Friday, October 26, 2007

November Book

For the month of November, we will be reading, Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert.

Do you know what makes you happy? Daniel Gilbert would bet that you think you do, but you are most likely wrong. In his witty and engaging new book, Harvard professor Gilbert reveals his take on how our minds work, and how the limitations of our imaginations may be getting in the way of our ability to know what happiness is. Sound quirky and interesting? It is! But just to be sure, we asked bestselling author (and master of the quirky and interesting) Malcolm Gladwell to read Stumbling on Happiness, and give us his take. Check out his review below. --Daphne Durham

If you are interesting in more information about the book and the reading guide, click here .

We'll see you all in November.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

October Book: The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place is a 1971 book on the life of Corrie ten Boom, written by Corrie together with John and Elizabeth Sherrill.

The idea of a book on Corrie's life began as John and Elizabeth Sherrill were doing research for the book God's Smuggler, about Corrie ten Boom's fellow Dutchman, Brother Andrew. Corrie was already in her mid-seventies when the Sherills first heard about her. She was one of Brother Andrew's favorite traveling companions and many of his recollections were about her. In the preface to the book, the Sherills recount:

...his [Brother Andrew's] fascinating stories about her in Vietnam, where she had earned that most honorable title "Double-old Grandmother" - and in a dozen other Communist countries - came to mind so often that we finally had to hold up her hands to stop his flow of reminiscence. "We could never fit her into the book," we said. "She sounds like a book in herself." It's the sort of thing you say. Not meaning anything.

It was later made into a film of the same name.

The title refers to both the physical hiding place where the ten Boom family secreted Jews from the Nazis, and also to God, as in Psalm 32:7: "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance."(NIV)

If you are interested in more background information, check out these sites:
Corrie ten Boom Museum
Wikipedia article
IMBD movie site

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Magic of Ordinary Days

I love to watch the snow fall on an early winter morning just as the sun is starting to rise. I sit on my sofa with the blinds open and a glass of hot chocolate (with a little bit of vanilla ice cream on top) and just watch the snow float gracefully to the ground. My chances to do this are pretty fleeting so on the rare occasions where I get to watch the snow drift, I'm forever happy.

The novel, "The Magic of Ordinary Days" reminded me of one of my own personal "magics". Those ordinary activities turned extraordinary because of time, place, and mind. Those chances we have, when we're paying attention, to be truly happy, content and in love with life. Whether it's watching the snow, the contagious laugh of a child, or being curled up in bed with a good book, we all have the opportunity to find contentment and peace in our lives. As a line from the text tells us, "Sometimes you do find what you're looking for closer than you think."

On the flip side, we've probably all been faced with a similar situation as Livvy, the main character in the book. We might not have gotten ourselves in "trouble" as she did, but we've all found ourselves in uncommon surroundings sometimes out of our control. The key to surviving these situations, however big or small, seems to be looking for life in a barren land...trying to find the good in the bad...forging relationships out of seemingly nothing because one day, those relationships might save us.

The story, set to a back-drop of World War II shares with us not only a glimpse into history, but a love story for the ages. A young girl, finding that her "love", a soldier about to be sent to Europe to fight a war he probably wouldn't come home from, gives of herself in a way she imagined would be forever. That act left her in trouble, alone, and shunned from her family, sent far away from home to make as much of a respectable existence as possible by marrying a shy, seemingly innocent farmer. The story unfolds with us watching (in our minds anyway) the slow progression to love and safety that Livvy makes towards Ray. In the end, truly falling in love with him, forgiving herself, and making a new life for herself and her new little family.

What is so lovely about this story? Ray. The farmer. He decided to love Livvy regardless of circumstance, regardless of whether or not she loves him back, and regardless of the fact that she'd forgotten how to love herself. When Livvy says to Ray, "Do you love me just because I came here?" he replies, "I love you because you came here to me."

This was a sweet, unassuming novel about some of the things that are important in life. Our friends, our family, our history, and most importantly finding the people to share it all with.

FYI: Hallmark turned "The Magic of Ordinary Days" into a made for TV movie. It's a little corny, but you can watch the whole thing in 15 segments on YouTube if you want. Skeet Ulrich is "Ray". He's much more attractive than the Ray I pictured in my head.

Monday, August 27, 2007

September Book

For the month of September, we will be reading, The Magic of Ordinary Days, by Ann Howard Creel.This book is so good that it was recently turned into a Hallmark movie. If you are a former Felicity fan and love Keri Russell, then click here to find out information about the movie.

If you are interesting in more information about the book and the reading guide, click HERE .

We'll see you all in September.

Monday, August 6, 2007

My Sister's Keeper

by Jodi Picoult

There are lyrics from the song What Sarah Said by Death Cab for Cutie that say, "And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to father time."

Isn't it true? We plan on vacations months in advance we start buying for Christmas when we find the perfect gift a year early. We plan long lives with the people we love surrounding us. But we never know what is really going to happen. We don't know how unlimited or limited our time together really is. In your mind you aren't thinking, I hope you are around in three months so we can go on vacation. You just assume your people will be around. No questions asked.

"I wonder if all mothers feel like this the moment they realize their daughters are growing up--as if it is impossible to believe that the laundry I once folded for her was doll-sized; as if I can still see her dancing in lazy pirouettes along the lip of the sandbox. Wasn't it yesterday that her hand was only as big as the sand dollar she found on the beach? That same hand, the one that's holding a boy's; wasn't it just holding mine, tugging so that I might stop and see the spiderweb, the milkweed pod, any of a thousand moments she wanted me to freeze? Time is an optical illusion--never quite as solid or strong as we think it is. You would assume that, given everything, I saw this coming. But watching Kate watch this boy, I see I have a thousand things to learn."

I wonder when we learn how little control we actually have, and how lucky we are to share the special moments we do.

In this book, Kate the oldest daughter has some form of Leukemia. Her brother is not a perfect match for her and so her parents have another daughter, Anna, and genetically make sure she is a perfect match to be a donor for her. Anna was created and born to keep Kate alive. As soon as she was born they harvested her cord blood cells, which seems fairly mild. What else would you do with it? Throughout her life Anna keeps giving blood and bone marrow, trying to save her sister. But when Anna, as a teenager, is supposed to give her sister a kidney, she decides she does not want to give anymore of herself to keep her failing sister alive. She gets a lawyer and tells her parents she no longer wants to keep her sister living.

But she loves her sister and she wonders...

"If you have a sister and she dies, do you stop saying you have one? Or are you always a sister, even when the other half of the equation is gone?"

Her father, studies stars. He later relates the following.

"There are stars in the night sky that look brighter than the others, and when you look at them through a telescope you realize you are looking at twins. The two stars rotate around each other, sometimes talking nearly a hundred years to do it. They created so much gravitational pull there's no room around for anything else. You might see a blue star, for example, and realize only later that it has a white dwarf as a companion-that first one shines so bright, but the time you notice the second one, it's really too late."

Isn't it rare and beautiful to find people in your life who want to share their lives with you.

"I wonder if Julia feels like it has been moments, not years, since we've been together. If sitting at this counter with me feels as effortless for her as it does for me. It's like picking up an unfamiliar piece of sheet music and starting to stumble through it. Only to realize it is a melody you'd once learned by heart, one you can play without even trying."

Isn't that what life is about? Finding your melody, the people who enter and leave, place their song along with yours, creating a beautiful masterpiece. It is your song, your life, and your love that create the beauty that surround you. If even just for a few moments, people can add to your life in the most beautiful ways.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

August Book

For our August Book, we'll be reading My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult.

If you are interested in some more information about the book or the author, click HERE.

All That Remains....



empty chairs

After a great book club meeting, there isn't a whole lot left.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Marley & Me

I really didn't think this book would apply to me. I have not had a dog ever growing up. I like other peoples dogs, kind of. My family would not describe me as an animal lover, more of an animal torturer. They can tell you stories from my youth as the time I turned their cat neurotic, or the time I tried to walk the cat around the block using nylons on the head as a leash. It did not really work, but was the most hilarious thing my 10-year old mind had ever seen. A cat unable to see with nylons on its head streaking through the neighborhood.

There were parts I related to though. The raising of children. Seeing things through another's eyes and the depression brought on by having babies.

I have never had a dog of my own to love. But there is one dog (sorry, A&T) that holds a special place in my heart. C.B. Was her name. Short for SeaBiscuit. Named after the horse. She was my cousins dachshund. This is the closest I have come to dog love. We have tried several times to replace her and there is no way to do so.

When my cousins would go on vacation, they would bring C.B. over to our house to stay. I was the one she loved to sleep with. I would wake up in the morning with a long warm body burrowed under my covers and wrapped around my feet.

When you would talk to her, she would tilt her head to one side and furrow her brow like she was trying to hard to let you know she understood.

She loved us and we all loved her. My brother has a wiener dog now, Frankie, who looks so much like C.B., but she is still a puppy. We never knew C.B. as a puppy. But we sure liked to get her excited. We would talk about going outside. Do you wanna go outside! Do you wanna go outside! Do you wanna go outside! She would start dancing by the front door. We would do this with almost anything. Talking excitedly to get her prancing. She was our constant companion. Following us everywhere. Nuzzling us at night. The sweetest, most loving dog I have known.

I remember when she started to get old. Her hair started to turn gray. She got cancer lumps on her body. She eventually stopped going up and down the stairs and my aunt had to take her up or down with her. She could not stand to go potty. Someone had to hold her. I think that we did not want to let her go. No one wanted to face the fact that she was going to leave us soon. And how could we want her to leave us? She had been with us through the years. It is hard to let go of something that has been with you as you grow from child to adult. A constant in your changing world.

I remember when she died. I was in college. My mom called to let me know. We cried. My aunts family buried her in their backyard. She would have loved my baby. She would have wanted to pick him up by the scruff of his neck and put him in her bed. She would have licked him until he cried out for her to quit.

I still miss her. It has been about 10 years. I rarely understand the connection between animal and man. This book reminded me that I have felt it before. And that there are so many others who feel it too.

And then there is this. The blog of my friend Natalie's dog. World meet Boogie. I don't know if there is any more potent way of showing the love you have for your animal.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Marley and Me...need some inspiration?

If you haven't picked up the book yet, or finished it a while back and need a refresher, check out the official website for the book at Marley and Me dot com.

Or, if you are now in love with Labrador Retrievers, visit the American Kennel Club

Have fun reading and see you all on July 25.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Food, Fun, and Good Conversation

Last night's book club was a success. The book, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan , led us down all kinds of paths of discussion from renewed and broken friendships, to braces and botox, to rearing children and daughters.

Thanks to Tiffany for bringing such extravagant treats and Heather for the tasty cookies.

fuzzy book clubbers

double lantern

more fuzzy book clubbers

(Yes, I know the pictures are fuzzy. I wanted to protect your identities)

Monday, June 18, 2007

June Book: "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See

Foot binding, women's chambers, and laotong friendships. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, is a wonderful journey through mid 1800's China and the often times, secret life of women a man's world.

Lily and Snow Flower are matched as laotong's early in life to help them each find success in marriage and life. They're deep "true love" friendship runs the span of nearly 40 years of trial, tribulation, joy, deceit, and enduring love, loss and the trouble with forgiveness.

If nothing else, this book taught me several important personal lessons:

  • Friendships are important and should be cherised because we don't have them forever.
  • It is a wonderful thing to be a woman in a country where we have a voice, a vote, and the opportunity to be educated. Being stuck in a "women's chamber" your whole life, having your feet broken to be beautiful, and being regarded as your parents problem instead of their joy is just too rough.
  • Having the right to choose who I marry and how I live my life takes on a whole new meaning after reading the book. Choice is such a key element of life, and even though we don't think about it very much during the day, we make so many decisions, large and small, that others could never even fathom.
What were some of your thoughts on the book? Please share!

Makayla wrote a great review. You can read it HERE

Interested in more information on foot binding? Check out these links:
Color Photos of Chinese Women with Bound Feet

Listen to a story on NPR about foot binding with this link

Wikipedia article on foot binding