Saturday, July 28, 2007

Little Things

It's funny how the tiny things can make such a difference to us: the smallest irritation or perceived sleight can become worthy of hours spent whining and bitching (to ourselves or others). On the other hand, fifteen minutes spent in quiet meditation (or prayer, if that works for you) can bring us such peace, contentment and clarity; a small, inexpensive excursion you do for yourself, your partnership or your family can mean more (and be better remembered) than the Grand Vacation that cost a bazillion dollars and everybody argued the whole time.

Back on MSN I liked to periodically list the things that were making me happy. Here's my first "Little Things Making Me Happy" on Blogger

  • Meditation (what? You saw that coming? Ah. So much for subtlety): A quiet room, a quiet mind, sweeping out the cobwebs, draining out the boiling anger, letting in the sunshine, pulling up my own energy and that of the Source to calm me and give me purpose.
  • Music: iPod, live, sung to myself, on the computer, on the radio. Celtic, 'Spiritual', Rock, Country, Alternative. Music to fit (or change) my mood, makes me happy.
  • Small Rituals: Meditation, having a cup of tea in a cozy shop, scrubbing the heck out of myself in the shower, cleaning house (I do this one SO rarely!). Little rituals keep me grounded, centered, content.
  • Gratitude: saying thank you over and over again all day long. Thanks for things I take for granted: smooth highways and fast travel. Electricity, running water. Sunshine after clouds, rain after heat, spring after winter. Asking for what we need and getting it.. somehow, even when it seemed hopeless. Being gifted what I never knew I needed until somehow gave it to me without strings.
  • Children: five awesome people on their own journeys. It's a struggle and a pleasure but the joy of participating in their lives is never without reward.
  • Work: Learning a new function, pulling thousands of pieces of disparate material into a report tells us how we're doing, drawing a good wage(AND INSURANCE!) for a job I find challenging and enjoyable.
  • Learning: Picking a subject and finding out everything I can. Talking, reading, listening, watching and learning. Expanding my horizons.
  • Serendipitous Moments: The tea shop that I found on the net-- that wasn't open for another 30 minutes--just so happened to be located next to a spiritual bookstore that was, open, I mean. Finding just the right purse, after months of fruitless searching, when I took Cowboy someplace he wanted to go instead (and having it be 80% off too!). Moments that make me tingle make me happy.
  • Anticipation: The boys are going out to Washington to see my parents, my parents coming out here to see us, Amanda's dog arriving, back to school, my brother's wedding, my children and husband meeting my grandfather for the first time, our first ever (mini)vacation as a family to Rushmore after Alex's wedding.

What's making you happy? Sit quietly and think about it. If you can find nothing to be happy about, look for one small thing about which to be grateful. There is something, even if you have to dig. Hold it in your mind and feel other things you forgot start to occur to you. Revel in the knowledge that you are loved, somewhere. You are provided for, somehow. Feel yourself filled with a warm glow when you realize these things.

Use that energy.

Pass it on.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter Post Number 7,450,560

I'm wondering.. is this blog number seven hundred million about the final installment of Harry Potter? Probably. I told Caffeinated Librarian that I was blogging about HP, and so I am. Just like everybody else, damn it.

For those of you following along (snort.. all two of you), my book was actually in my mailbox when I wrote the last post. The story of how it arrived (and how Amazon needs to work on their communication skills), will have to wait. The book was in my hands Sunday morning; I finished it Monday evening.

My boss, recruited into Harry-0-philia partially through my efforts this winter, was disappointed I wasn't finished Monday morning. As he looked at my copy sitting on the Traffic desk, one could almost glimpse inner turmoil: was it a misuse of company time to send me to a conference room until I was finished with the book? Unless he reads my blog (Dan? are you out there?), he'll have to wait till tomorrow.

I'm not quite sure how to proceed, so I'm going to borrow a page from CL and use bullet points. I am NOT using my love of bullet points as an excuse (much...)

Serious spoiler warning. Huge. Big Huge Spoilers. Continue at your Peril.

  • Overall Impression/Rating: I liked it. I liked it for what it was; the end, the sewing up of the threads, the goodbye to old friends at the end of a journey. I felt the pacing was quick but not too quick to savor this last chance to look in on the Wizarding world. I knew there was a lot of death to this book going in, and believe Rowling's inscriptions (is that the right word for the poetry and the William Penn quote?) prepared us even more for this probability. I know what some might say about the ending/epilogue: unnecessary and sappy. I once complained to a literature professor how unfortunate I feel it is that all 'great literature' must be sad. I like happy endings. I think the young and young at heart will appreciate the epilogue because it answers the question all us happy ending types always ask: what happens after 'Happily Every After?'
  • Kleenex Count: I knew when Amanda cried straight on from 200 pages to the end of the book, that I was in deep owl droppings. I did not cry for Mad Eye; he's just not lovable enough. Now, if you didn't cry for Dobby, you are one hard hearted son of a biscuit. I bawled. I bawled for Fred, Tonks, Lupin and Collin Creevy. I am a crier, though, we've established. Tears also appeared when Scrimgeour brought Dumbledore's bequests to the kids, when Kreacher turned the corner, when Harry saw his parent's grave, Ron came back after running away, the kids listen to the radio show, Aberforth tells the tale of Ariana's death, Snape died, when Harry went through Snape's memories, Harry marched to his death surrounded by his dead loved ones and when Neville was the one to step up first against Voldemort. I'm still dehydrated.
  • The Vernons: It was obvious for at least the last two books that Petunia knew more about Wizards and the wizarding world than she let on. My personal theory was that Petunia was actually a squib, but I like Rowlings' explanation more. In the matter of Dudley's (partial) redemption, to me, one of the overriding themes of this book was a lost cause may become an ally (or maybe just slightly less of a loss) if shown kindess or respect. A nice life lesson.
  • The Malfoys: Did anyone else tire of the 'Maloys are being punished' story line that's dragged on for the last two books? Me too. You're Voldemort, for crepe's sake: you don't punish people. You PUNISH them, I felt it wasn't true to his style to leave them all alive. But anyway... Draco's refusal to ID the trio when they're brought to the manor went nicely along with Dudley's (tiny) act of kindness and the theme I mentioned earlier. Here, though, is another theme: once a selfish bastard, always a selfish bastard. That one tiny mercy doesn't make a lot of difference when the Malfoy parents were clearly looking out only for numbers 1, 2 and 3 alone. One can easily imagine they claimed (again) to have been Imperiused when the whole thing was over. I guess I just found a third lesson: give people the chance to redeem themselves but don't beat yourself up if they don't take it.
  • The Weasleys I (like Libby) had accepted that the Weasley clan would most likely sustain a major casualty in the war. I managed to delude (most of) myself into thinking George's ear was the casualty. In the back of my mind though, I kept thinking they were getting off easy. When Percy climbed through the cave opening, I knew we must be losing someone already in Hogwarts and my heart started breaking. I can't imagine Fred without George without Fred; it actually made ending the series that much easier. There can't be anymore books because there can't be stories with only George, not Fred.
  • Mrs. Weasley: So cool she gets her own bullet point! It may sound horrible, but I pictured a Jedi battle when Bellatrix fought Mrs. Weasley. Didn't prevent it from being frickin awesome. Rowling could not have chosen a better pairing: the woman who clearly never nurtured anything in her life against the wizarding world's best mom. That's right, we're moms. We can heal wounds and conjure up fabulous sauces, school supplies, new tennis shoes and money for field trips from nowhere. We can also kick serious ass!
  • Umbridge: There is something horrible about a person who fights evil with it's own weapons. When that same character can actually go along with evil because it serves her agendas, that's unspeakable. I think Umbridge is actually Rowling's scariest character because people like her exist.
  • Magical Creatures: There is a fundamental difference between Potter and the Death Eaters in the way they treat and view magical creatures. It magnifies the difference between the right way and the wrong. Harry buries Dobby because it's the right thing to do, not to make any kind of show. None of the Death Eaters would ever think to do that but sadly, neither did many other basically decent Wizards.
  • Becoming our Own Hero: There comes a time when we realize the people we idolized aren't so great after all. Harry's already done this but he's gone beyond. He takes it one step further by doing right where Sirius did wrong, Lily did, where Dumbledore did. He ends the book as his own man, surrounded by people who care about him but out of the shadow of his parent's sacrifice, even of his own place in destiny. We must all do this. Our heroes show us one part of the path, one way of doing things but sooner or later we find they have faults. We must find a way of becoming our own heroes, without need of fame or praise if we're ever to be really happy. I feel certain if Harry ended the book in front of the Mirror of Ariced, he would see only himself, just as he was. We should all be so lucky.

Saturday, July 21, 2007 Bites and The Worst Writer's Block. Ever.

My copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I dutifully preordered June 12 did not arrive today. I was dubious about ordering it this way in the first place, seeing how Manda and I skipped all the hub-bub of the last release and STILL had a copy in our grubby paws by 12:05AM (24hour grocery stores sell books, at a discount even!). Still, well-meaning coworkers and peer pressure got to me and I caved; I preordered.

Manda didn't. Instead, she dragged me to King Soopers at 11:30 for HER copy. I ended up there anyway; I should have just purchased the dag nab thing that way. I should have run to Sam's or Costco this morning and gotten it for $17.99 (and NO SHIPPING!). But nooooooo.. I have to be all '21st Century', Internet savvy, seduced by one coworkers' story that she actually received her copy of HP:ATHBP a whole day early.

Manda's on Chapter 11 and periodically gasps or laughs. It's torture.

I sent a very uncharacteristically un-world-peace-good-karma-pay-it-forward email to Amazon at exactly 7:15 pointing out that their delivery guarantee was as valuable as Confederate money.

It's a good thing my Pat did such a great job on my hair; otherwise the day might be a total loss.

As for the Writer's Block: my grandfather has asked me to speak at Alex's rehearsal dinner. It's something of a tradition for my father's side of the family to have a little speech, poem or song prepared for very special occasions. Sometimes my grandparents spent weeks getting it ready, sometimes they made the thing up in the middle of the event.

I spoke at my grandmother's wake and most of my family read my blog at least occasionally. I guess it's kind of a passing of the torch that Pop-pop has asked me to do it for Alex. Needless to say, I'm incredibly honored and touched. I'm incredibly proud of Alex and couldn't be more happy for him. Combine that with a history of saying exactly the very most WRONG thing at the worst possible times and.......

Forget Writer's Block. It's Writer's Mountain.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I know it's lame...

I know it's lame, but a quiz related update is better than no update...

Which Family Guy Character Are You? (pics)

You are smarter than most of those surrounding you, yet it is wasted on heinous projects. You demand alot and kick ass when you dont get it.
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