Saturday, June 22, 2019

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, And Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

I cannot stop thinking about this book and recommend it to anyone who has ever been in therapy or thought about seeing a therapist. Maybe You Should Talk To Someone... is such an inside look at what goes on in the sacred space of a therapist's office. In some ways, the book reminded be of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, though I am not exactly sure why -- perhaps because it starts with Lori Gottlieb falling apart after a painful and abrupt breakup with her Boyfriend (I love the way she capitalizes this word, making it archetypal). And so she sets out to reinvent herself and get to the bottom of many problems, also including her health and creative writing projects .

When she chooses a male therapist (Wendall) to see post-breakup, I thought that was a brave step. Often women prefer to talk to other women about their romantic lives. She comes to respect and adore Wendall. So did I. I also loved all the stories about Lori's patients. There is plenty to learn about what goes on in a therapist's mind, their feelings, quandries and boundaries.

I copied out a few passages to keep in my commonplace notebook. Here is one, quoting Lori's thoughts about what she learned from Wendall: 

"You can't get through your pain by diminishing it, he reminded me. You get through your pain by accepting it and figuring out what to do with it. You can't change what you're denying or minimizing. And, of course, often what seem like trivial worries are manifestations of deeper ones." - page 336

Also this (Lori's thoughts):

"Everyone wages this internal battle to some degree: child or adult? Safety or freedom? But no matter where people fall on these continuums, every decision they make is based on two things: fear or love. Therapy strives to teach you how to tell the two apart." - page 234

At SUNY Albany, during my first semester of grad school for library science, I had doubts about my career path. Mostly I was in shock about the number of term papers I needed to write (using a typewriter, no less). After talking to an academic counselor, I was given the Strong Campbell Interest Inventory test. The takeaway: I had much in common with these three occupations: opera singers, librarians and therapists. I could not sing, so opera singer was out. I have always been interested in the psychological problems we human beings have, but thought being a therapist might at times be burdensome. And thus I decided library science was the right direction for me! After all, librarians at times practice bibliotherapy, giving the customer just the right book or movie they needed. We are also often in situations where we must practice empathetic listening.

As for therapy, there have been key times in my life when talking to a therapist was just what I needed. And I always felt better after a session. Let me just say that things came up and self clarification followed.

For an in-depth interview with the author, listen to or read the NPR interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Ten Years Out from Retirement

Ten years out from retirement, I find myself taking stock. Tom and I are getting older gracefully and not so gracefully... Lately I am spending a lot of time battling nerve pain in my legs. Tomorrow I see a doctor who gives spine injections. I am also doing aquatherapy and seeing a chiropractor. I have tried all kinds of potions, creams and supplements. The exercises I have been given in physical therapy help somewhat. The sensations in my legs are wild, ranging from icy numbness to pins and needles and the all time worst is a feeling that little gremlins are sand papering my legs. The nerve pains are related to pinched nerves in my sacrum. I have had sciatica for more than 20 years. But enough of that! I am still able to walk the dog, work in the yard, do yoga and enjoy life. Making art continues to be one of the best aspects of my life.

Here are some recent photos from my art room and garden:

These papers are among the results of a mono-printing session. It was fun to work with black and white, something I had not done in a while.

Here is one of the collages I made with my printed papers. It was included in the Black and White show last month at Hardy and Nance Studios.

Making tiny collages on laminate samples has been my form of "comfort collage" lately. The nerve pain does not permit me to sit for very long and these tiny projects can be finished quickly. Even though they are so small, they (of course) involve composition, my favorite part of collage, and thus are satisfying.

A friend who is moving to Florida gave me some of her plants, which I was happy to add to my shade garden in the back corner of the yard. Shade gardening is the way to go in Houston! 

Shown here are some ganzania flowers with the last of our nasturtiums. I love the ganzanias, though they can not be cut. They open and close with the sun. The word for that is nyctinastic, and may be related to the plant's need to protect themselves from nighttime predators.

Last week I went to a Harris County Public Library Retirees luncheon. It is always fun to see my former coworkers. What else am I up to? Babysitting our granddaughter is always a joy. I am still writing reviews for I loved going to see the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. I attend lectures at the Jung Center and will be entering some art work in their summer show later this week. Next month I will volunteer at an art camp. Then in July, I will fly to Idaho to visit a childhood friend. Though I really look forward to the trip, I sure hope my legs can stand the cramped seating on the plane. As I am sure I have said before in my posts about retirement, no day is long enough!

As Linda Ellerbee used to say, "and so it goes..."

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

To The Bright Edge of The World by Eowyn Ivey

I can’t say that the exploration of Alaska during the late nineteenth century was a plot line that grabbed my attention, but because I adored Eowyn Ivey’s first novel, The Snow Child, I could not wait to get my hands on this, her second novel.

Perhaps you remember that the United States purchased Alaska from the Russians in 1867. There was much unknown about the place, so naturally the U.S. sent military personnel out to see what could be found there. And thus we meet U.S. Army Colonel Allen Forrester and his small band of men as they begin their expedition into the Wolverine River valley in 1885.

Forrester keeps a journal of his travels so that should he not return, his newly pregnant wife Sophie will know at least most of what he went through. They have not been married long and it is hard to be separated. Back at the Vancouver Barracks in Washington territory, Sophie keeps a diary of days apart from her husband. Mixed in with these entries are illustrations, photographs and drawings of all sorts, as well as modern day letters between the Colonel’s great nephew and a museum curator in Alaska.

Greatly dependent on the native tribes’ knowledge and guidance, Forrester and his men are mystified by their seemingly supernatural practices and beliefs. Challenged by the snow and ice, the loss and lack of foodstuffs, torturous rocky climbs and bodily injuries, often it is the native people who save the lives of the military men. Lots of suspense herein!

But I have to admit that for me, Sophie Forrester’s story was the heartfelt stuff that gave this novel its richness. A bird watcher, Sophie loves to roam the wilderness near the barracks. She tries her hand at sketching birds, but feels dissatisfied with her efforts. The she gets her hands on a book about the new art of photography. Soon she manages to acquire a camera, chemicals and plates. Before too long, Sophie creates a tented structure to use as a blind, and from behind its folds, aims her camera at her beloved birds in their nests and in flight.

But all is not fun and games for Sophie; she worries about her husband so very far away in an unknown territory. Letters reach her only rarely and we feel the anguish both wife and husband must suffer through. Thank goodness Sophie has a servant girl who helps the time pass. The other military wives at the barracks find Sophie odd. Women photographers were unheard of but Sophie begins to succeed in capturing light and motion. I was delighted by this turn of events.

So much happens during this one spring and summer of 1885, the novel has an epic quality. Rhythmic in its perambulations between the various journal and diary entries, letters and clippings, given these methods of telling the story, somehow Ivey makes it all come alive. To the Bright Edge of the World is historical fiction well worth the snow glare! Venture out to its chilling, thrilling edge.

(This review first appeared on LitLovers.) 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Yes, We Went to Vegas

We are not the kind of folks who you might expect would go to Vegas. But neither my husband Tom or I had ever been, so for our 11th wedding anniversary this month we went on a Southwest vacation junket to the so-called Sin City. I'll go anywhere I've never been once! We are not gamblers. I did play some Pinball at the Pinball Hall of Fame. We ate well, walked a lot and I took plenty of pictures. 

What struck me most was the throngs of people crowding the streets of the Strip and how diverse they were. Most folks probably America and a few people from all over the world too, I suppose. More than anything, walking those crowded street reminded me of Manhattan. They say Houston is the most diverse city in America, but rarely do I walk through such crowded streets here. Vegas is surreal, but the happy throngs of people somehow grounded me. I did not like walking through casinos. They all seemed the same and for me, had a sad undertone. 

Our favorite tourist attraction: the Neon Museum. Here is a wonderful cactus sign from an demolished motel. We much enjoyed talking to one of the guides who had just gotten her history degree. She had such enthusiasm for the place, as well as knowledge.

Can you see Aladdin's Lamp? The Aladdin Motel is famous for being the place where Elvis married Priscilla Beaulieu on May 1, 1967.

Beverage neon!

A huge, rusty old pool shooter sculpture.

The Pinball Hall of fame was a bit underwhelming, really just a big arcade. But I loved dropping my quarters into a few tables. I also enjoyed taking photos of the retro pinball imagery.

Here is the Statue of Liberty replica designed and created by the artist Robert Davidson outside the New York-New York resort. An interesting tidbit about this statue: the U.S. Postal Service used a photo of this statue on a 2010 Forever postage stamp, not realizing the image was from a replica. You can read more about that fracas here in a NY Times article.

We could see the Bellagio fountains from our hotel room. They provide a fountain show every night. For me it was something akin to a ballet or fireworks show, all done with water, amazing! And the last night we were in Vegas, we took in a Cirque du Soleil show at the Bellagio, a wonderful gift from my sister-in-law and her husband.

Would we ever go to Vegas again? No, but I'm glad we crossed this trip off our bucket list and saw the city in all its nefarious, funky and oh-so-polished glory.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A Few Old Fashioned and/or Curious Words

Lately I've been thinking about some old fashioned words we don't hear used much anymore. Abide with me! We will mosey through my alphabetical list. Probably most people will recognize most of these words, but not all. I have a little notebook devoted to words and phrases I am fond of or curious about and come across in books I read.

Abide - to remain, to stay, and even more, for the staying to be steadfast. "Abide with Me: Fast Falls the Eventide" by Henry Francis Lyte is a lovely old hymn. You can hear Audrey Assad perform the hymn on YouTube.

Akimbo - This word makes me smile. All it means is standing with your hands on hip and elbows bent. Can't you just picture someone with their arms akimbo, saying "Who says I have to obey you?" or some other defiant statement? Also, it makes me think of the body language of parents might use telling their kids that they should behave.

Caboodle - We've all heard of the whole kit and caboodle. (It seems related to the word oodles, as both mean lots of something.) Apparently the word caboodle was born here in the USA (circa 1880s) and used to mean a group of people, but largely survives in usage as combined with the word kit.

Cavort - Who doesn't want to cavort now and then? Let us prance and caper about! It can be used to imply someone is wasting their time, but I prefer not to think of it that way. We should all get extravagant with our time now and then.

Cleave - This word interests me because it has two meanings that are quite opposite of each other. The first meaning involves sticking or adhering to something, holding fast.  The second meaning involves separating, splitting and rending apart. Oh well, you have to look at in context.

Clement - Mild or merciful, compassionate. This word stems from the Latin clemens, meaning calm or mild. Oppositely, when weather is inclement, of course it is harsh. Those going before a judge hope he or she will show clemency and not its opposite.

Flumadiddle - This word's meaning is (to me), just what it sounds like: frills, fringe or other such trimmings on a dress. I can not remember where I first saw the word, but think it was in a historical novel. Merriam Webster gives its first meaning being something foolish or even worthless.

Forthwith - What force this word has. If we are doing something forthwith, we are doing it immediately, without delay. I certainly don't hear or see it used very often. I also like the word henceforth (from now on), and think it has the same old fashioned ring that forthwith has.

Mosey - We all know how to mosey along, simply moving, going along or strolling. Mosey implies a certain leisureliness that we don't often indulge in and perhaps that is why I like it so much. I wish I could just mosey along through life, but often seem to be rushing around instead.

Skedaddle - Another word about movement! When we skedaddle, we hurry along, run away or take flight. For me, it has a certain silliness factor. Merriam Webster gives one of its meanings as scram, surprising to me for scram seems like slang and is a word I haven't heard in a long time.

And thus ends my indulgence in the investigation of a handful of words. As a child, one of my favorite possessions was a dictionary. I wrote about that here on the blog in 2017. I certainly hope that curiosity continues. So many books, so little time, and the same goes for words. Continuing to write this blog keeps my brain active, as do crossword puzzles. I have only recently grown fond of the daily mini crossword puzzle in the NY Times, but have little patience for longer crossword puzzles. If you are reading this, thank you. Now it is time for me to skedaddle into the kitchen and make dinner!

(collage above, "Cheer Up" by Keddy Ann Outlaw)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

A New Collage Series

It was great to get back to making art after the holidays. Here are a few new collages from the series I call "Jubilation" because the are all about rejoicing via color. My process involves mono-printing on thin painted papers and tissue paper. Then I cut the papers to arrange them in compositions. Finally, I have to mount them on large pieces of very thick cotton paper (not shown here), my least favorite part of the process. Getting the squares exactly centered and adhered to the substrata without any of the matte gel medium I use as an adhesive getting out onto the white paper is tricky. But then they are ready to enter in shows or sell, so must I grit my teeth and bare it. I would rather be printing or collaging!

Jubilation 24 -- some of the squares here show papers printed with string, a wood block and homemade printing plates.

Jubilation 16 -- I used some stencils and a piece of plastic grid to print some of these papers.

Jubilation 20 -- you can see more string prints, as well as marks made with objects such as bottle lids to make circles. It has been bugging me that  can not remember how I made the red lines resembling the shape of an iron at the top of this composition.

A sampling of my printed tissue papers.

A sampling of thin papers printed and ready to use in collage.

Back now to playing with colors and shapes!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Favorite Reads, 2018

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (Knopf, 2018). A woman who has been pining for grandchildren suddenly finds herself in a variation of that role. Classic Tyler!

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel. (Riverhead, 2018). This novel digs deep into the dynamics of a classical music quartet. Physical, mental and musical intimacy make for many complications.

Girl on the Leeside by Kathleen A. Kenney (Anchor, 2018). Siobhan, a shy orphan who loves myths and legends, grows up behind the bar at her uncle's pub in western Ireland. Well into her twenties, she begins to emerge from her shell due to surprising interactions with two visitors.

Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen (MIRA, 2018). A widower quits the Forest Service to go live in an enchanted treehouse. Second chances are the big theme here. One of my favorite characters was an elderly librarian whose library is falling into decrepitude.

Heartland: a Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh (Scribner, 2018). Smarsh gives poverty in America a complete examination, using economic, historical and sociological lenses. Stark and unrelenting, ripping off the scabs from the wounds of poverty the author's family has endured, Heartland begs for group discussions.

Miss You by Kate Eberlen (Macmillan, 2016). Tess and Gus meet in Florence the summer they are both eighteen. Readers then follow them through their young adult years in separate chapters, wondering if or how they might meet again. A suspenseful, saga-like novel which I dearly missed once it ended.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2002). Imagine that your bother commits murder trying to protect your family. Then he breaks out of jail. Would you try to find him? That's what the Land family must do, setting off on a quest through the Dakota Badlands. Miracles and revelations follow. I hope this books stays in print forever; it reads like a classic.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Viking, 2011). A love triangle pulls apart the lives of those involved, very much testing the concept of soulmates. Set in Manhattan during 1939, this novel was tense, colorful and hard to put down. Towles really knows how to spin a tale!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2018). Survival, love, loss, art, ecology and the redemptive powers of nature all tangle together in this tale of a girl named Kya who just about raises herself deep in the marshlands of coastal North Carolina. Oh, and it's also a murder mystery of sorts. Everyone I know who has read this book absolutely raves about it.

The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook (Little, Brown and Company, 2018). When a boy in post-Civil War Texas is called upon by a judge to write letters of testimony about an accused murderer, he proves himself to be quite the colorful storyteller, detailing a madcap journey of revenge and adventure surrounding the hunt for the giant wild panther who killed his mother.