Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Daughter

A daughter

A work of art
Sculpted a bit each day
By oblivious hands
not with intention
Or outcome
But in each separate moment
By hands filled with
Or pain;
Or gentle joy.
Each day, each moment
A nuance of shape

Each day, she told me
My own beloved mentor
You do the best you can
Not even God
Can ask more of you.

If the daily best
Begins with love,
Everything else
Will follow.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Book Review--The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
By Kim Edwards

I thought I had to read this book for a project. Turns out I didn’t, but more than one person said it was really good. And it was at some levels. The premise is that when a physician/father discovered that one of his new-born twins has Downs Syndrome, he gives her away and tells his wife that she died. His goal is to prevent the sadness and pain of having a disabled child in the family. It is a spur of the moment decision, and by the time he regrets it he can’t take it back. The rest of his life, and his wife’s and his son’s are deeply marred by the missing daughter/sister and the lie he never confesses. Meanwhile, the Downs baby grows up healthy, happy and loved. Edwards explores family dynamics from an interesting perspective. It looks at disability from several angles, including its impact on a family, a parent, a brother and the adoptive parents. Plenty of food for thought and worth the read.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Crashing Through, a Book Review

Crashing Through: A true Story of Risk, Adventure and the Man who Dared to See
By Robert Kurson

Just released, this is the story of Mike May, a blind, California-based entrepreneur. Mike was blinded at the age of 3 by a chemical accident. He learned in his forties that his sight could be restored with a new procedure. This is his story, and it is a fascinating and articulate look at the issues of sight restoration, the fears, the risks, the triumph, and the ultimate reconciliation with reality. Mike shares candidly thoughts and fears that all blind people, including me, must feel at one time or another. He becomes one of perhaps 20 people in the last several hundred years who were blind as children and had vision restored as adults. The majority of these people, surprisingly perhaps, did not find their new vision to be a panacea. Rather, they often became profoundly depressed. Mike’s story is of coping, and learning to put his vision, not perfect as it turns out, in a useful place in his life. I can see this book wrapped and ribboned under the Christmas tree this year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Credit Card Fees

Credit Cards

Today I applied for a credit card that offered 0% APR for the next year. It all went well until I asked them to do a balance transfer. Well, she said, there will b a 3% fee on the balance transfer. Fine, I said. I understand that. So she began processing it and then said, well now your balance is $X, which my math skills told me was the balance transfer amount, plus the 3% fee, plus another $52. What’s with the $52? I asked. Oh, that’s a finance charge. What do you mean a finance charge? I thought this was 0% for a year. Yes, that’s right. The interest is 0% This is a finance charge. Remember when I read [the fine print]—and she reread it. When I protested, she instantly dropped the 3% transfer fee, leaving this “finance charge”. But now I do not trust this company. I canceled the entire thing.

The moral of this story, though, is that hidden fees, buried in language you are not supposed to understand, seemed to be part of this company’s method of doing business. Buyer beware, I guess.

Book Review--An Ordinary Man

Book Review—An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina with Tom Zoellner

This is the story that the movie Hotel Rwanda tells, only in book form. You’re going to think all I read is about horror and tragedy around the world—plenty of that out there. This is a very good book, though. It does not dwell on the horrors of the Rwandan genocide, but tells how this hotel manager housed over a thousand refugees in his hotel, and each time someone came and told him they had to leave the hotel, (at which time they would be slaughtered), he talked them out of it. His concept that each man has hard and soft places, that words are stronger than the sword, that his negotiation skills, his willingness to find compromise (and booze) is what saved these people’s lives. Words on a hate-laden radio station, broadcast 24-7 telling people to kill their neighbors is what lit the fuse on the massacre, and he contends that words could be as powerful for good as for evil. The story has been compared to Schindler’s List. He does not see himself as a hero—just a hotel manager doing what he was trained to do—take care of his guests. He’s running a taxi service in Brussels now.

One interesting point is that the Belgians who colonized Rwanda, used the tribes against each other to get what they wanted. This kind of interference is not unique to Rwanda! He also has strong words for the hobbles put on the U.N. peacekeeping force (they were not allowed to do anything even in the face of mass killing) and the refusal of help from the U.S. The Belgians fled as soon as the killing began. Can we, will we ever learn anything from these horrors that we can use to stop the next one?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Three Cups of Tea by Relin and Mortenson

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations … One School at a Time
by David Oliver Relin with Greg Mortenson

Greg Mortenson got lost and nearly died in a failed attempt to scale K2 in northern Pakistan. He blundered into a village high above a river accessible to the world by a sort of cable car—a box pulled on a cable and pulled across the river by hand. The people of this village welcomed him, fed him, warmed him, and restored him to life. He promised them that he would build them a school in gratitude-they had none and their children’s lessons, what they had of them, were held outside writing in dirt with sticks. He kept his promise, came back and with his own money and the money he raised in inept fund-raising efforts he built them first a bridge across the river, and then a school. This book is the story of this and many other schools he and later his organization has built in Pakistan and perhaps by now Afghanistan.

Mortenson believes that the Wahabis of Saudi Arabia building Madrasas and educating young Pakistani, Afghani, and other young men around the world, filled a vacuum crated by war, corruption and poverty. These schools and camps are breeding grounds for fundamentalist Islam and the terrorism we have seen. He believes that educating children, especially girls, is the way to counter this terrorism in the long term, by giving the next generations in these regions options. The boys, he says, will leave their villages for the cities, but the girls are the ones who can change a culture, bring advances home to the villages. He believes strongly in educating the girls. His mission has been to build schools and pay teachers. It’s a fascinating story;, and one that has not ended yet.

It pricks my complacency, flings sparks into the dreams I have always cherished of doing something that would make a difference. Giving to those who have less than I. Sharing my gifts. I am restless today, wondering where my path will lead if I just let it.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

When I become Senile

I had this question posed to me today—what will you do when you become senile?
I will talk to myself—oh wait, I already do that. People think I’m senile already!! I assure them I’m talking to my dog, but I don’t think they believe it when they hear me say “I can’t believe what she said to me—why in the world would h want …” Oh well.
I will wear purple—wait—I already wear a lot of purple.

I will jettison all my inhibitions—If I have any—and say whatever comes to my mind. I remember my grandmother doing that—it must have been amazingly liberating—extremely annoying and hurtful to the younger crowd though.

I will require my children to wait on me hand and foot. Well, maybe not—I don’t think I raised them right for that.

So look out, everybody, when I become senile—if I haven’t already.

#6 visited tonight. It was good to cook a meal for someone else and to sit around and just talk about everything under the sun, or moon by the time we were finished. I think I should have a child over to dinner every Thursday night!W