SYW: Laughter, Music, Soaring, and Conservation

Melanie has some great questions this week for Share Your World!

QUESTIONS

How do you tell if someone has a sense of humor? 
If they laugh a lot. I know a woman who has the most unique laugh, and when I hear that laugh across the room, I know it’s her. She laughs often and when I’m with her I try to say funny things so I can hear her laugh!

What sort of music do you prefer?
Prefer: Right now, classical, but my tastes change sometimes. I also like rock, especially the Beatles (I have the Beatles Channel on my XM radio in the car). I like folk, blues, and world music of all types. This month, I’m hearing a lot of Celtic music! As for jazz, I only like certain kinds. I like big band and Dixieland but not “improvisational” jazz which just goes on and on. I get tired of it. But usually I choose classical or certain vocal groups, such as the Angel City Chorale (this group sings just about anything).

Thoughts on gravy or ‘sauce”?   Yea or nay?

I like some sauces, especially salsa if it’s mild (my digestive system doesn’t tolerate anything spicy) and has fruit like mango added to it. Gravy is okay, I don’t use it unless the meat is really dry – too many empty calories!

Would you enjoy a hot air balloon ride?

I’m not sure…I have had opportunities to go on them, for an additional cost, during tours when I’m traveling. But my husband is afraid of heights and absolutely would never go on one. So unless I had someone to go with, I probably wouldn’t. I guess I’m neutral.

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GRATITUDE SECTION (As always, optional)

What do you think is widely taken for granted?  

The goods and services we enjoy in our society. We never thank anyone for the water that automatically comes out of our faucets when we turn on the tap. We don’t thank anyone for the electricity that powers our lights and electronics. I am reading a fantastic book, Braiding Sweetgrass, in which I found out that many Native American tribes thank everything they use – the animals they kill and use every part of, the trees which provide so much more than just shade, and plants that provide them with food. Saying grace before a meal is a good – but, I fear, dying – custom. It seems the more we have, the more we want and the more we take it all for granted. This is, I’m afraid, is what makes people reluctant to conserve – to reduce, reuse, and recycle – in order to save our precious resources.

FPQ #159: Love Is All You Need

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week is as follows:

If there are only three things in life that truly matter, what do you think they are and why did you choose those three?

My answers are all about love, which leads to all else that truly matter.

  1. Self-love. If you don’t love yourself, you will not have the capacity to truly and selflessly love others, and you will probably have a miserable life. Self-love (or self-esteem) involves self-care: taking care of your physical and mental health and seeking help when needed; searching for work that really suits you and that you like; it brings out loving characteristics, such as kindness, respect, honesty, gratitude, and the ability to smile every day. Self-love allows you to feel gratitude for things great and small that you have or that happen to you. Self-love also is genuinely accepting love from others.
  2. Love for others: friends and family. I am lucky to have a wonderful extended family that loves and supports each other, and we are also financially secure. I am blessed for that! But even without actual kin, you can create a family of sorts with the people that love and care for you, perhaps a group/organization you belong to, or people who share your residence, or just your friends in general. Love for others, though, goes beyond these relationships. It is also caring for people you don’t even know, people who live in other countries, compassion for those who are suffering, nearby and far away. There is too much hate in our world today. Love for others means being kind toward others, showing respect, being honest, helping and showing interest in others. Love for others is non-judgmental; it’s about showing gratitude for others’ gifts, support, love, and care. If more people spent their time loving others, instead of hating or putting people down, this world would be a much better place! We might even have peace all over the world – imagine no more war!
  3. Love for Earth or the natural world. I am reading a very good book right now, called Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The author is a Native American (Potawatomi) woman who writes about loving and showing gratitude for the gifts we receive from others, especially from the land. She shows how the natural world gives us gifts every day, which we would appreciate if we just stopped and looked around: every living thing, as well as non-living things, is here for a purpose and each has its own work to do to provide gifts to other living things, including ourselves. We are part of the web of life of this planet and we should not take it for granted.
  1. Love for Earth means taking care of it – this is the home of everyone and every thing we know, and it’s the only one we have – as of 2022, we cannot move anywhere else! Climate scientists are issuing dire warnings that we must curb our reliance on fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases. Already the planet has heated up to the point where we are seeing more natural disasters: flooding on coastlines as the sea level rises, wildfires that destroy everything in their path in areas with prolonged drought, hurricanes which have increased in number and intensity due to the warming of the oceans, avalanches where excessive rainfall causes the eroding of the soil, and many others. It will soon affect us all, especially our children, grandchildren, and successive generations who will continue to live here. And scientists warn that eventually it will be an unpleasant place to live.

    To love the Earth, we must stop polluting air, land, and bodies of water. Increasingly, medical scientists are finding that many forms of cancer are caused by breathing polluted air or drinking polluted water. Also, the land is home for many animals who share this planet with us and we are trashing their homes! A sixth massive extinction is taking place right now, and it is being caused by human activities. Even if you are a person who really doesn’t care about people outside your circle of family and friends, every creature on this planet has a purpose – plants and animals that feed us, species that provide medicines which can cure many diseases (and we haven’t found them all, so some may become extinct without being able to provide us with its gift of healing medicines), and the removal of which disrupts the food chain, either in minor or major ways – we can make predictions but cannot say for sure how serious the impact of altering any particular food chain will be.

    People who show love for the natural world work, if they can, to advocate for cleaner ways of living, for finding solutions to problems such as how to provide fuel to heat people’s homes, provide energy for cars, machinery, etc. A great lover of the Earth is the Swedish young woman Greta Thunberg, who has turned her local protest at her high school into a worldwide movement. But there are many ways to love and show gratitude toward the natural world, including recycling, reducing what we use (such as single use plastics), and reusing what we can. It includes walking outside on a pleasant day and appreciating the beauty of the flowers (if they are blooming where you are) or the cycle of life, in which each season has its purpose to perpetuate future seasons. It includes having gratitude for the (hopefully) fresh air we breathe, for the coolness of a stream we dabble our toes in, for the sun that warms us and the moon and stars which cheer us.

CFFC: Paper and Books Memorabilia

The theme of Cee;s Fun Foto Challenge this week is books and paper. When I looked up my photos in this category, I found memorabilia (personal and historical), such as the following:

At the Overlord Museum at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France

I don’t think this display is really made of paper, but it’s meant to look like the pages of a book. This display describing the history of the hotel and the findings of Howard Cater was in the lobby of the Sofitel Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor, Egypt.

In our local newspaper, The Daily Herald, there is a column on Sunday that I enjoy reading called “Grammar Moses.” Jim Baumann, Mr. Grammar Moses himself, writes about grammar and spelling gaffes, mistakes, and clarification of usage of particular words or phrases sent in by readers. How often have we all seen a sign like this one?

Cards Against Humanity is a sort of nasty card game that is also hilarious (if you like this sort of thing), which I’d never heard of before until our son-in-law introduced it to us. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, seek out this game if you are not prepared for truly sick and twisted humor! Every once in a while, I get in the mood for it, and then I ask my son-in-law if we can play it next time we go over to their house…

Books and coloring books were my solace and salvation during the pandemic quarantine, in the spring of last year.

I did some original artwork during those months too.

SYW: Graveyards, Scary Books, Black Cats, and Multiple Dimensions

Here it is, the end of the week, and I am only now getting around to participating in Melanie’s Share Your World!

Here are her Halloween-themed questions:’

Name something you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark forest or in an abandoned building  (yeah it’s a retread.  But there are new participants to SYW too who probably never answered it)
Anyone with a gun, knife, or other weapon. On the other hand, I wouldn’t go into a dark forest or abandoned building by myself for fear of running into such a person.

Do you believe in multiple dimensions or worlds?
Yes. There are definitely other “worlds” (planets) outside our solar system – several have already been discovered. With the number of stars just in our galaxy alone, I think it is highly probable that life exists on many of these planets. As for multiple dimensions, some scientists are exploring the idea of multiple universes or life mimicking our own in some other dimension. Don’t we already have at least four dimensions? And I remember the rock band The 5th Dimension. That’s enough proof for me!

Would you ever go to a graveyard at night?
I don’t know why I would do that, although I do enjoy exploring graveyards & cemeteries in the daytime. There are so many stories of past lives to contemplate there.

Graveyard in France

What is the most frightening book you’ve ever read?
I tend not to read really scary books. I’ve seen a few very scary movies, but they only last a couple of hours while typically I take at least a week to read a book – and I like to read before I go to bed!! I once decided to join a Halloween book group which was reading Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. I think I had read 20 pages or so and had to stop because it was too creepy and scary for me! I have never tried to participate in a scary book group again!

BONUS QUESTION (just for silliness’ sake!)

 If you could have a spooky Halloween pet (black cat, owl, bat, rat, wolf), which would you pick out of the five choices? No contest – a black cat. I love cats!

GRATITUDE SECTION (As always, optional)
What are you grateful for?  
My “tortie” cat, Hazel, who is mostly black!

Truthful Tuesday: Chronological vs Non-Chronological

Truthful Tuesday

PCGuyIV’s Truthful Tuesday this week prefaces , then asks the following question:

In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine a one-and-done story line, as even books and movies that started off as one-off stories have turned into multi-part franchises, and film series we thought were done have gotten fresh material added. Star Wars comes to mind specifically. The first movie was presented almost as a stand-alone with the thought that sequels might happen, but no guarantee. After the first three movies were done, that seemed to be all. Then the prequels, for better or worse, happened, and now there are three more sequels, two ancillary movies, and related TV shows. With all that said, this week’s question is all about sequels, prequels, and tangents.

Regardless of the media, when it comes to stories, do you prefer those that are perfectly sequential in their writing, such as the seven original Harry Potter books or Frank Herbert’s Dune series, or do you find stories that skip around in the timeline, such as the nine central Star Wars films to be more entertaining?

I prefer sequential, but flashbacks or time changes are OK when they are done well, in literature. In movies, these time switches are more confusing. In this I’m referring to time switches within one book or movie.

When movies or books are in a series I enjoy, then I anticipate any of those that come after. But sometimes, it just seems like a movie studio’s way of capitalizing on a successful film, especially when the sequels or prequels are weak. The ones that come after the original usually are not as good and it’s as if the screenwriters can’t come up with anything new. But if the sequels/prequels enhance or add to the story being told, then I’m all for it. I loved all the Harry Potter movies and thought they were pretty faithful to the books. I also liked the original Star Wars trilogy, but then lost interest with the prequels,, although they weren’t bad. I guess I prefer sequential, or chronological in time.

With books, I prefer sequential – most of the time, authors write sequels that move the characters forward in time, even if each book can stand alone. I’m thinking of certain mystery series, such as Tony Hillerman’s novels about Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, cops on the Navajo Reservation. They were more believable that way. If they were static in time, I don’t think I’d like them as much, even though I didn’t read them in strictly chronological order. There are many classics, too, that I got interested in based on the first book and can look forward to reading the sequels – such as Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, as well as Outlander (although this last series got tedious after awhile, and the books kept getting longer. I had trouble keeping track of all the characters.). As a kid, I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” books, which I read in order. I enjoyed accompanying the lives of Laura and her family, and finding out how the characters changed over time and the experiences they had. I have never read a “prequel” in a series of books, but I don’t think I’d like it as much.

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Here are the first 8 books in the Outlander series. I have read them all, over a period of 20 years, but I had trouble getting through the last few. Too many characters to keep track of, like when a character is introduced in a scene in one book and then pops up in another book later on. My memory can’t keep track of all these people! Also, I got tired of Gabaldon’s writing style, so I tended to read the really long later books in spurts – when I got annoyed with either the writing style or the myriad of characters, I’d put it aside and read something else for awhile…which may account for why I can’t remember all the characters and their significance to the story line. (Sigh!)

Looking up images for the Outlander series, I’ve learned there is a NINTH book which came out this year! Should I read it? I probably will, eventually. (I hope the title means the series will come to an end.)

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Monday Window: The Summer of Frida

The Summer of Frida is my theme for this week’s Monday Window hosted by Ludwig Keck. People in the Chicago area – especially in the suburbs of Glen Ellyn and Wheaton – are going gaga over Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist who painted a variety of subjects reflecting her experience and Mexican culture, as well as many self-portraits meant to portray her own thoughts and feelings.

“Frida in New York” (1946), photo by Nicholas Muray

At the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, the theatre on campus built a brand new gallery in 2018-19 specifically to house an exhibit of 26 Frida Kahlo works borrowed from the Dolores Olmedo Museum in Mexico City. After negotiating with the museum for the exhibit, they planned for it to take place in the summer of 2020.

We all know what happened in 2020 – Covid-19 – so the exhibit was postponed, and opened with great success and fanfare on June 5, 2021. It will run until early September.

Dale next to the “2021” that is painted in Mexican style at the museum. If you look carefully, you can see that the style and colors of the painting on the numeral 1 are different from the other digits – that’s because the original number was “2020” and they had to get a different artist to paint the number 1.

The exhibit is expected to draw large crowds, so one must buy tickets online with a specific date and time for entry. Already reservations have come in from 48 states and 6 other countries! Not wanting to lose the opportunity to capitalize on this event, the suburban communities of Glen Ellyn and its neighbor, Wheaton, have decorated their downtown areas with festive “papel picado” (colorful banners of crepe paper with designs cut in them), large pots of colorful flowers (Frida Kahlo loved flowers, which figure prominently in her work) and by painting images of the artist on the windows of stores and restaurants.

This downtown Wheaton street is blocked off to traffic and tents have been erected to have outside seating for several restaurants. We didn’t eat outside because the weather was too hot! Note the colorful flower pots and “papel picado” crepe paper banners.

I have a good friend who lives in Wheaton and is a Spanish professor at the college, so after we toured the exhibit, we went to downtown Wheaton for lunch, where we saw several of these windows.

My friend Sandy and her husband taking a selfie in front of one of the windows.
This pizzeria is across the street from the restaurant where we had lunch.

Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacan, Mexico in 1907 to a German father and a Mexican mother. Her father was a photographer, so there are many photos of Frida and her family. At school, she was studying the prerequisites for medical school but in 1926, on her way home from school, the bus she was riding in was in a serious accident when it collided with another vehicle.

Frida’s drawing of the accident

Frida was thrown to the ground and suffered serious injuries from which she never fully recovered, in spite of having several surgeries. While in a body cast, she began to paint on it, thus initiating her career as an artist.

A replica of one of Frida’s body casts that she painted on.

She broke her pelvic bone, and fractured her back in three places, the result of which she was almost always in pain, and was not able to birth a child.

At the age of 20, she married the famous muralist Diego Rivera, and spent time in New York, San Francisco, and Detroit, where he had commissions to paint murals. Diego said of Frida that she was a better painter than he was! Anyone who sees the beauty of her subjects, and the intricate details and symbolism in her paintings would tend to agree!

Coincidentally, there’s a new biography out by Celia Stahr, called Frida in America. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in knowing more about Frida Kahlo and her work. Several of her works, mainly those painted while she lived in the United States, are featured in the book.

SYW: A Depressed Dreamer Makes Someone Cry

Here are Melanie’s Share Your World Questions this week and my responses.

QUESTIONS

Would you rather be a super nice person and be depressed all your life, or be happy and a total *sshole?  (Credit goes to Cyranny for this question, aired on one of her “Cyranny’s Quickies” posts.)
I would like to rebel as some respondents have, and try to recombine these choices. But, having a loved one who suffers from depression and because I’m reading a book about the subject in order to understand it better (the cover of that book appears below), I do not see “depression” and “being nice” as a dichotomy. Yup, here I go, taking this questions perhaps WAY too seriously! But that’s what happens when I’m involved in something that is really a very complex question. So please forgive me for overthinking this seemingly binary choice!

I definitely would not want to be an a-hole in any condition and I doubt it would make me happy. Although I suppose there are plenty of happy people who are oblivious to the fact that they are cruel jerks – or they just don’t care. It wouldn’t be me, though. I have too strong a moral compass and always feel guilty when I treat someone badly.

That said, it is perfectly logical to be both nice and depressed. For one thing, very few people are depressed “all the time.” Depression comes and goes. When someone is in a deep depression, they often isolate themselves, cut themselves off from friends and family. People close to them see the warning signs and then may try to intervene.

When someone suffering from depression is NOT depressed, however, he or she seems like a completely different person! When they are not depressed, people who suffer from this mental illness are often quite nice people. Why, you may ask? It may seem like a contradiction, but actually it isn’t. Because there is such a contrast between the depressed and normal states, these people tend to appreciate life and other people more when they are feeling ‘normal’. They feel things acutely and tend to be very sensitive. They are often empathetic (that is, when they are not depressed). They know what it is like to suffer greatly, and know that during their normal state, they should enjoy life and accomplish as much as they can, because they also know that the darkness and isolation – the abyss – will return. The best time for them to seek help with their mental illness is when they are feeling good, because during depression, they can hardly get out of bed, much less do something constructive. When they are depressed and thus miss an event they looked forward to attending, they feel really bad about that, and know that most people at the event probably didn’t expect them to attend, but would have been pleasantly surprised if they had showed up. They live with a lot of guilt, but they usually take that out on themselves, not on other people. (It’s true that the suicide rates are much higher among depressives than non-depressives.) They do invariably hurt people, but usually unintentionally, so you can’t say they are fundamentally a-holes.

So if I had to choose, I would rather be nice and depressed. First of all, the depression doesn’t last forever, and nowadays there is plenty of help for depression, in the form of medications and therapy. New drugs are constantly being put on the market that improve on earlier ones, because medical understanding of depression constantly improves. If one medication doesn’t work, there are others, and different combinations, to try.

Believe me, I don’t desire to be depressed! I wouldn’t wish that on anybody! But as you have posed an either/or choice, this is my reasoning for choosing depression and being nice.

Have you ever made someone cry?
Of course – even though I’m nice and not an a-hole, I am not perfect! I’m sure I’ve made my son cry, but I can’t remember the last time that was.

Are you a dreamer or a go-getter?
I’m a dreamer and unfortunately, not a go-getter. It would be better to act on my dreams, and to some extent I have, but I am not one of those assertive, in-your-face types.

If you were in a band, what instrument would you play?
Probably the piano, because it’s the only instrument I have ever learned to play. But instruments don’t have to be external – I consider my voice an instrument, and so I would be the singer. I sing much better than I play the piano anyway.


GRATITUDE SECTION

Do you feel gratitude is necessary? 
Yes, or rather I feel it SHOULD be necessary. Everyone should feel gratitude about the good things in life, or the people who have touched them. It is necessary for ME, anyway, to feel gratitude. I try to stop and count my blessings or appreciate my life in some way every day.

I greatly appreciate the following song and am grateful that John Lennon gave us his talents until his tragic death in 1980.

Truthful Tuesday: More on Reading Preferences

Truthful Tuesday continues this week on the subject of books and reading.

  1. Are there any books that you can read over and over again, and never seem to tire of?
    Yes, but not too many times and usually there is a space of several years between readings. I have read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice three or four times, and some of her other novels twice. Like I said, I have to be in the right frame of mind, so it doesn’t happen a lot. There are just so many books and so little time!!
  2. Have any of your favorite authors written any books that you just didn’t care for?
    Of course. No author writes a masterpiece every time, and of course, what constitutes a masterpiece is a matter of opinion usually. One of my favorite authors is Barbara Kingsolver, and I will usually buy and/or read anything she writes that I come across, but occasionally it doesn’t interest me much. Not all of Jane Austen’s novels are great, but the worst is the one she didn’t finish, and the version I have, the author who finished it for her wrote a very dull tale. Sometimes an author will write a trilogy or a series of books about the same topic, or set in the same place or with the same characters, but then I decide to read something else he/she has written, and don’t care for it. This happens especially with mystery writers who then write something else. I’m sure there are other examples but I can’t think of them right now.
  3. When it comes books, do you prefer reading fiction or non-fiction? The genre is unimportant.
    I like both fiction and non-fiction. I actually got on a non-fiction jag for awhile, but non-fiction books often take more time to read so fiction is easier. But you know what they say: Truth can be stranger than fiction!

    Also I am in some book groups so I read whatever the book selected is, whether fiction or non-fiction. I like book groups because I get out of my comfort zone and read something different, and often it is wonderful!

    My favorite genre is historical fiction, where I can learn about a time and place and at the same time enjoy the story. The only problem is knowing which parts are true and which are not. But usually I don’t care too much.

Truthful Tuesday: Reading

Frank has some great questions this week for Truthful Tuesday about one of my favorite subjects: books and reading!!

The Questions

  1. Do you consider yourself an avid reader?
    Not “avid” but enthusiastic, for sure! (Avid is a woman in one of my book groups who checks out ten books a week and finishes them all! I actually have a life outside reading!) I grew up being encouraged to read, and I read a lot of the books kids, particularly girls, read in those days. But I wasn’t a great reader because it took me a long time to read most books. I avoided classes and majors that required a lot of reading, to my detriment. I now know why: I have ADHD, and get distracted, so if I’m not totally engaged, I will forget what I’ve read by the time I get to the end of a page or am thinking about something else and not what is on the page.

    When I was in my early 30s, I resolved to become a better reader, and set a goal for myself of 12 books per year – doable, only one per month, but more than I had been reading. One of the authors that inspired me to read more was Jane Austen, and I read all of her books as well as some “spin-offs” and “fan fiction.” My resolve to read 12 books a year put me on track to read more and regularly. Especially after I retired, I’ve been reading more and more. Now I have an account on Goodreads, which has a reading challenge every year. I set my own goal (which is now 40 books a year) and am conscientious about achieving it! I’m also in two book groups, so I read different types of books.
  2. What was the last book you read all the way through, and how long did it take you?
    Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal, picked by a book group I participate in. This book is Pride & Prejudice updated to Pakistan in 2000-2001. Being a Jane Austen fan, I found the story highly entertaining. It took me 4-5 days to read it. If I really love a book, I will spend hours reading, neglecting my blog for days!
  3. Are there any books that, try as you might, you just haven’t been able to bully your way through?
    I’ve been trying to get through a book of speeches by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I read a page or two, then go back to another book I’m reading (I often read more than one book at a time) that I enjoy more. I’ve been on page 204 for weeks. I want to finish it, but I don’t know when and if I will.

Monday Peeve

Paula at Light Motifs II has a weekly forum for people to let off steam!! It’s the Monday Peeve!

monday peeve kitty cat

Paula was talking about unreliable narrators in novels and it made me think about the book I just finished, which I really liked, called Homelands by Alfredo Corchado. The book is non-fiction, a memoir about binationality and immigration. Being an immigrant from Mexico, like three other friends, pulls him in different directions. Is he American or Mexican? Anyway, this isn’t a book review so I will get to the point!

He often injects conversations into the narrative. Although he starts a new paragraph, he DOESN’T USE QUOTATION MARKS! So it gets confusing when you are not quite sure if the person is speaking or not. He doesn’t make a distinction, except to start a new paragraph. Further confusing the issue, he will refer to the person who’s speaking only as he or she, and because he often goes on tangents, it’s not clear who “he” or “she” is. The use of pronouns isn’t enough when you are reading a tangent about something that happened in the past, with no real break between that and the “present-day” narrative.

Relatively minor, but it’s only a peeve after all! I will give my rating on Goodreads as I do with all my books, but he loses a star for this lack of quotation marks and the resulting confusion!

I do recommend the book, however, for readers who want to know what it’s like to be an immigrant, especially from Mexico, from the inside – that is, the immigrant him/herself, not a narrative of someone looking at it from the outside.