Monday, April 16, 2018

Day 7 Favorite novel FB challenge

I remember how much I enjoyed reading Rebecca as a teenager. Daphne du Maurier wrote a classic novel of deception and suspense. As I reflect on some of my favorite novels, I realize that the theme of deception runs through many of them. It's how the main characters deal with being deceived that interested me as a teenager, and still interests me as an adult. I too have experienced deception; I was deceived early in my life by a man who professed to love me. Suffice it to say that I was not the only one he deceived, and that is often the case. Walter Scott said "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive"; how correct he was. Rebecca is a story of misplaced loyalty, of jealousy, of envy, of evil. It may not be the darkest kind of evil, rather a more banal evil, but  nevertheless, it is evil, and the more you learn about Rebecca and her world, the more you understand that she thought nothing of manipulating and controlling those around her, including her husband, Maxim de Winter. I won't spoil the novel for you if you are planning on reading it; I will say that it is absolutely worth reading.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Day 6 Favorite novel FB challenge

Stanislaw Lem's book Solaris blew me away when I first read it. I remember thinking that the author could not have been of this world. He managed something so few other sci-fi writers manage; to write about another world as though he had been there to witness and experience it. It gives you a strange feeling when you read it; you understand in some uncanny way that the author had first-hand knowledge of this other planet. But how could he have? The story gets under your skin and doesn't leave you. I recommend the book, and also the 2002 film Solaris, directed by Steven Soderbergh, and starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone. Like the book, the film also got under my skin. I've read the book twice and seen the film several times.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Day 5 Favorite novel FB challenge

What has always amazed me about this book is that a man who never married, wrote it. Henry James wrote a masterpiece about a young independent American woman, Isabel Archer, shackled by marriage to an egotistical and spiteful expat American man (Osmond) who did not love her, and who was involved with another woman (Madame Merle). Both of them conspire to defraud her of her large inheritance. She discovers this, but by the time she can do something about it, she has become attached to Osmond's daughter Pansy, and decides to stay in her dead marriage. James' description of a lifeless marriage, defined by deception, cynicism and infidelity, is spot on, surprisingly, since he himself never married. But he had lifelong friends of both sexes, in Europe and America. I would guess that he spent hours talking to them about many things, among them love and marriage. If you have not read this book, I recommend it highly.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Day 4 Favorite novel FB challenge

I love Jean Rhys' books. They are wistful, sad, and reflective accounts of women's lives lived on the fringes of society. Her female characters don't do what women are supposed to do; they do the opposite, and they pay dearly for it. They are not destitute or homeless, but they are often desperate for male attention and for the money and gifts that men can lavish on them. They don't seem to be able to exist apart from men. Perhaps they are much like Jean Rhys herself, who struggled with alcoholism and an unhealthy dependency on men for most of her life. Wide Sargasso Sea is really a prequel to the novel Jane Eyre; it imagines the life of Mr. Rochester's first wife--the crazy wife from the West Indies who lived locked up in the attic. It tells the story of how she might have gotten there, and in doing so, it makes us empathize with a woman whose life was already over by the time Jane Eyre finally met her.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Day 3 of the favorite novel FB challenge

One of my favorite authors--Ray Bradbury. He was a writer who loved spending time in libraries; he said the following about libraries. “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”

He also said the following about books: “You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Because if you stop reading books, you lose your sense of and place in history. 

Anyway, this is one of my all-time favorite novels--expansive, creative, way ahead of its time. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Day 2 of the favorite novel FB challenge

I can recommend both the book and the film (from 1988). Milan Kundera is a wonderful writer; I've read several other books by him, but this is the one I like best.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Facebook's new seven-day challenge--Post the cover of a novel that you love each day

Facebook now has another seven-day challenge: "For seven days, I post the cover of a novel that I love -- no review and no explanation -- and each day that I post, I nominate a friend for the challenge."

I'll be posting my favorites on Facebook and here too for seven days. Here's favorite #1--A Perfect Spy, by John le Carré. A Perfect Spy is really a perfect book; a masterpiece of psychological insight into the life of  double agent Magnus Pym, whose father was a con man and a huge influence on his life. I won't give the story away; I will just say that you won't want to put it down.

And after you read the book, I recommend the BBC TV series of the same name that was first broadcast in 1987:

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Reflections on Sun Tzu's insightful quote about knowing yourself and your enemy

A fan of my book Blindsided--Recognizing and Dealing with Passive-Aggressive Leadership in the Workplace sent me this Sun Tzu quote that he thought I would appreciate, and I do.

"Know yourself and know your enemy.
You will be safe in every battle.
You may know yourself but not know the enemy.
You will then lose one battle for every one you win.
You may not know yourself or the enemy.
You will then lose every battle".

It is one of those little nuggets of wisdom that resonate and stay with you (I am reminded of Randall Terry's quote "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me"). We are required to learn from our mistakes in this life and to protect ourselves by knowing ourselves. But we must also know our enemies if we are to protect ourselves in battle. In this context I am reminded of the quote "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer", often attributed to Sun Tzu, Niccolò Machiavelli or Petrarch. It sounds like something Sun Tzu would say, especially in connection with the above-mentioned quote.

I am learning to keep calm in the face of danger, in the face of those who would wish to knock me down and to prevent me from achieving my goals. I am learning to strategize and to maneuver my way around them at work. They will not stop me any longer. They did earlier, at a time when I respected their viewpoints or took advice from them. But I was not treated well by some of these people, a few of whom sat in leadership positions. I now understand the tactics others use to prevent you from making headway, to defeat you, to disorient you, to demotivate you, and to destroy you. They no longer work on me. Firstly, I am no longer fooled into thinking that all people wish me well. They don't. They may smile and appear friendly, but I have learned to identify the snakes. Secondly, I know myself so much better now; I know my limitations, but I also know that I have a steely resolve that manifests itself as a protective wall. You will meet that wall at some point if you try to stop me from achieving a well thought-out goal. I will look right at you and right through you while you are talking, and it may appear as though I am listening intently to you, but my mind is miles away from what you are saying. Those are the tactics that work for me now. Once you have learned to know the snakes and how they behave, you appreciate your true friends so much more. They are the ones who have your back, who are there for you, who care about you, and who love you. Never confuse work life with personal life; never assume that colleagues are like close friends. Some of them may become good friends, and that is a good thing, but some may not and one should not expect that. One must watch out for those colleagues who are overtly negative or demotivating when they converse with you. One must curtail the egotists who only want to talk about themselves, or who only come into your office to complain; they are the ones who have no time for you when you need advice or help from them. One must also watch out for the gossipers and the time-wasters, as well as the procrastinators (I could write an entire post about procrastinators, and I will very shortly). Their motivations are questionable. They may be leaders or peers; it doesn't matter. They must not be allowed to lead you astray, to push you off course, to demotivate you, to destroy you. Your task in this life is to know yourself and to know them well enough to prevent them from doing that.  

Friday, April 6, 2018

Praise for my Blindsided book

I published the second paperback edition of my book Blindsided--Recognizing and Dealing with Passive-Aggressive Leadership in the Workplace in 2009. Nine years ago! I am still hearing from readers who are fans of my book. It is always heartening to read their words to me. Some tell me that they loved the book; others that it is insightful and interesting. They make me realize that I did a good thing by writing it. I shared disheartening work experiences at a time in my work life that nearly devastated me psychologically. I understand enough about myself to know that writing the book was therapeutic. I re-read parts of it from time to time and realize that many of my insights from that time were spot on. I wrote a good book, an inspired book. It is true what people say--times of sadness and depression can sharpen your insights and understanding. So if pain is good for something, it is good for mental growth. It forces you out of your comfort zone; it forces you to hop out into the unknown. And that is scary as all get-out. But had I not hopped out into the unknown, I would never have gotten the chance to become a writer. I am very glad that I got that chance. And I am very glad for the opportunity to meet my readers, and for the knowledge that I have in some way touched their lives. It's a humbling experience to hear from readers who share their stories with me. I think they feel less alone knowing that someone else has experienced what they have experienced; I know that I certainly feel less alone because they wrote to me. To all my readers--thank you from the bottom of my heart, not only for reading my book but for taking the time to write to me. And for those of you who might want to read the book, here is the link to it on Amazon:

My garden plan for this year

I thought I'd share with you my design plan for this year's garden. I've decided to try growing potatoes, so I've included them in the plan. I will also plant the regulars: corn, pumpkins, snap peas and green beans; I'll have tomatoes in the greenhouse like I did last year, as that worked out quite well. And of course flowers--lots of flowers. Comments and suggestions are welcome!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Happy Easter

To celebrate Easter is to celebrate its message of hope, new life, and resurrection. We do not need to be weighed down by the past, but can begin again in the now and with hope for a better future. The death and resurrection of Jesus ensures that we can be reborn. It is never too late to start again, to be renewed, to discover nature, to get in touch with our souls.

(I found this lovely photo on the Country Living website:

Some inspiring Easter quotes

Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life. --Janine di Giovanni

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song. --Pope John Paul II

A rebirth out of spiritual adversity causes us to become new creatures. --James E. Faust

Easter is very important to me, it's a second chance. --Reba McEntire

The symbolic language of the crucifixion is the death of the old paradigm; resurrection is a leap into a whole new way of thinking. --Deepak Chopra

I think we need to do some deep soul searching about what's important in our lives and renew our spirit and our spiritual thinking, whether it's through faith-based religion or just through loving nature or helping your fellow man. --Louie Schwartzberg

Let every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let him say not merely, 'Christ is risen,' but 'I shall rise.' --Phillips Brooks

God had brought me to my knees and made me acknowledge my own nothingness, and out of that knowledge I had been reborn. I was no longer the centre of my life and therefore I could see God in everything. --Bede Griffiths

Remember Jesus of Nazareth, staggering on broken feet out of the tomb toward the Resurrection, bearing on his body the proud insignia of the defeat which is victory, the magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God. --Frederick Buechner

If anyone or anything tries to curse or kill the Goodness at the Center of all things, it will just keep coming back to life. Forever Easter.” --David Housholder

It would behoove us to remember that the life we live involves the death of something so that it can become the birth of something. --Craig D Lounsbrough

Friday, March 30, 2018

More plays of light and reflections

Inspired by my previous post, and acknowledging that we are now in the season of light, I looked back over some of the photos I have taken during the past few years, where the plays of light caught my photographer's eye. I love looking at the different patterns created by sunlight reflecting off different objects, or created with other sources of light. 

A play of light

I took this photo this morning. Sunlight was streaming through our living room window and was caught by the candle holder on the coffee table. I love the play of light, the pattern......

The garden in March this year and last year

Such a contrast--my garden is still covered in snow this year (see first photo), whereas last year at this time it was snow-free and the snowdrops had bloomed (see remaining photos). It was probably still chilly, as it is now, but at least I could get started with raking and cleaning. I have no idea how long it will take until all the snow has melted in the garden now, but at the rate we're going, it could be mid- to late-April before all the snow is gone.

I cannot remember another year in my life when I wanted winter to be over as badly as I want it to be over this year. We have had so much snow, and frankly speaking, since I am not a skier, I don't care about a lot of snow. In an urban setting, snow is pretty for the first day when it silences the city, but after that, it's just messy, with dirty snow piles everywhere. Plus the fact that the sidewalks this year were permanently covered in ice, since no one bothered to clear them continually of the snow that fell. The key word is continually; this city just lets the snow build up in layers on the sidewalks, and think by throwing down some gravel, that this will take care of the problem. It doesn't.

In any case, spring has officially arrived, and the sun is getting stronger. My chili pepper plant on the kitchen window sill has already begun to produce small peppers, five of them to be exact, with more to come. So nature knows what to do and when to do it. Thank God for that. The cycle of life continues, and it is restorative for my soul.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Movie recommendation: Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants

I watched this film tonight and was absolutely captivated by it. The animation is wonderful, the story likewise. I haven't enjoyed an animated film this much since I first saw Fantasia. There is something about the feel of the movie--it's thoroughly original, sweet, and engaging. This is a film for all age groups, because the message is timeless. You'll be rooting for the head black ant and the ladybug. Here is the official trailer; check it out. And if you get a chance to see the entire movie, do so.

Some good quotes from Phyllis Theroux

I think this is what hooks one to gardening: it is the closest one can come to being present at creation.

Mistakes are the usual bridge between inexperience and wisdom.

An enlightened person raises the level of the consciousness of the entire community.

Children are born with imaginations in mint condition, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Then life corrects for grandiosity.

Falling silent should be cultivated, the way the woods fall silent in the snow. Messages you can’t send any other way can be heard.

Every house has its own private cup of sorrow. 

Writing is a deeply spiritual act that can have a profound effect upon the practitioner.

Writing is not only a reflection of what one thinks and feels but a rope one weaves with words that can lower you below or hoist you above the surface of your life, enabling you to go deeper or higher than you would otherwise go. What excites me about his metaphor is that is makes writing much more than a lifesaving venture.

There were times, in the beginning, when I used my journal as a wailing wall, but I learned not to immortalize the darkness. Rereading it was counterproductive. What I needed was a place in which to collect the light.

Everything we are given or learn or possess in any real sense - - the ability to play Beethoven sonata, write books, understand the principles of physics – is intended for one thing: to draw us closer to our selves.

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Some recommendations: a book--The Journal Keeper: A Memoir; a TV series--The Sinner; and a film--Thelma

Winter is a season that keeps me indoors a lot of the time. I miss my garden and being outdoors, so it ends up being a good opportunity to catch up on my reading, movie watching, and TV watching. The latter two have tended to merge into each other since the movie theaters here have reduced their offerings considerably. Going to the movies is not what it once was, sadly. I keep hoping that movie theaters will not disappear altogether, but you never know given the ease of streaming films on nearly any device you wish to use.

I am reading Phyllis Theroux’s The Journal Keeper: A Memoir at present; I am only a fourth of the way through it, but can wholeheartedly recommend it. This memoir is a collection of her reflections on: her life as a writer, writing, the joys and difficulties of being a writer, finances, life, love, friendship, and her mistakes, strengths, dreams and desires. They are all things to which I can relate. She lived with (and took care of) her nearly-blind mother until she passed away, so she understands the passage of time and the importance of living now and doing what it is we must do. She understands the idea of trying to be the best version of herself. She is honest, unflinching and clear about her progress, successes and failures, about her relationships with her mother, children, neighbors and friends. It is rare that I come across a voice that resonates with me, or better-put, resonates with that part of me that is facing many of the same challenges. I look forward to picking up her book again in the evening before I sleep; I look forward to hearing what she has to say. She could be a friend; she is at the very least someone I would truly enjoy getting to know.

I have also discovered The Sinner, a 2017 TV series starring Jessica Biel. She plays a young married woman with a child, and her life seems to be ordinary and reasonably happy. She and her husband seem to have a good relationship. They both work together at the same company run by her husband’s father. And then one day when she and her family are relaxing on the beach at a nearby lake, she suddenly and inexplicably stands up, knife in hand, and proceeds to stab to death the young man sitting at a distance in front of her. And then the story really begins, because we know she has murdered him. The question is why. And that why is a journey into her psyche, her family life before she married, her relationship with her terminally-ill sister, and her relationship with her parents (especially an over-religious mother). The policeman assigned to her case tries to dig into her past in an effort to find answers as to why she would murder someone for apparently no reason. We know of course that he will find out many things, and many of them are not pleasant. I’ll leave it at that, but suffice it to say that Jessica Biel owns the role of The Sinner—a woman whose present life is suddenly and without warning, ripped unmercifully apart by her past. It’s a gripping crime drama, but not one for those under sixteen, due to the often lurid subject matter and the sexual situations.  

And in the same vein (repressed young woman whose life takes a bizarre turn), we have Thelma, a 2017 film by the Norwegian director Joachim Trier. After seeing this film, I ask--what scares you? As a former horror movie aficionado, I find that as I get older, it’s not the blood and guts horror films that really scare me. The films that have the greatest impact on me, the ones that linger in my mind long after they’re over, the ones that scare me when I think back on them--are the films that create the suggestion of terror, of horror, of the supernatural. They’re the films that have an ominous cloud hanging over them, a cloud that creates paranoia and murkiness. They’re the films where nearly everything that happens has some sort of darker meaning. In Thelma, crows have a special meaning. Panic attacks similar to epileptic seizures have a special meaning. Thelma’s father and mother understand this. Is Thelma a witch? Has she inherited her grandmother's psychological disorder involving the ability to use psychokinesis to change situations that upset or anger her (think of the main protagonist in the 1976 film Carrie). Or is she just a disturbed young woman whose meeting with first love just happens to be a lesbian relationship, which throws her psyche into direct conflict with her repressive religious upbringing that both her parents have foisted upon her. What horrific secrets lie in her past to explain her present life? There are secrets, and there are unpleasant revelations that can only lead to one outcome—again, that the past rears its ugly head to upset the present, because the past cannot be repressed forever. Repressed feelings, if they cannot be normally expressed, find their way out in other ways. What will it take to free Thelma from her past? And what happens if she is freed from it? Eventually, she finds out, and the outcome is disturbing. Thelma is worth seeing; it’s a hard-to-define movie. Is it a psychological thriller or is it a horror film? I'd say it's both. It gives viewers chills down the spine, a sense of foreboding, an uncomfortable feeling, and a feeling of dread concerning (knowing) what comes next. Both Thelma and The Sinner excel in this regard.  


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Worth seeing--Timelapse of the Entire Universe

This video--Timelapse of the Entire Universe--is pretty incredible and worth seeing. Check it out here.