Friends, I have enjoyed some fantastic input lately. From books and online articles and from Netflix to podcasts, the Universe is feeding me mightily. Here are some highlights. I would love to know what you’re soaking up, too!
Kim Swims, a Netflix documentary. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Treadmill miles click by so easily when I am watching anything about an athlete with gobs more endurance than me, and this lady certainly qualifies, wow! Kim Chambers was a ballerina who suffered a traumatic leg injury then discovered a passion for distance swimming and has been setting records since. The program follows her training and recent attempt to swim to a group of shark infested islands about 30 miles off of San Francisco. It teaches a lot about the sport of open water swimming (did you know this is the genesis of the term “Oceans Seven?”) and chronicles Kim’s personal grit and appetite for accomplishment. I loved it. Plus, she is from New Zealand so that entire afternoon after watching her story I walked around the farm speaking to the animals in my best fake Kiwi accent, ha.
Heads up: There is a surprise scene when Kim’s graphic injuries are shown pretty clearly. It was gory and startling. I literally jumped and yelped on the treadmill, ha!
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Miller writes about Christian Spirituality, a genre which I did not know existed, per se, before reading this book, but with which I whole-heartedly identify.
The truths of the Bible were magic, like messages from heaven, like codes, enchanting codes that offered power over life, a sort of power that turned sorrow to joy, hardship to challenge, and trial to opportunity.
In Blue Like Jazz, Miller shares his evolving relationship with God and with “church” and society at large. It’s a kind of spiritual coming of age story. He is simultaneously lofty with his ideas and downright funny. I would describe his writing style as a nice mix of Bob Goff’s affability and C.S Lewis’ seriousness, with some hippie-scented irreverence thrown in. I finished the book last week and keep returning to my notes to soak up certain passages more deeply. My biggest takeaway? Connection. Human connection is vital. We are designed to act as conduits for God’s perfect Love. It is possible, even though we on our own can only love each other imperfectly. Connection, connection, connection. Beautiful stuff!
Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou: I snagged this book (and one other) at a very cool book store in downtown Los Angeles, for about three dollars each.
I had been hearing about Mom & Me & Mom plenty and thought that reading it near Mother’s Day would be perfect. Man, I really wanted to love it. Maya Angelou has always provided such poetry to her generation, you know? And elegance? But this book was disappointing. I ended up feeling physically ill while progressing through the final chapters, the parts of the author’s life when you might expect relief and redemption to feel really good. Instead of healing, it felt more like glorifying dysfunction. Clearly this review says more about me than it does the book (maybe I have some healing of my own to do), but there it is. I did not enjoy reading it. But I am still glad to have finished it.
Here is what I shared with some Facebook friends. If you have read the book I would treasure your input, whether we agree or not!
It sat uncomfortably with me mostly because she seemed to grow not only more confident (would have been a good thing) but also more… I don’t know. Happy with the dysfunction in her family rather than resilient to it. And her long series of stories celebrated racism and made a joke of violence or the threat of it. I have always lapped up her eloquence and regarded her as someone with wisdom, but after reading this I feel like she has just lorded over people with wealth and controlled people with illusions about her power (not the same as confidence, to me). It all just made me so sad. Enduring a troubled childhood with trauma is actually pretty common. She just did not rise above it with as much love and grace as her reputation always had me believe. I am so sorry if that sounds horrible. It’s just how the memoir impacted me. Her writing was clean and propelling though, so I plowed through it in less than 2 days. She had it pruned back better than I could ever hope to do. And I did plenty of highlighting of beautiful turns of phrase, so I do not mean to diminish her actual writing skills. Just, I guess, her life/character/personality? Ehhh that makes it worse. Sorry.
Oprah’s podcast interview with Tara Westover, author of Educated: I already knew, from my sister Gen and her best friend Julia, some of what to expect from the book itself; but when I struck out for an easy run and hit play on Oprah’s Super Soul podcast, the author’s voice only made me want to read her memoir more. She is young but calm and wise. She is damaged but somehow disconnected from the damage. At once eloquent and pragmatic. She was enthralling. I have since started reading the hardback Gen loaned to me and will report back soon (can scarcely put it down), but in the mean time if you have half an hour or so, give this a listen.
Jess over at Roots and Refuge continues to inspire. Her casual country vegetable gardens and her open-heartedness are just so contagious. And she is admirably knowledgeable, too. Are you following her on You Tube or Instagram yet? I think she has a cult following, judging from her Facebook friends group, but it’s a happy cult. Like, not the kind you need to leave and call your Dad over. Just a cult about creative vegetable gardens with trellis arches and tomatoes and maybe dairy goats. Also lots of sunflowers. A very good cult.
One more offering from Oprah! She hosts Brene Brown, who speaks on the anatomy of trust. So good, friends. And no kidding, I wept while running slowly and listening to this podcast episode. The story about her (then) third grade daughter and her young friends who had earned or lost her trust, the marble jar, grandparents, all of it, it got me right in my heart in the best way. Since listening to this I have been ruminating plenty over trust, marble jars, and intimate friendships. Good stuff. Love and intimacy built in small moments. Find it and listen! Oh this reminds me to find the study on “sliding door moments” and maybe a Gwenyth Paltrow movie by that title? Are you familiar with either?
Piggybacking by accident, another Brene Brown selection, this time her Netflix special, A Call to Courage: Handsome and I watched it together at the end of a fun, overstuffed Mother’s Day weekend. It has some repeat material if you have followed her for a while; but it has some fresh stuff too and a consistent message about vulnerability and just showing up for life. I bet she and Des Linden would click nicely.
Okay, that’s it for today! I have some yard work to finish before settling in again with Educated. Stories from our Mother’s Day weekend plus a fun recap of my trip to Los Angeles will be posted later this week. What are you reading and watching? Tell me everything!
“I always thought the Bible
was more of a salad thing,
but it isn’t.
It’s a chocolate thing.”