To boldly go

Today is the 47th anniversary of the Star Trek universe. Like many, I grew up with the show and it’s an important cultural reference point for me. It’s also been on my mind lately because I just discovered Star Trek: Enterprise via Netflix. I don’t know how I missed this, but I am enjoying being able to watch new Trek.

We learn a lot from our parents, our faiths, and our friends but we can also learn a lot from the programming we watch and the books we read. I think it’s important to keep this in mind and it’s one of the reasons I don’t watch shows that focus on violent amoral people. I’ve learned a lot from Star Trek that I use in my day-to-day life. For example:

  • Never give up. Aliens may be attacking, a virus is about to kill everyone on board, and the plasma warp core is beyond repair. You’ve got to keep going because there is a solution and you will find it if you stay calm and work cooperatively with those around you. Sometimes you don’t make it–especially if you’re wearing a red shirt–but that is the exception and not the rule.
  • Respect other cultures. They may seem odd; they may seem rude; I may not understand them but I try to remember that they live by a different set of rules. Although I don’t often have the funds to travel, I have lived in several different regions in the United States. I grew up in New York and then moved to Minnesota where I experienced massive culture shock. The same thing happened when I moved to Seattle. I interact with many different cultures here that frustrate me: skateboard kids, druggies, and aggressive homeless to name a few. I try to remember that their needs and culture are different than mine. It helps.
  • Risks are a part of life. If you don’t boldly go, you’ll miss out on a lot of new experiences and contacts. I’m not about to try extreme sports or jump out of a plane but I do throw myself at the universe with joyful abandon. I moved to Seattle without knowing anyone here and I committed before even visiting because I couldn’t afford a trip first. It’s sometimes rocky, but I have met many people I now consider my family. I’ve learned a lot from my adventures.

I hope the Star Trek franchise keeps going strong so that others can benefit from the many positive messages that it has to offer. Besides, I love it, and joy is as good a justification as any. Thank you, Gene Roddenberry and the many people who have made the series happen. May it live long and prosper.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
258. What are you watching and reading? Is it contributing positively to your life? Consider doing a little decluttering if it’s not. If you are a fan of Trek, what has it contributed to your life? Feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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New perspectives

It’s been hot and sunny all week in Seattle, and those of us with allergies have been a bit of a cranky lot. Sinus headaches do not pair well with stifling heat (or with anything, really). While there are some here who enjoy high temperatures and bright sun, many of us move here to enjoy the damp grey beauty of the place.

I have this new allergy app on my phone and I like it because I can look to see what the levels are for various allergens in my city. Since I’ve been feeling awful this week and the levels were very high for “dust and dander”, I now know that’s something my body doesn’t really care for. It’s a helpful diagnostic tool.

I can’t do much about the city of Seattle, but I’ve spent the weekend vacuuming up extra dust from my apartment. I know my lungs will thank me. I’ve also been rearranging my furniture and moving other things around. It’s nice to get a new perspective on things. I always feel cheered when I move things about a bit.  It’s cheaper than retail therapy and often even more beneficial.

I also decided to indulge myself by doing a fun little project. I have a lot of books. I love them, but I’m sometimes distressed by the visual clutter they can represent, even on a bookcase. I’ve been toying with the idea of arranging them by color to cut down on the clutter, and today I rearranged the cookbooks and all the books in one room. I don’t have so many that it will make it really hard to find what I need, and just looking at them now feels very calming. It may seem odd to other people, but I figure I have to live here, so I should pick a system that works for me. Besides, I look at them often as a whole and only need to find particular volumes a few times a day. I couldn’t be more excited by the change.

Home is a work in progress and I’m going to keep adapting it to be the best sanctuary it can be. Small changes at home can make big changes in my mood. Here’s hoping for a cool and restful week. I’ve done my part.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
252. How might you change the energy of your home? How long has it been since you’ve rearranged the furniture or put up new artwork? Perhaps it’s time to see things from a new perspective.

Cracking spines in pursuit of pleasure

Invariably, a word geek like me always turns the discussion back to books. I’ve read quite a number of lovely ones lately, and these gems have reminded me of other great reads I’d like to share.

I just read a book called Dreaming of Gwen Stefani by Evan Mandery. This was one of those novels I hadn’t heard of on  my own. I picked it up at the library just because it looked interesting. I was not disappointed. If you’re not familiar with Gwen Stefani, she’s the very attractive lead singer of a band called No Doubt. This book is about one man’s obsession with meeting her. Although he works at a hot dog stand, the instant he first sees one of her videos, he knows that he and Gwen are soul mates. I loved this book. It was well-written, and truly unusual. I also love the odd diversions the book takes into science. This is a somewhat odd thing for me to like, because I’m not much interested in science, but this work contained the kind of science that fascinates even a liberal arts major like me.

This book reminded me of another work I loved that you may not yet have discovered. Comedian Steve Martin is also a playwright and novelist, and I love his writing. He wrote the book Shopgirl, on which the movie was based. That’s a great book, but even better is The Pleasure of My Company which features another strange and wonderful narrator like the narrator in the Gwen Stefani book.

Friends turn me onto other books, and I’ve recently finished reading Wicked and Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire. I didn’t think I’d like these books. I love the movie The Wizard of Oz, but had never been a fan of the original books, so stories set in Oz could not attract me simply by their subject matter. That said, I loved these books. They explore the hidden back story of many of the major characters in The Wizard of Oz. I’m hooked, and I’m on the waiting list for the new one. I hope this author keeps writing. If he does, I’ll keep reading. I’m always looking for new books to cuddle up with. Perhaps you’ll discover some of these fun reads for yourself.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

215. If these books intrigue you, seek them out and read them. What books do you love? Tell people about them (or post a comment to this blog) so that others can read your finds, too.

Rest in peace

While I was busy with my novel writing project, two authors I really like died. Tony Hillerman wrote mysteries about the Navajos, and Studs Terkel wrote oral histories of everyday people. I’ll miss them both.

I love mysteries, and I particularly enjoy the kind where I gain intimacy with cultures I haven’t personally experienced. As I read all of Tony Hillerman’s works, I learned about Navajo culture and belief. I also learned about the struggles of combining tradition with the cultures outside of the reservation, and some of the issues it raises. If I hadn’t read these mysteries, I would have never learned about some of the traditional myths of this culture. I also feel that I have a greater appreciation for the landscape of the Southwest as seen by this writer who lived and died there. I am grateful for his body of work.

Studs Terkel introduced me to other people I’ve never myself met. Through their own words, in his book Working, he told me about how a construction worker feels when he passes a building he’s worked on. I heard from prostitutes, pharmacists, and priests. This book is a godsend to a curious person who is interested in all people, and it’s also useful as a writing reference. I talk to everyone everywhere I go, but I met a lot of characters through this book that I’d probably never run across in other ways. I’ve read the book many times and highly recommend it.

These authors may seem very different from one another, but I believe that they share an appreciation for detail, the patience to look past the obvious and to reach into the heart of things where you can see the essence of people and cultures. More than that, they share a gift for conveying this essence so that the readers can see it. They showed me little pieces of how things are in places I might never get to experience. For that I am thankful, and I am glad that I had the experience of finding their works. I aspire to do the same with my writing, and if I succeed at all, it is in some part because I learned at their feet. I am glad that they will live on through their writing, and I highly recommend these books to you if you have not yet read them.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

203. What subject, culture, or person do you know intimately? How can you share those details with others so that there can be greater understanding and appreciation? As you work on this challenge, remember to be respectful in the details you reveal.

Productive and relaxing

I had a very productive weekend. I finally got everything unpacked that I wanted to get unpacked, and all the boxes in my little apartment have either been dealt with or tucked away for future projects. It feels great. I managed to get this done because I had a deadline. It really helps, as it’s so much easier to get ready to move than to unpack. You know you need to get it done by a certain time, so you do. Even so, I procrastinated, but I was finally able to barrel down due to audio books.

When I have a non-writing project to do at home, I’ll often borrow audio books from the library. That way I can be having fun while I tackle whatever it is that I happen to have been avoiding. I’m so glad I did that this time, too. Not only did I empty the boxes, I really loved the books I listed to. I’ve also become a really huge fan of comedian David Brenner.

I’ve always loved standup comedy, and I’ve always thought David Brenner to be funny, but I’ve never before understood how inspiring he can be. This weekend I listened to a book of his titled I think there’s a terrorist in my soup: how to survive personal and world problems with laughter—seriously (2003). I loved this book. I’ve always used my sense of humor to survive. It’s the only reason I’ve lived this long. David Brenner’s book gives specific examples of current world crises and explains how to find the humor in them. He also covers personal crises. I learned so much from listening to him, even while I laughed and laughed.

One example concerns his personal approach to worries about money. He said that his family always had two sayings. One was that if you worry about money, you’ll have money worries. Makes sense to me. His other saying was that instead of worrying about how to save money, you should focus on making more. That’s also very practical. If you’re feeling like the news is stressing you out and you just can’t seem to calm down, I’d suggest that you find this book right away. If possible, get the audio. Comedians are always so much funnier if you can hear them. I’d also suggest you stop listening to the news that’s stressing you out. When something hurts, you should stop doing it, right? Makes sense to me.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

194. Next time a stressful situation comes up, see how you can find the humor in it, or use your sense of humor to deal with whatever is going on.

Reading is fundamental

By now you’ve probably figured out that I read pretty much constantly. Words are a great delight, and non-fattening, too. I just read another Y.A. book that I really liked. It’s called Fat Kid Rules the World (by K.L. Going, 2003). This book was great fun. A fat teenager is just about to throw himself in front of a train when he is saved by a cool punk kid who wants him to be the drummer in a hot new band. The fat kid can’t figure out why. This book is unpredictable and uplifting with some really nifty philosophy thrown in. I’m really happy I read it.

See you tomorrow!

She sings in English, too

On weekends I like to do things a little differently! Enjoy!

I find a lot of books these days by trusting to the randomness of the universe, and Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers, 2008, is no exception. The title caught my ear as I was reading a list of recommended reading at the library. This YA (young adult) novel is about the confusion of growing up, trying to decide who you are while you’re also trying to deal with the everyday hassles of being a kid. The novel’s protagonist is obsessed with Debbie Harry, the lead singer of the band Blondie. He can’t decide whether he wants to date her or be her, but he adores the power and beauty she exudes. The book fulfilled its promise, and I recommend it.

By the way, you may have noticed that I haven’t included any negative reviews. It’s not that I like everything I read—not at all. I’ve made the decision to only mention books I liked because: 1) It’s not joyful to be negative. 2) I know how much work it is to write a book. 3) Everyone’s taste differs. I might hate something that you adore—for example, I cannot understand the fascination with bell bottoms. Someone else can tell you what not to read—I have more important things to do with my time.

See you tomorrow!