Joan's Jottings


Reading Recap #3
September 12, 2018, 4:04 pm
Filed under: books

In 2017, I vowed to publish my reading list on a quarterly basis.  By all estimates, I should have about six posts.  As noted by the title, this is post #3.  Oops!  As is often the case, my non-conventional life interrupts my free time, which in turn results in a reduction in leisure activities such as reading.  After spending about four months attending to “business, ” I have been consciously carving out time to spend with books, the best friend and distraction a girl can have.  The list is all non-fiction (think memoirs and self-help books) with the exception of one novel, a bestseller that was published about four years ago.  Happy reading!

  1. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls-David Sedaris
  2. When You Are Engulfed in Flames-David Sedaris

***I had the pleasure of attending an evening with David Sedaris later last year thanks to an invitation from fellow “bookie.”  (If a person who loves food and cooking is a Foodie, is someone who loves books and reading a Bookie?)  Anyway, it was a fantastic evening of laughter and stories.  I had read a few of Mr. Sedaris’ books prior to the event and then got caught up on a few more afterwards.

3.  Running With Scissors-Augesten Burroughs

4. Dry-Augesten Burroughs

***Both books by Augesten are memoirs.  I admit I had a bit of an issue getting through Running With Scissors.  I found his childhood story difficult to read.  The story is disturbing and actually somewhat unbelievable.  It did however, reinforce my belief that we really never know the horrors and dysfunction that are the norm for so many children.  I am grateful that some are able to go back in time, remember and then write about their experiences and share them publicly.

5. Happiness-Heather Harpham:  This memoir is about a seriously ill child born out-of-wedlock (is that an outdated term in 2018?) to the author and her boyfriend, who chooses, at least initially, to exclude himself from the life of his daughter and her mother.

6.  The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too)-Gretchen Rubin: This self-help book asks the question, “How do I respond to expectations?” and then divides people into four personality groups.  Learn which group you fall into and how your personality profile influences your home, work and community life.

7.  The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives by Theresa Brown, RN: I have had many encounters with nurses, both personally and professionally.  As with any profession, there are some for which this is a true calling and for others what I consider a mistaken career choice.  Ms. Brown was called to nursing, and her account of “a day in the life of” was an easy and interesting read for me.

8.  Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.:  This book is a series of insightful stories designed to teach the reader about healing, loving and living. It reinforces my belief that “we all are one,” and that with kindness and empathy we can all learn to aid in the healing of another’s emotional wounds simply by listening and sharing. First published over 20 years ago, the message is still completely relevant today.  Important advice for living in our current environment that seems to be full of selfishness and a lack of kindness and empathy for others.

9.  The Gifts of Imperfection-A Guide to a Wholehearted Life (Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are) by Brene Brown:  This book and author were recommended to me.  Categorized as self-help, Ms. Brown outlines 10 guideposts to living a life that accepts that none of us are perfect though society tries to tell us that we must be perfect.

10. Quiet-The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  As an extrovert and one-time wife and mother of introverts, I found this book interesting and insightful and one that I probably should have read some time ago.  As I often struggled to understand my introverted son and how best to parent him, I ALWAYS knew and believed that the world needs introverts.  They are generally kind, sensitive and great listeners and observers.  Most of us do talk too much and listen too little.  One of the greatest things that I took away from this book is that our society often forces introverts to act and behave like extroverts, and that this is occurring daily in schools and the workplace.  Who decided that extroverts possess the better personality?  Another reason to also read numbers 8 and 9 on this list as well as this selection.

11. Saving Simon-How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion by Jon Katz.  This is another animal-themed memoir by Mr. Katz.  I enjoyed the book and its reinforcement of living a compassion-filled life.  That includes compassion for ALL living things, including animals both domestic and wild.

12. Educated by Tara Westover: If you have read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, you will love this newer release and first book by Ms. Westover.  The book chronicles the unconventional lifestyle of the Westover family.  It is a book about religious fanaticism, mental illness, abuse and more.  Just like the two afore-mentioned memoirs, I found parts of her story disturbing and frankly unimaginable but cheered for her as she managed to break free and find her way to an education and world outside the confines of her warped Idaho home.

13.  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: I am thrilled that I finally found my way to this cute, funny, heartwarming work of fiction that the world discovered long before me.  Ove reminds me of several people who I have crossed paths with- crusty, hard and seemingly uncaring on the outside, yet soft, warm and compassionate on the inside.  I think Ove is LOVE without the L.

I saved the following book for last, as I intend to incorporate some of its teachings into a post about living with less “stuff.”  It ties into my year (2017) of diminished spending, which included differentiating between needs and wants, that was in part due to a period of unemployment.  More about that to come…..

14.  goodbye, things, The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki:  This is a rather short, easy read that introduces the reader to living a life without stuff.  The concept is pretty radical in my opinion, but there is substance and good advice in learning about living a life where we are not held captive by our things.  It is food for thought.

Thanks for reading my post.  If you have any books that you think I might be interested in, please send me their titles in an email, text message or via Facebook.  As one of my son’s elementary teachers used to tell her students, “Read, read, read.



My Eulogy: 1960-2018
September 1, 2018, 12:20 pm
Filed under: life

I know what you are thinking.  Joan is writing about death AGAIN.  Not really.  Okay.  Maybe just a bit.  A eulogy is not actually about death.  It is about life.  Your life.  Think of it as a mini autobiography.  If you take the time to jot down your story, you get to say what you want about yourself-the good, the bad and/or the ugly.  Who knows more about your life than you do?  As a self-confessed control freak, I want to be in charge of what gets said about me after I am gone.  Also, on a larger scale, writing your own eulogy and sharing it with your family and friends gets people talking about death, which is such a taboo subject in our culture.  I talk about death, write about death and do not fear death.  Why? Because NONE of us are getting out of here alive.  This post is long, so I hope you will hang in until the end.  There is a poem (not written by me) that I hope provides food for thought.  Happy reading!

Joan was born in 1960, the first offspring of German immigrant parents.  She grew up in the idyllic Village of Greenhills, Ohio where everyone knows your name (and your business).

Joan was afflicted with an eating disorder in her early teens and dealt with this issue almost daily throughout her life.  While Joan believed that regret is a waste of time, she wished that her issues with food and body image had consumed less of her precious time on earth.

Joan graduated from high school and went on to attend not one, but three different  universities in pursuit of a degree.  She finally settled on Psychology as a major, but never fulfilled her dream of being a licensed counselor.   In the end, she knows that she counseled many friends and acquaintances throughout her life.  She just didn’t get paid for it, which made it even more rewarding.

Joan loved to laugh and often surrounded herself with people who were able to channel their inner comedian.  She herself was born with a sense of humor, not a trait one thinks of as common among stoic, stiff, play-by-the-rules, Germans.  Later in life she married a Guy with his own comedic genes.  They often bantered about who was the funnier one.  She now concedes that he was George and she was Gracie.  (For the younger folks, you might have to Google this reference in order to “get it.”)

Joan had a giving heart.  She always believed that if she had found her way to enormous wealth, she would not have squandered it on lavish homes and fancy cars, but would have chosen to give much of it away.  Joan lived a middle class life that was below her means, so she gave when and what she could.  A few dollars here and there add up to a lot over the years.  She WAS blessed with the gift of time and so began a lifetime of  volunteering.  As a teenager, she worked as a Candy Striper for a local hospital.  In college, she was introduced to hospice work.  She believed that those who care for people at the end stage of life do not do it as “work,” but rather as a “calling.”  She was called to spend time with the dying and their families volunteering with a few different hospice agencies.  She also donated many hours working with the local chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as well as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).  It was and still is her greatest wish that horrible diseases like cancer and diabetes are eradicated soon.

Joan had several jobs throughout her life.  She was a Department Manager, Retail Buyer, Aerobics Instructor/Personal Trainer, Administrative Assistant and HR Generalist.  She did not consider one job better than another as they each provided an income,  introduced her to TONS of people and aided her in honing her work ethic.  She was starting to believe that in today’s workplace, “work ethic” is being replaced by the “whine ethic.”  So many prefer a little Chianti with their paycheck.

Joan LOVED to read.  If she had kept all of the books that she spent time with throughout her lifetime, she believed that her library would have shelved hundreds of works penned by authors she loved including Pat Conroy, Nelson DeMille, John Irving, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris and many, many more.  She also liked to write.  She knew that her posts on her blog, Joan’s Jottings, would outlive her.  It was the one place where she was “published,” though not in the literal (and often elusive) meaning of this word.  She thanks everyone who ever took the time to read her posts.

Joan also LOVED to talk.  Probably too much.  She was spirited and opinionated and this was clear when she spoke.  She apologizes to all who were held hostage as she droned on and on and on about the topic or topics of the day.  Joan was once told by a fifth grade teacher that she had “diarrhea of the mouth.”  Joan always remembered these harsh words, but as she matured, she realized that she had disrupted MANY a classroom as the teacher attempted to complete their lessons.  As a way of cleaning up her Karma, she apologized to many of her former teachers when she moved back to her hometown in 2001.  She was unable to connect with Mrs. Diarrhea of the Mouth while here on earth.  Joan hopes to catch up with her on the other side.

Joan described herself as a Runaway Catholic.  In her third decade of life, she found her way to a set of beliefs that were more spiritual and less religious.  She devoured books on spirituality and was blessed to cross paths with many kindred spirits.  One of these kindred spirits informed Joan that she was an old soul who had chosen this lifetime as a way to experience accelerated growth.  Joan’s spiritual beliefs boiled down to a handful of tenets that aided her in her growth.  These tenets morphed into the religion of joan, of which Joan was the only card-carrying member.

Joan was a wife and mother, though these titles proved to be transitory.  She earned the title of “widow” at the youngish age of 41.  This loss left her as a single mother of a three-year old boy.  She did her best to raise the boy as a decent, caring, productive member of society despite the fact that the Universe continued to challenge them.  It turned out that the boy was also an old soul who, too, had arrived here to experience accelerated growth.  Unlike Joan, he only needed 20 years, one month and one day to complete his earthly lessons.  His sudden and abrupt departure left Joan questioning EVERY tenet of the religion of joan, as well as every single thing she did or did not do as a parent.

Joan understood that she was here on her own karmic journey.  She had chosen to enter this lifetime on 8-16-60, chosen her family of origin, and chosen the lessons that had come her way.  She has no regrets, and is hopeful that the accelerated growth she experienced on earth aided her in elevating her light and vibration.  She knew that she would only be able to receive answers to her MANY questions once she crossed over.

As Joan sat down to write this eulogy, she listed her “dates” as 1960-2018.  She did this for two reasons.  She penned this mini autobiography in August of 2018 knowing that she could feasibly pass at any moment since NO ONE is promised tomorrow.  Secondly, even if she does not actually cross over in 2018, a huge part of her did die on March 6, 2018 when her only biological son departed this lifetime.  There are 58 years between the dash, which reminded Joan of a poem she once heard (ironically) entitled, “The Dash.”  She included it in her eulogy since she believed the words need to be read and heard.  What will your “dash” say about you?

The Dash

I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend.  He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars..the house…the cash.  What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change?  For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile…remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

by Linda Ellis

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