is not going to be a well-crafted one because I’m exhausted from the great Bloggers Conference at BEA2016 yesterday and then a delicious dinner with a total stranger from the shuttle bus who is totally one of My People. This is exactly why I’m here in Chicago!

Now I’m awake an hour earlier than I need to be, so I’m trying to decide if I’m going to check out the blogs of some of the fascinating people I met yesterday or dig into one of the advance copies I picked up. Decisions, decisions!

Moment One

So here it goes.

I’ve been thinking and re-thinking and over-thinking this since January, when I decided that this year I need to take some steps to figure out what comes next.

It took the BEA 2016 registration form to finally get me to take that first step and choose a blog name because you can’t get a name tag without one.  (So much for hoping to get inspired while at the conference!) Luckily, Joe was home to help me with the final deliberations and so full credit goes to him for the perfect blog name. I love the ambiguity of is it “lives” as in the plural noun form of life? Or is it the present tense of the verb to live?

Since I intend to focus on reading,reviewing and thinking about memoirs, that is, collections of moments in a person’s life, the noun form resonates.  However, I don’t want to be so strict that I can’t share a moment or two from my own life, so the verb form works for those other miscellaneous posts.

Next up?  Figure out how to change the photo away from the raspberries.  After that?  Wish me luck!