Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review of Eat Pray Love

Most of my reading consists of medical textbooks or school assigned lessons. In addition to teaching pre hospital emergency medical providers at all license levels I am in the process of obtaining my bachelor’s degree in Adult Education. Pathophysiology or algebra chapters consume most of my reading time. When I recently had to fly across country to teach a class I was caught up on all work and school related reading so I took a few minutes to browse the bookstore. Julia Roberts’ picture on the cover of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gifford caught my eye. I paid my $20.00 and went to the boarding area to wait for my plane.

When I was a child, I loved to read. The summer of my fifth grade year I read every Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and Hardy Boys books in the respective series. I would curl up under a tree, read under the covers of my bed with a flashlight; wherever I could find peace and quiet, that’s where my book and I went. As an adult too busy for that luxury, the occasional book I get to read compares to a bottle of Dom Perignon.

I sat down and enjoyed the cover for a few minutes. I think Julia Roberts is stunning and the visual attractiveness of the cover was worthy of my appreciating the details of it. The granite bench, the delicate way she is holding the spoon to her mouth, the partial picture of the nun; all melded together for a striking cover. The feeling of Italy emanates from the face of the book as you gaze at the old granite building with the black cast iron door. As I had browsed the bookstore I had debated buying an e-reader, but as I sat there holding the weight of the book in my hand I was glad I had decided on the “real thing.” I opened the book and read the first page with the same anticipation I had waiting for Nancy Drew to solve her next mystery.

Elizabeth Gilbert writes a true story of her plunge into depression and how she travels across the continent in pursuit of “self-inquiry”. She travels to Italy in the pursuit of pleasure through eating, India where she pursues devotion, and Indonesia in the pursuit of balance. This book is not a fast read nor is it one for someone looking to fix their life in the way Elizabeth does. The reality is very few people could afford the luxury of taking a year off from life to chase peace of mind.

This book is however, for the mature reader who can appreciate her absolute despair and the small steps and large strides she takes to make herself happy. She holds nothing back describing her unadulterated hopelessness and the drastic steps she takes trying to hold herself together and rebuild her life. This is not a book that should be read in one sitting. The reader needs a chance to absorb the book in small pieces and grasp the small details she is so good at making come alive.

I opened this book with anticipation and closed it with satisfaction. If you have a week where you can read a few chapters at a time, this is the perfect book to make you reflect on your own life and inspire a little awe and jealousy at how one woman had the courage to fix hers.

In My Opinion

“Fifteen writing assignments, how hard could it be?” I thought as I read the syllabus. I have had this particular instructor for my whole college writing career and I felt pretty comfortable I could meet his demands. In my opinion, he is tough but fair and his criticisms are constructive and tempered with a sense of humor usually. The topics seemed pretty straightforward and I moved forward with enthusiasm. Then week 10 rolled around, an opinion essay.

Now how hard could that be? Everybody has opinions about something, and I have more than my share about most things. I started out with a fairly noncontroversial topic of my opinion of people who leave their Christmas wreaths up too long. By February as I see the dead brown wreaths hanging on the door, I am so irritated I want to rip it off the door myself. But alas, as the piece unfolded I knew it was a fluff piece that wouldn’t hold weight. Okay, so maybe I needed a tougher topic. I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel yet, there had to be something I felt strongly enough about to get over five hundred words out. I still held high hopes as I deleted six hundred and ninety two words. I still thought I could nail this (foolhardy I know), but for chrissakes it is only an opinion essay, and I have plenty of them. I refused to get frustrated.

I moved on to a much more profound subject of uninformed opinions. I had great examples using buffoons like Paul LePage and his bull semen snafu and how the ladies at the nail salon actually believed him. I went on and on about how uninformed opinions could be dangerous to society. Once again as the writing went on, my opinions just wouldn’t flow to produce a paper worthy of John Goldfine, so the delete button went into action again. My opinion of how easy this essay was going to be started to waiver but I carried on.

How children behave and are disciplined in public, another pet peeve of mine, was next on the slaughtering block. I typed about how ninety-nine percent of the public did not think your children were as cute and cuddly as you do. I mentioned your screaming child behind me during dinner made me want to puke the dinner I had just eaten all over you as payback. It seemed cute and snappy as I wrote, but on the rereading it didn’t fly. My opinion of this easy assignment was starting to waiver, but still I persevered.

I could go on and on with the topics I picked, started the essay, and ending up deleting the whole damn thing, but the reality is nothing worked. The assignment was already past due and I was becoming just a little panicked over the whole thing. My opinion on this assignment was not only starting to waiver, but was getting downright pissy.

Then it happened. A friend and I were discussing the pros and cons of social networking; yes, there was a topic and I wrote it. I wrote about the good, I wrote about the bad, and I wrote about my opinion of the medium of social networking. I reread it and I read it to someone else. It seemed like a go, so I posted it and waited anxiously. Then it was there, the one comment that would be the difference between six hundred more words and an adult beverage. It was not good news, six hundred more words it would be. My opinion on the opinion essay is not what it was when I started. It is easy to have opinions but to put them to paper is a whole other story.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

So You Want It To Be Perfect?

Ask any of my friends and they will tell you I can put together the perfect outfit or buy just the right gift for any occasion.. Most of my friends who need shopping advice or assistance come to me for guidance. More often than not at the end of the shopping trip we come away successful. This knack for shopping makes me very popular when someone needs that perfect outfit for the special occasion or a unique gift for a certain someone. After years of doing this I have become to be considered somewhat of a shopping authority among my friends.

Before we embark on our shopping expeditions I lay down certain ground rules. If we follow these our chances of success increase exponentially. The more we deviate from the system I lay out, the chance of failure goes up greatly.

First you must allot enough time to complete the mission. If you only have one hour we will not be successful. This will be a trip that will entail at least a half a dozen stores and possibly more than one city. We may start in Bangor and end in Portland, so being well rested and not in a bad mood are prerequisites or the trip is off.

Once we start you must buy the centerpiece object first. If it is an outfit we are looking for, the clothing portion must come first. We will buy accessories, shoes; whatever else you may want only after we have in our possession the main attire. I have been with those who fall in love with a necklace or a pair of shoes and buy them first, only to spend hours searching for the outfit to compliment them. It is much more difficult to dress the accessory than accessorize the outfit. If it is a gift the main present must be bought first. There is nothing more frustrating than buying an optional extra and then not being able to find the central gift to go with it.

Next, you will spend time with the item before you purchase it. If it is clothing, you will try it on; you will walk in it and sit in it. Holding it up in front of you will not work, nor will just putting it on and standing in front of a mirror. You have to spend some time in it to see how it moves with you. If it is uncomfortable or horribly wrinkled after 10 minutes, then spending an evening in it is probably not going to work. If it is a gift we will take it out of the box or have the salesperson give us a demonstration. If it is difficult to figure out the assembly or operating directions then it may need to be reconsidered as the gift.

After the main purchase is made, we will take a break. We may do lunch, dinner, or drinks depending on the time of day. This is a mandatory break, because the sensory overload the stores have put us in need of time to calm down. After we have sat for at least 45 minutes we can continue on with the undertaking.

This is the point where you need to be prepared to back track. Odds are we have already seen the perfect pair of shoes for the dress you have or the exact game accessory for that Wii. Or we may have to explore a whole new myriad of stores to finish the assignment.

Shopping for the perfect item is not an easy task. But if you come with me and play by my rules I can guarantee you, we will end the day with exactly what you are looking for.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Social Networking: Good or Bad?

I am a member of a couple social networking websites, not so much for the communal aspect of them, but because there are some really good EMS blogs affiliated with them and it is an easy way for me to scan some of the newest stuff happening in EMS. I will admit it is not all altruistic; it is a simple (albeit a lazy) way to keep in touch with my friends too.

The fact that there is some there is great content from creative and motivated individuals and not manufacturers on these social networks is noteworthy. Legitimate manufacturers are taking note though and their advertising on them does validate the work of these people.

A short time ago a police officer was killed and his fellow officers used social networking to express their anger and grief. They needed to share their profound disbelief and loss and this form of communication allowed them do that no matter where their physical presence or the time of day.

But with every good, we have, well, issues.

Recently there was a post on one of the mediums about the death in the line of duty of two public safety workers. This post was done at the scene by another public safety worker before the families of the slain workers were notified. There is no excuse for this appalling behavior. The families learned of their loved ones deaths through phone calls after their friends had read the post. The actions of this irresponsible individual are inexcusable but I believe also demonstrate our values and policies have not yet caught up with the reality of the social networking world yet.

Another post appeared not too long ago that included pictures of deceased bodies at a crime scene. The individual responsible for posting them may be charged with a crime. I believe that this individual was stupid, a moron to be exact, but I also believe the poster’s intent was meant to be shocking, not malicious, though a criminal charge may wake some people up to the inappropriate use of social networking.

In my opinion, social networking has a lot of good to offer and is a great medium for the busy, frantic paced lives many of us live today. Postings can cross the line from legal to illegal however and can have serious ramifications in personal, professional and academic arenas. Unfortunately, when used irresponsibly this public forum can also be injurious. In the end all we can hope for is that people do what is right. It’s that simple.