Tuesday, January 1, 2019

My 2018 Arts and Entertainment in Review

Books

I read 55 books this year. 55% of those read from my Kindle , and about half of those were digitally borrowed from either the Autauga-Prattville Public Library ($15 a year for out of county membership) or the Fairfax Public Library ($27 a year for out of state membership). I regret that my local library no longer makes digital downloads available for the Kindle, but I did borrow 5 "real" books from them in 2018.  I listened to 12 books this year, the best of which was Jason Reynolds' gut-wrenching, beautiful, provocative, hypnotic reading of his own work, Long Way Down.  This is a novel in verse that I believe should listened to, because the sense of immediacy, the emotional wallop, is made even more profound in the hearing of the story.

I ditched 7 books last year, and gave too many of those significantly more rope than they deserved. So, I'll be going back to my 75 page rule for 2019. (I'm not kidding when I tell you I got fully 2/3 of the way through one of those books before breaking up with it.)

76% of my reading was fiction, and as top heavy as that number is, it it much, much improved from years past.

The following books got 5 star reviews from me in 2018. The only criteria I really have to give a book 5 stars is that when I finished reading (or listening to) it, I wanted to go grab somebody and make them read it, too. These are listed in the order in which I read them. (Hyperlinks go to my Goodreads reviews.)


Destiny of the Republic (Candace Millard, read by Paul Michael)

Hannah Coulter (Wendell Berry)

Long Way Down (Written and read by Jason Reynolds)

I'll Be Gone in the Dark (Michelle McNamara, read by Gabra Zackman) 


Bone Music (Christoper Rice)

The Buddha in the Attic (Julie Otsuka) 

The Punishment She Deserves (Elizabeth George, read by Simon Vance) 

The Chalk Man (C.J. Tudor)

A Duty to the Dead (Charles Todd)



Movies

I saw 19 movies on the big screen in 2018. Favorites (linked here to their trailers) were: 








Live Theatre

We saw 11 plays this year; 10 at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and one at Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center. The highlights were these: 

Fly  (ASF)

Lion King (BJCC)

Annie (ASF)


Gospel of Luke (ASF) - Note: I could not find a video clip that did it justice in any way, but if you ever have the opportunity to see Bruce Kuhn perform this where you are, go. 

Music

I attended 5 live musical performances this year, which included organ concerts and performances by the Montgomery Chorale.  I enjoyed them all, but if I could have one experience over again, it would be the Total Praise concert performed by the Chorale at Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church. Not only was the music outstanding, it was true community experience, and one that I hope will be built upon in years to come. My hometown seems split down the middle in so many ways, and music - as it did in this instance - has the power to begin to knock those barriers down.  

Television

The biggest news here is that we finally let go of cable TV and now subscribe to Hulu Live, which includes every one of the networks (both live and archived) and most of the cable channels we particularly liked. The notable exception is BBC America, but the shows that my husband likes there that can only be watched there is also available for purchase via iTunes. That aside, we haven't missed a thing, including college football even when it's on some of the outlier channels. 

But our favorite "new" thing is the monthly subscription we have to Acorn TV, which is a streaming service featuring mostly British series, both new and old. We have finished all seasons of the quirky Australian series 800 Words, and are currently enjoying working our way through Foyle's War, the remarkably stunning and unusual Suspects, and No Offense, which made us laugh about all manner of terribly inappropriate things through all the currently available seasons. I have marked my calendar for later in January, when a new season begins. 

We treated ourselves to a total binge of Doc Martin via Netflix and were bereft when we got completely caught up, because the new season won't be around for nearly another year. 

Notable documentaries, also watched via Netflix were The Staircase, and the utterly heartbreaking God Knows Where I Am


*****

What were YOUR favorites?  





Saturday, August 11, 2018

Don't be still, my heart.

It was July 26, and it was a quiet day at work. In fact, there were just two of us in the office that afternoon, and while both Jackie and I had work with which to busy ourselves, none of it was terribly pressing. She and I were visiting in her office when I was suddenly hit with the worst indigestion I'd ever had. I reached for a peppermint from the little candy dish on her desk, where she keeps a steady supply of hard candies for everybody in the office, popped it in my mouth hoping it would ease my discomfort, and went down the hall to my own office.

Moments later, the discomfort not lessened in the least, I began instead to feel jarring pain under my right shoulder blade, and put my head down on my desk to catch my breath. I was just beginning to sit up again when Jackie showed up at my door, asking if I could answer a question for a donor who was on the line. When I lifted my head  a searing pain shot up through my jaw, and I just looked at her and said, "I think I'm having a heart attack." 

I had read articles about how women tend to exhibit vastly different symptoms of cardiac distress than do men, and that the ofttimes much more subtle signs are often brushed off as heartburn, or hot flashes, or dozens of other generalized feelings of being unwell and unsettled. As women, we tend not to want to bother anybody, and surely we don't want to set off alarms only to be embarrassed later when whatever was causing us distress passed of its own accord. 

But sudden onset, radiating pain to the jaw was so often a characteristic, that I just blurted out what I was thinking. Jackie moved quickly to grab the telephone in my office and dialed 911.  

And I reached over and hung the phone up. 

Because I didn't want to be embarrassed if it turned out to be nothing. Because somebody who was in worse shape that I might need them more. Because it was a very inconvenient time for me to have a medical emergency. Because I just did not want to be having a medical emergency. 

It took less than 30 seconds for 911 to call back, however, and in those seconds I had come to my senses and knew I might actually need help. 



In a flash, paramedics were standing in my office, taking my vital signs, all of which seemed to be just fine. They were actually packing up and I was, as is my wont, rattling on about how silly I felt, but that when that pain in my jaw happened I had panicked.  The minute they heard that, out came the leads for an 3-point EKG, and things got a bit real. Reading the results of that first one concerned one of them sufficiently that they called for an ambulance and insisted on doing a 12-point EKG. This pretty much shut me up -- a feat that many people in my life will have difficulty believing. 


The second EKG seemed to indicate that I was likely fine, but they still advised I jump on the stretcher that was now in the hallway outside my office and let them take me to the hospital. I declined, but did call to make an appointment with my doctor before they left the office. 




I went for blood work the next day, all of which came back utterly normal. Turns out, I am a pretty disgustingly healthy 60 year old woman with a heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen level that others would kill for. No Type 2 Diabetes, every single aspect of my blood chemistry is perfect. I do have a bit of a heart murmur, but it's very boring and nothing that my doctor or I can get worked up about.  

So, why am I telling you all this?  Because it could have gone a completely different way, and had that happened, and had I been foolish enough to wave off offers of help, you might be reading my obituary instead of my blog post. 

Here's what I want you -- especially my women friends -- to take away from this:

Not a single medical professional in this scenario made me feel silly for having had this checked out. Not a single one made me feel like I'd wasted their time. To a one, they all insisted that I (well, my coworker, Jackie) had done exactly the right thing. They all said they'd rather do a dozen calls that turn out to be nothing than to have a single person die because they didn't want to bother anybody. 

Please take this to heart. One out of four of you, statistically speaking, will die of heart disease of some sort. While it is true that we are all going to go of something someday, I'm not ready to cede the point just yet, and I don't want you to, either. 

Take care of yourself. Take a walk. Be mindful of how you're fueling your body. Be even more mindful of the hundreds of things you are letting steal your peace. 

And don't be afraid or embarrassed to call for help when you think you might need it. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Word to My Generous Friends

Facebook's new prompt, asking participants there to set up fundraisers in advance of impending birthdays is arguably one of their better "think ups." I've donated modest amounts to a number of my friends' requests, happily.  Noblesse oblige, after all.

I thought I'd join in with my own 60th birthday right around the corner, but I just have too many favorite nonprofits, and since I believe strongly in staying local I thought I might just list those that are of particular interest to me. If you are inclined to make a bit of a gift to any of them, I - and they - would be grateful. Here's the list, in no particular order. If you'll click on the name of the organization, you'll land on their website. Even if giving to any of them right now is not possible, I hope you will take a minute to learn about the amazing things going on in the city I love and in which I am fully invested. 


Please click through the link marked "news" and read the whole story about founder Charles Lee. Don't you ever get "lost in the sauce," folks.


Music is metaphor, and this season of the Chorale especially has endeavored to build bridges across this community. This coming weekend they will be presenting the same concert featuring Robert Ray's Gospel Mass in two different venues, on two different days.  I'll be attending the Friday night performance at Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church.  I hope to see you there. 


An amazing, God-touched ministry of my church that has engaged the entire community, serving those with Alzheimers and other dementia-related conditions. So remarkable have the results of this been that it is being adopted by households of faith in other cities as well. Donations can be made to them in care of First United Methodist Church, 2416 W. Cloverdale Park, Montgomery, AL  36106


The SCC made a profound difference to my family during a difficult time. No one should be unable to get mental health or family counseling because they cannot afford it. Donations to SCC make it possible for individuals and families to get the help they need when they need it. 



********

There are dozens of national organizations that I support, of course, and many of you do as well. These are the ones I am laser-focused on right now. 





And honestly, giving to any charity of your choice, whether it's in my honor or not, is just the rent we pay for living in this world, so do that. Give to a house of worship in your community that needs your help. Give to a teacher in a local public school who is spending her/his own money to educate the people who will be leading our communities in the future. 

Beyond that, if you are stretched beyond measure and any of that would be a burden on you, don't fret. Here's some other things you can do!

The next time somebody cuts you off in traffic,
speak a word of peace instead of a word of anger. 

The next time you hear a child having a tantrum in a public place,
speak a word of gentleness to them and their caretaker. 

The next time you want to tell off a waiter, or a retail clerk, or a parent at the ballpark, hold your tongue and remember that day you were struggling with something nobody else knew about and when you might have been at your worst. 

Think before speaking. 

Forgive. 

Find joy in something simple. 

Make your default setting kindness. 

Breathe in. 

Breathe out.