Monday, November 30, 2009

Iconic British Red Phone Box as Library

I love this story. When a small village in England no longer had a mobile library they adapted a red phone box into a drop off and pick up library kiosk. Immensely popular with the residents it's now catching on throughout England. Genius!
Read the article with picture here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Flash back Friday #31

Since so many are still enjoying turkey leftovers, here is the classic 1945 cartoon, Jerky Turkey. Enjoy and have a nice weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm thankful for...

my boy. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Moment to Moment

This year I've had a number of memorable moments. All have been unexpected...some moments have been with people I will likely never see again and some were so memorable I've made friends for life. As I'm looking back on 2009 and planning for 2010, I've been thinking about how when you sometimes least expect it, one of those moments will happen and stop your life for just long enough for you to realize your living it.

Last Saturday I went to a friend's yearly holiday party, same place, same people as usual. But this year something was different. Maybe it was the chemistry of a few of us together. Maybe it was the quiet that happened as guests started to leave around 1 am. But by 2 am a few of us had gathered away from the bar and sat down in front of the piano. Someone cleared the photos off the cover and sat down and started to play. No song you would recognize, he was creating his own music. Then someone remembered our host had a couple of guitars and those got played too. And for a little while, it was a moment that none of us wanted to end.

In May while I was studying at Oxford I had more than a few moments during my weeks there. A classical concert so beautiful, I cried. A night at the pub so fun that afterward we stumbled home singing and laughing. And all those moments with people I didn't know before I got there, some are now friends for life while others I'll never see again. And that's ok.

I don't think you can go find a moment. Mine seem to happen with a sort of chemistry. The right people at the right place. A last minute party, a race at the rivers edge, a concert. I think that's also why I love to read romance novels. So many romance novels are unexpected moments put together. A chance meeting at a dance, a new neighbor moves in next door, an invitation to a house party. Suddenly things that didn't go together do. People that normally wouldn't be put together become friends or lovers. Places you never expected to go, become home. Moments when they happen to me are kinda like a chapter in a book. I go over it again, relive it in my mind. That little fraction in time that for a "moment" didn't have an ending.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Let's Say Thanks

During this week of Thanksgiving there is a great website for saying "Thank You".
Let's Say Thanks, allows users to submit a message of thanks to US troops overseas. Your message will be printed on a personalized postcard and mailed to servicemen and women.
I've always been a believer in the power of the written word, especially a thank you card. This website shares the message.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

How Do You Manage Stress?

This morning I attended a meeting on stress management. Presented by a "Life Coach" the focus was on reducing stress levels personally and professionally. I walked away with a few good ideas. I thought I'd share a few.

1. Stress management is mind management. I liked the way he explained this. Picture a garden, you plant seeds, water them, weed them and good things grow. You nourish. Ok, now picture your mind is like a garden. You plant ideas, you build them, they grow. However if you are not nurturing yourself, nothing grows. For example, if you walk into work everyday with an attitude of "Ugh today is going to suck. I hate my job. I hate the commute. I don't like what I'm doing." Well then, you are self talking your way into nothing. You are not nurturing yourself. You will literally talk your way out of growth.

2. One of the best ways to communicate is with questions. If you question, you inquire. You think. You get answers or you ask more questions. Try it, see what happens if you ask more questions and make fewer statements.

3. Develop systems for organization. One I particularly liked was the Time File System. Take 31 file folders, number them 1-31. Or if you are pressed for space, take 12 and label them January through December. Now start filling them. Use post its, flyers, postcards for upcoming events, pieces of scrap paper. Anything that has a reminder on it, a date, an invitation, a card. Slip it into the file for the corresponding date/month and plan ahead. Then update your date book, your Outlook calendar, your task list, your goals, etc with the upcoming dates and tasks you need to do. Easy and efficient.

4. Learn to say "No" or at least, "Yes, but...". Great advice! Especially the "Yes, but..." such as "Yes I can do that, BUT what will we need to do to make that Yes happen. More staff, more time, more money?" Or, "If you want me to focus my efforts there, something else needs to change/go/decrease."

5. The how-to-eat-a-frog theory. If you have to eat a frog, get it done as soon as possible. Have a big project, present it first thing in the morning. Don't leave your don't-want-to-do's until the end of the day. You'll worry or stress or over think all day.

6. Stimulus---------->Response. What is in the middle is maturity. Longer time to response=more maturity.

7. Life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it.

The "Life Coach" showed us a short movie, Learning to Dance in the Rain which you can find with other inspirational short videos here. Kinda cheesy but thought provoking, find one that inspires you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Covers for Imaginary Books Exhibit

On Sunday my friend Chris and I attended an open house at the Evanston Public Library for the exhibit An Imaginary Library: Children's books that do not (yet) exist. This traveling exhibition is available from the International Youth Library in Germany and features 75 paintings, sketches and drawings from illustrators representing 30 countries. The art work is displayed throughout the library and was introduced by Jeff Garrett, Northwestern University's Special Collection Librarian. After Jeff's presentation on the exhibit we toured the collection and enjoyed a reception at the Library.

The book cover art works are beautiful, from simple ink sketches to elaborate paintings and each one included a short description of the book the artist had in mind to create. One of my favorites from a illustrator in Portugal featured a cat in a tree with leaves of words, the description, "A lost and lonesome cat finds solace in the wonderful stories that the trees of large garden tell him. Each leaf of the trees is like a page in a book, and the stories let the cat forget all his loneliness and boredom." Other favorites were illustrations of pirate geckos, mermaids carrying buckets of tears and a dog who makes a photo album of pictures of his family. Charming, imaginative, moving and magical, especially because the book cover art work allows you to glimpse just a bit of a book that has yet to be written. It's like a window into imagination. Loved it.

If you live in the Chicago area or are visiting, don't miss a stop at Evanston Public Library to view this exhibit, it's only there through January. Evanston is 1 of only 3 libraries in the US to host the exhibit. For more information on the exhibit check out the Evanston Public Library page here. For more information on the International Youth Library check out their website here.

I'll end with one more wonderful book description, illustrated with a little girl, her dog, and a tree with 1 leaf, "This book project is an invitation to everyone who wants to take a walk with me to watch the last autumn leaves fall down, to see a plastic bag fly through the streets, or to listen to the faucet drip in the midnight kitchen. It's a personal book, a kind of diary, in which you can see the ordinary things that can always be seen. But you take more time than you usually do. It's about the fine difference between looking and seeing. " Isabel Pin, Germany.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wondering if this is a must read book?

So a few days ago I finished the latest novel by the author of The Time Traveler's Wife. I blogged about the story recently as a book I wanted to live in, you can read that post here. Her Fearful Symmetry is an unusual read and I've been trying to pigeon hole it as a book I either liked or disliked and I can't even seem to decide on that. I loved the locations in the book, London, Highgate Cemetery and the North Shore of Chicago but I'm not really satisfied with the book's ending. Regardless I will try and give a review but in a slightly odd way.

Two creepy identical twin sisters

move to London

after their aunt whom they've never met, the identical twin sister of their mother, dies of cancer and

leaves them her flat

overlooking Highgate Cemetery.

From there it gets even odder. The residents of the building where the twins move include a man with extreme obsessive compulsive disorder, his fed up wife and a man who was the lover of the twin's dead aunt. Oh and then there are the characters in Highgate Cemetery, mostly volunteers who keep the cemetery running and give tourists tours. But it's the strange relationship between the twins that fuels this book. They are mirror image identical twins, so where one has a mole the other twin will have it on the opposite side of the face. They are also rather opposite in personality, Julia is more outgoing and bossy but with no desire to do anything with her life other than order her twin Valentina around. Valentina is the more reserved twin who dreams of leaving the grip of her sister to go to college, become a fashion designer, marry and have children.

This strange tale includes the usual dark family secrets and the unusual such as odd requests from the recently departed. As I got farther into the book I really wanted to find someone to talk about the book with as the story started to veer off into Gothic Mary Shelley style monster stories. The author does a good job of leading up to the main twist in the story, towards the end I just couldn't put the book down. But she really has too many stories going on in the book. The OCD neighbor became one of my favorite characters but he appears tossed into the life of the twins to give one of them something to do. It's also rather a slow read until things start getting paranormal and then it ends. Hmmmm.

Here is what I like. I appreciate an author who doesn't handle death in the usual fashion. The book revolves around death and the twins inability to live. They have no lives and it's not until death literally lives with them that they start to live. Odd huh. And strangely compelling. And definitely thought provoking. And OK, a must read. See I knew I just needed to talk it over. Thanks for listening. Below is an image I think explains the book quite nicely.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Can You Ever Really Know?

I spent yesterday exploring Chicago. My dear friend Wynter who has been one of my closest friends since we met at age 5 inquired, "What is there to explore that we've haven't already seen in our 39 years of living in the Chicago area?" That got me to thinking, can you ever really know where you live?

If you read my blog regularly (yes that is a plea for you to subscribe to my blog) you will know that I like to travel...a lot. In the last year I've had the absolute privilege to live, study and travel with a wide range of people from all over the world. It's really been one of the most amazing years of my life and I've met people whom I consider life long friends. It's also made me realize how rare the opportunity to expand your "world" is.

I have a few friends who just don't travel. For a myriad of reasons, they just don't. For some their decision is based on finances, some have family responsibilities, others it's lack of interest. And then there are the few who are happy at home, just at home. That's all they need. There is no desire to spend the money, deal with airport security, public transportation, sleeping in hotel beds... Their home is their neighborhood, their village, their city. Their job, their grocery store, the local theater, a park, a favorite restaurant. Their whole world in a pocket map while the rest of the world is on the internet, in TV, books or movies. And that's OK.

As a Chicagoan, I know "my Chicago". My favorite restaurants, hotels, bars, parks. I have memories of night clubs I frequented in the 80's and 90's, neighborhoods where I lived, streets where I caught cabs after late night porch parties. I know the shortcuts to avoid the highway, cheap places to park for Cubs baseball games, pubs that still have 25 cent pool tables. And still I just don't know Chicago. How can you. A city like Chicago grows like a living being. It evolves, it expands, parts die and are regenerated.

So yesterday my friend Diana and I explored. We glimpsed Chicago from the 24th floor of a high rise and saw it through the eyes of an elderly woman who is finally after 42 years leaving her Chicago home. We spent hours inside one the largest Whole Foods grocery stores, yes hours in a grocery store. Not your average grocery store but a beautiful glass building on the Chicago River with a wine bar, a coffee bar, restaurants, and lots and lots of locally produced food. To me the great thing about never really knowing where you live is that when you make a new discovery you can share it. So even if you never leave your "home", you can glimpse someone else's and then maybe we all might understand where we really "live" just a little bit better.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Flash Back Friday #30

You could put this film in the hard-to-find-on-DVD category. Here is a scene from one of my favorite 80's movies, Fire with Fire with a very young Virginia Madsen and Craig Sheffer. One of the better teen movies and perhaps the most poignant and romantic and with a great soundtrack (how many movies include a song by Bryan Ferry?)
2 clips of the school dance scene when Lisa and Joe meet for the first time after only glimpsing each other in the woods.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Groundhog Day?

Ever been in a phase where you just listen to or read the same thing over and over and over? I'm there. It's kinda like my cheap form of therapy.

Currently I am obsessed with a couple of songs, I seriously have them on repeat through iTunes and must listen to each song a dozen times a day. My drugs of choice,
Imogen Heap's First Train Home and The Temper Trap's Sweet Disposition. T.O.T.A.L.L.Y O.B.S.E.S.S.E.D. I think both songs lower my blood pressure.

There have been a few songs in my life that are always my "Groundhog Day" songs. I've played them so much people actually associate me with the songs when they hear them, it's like my life on repeat. My anthem song is Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill. I've run into people I knew 20 years ago in college, we'll be sitting in a bar and Solsbury Hill will come on the radio and they'll say, "This song always reminds me of you." It's happened a couple of times, I must have played that song A LOT in my dorm. Peter Gabriel is my personal God, maybe that's why friends told me I should name my son Gabriel while I was pregnant (I didn't). Another song is Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear the Reaper, which pretty much defined my life in my 20's. If I only heard those 2 songs for the remainder of my life I would still never tire of them.

Like I have Groundhog Day Songs, I have Groundhog Day Books, books I read over and over again and never tire of. Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind is one. The classic children's book Harold and the Purple Crayon is another. Nora Roberts wrote a trilogy fans call the Irish Trilogy (Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, Heart of the Sea) set in a small coastal village in Ireland. Reading Robert's trilogy never fails to get me in the mood to travel and even believe in a little bit of magic. Anything by Jane Austen is also on my repeat list.

So what is it about music and books or even movies that makes you listen, read and watch over and over? Is it the mood they put you in? The hope or inspiration they enhance? To me they are old friends. I find a certain comfort in the familiar first notes of a song, of the mystical places a book can take me back too. I renew my belief in the power of music and the sacredness of imagination. I enjoy the memories of being in a certain place at a certain time and hearing a song I love and when I hear the same song 20 years later it's like no time has passed at all. So I'll deal with my Kid saying, "Mom not that song again" but I enjoy even more when he says, "Mom can you play the 1978 live version of Solsbury Hill again."

Here's the 1978 live version of Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill, my anthem.

Monday, November 2, 2009

"Not as Good as the Book?"

I've said that many a time in regards to films based on books. It's a rare movie that has successfully created a three dimensional world from the words of a writer. I've learned to watch "based-on-the-book" films with skepticism and have rarely enjoyed the film as much or even more so than the book. There are a few exceptions of course, most of the Harry Potter Films, the 1939 classic movie Gone with the Wind (can you imagine all of Scarlett's children included in a film, they are better left in the book) and the 1995 BBC television version of Pride and Prejudice are all in my opinion as magical as the books.

Book-to-film adaptions have me wondering...the things we dream about and wish for and sometimes write down into stories, when they come to fruition, are they ever as good as what we had envisioned in our minds?

Growing up I had a few dreams.
1. I wanted to be a mermaid. Didn't happen and that's ok. I grew up and realized the oceans are polluted, sharks kill you and the water is freezing. Next dream.
2. I wanted to be a princess and live in a castle. Ya, I grew up with the "fairy tale" life of Princess Diana in the newspapers every day. We all know how that ended.
3. I wanted to find my 1 true love, the man who would understand me, make me laugh and be my perfect match. Well then I started dating, got married a couple of times and gave up on that happily-ever-after. Next.
4. I believed in goodness and humanity. That dream I'm desperately holding on too even though we are bombarded with death, war, and destruction from every media outlet.

When our dreams do come true, maybe the realization of a family or the success of a long studied for career, is it as good as you hoped? Are you worried more about providing for those you love than loving them? Do you spend your work days trying to hold on to your job instead of creating or helping or building? Is it all about the big picture, the grand finale or the right location or look? Do you wish you could go back and re-read the pages you wrote or dreamed when you were planning out your life?

I'm thinking of writing a book. Well actually after I finally finish the fiction book I began a few years ago I'm thinking of writing a "modern fairy tale". In my version reality is the dream and finding the balance between child-like innocence and responsibility is the magic. I hope I can write a story that someone wants to re-read over and over and even if it's made into a movie, they don't lose the lesson in place of the big picture.