Friday, July 25, 2008

Joy of Reading

I noticed my blog friend Quid had this thing called Shelfari on her site so I checked it out and have added it to mine. I've started with seven books I have read over the past couple of years which are a cross section of the types of books I enjoy.

My reading tastes are a lot like my musical tastes -- quite varied. I like both fiction and non-fiction, classical and modern. My top five of all time are listed on my blog profile. It would be huge for one to break into those five but Chasing Francis came very close. I absolutely loved that book.

I am not a fantasy fan at all. The Lord of the Rings just doesn't do it for me. I love C. S. Lewis, but am much more enamored with his apologetics than The Chronicles of Narnia or The Space Trilogy. So it may be surprising to see Wicked on my shelf. I only read it because I saw the play in New York City recently and wanted to see how the book compared to the stage version. It is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz (never cared much for it either; those flying monkeys scared me to death). I loved the stage version but the book is dark and weird. Well written but mighty strange. And light years different than the play.

And You Know You Should Be Glad is a delightful book on friendship by Bob Greene. I was so touched that I bought about six copies and sent it to my best "guy friends." I also e-mailed Bob Greene and told him how much I liked it and he responded. A couple of months ago he e-mailed me and told me about his newest, When We Get To Surf City, which I am reading now. It's about the 60s group Jan and Dean.

I read Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter in high school and re-read it last year. It's a little depressing but really good. Her writing is similar to Flannery O'Connor and the dark southern genre.

Same Kind of Different as Me is the incredible story of a wealthy international art dealer and his friendship with a homeless man. The Blind Side is about an affluent Memphis, TN family who adopted an inner city African-American boy, sent him to a Christian high school and who now plays football at Ole Miss.

Wife and I share the passion of reading and have similar tastes, though our preferences occasionally differ. I absolutely love Jan Karon and the Mitford series, which she finds boring. She reads most of the stuff Danielle Steele and James Patterson churn out but I'm not a big fan.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Whirlwind Days

It was approximately ten days ago that Wife and I left home. We attended two weddings, Wife visited varied friends and family in Arkansas for a few days while I worked in Memphis, and we picked up Younger Son at camp in Missouri. We returned home today to find a house still standing. Older Son, Daughter and Ralph the Dog seemed to have managed OK in our absence.

Younger Son seems to have grown a foot while he was gone. Other than rash from poison ivy he contracted and one night he spent in the infirmary, he loved every minute of it. We were so glad to see him and he was happy enough to see us, but he would have been just as glad to visit a bit, then send us on our way. Alas for him, it's back to reality. We are all helping him with "re-entry" and he'll be fine. Do any of my blogger friends know any good home remedies for poison ivy? It's not itching anymore but still looks awful, kind of like scabbed-over chicken pox. I have only had it one time in my life, despite doing lots of camping as a youngster. I was about 28 when I had my one and only case and I remember it was so bad I had to go to the Dr. and get steroid shots. Younger Son's is not nearly that bad. Other two offspring have never had to deal with it.

School starts in only three more weeks here. Our local school administration has been trying for years to push the so-called balanced calendar (a/k/a Year Round School) on us, which we have succesfully fought off. What they have been able to do, however, is push back the start date ever so slightly and this year we start Aug. 11! Ugh! Daughter will leave in a few weeks to go back to college for Rush. Older Son will stay with us, of course, he having boomeranged back to the nest a couple of months ago. It has been one whirlwind of a summer but that's just where we are right now.

Wife was furiously taking mental notes at the two weddings we attended, putting herself in the place of both mother of the bride and mother of the groom, just so she will be ready if/when her time comes. No, nobody in the family is engaged or anywhere near it, but I'll hand it to Wife -- she has always been prepared.

Both weddings we attended, one in Arkansas and one in Missouri, were beautiful affairs but I'll say this about the Arkansas event. It was in JULY in ARKANSAS and a big part of the reception was OUTSIDE!!!! Are you kidding me?! Was I sweating like a pig just walking onto the lawn and seeing tables and chairs set up as if they expected I would remain there?! I made a polite hello to the bride's father, congratulated him, visited the beer table, then swifly made my way inside where I remained for the duration. Sorry folks, but heat, humidity and I just don't get along too well.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

You Never Know

I live in an affluent community. Believe me, I bring the average down in every category but, still, there are some heavy hitters in my midst. Or it appears that way.

Younger Son has hung out since early elementary school days with a boy I'll call A.P. He has always been unusually cute and unusually polite. I have always suspected an Eddie Haskell lurking behind the "yessirs" and "no-sirs" but gosh, you can't help but really like the boy.

A.P. has enjoyed a higher standard of living than Younger Son. He has always been the first with the newest and best video game systems and has never had to choose between, say, a Nintendo or PlayStation. He has them all.

His parents drive the latest model luxury cars and they take great vacations. They pulled A.P. out of public shools a few years back and now send him to an exclusive private school.

They recently moved out of an already very nice home and moved into one that is over the top, even by this community's standards. The first time I delivered Younger Son there my mouth stood agape. Younger Son reported that the inside was a sight to behold.

I have never known A.P.'s parents well but they seemed nice enough. Although they appeared to be "conspicuous consumers," they were very down-to-earth when it came to casual conversation. I've inquired about Mr. P.'s occupation, only to be told he is "in investments." Obviously he had invested very well, I thought.

Today it was reported that A.P.'s dad attempted suicide a couple of days ago. He had recently filed for bankruptcy and investments he had supposedly made for clients had mysteriously disappeared. He appears to having been building a house of cards that has now collapsed.

I am sick over it. Sick for A.P., not only that he will have to learn about his dad having been involved in some shady business dealings, but also that he tried to end his own life. I also dread having to tell Younger Son about it, who has always come home from A.P.'s house talking about how nice and how much fun Mr. P. is.

This has also made me wonder: what really goes on behind the doors of those lavish estate homes that are so prevalent in our community? Are there other stories like these out there?

What has A.P.'s dad's life been like the past few years? Did he know these chickens would come home to roost or did he think he could somehow make it all work out all right? Did he ever think maybe it was just time to come clean?

I read a book a long time ago called The Hiding Place, about two sisters who were captured and put into Nazi concentration camps. Their faith sustained them and one of the most poignant lines is, "There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still."

My prayer for A.P.'s family today is that somehow, some way, they will find Him at the bottom of this hideous pit, that they can rebuild their lives and start over. It will take nothing short of a miracle, but they can happen.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

End of the weekend

Well I had written this really inspirational piece and what do you know, I hit a button and erased it all. Isn't that pitiful? I'm way too tired to try and put it together again so it will be a few days before I can put those thoughts back in order.

Anyway, the zoo is back in business at our house. We all (except for Younger Son who is still at camp) re-convened here Thurs. night -- Wife, Older Son and Daughter back from the beach and I back from working in Memphis. Friday morning (July 4) I, along with Older Son, Daughter and Older Son's girlfriend went and did a July 4 5K at the YMCA. Daughter put us to shame, finishing in about 33 and a half minutes. For me, the fact that I finished is all that needs to be said, but understand I set no records. It was a good way to start the holiday weekend though.

Wife and I spent the rest of that day at some friends' lake house with some other couples. I haven't had on a swimsuit in years, don't ski or jet ski (remember, I'm an early onset curmedgeon) but will go on an occasional boat ride and can tolerate sitting on the dock enjoying food, drink and fellowship while the more adventurous ones (which includes Wife) enjoy the water activities. It was an enjoyable day with good friends.

By Saturday morning three of Daughter's college friends had arrived and the four of them, along with Older Son and his girlfriend, attended the big country music concert at the football stadium. Wife prepared copious amounts of food, of course, and they were all in and out until early this evening.

We sure miss Younger Son and look daily for his photos on the camp website. We have received two brief letters that I am sure someone stood over him and made him write. Two more weeks to go.

Hope all my friends out in Blogland had a good holiday weekend.