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.

 

 

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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.

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.

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.

They’re Playing Our Song


I had the good fortune of living a train ride away from New York City. This meant that Broadway and the fantastic world of musicals and drama was close by.  My parents loved the theater.  It was not unusual for them to drag us on the train to the city where we would stand on line at the tkts booth to see something that would turn out to be either fantastic or a dud.  Lucky for me there were more fantastic shows than duds and so I fell in love with the theater.

Music was a very big part of my life.  I took dance lessons from the time I can remember.  I was pretty good but probably would not have made it in the dance world.  At first I wanted to be a Rockette.  I mean didn’t every young dancer that grew up in the shadows of Radio City Music Hall want to be a Rockette?

I remember seeing that kick line for the very first time.  They were in the Macy’s Day Parade every year.  I figured I could lift my leg and kick like the best of them.  That might be true but I had one tiny little obstacle to overcome.  There was a height requirement.  I was 5 feet and the minimum height was 5’6″.  I tried my best to grow taller but it didn’t happen.  So no Rockettes for me.  In fact it turns out that I had significant spine issues so dancing as a profession was not to be.

It didn’t matter.  I had a fall back plan anyway.  I was going to navigate my life through the wonderful world of Information Technology!

So what does this have to do with Carole Bayer Sager and why did I choose her book to read.  It is simple she wrote beautiful music.  In fact one of my favorite songs is “The Prayer” and my favorite artists singing it, Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli .  (Josh Groban and Celine also sang the song together which is my second favorite combo). She and David Foster, also a favorite of mine wrote this song.

In addition to her writing more Pop songs she wrote They’re Playing Our Song which just so happens to be one of the musicals I saw on Broadway. It is, at least according to the book, loosely written about her relation with Marvin Hamlisch. Who by the way is another favorite of mine.

Needless to say I bought the album and sang the songs for weeks and weeks. Sadly or not her relationship with Marvin Hamlisch did not work out.  She moved on to work with Burt Bacharach who also was an incredible writer.  They married but the Marriage did not make it.  Not that this matters at all but I never really liked Bacharach.

Her stories are interesting.  It still boggles my mind how insecure all these amazingly talented people really are.  I guess it is the stress of composing the next hit. It seems like the next hit is what make them relevant and that is what they live for.

If you like music, want some insight on what it takes to compose music and lyrics and anecdotes about famous people read this book.  I mean she was best buds with Elizabeth Taylor!

Just to tantalize you here is  Robert Klein and Luci Arnez singing the main number.

Drop Dead Easy Knits

My Mom was an incredible knitter.  Growing up she always had a project going.  Instead of watching TV at night she would knit.  She made beautiful dresses and sweaters with very intricate patterns.

She taught me how to knit but alas I did not have her talent.  I knit one sweater when I lived in Germany. The pattern was in German but I managed to muddle though with the help of a co-worker.  I think it came out but the pattern was a no nonsense pattern with basically dong one row of knit and one of purl. But I finished it and I wore it.

I made some scarves and even gave one to my Mom. But then I got busy and pretty much gave up knitting.

Then I received  this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I was so pleasantly surprised.  It has a project for just about everyone including me.  The project that caught my eye was the leg warmers.  I love how they look inside the top of your boot and the pattern in the book is very manageable.

Not into leg warmers or boot toppers, there are 29 other projects for you to do.  So pick up some knitting needles and join me.

The Invisible Thread

I read this book in one evening.  One evening! She was a sales executive and he was a pan handler. They both lived in Manhattan just two blocks away from each which is still hard to believe.  One day she passed him on the street and he asked her for money.  Initially she passed him by after all so many people asked for money in New York City,

She started crossing the street when for some inexplicable reason she turned around and went back to talk with him.  Turns out he was hungry and she took him to McDonald’s where they ate lunch together.  From that day on they had this Invisible Thread that tied them together.

In a way, there were similarities in the way the grew up.  Although she lived on Long Island’s North Shore, she came from a very abusive environment. Outwardly she appeared to be from a lower middle class family that looked normal from the outside but it was anything but that.

Maurice for the most part lived on the streets.  Every one of his family member were on drugs except him. His father and Uncles were abusive.  His Mother was an addict in and out of jail. Life was incredibly hard and the fact that he survived was amazing.

They started having Dinner every Monday.  They became family and while Laura may have helped save Maurice’s life, he did the same for her.  It was truly an unusual friendship between two very different people and it was a great book.

Listen to Maurice in his own words.