My first career ambition was (at age six) to become a spy; shortly thereafter I added poetry to my list of goals. I went on to write in this genre through high school and beyond; by this time spying had lost a bit of its appeal, though I utilized stealthy methods to observe people and activity all around. I went on to earn an English degree and nowadays write on a variety of topics. I am currently at work on a collection of novellas, a series of essays re: Richard III and I dream of writing a really quality ghost story. My poetry has appeared in _Alaska Women Speak_ and I am a contributor to _Naming the Goddess_.
Lately for some reason I’ve encountered a lot of “What is your favorite ____?” questions. Possibly it is related to lockdown restlessness and trying to find our happy places. Or people could be trying to get to know each other more as individuals in this troubling time.
Whatever the case, it has raised some favorites questions for me, some absurdly easy to answer, others not so much. Some perhaps surprised me a bit because I don’t often think about them, or maybe never would have thought I might choose those answers.
Something nice about moving beyond the typical “favorite color” type questions (though these are still fun) is that we can learn more about ourselves and each other and transition into some really wonderful conversations.
Can you answer any of these questions? Which other questions would you ask?
Favorite lunchbox snack – Something crunchy – maybe crackers or celery with peanut butter.
Fairy tale – As a child I tended to return repeatedly to “Rapunzel,” “Rumplestiltskin” and “Hansl and Gretl.”
Game to play outside – Anything involving snow.
Childhood memory – How to choose!? A funny one is that I once told a friend, “I have another sister, you know.” She didn’t believe me, and challenged my claim. “Oh yeah? What’s her name?” She said it with that tone that usually accompanies what today we call the “neck action.” I answered, without hesitation, “Snow White.”
On the poignant side: I once had a dangerously high fever; probably I was two or three years old. My parents were instructed to put me into a tub filled with ice water. I can still see the look on my father’s face as he carried me toward the tub: it was pained. I didn’t recognize it then, but now I see in it the fear, for me, how this would feel (not pleasant) and how he really didn’t want to do it. I have absolutely no memory of the experience, so I either blocked it out or he never went through with it.
Nursery rhyme – This one is recited while running circles with your fingertip in a child’s open palm: “Roond aboot, roond aboot, goes a wee moose, up a baht, up a baht, tae its wee hoose! (Round about, round about goes a wee mouse, up a bit up a bit to its wee house!) Toward the end you run your fingers, tickly, up the child’s arm and then tickle under their underarm. My mother used to do this.
Bird – Not a big fan of birds, but I do love ravens.
Good day to all and welcome back after a few days’ busy-ness break. I’ve been catching up on what’s going on in the world and one thing I learned last week was that the wonderful author Sharon Kay Penman has passed away. This news wasn’t entirely shocking, as I knew she had been unwell for some time, but it signaled a finality of something wonderful in our world.
I didn’t have quite the history with Sharon (as her fans refer to her) as I did with another author who passed away a few years ago; I didn’t grow up reading her books or know a long list of facts about her life. Still, when I did “discover” her in roughly around 2012, she welcomed me into the fold all the same. I found her to be accessible; she interacted with her readers and carried on conversations, told stories about ongoing issues with her computer that seemed to have a mind of its own. She wasn’t a faraway figure aloft from the ordinary, and the way she related to others and they her illustrated what could be magical about social media.
As I recall, stumbling upon Sharon’s work came by way of a recommendation. I’d recently been reading and studying about Richard III, a medieval king I’d not been terribly interested in up until then. The long and the short: I’d known of him and his basic history, but a casual conversation piqued my curiosity, and I grabbed a book to read. The author’s bias and conclusion didn’t sit well with me, so I studied more and in time came to understand that I was a Ricardian.
At around the same time I started to play around with social media and a new acquaintance turned me on to The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon’s wonderfully massive novel about this most maligned king. One thing I recall most vividly about her presentation is how it so easily formed pictures in my mind: I could see even the most subtle measures, such as Richard looking at his brother without moving his head, or hems bustling in the breeze. Sharon brings Richard and his world to life in a manner that provides details and history, but resists the antiseptic. You feel as if you are there. This meant so much to me because even though I’d been fascinated with the Middle Ages since early childhood, I’d not been reading up on it so much at that time, so Sharon did a sort of double duty with bringing me into the fold. She brought me back.
I read a quote once, who knows when, in which Sharon acknowledges that she got a bit burned out in writing about medieval times; this is how she began to pen mysteries. This truly resonated with me, but also provided a bit of solace, silly as that may sound, because there had been times when I felt almost guilty for wanting to escape the Middle Ages, if only for a short while, read or think about something else. I suppose I had been stuck in the mindset that dictates a passion can only be so if you rarely, or never, venture away from it. Actually, that’s the silly part!—and I can thank Sharon Penman for helping me to concede this reality. Very nice as well, that I love a good mystery, so her choice of writing direction opens up another pathway for me. Indeed, I say opens, as I have not yet read any of these, though I do have copies of The Queen’s Man and Cruel as the Grave. As is the case with so many other readers, I hope to make this the year I finally am able to devour them.
If you are new to Sharon or haven’t read anything by her before, I can’t urge you strongly enough to check out her works. I’ve found she has a marvelous website, complete with links to favorite blogs, research, writer and website recommendations and a lot more, including her wonderful mea culpa re: a time-traveling gray squirrel et al. There are, of course, many others who are more acquainted than I with Sharon and her work, readers as well as family, friends and other loved ones, and to you I express my sorrow for your loss. Sharon truly did make the world a better place, uniting millions of complex individuals into one segment of life where they could share, have a voice and make further discoveries about lovely life—within our own time and others’. Perhaps by now she has met up with some from the cast of characters in her writing world, and maybe she too has learned so much more about that realm that we have yet to do.
Following is a short passage from a chat between artist Karen King and myself. I felt it would be appropriate to include because it provides a glimpse into how Sharon’s enchanting imagination and soaring talent could unite people who might not otherwise ever be.
Rather by accident the work of California artist Karen King came to my attention via her magnificent painting, Richard and Anne. Inspired by a passage from The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon Kay Penman’s epic novel of Richard III, it depicts the then Duke of Gloucester and his future queen, Anne, in a private moment as they attempt to forge their future. This is complicated by Anne’s previous tortured relationship with Edouard, her late husband and son of Richard’s enemy, Margaret of Anjou. They make their way outside, where Richard had
found for them a secluded retreat within a wall of willow and whitethorn; the sky was darkening into a delicately tinted violet and a crescent moon silvered the circling clouds over their heads. It was very quiet. She heard only the soft trilling of the night birds, was becoming aware of the heavy honeysuckle scents of spring. She should have been able to draw comfort from such surroundings; somehow, it didn’t help at all.
This painting is inspired by a scene from Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour in which Richard and Anne find a private space, away from the pressures bearing down on both of them, and work through some troubling history. What were some of the thoughts or feelings you had when reading the passage that eventually led to the painting?
What could be more peaceful and private than a priory garden for two soul mates to comfort one another? I was anticipating beautiful moments of shared love and intimacy, but it soon became apparent that as much as Anne wanted to give herself to Richard, she was incapable of doing so because of her horrific relationship with Edouard. My heart bled for Richard as he came to the realization that he and Anne had a long road ahead them. Unable to vent his anger against Anne’s tormenter, all he could do was be patient, and hope that his steadfast love would eventually heal her emotional wounds. Anne felt awful as well because although she loved Richard with all her heart she felt emotionally handicapped. The bittersweet scene touched me deeply. I truly felt their frustration and anguish.
Godspeed, Sharon Kay Penman. You shall be sorely missed ~ until we meet again.
An original history of man’s greatest adventure: his search to discover the world around him. In the compendious history, Boorstin not only traces man’s insatiable need to know, but also the obstacles to discovery and the illusion that knowledge can also put in our way. Covering time, the earth and the seas, nature and society, he gathers and analyzes stories of the man’s profound quest to understand his world and the cosmos.
As readers saw in a previous post focusing on the new year’s reading challenge, I’ve got a list of 21 – to match the year – and one is actually a re-read: Daniel J. Boorstin’s The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself. I first read it as a teenager stuck on an international flight, having been previously drawn to the work by what might be one of the greatest covers ever, showing The Flammarion Engraving.
One of my favorite sections—if not the favorite—was that which discussed how long-ago people perceived time and the methods they used to divide it up, the work covering calendars and their evolution as well as timepieces eventually taking shape as the watches we know today. But all those stories in between, of lives within which lived obsessions, disappointment and jealously-guarded secrets—these and the people who lived all of it were such a source of fascination for me I simply couldn’t put it down and have gone back to it time and again.
Still, there is a lot I’ve forgotten, which I have learned from many others reads is often because I wasn’t quite ready for all the information at the time I first took it in. Subsequently, I hear about a particular topic, not always recalling that I’d read about it in this or that book. Then, if I am lucky enough to be able to re-read a book I loved the first time, I might happen upon that idea again, marveling at how knowledge of it had been resting in my brain, waiting for that further expansion to breathe more life into it. This doesn’t mean the long-ago read was written poorly, just that sometimes information has to be shaped like clay to take more a substantive form in my mind, to be retained and utilized.
In the case of The Discoverers, it is what my teen son might call a big boy book—the descriptor itself a big boy one, used by teenagers these days to refer to something of noticeably larger or generous size—filled to the brim with an amazing body of knowledge that I am tremendously excited to be able to read again, looking forward to the moments when I hit upon things I might call now-new—not necessarily new, but fitting into that category of information described above, buried in the recesses of my mind and that I hadn’t really exercized understanding of.
I have only vague memories of the other sections—grave-robbing medieval medical students; adventurers charting the seas and the stars; so much spanning the geography of time, beckoning us to remember and to place ourselves somewhere within these maps and how we fit in and the links to all in our past that make our places work.
For Your Information
The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself by Daniel J. Boorstin
Published: January 1, 1983 by Random House | ISBN 0-394-40229-4*
Format: Hardcover | Pages: 684*
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Images Top: World’s oldest Sundial, from Egypt’s Valley of the Kings (c. 1500 BC), PD-Art, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons Bottom: The Flammarion Engraving – A traveller puts his head under the edge of the firmament in the original (1888) printing of the Flammarion wood engraving. PD-Art, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons Click images for more details
Hello, All, and welcome to the weekend! Chaos continues but reading reigns! That and, of course, cooking and calligraphy, sewing and stitching, pets and photography—well, yeah, that’s not really alliteration, so let’s move on to something else.
As any even semi-longtime reader knows, this blog stays away from politics as much as possible, which is to say, entirely. I’m not here to pundit or politic—we talk about books and poetry, TV and movies, food and fascination, and many kinds of other, related items. The internet is filled with enough doom and gloom and doesn’t need me to add to it. Despair seems to be everywhere lately.
However, I do want to tell one little story for the benefit of our collective and individual states of mind in these troubling times. I know it’s been rough and none of us is having an easy go of it. Well, perhaps some, but everyone I know has had to make lots of adjustments to keep things working. More recent current events don’t really make it any better. To that end I’d like to share that one piece of something I read long ago about people during the Lebanese Civil War, a conflict that lasted, for some, from the time they started kindergarten to roughly when they graduated high school.
I can’t vouch for the complete authenticity of this small story, but I’ve seen it in several different locations, and in my experience there is more jaw-dropping information in truth than anything the deranged minds of humans could make up—plus, those same minds, when turned to the benefit of others, often demonstrate a capacity for resilience equally astonishing, so I am inclined to believe it.
So during an evening when the bombs were dropping on Beirut, a group of medical students, having taken shelter in a university basement laboratory, continued on with their studies. I don’t recall what the anecdote actually said they were doing, whether reading books, dissecting a cadaver, looking through microscopes—I have no idea. I just remember medical students who would periodically stop when an especially loud shelling occurred, or perhaps one that shook the walls of the room they were in, determine it was not close enough to collapse those same walls around them, and go back to what they were doing, often by flashlight.
That, my friends, is a very scary situation and, though I admire these individuals, I can’t begin to understand the courage to continue in the face of such dire circumstance. Perhaps they might say, What else were we to do? Or, Well, better to die at work than huddled in a corridor. Still, it’s very different to my life and that of most Americans, and I am guessing the odds were good that, provided these students survived other portions of the war, they went on to become doctors.
Why am I telling you this? Well, because here in America, despite some very dangerous times and a year that sucked major a**, we aren’t in the middle of a civil war, despite the wishes of some to bring it to that or belief of others that we are. We aren’t and, despite some high-stress-level news and information, and the need to do some things differently lately, we should be focusing on the positive whenever possible. I don’t mean this in some New-Agey way, just in the old-fashioned manner of trying to keep the good flowing by taking care of ourselves and of helping others, even in small ways. Please note I am not saying that no one is suffering or experiencing downtrodden times, nor am I scolding anyone or claiming this blog will miraculously change anyone’s life or erase all problems. But perhaps it can provide some of that light we are talking about? Those Lebanese students chose to turn on the lights when the power failed; can we do the same in our lives, making a deliberate choice as to whether we curse the darkness or light a match?
What are some things you like or like to do? Have you tried a new hobby, as many have been doing in this past year? What about endeavors that force you to sit down and move slowly, such as calligraphy? Or focus on something right in front of you, such as knitting or crocheting? Can you make up games with your family and laugh—all-in-good-fun laughter—when things get silly? And, of course, I love books, so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention those!
How about even small, fleeting moments or things that bring you pleasure? The scent of vanilla candles or lavender oil? The taste of a peach or feel of cold sheets when you tumble into a newly-made bed, exhausted but exhilarated when you stretch out, stiffen and then relax? The lovely, crinkly sounds made by certain pages or look of food as it is spread on the table just before we sit down to share it with family? Purple pens, the first snow, the quiet of the morning, binge-watching a TV series, alpenglow, grocery shopping, books, penguins, Christopher Nolan movies, poetry, kid jokes, a newly sharpened pencil, smell of the sea, Christmas trees, spending time with my family, wrapping my son in a towel straight from the dryer and seeing how happy it makes him—these are just a few things that bring me joy on a variety of levels, and they are easy to indulge in.
There are really a lot of fun places this kind of conversation can take us to, and I find myself calling up some kooky times or memories that make me laugh—like the day I woke up on the first Saturday in our new house when my son was three. I couldn’t find him, but could somehow sense he was there, so I was more puzzled than alarmed. I finally located his little self underneath the kitchen table, clutching one of the pumpkin breads I’d made the night before, tearing off hunks with his tiny fingers and eating them. He’d always loved this bread with a passion, and when I saw his huge, sweet eyes looking up at me, I laughed and said, “Oh, honey, you must have been so hungry!” I scooped him into my lap and let him continue to eat as I nuzzled his cheeks and we started our day.
I mention others above as well, happy to add something about the delightful reality that when we do things for other people, it has an amazing capacity to make us feel pretty good, though I don’t mean in an “I’m awesome, aren’t I?” kind of way. I suspect it is the feeling of connection or knowing we made a difference, however small, and marvel at the manner in which it often also directs the nice karma back toward us.
A few years ago we had a major earthquake—actually two and miraculously no one was killed—and when my son and I arrived home I went to check on our elderly neighbor and he headed inside. When I returned about an hour later he was cleaning and I laughed at a jar of broken applesauce that looked like it was vomiting. We did have a few losses, but he, all of fifteen years old, had protected me from the dread sensation you get when everything that hadn’t been bolted down or shut in a cupboard is scattered and thrown all over the floor, by heading for my beloved books first. I did find out he’d been cleaning the entire time I’d been gone, and it was still rather bad when I came in, so I can only imagine what it had been like to walk through a sea of books. In all honesty, we both considered ourselves very lucky, and material possessions are of course the much lesser consideration. But he knows it is a collection years in the making, that I feel happy surrounded by my books, from which I derive so much joy and peace. He knew it wouldn’t be exactly inspiring for the days ahead to see it, and I was so grateful.
Three things from today that brought me pleasure: Watching a TV show with my son and talking about plotlines; getting to finally talk to a friend I hadn’t heard from in a long time; and going for a short drive.
Best wishes and lots of love to all of you.
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We are delighted to meet up with you again here at WW, a new joint series, partnered with our friends at Layered Pages, that explores the quirky side of our universe. Presently many people across the world cannot access this fabulous place, and even in the best of times we often pass so much by in our haste to get wherever it is we may be headed. So sit down, relax a bit and allow us to bring some of our explorations to you. Here you may find things funny, outrageous, marvelous, out of this world! Feel free to suggest topics and be sure to comment below and click to follow the blog. We’ll be having contests coming up, so you’ll want to be sure to stay tuned!
Years ago I had a funny conversation with a friend who told me about some Russians she knew that fancied themselves master translators. They played a game to prove it: she was to whisper something in English into the ear of one, he would whisper it in Russian to the next, then that guy would whisper it to the next, and that last person would then translate it back to the group in English. So, English to Russian, then Russian down a small line, then translated back to English.
In this manner “I have to hit the sack” became “It is necessary I strike the bag.”
There were several other examples, but for some reason I recall only this one, which wasn’t even the funniest. Nevertheless, we laughed like crazy and started collecting idioms. We also liked to borrow German expressions and use them, translated literally, and say them in English for what we wanted to express. But they had to be special ones, sentences that made no sense in English. “They go like warm rolls,” when talking about something really popular, for example, wouldn’t suffice, because to an English speaker that still makes sense.
So we aimed for the wackiest ones we could come up with and used them on innocent, unsuspecting citizens. The variety of responses was hilarious, and reminds me of why there are so many reasons to love words and the millions of ways in which people use them.
Here are some literal translations and what they actually mean in English –
To be a boiled, slit ear – never miss a trick
With a monkey tooth – at breakneck speed
“Pull rope!” – “Get lost!”
To be able to steal horses with someone – to be super reliable
You’ve seen horses vomit – anything can happen
Pour one onto the lamp – drink a lot
I have a lot around my ears – I have a lot on my plate
Adopt the salami tactic – to do things in small steps
“He has hair on his teeth.” – “He’s bossy.”
To be on the wooden path – barking up the wrong tree
A stone has fallen from my heart – that’s a relief
Spoon out the soup – face the music
The last shirt has no pockets – You can’t take it with you (when you die)
Add a tooth – speed up
Milk girl calculation – naïve assessment
There are loads and loads more, and a few websites even explain the etymology of some, which makes for quite fascinating reading because one can learn so much about a culture by studying their idioms. German, for example, seems to utilize a lot that give pigs much more love than most other countries do. And birds…there’s something slightly mysterious about how often Vogel shows up in German expressions. In fact, I went looking for one I could swear was something like Eat bird or die, meaning take it or leave it. I couldn’t find it anywhere, though, which made me a bit sad because I also used to have a bookmark that splashed those words across the length of it. Well, between what I could remember and those I looked up, I had to be satisfied.
But we’ll re-visit at some point, for sure. On this evening, however, we must recall that everything has an end. Only the sausage has two.
I’d never actually even heard of The Dictionary of Lost Words until I saw it spotlighted over at Stephanie’s blog, but one look at the book made me want to do a Cover Crush. I was so attracted to the vines, softly spread across the cover as they perhaps danced lightly in a breeze. The contrast of golden against the black fits perfectly in color scheme as well as mood or even theme with the suitcase as it reminds me of travel—perhaps that undertaken by words as they make their way through time and across continents, influencing wars and ways, thoughts driving human behavior for better or worse.
Such contraries might be represented by the cup of tea and poppy, both resting gently on top of the suitcase’s contents, belonging perhaps to these traveling words who must do duty by gentility and barbarism alike. Dangerous men go home at night to tender children, pretty words styled by syllables that dance across tongues like leaves in the wind often masking the cruelty they so often designate.
What iniquities might these be? Perhaps they are hidden in that suitcase words carry through the ages until they reach us, and we are thus confronted with the legacy they leave wrapped in the cloaks that shroud both love and loss, and everything in between.
Published: April 6, 2021 by Ballantine Books|ISBN 978-0593160190
Format: Hardcover | Pages: 400
In this remarkable debut based on actual events, as a team of male scholars compiles the first Oxford English Dictionary, one of their daughters decides to collect the “objectionable” words they omit.
Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Young Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word bondmaid flutters beneath the table. She rescues the slip, and when she learns that the word means “slave girl,” she begins to collect other words that have been discarded or neglected by the dictionary men.
As she grows up, Esme realizes that words and meanings relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences often go unrecorded. And so, she begins in earnest to search out words for her own dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words. To do so she must leave the sheltered world of the university and venture out to meet the people whose words will fill those pages.
Set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement and with the Great War looming, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. Inspired by actual events, author Pip Williams has delved into the archives of the Oxford English Dictionary to tell this highly original story. The Dictionary of Lost Words is a delightful, lyrical, and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words and the power of language to shape the world.
Be sure to see below for info about how you can win one of two $10 Amazon gift cards!
It’s snowing! This means it’s extra lovely, which always chippers up my mood a bit, even if it was already a good one. However, I’m a bit late today with the blog and there’s loads going on, so for now I’m just going to pass on some chatty, newsy stuff and do hope you’ll be excited about it. 🙂
First and foremost: I guess we’re now in 2020 2.0, because people are being extra silly with others’ information, so I’m going to return to my previous way of touching base with authors and they me regarding book reviews. If you are interested in a review, please send an email, telling me a bit about your book, at:
Do note, however, that I will be giving priority to authors I have worked with before. This doesn’t mean that if we’re new to each other then it’s a no go. I set these boundaries because I have a family and work, so I have limited time. By all means, though, do feel free to shoot me your requests.
I also do interviews, feature books and love guest posts and giveaways, so if any of that (or some other idea) strikes your fancy, do touch base and we can chat about that too.
Please see my updated book review policies here. Any questions, feel free to shoot me an email.
Next, what are you reading? Still got any Christmas- or Hanukkah-present books you’re devouring? What about 2021? What are your reading goals for the new year? Do you like to try to read a certain number of books? Any challenges on the horizon, such as trying a new genre, or reading a series? Read about presidents? Books that have become movies? Tell me about it all in the comments!
I’m currently reading the Richard III book you see in the sidebar, and have a list of books that I aim to read in this already ridiculous year. That list can be found here. I’ve also got Richard Abbott’s The Liminal Zonenearly finished and will be writing a review, so keep your eyes peeled. If you have any awesome book suggestions, let me know below!
And finally, I’ve got a contest! I’ve been wanting to do this for so long and I’m really excited to get it rolling at last. Part of how I set this up is because I’d like to know more about my readers, which blogs here at Second Sleep you’ve liked best, what is your favorite food or TV show, gifts you were excited to give or receive, best vacation spot, topics you’d like to read about, stuff you think is super weird or food you couldn’t believe you actually ate—anything! Well, anything appropriate, of course. 🙂 Plus I’d like to thank my readers for sticking with me as we all experience ups and downs, changes, periods in which we aren’t sure what we’re doing or where we’re going. This past year has had lots of that especially, but the truth is that stuff happens to people every day yet they still take the time to come here, which I really appreciate.
Here’s how the contest will work:
Comment below about any topic (ok, you all know that I mean no illegal or inappropriate stuff!) AND share at least once in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram OR Goodreads. These are the places I have a presence – and you can do all but only one share location is required. Once I “like” it, you’ll know I’ve seen it, so if I don’t like it, you may want to make sure I’ve seen that you did it by following or tagging me.
Each comment and share gets an entry, so just by doing the initial comment and share mentioned above, you’ll get two entries. Each one more of either also will get an entry. Example, if you do the regular share and comment mentioned above you’ve got two. Do three comments you get three more. Share, say, five times and you’ve got five more.
If someone tells me on any platform that they knew about the contest from you, you’ll get five entries for that referral alone. Their comment(s) and share(s) will of course earn entries for them.
Drawing will be for two Amazon gift cards of $10 (US) each—yes, two winners! Entries can come from anywhere in the world.
Drawing will occur February 14, 2021. I’ll aim to contact the two winners straight away and would love to send the gifts as soon as possible, so please ensure you leave me a way to reach you.
I’d really love to do this again, and am thinking about counting interactions on any blog entries at Before the Second Sleep after today’s, which would count for entries into the next contest, so like, comment, follow and share away!
My mom used to always wish people “health and happiness” because, she said, if you have your health, you have everything. It is true that some people have their health, but are still unhappy. In my experience, this discontent is largely a matter of choice, and I have seen individuals wallow in misery over things I could hardly believe they would allow themselves to be overpowered by.
Mind you, I did say largely a matter of choice—I do think there would be some exceptions, such as those with chemical imbalance or other mental illness. These folks often don’t have the choice, and would trade places with one of many others in an instant, for the opportunity to pursue a career, hobbies, lifestyle, etc. Many do, in fact, succeed in their chosen pursuits, and they are happy.
I should clarify that I also do not refer to those who have recently suffered a terrible loss, such as death of a family member or close friend, recently got divorced, lost a job, things like this. The turbulence these situations cause tend to be temporary, and most of the folks going through them want to be happy and do what they can for life to return to normal, or at least something as close to normal as they can get. (Note there are always exceptions and I’m not trying to cover any and every eventuality here.)
No, I refer to those who are chronically, consistently, constantly, miserable. Sometimes their fussiness is subtle, and you don’t notice it because you don’t know them well, or maybe you even brush it off because you perceive the problem to be a non-issue, and don’t fully realize how angry it makes them. They may be constant complainers, or always making pessimistic comments or are cloaked in an air of negativity. You may even have heard them say things like, “I’ll feel better when I get that raise” or “When I have a new job I’ll be happy.”
Note: the following contains some spoilers for Seasons 1-3
I’m a complete newbie when it comes to Game of Thrones. I’ve had several of the books for a few years now, and more than once I’ve seen the complete first season in the shops and thought about getting it. My son even urged me to, although I’m unsure why, given he doesn’t tend to be interested in these sorts of books/movies/television series. And to be honest, I myself didn’t even really know much about it, other than that it depicts some sort of, well, game of thrones in which a variety of rivals lay claims to one throne with a multitude of validations, real or imagined. (As you can see, the GoT volumes on my shelves have been gathering dust, but not to fret, dear readers, I have been energized – see here.)
And then came Christmas morning: there under the tree, as I discovered, waited my Game of Thrones future. It was an especially delightful gift because it was totally unexpected—this series was not on my mind in the least. Now my son—previously uninterested, as you will recall—and I are on the third season and have been fully reigned in. The hook is deep. We’ve discussed many angles of the show, including the over-frequent bits of nudity and sex, though to be fair, not nearly as extraneous as the borderline porn featured in Outlander; tactics; secrets we think characters may be hiding even from us, the viewers; awful deeds and small kindnesses; what lives beyond the wall. We’ve scanned the maps and poured over the genealogy in order to ensure we have the relationships straight. And we both seem to be rather preoccupied with its sort of medieval fantasy, though as far as I know this isn’t really set, as my son says, in a different time so much as another world. Sure, the author may have had ulterior motives for this—freedom with writing and not having to adhere as strictly to history as historical fiction writers must—but it also liberates us as viewers, for we never have to wonder about the Danegeld, when Duke William’s army might arrive to create a mess, or the horrible end of Richard III, mistreated even in death, because none of these figures necessarily exist in this world.
It is probably inevitable that the two of us would start making lists of who we prefer and don’t—we certainly spent enough time gushing and griping over the various characters. Now that work, school and deadlines are on the calendar again, our viewing is sure to slow down, but our conversations likely won’t, especially as we are now in Season 3, a time in which many changes are underway, events conspire to influence events, and some are confronted by reality. I’d like to take the time now to highlight my initial favorite characters, let’s go with three, and I will attempt to pinpoint the reasons I was drawn to them. Fret not, for I will be returning with updates.
3. Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell—Yes, Stark is late by now, but he is the first character I liked. I admit, this is a bit of a biased affection, given that the story opens with the Starks, giving them a bit of preferential advantage. But there is substance there, such as Stark’s lesson to his son that he who pronounces a death sentence must be the one to carry it out. It’s probably impractical in today’s world, but I respected him for it. (Though I do rather wish this could be enforced today.) He is a flawed character, having brought home a bastard child from the last war, a circumstance that will have its own set of ramifications. He also speaks the truth to his king, Robert Baratheon, delivering it with humor and grace, though in the end truth becomes his enemy.
It just occurred to me that I’ve lost track of whether my opening entries for each year, these past few years, have been titled with a nod toward the revolution ‘round the sun just completed or the one newly embarked upon. Looking at last year’s entry doesn’t provide much aid, given it was late and that I also began to wonder if I used to do one for each. Well, no matter. Some might say 2020 doesn’t really deserve recall, but that’s not why I’m just going to roll it and looking ahead into 2021 into one entry this time. The year 2020 should be remembered even though by any account it bred the suck. I’ve always been an advocate of remembering the past, because it’s essential for effectively moving forward.
In terms of reading, how do I do in 2020? Well, last year’s reading—there wasn’t much to it.