Sunday, September 27, 2015

red flags

As expected, our off-season OBX vacation lived up to it's oppositional-defiant reputation. The red flags went up on Monday and stayed up until we started for home on Saturday...attesting to the gale-force winds, strong tidal currents, and turbulent surf that plagued us all week long.
If I were a sun worshiper this would have been a huge disappointment. Then again, if I lived to worship the sun, I would have gone to the beach in July or August, not during monsoon season.

On a brighter note, however, it was a great week for playing with Caleb...

...and for reading. The problem was deciding what to read first.

So...first I finished "Midwives" by Chris Bohjalian.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years. I started it a couple of times but it didn't engage me until recently. It's one of those books that basically lays out the plot at the beginning (A midwife loses a patient during childbirth and is sued by the patient's family.) The author then goes on to fill in the details, and in doing so creates an authentic portrait of life in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. It took me back to my college days at UVM in Burlington. The most interesting thing to me, though, was the fact that the book was written from the point of view of the protagonist's 14 year old daughter...and Chris, the author, is male. I hurried to finish it just as we crossed the bridge onto the OBX. I didn't want to put it down.

Then I read through a short book on meditation by Pema Chodron, "Taking the Leap--Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears." In it she talks about tonglen meditation ( and leaves us with this suggestion:

On to "The Art of Memoir" by Mary Karr, author of "The Liar's Club" and "Lit." I had to pre-order a copy because it wasn't released until Sept. 16th and we were leaving on the 19th, so on release day I ran over to our local B&N and picked up my copy. For the beach. 


Excellent! More than excellent. She nails the craft of memoir in this book. To quote: "The split self or inner conflict must manifest on the first pages and form the book's thrust or through line--some journey towards the self's overhaul by book's end." Then she tells the reader how other authors have accomplished this, and how we can, too.

Last but not least, I re-read Melody Beattie's classic "Codependent No More", first published in 1986 as a guide for people who are struggling with a loved one's addictive and/or self-destructive behaviors including not just chemical dependency, but gambling and sex addiction as well as work addiction.

With the recent resurgence of interest in "burnout" in the corporate world as well as among those in the caring professions--pastors, lawyers, and physicians--workaholism has taken its rightful place as an addictive disorder that negatively affects co-workers, family, and friends. I believe I had just the tiniest touch of it when I was in practice, raising three children, and generally keeping house and home together so I have an invested interest in the issue. More on that in the future...

So...that's the story behind our vacation--not exactly what we had hoped for, but otherwise just about perfect. I can see myself hunkering down for the winter soon with plenty to write about. With so much to read and so much to write about, it doesn't get much better than this.

What's on your reading list? What are you planning to write about?