August Read: “The Pope and the CEO” by Andreas Widmer

About four years ago I heard a great interview on the radio. The most energetic and interesting guy was being interviewed about his newly published book concerning his memories as a Vatican City Swiss Guard. Everyone involved with the interview was enjoying themselves so much and the questions and answers were so interesting that I had to buy the book.

Widmer shares his memories of John Paul II and the examples of leadership he learned during his time serving the pope many already refer to as “John Paul The Great.”

I’m looking forward to jumping into this read.

Here’s a great link to a review of the book, including some of the points outlind by the author- https://catholicbusinessjournal.biz/content/book-review-pope-and-ceo-written-former-swiss-guard

Book of the Month… Time Flies!

*Catch the UPDATES at the bottom of this post*

I love reading. The idea of not being able to put a good book down, finding a new series to dive into, swapping stories of great reads with complete strangers… I love it all.

When I came up with the idea of blogging about doing something new every day this year, one of my categories I cooked up that got me the most excited was the Book of the Month. Unfortunately, now I am being reminded…  daily… why I never read very much anymore. It is just a hard activity to wedge in daily, even just one monthly book. I am lucky to be part of many fabulous groups- family, extended family, church, schools, neighborhood, etc. Wonderful people and a home that all keep me hopping. I can’t complain, I can only praise and be thankful.

But, I do miss reading.

I sat down for the first time this month to start to read my book for the month“Hild,” by Nicola Griffith. Several chapters in, and this is proving to be a good read. I could use a good dictionary of Old English/Old Scottish/Various Other Lost Languages of the Island…

This novel could use a glossary. Correction- this novel has a glossary, and it also has a fabulously responsive author! Nicola Griffith, thank you for commenting that not only is there a glossary in the back as part of the author’s notes, but there are extras available on your blog here on WordPress- NicolaGriffith.com/2014/02/24/hild/

Finally Finished My May Read: “The Screwtape Letters,” by C. S. Lewis

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts, Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”
C. S. Lewis, from “The Screwtape Letters”

CS Lewis
CS Lewis “The Screwtape Letters”

I finally finished a book that I started several years ago. Can I perhaps tempt you to read it, too? (LOL… OK, I’ll stop). In “The Screwtape Letters,” Lewis provides much food for thought, and the main thought of the book is Temptations.

C. S. Lewis, well know for his Narnia series, is almost as famous for his theologic essays and stories. In “The Screwtape Letters,” we read correspondences between the earthly tempter and demon “Wormwood” and his under-worldly advisor, “Screwtape.” The whole of the story focuses on Wormwood’s need for advice as to how to best lead his assigned human astray from “The Enemy,” God.

In one letter, Screwtape shares with Wormwood: “…as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.'”  This really struck me, and I stopped reading to think… reminded of how the modern screen conveniences, in particular, allow me to become easy pickings for my own personal demons. Good grief, that could be me looking back at all the hours I spend wasted in front of a TV, smartphone, or computer. Sobering, to say the least.

Screwtape then closes this letter with what many of us will recognize (in reverse, of course)… how many times have you heard this idea preached from the pulpit? Or maybe you’ve read it in a book:

“But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.”

May Read: C. S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters”

CS Lewis The Screwtape Letters
CS Lewis “The Screwtape Letters”

Ever start a good book but never get around to finishing it?

“That’s just crazy talk,” say all the bibliophiles. I know, I know…crazy!
The first time I picked up C. S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters” life just got in the way of my finishing it. I still have the book and intend on starting over from Chapter 1 tonight.

This time I picked up the book, I noticed to whom it was dedicated: J. R. R. Tolkien.

Happy reading, all!

CS Lewis
CS Lewis “The Screwtape Letters”

“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough
or a book long enough to suit me.”

“You are never too old to set another goal
or to dream a new dream.”

“We meet no ordinary people in our lives.”

C. S. Lewis

April Read: “The Lost Continent” Review

In 1989 Bill Bryson drove throughout the United States on a quest to find the quintessential American city. He referred to it as “Amalgam, USA” and the quest became his book “The Lost Continent.” He did find many beautiful spots in the U.S. but sure doesn’t hold back when he is disappointed.  Heads up- this is not a children’s book, too many four letter words (well placed, too, I stoop to crass humor…).

I enjoyed this read, but I offer a couple cautions-

  • If you are an American, read only if you have a healthy sense of humor and can take a joke about your country.
  • If you are not an American, Read this book if you want to read an ex-pat’s biting description of the USA, but please take most of it with a grain of salt. Please?
  • He’s a timid traveller here after living abroad, but uses his wit in his defense. Two quotes (of many examples) to illustrate: “A sign beside the highway said ‘Welcome to Mississippi. We Shoot to Kill.’ It didn’t really. Just made that up.” On New York City’s Times Square- “New York frightened me… I felt a personal gratitude to everyone who left me alone. I wanted to hand out cards that said, ‘Thank you for not killing me.’
Travel books and Bryson's commentary on his travels
Travel books and Bryson’s commentary on his travels

Reading this book kind of makes you want to tour the States- not because his descriptions of beautiful scenery and fascinating people draw you in, but instead because you want to defend them! It would be satisfying to visit the New England states he hated and send him a postcard detailing the fine sights that you were able to view, in contrast his perspectives of a New England with never ending strip malls, a slow witted South, a monotonous Midwest… etc. Remember- he’s a comedian, and if you are going to laugh at one region he details, you have to be able to take it when he sticks it to your region.

Bill Bryson’s “The Lost Continent” is funny. I liked it, but definitely not for everyone.

Two by Bryson... on the only uncluttered flat surface in my home right now.
Two by Bryson… on the only uncluttered flat surface in my home right now.

New Things Daily. Really. Or At Least Attempted…

On Monday, I had intended to give an update on the Book of the Month. Even though the plan derailed, my train of thought is powered by a compulsive desire to see those little calendar dates all filled in, each and every day.

Look at that empty spot... just taunting me.
Look at that empty spot… just taunting me.

Monday was Migraine day. Sometimes after a migraine ceases you feel physically lighter, floating or at least as if a weight has literally been lifted off of your head. Sometimes you feel as though pressure has been released… or that the vacuum chamber that you are stuck in has finally unlocked and your entire being is returning to normal.

Weird, I know. It feels cathartic to just explain what the pain feels like to me. I wonder if by being able to put words to the extreme discomfort that I am conquering it in a way? Psychologists, doctors, med students, and Psychiatrists, feel free to chime in. Seriously.

So, Monday I didn’t even lift my book. I didn’t even lift my body off of the couch most of the day.

But- here is the book update about my new read this month:

Need a good laugh? Go get this book. Bill Bryson’s “The Lost Continent.” Warning: you have to have thick skin to read this book, because he busts on just about everyone across the country. Overall I am loving this book, lots of laugh-out-loud moments!

And, later today I will move this post on over to Monday. Where it belongs. Out, damned blank spot! Out, I say!

…I wonder if Lady Macbeth had migraines?

Why Challenge Yourself? (Book and Project of the Month Pep Talk)

March Read: The Mistaken Wife

March Project: 5K and The Only Two Reasons I Run

The month is halfway over. I am more than halfway through my book, but failing at this running challenge. I won’t give up, though. I have friends who have gone back to college and set far higher fitness goals than I have- out of respect for them, and myself, I’ll keep plugging away. They truly inspire me!

Need a reason to challenge yourself with new projects, plays, and books, recipes, etc.? Go online, look up “neural plasticity” and follow links on reputable websites. (here’s some!) Even better, enter “neural plasticity” into the search bar on Pinterest… now sit back, and start reading. In a nutshell: when you experience new things your brain is energized.

Doing something new every day and going out on a limb is my way to help get over years of anxiety.

If I also end up expanding my cognitive abilities, broaden my perspectives and become more creative, even better!

“Creativity is just connecting things.
When you ask creative people how they did something,
they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it,
they just saw something.
It seemed obvious to them after a while.
That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had
and synthesize new things.
And the reason they were able to do that was that
they’ve had more experiences
or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity.
A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences.
So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions
without a broad perspective on the problem.
The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”
Steve Jobs

Read the whole WIRED interview here: http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/4.02/jobs_pr.html