Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Organization is Good for the Soul

My sister lost her husband last week and we are going to Minnesota for his memorial this weekend. He wanted Glenda to have an informal gathering of friends and family at their house to remember, laugh, and cry.

Yesterday, she e-mailed me and the other two sisters a long 'to do' list. It is full of things like "rent tables and chairs", and "clean the patio". I was very relieved to get this list. I've been spending the week since my last conversation with John feeling his loss, but not knowing what to do about it. Glenda's list helped give me "little chores", as Mother used to call them, to help focus my grief.

It reminded me of the days after Mother died. Each evening we four girls would gather at the kitchen table and go through our 'to do' lists. We took comfort in the busy-ness of cleaning, writing thank you notes, making phone calls.

As I reflect on this, I think we react to grief in this way for several reasons. One being that we have the good old protestant work ethic that makes us want everything just right for our guests. But deeper than that, I think we need these chores because they are something over which we have control. We can make decisions about how the chores will be completed and we can see that they are completed on our schedules. These situations follow a time period where we had no control. Sickness and Death pay no attention to our schedules or decisions. We are swept along into the world of dying with few options, none of them pleasant. We need the 'to do' lists to help us regain some semblance of control. And control has always been a pretty big issue with the women in my family.

Thank you, Glenda, for sending the list. And a special thank you to Tori and Royce who will be the List Czarinas. I, for one, am grateful for this way to channel my grief and regain some control.


Monday, May 11, 2009


Jason asked why I write Stretch at the end of my posts. It is just my sign-off, like Walter Cronkites', "And that's the way it is." or Tracy Ullman's, "Go Home!" Stretching is good for body, soul and mind. Stretching keeps our muscles younger and when we stretch our minds to really consider what others say and how they feel, we become better people, I think. So STRETCH means just that. STRETCH!

My family lost a member Sunday morning who helped teach all of us to stretch. My brother-in- law John passed away. I met John when I was in seventh grade. He was as opposite from me as anyone I'd ever met. He stretched my mind by helping to introduce me to Chinese food, Asian art, Car Talk and Mozart. He gave me my first driving lesson. He accompanied me on the piano and coached me as I learned my solo for UIL contest. He showed me shiatsu. He taught Jack card games and talked football with him. He stretched my faith by challenging me to think about what I really believe and why I believe it.

My life is richer due to the directions John helped me stretch. I'm grateful.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Today I saw another “Best Books Ever Written” list. This latest list was from one of the editorialists at NPR. He limited his list to The Best 100 Books of the 20th Century. Embarrassingly, I’ve only read eleven titles on his list. Goodreads, a social networking site for readers also has a list. I’ve read many more of them. Project Gutenberg, a collection of electronic books has several best book lists available, too. You might enjoy some of the lists. Just click to get to them.

I use all these lists to help make purchasing decisions for my library, help recommend books to patrons and to help build my own “need to read” list. Some titles appear on many of the lists, but none of the lists are exactly alike. Literature is, after all, a matter of taste.

Since I know you are all eagerly awaiting my list of favorites, I’ll share it. Tomorrow night my list might be different. These, though, are books that come to mind right now that I enjoyed or that made me think. Some of them even changed my life. Let me hear yours, too.


  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (It's a good thing my children were girls because I would have named boys Augustus and Capt'n Call)
  • Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (Students read her The Bean Trees in English class, but I think Poisonwood Bible is her masterpiece)
  • The Believers by Janice Holt Giles (I read it the first time in seventh grade and I love it more every time I read it.)
  • The Good Old Boys by Elmer Kelton (I've known men like the main character. The best and worst of manhood and the American West.)
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (I don't know if I'd feel the same way if I read it today, but it changed the way I looked at the world.)
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (A really, really great book about friendship, regret and responsibility.)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey (The movie is good, but the book rocks.)
  • Shane by Jack Schaefer (The ulitimate western novel. Every Hollywood gunfighter owes his existence to Shane.)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (She may have only had one book in her, but it was a great one.)
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (One of the only books I actually got spooky scared as I was reading it.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bluebonnets! One of the things I love about being Texan.

Other Texas things I love:
Small towns
The Wind
Dairy Queens
Big Tex
Drill Teams and Twirlers
Helpful Neighbors
Mexican Food (mostly Margaritas)

What do you love about being from where ever you are from?

A special thanks to the nice neighbor who didn't call the police when I went in his yard to take this picture.