April172014

"Things just happen the right way, at the right time. At least they do when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, ‘This isn’t supposed to be happening this way,’ and trying hard to make it happen some other way. If you’re in tune with The Way Things Work, then they work the way they need to, no matter what you may think about it at the time."
"A clever mind is not a heart. Knowledge doesn’t really care. Wisdom does."
"But the adult is not the highest stage of development. The end of the cycle is that of the independence, clear-minded, all-seeing Child. That is the level known as wisdom."

Book: The Tao of PoohAuthor: Benjamin HoffPublished: Penguin Books (July 28, 1983)
My Review: I have quite a mess of mixed feelings about this book. Which, for a less-than-24-hour-read filled with darling Winnie the Pooh illustrations, is actually pretty neat. 
Deconstructing philosophical principles using children’s cartoons seemed like a fabulous idea at first. But then I found myself wanting much less Tao and much more Pooh. I had to marathon some Winnie the Pooh YouTube videos after I finished reading just to level out my brainwaves. Totally not Tao of me, I know. 
Anyway… 
This book really isn’t about Winnie the Pooh (bummer). The author simply uses the characters to illustrate various Taoist concepts. A lot of the content was incredibly interesting and refreshing; as a naturally anxious and highly sensitive person, a serene “let go and let it happen” kind of mentality is something I’ve always worked to embody. 
That said, there were some anti-intellectual bits of the text that rubbed me the wrong way. Should we all strive to chillax and just accept that many things in our lives are generally out of our control and will end up being whatever they will be? Sure. Should we identify and honor our own strengths, limitations, and wisdoms as individual human beings? Yes sir. 
But should we actively condemn and ridicule scholars, intellectuals, and all those who seek growth and meaning in the pursuit of knowledge? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Hoff makes the argument that seeking out information just for the sake of knowing is a damaging and life-limiting practice. And sure, maybe sometimes, for some people, it is. There is definitely a difference, as Hoff points out, between knowledge and wisdom. And I love that he uses compassion as the primary differentiating factor between the two.
But for those of us who find deep meaning and fulfillment in the pursuit of knowledge, being labeled as a boring, useless, misguided “Dessicated Scholar” feels a bit extreme and pretty unfair. Seeking knowledge and experiencing the world in a compassionate way are not mutually exclusive categories. 
I understand and largely agree with the fundamental point that Hoff (and Taoism in general) is trying to make, and I mindfully and consistently incorporate many of those principles into my own life. I just happen to like my Winnie the Pooh without the side of Sarah Palin. Denunciation of intellectuals is not cool, Hoff. Not cool. 
Now back to the YouTube snippets! As Pooh would say, “Time for my stoutness exercise!” 

"Things just happen the right way, at the right time. At least they do when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, ‘This isn’t supposed to be happening this way,’ and trying hard to make it happen some other way. If you’re in tune with The Way Things Work, then they work the way they need to, no matter what you may think about it at the time."

"A clever mind is not a heart. Knowledge doesn’t really care. Wisdom does."

"But the adult is not the highest stage of development. The end of the cycle is that of the independence, clear-minded, all-seeing Child. That is the level known as wisdom."

Book: The Tao of Pooh
Author: Benjamin Hoff
Published: Penguin Books (July 28, 1983)

My Review: I have quite a mess of mixed feelings about this book. Which, for a less-than-24-hour-read filled with darling Winnie the Pooh illustrations, is actually pretty neat. 

Deconstructing philosophical principles using children’s cartoons seemed like a fabulous idea at first. But then I found myself wanting much less Tao and much more Pooh. I had to marathon some Winnie the Pooh YouTube videos after I finished reading just to level out my brainwaves. Totally not Tao of me, I know. 

Anyway… 

This book really isn’t about Winnie the Pooh (bummer). The author simply uses the characters to illustrate various Taoist concepts. A lot of the content was incredibly interesting and refreshing; as a naturally anxious and highly sensitive person, a serene “let go and let it happen” kind of mentality is something I’ve always worked to embody. 

That said, there were some anti-intellectual bits of the text that rubbed me the wrong way. Should we all strive to chillax and just accept that many things in our lives are generally out of our control and will end up being whatever they will be? Sure. Should we identify and honor our own strengths, limitations, and wisdoms as individual human beings? Yes sir. 

But should we actively condemn and ridicule scholars, intellectuals, and all those who seek growth and meaning in the pursuit of knowledge? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Hoff makes the argument that seeking out information just for the sake of knowing is a damaging and life-limiting practice. And sure, maybe sometimes, for some people, it is. There is definitely a difference, as Hoff points out, between knowledge and wisdom. And I love that he uses compassion as the primary differentiating factor between the two.

But for those of us who find deep meaning and fulfillment in the pursuit of knowledge, being labeled as a boring, useless, misguided “Dessicated Scholar” feels a bit extreme and pretty unfair. Seeking knowledge and experiencing the world in a compassionate way are not mutually exclusive categories. 

I understand and largely agree with the fundamental point that Hoff (and Taoism in general) is trying to make, and I mindfully and consistently incorporate many of those principles into my own life. I just happen to like my Winnie the Pooh without the side of Sarah Palin. Denunciation of intellectuals is not cool, Hoff. Not cool. 

Now back to the YouTube snippets! As Pooh would say, “Time for my stoutness exercise!” 

April152014

"For many of us, the elaborate architecture we build around our hearts begins to resemble a fortress. We build up our defenses, but the trauma keeps coming. We add a moat, we throw in some crocodiles, we forge more weapons, we build higher and higher walls. Sooner or later, we find ourselves locked in by the very defenses we have constructed for our own protection."
"It is not self-centered to lead your life in a direction that satisfies you. It’s necessary to feel at peace. Prioritizing your passion means that you carve out room in your life to explore and understand it." 
"Action for its own sake keeps people moving, makes them superficially productive, and limits their capacity for reflection about their lives. This becomes seductive, even to workers, because we can confuse being amped up, attending to crises (some of which we create), and having a sense of being needed with being fully awake, living life, and being effective." 
"I have come to believe that to get to the future, your path must pass through your nightmares." 
"We can always be present for our lives, the lives of all other beings, and the life of the planet. Being present is a radical act."

Book: Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for OthersAuthor: Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie BurkPublished: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. (2009)
My Review: Okay, social work friends, this one’s for you! Well it’s for anyone, really, looking to expand self-awareness and practice more deliberate self-care. Social services workers, though, are particularly prone to challenges that come with both magnificent rewards and, if we’re not careful, magnificent consequences. 
In Trauma Stewardship, Lipsky & Burk outline trauma exposure and its effects on us folks in the business of helping others. Too often, lost in other people’s realities and hurts, we forget to be present and honest with ourselves, and to consciously attend to our own needs. We all know that burnout is a real problem in this field, and it’s no wonder! It seems like a pretty clear set up for personal neglect and ultimate exhaustion if we’re abandoning our own needs in efforts to save the world and all that jazz. That said, it’s all too easy to fall bass-akwards into the seemingly never-ending calamities of existence. 
Lipsky & Burk not only discuss what trauma exposure is and what it can do, they identify some concrete ways to stay present in the moment and to create/sustain a solid internal foundation from which to work and to be. Being fully awake in our lives takes mindful, daily practice and is crucial for the sake of our work and the people/animals/environment we’re helping to support.
Effective and healthy trauma stewardship is not only about helping others through their own process, but doing so in a way that preserves the wellbeing of all parties involved. This includes you! Know thyself, grasshopper, and always remember to breathe. 
PS- Thanks for the awesome recommend, Melinda! 

"For many of us, the elaborate architecture we build around our hearts begins to resemble a fortress. We build up our defenses, but the trauma keeps coming. We add a moat, we throw in some crocodiles, we forge more weapons, we build higher and higher walls. Sooner or later, we find ourselves locked in by the very defenses we have constructed for our own protection."

"It is not self-centered to lead your life in a direction that satisfies you. It’s necessary to feel at peace. Prioritizing your passion means that you carve out room in your life to explore and understand it." 

"Action for its own sake keeps people moving, makes them superficially productive, and limits their capacity for reflection about their lives. This becomes seductive, even to workers, because we can confuse being amped up, attending to crises (some of which we create), and having a sense of being needed with being fully awake, living life, and being effective." 

"I have come to believe that to get to the future, your path must pass through your nightmares." 

"We can always be present for our lives, the lives of all other beings, and the life of the planet. Being present is a radical act."

Book: Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others
Author: Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk
Published: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. (2009)

My Review: Okay, social work friends, this one’s for you! Well it’s for anyone, really, looking to expand self-awareness and practice more deliberate self-care. Social services workers, though, are particularly prone to challenges that come with both magnificent rewards and, if we’re not careful, magnificent consequences. 

In Trauma Stewardship, Lipsky & Burk outline trauma exposure and its effects on us folks in the business of helping others. Too often, lost in other people’s realities and hurts, we forget to be present and honest with ourselves, and to consciously attend to our own needs. We all know that burnout is a real problem in this field, and it’s no wonder! It seems like a pretty clear set up for personal neglect and ultimate exhaustion if we’re abandoning our own needs in efforts to save the world and all that jazz. That said, it’s all too easy to fall bass-akwards into the seemingly never-ending calamities of existence. 

Lipsky & Burk not only discuss what trauma exposure is and what it can do, they identify some concrete ways to stay present in the moment and to create/sustain a solid internal foundation from which to work and to be. Being fully awake in our lives takes mindful, daily practice and is crucial for the sake of our work and the people/animals/environment we’re helping to support.

Effective and healthy trauma stewardship is not only about helping others through their own process, but doing so in a way that preserves the wellbeing of all parties involved. This includes you! Know thyself, grasshopper, and always remember to breathe. 

PS- Thanks for the awesome recommend, Melinda! 

April72014

"But Stella had done me a life-saving favor. She had shown me the door to my healing— deep and dark though it seemed. And once I understood her message, I realized that every horse I’d ever worked with had been trying to teach me the same lesson all along." 
"The first lightbulb that went on as I sat atop the haystack was this: horses don’t make a distinction between how they feel and how they act… If they’re scared, their head and tail will show it. The same goes for anger, trust, stoic defiance, confidence, and playful aggression. To adapt an old saying, their bodies are the windows to their souls." 
"The voice of caution and sober second thought has probably kept many of the more devil-may-care of us alive. The problem is that it’s insidious. We’ll never go broke folding our cards and we won’t get hurt staying on the sidelines. It’s just that the next time out, our idea of what’s possible is a little smaller." 

Book: Dancing With Your Dark HorseAuthor: Chris IrwinPublished: De Capo Press (May 20, 2005)
My Review: *DISCLAIMER: The following paragraphs will be long-winded and sentimental, possibly cliche to the point of nausea. You’ve been warned.*
Sometimes horses are easy; there are plenty of days when it feels wonderfully simple to step outside into the fresh air and share space with your four-legged friends. Why else would so many people voluntarily subject themselves to mucking stalls and constant back-breaking labor, often with no compensation (and huge cost!) aside from a little one-on-one time with some equine, poop-producing culprits? 
Some days, though, those same horses feel like the most emotionally and physically challenging thing in the world. And that’s because they are. Listen closely, watch carefully, and horses will tell you all the things you don’t want to see in yourself. Spend some REAL time with them, amateur or seasoned professional, and they’ll show you all your anxieties, all your weaknesses, all your rough-around-the-edges.
Just this afternoon I saw some pretty ugly anger and insecurities of my own reflected in the gorgeous coffee-colored eyes of my horse, Lu. As uncomfortable and painful as it is to have my shortcomings so directly displayed for me, there’s a spark there that urges me to grow and process through the things that are holding me back; to face the pieces of myself that fundamentally scare and upset me. 
Lu and I will be working out our relationship for a long time to come, I’m sure (I’m a slow, stubborn student), but I hear her and I see the edges of myself that need attention. I’m finding my strength and assertiveness (my “level-headedness” according to our author), and she’s patiently waiting for me to figure it out. And, of course, if I happen to forget what I’m working on, she’s happy to repeat the lesson. Frustrating and painful and invaluable all at once. 
The most incredible part about the whole thing, though, are the moments when you finally get it. Irwin talks a lot about pain and healing; not only will horses show you your problem areas, they’ll show you your triumph when you step up to the plate and work through it. Stand your ground instead of stepping back, swing your rope in just the right direction to push forward, conquer your fear and master (even temporarily) the delicate balance of gentle and firm that gives structure to a nervous horse; regardless of the task accomplished, you’ll get the same reward. And that kind of success is so incredibly sweet. 
Emotional growth is a constant battle, and I’m of the belief that we are all a work in progress from the day we’re born until the day we die. But man oh man, on those good days when you’re 100% connected with that thousand-pound sage of a creature, it’s hard to say the work isn’t worth it.
The book, by the way, was beautifully written. I’m still learning what Irwin and other professionals know in their bones, but I can say that I am so grateful for the horses (and horse people) in my life. 
PS- Thanks for the book, Jackie. You always seem to know what I need. 

"But Stella had done me a life-saving favor. She had shown me the door to my healing— deep and dark though it seemed. And once I understood her message, I realized that every horse I’d ever worked with had been trying to teach me the same lesson all along." 

"The first lightbulb that went on as I sat atop the haystack was this: horses don’t make a distinction between how they feel and how they act… If they’re scared, their head and tail will show it. The same goes for anger, trust, stoic defiance, confidence, and playful aggression. To adapt an old saying, their bodies are the windows to their souls." 

"The voice of caution and sober second thought has probably kept many of the more devil-may-care of us alive. The problem is that it’s insidious. We’ll never go broke folding our cards and we won’t get hurt staying on the sidelines. It’s just that the next time out, our idea of what’s possible is a little smaller." 

Book: Dancing With Your Dark Horse
Author: Chris Irwin
Published: De Capo Press (May 20, 2005)

My Review: *DISCLAIMER: The following paragraphs will be long-winded and sentimental, possibly cliche to the point of nausea. You’ve been warned.*

Sometimes horses are easy; there are plenty of days when it feels wonderfully simple to step outside into the fresh air and share space with your four-legged friends. Why else would so many people voluntarily subject themselves to mucking stalls and constant back-breaking labor, often with no compensation (and huge cost!) aside from a little one-on-one time with some equine, poop-producing culprits? 

Some days, though, those same horses feel like the most emotionally and physically challenging thing in the world. And that’s because they are. Listen closely, watch carefully, and horses will tell you all the things you don’t want to see in yourself. Spend some REAL time with them, amateur or seasoned professional, and they’ll show you all your anxieties, all your weaknesses, all your rough-around-the-edges.

Just this afternoon I saw some pretty ugly anger and insecurities of my own reflected in the gorgeous coffee-colored eyes of my horse, Lu. As uncomfortable and painful as it is to have my shortcomings so directly displayed for me, there’s a spark there that urges me to grow and process through the things that are holding me back; to face the pieces of myself that fundamentally scare and upset me. 

Lu and I will be working out our relationship for a long time to come, I’m sure (I’m a slow, stubborn student), but I hear her and I see the edges of myself that need attention. I’m finding my strength and assertiveness (my “level-headedness” according to our author), and she’s patiently waiting for me to figure it out. And, of course, if I happen to forget what I’m working on, she’s happy to repeat the lesson. Frustrating and painful and invaluable all at once. 

The most incredible part about the whole thing, though, are the moments when you finally get it. Irwin talks a lot about pain and healing; not only will horses show you your problem areas, they’ll show you your triumph when you step up to the plate and work through it. Stand your ground instead of stepping back, swing your rope in just the right direction to push forward, conquer your fear and master (even temporarily) the delicate balance of gentle and firm that gives structure to a nervous horse; regardless of the task accomplished, you’ll get the same reward. And that kind of success is so incredibly sweet. 

Emotional growth is a constant battle, and I’m of the belief that we are all a work in progress from the day we’re born until the day we die. But man oh man, on those good days when you’re 100% connected with that thousand-pound sage of a creature, it’s hard to say the work isn’t worth it.

The book, by the way, was beautifully written. I’m still learning what Irwin and other professionals know in their bones, but I can say that I am so grateful for the horses (and horse people) in my life. 

PS- Thanks for the book, Jackie. You always seem to know what I need. 

April42014

"Our culture positively worships self-denial— those who unapologetically satisfy their desires, whether they be food, recreation or sex, are vilified as immature, disgusting, even sinful." 
"One friend points out that if something goes wrong in a monogamous relationship, nobody takes that as evidence against the practicality of monogamy— but if something goes awry in an open relationship, many folks instantly take that as proof that non-monogamy doesn’t work." 
"We believe that it is a fundamentally radical political act to deprivatize sex. So much oppression in our culture is based on shame about sex: the oppression of women, of cultural minorities, oppression in the name of (presumably asexual) family, oppression of sexual minorities. We are all oppressed. We have all been taught, one way or another, that our desires, our bodies, our sexualities, are shameful." 
"To the pluralist, all existence, and certainly each single person’s life, is important— so there can be as many ways to be sexual as there are to be human, and all of them valid. There are lots of ways to relate, to love, to express gender, to form families, to be in the world, to be human. And all of those ways are wonderful." 

Book: The Ethical SlutAuthor: Dossie Easton & Catherine LisztPublished: Greenery Press (December 1997)
My Review: There are so many incredible quotes in this book, I can’t even begin to list them all. You’ll have to read it for yourself to get all the good ones! Both as a human being and as a therapist who specializes in women’s issues and sexuality, I believe that this book is a must-read for us all. Every one of us is a sexual being, after all! 
The concept of sexual exploration is profoundly feminist and it requires a careful deconstruciton of the messages and limitations dictated to us by a patriarchal society (sex is shameful, monogamy is the only way to love, partners represent your other half, etc.). True, polyamory isn’t for everyone— but that’s precisely the point. As with everything in life, there is no one answer or lifestyle that fits all. In order to discover our own truth, we have to let go of the false “truths” forced upon us and unlearn behaviors that have been engrained in our society for centuries. This is, of course, difficult beyond belief.
In the end, these authors argue that regardless of your chosen lifestyle, there are ethical and healthy ways to be in relationship with others. Consent, personal awareness and exploration, communication, honesty; these are all crucial skills that take time to learn and implement in our lives whether your choice is monogamy or any other expression of love and sexuality.   
What an awesome read! 

"Our culture positively worships self-denial— those who unapologetically satisfy their desires, whether they be food, recreation or sex, are vilified as immature, disgusting, even sinful." 

"One friend points out that if something goes wrong in a monogamous relationship, nobody takes that as evidence against the practicality of monogamy— but if something goes awry in an open relationship, many folks instantly take that as proof that non-monogamy doesn’t work." 

"We believe that it is a fundamentally radical political act to deprivatize sex. So much oppression in our culture is based on shame about sex: the oppression of women, of cultural minorities, oppression in the name of (presumably asexual) family, oppression of sexual minorities. We are all oppressed. We have all been taught, one way or another, that our desires, our bodies, our sexualities, are shameful." 

"To the pluralist, all existence, and certainly each single person’s life, is important— so there can be as many ways to be sexual as there are to be human, and all of them valid. There are lots of ways to relate, to love, to express gender, to form families, to be in the world, to be human. And all of those ways are wonderful." 

Book: The Ethical Slut
Author: Dossie Easton & Catherine Liszt
Published: Greenery Press (December 1997)

My Review: There are so many incredible quotes in this book, I can’t even begin to list them all. You’ll have to read it for yourself to get all the good ones! Both as a human being and as a therapist who specializes in women’s issues and sexuality, I believe that this book is a must-read for us all. Every one of us is a sexual being, after all! 

The concept of sexual exploration is profoundly feminist and it requires a careful deconstruciton of the messages and limitations dictated to us by a patriarchal society (sex is shameful, monogamy is the only way to love, partners represent your other half, etc.). True, polyamory isn’t for everyone— but that’s precisely the point. As with everything in life, there is no one answer or lifestyle that fits all. In order to discover our own truth, we have to let go of the false “truths” forced upon us and unlearn behaviors that have been engrained in our society for centuries. This is, of course, difficult beyond belief.

In the end, these authors argue that regardless of your chosen lifestyle, there are ethical and healthy ways to be in relationship with others. Consent, personal awareness and exploration, communication, honesty; these are all crucial skills that take time to learn and implement in our lives whether your choice is monogamy or any other expression of love and sexuality.   

What an awesome read! 

March312014

"What thoughts flood a skier’s mind as he feels death coming? Does he wonder why he was drawn to the mountain life? Or does he understand that a life lived fully, lived at the edge of disaster, is worth losing everything?"
"Gordy is the first to take to the air. A seventy-foot huck. Tight and contained, he soars like a missile and comes to ground in a puff. It’s so beautiful it almost makes sense." 
"This is a bad story," says Anselme. Kye nods in agreement. "But it is a beautiful life sometimes," says Anselme. "And the mountain is here. We have to take the best of the mountain and follow life." 
"He made a mistake and got hurt. That’s the simple honesty of the mountains. It’s why we go to them for answers. They tell us the truth." 

Book: The Edge of Never: A Skier’s Story of Life, Death, & Dreams in the World’s Most Dangerous MountainsAuthor: William A. KerigPublished: Stone Creek Publications (November 2008)
My Review: Kye Petersen was just 15 years old in 2005 when he skied the Glacier Rond in Chamonix, France with some of the most well respected and immensely talented skiers in the world including Anselme Baud, a pioneer in alpinism and extreme skiing. Fitting, then, that Chamonix is home to some of the world’s most challenging and dangerous back-country skiing (affectionately dubbed “the death-sport capital of the world” on account of the 60+ casualties that occur there every year) and Kye’s ability to successfully navigate those nearly vertical, ice-covered slopes is a testament to both his skill and his character.
As if that weren’t impressive enough, Glacier Rond (“The Exit”) is the run that killed Kye’s father, Trevor Petersen, in 1996. While learning to spot crevasses and avoid falling seracs with the best of the best, Kye said goodbye to his father in the only way that he knew how: closure on the slopes, their mutual home. 
The Edge of Never documents Kye’s first real exposure to the world of extreme skiing and follows him as he steps out of his father’s shadow and learns to become his own man and to ski for himself. Today Kye is living life on the top; he is one of the best skiers of his generation and has made a place for himself among the Anselme Bauds and Sylvain Saudans of the world. This life is dangerous beyond belief, but Kye is truly one of those rare and wonderful people whose very soul belongs to the mountain. 
A good story well written. 

"What thoughts flood a skier’s mind as he feels death coming? Does he wonder why he was drawn to the mountain life? Or does he understand that a life lived fully, lived at the edge of disaster, is worth losing everything?"

"Gordy is the first to take to the air. A seventy-foot huck. Tight and contained, he soars like a missile and comes to ground in a puff. It’s so beautiful it almost makes sense." 

"This is a bad story," says Anselme. Kye nods in agreement. "But it is a beautiful life sometimes," says Anselme. "And the mountain is here. We have to take the best of the mountain and follow life." 

"He made a mistake and got hurt. That’s the simple honesty of the mountains. It’s why we go to them for answers. They tell us the truth." 

Book: The Edge of Never: A Skier’s Story of Life, Death, & Dreams in the World’s Most Dangerous Mountains
Author: William A. Kerig
Published: Stone Creek Publications (November 2008)

My Review: Kye Petersen was just 15 years old in 2005 when he skied the Glacier Rond in Chamonix, France with some of the most well respected and immensely talented skiers in the world including Anselme Baud, a pioneer in alpinism and extreme skiing. Fitting, then, that Chamonix is home to some of the world’s most challenging and dangerous back-country skiing (affectionately dubbed “the death-sport capital of the world” on account of the 60+ casualties that occur there every year) and Kye’s ability to successfully navigate those nearly vertical, ice-covered slopes is a testament to both his skill and his character.

As if that weren’t impressive enough, Glacier Rond (“The Exit”) is the run that killed Kye’s father, Trevor Petersen, in 1996. While learning to spot crevasses and avoid falling seracs with the best of the best, Kye said goodbye to his father in the only way that he knew how: closure on the slopes, their mutual home. 

The Edge of Never documents Kye’s first real exposure to the world of extreme skiing and follows him as he steps out of his father’s shadow and learns to become his own man and to ski for himself. Today Kye is living life on the top; he is one of the best skiers of his generation and has made a place for himself among the Anselme Bauds and Sylvain Saudans of the world. This life is dangerous beyond belief, but Kye is truly one of those rare and wonderful people whose very soul belongs to the mountain. 

A good story well written. 

March242014

"But I am a person who has always searched for home… I have always longed for the place that was mine on the planet. Perhaps this made me restless, made me wander the earth, never putting down roots. Perhaps this is why I’m partial to tumbleweed, pack rats, and nomads, those who carry their lives around on their backs." 
"And now at the end of the line I think that perhaps home is not a place. Perhaps, it is what we remember."

Book: Wall to Wall: From Beijing to Berlin by RailAuthor: Mary MorrisPublished: Penguin Books (1991)
My Review: Mary Morris is an excellent writer. She has a way of describing her travels that inspires wanderlust to the point of heartache. Her previous book about her adventures in Mexico and South America (Nothing to Declare) was, in my opinion, a better overall read than Wall to Wall, but the Beijing and Berlin journey was enjoyable nonetheless. 
It’s interesting to read these somewhat dated books; so much has happened in these countries since Morris’s exploration in the late 1980’s. It’s astounding the amount of change that can take place in a matter of just 30 years. Freedom comes and goes, borders are closed and opened, leaders are made and destroyed. A few short years and you’re in a whole new world. 
My only complaint about this book, if you could even call it a complaint, is Morris’s constant use of the word “perhaps.” I mean, it’s a great word, yes. I’ve been known to throw it in a piece or two. But when you have at least two (sometimes three or four!) of the same word in each paragraph, no matter what word it is, you know you’ve gone too far. 
Other than that, the book was a delight. A quick, palate-cleansing read; about 24 hours cover to cover. Fun at times, insightful and solemn at others. Nicely done. 

"But I am a person who has always searched for home… I have always longed for the place that was mine on the planet. Perhaps this made me restless, made me wander the earth, never putting down roots. Perhaps this is why I’m partial to tumbleweed, pack rats, and nomads, those who carry their lives around on their backs." 

"And now at the end of the line I think that perhaps home is not a place. Perhaps, it is what we remember."

Book: Wall to Wall: From Beijing to Berlin by Rail
Author: Mary Morris
Published: Penguin Books (1991)

My Review: Mary Morris is an excellent writer. She has a way of describing her travels that inspires wanderlust to the point of heartache. Her previous book about her adventures in Mexico and South America (Nothing to Declare) was, in my opinion, a better overall read than Wall to Wall, but the Beijing and Berlin journey was enjoyable nonetheless. 

It’s interesting to read these somewhat dated books; so much has happened in these countries since Morris’s exploration in the late 1980’s. It’s astounding the amount of change that can take place in a matter of just 30 years. Freedom comes and goes, borders are closed and opened, leaders are made and destroyed. A few short years and you’re in a whole new world. 

My only complaint about this book, if you could even call it a complaint, is Morris’s constant use of the word “perhaps.” I mean, it’s a great word, yes. I’ve been known to throw it in a piece or two. But when you have at least two (sometimes three or four!) of the same word in each paragraph, no matter what word it is, you know you’ve gone too far. 

Other than that, the book was a delight. A quick, palate-cleansing read; about 24 hours cover to cover. Fun at times, insightful and solemn at others. Nicely done. 

March222014

"If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there’s salvation in life."

"Violence does not always take visible form, and not all wounds gush blood."

"Robbing people of their actual history is the same as robbing them of a part of themselves."

"Good and evil are not fixed, stable entities but are continually trading places."

Book: 1Q84Author: Haruki Murakami  Published: Vintage (October 25, 2011)
My Review: I’m not even sure what I just read, but I liked it. My first Murakami book was a grand and complicated adventure, as promised. I would never know where to file it in the library, but this fantasy-meets-love-story-meets-dystopian-mystery combination was actually quite lovely.  

I don’t think there’s really any way to summarize this book in this little box, or in any box, but I can say that the writing was wonderful and the characters were incredibly well developed. Despite some minor confusion at a few points (probably reader rather than author error), the story was smooth and entertaining. And, bonus, there truly is a little something for everyone. Dystopian? Check. Fantasy/SciFi? Check. Cheesy, uncomfortable, very weird romance? Double check. Bases covered.

So the question is: Which Murakami next? I’m open to suggestions, bibliophile friends!

"If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there’s salvation in life."

"Violence does not always take visible form, and not all wounds gush blood."

"Robbing people of their actual history is the same as robbing them of a part of themselves."

"Good and evil are not fixed, stable entities but are continually trading places."

Book: 1Q84
Author: Haruki Murakami  
Published: Vintage (October 25, 2011)

My Review: I’m not even sure what I just read, but I liked it. My first Murakami book was a grand and complicated adventure, as promised. I would never know where to file it in the library, but this fantasy-meets-love-story-meets-dystopian-mystery combination was actually quite lovely.

I don’t think there’s really any way to summarize this book in this little box, or in any box, but I can say that the writing was wonderful and the characters were incredibly well developed. Despite some minor confusion at a few points (probably reader rather than author error), the story was smooth and entertaining. And, bonus, there truly is a little something for everyone. Dystopian? Check. Fantasy/SciFi? Check. Cheesy, uncomfortable, very weird romance? Double check. Bases covered.

So the question is: Which Murakami next? I’m open to suggestions, bibliophile friends!

March22014

"So, you see" — he folded his hand across mine — "you shouldn’t look too long, or you may not even be able to see what it is you’re looking for." 
"But there was a softness to his eyes, a gentle curve to his lips, and I knew he would not harm me. When you travel alone, you learn to read those inner maps. You learn to trust a landscape that is familiar only inside your head. A look in the eyes, the mouth. The way a person moves his hands." 
"At various times ghosts or gods run my life. The ghosts I find in my rooms at night, in the eyes of brujas, in the bird nailed to the tree. While the past struggles to keep me back, the gods propel me forward. Into risk and sacrifice, choice and responsibility. The ghosts are in charge of memory; the gods’ domain is destiny." 
"In my life I have known every joy and every sorrow and each has been short lived." 

Book: Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling AloneAuthor: Mary MorrisPublished: Picador (1988)
My Review: Sometimes I think I want to travel the world. I’ve always felt like a bit (okay, a lot) of a homebody, but there may actually be some wanderlust in my little hermit heart. The way Morris describes the vast Mexican desert and the ferocious jungles of South America makes my heart ache for wild spaces and beautiful adventure. 
Nothing to Declare paints a picture of a woman finding herself as she explores the world. She moves in and out of relationship with land and with people in the most incredible, honest way, all the while becoming more aware of who she is and what she needs in life.
She seems to find that she, like all human creatures, is a walking contradiction and that even once she’s decided who she is, her mind and heart are capable of both drastic and subtle, step-by-step change. In her memoirs, Morris is simultaneously vulnerable and indestructible, avoidant and confrontational, helplessly lost and forever at home.
Gorgeous from cover to cover.  

"So, you see" — he folded his hand across mine — "you shouldn’t look too long, or you may not even be able to see what it is you’re looking for." 

"But there was a softness to his eyes, a gentle curve to his lips, and I knew he would not harm me. When you travel alone, you learn to read those inner maps. You learn to trust a landscape that is familiar only inside your head. A look in the eyes, the mouth. The way a person moves his hands." 

"At various times ghosts or gods run my life. The ghosts I find in my rooms at night, in the eyes of brujas, in the bird nailed to the tree. While the past struggles to keep me back, the gods propel me forward. Into risk and sacrifice, choice and responsibility. The ghosts are in charge of memory; the gods’ domain is destiny." 

"In my life I have known every joy and every sorrow and each has been short lived." 

Book: Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone
Author: Mary Morris
Published: Picador (1988)

My Review: Sometimes I think I want to travel the world. I’ve always felt like a bit (okay, a lot) of a homebody, but there may actually be some wanderlust in my little hermit heart. The way Morris describes the vast Mexican desert and the ferocious jungles of South America makes my heart ache for wild spaces and beautiful adventure. 

Nothing to Declare paints a picture of a woman finding herself as she explores the world. She moves in and out of relationship with land and with people in the most incredible, honest way, all the while becoming more aware of who she is and what she needs in life.

She seems to find that she, like all human creatures, is a walking contradiction and that even once she’s decided who she is, her mind and heart are capable of both drastic and subtle, step-by-step change. In her memoirs, Morris is simultaneously vulnerable and indestructible, avoidant and confrontational, helplessly lost and forever at home.

Gorgeous from cover to cover.  

February172014

"He couldn’t tell if he was  piecing something together, or just falling apart." 
"That word means something else, you know," his father had told him once, when Mission had spoken of revolution. "It also means to go around and around. To revolve. One revolution, and you get right back where you started." 
"Anna blinked. Donald reached for the straw and steered it to her lips. Lips that would tell him anything, keep him confused, use him so that she might feel less hollow, less alone. He had heard enough of her lies, her brand of poison. To give her an ear was to give her a vein." 

Book: Shift (Silo Series, Volume II) Author: Hugh HoweyPublished: Broad Reach Publishing (January 27, 2013)
My Review: I waited for WEEKS to get this book in the mail. Damn you, “myrockland” from New York! You should not be allowed to sell things on Amazon without a damn tracking number. 
Anyway. The second installation in the Silo Series was good, but definitely not as good as the first. I don’t know if it was residual anger from the ridiculous delivery time that tainted my perspective or if the plot plateaued a bit. Either way, I found myself moderately interested in this book at best and bored at worst. 
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the story and think Hugh Howey is an excellent (and insanely feminist) writer. The prequel-like background in Shift tied in wonderfully with the plot of the first book; Howey is thorough and brilliant with details. 
That said, I just wasn’t as enthralled with this as I was with Wool. Maybe I’m in need of a dystopian breather. Or I’ll just plow through and start the final volume, crossing my fingers that I snap out of this frustration-induced funk. 

"He couldn’t tell if he was  piecing something together, or just falling apart." 

"That word means something else, you know," his father had told him once, when Mission had spoken of revolution. "It also means to go around and around. To revolve. One revolution, and you get right back where you started." 

"Anna blinked. Donald reached for the straw and steered it to her lips. Lips that would tell him anything, keep him confused, use him so that she might feel less hollow, less alone. He had heard enough of her lies, her brand of poison. To give her an ear was to give her a vein." 

Book: Shift (Silo Series, Volume II) 
Author: Hugh Howey
Published: Broad Reach Publishing (January 27, 2013)

My Review: I waited for WEEKS to get this book in the mail. Damn you, “myrockland” from New York! You should not be allowed to sell things on Amazon without a damn tracking number. 

Anyway. The second installation in the Silo Series was good, but definitely not as good as the first. I don’t know if it was residual anger from the ridiculous delivery time that tainted my perspective or if the plot plateaued a bit. Either way, I found myself moderately interested in this book at best and bored at worst. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the story and think Hugh Howey is an excellent (and insanely feminist) writer. The prequel-like background in Shift tied in wonderfully with the plot of the first book; Howey is thorough and brilliant with details. 

That said, I just wasn’t as enthralled with this as I was with Wool. Maybe I’m in need of a dystopian breather. Or I’ll just plow through and start the final volume, crossing my fingers that I snap out of this frustration-induced funk. 

February52014

"Stop criticizing me! First I’m criticized for being a prude and sounding like a social worker or something, then I’m criticized for looking like a cheap broad. How am I supposed to live? Under the water or something, coming up only to say, "I beg your pardon if I disturb you by coming up for air. I’ll do my best to remain submerged." 
"We’ll have some wine," he said. "And promise me you’ll forget the ugliness for a little while. You know, as long as you remember the ugliness, you might as well live in oblivion, because there’s nothing for you in life. The ugliness is everywhere, and you just have to overlook it." "Someone else said that to me once," she said. "It’s quite right," he said. "And you have to face that truth before you can live with yourself even for a short time. Otherwise you will be in constant search of escape." 

Book: Chocolates for BreakfastAuthor Pamela MoorePublished: Rinehart & Company (1956)
My Review: So not only did Pamela Moore write an incredible book, but she wrote an incredible, taboo, feminist book about growing up when she was only 18 years old and living in the socially conservative 1950’s. That’s a pretty powerful act if you ask me, and you can be damn sure that Chocolates for Breakfast  made the banned books list in about 0.5 seconds flat. (A compliment, in case you didn’t already know). 
This book is pretty dark and probably not my first recommendation for the glass-is-half-fullers or chronic-sugar-coaters of the world. Moore explores the painful, necessary process of detaching from one’s parents (who, as we all find out eventually, are just as fucked up and human as the rest of us) and what it means to fly solo in a big, crazy world that often feels hostile and ugly.
Using the life of the book’s main character Courtney, Moore boldly broaches topics like sexual awakening and promiscuity, depression, double standards and gender socialization, friendship, booze, the meaning of life and death, and even homosexuality (*gasp!*). That’s a lot of punch for a 1950’s novel written by a female author! 
Chocolates for Breakfast was Moore’s biggest claim to fame. It was on the bestseller list for quite some time and was ultimately translated into 11 different languages. She wrote four other novels, though none received such high praise.
Moore committed suicide in 1964 while working on her sixth book after a long struggle with depression which was not diagnosed or commonly treated at the time. She was 26 years old. 
Sometimes the world is just too heavy. 

"Stop criticizing me! First I’m criticized for being a prude and sounding like a social worker or something, then I’m criticized for looking like a cheap broad. How am I supposed to live? Under the water or something, coming up only to say, "I beg your pardon if I disturb you by coming up for air. I’ll do my best to remain submerged." 

"We’ll have some wine," he said. "And promise me you’ll forget the ugliness for a little while. You know, as long as you remember the ugliness, you might as well live in oblivion, because there’s nothing for you in life. The ugliness is everywhere, and you just have to overlook it." "Someone else said that to me once," she said. "It’s quite right," he said. "And you have to face that truth before you can live with yourself even for a short time. Otherwise you will be in constant search of escape." 

Book: Chocolates for Breakfast
Author Pamela Moore
Published: Rinehart & Company (1956)

My Review: So not only did Pamela Moore write an incredible book, but she wrote an incredible, taboo, feminist book about growing up when she was only 18 years old and living in the socially conservative 1950’s. That’s a pretty powerful act if you ask me, and you can be damn sure that Chocolates for Breakfast  made the banned books list in about 0.5 seconds flat. (A compliment, in case you didn’t already know). 

This book is pretty dark and probably not my first recommendation for the glass-is-half-fullers or chronic-sugar-coaters of the world. Moore explores the painful, necessary process of detaching from one’s parents (who, as we all find out eventually, are just as fucked up and human as the rest of us) and what it means to fly solo in a big, crazy world that often feels hostile and ugly.

Using the life of the book’s main character Courtney, Moore boldly broaches topics like sexual awakening and promiscuity, depression, double standards and gender socialization, friendship, booze, the meaning of life and death, and even homosexuality (*gasp!*). That’s a lot of punch for a 1950’s novel written by a female author! 

Chocolates for Breakfast was Moore’s biggest claim to fame. It was on the bestseller list for quite some time and was ultimately translated into 11 different languages. She wrote four other novels, though none received such high praise.

Moore committed suicide in 1964 while working on her sixth book after a long struggle with depression which was not diagnosed or commonly treated at the time. She was 26 years old. 

Sometimes the world is just too heavy. 

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