Sunday, January 30, 2022

Lark Rise to Candleford

If you are looking for the same thing you saw in the TV series, this is not going to satisfy you. Dorcas Lane, who is one of the main characters in the TV series, does not even make an appearance until 2/3rds of the way through the book. The story of Laura moving over to Candleford (Candleford Green in the book) happens even later. 

All that said, the first book (this book is a trilogy: Lark Rise, Over to Candleford, and Candleford Green) is a detailed description of Laura's hamlet of Lark Rise. It is not a story with a plot. Really, there is only a little bit of story even in the third book. I found the first part a bit of a slog to get through because it was a little too detailed for my taste. I liked the last book the best because there was a bit of a story, and it had many of the characters that are in the series. 

It was a good read though. I have wanted to read it for years. One of my acquaintances even gave me this book to read for an indefinite period of time, but I finally gave it back to her thinking I would never get around to reading it. Then it appeared on James Mustich's 1000 Books to Read Before You Die list. So it was required reading! (LOL!)

I loved the last paragraph that sums up the book pretty beautifully:

"As she went on her way, gossamer threads, spun from bush to bush, barricaded her pathway, and as she broke through one after another of these fairy barricades she thought, 'They're trying to bind and keep me.' But the threads which were to bind her to her native county were more enduring than gossamer. They were spun of love and kinship and cherished memories." 

Here is why James Mustich thinks it should be one of the 1000 Books You Read Before You Die:

Detailing life in a country village in the years before the Industrial Revolution, Lark Rise to Candleford is a fictionalized autobiography. Its charming remembrance of local customs, crafts, and culture is distinguished by its fidelity to the roaming curiosity of a child’s eye, as an early passage illustrates: "One old woman once handed the little girl a leaf from a pot-plant on her window-sill. 'What’s it called?' was the inevitable question. 'Tis called mind your own business,' was the reply; 'an’ I think I’d better give a slip of it to your mother to plant in a pot for you.”' What’s most pleasing about Thompson’s writing is the easy confidence of her affectionate portrayal of times past. Farmers and traveling vendors, family and schoolwork, seasonal festivals and the small matters of community life are recalled, and the natural beauty of the English countryside is quietly honored by exact description. This is not only a book that evokes a lost world, but one that transports us to a simpler era with clarity and calm attention.
The real towns were Juniper Hill (Lark Rise) and Cottisford (Candleford), but in the second to last episode, Laura (who is Flora Thompson), mentions all the towns she goes to in the area, and those are real towns. So, being the nerd that I am, made a map of all those towns in the area. We were so close to them when we were in England. It would have been fun to stop by!

The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War

I think this was an important book to read. I had gotten the hard copy to see all the color pictures included in the book. Then I got the audiobook for the written content. 

No surprise. It was a case of "mission creep" and thinking we could impose our American values of democracy on a country that has had tribes warring with each other for centuries. No one political party is to blame. No president current or past is to blame. 

We just made a mistake by going in to get Bin-Laden and staying there even after he was not there. 

It was a stupid war that cost BILLIONS in taxpayer money and many young people's lives. Sad. 

My only criticism is the author kept on referring to where he got his information from "oral interview" or "lessons learn interview" got so annoying to hear over and over and over again. Leave that out in your reprint and just mention it at the beginning or make it a footnote. It must have been said over 1000 times! Other than that, it was an excellent book. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

This is such a dear little book. Piano in Paris. If you love good writing, music, and France, you will probably love this book. 

Here is why James Mustich thinks it should be one of the 1000 Books You Read Before You Die:

Every morning, as he walked his children to school through his Paris neighborhood, American transplant Thad Carhart passed a modest storefront that intrigued him. “Desforges Pianos: outillage, fournitures” announced its stenciled sign, and the tools and components of piano repair displayed in its window—tightening wrenches, tuning pins, pieces of felt, small pieces of hardware—illustrated the work that went on behind the glass. Venturing inside on several occasions to express his interest in acquiring a used piano, Carhart was mysteriously rebuffed. The shop seemed as determined in its reserve as the most punctilious Parisian aristocrat. Carhart’s cracking of the code of that reserve—he must, he learns, be recommended to the shop by one of its existing customers—is his first step into the “intricate world of mutual trust and obligation” that is the city’s hidden community, “the complicated network of local relationships that it was extremely difficult for a foreigner to penetrate.” Carhart effortlessly delivers an informative course in the history and construction of pianos and offers more insight into the French temperament than you might discover in a dozen weightier tomes. Best of all, he introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters, including the tuner Jos, who sleeps in empty trains; Carhart’s Hungarian teacher, Anna, who reacquaints the author with the pleasures of Bach and Bartók, Schumann and Schubert; and, most memorably, Luc, the master of the atelier, whose expertise and gift for friendship is portrayed with great affection.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022


This is the first up-close account of the Vietnam War from a journalist's perspective. WOW! So good. Sobering. My father-in-law was a surgeon during the Tet Offensive. So during that part of the book, I was all ears!

A very worthy read. BUT it is tough. 

The author mentions Errol Flynn's only son in the book. He was a photojournalist in Vietnam. Here is an article on his disappearance:

Here is why James Mustich thinks it should be one of the 1000 Books You Read Before You Die:

Between 1967 and 1969, journalist Michael Herr was in Vietnam, reporting on the war for Esquire magazine. Dispatches is his episodic personal account of that experience. The conflict Herr covered has sometimes been referred to as America’s “first rock ‘n’ roll war,” and there’s certainly a head-banging, heavy-metal swagger to the author’s juiced-up prose. Through each stunning sequence, Herr remains alert to the trauma, terror, language, and longing of the soldiers he is watching kill and die. An electric pulse of desperation sears their humanity, and the author bears witness to the pain of the burns. 

A Month in the Country

What a lovely book. It is so beautifully written. He paints such a picture and a good story. The Colin Firth movies from 35 years ago was great to watch afterwards too! 

Here is why James Mustich thinks it should be one of the 1000 Books You Read Before You Die:

At the outset of A Month in the Country, Tom Birkin, a World War I survivor and a veteran of a broken marriage, arrives in a remote Yorkshire village to restore a medieval mural in the local church. Setting up his summer abode in the bell tower, he is charmed by the blooming countryside even as he passes his days absorbed in resurrecting an anonymous artist’s apocalyptic vision. It is, of course, Birkin’s own restoration to faith in life that Carr tellingly portrays, through a season of consolation and renewal that’s enduring despite its swift passage. Simple in outline and wonderfully well written, A Month in the Country is hauntingly beautiful in its effect.

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant

Wow! I loved this graphic memoir by a New Yorker illustrator. As someone heavily involved in end-of-life care for both my parents, I could relate to so much in this memoir. It is beautiful. Really a great read.

Here is why James Mustich thinks it should be one of the 1000 Books You Read Before You Die:

Since her work as a cartoonist began appearing in The Village Voice and The New Yorker in the late 1970s, Roz Chast’s distinctive combination of scraggly linework, schlumpy figures, and off-kilter frame of mind has made her a singular presence in American humor. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is Chast’s first full-length book project, and it brings her peculiar gifts to bear on a theme particularly suited to them: the end days of her parents and her own shifting reactions to their senescence and mortality. Prompted by the unprecedented intimacy of the material, Chast imbues her graphic memoir with an astonishing honesty and emotional eloquence, extending her idiosyncratic perspective on everyday life to the most dumbfounding subject of all: everyday death.

Trojan Women by Euripedes

I have read The Illiad and The Odyssey so this was a pretty easy read for me. I think it might be a little harder for someone who has no background in these stories. 

Women are always collateral damage! Yuk! 

I agree with Mustich's quote below, "Euripides created a work that has endured as one of the most powerful expressions of the human costs of militarism and war, a play both artful and authentic in equal measure." 

Here is why James Mustich thinks it should be one of the 1000 Books You Read Before You Die:

The Trojan Women is more than a mere repetition of what, at the time of the play’s writing, was an already ancient tale of Troy’s burning and the slaughter of its men and subjugation of its women and children by a savage enemy. Only a few months before this tragedy was first staged, Athenian forces had imposed the same brutal terms of massacre and enslavement on the citizenry of Melos in retribution for that island city’s refusal to join the alliance against Athens’s rival, Sparta. By telescoping for his audience the foregone grief of the Trojan women with the fresh suffering of their counterparts on Melos, Euripides created a work that has endured as one of the most powerful expressions of the human costs of militarism and war, a play both artful and authentic in equal measure. 

Alcestis by Euripedes

I thought I had read all the Euripedes on the list, but I found two more! I thought this was a very accessible story, and the Librivox cast recording of it was lovely and FREE!

Here is why James Mustich thinks it should be one of the 1000 Books You Read Before You Die:

A king—Admetus—is offered a “Get Out of Death” card, but it doesn’t come free: He must find someone to take his place. Selflessly, his wife—Alcestis—volunteers to pay the price for him. Her expressions of love and farewell to Admetus and their children on her deathbed are filled with dignity and imposing grief, but what ensues after her passing, on the plot’s way to rescuing her from the underworld, turns from the tragic toward the comic (though many of the characters’ speeches seem suspended somewhere between the two).

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Freewrite Sixteen Minutes at Six Sixteen


I have already written my "Morning Pages," but I do miss my freewrites here. So I am going to take sixteen minutes for one. 

Yesterday was a good day. These are the verses that I chewed on . . . 

I hear the Lord saying,
"I will stay close to you,
instructing and guiding you along the pathway of life.
I will advise you along the way 
and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide
So don't make it difficult; 
don't be stubborn
When I take you where you've not been before.
Don't make me tug you and pull you along
Just come with me!" Psalm 32:8-9

All last year, God took me on a new path. I think it is one I have always sort of avoided, but it worked out great, and I made friends along the way. I went in not thinking that I had to earn love, and that was a great perspective for me to go into and really into any relationship. 

He was close to me the whole time through the challenges of leadership. Now, I am being invited into dreaming sessions for a whole organization. I did not go in with shyness or apprehension or fear. I went in with boldness and heart. So that was a good thing. 

So leadership is not what I am seeking. So I think this year He will take me where I have not been before, and I want to go there. I don't want to have to be tugged or pulled along because he is WITH ME. That is so huge for me to fathom. I know that You, KING OF GLORY, are with me. So, I am not alone. I am lifting up my head to see the KING OF GLORY come with me. Eyes on Him alone, not on the people. I am mixing up yesterday's Psalm and today's because Jason and the gang (there were 9 of us this morning) meditated in Psalm 24 today. I think I go into things with my head down, there is shame, there is fear of rejection or assumed rejection where there is none. Come to think of it, I have really only experienced rejection one time in the last 10 years. I know that I have been excluded from things at my church, but I don't think I see that as rejection because I have not been around indicating that I wanted to be included. So, I wouldn't really see that as rejection. So, why do I assume it? I stepped back from a job yesterday, and my boss said, "Whenever you want to come back, we would love to have you." That was so sweet! I wasn't expecting that. I just assume they wouldn't want me back. 

On another note, I met with a potential directee and was pleasantly surprised that it would be a good fit! I did not think leading up to it that it would be. I really enjoyed our time together. We can give it a few times. Then we can reevaluate, but I would like to go down this road for a bit. 

She is similar to someone who interviewed me for direction about  1 1/2 years ago. She thought we would be a great fit, but I was pretty full up with others. I really liked her, but she prayed about it and thought we were too similar for it to work. I was so at peace because I didn't feel like it was right even though we clicked. This one just felt right. She is very teachable (funny that they both have the same name too).

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Fifteen Minutes Freewrite at Five

I fell asleep watching this, but it is so good!

I woke up very early because I fell asleep very early. I have a meeting at 10 pm tonight so I must take a nap in the midmorning because I think a nap after I come home from class at 3:30 pm will be too late. Or maybe not. 

We were watching All Creatures Great and Small on Oregon Public Broadcasting where I realized that I could not keep my eyes open. I should have said that 10 pm would not work for me. I don't even know what this meeting is about, and I got this one-line question from the person who is calling the meeting, and when I asked for clarification, there was none. I don't know why she singled me out about it and asked me to talk about that without any detail. Then the group meeting was not scheduled during any of the times I was available. Is this how it is going to be, a 10 pm meeting? I want to have a good attitude going into the meeting. (Update: it was a great meeting, and I totally misunderstood the text and she was asking if I was coming because I realized I had forgotten to RSVP! All my deal, not hers. It will be a great partnership. Learning that it is OK to process my feelings and then go into meetings assuming the BEST of people: the "Ignatian Plus Sign"!

Today's Lectio365 was about being honest with God, and I don't think I have a problem with that. I had a sweet moment with God this morning in Luke 15 where I imagined my dad running toward me and embracing me. What I wouldn't give for that embrace with that big daddy of mine. I remember being honest with him and pouring out my heart to him and not having a problem with it. So, my goodness. Being honest with God is not one of my issues. I think my issue is more being honest with people in the sense that I am not necessarily lying to people, but sometimes I am afraid to tell them what I am thinking for fear of their reaction. Like saying, "A 10 pm meeting does not work for me in the long-term." It is funny because I was less that way in high school. I was much more direct and bold. Sometimes, it really is because I don't know what I want or what my opinion is until later. That is why I am a bit scared about this meeting today because I am not really sure what is expected of me in it, and I might have to think about it and get back to them. 

Oh well, I had discussed with George about meeting with C on a regular basis just to give me more time with an older woman. I sure miss Ginny and Lorraine. They were the best of older women. I have wanted to talk to Fran for a while, but she got COVID! Four of my students have COVID. It means so much more work for me! I am thinking about maybe this might be my last year there. I love teaching, but I don't like teaching at the time of COVID. I don't like having to wear a mask (my glasses fog up or fall off and have broken twice as a result). I don't like not seeing my students because I have to take my glasses off because they fog up and fall off so much while I am exercising. 

I do like students and coworkers though. I like getting on my bike and going to campus. It gets me out of the house. I like college students with their moldable minds and body. I love the conversations I have with them before and after class.

So I don't know. But it is 15 minutes so that was my rambling on a Tuesday morning. Speaking of students, I need to do my attendance from last Thursday! BYE! 

Sunday, January 09, 2022

The Chemical History of the Candle


I burn a candle most mornings, and I have never really thought about how a candle burns. The nerdy side of me sort of enjoyed this.  I listened to it with Librivox, and the narrator was excellent! 

From Amazon:

The greatest experimental scientist Michael Faraday delivered these six lectures at London's Royal Institution. Their subjects include the components, function, and weight of the atmosphere; capillary attraction; the carbon content in oxygen and living bodies; respiration and its analogy to the burning of a candle; and much more. Numerous illustrations.

Here is why James Mustich thinks it is one of the 1000 Books to Read Before You Die:

This captivating little book collects six demonstration lectures originally addressed to a group of young people at London’s Royal Institution in 1860 by the eminent British experimental scientist best known for his contributions to our understanding of electricity. Elucidating the chemical and physical properties and processes that conspire in a burning candle, Faraday delivers a splendid course in what was called, in his epoch, “natural philosophy.” One of the most treasured and widely disseminated works of popular science ever written, it has been fondly recalled as a formative inspiration by many scientists, including Oliver Sacks.

Since I started out this year with "Don't Let the Light Go Out" by Peter, Paul, and Mary, I love that the presenter, after explaining the "carbon footprint" of different animals and people through respiration, concluded his lectures with this:

In the lungs, as soon as the air enters, it unites with the carbon; even in the lowest temperature which the body can bear short of being frozen, the action begins at once, producing the carbonic acid of respiration: and so all things go on fitly and properly. Thus you see the analogy between respiration and combustion is rendered still more beautiful and striking. Indeed, all I can say to you at the end of these lectures (for we must come to an end at one time or other) is to express a wish that you may, in your generation, be fit to compare to a candle; that you may, like it, shine as lights to those about you; that, in all your actions, you may justify the beauty of the taper by making your deeds honourable and effectual in the discharge of your duty to your fellow-men.

Text for all the nerdy lectures found here:  

The Flowers of Evil

 Baudelaire's poetry was considered scandalous at the time. He influenced Eliot though, whom I love. So I had to read him. They are beautifully written but gritty in some parts. 

The man led a sad life (he loved Edgard Allen Poe so that should tell you something) and died in his forties due to poor health brought on by addiction. Sad life, but he would write. 

Here is why James Mustich thinks it is one of the 1000 Books to Read Before You Die:
The Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du mal) was Baudelaire’s first volume of poems, and it announces its sumptuous depravity right from the start. On account of its descriptions of “unnatural” sex, its fiendish insistence on the connection between sexuality and death, and its vivid portraits of urban seediness, The Flowers of Evil led to Baudelaire’s prosecution for public indecency upon its original publication in 1857. Six poems were banned, and Baudelaire was fined three hundred francs. If the shudder came from the poet’s caress of corruption, drunkenness, and melancholy, the lasting thrill came from his unabashed conviction that the dignity of art and even beauty fell outside the borders of morality.

The Mezzanine

 I think most people would read this and think it is a pretty ridiculous book, but anyone who has read Proust, who went on and on about many of his childhood memories and the Madeleine, will "get" this and find the book hilariously funny! I did.

I am a bit younger than the author, but I liked him going on and on about the transition from glass delivery milk to the grocery store milk carton. I remember the waning days of delivery, even though I think my family was an early adopter of the milk carton. In my world, the people who still had milk delivery were the "rich" people. 

His footnotes got a bit laborious to read, but they really need to be read in order to fully appreciate the book.

Here is the reason why James Mustich says you need to read this before you die:

The plot of Nicholson Baker’s debut novel is simple: A man, returning to his office building from a lunch hour that included milk, a cookie, a small errand, and a stroll, goes up an escalator. That’s it. Only 135 pages long, and graced with numerous lengthy and absorbingly digressive footnotes, this is a wise, patient exploration of that unseen mental space in which we pass our time—and it’s very funny to boot.

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene


This is my third Graham Greene, but the man can write! I found this book simple and beautiful. It is the story of the "Whisky Priest" and God's grace even though we have all "sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Rm 3:23).  God's glory is all over this book. I loved it. I had no idea that priests were outlawed in Mexico in the 30s! I still need to research this. 

James Mustich thinks you need to read this because...
Set in Mexico in the 1930s, when the Catholic Church has been outlawed by the revolutionary government, The Power and the Glory portrays a corrupted and courageous cleric’s devotion to his calling, despite his alcoholism (Greene gives him no name other than “the whisky priest”), his licentiousness (his fatherhood is emblem of his forsaken chastity), and his tortured alertness to his unworthiness. Knowing he risks execution by carrying the sacraments from village to village and nourishing as best he can the spiritual needs of the poor, he struggles to uphold the vision of a God who both eludes and exhilarates him. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, the whisky priest is a hero who, in his very unfitness for the role, reveals the imaginative nobility of faith, hope, and love even in—especially in—the most unexalted settings.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Freewrite Fifteen for 2022

Happy Kings' Day 

Well, I am already doing the "Morning Pages," but I miss my fingers going across the keys and just typing away on a Freewrite for Fifteen minutes. Sometimes I will just do both, and it looks like much of the hubbub of getting back to work has subsided. I think I will take a break from leading a prayer watch when this is cycle ends at the end of February since I did it all Fall term, and I will be traveling in April and wanting to take a break in March between my Winter and Spring Classes. I think that will be good for me to not have "what will I do for my Prayer Watch" stirring around in my brain since I am already leading a Cohort, and that has taken a LOT more time this week than I imagined. I met with the four lovely women on Monday morning, and the Guides have not been sent to the Year of Preparation Candidates. So I spent an inordinate amount of time transferring the meditation over to them (because I have a PDF with the answers to the questions, and they don't need the questions. Plus when you cut and paste a pdf to a Word Processor, it gets all jumbled without spaces. Quite tedious). I know they said just "take a picture of it," but that is not going to be easy as I have written in my guide the answers to questions later on down the line. So, I think it is sort of weird that they don't just send an electronic version to everyone. It seems like that would be so much more convenient and cheaper, but they are pretty adamant about not wanting to do that. 

I also don't know why they are not letting people into the prayer watches if they are candidates. I think that was the primary thing that really helped me to feel like I was a part of this great group! So there must be a reason, and I am a bit afraid to ask, but I know I could ask S, and he would tell me straight up because that is the type of guy he is. 

I realize now that there is no way I can do more than three hours of spiritual direction in one day. So I don't know how people like BZ can see five people a day, five days a week, three weeks out of the month. I think it is because he is not a real "connect" to people type and more a passion type. I don't think I could have sixty sessions in a month. I am more a 20-25 people a month sort of girl. I have to be diligent about cutting off the time at one hour. That is my growth point for a couple of my directees.

I am also trying to be more diligent about taking time to read every day. I was good other than yesterday. I am trying to finish up a 148 episode series that I started on Thanksgiving week. It has taken me forever, and I am really excited to be done because I am cutting news out of my life this year. I would get so desolated by what is happening in the world. I will stay informed by short reading on the internet or talking to George, but I am cutting it out for the year. 

Oh, I forgot that leading a cohort has also gotten to be more work than I thought because I had to do Safeguarding Training that took 2 1/2 hours yesterday, but it was interesting (although desolating to see how clergy has taken advantage of the vulnerable). 

There is my timer. Bye!

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

The Last of the Mohicans

This podcast is excellent for the background to this book!

Cooper was considered one of the greatest American authors. So I have always wanted to read this, and the man can write. (If you listen to the podcast above, you will hear that he was influenced by Jane Austen which makes me smile.) 

I liked this, but I wonder how accurate it is in portraying Native Americans. I am still investigating. 

Here is why James Mustich thinks it should be one of the 1000 Books You Read Before You Die:

In the pages of this classic adventure tale you’ll meet one of the greatest heroes in American literature, Nathaniel Bumppo, a rugged scout and woodsman who goes by any number of nicknames, among them Natty, Leatherstocking, Pathfinder, Deerslayer, and Hawkeye. The Last of the Mohicans is the second in the series of five Leatherstocking Tales that James Fenimore Cooper wrote about Natty; it followed The Pioneers, a portrait of frontier life at the end of the nineteenth century in which Bumppo appears as an old man. The character in the first novel proved so popular that Cooper brought him back, this time in the prime of life. Cooper’s exciting, action-packed yarns helped shaped the romantic notion of the pre-Revolutionary American wilderness as a stage for nobility of character and resourceful courage. Although not always historically accurate, they do imbue the uncorrupted forest with an imaginative promise that reflects the overwhelming power the unsettled continent had in shaping the fears and fortunes of the early colonists. That promise found no better embodiment than Natty Bumppo, and Natty had no better adventure than The Last of the Mohicans

The Artist's Way

This got me thinking a lot. I am grateful that I never felt stifled in my creativity by my parents. Nor did I pick up anxiety about money. I liked this, but it turns out it was an abridgment. Also, since I only have it for three weeks, and it is a twelve-week book of exercises. So, I am going to get the book. It was a good overview of the book that I have heard about for so many years.

I will say she talks about the "Morning Pages" as though they are a chore. I laughed because I LOVE to write. So, I will keep doing this. I don't like how many paper pages I will have to go through in one year 500+ (1095 sides), but I see the advantage of writing with versus typing. I am looking forward to doing this more as the year goes by. 

Favorite line:

"Enthusiasm (from the Greek, “filled with God”) is an ongoing energy supply tapped into the flow of life itself."

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Crazy Salad by Nora Ephron


Ephron is an incredibly good writer. These are a bunch of articles she wrote back in the early 70s when I was just coming of age in the midst of Watergate and Women's Liberation. It was a fascinating look at a woman who was an adult at that time. Ephron was a hard-core feminist, and she talked about abortion almost as if it is a badge of honor. I believe in equal rights for all, including unborn females. So that was off-putting for me. Yet, some of her articles were very interesting insights, and the book did hold my interest for the entire time. 

Tuesday Ten Minute Freewrite

I am going to go great guns for 10 minutes on this freewrite. I am meeting with a person (not sure if she wants direction - she just wanted ...