Thursday, January 16, 2014

Five favorites

Tiffany asked what my five favorite books and movies are.

Books first, in no particular order, and of course because I can't stop myself from blathering on and on, I can't just give you the titles, I must go into details about why I like them. If the book portion of this drags on I may show some mercy and come back tomorrow with the movies. I do realize you all have lives to live.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I've read this book several times and I never get sick of it. I love anything by Austen but this one is my favorite. It's romantic, but not sickeningly so, and amusing and completely engaging. Anytime I read the book I keep hoping and hoping that Darcy and Lizzie will just end up together and I get a little nervous that it's  not going to happen and then when it does I'm completely relieved. A good book will keep you guessing no matter how many times you've read it.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - The first time I read this I was in sixth grade. I loved it then and I've loved it each time I've gone back to read it. When I read it I felt like I really was friends with Scout and Dill and I imagined myself being with them and doing everything they were doing. I could feel the hot sticky weather and smell the southern air and strangely enough, even though it does not depict a pleasant side of the south, I would daydream about moving there when I was reading this book. I think a good book will always do that though - make you want to go places you never really even thought about before. When Jane and Kate were younger I read it aloud to them and they also fell in love with it. ( I need to stop using the word love. It's becoming redundant.) Kate returned to school this year and it was the first book they read in class and the teacher had to request that Kate stop answering all the questions about it.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - Like a lot of books I read as a kid and then went back and read as an adult, I loved and appreciated this book much more the second time around . The book is hilarious and brilliant and although a lot of children read it, you really should read this when you are an adult as well, because there are things you probably definitely missed the first time around.

No Man is An Island by Thomas Merton - This is not an easy book to get through, although nothing by Merton is easy to get through. I read it a few years ago when I found it while wandering through the Catholic section of the library. I was shocked that my small town in Florida even had a Catholic section and I think I may have looked over my shoulder a few times to make sure someone wasn't playing a joke. It is the south after all and boy do some people here not enjoy The Catholics and they have no problem telling you that while you are sitting on a bench in Donnelly Park minding your own business reading this very book. I was waiting for Anthony to finish a class one day and a woman whose son was taking the same class asked what I was reading. When I told her it was a book by a Catholic Trappist monk she said, oh my husband was Catholic but I made sure to get him out, and I thought, how sad for your husband and how amusing that you kind of are implying my religion is a cult. Then I looked at the book title and thought, gee why can't men just be islands because people like this woman are...not fun to talk to. I love this book firstly because it contains so much wisdom and truth and secondly because I found it while I was going through a really exciting time in my faith journey ( just threw up up in my mouth typing that phrase) and I found this book at the exact right moment. It made me think about love and God and many other deep things in a completely different way.

And lastly, really I have to include it because it was the first book I absolutely fell in love with and became obsessed with reading. It's a children's book called Frederick by Leo Lionni. I read it over and over and over again when I was 6 or 7 or however old I was when we learned how to read back then. (I cannot believe I'm old enough to say "back then" in reference to MY childhood. That phrase should be reserved for people who are at least a hundred.) Anyway, I'm pretty sure it was much older than when kids are expected to read now. This book is about a little field mouse who lives with his field mouse family and while they are all going around gathering food for the cold winter months, seemingly lazy Frederick is sitting around not helping and finally, as the busy among us are prone to do, someone gets a little annoyed that they are doing all of the work and Frederick is doing none and so they say hey, what's the deal. Frederick says he is gathering things in his mind and all of those things will help get them through the bitter, boring winter months and sure enough, when that time hits and they are all out of food and are completely at their wits end and probably suffering from severe cabin fever they all look at him and say well, and he gets a little nervous and then recites the sweetest poem about all of the colors he sees throughout the year and each of those colors represent something and when he is done everyone is happy and has forgotten just how miserable they all are. Frederick blushes because everyone cheers him on and tells him he is a poet. As a kid I was captivated by Frederick. I never got the hang of how to write poetry, but I have always enjoyed sitting around thinking about life while other people stay busy. So what can I say, that little field mouse spoke to me even way back in the first grade. When I was in college and got pregnant and then subsequently gave the baby up for a adoption, I was told I could give the baby something and so I went up to Clifton Country Mall on a very cold, bitter winter day and found Frederick in the tiny little bookstore that no longer exists and I sent it to the baby's new parents and hoped they would give it to him. I have my copy stored away safely and maybe the baby I gave up has his, too and wouldn't it be nice if someday we both happened to be reading it at the very same moment.

The movie portion of this post must wait. I have, as promised, blathered on and on far too long.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Me, me, me! More about me!!

Jennie C asks, what is your greatest strength?

Oh dear, this was not easy for me to answer as I have so many strengths and  it was hard to narrow it down to just one. Ba da bump! But for real, it did take me some time to come up with something. Finally I settled on this - people have told me on more than one occasion that I am a good listener and I make it easy for them to open up about things that are sometimes difficult to open up about.. For many years this was a huge burden. In college, friends were constantly coming to my room due to my listening skills and when they left I would stay awake and worry about everyone and their problems. Occasionally someone would drop a real doozy on me and I would be torn about whether I should tell someone else and if I didn't tell someone else, would disaster ensue and if it did, would I be responsible. Then I grew up and got older and decided that I'm not in charge of anyone and all I can really do is listen without making obnoxious, judgemental comments and  then let it go and it's no longer a burden but a gift. Just this weekend my neighbor, who is going through something quite painful,  saw me sitting outside and she came out and asked if I could come inside and talk to her. She didn't want me to talk, she wanted to talk and when she was done she gave me a huge hug and I left and felt pretty honored that I happened to be around when she really needed someone to be around. So that's it, that's my greatest strength, or at least a strength. Also, have you ever had someone tell you that they are a great listener, that they really know how to put people at ease and all you want to do is start laughing because they are the exact opposite of that? Well while I was writing this I was a bit worried that maybe I am that person and if that is the case, well just ignore everything I wrote.

Tiffany, I will answer your questions tomorrow and then I suppose I will have to stop answering reader questions altogether because all of this me talk is feeling self indulgent - not that I have a problem with that of course, but I should at least pretend I have a problem with it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

More reader questions

Because it was fun and I have no imagination and can't think of anything to write on my own -

Julie in Florida asks, what is your favorite childhood memory, what is your favorite color, who is your favorite person to meet for coffee and when are you going to write a book?  Oh these questions readers are leaving always veer off into the delusional at the end.

I'll start with the last question. I am never going to write a book. The chances of it becoming a best seller are pretty high, which means I would become famous and I've always been a little afraid I would be awful as a famous person, which is why I really never try too hard at anything. The money and fame would go to my head. I would probably start drinking all the time and may even turn into the kind of person who gets on airplanes and spouts off f bombs. It wouldn't be pretty. We're all just better off with me living my life in a pretty anonymous state

What is my favorite color? Green. I find it soothing.

Who is my favorite person to have coffee with? Whoever it is I happen to be meeting that day for coffee is my favorite person to have coffee with. If I had to choose one person to have coffee with it would be my sister. This isn't to take away from all of the other lovely people I have coffee with ( and it suddenly sounds like all I do is have coffee with people all day, everyday) but me and my sister are pretty tight.

What is my favorite childhood memory? This one was hard. When I tried to think of one favorite memory I couldn't come up with one single one. Everything melded together. Little things come to mind, many of them involving my Nana. Picking dandelion greens with her in a field near the DiSiena Furniture store. She used to cook the greens like spinach. I guess this is now considered a fancy meal. My Nana did a lot of things that are now considered fancy and impressive. Too bad facebook wasn't around back then.  The time she found an injured bird lying in the road and brought it inside and tried to nurse it back to health. I was a teen when this happened. Nothing much impressed me. This did though. I still remember being mesmerized by the fact that my Nana was doing this. She put it in an open shoe box and wrapped up its broken wing and kept checking on it. I don't even remember if the bird made it or not. Making homemade ravioli with her and having her get mad at me and my sister if we didn't seam those babies up properly. Her praying the rosary in her chair and if you happened to come in when she was in the midst of it she would put her rosary down and talk to you, which always made me feel special. Those are just some of my favorites but I have many more and if I were to sit here and keep writing there is a chance I would never get up and unload the dishwasher, which is what I really need to be doing right now. As an aside, I realize I was extremely blessed to have grown up living so close to my Nana. It does take a lot to impress me and if you want to know why you would have to understand who my Nana was. I'm not sure there is anyone who even comes close to topping her in every single way and if she was sitting here reading this she would smile and say, "you bet your ass my granddaughter."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


This blog stays mostly empty because I never know what to write about,  but then I saw that someone left a comment on my last post and I thought oh this is so exciting, I've always wanted to a get a comment that would let me do this....

A reader in Kentucky asks - Let me ask you ( go ahead reader, ask me anything), are you the type of biker who wears spandex and helmet? I picture you riding your bike in a pair of shorts and tank top, hair up in a pony tail, headphones on, leisurely riding around. I think it's awesome you are doing a 100 mile race. The reader then becomes delusional and says that she is sure I am going to love doing this 100 mile ride and want to do them all the time. 

Well I just loved this question because there are so many facets to it and I now have something to write about! Thank you, Kirsten!

No, I am not the type of biker who wears spandex. I'm what you can call plump ( go ahead, call me that, I won't punch you in the face, I promise!) so spandex would make me feel like a sausage stuffed into its casing and I would spend my whole ride uncomfortable and annoyed and my rolls of fat would keep falling out over the waistband and I would have to keep getting off my bike to tuck them back in,  and then  I would just be unhappy and riding is meant to make me happy so no, no spandex. This is the same reason I refuse to wear those awful things called spanx. I don't care how much thinner they are meant  to make you feel, they would have the opposite effect on me. I would constantly be thinking about the fact that I was so fat and flabby that  it was now necessary for me to put on special undergarments to hold my fat in and at no point would I be thinking, but I look 4 sizes smaller! What DO I wear on my ride? Usually those workout legging pants that come right below the knee, or on colder days, the ones that come to my ankle. On hot days, I wear cutoff yoga pants. Yes, it does look stupid, but I don't care.

Yes, I most definitely wear a helmet. I used to not wear one because I thought it made me look stupid, but then I realized I would look more stupid dead so I caved in and started using one and now I can't imagine riding without a helmet. 

As far  picturing me riding around in a pair of shorts and a tank top, with my hair up in a ponytail, leisurely listening to music from my headphones, I like this idea and I hope you are also picturing me weighing about 115 pounds and being about 5'8" with long tan legs and perky breasts filling the tank top. Also, a small nose and long neck. Please, please picture me like that. It's kind of how I hope my husband pictures me.  I just know I would look good like that. Not everyone could pull that look off but I'm sure it would suit me well. 

The reality, of course, is that I look like an oompa loompa when I ride. I know this because I did a charity ride a few months back and I happened to go online to look at the pictures and sure enough there was this thing in one of the photos and I thought oh, I didn't see any oompa loompas out there riding today, this is very interesting indeed. On closer inspection I realized it was yours truly and I almost became upset but then I remembered that even in my fattened state I had managed to finish the ride quite a bit before several young women who were much more fit than me and who had much nicer bikes, so I went back to feeling smug and managed to convince myself that looking like an oompa loompa isn't such a bad lot in life. 

As for how I wear my hair and whether or not I wear headphones; I can't wear a ponytail due to the helmet, but I do wear my headphones when I am riding on the bike path. It makes riding long distances more pleasant. Last week I was on a 65 mile ride and I had a moment of exhaustion and I kind of wanted to get off my bike and lie down in the grass and at that very moment, Bruce came on my ipod and starting singing The Promised Land to me and that was all I needed. I actually started singing, too, and I didn't give two poops who was around to hear me. Music helps me tremendously in every area of my life and it helps me ride better, too, so yes, if I'm on the bike path, they are in. If I'm out in the middle of nowhere on a country road, no, I don't use them. 

As for riding at a leisurely pace, if you were to pass me in your car you would probably think I was riding for leisure. I am not fast, although I do try to make every ride count. I spend many, many, many hours a week on my bike ( I can't tell you how many because then you will think I'm neglecting my kids) and I would feel guilty if I didn't make the time count for something, so I go as fast as I can go and I like to feel exhausted when I get off the bike, but the good kind, the kind that makes me want to go out again and again. 

What I lack in speed I more than make up for in my love for the bike. I LOVE riding. Riding saved me quite a few years ago when I went through an unpleasant experience in college. I got a summer job at the end of my junior year and saved every penny I made and then my good friend, Eddie, took me up to the bike shop in Clifton Park and helped me pick out a mountain bike and I rode that bike everyday of the summer, all over the place.While I was riding I thought about the kind of life I wanted to have and the kind of person I wanted to be and sometimes I just daydreamed about things I knew would never happen but were still fun to think about. I rode on country roads and I went places I probably shouldn't have gone but I always got off the bike and felt better about everything and the bike still does that for me. I never feel worse. Not even when I fall and nearly knock my teeth out.

Over the weekend I had a moment of panic and thought that my idea to do the century was completely foolish and there was no way I could it. I texted my sister and called my sister and finally after listening to me over and over she sent me a text and said, but you love riding so much and that's all that matters, that's what this ride is about, just calm down. So I did finally and who cares if Greg has to come pick me up in the dark and I don't finish the ride with everyone else. Although I don't know that I'll be doing centuries all the time, I do think Kirsten is right, I do think I will end up loving this particular ride. And Anthony would never let me back out now anyway. He already told me the only way to prove how much I love him and care about him and his diabetes is by doing this ride. Then he told me he was kidding and only trying to motivate me.

Anyway, thanks for the question, Kirsten. You provided me with a material for a post!