a simple idea, a friend and books

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For some time now, a friend of mine has wanted to get to know more people in the community where she lives. Like many people  she commutes to outside of her community to work. Her children are grown so she doesn’t have “the school connection” to her community. I have lived in my community for 28 years but because I always worked outside of my community and my children didn’t attend school in my local community I too felt the desire/ need to be better connected in my community.  We both enjoy reading and discussing books so we decided to start a book club. To give credit where, where credit is due my friend was the originator of the library book club idea.

Last December, we met with one of the librarians at the local public library. We told them our idea to start a book club. The librarian wanted to know “who would be welcome to attend?”. We said “whoever wanted to”. Since it would be open to all the library would reserve one of their rooms for us at no charge, they would mention the book club in their newsletter and they would secure copies of the book we wanted to read. Sounds simple – we were actually a little surprised at how easy it seemed to be. Then there was a little bump in the road. The first book we wanted to read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese wasn’t readily available so the library asked us to pick another book from a very extensive list of books. Oh my!! Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. We looked over the list and decided on Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.  Our thought being with the popularity of The Help it would be interesting to read a book written by a female African-American writer. As the first Tuesday in February approached we decided that the worst that could happen would be no one except the two of us would show up and if that happened we would just discuss the book between ourselves and call it a day. Well, 3 other people came and a lively discussion ensued.

Since then we have met the first Tuesday of each month. I have read some books that I would never have chosen to read if they weren’t the “book club” book.  As one of the other book club members commented “it is good to read a book that may have been required reading in school but  now you  can read it and don’t have to write a paper or take an exam.” I have been privy to the great conversations. I have met some new people and I look forward to seeing them on the first Tuesday of the month. The interesting thing is we don’t actually know very much about each other. We know each other’s name and maybe one or two random facts – retired or working, has children or not. I guess what we don’t know is each other’s stories. I like learning other’s people’s stories. But to be honest there is something to be said for just being people who read the same book and get together to discuss it. It is simple, it isn’t messy and it is very enjoyable. Sometimes you need that.

In case you are interested, we have read and discussed the following books. It is an open discussion. Sometimes we have discussion questions, sometimes one of the book club members just starts talking about the book. The book for the next month is suggested by a member of the group and the only “rule” is if you suggest a book, you have to show up to discuss it.  Only once did someone break the rule! We average about 7 people on the first Tuesday of the month and if everyone came who has ever come we would be 20 people.

February – Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston    1937

March – The History of Love by Nicole Kraus 2005

April – To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf  1927

May – The Awakening by Kate Chopin 1899

June – Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson 1980

July – The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway 2008

August – Eugene Grandet by Honore de Balzac 1833

and I am just finishing  Washington Square by Henry James 1880 to be discussed in September.

Random comment – After the discussion about To the Lighthouse, I realized that the people who knew a lot about the author’s personal life seemed to view the book in a different way that those of us who didn’t. Thought that was interesting 🙂

And the survey says…

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I don’t know about you but I have noticed that more and more companies and healthcare providers seem to be asking for your opinion on how they are doing. Frankly, I am finding this slightly annoying. My mom broke her arm last April and a trip to the ER, a hospital stay, rehab and doctor’s visit have followed. She has received surveys from the hospital, the rehab facility, the home healthcare agency and her doctor. All have been at least 4 pages long and had prepaid postage. I’m sorry but isn’t this increasing the cost of healthcare. And  do they really think a 80-year-old can fill in those little circles.

I had the oil changed in my car last Monday and you guessed it on Tuesday morning there was an email with a survey asking about my experience.  I will tell you I wasn’t totally honest about my experience because I was “cutting” the service person some slack.  She was actually very nice to the male customers but a little rude to me. I have never had a problem with the male service representatives but she was just annoyed with me. She asked me if my car is a V4 or V6. I had never been asked that before and I don’t know the answer. I know the make, the model, year and  my license plate number. I got the impression that me not knowing that was an affront to womanhood. That same day I went in a well-known office supply store and as the clerk handed me my receipt he commented that I may want to complete a survey about my experience. And a clothing store the week before wanted me to go online a complete a brief survey.

I am just a little confused by this whole survey thing for a few reasons. First I don’t think it can be a reliable way of getting feedback. How many people actually complete the survey and send it back? How many people are totally honest when they complete it? Second some of the questions can’t really be answered by a number scale. Third how much is this costing?  Is it cost effective? I am thinking  businesses could train their people to be proud of the work they do and then we wouldn’t need surveys and they could lower costs.

A random thought about surveys:  Years ago, I was  playing Family Feud with my siblings and cousins and the question was “name something connected with Caesar” and my cousin said “salad”. But the best answer ever while playing a boxed game with siblings and neighbors was while playing Jeopardy. The answer was “Hitler’s first name” and my sister said “What is heil?”. Our neighbor fell off her chair she was laughing so hard and it still makes me smile.

Another random thought: I have friends who were on Family Feud. They didn’t win big but they had a great time.

a silver bracelet, a buffet and bread

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My aunt died this past weekend. She had taken a terrible fall last November and after months in the hospital and rehab she had gone home. She was doing quite well when other health issues would get the best of her. She fought the good fight but her body could only take so much. My heart is broken for my uncle, cousins and their families. She will be missed. My aunt and uncle and I shared something very special. We had the same wedding day – June 14. I was actually the flower girl in my aunt and uncle’s wedding. To be honest, I don’t remember that event because I was only 4 years old. I have however seen many a photo and for many years I had a small silver  bracelet that my aunt and uncle had given me on June 14, 1958.  I have fond memories of looking at it in my mom’s jewelry box and her saying “that is yours”. When Bruce and I were planning our wedding we picked June 14 as our date. Mainly because his mom had always joked that she would put the “flag out” when he got married. Thus June 14 being Flag Day seemed perfect.  So on June 14, 1980 Bruce and I were married and that silver  bracelet given me by my aunt and uncle was passed along to my flower girl, Bruce’s niece.

 

On another note, the “Ho Chi Minh” has a new home. (See 5/26 blog) This past Friday my daughter and I met at my parent’s house and loaded the “Ho Chi Minh” into her car for the journey to PA. Last evening she sent me a photo of the buffet fondly called the Ho Chi Minh proudly displayed in her dining area. It seems perfect that it has been passed along to the next generation.

 

Lately I have been pondering this whole concept of remembering.  The thought that keeps coming to mind is communion “do this in remembrance of me”. A simple cup of wine and a piece of bread. Such ordinary every day items used to remember the greatest sacrifice ever made. And maybe that is the point it is in the every day that we remember.

A little bit of this & a little bit of that

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Recently heard:

     “It isn’t about design” spoken by a 10-year-old boy during a “timed tower building challenge” at church.

“Just because it is hard, it doesn’t mean it is interesting.” spoken by my son-in-law while watching Olympic men’s gymnastics.

After circling the parking area in Rehoboth Beach more than once, a car pulls out. “Yes” – me “It is a handicapped spot” – my daughter, “I have nanny’s permit in the glove compartment” – me,  A gasp of  total disbelief from both of my daughters, “desperate times, call for desperate measures” –  me.  Luckily it wasn’t actually a handicapped spot. It was so funny how shocked my girls were that I said that. 🙂

“bats in the belfry or the bedroom”

While unpacking from vacation, I walked into my daughter’s bedroom and notice a large bug above the closet door. Wait, that is not a bug, it is a bat. I promptly scream, throw the bag I was putting away and slam the bedroom door. My daughter asks what’s wrong. I tell her about the bat and she puts a rolled up towel at the foot of the door. I momentarily thing about using the colander to push the bat to the floor and then maneuver it outside. I realize that probably won’t work and decide to call a friend’s husband, who so very graciously drives over and gets the bat out of the house. Thank you, thank you.

I am reminded of a couple of previous bat adventures. Camp is famous for having bats which is fine as long as the campers don’t freak out. My brain and many camper/counselor brains understand that in theory bats are good because they eat insects but when they are flying around – not so much. Each night at light’s out I would need to go with my co director to check that the campers were settled down for the night. Some of the camping areas had Adirondack shelters aka “bus shelters”. An Adirondack shelter  is a three-sided shelter with a canvas tarp on the front. Inside there are two bunk beds and a dresser. Anyway as we walk up towards the camping area, we see a bat circling around the light catching bugs. We were expecting to see frighten campers but  instead the girls are just getting ready for bed. Quietly we ask the counselor if she has noticed the bat. “Yes, we have and his name is Henry” For some reason naming the bat, made it okay for the campers – that was a smart counselor.

My other bat story involves a bat that had made a couple of appearances in our home. One Wednesday evening when Bruce and I returned home from prayer meeting, the girls weren’t home which was upsetting because where were they? They were at my neighbor’s house. In the hour and a half Bruce and I had been gone, a bat had been in the house. My daughters had been watching television and a bat was flying around the living room. They had run next door to our neighbors. Anyway, Bruce does a through sweep of the house and can’t find it. He states with some authority that “it must have flown out”. So we go to bed and in the middle of the night, I can feel the air above my head pulsating – swosh, swosh. I don’t open my eyes because I know the bat is right there. I elbow my husband many times, as I whisper “Bruce, Bruce” and finally he wakes up. I don’t remember how he finally got the bat but I can vividly remember the air swishing above my head. It freaks me out just to think about it. I guess two bats in my house in 28 years isn’t bad but no bats would have been better.