Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review - Embracing Coincidence by Carol Lynn Pearson

I have been pretty obsessed with observing the synchronicity in my life lately.  I learned about it from Richard Eyre in his book The Three Deceivers and then got quite excited about it after reading Glenn Beck's description of "bread crumbs" in his book 7 Wonders that Will Change Your Life.  Embracing Coincidence is a collection of personal examples of synchronicity in Carol Lynn Pearson's life.

Over the years I have enjoyed her plays, songs and especially her poetry.  Mostly that all came in our younger years and while I kept some of my favorite stuff by her, I lost track of her.  Her book Will I Ever Forget this Day has greatly influenced my journaling and I wonder if I'd still be keeping a journal were it not for Sister Pearson. 

Now she has guided me to an even loftier platform.  Where Eyre and Beck got me intrigued with the concept of synchronicity, Carol Lynn taught me how to notice it, invite it, enjoy it, learn from it and use it!

Her examples are not monumental, but they are extraordinary; and they make this wonderful means of receiving guidance from God seem so very accessible.  The consequence is that I've come to realize I experience synchronicity all the time.  I've just got to learn to notice and ponder it as it appears.

Carol Lynn also makes it obvious that appreciating and making use of synchronicity increases the likelihood and frequency of it's occurrence.  I'm quite sure that when she set out to write the book, she expected to catalogue past instances of synchronicity in her life.  As it turned out, much of the synchronicity she shares occurred while she was writing the book.

This is a fun nightstand read.  Each example is short and sweet and deserves to be pleasantly slept upon.  

Then there's Carol Lynn herself.  Her candid sharing lets us into the heart of a very unique and marvelous person.  The stores of her life and interaction with the world are completely delightful and inspirational in and of themselves.  She breaks a lot of Molly Mormon Molds as she goes about doing good; and it's fun to see first hand, what righteous living bereft of Pharisaism looks like.  Good on ya Carol Lynn!


Book Review - The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Sweetie has been begging me to read this book for years.  Why did I wait?  I loved it!

This is wonderful story about a lonely old Jewish Man who lives in New York City.  He is retired and alone and goes about trying to get noticed.  He drops his change, or tips over a store display.  One day he even poses nude for an art class.  Anything to feel less invisible.  His name is Leo Gursky and he has good reason to feel overlooked, passed by - invisible.

It is also about a pugnacious young girl named Alma, whose sole ambition seems to be wilderness survival; and her younger brother Bird, who strongly suspects he might be the messiah or at the very least a Lamed Vovnik.  

It is written from the perspective of Alma and Leo; both of whom I adore.  They are so real and accessible.  Krauss has a wonderful knack for making ordinary people and ordinary circumstances become extraordinary.  And then you discover there is nothing ordinary about their connection and the synchronous way in which their lives come together.   

Leo and Alma fancy themselves writers and they sure made a reader out of me!  It's almost hard to give Nichole Krauss credit for her characters have completely upstaged her.

Some reviewers think the book is convoluted.  I think it is an artistic masterpiece which I will read again!


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Give a Little Love

 Shortly after I shared this video on Facebook, I sat down to read from Cheiko Okazaki's book Lighten Up! where I found these words:

"What does charity mean?....I think sometimes we read these beautiful scriptures and think, "Charity is really something incredible. We have to be like Jesus - willing to be crucified. It's mysterious. It's something that's too hard (or too big, or too complicated) for me to do." I have a very simple, uncomplicated view of charity. It's ordinary kindness. It's common courtesy. It's everyday thoughtfulness. it's simple sensitivity. It's the Golden Rule. It's putting yourself in the place of the other person and saying, "How would I like to be treated?" I think that 99 percent of our difficulties with the concept of charity would disappear altogether if we just kept this view in mind."
I believe in Synchronicity!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Review - My Grandfather's Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen

This is my third reading of this most wonderful book!  It won't be my last!

Rachel Naomi Remen speaks to my soul.  Rachel is a very interesting person and though the book is not really a memoir, you certainly come away feeling you know her.  And love her.  She's the granddaughter of a Jewish Rabbi who was driven out of Russia.  She is the daughter of parents she calls Socialistic Atheists.  While she doesn't intimate any personal religious preference, she is deeply spiritual.  Her spirituality is open mindedly drawn from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Mormonism, Hinduism and life!

She has taught me that every moment is an opportunity to learn, to grow and to bless life; our own and that of others.  She is obviously masterful at doing this and by example freely shares her talent.  I am a better person for having read her book, every single time I read it.

Rachel, unlike so many "gurus" these days, isn't about platitudes and quick fixes.  Her stories are read, gritty (often dealing with death or impending death), yet they are loftily inspiring and accessible.  She was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of sixteen.  Surgery after surgery eventually resulted in the removal of her colon.  Despite that she became a pediatrician.  Later, realizing that she wanted to treat the whole person instead of just the ailing body of her patients, she leapt blindly into a new discipline of a much more whole person medicine.  Not with a mind to challenge conventional medicine, but rather to change it.  She has been influential in doing so.

Life has it's grief and difficulty.  If you are dealing with such things, this book will be a profound blessing to you.  It most certainly has been for me.  It was recommended to me by my own Physician and has been the most important thing he ever did for my emotional, spiritual and physical health.  Legion are the ways I have shared Rachel's light with those around me. Though she wouldn't know me from Adam, I am pleased to call her my friend.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

God Is The Gardener

President Hugh B. Brown is one of the greatest orators the church ever produced.  This is one of two favorite speeches of his.  I have listened to it often throughout my life and received great comfort and inspiration every time.  I hope, if you haven't heard it, that you will.

I had the privilege of meeting this great man within the walls of his own home.  It was by invitation of my dear friend Ellen.  What a sweet experience that was.  Reflecting on that experience and upon the occasion of President Brown coming to Vernal to dedicate the Ashley (now Vernal) Stake Center my testimony is affirmed.  At that dedication he entered the room, and I felt it!  And as we stood and sang We Thank Thee of God for a Prophet as he walked to the stand; it was then I knew this Church is indeed guided by prophets of God.  A few years later, at his feet and by the bedside of his sweet wife I came to know why.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Blessing Life

I spend a lot of time at the kitchen table these days.  It sits by the patio door which offers a wonderful view of the back yard and the critters out there.  We have a couple of rabbits that we release to the yard as soon as the garden is in.  They like spending the winter out of the hutch and we like watching them romp around in the snow.  They dig themselves a burrow during the fall and trim back the lawn and perennials for us.

When the snow falls we go back to feeding them, so they come to the patio for some hay and rabbit pellets.  I also love to feed the wild bird once the snow falls.  I suppose they find it harder to find food when everything's covered with snow.

This year I bought a one gallon black rubber bowl to set out.  The animals can manage by eating snow, but I suppose it consumes a lot of energy.  I set out the bowl yesterday and with the sun on it the water never froze until sunset.  Apparently the black rubber absorbs the sun's heat and keeps the water from freezing.  This was a surprise as the temperature was below zero all morning and after four hours it still hadn't frozen.

The rabbits and birds love having water to drink!

In just 24 hours we've seen Starlings, Eurasian Collared Doves, Juncos and House Finches.  I'm also tossing some cracked corn out in hopes of attracting quail.

There was a time when I wanted to possess these creatures, an others.  At one time or another I've had Chinchillas, an Iguana, dogs, cats, turtles and tortoises, lizards, horses, parakeets, fish, and hedgehogs.  Somehow, the act of caging, penning, leashing, corralling and otherwise controlling their lives became unpleasant for me.  I keep the rabbits only because I don't want to eat them and don't know what else to do with them.  It is painful to put them back in the hutch in the Spring.  I don't think they'll be replaced when they're gone.

Yesterday while watching the menagerie outside the patio door Sarah, the neighbor's cat showed up.  My first reaction was to case her off with extreme prejudice.  I don't want her eating my birds, now do I?  Then I noticed Bandit take notice as well.  Bandit is my grand kid's dog.  He and they live right behind us.  For days I have watched Bandit guard his dog dish.  The doves and starlings have been busy helping themselves to his food and he has been busy chasing them off.  He is mostly Great Pyrenees with a little Australian Shepherd mixed in.  Might even be 50/50 but mostly he got the great genes.  He spends his days supervising the rabbits from his side of the chain-link fence.  Now he's a bit frustrated that he can't chase the birds away from the feeders.  He was really frustrated that Sarah could prance around over here with such impunity.

Anyway, decided if I was about blessing life, I shouldn't be prejudiced toward Sarah.  She needs to eat too. I've always known that when you feed birds you are setting the table for cats and hawks and falcons.  It's just the way of things.  I decided I want to be about blessing life, not fixing it.  So Sarah is just as welcome as the birds are.  She's also a bit frustrated because Bandit's bark is certainly fair warning for the birds and her prospects are pretty slim as Bandit is vigilant in spades.  So, it all works out.  The rabbits have company.  The birds have food.  Sarah has a challenge.  And Bandit, who is a working dog, has a job.

The interesting thing is how I feel.  Emancipating myself from the task of fixing things has freed me up to a lot more pleasure observing how things turn out in my little back yard.  Now, I still wonder about an intruder far more distasteful and sinister than Sarah.  I have a great distaste for Starlings.  We'll have to see if I can make room in my heart to be willing to bless them too.  Oh look!  There's one now!  Getting a drink.  Bandit has him pretty far so good.

I fell asleep last night thinking about this business of blessing life instead of fixing it.  I think it may very well apply to my relationships with people as well as critters.  I think I just might be learning to quit trying to control things.  Life naturally has balance and things usually settle out as God intended.  I've just got to let go and let that happen.  Something tells me things will just work out better if I will stop trying to fix life and simply observe it, love it and bless it where I can.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review - The Invisible Saint by Curtis Taylor

I hope I don't create a lot of frustration by reviewing this book.  It is out of print, though several used copies are currently available through  I read The Invisible Saint several years ago.  I got it from the local library.  Recently, I wished to review a concept and story presented in the book, but the library had since disposed of the volume.    I asked Sweetie to Book Mooch it but none were found there.  She did, however find it used on Amazon and bought me one for Christmas!

This comes close to being my favorite LDS novel.  It is crisp, hilarious, respectful and inspiring.  It was published in 1990 but I didn't find it to be out of date in the least.  In fact in my own case, it seemed more pertinent today than it did 20 years ago.  Most LDS humor makes me cringe as too often it borders on sacrilege.  Other LDS fiction sometimes gets a little too syrupy for me.  Neither is the case with this gem.

It's about a regular guy who no one seems to notice.  He gets to feeling like he must be invisible.  It certainly appears that he doesn't, appear that is.  He is a sweet, kind, good person.  He sets out to bless the lives of those around him and seems pretty clumsy in his attempt.  Still things work out wonderfully and I begin to realize that when our hearts are sincere, God blesses our efforts despite the awkward attempts we make to help.

I have felt pretty invisible, and clumsy, myself, lately and reading this book now has been a great comfort to me.  It is going on the shelf where I won't lose track of it because I well definitely read it again.  If not for the comfort, then for the hilarious laughs.

Remember, the Lord loves his servants, bungling, or otherwise.  He must get quite a kick out of us too!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I Believe in Synchronicity

I can usually be found reading three books at a time.  One, I keep by my beside.  Another is always on the bus.  The third, is in my study (or as Jeff calls it, The Man Cave.)  Additionally, I read The Book of Mormon most every day and try to read The Ensign magazine as regularly as I can.  I try to keep up on the news too.  Early in our marriage when I discovered Sweetie simultaneously reading multiple books I was flabbergasted.  I couldn't imagine how she kept track of which was which.  After trying it though, I found it no different than following several TV series.  While I'm not particularly brilliant, I am able to do this.

There are a couple of pluses to reading different books at a time.  I always have a book near by and don't have to pack one with me.  I have one everywhere I like to read.  I pick a type of book that fits the place I will be reading.  Something with short stand alone chapters is nice for the bedside table.  I don't last long reading in bed, but I do love to go to bed thinking of something inspirational and thought provoking.  I'm currently reading My Grandfather's Blessings, in bed.   I like to read novels on the bus.  Bus driving includes a lot of waiting.  Waiting for departure times.  Waiting while passengers visit this or participate in that.  That sort of thing.  A good novel passes the time quite pleasantly.  With longer layovers, I like to write too.  Like right now.  I'm sitting, and writing, in the bus in Park City, while waiting to return a load of skiers to Vernal after their day on the slopes.

In my study I read something heavier; usually philosophical or biographical in nature.  There I can take notes and check references a little easier.  Though, with my iPhone I do that with novels and other books too.  I love having the internet handy to look things up like locations, definitions, historical accuracy; stuff like that.

Now to the best reason for reading multiple books over the same period of time.  Synchronicity.  Early on I began noticing how very often what I was learning in one volume was enhanced, reinforced or clarified in another.

Here's an example:  A while back I was reading A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny.  Penny is my favorite novelist right now.  She makes me think.  She quietly challenges my perceptions and teaches me a lot about myself.  One of her characters, Inspector Beauvoir, posed a question, "Can people really change?"  Eventually she answers the question, but that comes at the end of the book.  I'm trying to make some changes and Louise helped me see what that looks like.  I've wanted to change some things about myself for a very long time and I, like Louise's character, was wondering it it was really possible.

  At the same time I was reading Glenn Beck's 7 Wonders that Will Change Your Life, obviously that too was addressing the possibility of people changing.  But on that day, I read:  "Your path is to forever evolve into yourself, to be striving to become the person your are supposed to be."  In other words, my job is to change.  But Beck makes it also very plain that it is sometimes a slow evolutionary, or in my case, glacial, process.

The next morning I was listening to a recording of October 2013 General Conference on my phone and heard our dear prophet, President Thomas S. Monson speak these words:  "We need to bear in mind that people can change. They can put behind them bad habits. They can repent from transgressions."   Who better to answer our question (me and  Beauvoir) than this faithful servant of the Lord.

Now, I'm not writing to persuade you that change is possible, or that I've changed.  I just wanted to show you that synchronicity happens.  And to show you that reading several books during the same period of time makes synchronicity almost common place.  It certainly occurs in other dimensions of my life but most frequently in the books and other literature I expose myself to.

Now you need to understand that I pretty carefully select what I read so that I don't miss out on the best books by wasting time with mediocre ones.  Even so, I do not choose them for theme or subject matter.  In fact the less my books have in common the more frequent the synchronicity!  If everything I read hovered around the same subject matter, I wouldn't call common themes synchronicity at all.

Truth is, I don't usually call it synchronicity.  Glenn Beck calls it Bread Crumbs.  Carol Lynn Pearson calls it Love Notes from Heaven.  Elder David A. Bednar and Nephi call it The Tender Mercies of the Lord.  I like that one best.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Oh, Canada

Sweetie and I have spent many precious days north of the border.  Too often we overlook the great neighbors we have up there.  Most Americans can't even name the capital city of our closest ally and friend.  Can you?  Here Tom Brokaw explains Canada to American's.  No spoiler; he won't be answering the question for you.
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