You Are Wearing That?

Deborah Tannen is a Professor of Linguistics, more specifically Socio-linguistics.  She is one of my favorite non fiction authors.  I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar she presented and actually got to speak with her.

She writes about how people talk with each other.  It is all about the message.  I was talking to a friend whose daughter just graduated college and got her first job.  She came in and said to her daughter who was sitting on the couch watching something and said  “Isn’t it great that you can sit on the couch and relax?”  Her daughter got angry and thought she was being criticized.  All she meant was isn’t it great that you have finished school, don’t have to study and have a new job that you are getting ready to start.  The pressure is off you can enjoy your downtime.

I have had several conversations like this with my own daughter and I couldn’t understand why she was mad at what I said.  Tannen takes about Meta message which as an IT person I get.  The prefix meta originates from the Greek language meaning underlying definition or description. Meta data summarizes basic information about data which can make finding and working with particular instances easier.

If you make the analogy between the brain and the computer the meta message is like meta data.  The brain goes back to a memory where the daughter  was actually sitting on the couch and the same question or type of question was asked and the meaning of the question was completely different in context and tone.

Once I read this book I had what Oprah calls an AH Ha moment and things got so much better because I got it. I try to clarify and phrase things differently and it seems to work maybe just a little bit better.

 

This book deals with communication between a Mother and a Daughter.  My relationship with my daughter is one of the most important things in the world to me.  That is why I felt so compelled to read it. The book is filled with great examples and does a great job explaining why you are getting the unexpected  response back from your daughter.  My Mom use to tell me it is not what you say it is how you say it.  So true.

 

 

Book Club for Two: Brave Companions

It is hard to believe that my Mom passed away almost a year ago.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reach for my phone and start dialing her number just to yak.

I remember when I was growing up, my Mom had shelves of books and one of my greatest pleasures was to take a book off the shelf and start reading.   My Mom and I had our own book club and sometimes we would talk on the phone for an hour discussing a book we read. I would bring her a stack of books.  She would read them and then we would talk.

So I should not have found it surprising when I recently went to visit my Dad and we agreed to pack up my Mom’s books that I found all the books I had given her and that we had discussed.  Tucked in with all the rest was this book, Brave Companions by David McCullough.

If you are like me, you may know the author from other things he has written, most notably, at least to me was John Adams.  This book was the basis for the HBO series John Adams.  Both are great.

So of course, I read through the night.  McCullough is such a good historical writer.  As I read the book the characters came alive.  This book is about people in history that I knew about like Harriet Beecher Stowe and some that I did not like Alexander Von Humboldt.

Sometimes when you are reading a history book or just a narrative on historical facts it can be dull and boring.  Not this book, at least not for me.

Thank you Mom for leaving this book for me to read.  I only wish you were here to discus it with me.

The Fix

It was a gloomy, wet weekend.  Perfect for a good read and it just so happens that David Baldacci has a new book out. It just so happens that I had the book on my kindle.  No coincidence, this was a well thought out plan on my part.

I was hanging out with my Dad. He was sitting in his favorite chair reading and I was sitting on the couch reading.  There is nothing better than curling up with a good book on a crappy day.

So Amos Decker is back!  Who is Amos Decker?  Well he just happens to be The Memory Man. Amos, while playing  his first game in the NFL, was hit hard in the head.  Even though he was wearing a helmet he suffered a significant head injury.  This head injury permanently sidelined him from playing football.  He also found he could remember EVERYTHING.  Professionally having an amazing memory is a gift but personally not so much.

In this book he witnesses a murder and a suicide that get him involved in a case that involves spying and a terrorist plot. Baldacci is a great storyteller. Read this book.

Dancing Dogs

 

I loved my dog.  Josh was my baby.  He was the smartest, cutest dog on earth.  Well at least in my opinion. And the most important thing was he loved me and I loved him.  There was nothing that could put a smile on my face after a rough day at work like being greeted by Josh when I came through the door.

Unlike many dogs, Josh was not very destructive.  He didn’t eat the dry wall or chomp on my brand new high heels. (That was my dog Sammy)  While he would steal stuffed animals off of my daughters bed, he would only sleep on them, he didn’t rip them apart.  Well maybe there would be a little hole from his teeth but I am sure he didn’t mean it.

He was such good company.  He and I would never argue, we only had discussions.  He would discuss with me about having dinner again and I would say only one dinner per night.  But he slept next to me and he sat on the couch with me while I read or watched TV.  He watched football  all day on Sunday with my husband often getting a piece of the game day sub.

Sadly Josh died and while my husband and I have talked about getting another dog, we just can’t seem to replace him.  We had other dogs but he was our favorite.

Dancing Dogs is a book of short stories about you guessed it, Dogs.  The first story had me in tears. But they all have a feel good theme. So if you are a dog lover, read this book.  I think you will be able to relate.

Thank Goodness for the Earl of Sandwich

I want to thank John Montagu the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Yes he had a gambling issue.  But it is because of this issue that the sandwich was born.  He hated getting up from his gaming table so he asked to have something he could eat with his hands while he played and the sandwich was born. The great thing about sandwiches is there are no rules for making them.  You are the master of your creation.

I recently spent a weekend with my wonderful Wine Women of West Virginia and one of the women prepared a brie and pear sandwich. It is an adult grilled cheese and it is simply divine. The secret is the bread.  You need to use a good quality whole grain bread.  Wegman’s and Safeway bake their whole grain breads right in the store so try one of theirs if you live close by.  The only thing I added to this wonderful sandwich is craisins.  I think it adds a nice touch.  Maybe next time I will put craisins and walnuts.  Again no rules.

I have loved sandwiches my entire life. Growing up it was what was in your lunch box or brown bag. The microwave was not available in the cafeteria and it was too much work for me to make a salad.  My Mom made sure that both my brother and I learned to make our own lunches. Sandwiches were a quick and easy thing to make.  After all anything tastes great between two pieces of bread.

I remember one of my favorite sandwiches was a grilled cheese sandwich that could be purchased in the cafeteria in my elementary school.  They didn’t actually grill the sandwich it was baked but it was so good.  In High School I was always watching my weight and my go to sandwich was iceberg lettuce on wonder bread.  It doesn’t sound all that great now but it worked in High School. The best part was that it was about 160 calories.

When I found this book I was intrigued.  I mean three hundred sandwiches is a lot of sandwiches. There are some good options in the book.  Some are your standards but others make you think hmm that’s an interesting combination. If you need ideas you may want to take a look at this book.

 

The Princess Diarist

I loved the original Star Wars movies. Who didn’t. I wanted to ride with Han Solo in the Millennial Falcon to infinity and beyond.  But Princess Leah was the best.  She was smart.  She was actually funny all though if you asked her she probably would not have agreed.

But most importantly she was a kick ass take no prisoners kind of woman.  She had to be. She had people depending on her.  Many, many people depended on her to save their world.

For young women this character was a role model.  It portrayed a young woman with excellent self-esteem and a boundless amount of confidence. What a burden that was on her. How wonderful for us!

More importantly, I admired Carrie Fisher.  She played the part well.  Her book and later the screen adaptation of the book Postcards From the Edge was really about her struggles.

Just when she seemed to be pulling things together again she suffered a heart attack and died.  I had just seen her do an interview on GMA and The Graham Norton Show. I was devastated and I don’t even know her.  I kept thinking to myself this can’t be fair.  But then I heard my Mom whisper in my ear her mantra Life is not fair.  How often I heard that growing up. How true it is.

While I knew she had mental health issues after all it was out in the public for everyone to see, I did not totally understand her pain until I read the Princess Diarist.  When it comes to someone’s mental health you really never understand the depth of their pain.  After all it is their pain and pain is so hard to understand until you truly feel it yourself.

Fisher had an excellent sense of humor.  I think it was a coping mechanism for her.  Her humor was apparent in all her writings and her stand up show Wishful Drinking.  If you haven’ seen it, see it!

The book is a reflection of her time on the Star War Set.  She was young and a little naive.  Reading it you can definitely see she was struggling.  The book is a mix of her diary written as a 19 year old and her reflections as she looks back in time.  Heavy.

She is a good writer and I did like reading her book.

Britt Marie Was Here

For many people, fitting into society is not easy.  Many are socially “awkward”.  There is nothing wrong with that and for the most part most embrace or at least learn to live with themselves.  Many don’t and therefore we have Newtown and Columbine.  Heartbreaking! I wish society did a better job helping people who need it.  I wish I did a better job.

Fredrik Backman writes about socially awkward people and he does an excellent job. Many of you may have read A Man Called Ove. If you liked it  you will enjoy this book as well.  Just a sidebar if you haven’t read  A Man Called Ove read it.

Backman does a great job of writing about characters that have just a little difficulty being around people.  In this novel Britt Marie is a little awkward around people. She was managing.  She learned to deal with and accept who she was.  That didn’t mean she was happy but she coped.

Britt Marie’s husband is  cheating on her. She suspected it for awhile but she chose to ignore it until her husband has a heart attack and the other woman becomes a reality.

There is always some event or events, sentinel moments in a person’s life that changes everything.  I have had them, in fact quite recently. I am sure you have as well.  Choosing how to deal with them is the key to survival.

So Britt Marie digs down deep into herself and makes a change.  She finds a job in a community that is dying from the financial crisis. How she adapts to her new surrounding and how they adapt to her is both a poignant and humorous story.  The characters are wonderful. I loved Britt Marie Was Here .