Friday, June 11, 2010

Not the Way I Was Expecting to Spend My Summer Vacation

My days have run into my nights but I hijacked a computer here at the hospital and decided to take my mind off stuff for a few minutes.....this state of the art facility is taking care of my daddy and they are fantastic. Dad's in ICU and this could be his room. Just turn the bed a bit, turn out the lights and add about 10 more machines and a million more wires. Oh, and add a drop dead gorgeous view of trees and Texas clouds. (Oh yes, the picture should be of pink flowers too!)
Dadgum, this is hard stuff just waitin', hopin' and a prayin'! (Can you hear my Texas accent returning?!?!) I have not been so cold in a long time. I don't think my toes have thawed out as I sit in chilly rooms. I carry my book with me everywhere but I am usually too preoccupied to read. I did finish The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas as my airplane book and now I'm carrying Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones ( for Book Group - if I ever get back to normal life!)
Today was my "miracle findin'" day!! So far - - I found a new restaurant to sit in during the times that ICU is closed, I discovered a great place to walk and get away from things when the ICU is closed, I found a hot chocolate machine that makes chocolate/vanilla cocoa, my sweet friend had her baby - (a great adoption story!!), and my step dad went home from the hospital in Tucson (can you tell I've been a little torn?!?!?) But more miracles were everywhere. I somehow fixed my phone when it went on the fritz all by myself, I made a great friend of one of the ICU nurses who then did everything for me, and we made it through another day of healing. Just keep it up, Dad!!
This was NOT the way I expected to spend my summer vacation but I have found some great blessings midst it all. I'm going to keep countin' the miracles....I know they're here!!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Off Having Fun

When the last box was packed from 1st grade, the last hug was given for the summer, Rich and I headed off on an adventure. New Mexico/Colorado, here we come!! It was a boat-load of fun as my brother and and sister and their spouses joined us. We didn't even argue like we did a long time ago!! We laughed until we cried, joked and pondered together. It was great fun to share each others passions. We even planned our next trip!! Durango Colorado was relaxing and fun. We can't wait to go back and really soak up that area and ride the train to Silverton.

We made Farmington, New Mexico our jumping off place. Not much in Farmington but it's easy to get everywhere from there.
Chaco Canyon was pretty astounding. It's hard to believe that we are talking about remnants of a civilization from AD 850 - 1250! It was a beautiful day.

You would not believe the cool slot you had to hike through. No wonder the ancient people were so adept. They could find hiding places everywhere!!

We all made it to the top of the world!! You could see for centuries!!
But remember, if you go up, you have to come down. I couldn't seem to get a good picture of how high we were but it was mountain-goat high!!

It's always good to go places with friends!! Your best friend!

Now we're off again...another adventure!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sway; The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior

It's been our "car book" and now our Book Group pick. Ori and Rom Brafman's book, Sway; The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior, has even worked it's way into dinner conversations and water cooler discussions! This highly readable series of essays illuminates a few basic psychological reasonings for why we are "swayed" one way or another in the course of the decisions we make.
  1. Loss Aversion - simply put, the fear of losing something, ie. time, money, etc.
  2. Value Attribution - a quick mental shortcut to determine what is worthy of our attention and what is not. Our brain needs to sort and find order. Giving something value helps us sort that experience into the right place in our brain, thus resulting in some kind of order.
  3. Diagnosis Bias - once we diagnose a situation we see the world through the lens of that diagnosis and all of reality conforms to our bias.
We all act irrationally from time to time (some of us more than others) and this book, with it's series of essays helped explain some of the predicatble forces that sway us in our decisions. Story telling format allows for a more personal approach so that even economic and psychological data is easier to understand and swallow. I loved the story of the world famous musician who played his 3.5 million dollar Stradivarious for free in the subway and only one person recognized him or the story of the $20 bill that was auctioned off for $204!! How do all of these stories link together - that's the gift of the Brafman boys!

One of the lessons I took to that was offered by the authors is to always look at the long term implications of every decision before plunging ahead: Our natural tendancy to avoid the pain of loss will most likely distort our thinking when we place too much emphasis on short-term goals. When we adopt the long view, on the other hand, immediate potential losses don’t seem as menacing. Now, that is a powerful notion.

Whether we agreed with everything we read or not, Sway was highly readable and led to some great discussions and insight. We had great Book Group discussions and even husbands read along with us. It was a great vacation book. It was easy to pick up and read a chapter and then put it away until the next trip. It always seemed to come up when we were out with friends and it was fun to bring up some of the essays in the book and hear different reactions and thoughts. If you liked Freakonomics or Blink then this should suit you just fine!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

When you read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman you will crave southern cooking, hospitality AND friendship!! It's like a trip down an old southern road; a little sticky and humid, big green old trees overhead, and the sound of a front porch swing. I just can't seem to get a good combination of those word - but it just feels like home.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was strongly recommended by Lesa at Lesa's Book Critiques.
That was back in January and I've waited for just the right kind of summer day to indulge in this southern delicacy!!

CeeCee faces great tragedy for a young gal. Her momma has mental illness and dresses in old prom dresses with red stilettos. When CeeCee is young this is kind of a party, but when you're 12, well CeeCee is now more the mother than the child. Mrs. Odell, her elderly next door neighbor, helps her cope. After her momma's death CeeCee moves to Savannah with Tootie (her larger than life great aunt) and her maid, Oletta. These women are feisty, strong, and just the right medicine for a timid and hurting CeeCee. Her life is now large, colorful and filled to the brim.

I loved the changes and chances, the wisdom and the laugh-out-loud experiences. This was my perfect medicine.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Great Book Alert

The Things That Keep Us Here

By Carla Buckley

WOW!! Great Book Alert!

Timely, frightening, riveting, and hopeful. I loved it all! I read as we traveled through Arizona and New Mexico and then back again, all the while living the life Ann, Peter, Kate and Maddie shared in Ohio.

Ann and Peter Brooks are the parents of 13 year old Kate and 8 year old Maddie . Ann spends her days caring for her daughters and struggling with the continuation of life after losing her small son years before. She’s an artist who has stifled her dreams as she pours the rest of what remains of herself into her two daughters. Her husband, Peter, is a Vet/Scientist involved in research and influenza pathogens at the local university. His way of “dealing” with the loss of their son is to ignore the hard stuff and keep plugging on. Now they are at cross-roads in their marriage. Enter H5N1, a virulent avian flu that can/will decimate both the avian and human population on the planet. 50% of all who contract the disease will die!

This book had me in the first chapter. Why?

  • Great story line that was relevant to today!! If you worried, even a little, about H1N1 then be wary of this one. Flu pandemic and how it affects both the individual and the community are at the center of this book. As the flyleaf states, “How far would you go to protect your family?” I found another interesting question was not “what should we fear?” but “who should we fear?” And the answer….anyone! When Ann’s neighbor and best friend, Libby, contracts the flu and comes pleading for Ann’s help to care for her infant son, Ann refuses to even open the door. I sat and asked myself, “would I do that?” What do we become?” Selfish? Protective? Smart? Buckley’s book is filled with these moments of “look in the mirror” types of situations.
  • I loved the chapter prologues; a series of public announcements, newsbytes, memos or press releases that went out world wide. This tool gave one an idea of what was happening in the world surrounding Ann and her family. The book was personal and intimate; the prologues set the stage for how this family dealt with what was happening in the world. What a great device and it worked so well for me!
  • I loved the scientific details that Buckley wove into her story. After finishing the book I discovered that the author’s husband truly is an environmental research scientist so scenarios were familiar territory for her. We learn how Peter tests birds for the disease, how they worked on vaccines and how the disease transmits from host to host. Nothing was extremely technical to bog the reader down, but was written in clear and concise fashion that heightened the reality of the pandemic. Panic, rising prices, no electricity, no running water, quarantines…and every one of the situations was real enough to pull off the pages of the daily newspaper or internet website.

Now I am not a pessimist or a fatalist, I just truly enjoy a riveting story and this was just the one! This was Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer on steroids!! This was a “Jodi Picoult” seize a plot-from-the-headlines book. I’ve stewed over this book for the last 24 hours since finishing it; that’s my mark of a good book. How lucky have I been? I’ve really scored…2 great books to start vacation!

PS – I have gone to the pantry a few times since I got home last night and counted my canned goods AGAIN! You never can tell when an asteroid will fall or a pandemic will hit.