Archive for the ‘Rye Thoughts’ Category

28
Apr

Y is for Yearning

   Posted by: Faith

Mary2009

“In the back of my mind was the constant hankering, almost yearning, to write but something always stopped me in my tracks. Or if I did find my way to put a pen to paper or finger on a keyboard I’d give up after a few minutes. I’d find other things to do: Anything but writing.”

Mary Garden

Sound like you? Read the rest of the inspiring (and motivating!) article here. Smile

24
Apr

U is for Underneath

   Posted by: Faith

There’s something living underneath our back porch. I don’t know what it is, but I have my suspicions… I’ve never seen it, so I can’t be sure, but the hole is just the right size for a bunny or a skinny skunk. Maybe a raccoon, but they tend to make ‘em hefty around here, so I doubt it.

740_empty_nesters3As much as I should want it gone, I don’t. What can I say? I have a weak spot for wildlife… for example, there’s a mourning dove sitting on an egg in our front porch window box, and tomorrow is day 14… that means it’s just about to hatch. That little egg has been underneath Momma & Poppa dove’s warm bellies for two whole weeks, and it’s time to come on out into the world.

Lately, I’ve been feeling that way about my manuscripts. Of which there are many. They’ve been languishing underneath my “belly” for, in many cases, years, and during that time I’ve watched other writers let their manuscripts hatch and fly free. Sometimes before they were ready. Other times, their babies took off and soared.

I’m afraid to let mine go. I hoard them like a bird who refuses to get off the egg, even when a little beak starts poking through the shell. Just a little while longer, I think, and it’ll be perfect. Then it’ll be ready.

But it won’t, will it? (Rhetorical question.) It’ll never be perfect and ready the way I want it to be. At some point, I need to step off the nest and let it go. If I keep all these words underneath me for too long, I’ll suffocate them and be left with nothing.

Underneath is safe, sure. But freedom is worth so much more.

21
Apr

S is for Strength

   Posted by: Faith

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

theodore_roosevelt

19
Apr

Q is for Quoll

   Posted by: Faith

quoll2Ever heard of these little guys?

Turns out they’re native to Tasmania, New Guinea, and Australia… seriously, some weird animals live down there. Most of them are marsupials and, oh, yep, so are quolls.

There are four different species of quolls (also called “native cats”, which I don’t really understand), and apparently there are known fossil remains of these things from the Pliocene & Pleistocene Eras… these guys have been around for 15 million years!!! Now I feel really bad that I haven’t heard of them before…

But what makes them really notable is their weird “survival of the fittest” child-rearing. Since quolls are marsupials, the females have a pouch where their undeveloped babies have to crawl into and remain until they’re fully developed… but apparently quolls typically give birth to 18 babies, but only 6 survive. Because she only has 6 *ahem* “milk ducts” (what? I don’t want your workplace to ban my blog… lol). Only 6, for 18 babies. But they keep birthing 18 anyway.

WHAT?!?! Man, I hate nature sometimes. It’s all “Here you go, helpless babies, race to the food! Oh, and the losers die, sorry about that.”

Then again, it’s kind of like my “unfinished stories” folder. For every 18 stories that I start, maybe 6 (if I’m lucky) survive to be actually written.

So I guess I’m just as brutal as the quoll. Except for the whole “innocent things dying” part. And I have a suspicion that the quoll isn’t the only marsupial to have such a disturbing birthing / raising process (I think Tasmanian Devils do this too?).

Anyway, there’s your fun fact of the day. By which I mean, disturbing nature fact.

quoll

Happy Earth Week? o_O

***NOTE: The sad reality is, these little guys are actually endangered, with one species already extinct. Conservation efforts are underway, including captive breeding programs, but as with many of endangered species, awareness is a large part of the battle. There are some programs accepting donations for their work, which is great! But be sure to do a bit of research before handing over your hard-earned cash. Or if donating isn’t your thing, you can always spread the word about conservation, or volunteer with a program in your area!

18
Apr

P is for Persimmon

   Posted by: Faith

persimmon2Why? Who knows!!!

(…I think I’m running out of ideas…)

No, really, just stick with me for a minute here.

A few months ago, I saw a persimmon at the store for the first time. I thought about buying it and trying it, but I’ll be honest—I was scared that:

  • a) I wouldn’t know how to eat it.
  • b) It would be gross and I’d have wasted three bucks.
  • c) It would be a subpar experience as compared to eating a fresh one off the tree (which we can’t get here in Canada, as far as I know).

As a result, I still haven’t tried a persimmon. And that’s too bad, because looking back, those were really dumb reasons for not trying something I was curious about. My idiot brain, should it have been working properly, neglected to realize that:

  • a) The internet will gladly tell me THOUSANDS of ways to eat a persimmon.
  • b) Three bucks is a small price to pay for potentially finding a new favorite food; plus, how often do I spend three dollars on a new food like that? Never. Once isn’t going to bankrupt us.
  • c) DUH. Of course a piece of fruit that ripens on the truck is going to be subpar to one eaten right from the tree, but it’s the same thing with berries in the store in winter, and I still buy those…

Moral of the story? (Well, besides that Faith spends way too much time thinking about fruit in the grocery store.)persimmon

I think it’s that, when it comes to new things, it’s really easy to rationalize away why we shouldn’t or can’t or won’t do something. But if we’d just take half a second and think about the excuses we’re making—and admit that we’re just stalling because we’re scared or nervous or anxious—we’ll realize that none of those excuses actually hold water, and there are plenty of ways to break down the barriers (that in many cases aren’t actually real barriers at all, just mental walls we’ve built for one reason or another).

Don’t miss out on life’s experiences! Eat that persimmon!!! Or, uh, whatever it is you’re rationalizing yourself out of. Smile

17
Apr

O is for Open

   Posted by: Faith

Something different!As a writer, I think it’s important to be even more open to new ideas, concepts, and things or people that are “not like us” than the average individual.

Think about all those times when you go to the grocery store, or walk down the street, or find yourself at a function where there’s someone who, due to their behavior or appearance or loud opinions, you’d typically steer away from. Or maybe you end up in a place where things are done differently, or in a different order, or in a manner that might otherwise offend you simply because it’s not what you’re used to.

Instead of becoming judgmental, or offended, or walking away in a huff, I think as writers, we have a responsibility: To learn, to question, to understand, and to try and see things from the other side.

We’re the ones whose imaginations, whose stories and perceptions, help to shape those of the people we reach with the people and situations we create. If we write off things that are different simply for the sake of being different, how limiting is that?!

And how will that help anyone to see beyond outer perceptions?

I’ve been in more than one situation recently – and met several people – that instinct wanted me to write off as “DO NOT LIKE” simply because it wasn’t how I was used to things being done, or the people as “INFERIOR” simply because I didn’t like them based on a first (superficial) impression. I’m not ashamed to admit it! We all do it, we just don’t like to talk about it or we’re embarrassed to admit we think this way.

glasses

It’s required an active shift in my perception filters to become more open to accepting these situations and people as learning experiences. As a way to expand my view of the world, and to realize that everyone, everyone has something interesting about them that we could never know from a simple glance at the surface.

 

It means seeing the good or fascinating in the different because of the differences. Not dismissing the different simply for the sake of it being different.

Writing off anyone or anything because of immediate personal bias does an enormous disservice to the rest of the world, because as writers, we need to draw on the different, the strange, and the things that no one else is brave enough to try to understand.

The more open we are, the more incredible and wondrous the world will become. And the more we understand that? The better this place will be for all of us. Smile

14
Apr

M is for Magic

   Posted by: Faith

PENTAX Image

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around

you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most

unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

- Roald Dahl

13
Apr

L is for Librarything

   Posted by: Faith

Ahh, Librarything.

Where would I be without it?

Pile-of-BooksWell, for one, I wouldn’t have a complete catalogue of all my books. Now, if there’s ever a fire or a flood, I have a record for insurance purposes of all the books I own.

But cataloguing your books is only one perk of using this site, which I vastly prefer to GoodReads. And before you ask, no, Librarything isn’t just for libraries or librarians! Really, the “library” part in the title refers to the ability to catalogue, categorize, and provide information about your books and others.

Over at Librarything, I’m also an active member of the group “75 Books in 2012” – our challenge is to read 75 books each calendar year, and this year is my fourth time in the group. Admittedly, we’re more about the books than the numbers, so even if you only think you’ll read 20 books this year, we’ll still let you in and welcome you with open arms!!!

It’s a place to go to discuss books with like-minded individuals, where religious and racial and political differences are actually discussed like civil individuals, with respect and deference and logic leading the way – seriously, where else on the internet can you find that?!?!

Since joining Librarything and the group, I’ve expanded my reading horizons in ways I could never have anticipated. I used to read ONLY fantasy or sci-fi, but now I’ll pick up the occasional literary novel, oodles of non-fiction, contemporary dramas, cozy mysteries, maybe even a romance or a western or *gasp* something mainstream. If it’s a good story, who cares what genre it is?

stack-of-books2My TBR list has expanded to include well over 500 titles, and it’s growing! And in the process of reading and recommending books, I’ve made real, sincere friendships. The group supports each other, encourages each other through hard times, and bonds together for strength (such as this past January after the death of a long-time group member). We celebrate each other’s achievements and victories (beating cancer! getting married! having a baby! a new job! going back to school!), and every year there are multiple REAL LIFE meet-ups of group members.

I haven’t had the opportunity to attend one of these yet, but a few of us are in discussion about a Toronto meet-up… so, fingers crossed!

If you’ve never hopped onto Librarything to take a look around, what are you waiting for? Come find me in the 75’ers group, and let’s talk books!

librarything1

12
Apr

K is for Kosher

   Posted by: Faith

Kosher Chinese:

Living, Teaching, and Eating with China’s Other Billion

by Michael Levy

Memoir / Travel

Release Date: 2011

Book Depository Synopsis:

kosher chineseAn irreverent tale of an American Jew serving in the Peace Corps in rural China, which reveals the absurdities, joys, and pathos of a traditional society in flux.

In September of 2005, the Peace Corps sent Michael Levy to teach English in the heart of China’s heartland. His hosts in the city of Guiyang found additional uses for him: resident expert on Judaism, romantic adviser, and provincial basketball star, to name a few. His account of overcoming vast cultural differences to befriend his students and fellow teachers is by turns poignant and laugh-out-loud funny.

While reveling in the peculiarities of life in China’s interior, the author also discovered that the "other billion" (people living far from the coastal cities covered by the American media) have a complex relationship with both their own traditions and the rapid changes of modernization. Lagging behind in China’s economic boom, they experience the darker side of "capitalism with Chinese characteristics," daily facing the schizophrenia of conflicting ideologies.

Kosher Chinese is an illuminating account of the lives of the residents of Guiyang, particularly the young people who will soon control the fate of the world.

My (Brief!) Thoughts:

I read this book on recommendation from someone in the Librarything 75’ers group (what’s that, you ask? I’ll talk about it tomorrow! *yay*). The book was written by a Jewish American Peace Corps Volunteer, and chronicles the two years he spent teaching in rural China — the location of "China’s other billion" — which is a very different area from the China most Westerners are familiar with (ie. Beijing, Shanghai).

He presents his experiences and observations with humor, poignancy, and more than one anecdote of moral dilemmas he encountered along the way. I found his objectivity refreshing — he never delves into cultural superiority on either side — but at the same time sympathized with certain situations where I, too, would have been unable to stay quiet (ie. responding to horrific animal abuse, even though it made a bad situation even worse).

I found that the book is more than a travel memoir — it’s a rare insight into the goings-on of rural China and the shift between old and new. I believe this book wraps up around 2007, so it would be interesting to know how things have continued to change since Levy’s time there.
I’m sure my little review here isn’t doing this book the justice it deserves, so if this is a topic that interests you (world issues, memoirs, etc.), I really do encourage you to pick up this volume and give it a read.

About the Author

michael levyMichael Levy is the author of Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China’s Other Billion (Henry Holt, July, 2011), a memoir about his experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in western China. Mike is currently teaching at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York. He returns frequently to China to check in on his students and visit the basketball courts where he momentarily attained stardom. While in the United States, he keeps strictly kosher. While in China, he eats anything with four legs except the table.

9
Apr

H is for Harmony

   Posted by: Faith

purple_flower_1280x800Something for writers to keep in mind when creating stories… because ultimately, stories are about people—and it’s the differences between those people that make up the heart of a good story:

 

“The downfall of the attempts of governments and leaders to unite mankind is found in this- in the wrong message that we should see everyone as the same. This is the root of the failure of harmony. Because the truth is, we should not all see everyone as the same! We are not the same! We are made of different colours and we have different cultures. We are all different! But the key to this door is to look at these differences, respect these differences, learn from and about these differences, and grow in and with these differences.

“We are all different. We are not the same. But that’s beautiful. And that’s okay. In the quest for unity and peace, we cannot blind ourselves and expect to be all the same. Because in this, we all have an underlying belief that everyone should be the same as us at some point. We are not on a journey to become the same or to be the same. But we are on a journey to see that in all of our differences, that is what makes us beautiful as a human race, and if we are ever to grow, we ought to learn and always learn some more.”

- C. Joybell C.

 

…I admit, I’m not really sure who this person is (and her blog is really awkward to get around), but I thought that was very well said!