Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January Books of the Month

Yes, I'm a bookworm, but surprisingly, I didn't read many books this month. Here are the ones I've finished (I'm still in the middle of a couple, and I'll list them when I'm done.

It Was Only a Moment Ago by William Hablitzel, M.D. Dr. Hablitzel's books get better and better. The stories of his patients facing the worst are inspiring, and so is he. He makes a distinction between curing and healing, and clearly, he's a healer.

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. His first published book, a huge best seller in its time. It predates other coming of age books such as Catcher in the Rye, but it features a young man trying to figure out who he is and what life is all about.

To Bless the Space Between Us by John O'Donahue, recently reviewed on this blog. I love his poetry.

Books I'm Taking on Vacation

My Kindle is loaded up and ready to go. I doubt I'll read all these books, but I'm sure I'll finish some, and the rest I'll read when I get home:

The Lost Books of the Odyssey. A selection of my book group.

The Last Boy. A biography of Mickey Mantle.

Catching Fire. The second book in the YA Hunger Games trilogy.

Unbroken. World War II

Sight Unseen. An English mystery

Monday, January 17, 2011

Quotes for the Week: Travel

Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation. ~Elizabeth Drew

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~St. Augustine

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money. ~Susan Heller

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything. ~Charles Kuralt, On the Road With Charles Kuralt

It is not down in any map; true places never are. ~Herman Melville

What you've done becomes the judge of what you're going to do - especially in other people's minds. When you're traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don't have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road. ~William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways

Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with losing your luggage. ~Regina Nadelson

I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within. ~Lillian Smith

Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness. ~Ray Bradbury

A passport, as I'm sure you know, is a document that one shows to government officials whenever one reaches a border between countries, so the officials can learn who you are, where you were born, and how you look when photographed unflatteringly. ~Lemony Snicket

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Airport Adventures

As I'm packing for my upcoming vacation (No, I'm not taking as much as you see in the picture--my suitcase WILL close), I wonder what airport adventures await.

My relationship with airports has always been ambivalent. On one hand, they make me vaguely nervous. Will my flight be on time? Will I make my connection? Will my luggage arrive? On the other hand, I find airports fascinating. All those people coming and going. Thousands of stories.

I grade airports by whether they have a Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Shop. Newark and
Atlanta get A's. I hope Miami has a Ben and Jerry's because I have a long layover there.

My strangest adventures have taken place at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. I love Paris, the airport not so much.

A few years ago a friend and I went to a writing workshop in Provence. We landed in Paris on a sunny morning. As we walked to the bus that would take us from the tarmac to the terminal, I breathed in the fresh summer air. Then, with my suitcase trailing behind me, I stepped onto the bus, caught the wheels of the suitcase on the step and pitched headlong onto the floor. I heard gasps. Someone helped me to my feet and my friend cried, “Are you all right?”

“Fine,” I muttered, relieved my glasses hadn’t broken. Unfortunately, my nose had.

An Air France attendant led my friend and me through the airport—the very long airport—to the doctor’s office. Rather than drag our suitcases, we loaded them onto a cart, which my friend proceeded to push onto a moving walkway. No one told us carts are not made for such walkways. As we reached the end, the cart lost traction, rolled over and knocked me down, and as I fell on the cart, the people on the walk behind me fell on me. Now I had a cut on my arm to go along with the nose that was rapidly turning black and blue.

The airport doctor pronounced me lucky because my nose was broken only on one side and no surgery was needed. He cleaned off my arm and suggested I take a pain killer, and we went on our way. Of course, we missed our connection to Nice, but that’s another story.

I am sure I’m one of the few people—perhaps the only person--who can boast that I broke my nose in the Paris airport.

A year later, I was once again at Charles de Gaulle. I arrived early, with plenty of time to make my flight to Houston. Or so I thought. As I headed for the counter to get a boarding pass, a uniformed woman gestured me aside. “Get back,” she ordered. “We’re evacuating.” Someone had reported an unattended suitcase, I learned, as I stood in the crowd. Why didn’t they move us outside? Weren’t we in danger here? Within a few minutes, I heard a pop. Security had blown up the suitcase. Now the huge crowd of evacuees shoved their way to the counters. Being a little, rather oldish lady, I ended up at the back of the line.

At security I was again at the rear. The line inched along. I watched the hands of the clock creep toward departure time. Finally, I went through the x-ray. Home free, I thought.

No such luck. It was random-security-check time. Stern-faced security personnel patted me down, opened my suitcase, dug through my purse and finally let me pass. Holding my shoes in one hand, I raced through the concourse and arrived at the gate just as it closed.

Out of breath, I stuck out my boarding pass.

“Door’s closed,” the gate attendant said.

“But the plane’s still on the ground,” I protested.

"You’re too late.”

“It’s because they evacuated the terminal,” I explained.

“Not our fault. You should have gotten here earlier,” she said, with a sneer.

“But I was early. They evacuated—“

“You can’t get on,” she repeated. “Go to the Air France office and book another flight.”

At least I wasn’t the only one who was refused access to the plane. Several other would-be passengers hovered at the gate. The attendant signaled another Air France employee. “She’ll take you to the office."

The woman took off as if she were running a marathon. I couldn’t keep up, nor could the woman hurrying along next to me. Within a few minutes, we lost sight of our guide.

Did anyone know the location of the Air France office? Nope. We asked and asked, until finally someone pointed us toward their counter. There I met with an Air France attendant as unhelpful as the others I’d encountered. Although others who had missed our plane because their connecting flights were late were booked on flights, my “case” was different; according to Air France regulations, evacuation of a terminal did not count as a good reason for tardiness. Finally I burst into tears. To this day I’m not sure if they were real or I was faking, but my sobs worked. The lady relented and put me on the same flight—Houston via Atlanta--as the woman I’d gotten lost with. Since we had several hours before the plane left, we decided to have lunch.

We located a cafĂ©, ordered and sat down. “Well, since we’ve been through so much together, I think we should introduce ourselves,” she said.

“I’m Thelma.”

She burst out laughing. When she could catch her breath, she said. “I’m Louise.”

This was a friendship destined to be.

But, I don’t ever plan to fly through Paris again.

For this trip, my Kindle is loaded with books I've been intending to read, my suitcase will soon be packed with clothes for three different climates, my camera and my Scrabble dictionary (My sister and I play Scrabble for $2 a game when we travel together--so far, I'm ahead) I'm hoping to make it to South America and back without any fuss or bother.

On the other hand, what would a trip be without an adventure or two?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursday Review: To Bless the Space Between Us by John O'Donahue

Irish priest and poet John O'Donahue's book is a beautiful collection of blessings for all occasions. It's divided into seven sections:

1. Beginnings: For the Light, For a New Home...and others;

2. Desires: For Freedom, For Longing, For Friendship...;

3. Thresholds: For Your Birthday; For Old Age; For Death; In Praise of Water...;

4. Homecomings: On Waking; For a Mother; To Come Home to Yourself...;

5. States of the Heart: For Solitude; For Grief; For the One Who is Exhausted...;

6. Callings: For a Farmer; For a Nurse; For the Unknown Self...;

7. Beyond Endings: At the End of the Year; For Broken Trust;
For Lost Friends; Entering Death...;

These poems will touch your heart, ease your loneliness, repair your soul.
I was never a reader of poetry until my husband died. Now I find poems just what I need to see me through my journey. I was introduced to John O'Donahue's work during a trip to Ireland, and he's become one of my favorites. Hope you'll read his inspiring poems, too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Quote for the Week: Ithaka by C.V. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka,
hope your road will be a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon--don't be afraid of them;
you'll never find things like on your way
as long as you keep your thought raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon--you won't enounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy
you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony;
sensual perfume of every kind--
as many sensual perfumes as you can,
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Upcoming Trip and a Trip Not Taken

It's almost vacation time for me. Two more weeks, and my sister and I take off for South America, where we will undoubtedly get lost somewhere. We always do, but that's part of the fun. We'll be visitng Ushuai, at the southern tip of Argentina, where Ralph and I went on a "big trip" in 2002. No, the RV picture's not about that one.

The summer before Ralph got sick, we were in Iowa visiting his family, and we spent one day visiting his younger brother, who lived a couple of hours away. We stopped at a beautiful Iowa transportation building on the way, and I picked up some brochures about the state. "Let's take a trip across the country," I said. "All the way, east to west. I'll write a travel book and you'll take the pictures."

"Okay," Ralph said.

"Next summer."

"Maybe the summer after." Ralph was a champion procratinator, so I was stunned when I arrived home after a trip with my sister to find a huge RV in our driveway. "Surprise," he said. He'd bought a 50% share in a friend's RV.

We decided we'd take a trial trip to the Texas Hill Country in October, but by then our lives had changed. Ralph was diagnosed with a precursor to leukemia and was waiting for an appointment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. No trip to the Hill Country. For weeks, until his friend came and drove it away, the RV stood in our driveway, like an ungainly monster, the symbol of a trip we would never take.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Website Review: The Loomba Foundation

As a widow, even a veteran of more than five years, I often feel sorry for myself. Why did this happen to me? Why do I have to trudge on alone? No one to run out for a last-minute dinner with, cuddle in front of the fire with, plan a weekend getaway with...on and on and on. When the season changes or the year turns, I feel especially lonely.

Then I go to one of the links that comes through my google widowhood alert each day, and I realize that we widows here in America are pretty darn lucky, even though we're unlucky. I've been reading about the plight of many widows in Africa, who are brutalized after their spouse's death. Often they are blamed for the death. They may be forced into a levirate marriage (marriage to the husband's brother); they may be "inherited" along with the dead husband's property. Mourning rituals can include head shaving, being forced to sit on a mat on the floor and engage in ritual crying or screaming, being locked in the house for a year, losing all property and being forced to become beggars or prostitutes. In India thousands of widows sing at temples each day for a pittance of food. These horrors are so far from anything we in America experience that they hardly seem real. But they are, and they rip my heart as I sit in my pleasant suburban house with enough to eat, a job I love, family and friends. I'd give anything to run time backwards and have Ralph with me again, Of course, I can't, but I can be thankful for the life that I have.

Last summer I read about the Loomba Foundation, created to aid widows around the world. You can check them out at
And if you can, send a donation, no matter how small, to help our sisters around the world.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Quote for the Week: From "On the Death of the Beloved" by John O'Donahue

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

May you continue to inspire us
To enter each day with a generous heart,
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Forward to the Future

Last week I received a packet of information from the International Dyslexia Society. Included in it was one of those rubber bracelets that Lance Armstrong popularized a few years ago. This one said Forward. I've been wearing it every day. How appropriate for the New Year.

I'm bidding goodbye to 2010. Except for two pretty bad bouts of bronchitis, it was a good year, capped by my three-quarter century birthday (yes, 75).

And now, looking forward: Do I have any resolutions? The usual ones, to exercise and to cut down on sweets. I make these every year. I'm pretty good about the sweets--I don't buy them so of course they aren't there to eat. But even though I pay myself to exercise, I can't say I've made much money. Maybe this year I will, but I'm about as likely to get rich from exercise as I am to win the lottery.

What I hope for this year (for me and all the rest of you out there) is a year of health and peace. I wish the same for my children and grandchildren. I plan to appreciate every day, whether its sunny or rainy, to enjoy my family and friends, my work, my pets. I want to write more, read a lot, get involved with a volunteer group that supports burn victims (I was burned when I was in college), try new recipes, learn new things, and most of all, visit with Ralph in my dreams.

Happy 2011 to all of you.

Template by: Bright Sunshine Designs by Mary - Affordable Custom Blog Design © 2011