Archive for the ‘BOOKS’ Category

My father was planning to help me complete a print version of my book for Amazon before he died. Therefore in his memory, I intend to complete it in the near future. I’ve been working on the third edition which includes several revisions.

At some point, I will be either removing this entire site or perhaps just the parts that will be included my Amazon book. That would allow me to make it available to more countries around the world for free or at a reasonable price, and would also let me run promotions if my book is an Amazon exclusive.

It meant a lot to me that my father wanted me to write my story because he admired my work and wanted the truth to be told. Many people would feel differently about negative press, but I think he wanted to “come clean” in some symbolic way.

He showed tremendous character in a variety of ways. Although he was not religious, he went out of his way to send me letters and videos about religious festivals in Spain. He mailed me a lovely painted tile of Santa Catalina the patron saint of Valldemossa, which I hung by my doorway. He also sent me a beautiful set of paper neules which were hand-cut by Mallorquin nuns, and I hang them with pride during every Christmas season. He called me his little snail because I move slowly and gently through life, and he sent me a blue glass snail in a satin-lined little box. These loving and respectful gestures tenderized my heart towards him over the past several years, and changed our relationship in meaningful ways.

We communicated about recipes and cooking and sent photographs of our meals to each other, because we both loved to try new dishes. I bought an English version of his pasta cookbook, so that we could literally cook from the same page. Although he loved Mediterranean food, he missed things like cornbread and Thanksgiving turkey.

I miss his little gestures very much, and this Father’s Day will be especially painful for me. This little snail may be in her shell for awhile, but after the rains are over I may reappear as a little delicacy with a tiny fork on someone’s plate.

Please pray for me.

Peace be unto you,

~Olive~

 

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The subject of mental dysfunction and depression is addressed by Joan Didion in “The White Album” and F. Scott Fitzgerald in “The Crack-Up”. Their treatment of this subject is similar and distinctive in several ways. Fitzgerald and Didion both reflect back to the time when they first realized that something was going awry in their minds, but Fitzgerald writes in a more straightforward and analytical manner about himself. He uses metaphor and humor more often, and Didion uses more physical description of objects and people to depict what is going on inside her mind.

 
In Fitzgerald’s essay, he writes about a nervous breakdown with an expository style, comparing his mental state to a broken plate. He tells the reader with startling honesty: “-And then, ten years this side of forty-nine, I suddenly realized that I had prematurely cracked” (140). Then he gradually reveals the details of his mental state:

I saw that for a long time I had not liked people and things, but only followed the rickety old pretense of liking. I saw that even my love for those closest to me was only an attempt to love….in the same month, I became bitter about such things as the sound of the radio, the advertisements in magazines, the screech of tracks, the dead silence of the country…hating the night when I couldn’t sleep and hating the day because it went toward night. (142)

He looks back at the warning signs that he did not recognize at the time, very clearly portraying the torments that he was experiencing, with such clarity that it almost makes the reader want to draw back, and examine whether they are familiar with such feelings. Then he describes how he began to feel a sense of worthlessness, and again uses the plate metaphor in a poignant fashion:

Sometimes, though, the cracked plate has to be retained in the pantry, has to be kept in service as a household necessity. It can never again be warmed on the stove nor shuffled with the other plates in the dishpan; it will not be brought out for company, but it will do to hold crackers late at night or to go into the ice box under leftovers. (144)

He is amazingly artful in his use of a common household object to depict himself as feeling inadequate for everyday purposes and ambitions, and it makes the reader feel sadness for the broken plate. The plate becomes almost a Disney animated character with feelings similar to “The Brave Little Toaster.”

 
Fitzgerald describes the middle of the night anxieties that are common to most humans when he writes “But at three o’clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance of the death sentence, and the cure doesn’t work- and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day” (144). This passage actually has shock effect, because the reader is brought to the horrible realization that some people experience the three o’clock a.m. agonies throughout every day. In the same expository style, he informs the reader that “Trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement- discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is different from a stiff joint” (146). He clarifies his own condition so well, making it evident that this species of discouragement is totally irrational and based on anxieties that have no rational basis. Then he says in a humorous tone, “I have the sense of lecturing now, looking at a watch on the desk before me and seeing how many more minutes-” (147). This humor is much needed at this point in his essay, because by now the reader is feeling very labored and distressed, and needs a bit of lightness. The watch also seems to connote an attempt to regain some control of his environment by measuring the time.

 
Joan Didion also writes as one looking back upon the years when her mental struggles began to manifest themselves. She said that it all started with her beginning to question all of the things that she had held true:

I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling. I suppose this period began around 1966 and continued until 1971. During those five years, I appeared, on the face of it, a competent enough member of some community or another… (421)

The vagueness of her sentences creates a feeling that truth was becoming blurry to her, that nothing is really clear any more. She visits a psychiatrist and supplies the reader with his findings:

Patient’s thematic productions on the Thematic Apperception Test emphasize her fundamentally pessimistic, fatalistic, and depressive view of the world around her. It is as though she feels deeply that all human effort is foredoomed to failure, a conviction which seems to push her further into a dependent, passive withdrawal. (423)

She is expository in a way that is similar to Fitzgerald, but she describes her depression and anxiety without the metaphor or humor. However, she later uses language to present her confusion and growing paranoia in a fashion that engages the reader with dislocated scenes and events. In this segment, she describes a night when The Doors came to her house to practice before cutting an album:

There were three of the Four Doors. There was the bass player borrowed from the Clear Light. There were the producer and engineer and the road manager and a couple of girls and a Siberian husky named Nikki with one gray eye and one gold. There were paper bags half filled with hard-boiled eggs and chicken livers and cheeseburgers and empty bottles of apple juice and California rosé. There was everything and everybody The Doors needed to cut the rest of this third album except one thing, the fourth Door…(428)

The reader is entangled in this twisted collage of mismatched people and foods and the sense of disorder. The two colors of the eyes of the husky, the empty bottles, and the half-filled bags all seem to connote the growing vacuum of confusion and tension in the mind of the author. It also creates a strong sense of the time period and a subliminal feeling of being on mind-altering drugs.

 
As a reporter, Didion often had to prepare for travel on the spur of the moment. She describes a travel list that she kept on hand during this time, a list of things to collect before she departed on her frequent trips:

It should be clear that this was a list made by someone who prized control, yearned after momentum, someone determined to play her role as if she had the script, heard her cues, knew the narrative. There is on this list one significant omission, one article I needed and never had: a watch….I didn’t know what time it was. This may be a parable, either of my life as a reporter during this period or of the period itself. (438)

Here again is the watch, the symbol of control over one’s environment. This passage bears a resemblance to Fitzgerald, in that it depicts that the author is slipping into instability and a terrifying loss of control. The missing watch is an effective metaphor to recount a restless and chaotic time, and the author’s feeling that she was a victim of this time period in many ways.

 
The styles of both Didion and Fitzgerald allow the reader to go inside their minds and feel their pain and hopelessness. While Didion writes with an unpredictable style that creates a colorful collage of experiences, Fitzgerald is more analytical and stays on a set course in his writing.

Works Cited

The Best American Essays of the Century. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 2000. Print.

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I learned so much among the Spanish people, not only about civility which seems to be disappearing in my own nation, but about things that make life simpler and more pleasant.  I would never intentionally shed negative light on my own country, but we could learn so much if we would be more humble and listen to our friends from other places.  My father was a wonderful guide and explained many things to me as we wandered around different villages and cities.

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For example, I love the beautiful lace curtains that hang over the doorways in Spain, and it didn’t occur to me right away that I didn’t see any screened doors or windows.  My father explained that the lace is a more fashionable way of fulfilling the same purpose. When the doors are open, the lace keeps insects out of homes. Many of the people have beaded curtains, like the ones that were so popular in the hippie days in America. Flies and other insects can sense the motion of the beads in the breeze and it frightens them away.  And the homes are more aesthetically pleasing to look at without all of the screens.

One of the most pleasant features of Spain is the remarkable cleanliness of the place. The streets in even the larger cities like Barcelona were incredibly clean.  I never saw trash cans or litter drifting around while I was in there, because the business of trash disposal and collection occurs at night.  Metal hooks are set into the stone walls beside the doors, and the people place trash bags on the hooks at dusk for the trash collectors.

In the entire time that I was in Spain, I never sat at a table in a restaurant that had spills or crumbs on it.  Even in the airport McDonald’s, the tables were kept spotlessly clean and shiny. People seem to genuinely take pride in their villages and cities.

One taxi driver in Barcelona was beaming with pride as he explained to us about the best sites to see during our visit, and he pointed out his apartment as we drove by, remarking several times as he drove that he loved living in this beautiful city.  I don’t know that I have ever seen people take such pride in their places of habitation.  In America, we are proud of our own property, but Spaniards take pride in their whole community.

After a couple of weeks in Spain, it occurred to me that I had not seen any semi-trucks on the highways even in the cities.  My father explained that they transport merchandise at night, not in the daytime.

I saw a sign in the village square which showed a picture of a hand covered in chain mail, and I asked my father about it.  He told me that is was for the butcher shop. He explained that in Spain, a butcher is required by law to wear chain mail over the hand which is holding the meat when he cuts it.  It is not only a tradition but a matter of insurance liability. More importantly, it’s good sense.

My father asked me one night if we wanted to go to a tapas bar, and I glared at him and said “What?”  Then he repeated himself, and explained that tapas are appetizers or hors d’oeuvres.  In Spain you go out for tapas when you are not ready for a full meal but you need a little something to hold you over.  I love this concept because it saves the embarrassment of going in a restaurant when you only want soup or a salad and the waiter looks at you with annoyance as if to say “cheapskate” or “there goes my tip for this table.”

I noticed that many waiters wear arm bands above the elbow that resemble garter belts made of black satin.  So one day I inquired of a dashing young waiter, “Do your arm bands represent something, or do you wear them just to look nice?”  He answered, “We adjust the length of our sleeves with them, so that our cuffs don’t come in contact with the food we serve.” What a great idea! And they look much classier than rolled-up sleeves.

I saw mostly small cars in Spain, because they are economical and more suitable for the narrow roadways and easy parking.  I did not see the gigantic gas hogs driving around there like I am accustomed to seeing here.  The people are also smaller, and I rarely saw an obese person.  The competitive over-consumptive capitalistic spirit seems to be absent from the atmosphere.

Weapons don’t mean a thing to most Spaniards.  My father says that aggression takes place everywhere, but the Spanish people don’t like fighting.  In fact, he says they don’t like to place their hands on each other at all during an argument.  When they get angry with one another, they shout mostly, but seldom push or strike one another.

My father says that there is a strong sense of community in Spain, that
there is not an attitude of every man for himself, striving against the whole world.  Spaniards think in terms of every man for himself and his neighbor.  He said that Americans think this is communist, but it isn’t. Communism is every man for the government.  What could possibly be wrong with “love thy neighbor as thyself”?

There is no charge for medical care in Spain, and if you need antibiotics, you don’t need a prescription. You walk to the pharmacy and buy it complete with instructions on dosage, warnings, etc.  You are assigned a doctor based on where you live and from there to specialists if you need them.  Spain is fourth in quality of medical care in the world, and America is around thirty-two while the care is more costly than anywhere else. My father had a quadruple bypass surgery about two years ago, and paid nothing for his care. There goes that community spirit again.

People really enjoy being together is Spain. When you meet a friend at a restaurant, you don’t sit for an hour and get your ticket from a hurried waiter. You commune with your friends for hours over food and wine presented with style and kindness. No rude service there! My father says once you sit down at a table, it is yours as long as you like and no one will take it from you.

The cathedral bells there ring out the hours of the day, the church services, special holidays, and the deaths of villagers. I loved seeing the birds flying from the bell towers when they chimed. There are unique rings for each kind of event, and the bells toll differently to signify the passing of men or women or children.

I have been dreaming of Spain ever since our departure.  My son and I wandered around the beautiful Barcelona airport for an hour or so before our departure, shopping for last minute souvenirs and gifts.  The floors were so polished that I felt as if I was walking across a pond.

When we flew into the Atlanta airport, we looked out the windows and saw trash everywhere in and around dumpsters.  As we walked inside, we smelled the dismal smell of sweat and dirt.  We were so sad that this is what foreigners experience when they arrive in America.

When will we ever learn?

~♥~

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The village of Valldemossa affects my mind like a dream because it is so quiet and charming, and the people seem to be the same.  Those whom I met had soft voices and a gentle demeanor.  In the first shop I walked into, a white-haired man smiled at me and lowered his head as if to say “Welcome.”  I don’t know how he could tell I didn’t speak Spanish. When I had found the scarf with oceanic colors that I wanted to buy, I approached the man and he took out a calculator, pressed some keys, and showed me the display.  “Gracias” I said and counted my confusing little coins.  The paper money started with fives and that always mixed me up, but I placed one- and two-euro coins on the glass counter until I had the right amount.  The man wrapped my scarf with decorated tissue that said “Valldemossa” in provincial blue, and placed it into a pretty paper bag.  We nodded nervously at each other and I stepped away.  As I reached the threshold, the man got brave and said “hello.”  I wanted to chuckle, but I didn’t.

In Spain, banks are required to dedicate their profits to social and artistic projects in the villages. One afternoon, Sa Nostra bank brought in a choral group to sing and I walked in with my father and son to listen.  Three rows of ladies and men sang in Spanish with pleasant melodies and harmony, and their faces seemed to be glowing with peace.  After listening for about half an hour, suddenly I was pleasantly surprised to hear a line in English: We are marching in the light of God; we are marching in the light of God.”  I noticed the singers began to switch languages so that everyone could hear these words in their own language.

After the concert, I talked with my son and said, “These people seem so sweet and humble and happy.  They remind me of the Who’s in Who-Ville (from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas).  “I could see that,” he replied with a smile. (The thought occurred to me that my father could very well be the Grinch.)

As I walked through the monastery where Chopin wrote some of his most famous music, a lady named Francisca approached me and offered to take my picture in the gardens.  I remarked, “Oh, the new Pope is named after you, I see” and she smiled broadly.

My father introduced me to some of his close friends during our visit:  Suzanne the quiet concert pianist who forgets her shyness altogether when she plays on stage, Barry the violinist who came with a kiss upon my hand and a deep kind voice, Michael the opera composer who met his wife Philippa when she was singing soprano in a concert, Nils the artist who sketched the musicians at the International Music Festival in Deia, Owen the cowboyish fellow from Peculiar, Missouri with floppy hat and a scar over one eye and fowl language after a few drinks, Arturo the English gypsy artist with a black and white pinstripe shirt, a large black handbag over one shoulder and a hot pink scarf.  “I love your shirt,” I remarked.  He answered with a sweet and high voice, “I am not ashamed. I got it from someone’s trash.” He stole my gypsy heart instantly.

My father leaned towards me and said, “You have asked me why I stay here and don’t return to the states.  These people are the reason, as you can see.”  Yes, I do see.

On our final day in the village, my son and I wandered for one last time down the stone streets. We stopped into the gallery of Coll Bardolet which also features a charming little cafe with various kinds of espresso. Just before we returned to my father’s wooden door, I saw Francisca sitting upon a bench.  “We are leaving tomorrow morning,” I said. “It was delightful meeting you.  This is such a lovely place.”

“You will be back” she said.

~♥~

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Dear Readers and Seekers,

In October when I released my Kindle Book on Amazon, I gave them exclusive rights and removed all of my memoirs from this site.  But I have decided to post a few book samples for you to enjoy since that is not breaking their rules.

If you click on the “Memoirs” tab above, you can read the entire sample.  It contains excerpts from Part I, II, and III.

I have not been posting here very much lately for a variety of reasons, but I do appreciate you stopping by, and I try to visit your blogs on a regular basis as well.

Peace & Grace,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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Seeking Sanctuary: Part II

~~

The word “home” holds no meaning for me. I longed as a child to let my young green roots creep down into fertile nurturing soil, but I found only cold concrete and shallow sand. I became dry and prickly as a cactus, or like a brown ghostly leaf that does its death dance across highways and spins in mid air. That is before the Spirit injected chlorophyll into my being, and photosynthesis happened.

This chapter of my life is like a bizarre Fellini film with surreal carnival characters, or a Dali painting with melting clocks and a distorted sense of reality.

I have been asked why I wanted to live so dangerously when I was a teenager. Was I trying to destroy myself?  Was I looking for a father?  Was I searching for God?  I think all of these were mingled into one evil potion and there was no antidote for it. I had to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling.”


Through the Haze Darkly

~~

That same ragged butterfly with parched wings floated around street corners and circled bonfires and lamps in the dark. She sought a place to fold her wings in abandoned old houses, and sucked for nourishment from blistered dandelions in the cracks of sidewalks. The concrete gardens were filled with smoke and rubble but she could see something inside the fog, and it looked like a familiar garden from somewhere in her memory- or perhaps in her future.

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My little collection of spiritual stories for children is now available on Kindle!  41gwQW-JXNL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-50,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Here is the link to the Amazon description: 

http://www.amazon.com/Storytelling-Scarecrow-Other-Stories-ebook/dp/B00G61D94Q/ref=la_B00GY6R5CK_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391281551&sr=1-2

Thank you for stopping by!

Shalom,

Sister Olive

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