Wild About Books

Wild About Books is about reading good books and sharing how they impact your life.  I’ll guide you in our monthly book selection, but there will also be references to many other books in the weekly posts.

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Guest and New Book Selection; sort of

The new book selection is not a book this time.  It’s a magazine.  I subscribe to the monthly magazine “The Sun“.  My first introduction to The Sun was many years ago when my good friend Deborah gave it to me as a Christmas present.  I read each issue cover to cover until the subscription ran out.  After that I would occasionally buy an issue usually when I was traveling to read on the plane.  Now with so much of my time spent reading and writing I have subscribed to the magazine once again.  Every year I think about not re-subscribing as I struggle to find the time to read them each month.  But my husband started reading them too and asked that I continue the subscription.  So I do.

This magazine has no ads.  No ads at all.  It is a non-profit magazine based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It is full of many styles of writing.  Every issue has an interview, non-fiction writing, fiction writing, short stories, essays, poems, black and white photography and my favorite section; “Readers Write”.  Each issue has somewhat of a theme that sews it together.  For example, the September issue that I’m reading now has a racism, justice, prejudice theme.  Each issue is thought provoking, educational, and gives the reader an intense feeling of empathy towards all human beings.

The interview for September is with American philosopher, political activist, social critic and author Cornel West who says in his interview; “……because nowadays it is rare to see a right-wing person and a left-wing person who live and respect each other and engage in dialogue.  We live in a society where it’s all about the will to power, the will to dominate, the will to conquer.  The change in the culture has a lot to do with the eclipse of integrity and honesty and decency, and the normalization of corruption, deceit and mendacity.  It’s all about manipulating your political opponents to diminish them and show that they have nothing to say or contribute.  People no longer have dialogue.  It’s all monologue.”

I’ve always wanted to contribute to the Readers Write section.  They list a theme and deadline each issue.  “Equality” is due October 1 and “Beyond Belief” is due November 1.  I never get one written or submitted.  I clearly needed a challenge to get me on task.

So.  I challenged my son and fellow writer to submit to the Readers Write section of The Sun every month and whomever gets published first has to take the other one out to dinner where ever they want to go.  I’m choosing to go back to the all vegan restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan if I win.

Last month I submitted my story for the topic “Weight”  in which I wrote about the weight of my backpack.  This month’s topic is “Guest” and is due September 1.  I’m going to write my submission now for my blog readers, starting in this next paragraph.  I highly recommend “The Sun” magazine.  You can find it online or at “The Good Food Store” in Missoula, Montana. To find more great reading recommendations check out my blog at Wild About Books.

Guest

She was a guest.  Although, we didn’t know it at the time.  She immersed herself into our lives full throttle.  Her sad, yellow lab, puppy dog eyes melted our hearts and  pretty much allowed her to get away with anything.  Next thing we knew, she was not only allowed on the couch, but on the bed as well.

She would wear herself out chasing balls, chewing toys, chasing her tail and then fall asleep in our laps.  Recharging to do it all again.  We took her on small walks that got progressively longer every week.  We took her swimming in the irrigation ditch. Camping. Floating the Bitterroot river in the raft. She spent most of her time exploring the property, free to come and go, in and out of the house through the dog door as she pleased.  She brought in pinecones, sticks, deer bones, elk bones and one skull.  She was high maintenance.   She ate our underwear and socks, chewed our shoes, destroyed the plants on the deck as if we’d planted and cared for them for her exclusive enjoyment. She ate the pillowcases, ripped a hole in her dog bed, took the dish towels off the handles of the refrigerator and stove. If we had neighbors they would have heard the constant “No Ali…….NO Ali……..  ALI NO!”

She greeted us when we came home with so much unconfined puppy excitement, I thought she would explode.  She was in love with us and we were in love with her.  Her small walks turned into trail walks and those were her favorites.  Running the trail, climbing up on rocks.  Stopping ahead and looking back to see if I was coming. So much energy.  So much fun.

I felt bad leaving her when I went to work.  I would go in late.  Take long lunches at home. Leave early.  Sneak in on weekends when she napped to catch up.  Juggling puppy and work left little room for anything else.  But it was worth it.  She was a beautiful puppy and I didn’t want to do anything else.  I turned down day long trips on the Salmon river with friends who told me to bring her.  But I was too worried.  Too worried for my free spirited, high maintenance energetic puppy, to be in a dangerous situation of trucks and trailers and boat ramps.  So we would stay home and torment the cat and laze on the deck. Nap and play and walk and swim.  The life of a puppy.

It was the epitome of irony that I was the one to run over her.  In her driveway.  One hundred feet from her front door.  The place she was safe.  For almost two months she was our guest.  Now she is gone.

 

 

Wedding Week and a New Book Selection

I’ve read a lot of books since the last blog post but none have been Wild About Books worthy.  Last night I started a new book and within the first few paragraphs I knew that this would be the next book recommendation.  I can tell.  In just a few short paragraphs I can feel the rhythm, the flow, the connection between reader and writer.  I embrace the words. I embrace the story. It is right.

This instant connection also describes the relationship between my son Zach and my daughter-in-law Taylor.  I think the excitement and joy of their recent wedding week were not because of the wedding hoopla, but because we all knew from the very first paragraphs of their life together that this was right.  This couple has a rhythm, a flow, a connection that everyone delights in seeing.  This connection has extended itself into the two families.   We embrace each other.  We embrace the stories.  It is right.IMG_5674

The wedding day started with morning yoga.  The ceremony started with guided meditation.  Maybe not your typical wedding, but by far the best wedding I’ve ever attended.

It was a family wedding.  Immediate family.  There were twenty of us including the photographer Dave, who became family almost as soon as he walked in the door.  Five grandparents, five parents, three sisters, two boyfriends of sisters, one aunt, one uncle, one groom, one bride and Dave.

The Aunt was the yoga teacher and officiant and unofficial photographer.  The mother of the groom (that was me) did a reading, which included a wedding joke (appropriate joke for those of you that know me and my tendencies).  The father of the bride did a reading.  The bride and groom wrote and read their own vows.  One kiss and done.

The day was fairy tale perfect.  The wedding was held at a five bedroom house IMG_5810located on the Bitterroot River, isolated from any other houses, with views of the snow capped Bitterroot Mountain Range.  The rainy days of June let up on the wedding day allowing us to set up outside by the river.  The sun beamed on us in the morning as we did yoga in the lawn.  Soon after yoga the hair and makeup women showed up at the front door with bags of supplies to make us “pop” for the photos.  The men went to lunch at the local brewery while the women spent their day taking turns with hair and makeup. A makeup pause for  a champagne toast and gift opening as Louisiana grandma was heard saying while nodding her head “Uh uh….. Mawmaw knows what a man likes….” ,

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Mawmaw knows what a man likes

as the bride held up her new lingerie.  Mawmaw also commented after having her hair and makeup done, “Where’s Pawpaw? He’s not going to believe how beautiful I am.” as she strutted out of the room to find him.  The hair and makeup professionals had no idea that this was the women from both families in the room getting made up.  The atmosphere leaning to being just one close family.  The fairy tale wedding.

The men came back from the brewery; the groom secluded to the downstairs, the bride to the upstairs.  The rest of us shuttling items as needed.  There was no stress, the day was as relaxing as the morning yoga.  The bride, mother of the bride and sisters lounging on the bed in the make up room.  The groom, mother of the groom, and sister played pool downstairs.  The doorbell rang and the cake and cake decorator arrived.  A three tiered cake with the top tier being gluten and dairy free.  The door bell rang again as the caterer and her helper arrived to prepare dinner. The stealth like photographer quietly capturing the day for eternity.  Although it was just family, there was a wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, a best sister dress, suits, super high heels (flip flops for me in case your were having a hard time picturing this).  You could feel a little anxiousness in the air as the time arrived for the wedding ceremony.  The officiant took charge, reading off the next person on the list to the groom as he escorted us to our seats.  Everyone in their place and the officiant welcomed us all, invited us to close our eyes and whether we knew it our not, guided us through some mindfulness meditation.  She melted the small amount of tension, eased everyone back to a safe and comfortable place.  Fluffing of the dress, presentation of the rings. The wedding ceremony proceeded as planned with the

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Where are my tissues?  Kevin!!!

river rushing by, everyone beaming with pride and joy as boxes of tissues surrounded the mother of the bride.  Tears of pride and joy could not be contained and flowed as steadily and predictably as the river.

Pictures, pictures, pictures.  Photographer Dave’s turn to take charge as he grouped us into appropriate or requested groups.  Once the photos were done we sat down at the outside patio for dinner.  Buffalo steaks, potatoes with garlic scapes, risotto with morel mushrooms and a huckleberry wedding cake.  A very Montana dinner was enjoyed by all; Montanans, Louisianans, North Carolinians.  A few toasts by the siblings and Mawmaw, who actually toasted the officiant for such a beautifully executed and heart felt ceremony.

Dinner was cleared and the dancing ensued with the bride and groom dancing to”QuestionIMG_5891by The Old 97’s,  followed by the bride, father of the bride dancing to “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton and then the groom, mother of the groom dance.  My son Zach and I got up to dance.  At this moment we still had not picked out a song.  I put my hand on his shoulder.  He put his hand on my waist.  Our other hands clasped as we waited for whomever to pick out and start our song.  It started slow, but quickly we realized that this was a county song, a fast country song. “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” by Trace Atkins.  Zach’s always said that one of the best college classes he ever took was social dancing.  We dropped our formal dancing stance as he took both of my hands and the impromptu IMG_5927swing dance began.  We danced as if we had choreographed and practiced our groom, mother of the groom dance; right down to the end when Zach flipped me. The dance floor was wide open after that.  The party began.

Some of my favorite highlights of the week included;

Louisiana grandfather, Pawpaw packing tomatoes and cucumbers in his checked bag. “Not going to eat any of those store bought tomatoes”.

Photographer Dave calling Aunt Meg and Uncle Dean the cutest old couple he’d ever met (50 and 54 respectively).

Moving our living room rocking chair out to the fire pit for Mawmaw to sit in while we

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Mawmaw in the living room furniture

all made s’mores.

North Carolina Grandmother, Gennie Poe asking the father of the bride, Kevin if he could dance and them dancing on the deck to “Harper Valley PTA“, as Mawmaw and Pawpaw moved to the beat of one of their favorites.  Pawpaw telling everyone, “be sure and listen to the words, listen, listen to the words”.

Watching the Duhe’ sisters sing “Watermelon Wine” with MawMaw and Pawpaw.

The words of wisdom from Pawpaw, including “You’ll never get a corporate job if your name is VaGina”.

After the first time meeting; Pawpaw saying to Brett; “..who knew I could come all the way to Montana and meet a coon ass”.  As Father of the Bride, Kevin looks at me and quietly says, “..that’s a complement”.

This blog is for the Georgia Grandparents who were unable to attend.  I hope that my words and Meg’s pictures help to recreate the event for you. I’ve linked all of the songs so that you can click on them and listen.  We missed you.

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Pawpaw and the bride

Wait.  What about the book?  This is a blog that recommends great books.

The book selection is my favorite genre; memoir.  “Educated” by Tara Westover is a book that I just started and feel good about the start.  Take my word for it.  Call it reader’s intuition.  I’m not even going officially start it until I’m done reading a first draft manuscript from an up and coming New York City author, who just got married.

 

For more great book suggestions and other memorable adventures check out Wild About Books. 

 

 

A Mother’s Day Book Recommendation

“Sing Unburied Sing” by Jesmyn Ward is an excellent book.  There are engaging characters that you will love. Meth addict parents who you will hate.  Poverty, racism, survivors.  And ghosts.  Spirits who are stuck in the restless spirit world due to a senseless unresolved death.

The boy in the book sees them.

Converses with them.sing

The grandparents are raising the children in this book.  The mother shows up when she needs a roof over her head or a meal.  The older child calls his mother by her first name.  He knows she leaves them for days to get high.  He takes care of his toddler sister.  Their other grandparents do not acknowledge the children’s existence.   The other grandparents are white.  The father is in prison.  The black grandfather is the hero.  But many times his hands are tied.  His daughter takes his grandchildren.  He tries to talk her out of it.

“My grandfather hugged us even when we weren’t in the same room.”

“Your mother is missing the maternal gene.”

This book is a novel.  I just watched a segment on 60 Minutes about grandparents that raise their grandchildren because the parents are addicted to meth or opioids or heroine or alcohol.  The older children took care of the younger children until the grandparents stepped in.  What about the children that don’t have this life ring thrown out to them?  Where are they?  What are they eating? The segment takes place in the healthiest state in America,  Utah. What is it like in the least healthiest state?  We talk about the opioid epidemic but what about the children? Whose taking care of the children?

As long as I can remember I wanted to be a mom.  At first I wanted 9 kids so that I could have my own baseball team.  Then I wanted 5 kids.  Once the diapers were done, I decided that two kids was perfect  I had the energy for two kids.  I was a devoted, selfless, engaged mom.  I can not imagine having children and them not being the center of your world.  Feed, clothe, teach, read to, clean up after, listen to, throw the football/softball with, laugh, yell, cry.  Hard core mother instinct.   I hope my children feel me hugging them even when they are not in the room.

I highly recommend “Sing Unburied Sing” and motherhood.

Find more great book recommendations at Wild About Books.

 

 

Oregon and Homegoing

Adventure Based Learning took me on another trip to a new place.  A road trip to the Oregon Coast.  A magical place.  A place where you hike through the forest to get to the beach.  A place where you wear multiple layers of clothing, including a stocking hat and warm gloves before you walk to the beach to see the sunset.  A place where a clash of cultures lives harmoniously with a mutual  appreciation for the beauty of the great outdoors.homegoing

Ten high school students, most of whom had not left the state much less seen the ocean, two adults and the little red bus on the road again.  Camping in tents on the layover nights and in yurts on the beach in a state park.  In March.  Ergo, the adventure part. It was not warm, but it also was not raining a lot of the time. Just some of the time.

It’s not easy being a high school student.  We had one grown up mature student who could take care of herself, manage her time and money and be a leader.  The rest; not so much.  It is similar to herding cats or having three-year olds, cats or three-year olds who really care about how they look.

I was walking back from the bathroom to the campsite at the first campground near Hood River when I heard an unusual noise.  Not something I recognized.  Then I saw two of our girls heading to the bathroom.  Our state park campground had flushy toilets and hot (luke warm) showers.  The girls were walking with their roller bags.  I heard the sound of the little wheels rolling on the rough pavement.  A sound I’d never heard while camping.  A sight I’d never seen.  As if I were camping with a group of flight attendants.  This preening and primping was important to them even while camping.

There are many life lessons to be learned when traveling with a group of teenagers.  For me and for them.  We had a diverse group of students.  Many different backgrounds and stories.  Most stories they keep to themselves, afraid to be vulnerable, afraid to be a freak.  Hiding their secrets while trying to fit in.  It’s exhausting.  They slept a lot.

Most interesting observation for me was to watch the dynamics of the group while in a commercial setting such as a mega gas station or town and a natural setting such as an undeveloped beach or hiking trail.

In the commercial setting the students created a hierarchy of the haves and have-nots and the pretending to be a have with not.  The struggle of money burning a hole in their pockets, all of the things on the shelves screaming to be bought, their friend buying a sweet sugary latte at the coffee stand and caving into the same desire.  The desire for the sweet, sugary caffeine or the desire for the stigma of carrying that double layer cardboard cup with plastic sippy cup lid back to the bus.  Wanting to look the look. I warned them half way through the trip to make sure they were budgeting their money.  We provided all of the meals except for the meals on the road.  They still needed money for the ride home.  After my budgeting speech, one of the girls told me she was leaving her money on the bus so she wouldn’t be tempted to spend it.  That’s how powerful commercialism is.

In the natural setting everyone was on the same level.  Sloshing through the wet forest trail.  Slipping in the mud.  Laughing.  Helping.  Playing on the undeveloped beach, trying to get into the cold, cold ocean.  Dancing. Running.  Napping.  Being themselves and not caring how they look.  A meditative break from the stress of being a teenager.  A chance to live in the moment with nothing but nature surrounding you.

Nature binds.  Commercialism divides.  Finding a balance is part of the adventure based learning that can’t be taught in a classroom. IMG_0609

The book selection is “Homegoing”  by Yaa Gyasi.  I finished this book a week ago and it continues to play through my head.  The story covers over 300 years of two African half sisters and their decendents.  One who stays in Africa and one who is captured and sent to the United States on a slave ship.  Each chapter is its own story.  There are so many characters that it is not easy to keep them all straight in your head, in fact, it proved to be impossible for me.  I had to read the book as if it were a collection of short stories.  Short stories whose characters were all related.  I had to believe in my memory to bring back who each character was when they were referenced in a later chapter at a later time.  As the stories and characters weave through generations you find yourself having more compassion for the character who becomes a heroine addict in Harlem.  You understand why the Stanford student is afraid of water.  It is multiple generations of history that have created this person.  It is the unthinkable treatment of man by man over the centuries that creates hatred and violence.  This books takes walking in another man’s shoes to the extreme.  Three hundred years of stories that create a new generation born with an unknown weight that haunts them.

Maybe you look at the homeless guy differently now.  Maybe you have compassion for the meth addict; what is he trying to forget?  What story is he hiding?

Maybe you get irritated with the teenage girl who walks slowly on the trail.  Maybe you feel like she’s lazy while she holds the whole group up.  You probably would have yelled at her to pick it up or light a fire under her ass.  But you know her story.  She was recovering.  Recovering from her secret story that she was hiding behind.  A secret too horrific to talk about with her peers.  A secret no woman, and certainly no seventeen year old girl should have to carry with her.  Bruises still healing.

But I would have yelled at her.  I would have had no compassion. Had I not known her story; I would have yelled.

Let’s stop yelling.  We don’t know the stories that make a person who they are.

Compassion without knowing the story.  That’s the challenge.

I highly recommend the book “Homegoing” and spending time in nature.

More great book recommendations and adventure stories can be found at Wild About Books.

 

Be an Artist and the New Book Selection

I hear the sound of tires rolling over gravel.  I look out the front door and see the distinctly yellow hood of a taxi.  It comes to a stop.  Doors open and shut.  Judith, pronounced “Who-deat” in Spanish, meets us at the front door.  She brings in her massage table and bags of sheets, oils, towels and other miscellaneous massage supplies.  We help her carry everything up the tile steps to the spare bedroom in casa naranja grande; our home in Barre de Navidad for two weeks . IMG_0424

Judith doesn’t speak any English.  But we all know what to do as we take turns on the massage table.  For ninety minutes Judith rubs and kneads muscles, coating our skin with coconut oil.  She works out the built up tightness we let fester in our bodies from daily life.  This small Mexican woman is an artist, molding our muscles to a happy place.  She never says a word and works on each person as if they were her only client in the world.  She is focused, engaged, present.  The unspoken talents of a true artist.

We should all strive to be an artist in what we do.  Focused. Engaged. Present. Be an artist and you’ll lose yourself in your task.  There will be no such thing as time.  Only you and your art.  If you find you are not an artist in what you are doing, do something different.  Find what makes you an artist. This is bigger than a salary, bigger than health insurance and much bigger than climbing the proverbial ladder.

But wait.

What about washing the dishes, chopping wood, doing taxes, cooking dinner or working a mundane job that you are lucky to have?  All those things you have to do.  Good question.  Being an artist in your daily task is a choice.  You could spend more time dreading the task than the task actually takes and then pump out a half assed job.  Or, you could choose to be an artist, even with the daily chores. Break down the task into baby steps then complete each baby step focused, engaged, present.  Be a wood chopping artist like my husband.  Make cooking dinner your creative outlet like my daughter.

Or; hire it done.  Go out for your meals like my father-in-law.

The book selection is “The Alice Network”  by Kate Quinn.  An excellent read.  This novel bounces through time in the life of a young female World War I spy and her life as an older, angry, whiskey drinking woman dealing with the ghosts in her closet.  A closet that is opened by a young woman looking for help to find her cousin after World War II.  This book is difficult to put down and will keep your interest for its entirety.  The characters take their jobs seriously as war spies.  They work in occupied territories, spying on German soldiers, writing down information on rice paper and rolling it up in their hair pins in order to deliver the information to the Allies.  They are artist.  Focused. Engaged. Present. And this is how they survive.

Check out Wild About Books for more great book recommendations.

The Power of Boundless Compassion

Saturday adventures with Lisa, Heidi, and Carol also known as getting the dogs out.

We pack the cross-country skis in the back of Heidi’s truck along with the Shepherd and the Basset Hound.  The three of us load into the cab with the Yellow Lab.  We leave the cold inversion of the Bitterroot Valley and climb Lost Trail Pass where the sun is shining and the temperature is warmer. We park in the parking lot of the Gibbons Pass road, a groomed multiple use road where you will find classic skiers, skate skiers, snowmobiles and dog sleds.  The sun is shining on the snow-covered mountains making the snow sparkle as if we were in a forest covered in diamonds.  It’s quiet and peaceful and a brisk eighteen degrees.

Then, Ollie, the German Sheperd decides it’s too quiet and peaceful and starts his uncharacteristic high pitched bark.  Kevin, the Basset Hound is like “oh cool, barking time” and starts his hound dog bay which doesn’t fit his long bodied short legged personality either.  Zoe, the well mannered yellow lab, disassociates herself with the entire dog species hanging close to her mom and keeping her distance from the two barking morons who are barking for no apparent reason.IMG_0233 (1).JPG

As we ski the two dogs enjoy their ability to bark at nothing.  Short legged Kevin quickly gets winded and decides to conserve his energy for the walk as triple latte Ollie keeps up the barking.

I start thinking, “SHUT UP Fuck Shit.” over and over.  I know that fuck shit is not an actual thing but sometimes my head just puts two words together that works for me and fuck shit seemed appropriate.  We ski, Ollie barks, I think fuck shit.

Then it occurs to me that I was on day nine of my thirty-one day well-wishing challenge and that this very morning I had just read a delightful article describing the benefits of sending well wishes, The What and Why of Loving Kindness Meditation.

I look at Ollie and think, “May you be happy. May you have peace.”  Over and over.  He stops barking.  OK, maybe he was going to stop barking anyway, but you can look at this in two ways.

One, I had removed the negative “fuck shit” thoughts out of my head and replaced them with a more compassionate “may you be happy”.  This already changed my mood.  Dogs are sensitive to that (people are too, they just don’t acknowledge it).  Two, the dog knew.  The dog knew, just like children know, that I had changed my mindset.  When I was calling the dog “fuck shit” in my head, he was that.  When I wished him happiness he became that as well.

I always tell a story about the lunch ladies in my kid’s school.  When the lunch ladies saw the junior high students coming down the hall, heading towards the lunchroom, the lunch ladies would say “here come the little shits”, as the lunch ladies didn’t like the junior high aged students. And you know what?  The junior high kids gave those lunch ladies exactly what they expected to get.  If the lunch ladies had had a little empathy for the painful transition from childhood to adulthood that all junior high students face, if they had made those students a special cookie or changed their mantra from “here come the little shits” to “may these students transition peacefully into adulthood as we have all been there before and understand what it’s like”,  I truly believe that the students would have behaved better in the lunchroom.  Being yelled at and treated without respect is a ticket to poorly behaved humans no matter how old they are.

Which brings us to our book selection.  “Tattoos on the Heart, The Power of Boundless Compassion” by Gregory Boyle. 

This is not your typical Wild About Books book.  The author, a Jesuit Priest, (I had to look that one up, but I still don’t get it, just like I don’t get “evangelical Christian”) in the poorest Catholic church in the county, located in L.A., surrounded by gangs.  This priest doesn’t just bring love and compassion to the gang members, he creates businesses and gives them jobs and job training.  A gateway from jail to living productive lives.  He doesn’t label them as hopelessly lost souls with no way out of their vicious poverty cycle.  He gives them hope and a door to a future without crime and drugs.  This book has way more God and Jesus in it than I like.  I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in Greg Boyle.  He doesn’t just talk the talk.  He’s a doer.  He believes in human beings.  He treats them all with respect and dignity.  He gives them all well wishes.  He’s a beautiful man.  If you don’t get a chance to read the book you should check out his TED talk on compassion and kinship.  It’s a condensed version of his book.

As we skied back towards the parking lot we were passed by two snowmobiles.  We could have been angry at sharing the road with loud, stinky snowmobiles, but we are not.  We smile and wave enthusiastically as they pass us.  Happy that there are other people out enjoying this beautiful, sunshiny, December day.

So, while you are out on your proverbial multiple use road of life, smile, and wave enthusiastically as you pass others, as it is this bonding kinship that is the positive trajectory we all need to happily survive together.

May you be happy.

Check out the Wild About Books website for more great book ideas and other outdoor adventures.

 

 

 

Sexual Misconduct and a New Book Selection

I randomly picked out a book at Chapter One, my local bookstore.  It was on the recommended shelf right across from the cash register.  I’d picked this book up before and found it odd that there was a sticky note on the back.  “Warning! Spoiler & Misleadings!  Please just read the first couple pages….”  What is that supposed to mean?  I put the book back and looked at other sections of the store.  When I came back in another day that book was still on the recommended shelf.  I picked it up again.  And again the sticky note was on the back.  I picked up another copy, same sticky note IMG_0204message.   The sticky note message was on all the copies on the shelf.  I lifted the note to read the description and immediately realized this was where the spoilers and misleadings were.  I stopped reading the back before finishing the first sentence and erased what I had read from my mind, as much as one can.

“The Clay Girl” by Heather Tucker is not for everyone.  It has that “Glass Castles” kind of theme.  A family trying to survive in unfathomable situations.

Two things make this book an incredible read.  The protagonist is surviving with the help of her positive adult role models and the author’s style of writing is an artistic masterpiece.  As you read each sentence you think that you have missed something and should start over.  But that is not the case.  Keep putting the sentences into your head.  When you get to the end of each short chapter your brain will weave all of the information together and then your brain will think “good God, what are these poor people living through”.  It’s truly magical.  This author does not tell a story, she shows a story.   I’m glad I found this book before the Thanksgiving break as I can not put it down.

The sexual misconduct in this story is rampant and although this is a novel, it is a novel that shows how society seems to not be able to correct or address this subject.  Sweep it under the rug.  Buck up.  Move on.  Slut. He’s a Republican, that’s all I care about.  It’s just locker room talk.  He’s the star quarterback just having a little fun.

I tried reading the book “Missoula”, which I do recommend, but could not finish.  It’s not a tour guide.  “Missoula” is a non-fiction book about star college football players raping female friends at parties and how the perpetrators downplay the conduct or worse get away with it.  This doesn’t just happen at the University of Montana.  This just happened to be the University that Jon Krakauer chose for his research.  A small college town in which most of the population are Griz fans whether they went to college or not.

She was asking for it.  She was drunk.  She wore that outfit for a reason.  Why would she ever subject herself to publicly telling this story of one bad night?

I couldn’t have written “The Clay Girl”.  I have no stories or experiences of this nature.  Which is, even more, a reason for me to read it.  To have empathy, to have the compassion to try and understand.  Probably it fuels my fire for the stories coming out in the news lately.  How many women have been subjected to sexual misconduct?  To get a promotion, feed their kids, get ahead, pass a class.

You’ll love the heroes in “The Clay Girl”, especially the men.  Hooray for the men who img_0199.jpglove and respect the women in their lives.    You are the majority and we love you back. Hooray for the men who roast us brussel sprouts, let us cry tears of frustration with them, wash the dishes, wait patiently as we browse in a store, fill up our freezers with game meat and share the experiences of the natural world in speechless appreciation.

I highly recommend (although not for everyone) the novel “The Clay Girl”. ( But don’t read the back cover.)

You can find more great book recommendations at Wild About Books Website.