Dan’s Wednesday Quotes of the Week #39 – The Stepping Off Place

It felt strange to have no filter on my words, to think and speak at the same time. I noticed how light the words were leaving my mouth.

I worked to keep up the retaining wall holding back all I didn’t say.

Drama is a funny thing, though. When you’re by yourself, lying facedown in the grass, drooling a little on yourself while you try to figure out how this horrible, horrible thing could have possibly happened, it isn’t dramatic. But as soon as you add a witness, it becomes absurdly dramatic. I guess the audience makes the difference.

The Stepping Off Place by Cameron Kelly Rosenblum

This is Cam’s debut young adult novel. The horrible, horrible thing in the above quote is about suicide, in this case teen suicide. She deals with the subject with compassion, understanding, and ultimately with hope.

Readers of this blog may recognize her last name as that of my teaching, hiking buddy Paul Rosenblum, who would come to my University of New England teacher education class to share his passion for the teaching life.

Dan’s Wednesday Quote of the Week #33 –

the hardest work we do is self-love and forgiveness.

Ali and I shared a struggle with perfectionism, the most toxic condition of the soul.

Anne Lamott in Dusk Night Dawn: On Revival and Courage (2021)

Hannah’s dear friend and Arizona State University mentor, Nan Inskeep, emailed Hannah last week, “To run, not walk and get this book!” That was enough for me to request it through interlibrary loan from the York Public Library. Since it was Nan recommendation, I began reading it immediately upon bringing the book home. I’ve finished the first chapter and so far, so good.

Anne Lamott is a favorite of ours. We have these three books on our shelves. Bird by Bird is the classic about writing that I read in the 1990s when I began developing as a writer.

Dan on Blue Highways – KGUA radio #20

For the September 28, 2020 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour in Gualala, California, we free writers are asked to look to our bookshelf.  What is the book that holds a dear spot in our hearts?  Why is the book important to us? 

Blue Highways

The author of this travelogue, William Least Heat Moon, was fired from his university teaching position, bought a van, packed his dog, and set out on a one year odyssey to discover America.  Often he would stop in a small town, find a temporary job, and interact with Americans he never knew. 

Tree and Scott on the Mendocino coast

The Blue Highways title is taken from the blue color on maps for the roads that are our country’s by-ways.  The ones that are out of the way, not traveled by the impatient or obsessed with time and speed.  A two lane country road like the Pacific Coast Highway in Mendocino County is such a road.

Blue Highway (the PCH) in Mendocino County

Escaping 150 miles north from San Francisco, Hannah and I find a winding coastal road to the house of our friends, Scott and Tree.  Visiting them years ago, one early morning, Hannah and I walk along the PCH while a herd of cattle 100 yards away come to check us out.  As we walk north along their pasture, the herd follows us as if we are Pied Pipers.  The occasional truck or car passes us during their quote morning rush hour.

Blue highways slow me down, make me pause, encourage me to write, read all afternoon long, toast the sunset with a glass of wine, and get so far away that I wonder if I’m ever coming back. 

I always do, but I’m refreshed, more self-reflective, and ironically more appreciative of our home in Maine. 

Dan and Crawdads

Got any time to read a really great novel?  Didn’t think so.

Crawdads 3

Yes, I borrowed it from the local library.

But when you do, I have a story that you will find every spare minute to read.  It’s Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Rightfully, you could say, Dan where you been?  This is 2018 novel that topped The New York Times charts in 2019 for 27 weeks

Without giving too much away, I want you to know it’s a murder mystery that takes place in the marsh of the North Carolina coastline.  Following two timelines that slowly intertwine, Crawdads has compelling characters as well as an engaging narrative that wraps up with one of my favorite endings of all time.  Delia Owens weaves in the science of the marsh in an understandable way for the non-science folk among us (by that I mean me), similar to Barbara Kingsolver.

That’s my tease.  Without equivocation, Where The Crawdads Sing is my favorite book of 2020.

PS  Thanks, Karen!

Dan, a Road Trip with Hannah, and Why To Kill A Mockingbird Matters – A Book Endorsement

Are you a Harper Lee groupie like me?  If so, I have a book for you.  – Why To Kill A Mockingbird Matters (2018) by Tom Santopietro.

TKAM tkam cover

First, let me begin by saying I never read To Kill a Mockingbird!  Fact is, I was never much of a reader through my public school and college years.  I read enough to answer the questions at the of the chapter, but I never learned to love reading.

TKAM peck

But…I did see the movie To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).  That must count for something!  I loved the film that was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture (but lost to Lawrence of Arabia).  Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch won the Oscar for best actor.  In fact, in the midst of writing this blog, Hannah and I watched the film one more time.  It stands up well as an inspirational tale of one man’s courage.

It was a little odd what got me interested in Why To Kill A Mockingbird Matters (2018) in the first place; it was a recent negative review in the New York Times Book Review section.  Click here for Roxane Gay’s unimpressed review.

So why would I read a book with a lousy review?  Because the reviewer let me know that the book is all about the backstory; of Harper Lee herself, the writing and publishing of the book, how the movie came to be, and what happened to the actors and Harper Lee herself since 1962.  I love me a good backstory.

Spencer Tracy was Harper Lee’s choice to play Atticus Finch in the film version of Mockingbird.  Unfortunately, he was filming at the time and couldn’t commit.  Fortunately, Gregory Peck was available.

TKAM atticus and scout

Atticus and Scout

Santopietero sums up why Gregory Peck had such appeal to many of us, … thanks to the role of Atticus Finch, in the public’s eye Peck had become not just a movie hero but also the personification of the quintessential American: the man his fellow citizens liked to think reflected not just their country but their own very best selves – a champion of the the underdog.

Well, I am happy to report that I righted the wrong in paragraph two and read To Kill A Mockingbird cover to cover a few weeks back.  By the way, the film is a quite faithful to Harper’s book.  Not getting enough, I read Critical Insights: To Kill a Mockingbird and watched both two documentaries: Hey Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird and Our Mockingbird .

TKAM map of monroeville

And the fruit of this infatuation is that Hannah and I on the road again, this time to southern Alabama!  Next month (October 2018), we fly into Atlanta and work our way to Monroeville, Alabama, the hometown of Harper Lee.  You see, Monroeville was the model for Maycomb, the setting of the novel.  The actual courthouse which holds a Mockingbird museum will be the centerpiece of our adventure.

Road trip!

TKAM critical insights

 

TKAM Hey Boo 2

 

TKAM Our Mockingbird

Dan’s Has Another Good Book for You – Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (#13)

The full title is Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy (2017).   Sheryl’s husband Dave, not quite fifty and the love of her life, died after working out on a treadmill at a Mexican resort where she and Dave were vacationing.  They had been married for 11 years and expected a long life together.

Option Sheryl and Adam

Sheryl and Adam

I have seven quotes for you that just might get you thinking I need to run, not walk, to a local bookstore, Amazon, or a public library to get this book for myself or for a loved one dealing with the unexpected.

This quote really hit home for me.  When someone says a causal greeting to another grieving like How are you? [it hurt] because it didn’t acknowledge that anything out of the ordinary had happened.  I pointed out that if people instead asked, How are you today? it showed that they were aware that I was struggling to get through each day.

When someone is grieving, there is a need for an opener (e.g. Hannah).  By staying silent [when one is grieving], we often isolate family, friends, and coworkers…Unlike non-questioning friends, openers ask a lot of questions and listen to the answers without judging.  They enjoy learning about and feeling connected to others.  Openers can make a big difference in times of crises, especially for those who are normally reticent.  So Hannah!

Rather than say to a grieving person or one who just heard of a cancer diagnosis It’s going to be okay…or everything happens for a reason, the most powerful thing you can do is acknowledge.  To literally say the words: I acknowledge your pain.  I’m here with you.

Option B platinum rule

Growing up, I was taught the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated.  But when someone is suffering, instead of following the Golden Rule, we need to follow the Platinum Rule: treat others as they want to be treated.

Daily I (Dan) have been writing a page of gratitudes in my journal.  I’ve changed to something I learned in Option B.  …counting our blessings doesn’t boost our confidence or our effort, but counting our contributions can…gratitude is passive: it makes us feel thankful for what we receive.  Contributions are active: they build confidence by reminding us that we can make a difference.  I now encourage my friends and colleagues to write about what they have done well.

Some grieving parents over the death of a child experienced post traumatic growth, instead of post-traumatic stress.  Much more to this and it all starts on page 78.

There are so many more jewels that I dog-eared when I read Option B, but I’ll end with two.  Surgery patients who watch comedies request 25% less pain medication.

Option B failure

Chapter 9 – Failing and Learning at Work.  The chapter points out the importance of admitting mistakes and not trying to hide failures.   Scientist Melanie Stefan suggested her academic colleagues be more honest on their CVs (resumes).  Princeton professor Johannes Haushofer took her up on the challenge and wrote two pages of rejections.

As a quasi-academic for 12 years, I had a ten-page CV of accomplishments, selections, and triumphs.  But already writing these additions to my CV feels quite liberating.

1990-1991 – received 100 rejection letters or no response at all for my first book, “Sweet Dreams, Robyn,” before Joy and Marv Johnson at Centering Corporation took a chance on an unpublished writer.

1992 – Turned down for the one-year Teacher-in-Residence position at the University of New Hampshire.

1993 – Selected for the one-year Teacher-in-Residence position at the University of New Hampshire.

1995 – Twice had my dissertation rejected at the University of New Hampshire.

1996 – Had my dissertation accepted by my dissertation committee at UNH

1996 – Turned down for an assistant professor position at Colby Sawyer College in New Hampshire.

1996 – Despite not having finished my dissertation, hired at Eastern Connecticut State University to teach in the Department of Education.

I bet you are connecting the dots.  The seeds of success can be sown in rejection.

Wisdom from The Dalai Lama’s Cat and the Art of Purring (#12)

Readers of my recent blogs of Hannah’s adventures on the San Ysidro Trail near Santa Barbara, California were introduced to the wisdom of David Michie in The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Art of Purring.  It’s a book that Hannah and I heartily recommend and most pertinent to us after Hannah’s fall off the trail.  To give you a taste of its practical suggestions for living, I include these eleven quotes.  Enjoy.

In the stillness, we discover that there are other ways of knowing things than through the intellect.

[Be] uncompromising on the importance of actions over words and others over self.

Buddha himself said…It is only when we have faced the reality of our own death that we really know how to live.

Life is finite; every day is precious.  And simply to wake up in good health truly is a blessing, because sickness and death can strike at a moment’s notice.

Page 89 – Formula for happiness?…The formula is H equals S plus C plus V… Happiness equals what’s called your biological set point or S, plus the conditions of your life, C, plus V, your voluntary activities.

What arises for you depends on your actions, on the karma and conditions you create.

Dalai Lama Art of Purring

Page 142 – The marshmallow experiment at Stanford University.  The advantages of delayed gratification and self-control that signal success.

Page 143 – A study about the circumstances whether or not prisoners would be granted parole.  Low blood sugar affects our judgment.  Eat well and regularly.

Four tools to practice equanimity (calmness, composure)  

First: impermanence.  Never forget: this, too, will pass…

Second: what is the point of worrying?  If you can do something about it, fix it.  If not, what is the point of worrying about it…

Third: don’t judge… When it happens, you think bad.  Later you may think [that’s] the best thing that ever happened. 

Fourth: no swamp, no lotus.  The most transcendent of flowers grows out of the filth of the swamp.  Suffering is like the swamp.  If it makes us more humble, more able to sympathize with others and more open to them, then we become capable of transformation and of becoming truly beautiful, like the lotus.

Happiness comes first, then success.

The Holy Secret is this: if you wish to end your suffering, seek to end the suffering of others.  If you wish for happiness, seek the happiness of others.  Exchanging thoughts of self for thoughts of others – this is the most effective way to be happy. 

 

Dan Hears “When a Door Closes, a Window Opens.”  But what about the Transition? (#11)

hell-ellen-and-book-cover

Book review of Hell in the Hallway, Light at the Door: How to Move Gracefully Through Change into Renewed and Abundant Life by Ellen Debenport  

It’s a cliché that when a door closes, a window opens.  That said, many of us, including me, buy into that notion.  Why Reverend Mother when advising Maria to climb every mountain in the Sound of Music offered that same advice.   Click here to see Reverend Mother rock Climb Every Mountain.

Ellen agrees with the premise, but thinks there is more to it.  There can be hell in the hallway when going from the closed door to the open window.  Offering constructive advice on how to deal with all sorts of changes in one’s life, the author opens a door for us all.  This is a book where I yellow highlighted it page after page and already have begun reading it a second time.

I have selected twelve quotes from Hell in the Hallway as a tease to see if this might be a book for you.

The hallway is that place between jobs, between relationships, during a major illness or after a permanent change or crises.  Life as you know it has ended, and you’re not sure what’s coming next.

Love is not the same as worry.  Worry blankets those we love with our fear; we are imagining the worst for them.  Love holds a vision for the best.

hell-forgiveness

The key to forgiveness is to stop insisting on what ought to have happened, to stop making up stories about how your life should have been different.

Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expected the other person to die, or holding onto a hot coal, intending to throw it at someone else.  Who gets burned?

Release all thoughts of how things ought to be or might turn out, and simply experience the way things are.

Surrender means giving up the stubborn belief that life should be fair or make sense at any given moment.

Everything will be okay in the end.  If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

The most obvious example of our creative power is the placebo effect.  Sick people get better when they believe they will.  The pill they took wasn’t a miracle drug.  Their thinking made them well.

The nocebo effect simply means that negative expectations produce negative results.

(Circumstances) are not happening to you, they are happening for you.

hell-stained-glass-mountain

(Quoting Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.

Love first, teach second.

Dan and Patty Hearst 42 years after her Kidnapping (#10)

american-heiress-author

Book review of American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trail of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin.

Hannah and I married at her father’s Christmas tree farm in East Penfield, NY in 1972.   Twenty months later Patty Hearst was kidnapped on February 4, 1974, two days before Hannah’s 26th birthday.  That’s forty-two years ago for those of you keeping score!!

A 19-year older, Patty Hearst was kidnapped when she just a kid!   Remember yourself at that age?  I was barely pulling my act together during my freshman year at the College of Wooster; my earth-shaking focus was making the college tennis team and hoping something would happen with the comely coed from Fairport, NY, Hannah Kraai.

american-heiress-tania-with-gun

Patty Hearst as Tania of the Simbionese Liberation Army

I can’t imagine holding it together like Patty Hearst did as the Simbionese Liberation Army took her hostage and changed her life forever over the next 18 months.

This past Sunday morning, I told Hannah that I don’t want to get the Sunday New York Times like I usually do; I want to finish this 350-page book, which I was a third through.  Typically books over 200 pages are deal breakers for me.  I just can’t sustain the focus.

Ah, but this book is different.  Though non-fiction, it reads like a novel.  Although I generally knew her story (as those of you 60+ no doubt do), I didn’t know the details and the personalities.   As you may remember, Patty eventually became a willing participant in the crimes of the SLA.  Or did she?   It’s a compelling story and one of those books I just couldn’t put down.

american-heiress-f-lee-bailey

And by the way, F. Lee Bailey, the flamboyant attorney how defended her and lost, now lives in Maine.  In 2012 he passed the Maine Bar Exam, but the State Board voted 5-4 to deny him a law license on the grounds that he failed to prove that he “possesses the requisite honesty and integrity” to practice law.   Previously he had been disbarred in Florida and Massachusetts.  In 2016, at the age of 83 he is a “legal consultant” in a single room above a beauty shop in, very likely, Yarmouth, some 50 miles north of us in York.  Click here for information on his Maine legal consulting gig.

And one added bonus, Jeffrey Toobin’s last chapter is Aftermath, where he updates the current status of all the key players in this drama.

Dan Has Big Magic for You! (#9)

bm-cover-with-herThat is, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond FearClick here for a review of this book by the New York Times.

Since the respected Ogun Holder recommended the book, I just ordered it on Amazon and loved it.   I have eight quotes for your perusal.  Perhaps, they are enough to have you borrow the book from your local library or buy it.  Enjoy.

When I refer to “creative living,” I am speaking more broadly.  I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.

Bravery means doing something scary.

It’s never too late.

Fake it til you make it.

Perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun.

We all spend our twenties and thirties trying so hard to be perfect, because we’re so worried about what people will think of us.  Then we get into our forties and fifties, and we finally start to be free, because we decide that we don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of us.  But you won’t be completely free until you reach your sixties and seventies, when you finally realize this liberating truth –nobody was ever thinking about you, anyhow.

First of all, forgive yourself.

Whatever you do, try not to dwell too long on your failures.  You don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters.  You don’t need to know what anything means.