Sunday, March 29, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

Hopefully I'll get back in sync with the group before long. But for now I'm off on my own tangent. Thought I'd let you know what I've picked up to read lately and see if anyone else might want to come along for the ride.

I'm reading The Great Influenza by John Barry. I'm just getting started, but so far it has been a facinating read. Meticulously researched without too much technical jargon, this book gives the history of how medicine evolved as a science and describes the social, political, and biologial confluence of events that came together in the terrible flu epidemic of 1918 that killed more people than World War I and more than we have lost to AIDS. In just one city (Philadelphia - the hardest hit) in Philadelphia, 4,597 people died in one week alone and bodies piled up on the streets to be carted off to mass graves.

Barry describes the panic and despair of the people, the driven determination of the doctors trying to find a cause and a cure, and the misguided governmental policies and priorities that exacerbated the disaster.

I've had this book sitting on my shelf for a long time...picked it up with a stack of others at a library book sale in Sequim a few years ago but for one reason or another just never got around to reading it. Finally I made time to pick it up.
It has been absolutely riveting.

Now I am mindful of a phrase I found years ago when I was doing the lit review for my masters thesis. Some Harvard doctor in the 1800's was explaining why education was unwise for females...after a long description on the size of women's brains as compared to mens and cautions about how over education could create complications in childbearing (I'm not making this up!) he further went on to warn that if women were given the same educational opportunities as men they would neglect their household duties...

Well, on THAT note the guy was right. I have absolutely no interest in doing the laundry, in dusting or scrubbing the sink. All I want to do right now is curl up with a good book.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Different Perspective

I almost remained silent, as I have not finished the book. But the last post fired me up. No, I have not finished the book (I'm close), but I will. I am deeply affected by it and have had trouble tearing myself away from it, but family obligations have made it impossible to sit down for an extended period of time.

I too hate violence. I would much prefer a diplomatic approach to any sort of conflict. But that is not reality. My perspective is a bit different because my husband is a police officer. They too are trained in violence. But, I am very grateful they are. We live in a violent world, and the stories I hear often rock me to the core. Although I believe the world is full of goodness and amazing people, there is much evil. Horrible people walk the streets daily; our soldiers/military personnel/officers exist because of that.

My husband is trained to kill. And I am glad. It helps me sleep at night knowing that there is one more competent "good guy" on the street to help balance things out. He comes home bloody and bruised after combat training. I hate seeing him that way, but I am humbled. He is willing to risk his life to ensure we remain safe. He is willing to give up a 9-5 desk job with a hefty salary, kiss his family goodnight and head out to keep our community safe from harm. Each night he risks his safety without the cover of some magic hero cape; he has no super powers. He must rely on his training. He must rely on that grueling, innocence breaking training.

It isn't pretty. It isn't pleasant. It certainly isn't enjoyable to read about. But it is necessary. My husband is a good cop. He is thorough. He is hard working. He is honest. He does everything in his power to avoid violence. He does not want to pull his weapon. He does not want to be a killing machine. But our world does not allow for anything different. Sadly, there is no Utopia. And just as I must watch him drive into the darkness each night, many fathers, mothers, wives, must send their sons and husbands off to fight a war we would rather not be fighting.

I understand this book was a hard read. I get that. I also respect the decision to put it down. But please know that there is much more than arrogance and testosterone behind the uniform. There is beauty in bravery. There is beauty in courage. And there is beauty in understanding.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lone Survivor - Page 107 and I QUIT!

The weekend of my 40th birthday my husband and I hiked the trail to Wallace Falls, near Gold Bar, WA. The first hour or so was absolutely gorgeous and wonderful. The trail danced in and out of sunlight and shade, taking us through deep forest that felt like a fairytale, showing amazing vistas of moss and ferns and flowers and so much green. But then we hit the steep parts of the trail and I realized I was woefully unprepared for the climb.

I tried to pace myself. But my muscles were screaming. I gritted my teeth and kept going, but was not having much fun. I scrambled my way over rocks and pulled myself up by branches as the trail went up and up and up. Finally, winded and aching, I sat down and quit. I said I'd seen plenty of waterfalls in my time and it just wasn't worth it to go through that much pain to see one more. I was done in. I sent my husband on ahead to finish the climb without me, telling him he could tell me all about it on his way back down. I was not about to go another step.

About that time some hikers coming back down from the falls came along and said to me "Oh no, you CAN'T quit here - you are almost there! Come on, it really is worth it! You will be so sorry if you let yourself miss out this close. You can make it!"

So, a bit rested and encouraged by these enthusiastic hikers, I got back up and finished the climb. They were right. It was worth it. It was a breathtaking view.

Ever since that day I've given quite a lot of thought to when, why and under what circumstances I am willing to endure pain/difficulty/struggle to achieve a goal and when, why and under what circumstances I am more likely to quit.

I believe some pain is there to make us stronger, and enduring that pain is ultimately for our own good. There are other kinds of pain that are there as a message to change course quick for our safety and best interest, screaming out "hey, dummy, take your hand off that hot stove!"

The trick is in sorting out which is which.

As I was reading Lone Survivor, I disliked most of it. But I was determined to hang in there and keep going. It would get better, I kept telling myself. It would be worth it in the end. Right from the start I didn't like it. Four or five times I put the book down for a few days. But each time I would pick it back up and try again. I was trying to endure this book about endurance. But finally, I decided to throw in the towel. Having made it only to page 107, I'm ready to bail out of this book. I quit.

As the author goes about describing his Navy Seal training, it has been all about enduring extremely grueling tests one after the other without one bit of encouragement and withstanding levels of pain that to me would be spirit breaking.

It seems like he wants the reader to be impressed by how tough he was. Frankly, I wasn't all that impressed. All I can say is, testosterone is a scary thing.

I get it that our military has a need for turning men into killing machines that will follow orders no matter what. I get it that I am personally safer in the world because there are people like the Navy Seals who are willing to become warriors, disciplining their bodies and minds to endure excruciating pain and lay their lives on the line. I get it that based on the need for that our military justifies this sort of treatment of soldiers and sailors. But I HATE it. I hate everything about it.

I don't really think being able to withstand torture makes someone better or stronger. Yes, it makes them better prepared for horrible, ugly battles. And we live in a world where those battles are fought far more often than I want to know. But I'd rather read about someone who used diplomacy to resolve conflict than how they trained men to blow people away.

It is a hard reality of this world that we need to train some of our sweet young sons into hardened soldiers. But I am not happy about that and I will not read any more of this book. I do not see the merit of enduring this book. I see no beauty waiting for me at the end.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Lone Survivor

I first heard of this book about a year and a half ago when I heard the author(s) and main character on NPR. After hearing of Marcus' (the lone survivor) story I ran out and purchased the book. From there I loaned the book out as I didn't have time to read. Needless to say I was eager to pick up this book up and read it in two days.

In all honesty I wasn't a fan of how the book was written however, that does not effect the emotions that I was thrown into as I read. I seethed with rage, my heart pounded with fear, my toes curled with the intensity of the story, my eyes teared with sadness, and I had tears of joy.

Most of my seething had to do with the media and how Marcus' reinforced what I already knew. It made me want to write letters in complete anger telling the media how little respect I have for their "non-biased" reporting.

The media made an impact on the four Navy SEALs decision making process that was so pivotal it could have saved ALL of their lives. The four SEALs ran into three goat headers in the mountains who insisted that they were not Taliban.

"The military decision was clear: these guys could not leave there alive".

If the goat herders were released they could compromise their mission if they talked. After the SEALs debated and voted. They decided that they would let the goat herders go which was "military suicide". The reason? Because of the American media.

"When they find the bodies, the Taliban leaders will sing to the Afghan media. The Media in the U.S.A. will latch on to it and write stuff about the brutish U.S. Armed Forces. Very shortly after that, we'll (the SEALs) be charged with murder. The murder of innocent unarmed Afghan farmers."

The SEALs released the goat herders who ran straight for the hills. Thus begins the Taliban hunt for the four Navy SEALs.

". . .if the liberal media and political community cannot accept that sometimes the wrong people get killed in war, then I can only suggest they first grow up and then serve a short stint up in the Hindu Kush. They probably would not survive."

Overall I thought this book was a good and at times intense read. I have come away with an even greater appreciation for our military and an even greater love for our country.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Lot of Question Marks

I know we've moved on, and I just started reading March's book this morning, but I will feel guilty indefinitely if I don't comment on February's book.

I actually read Sarah in January, because I read it in 24 hours or less. That's how I am sometimes. I do things obsessively. Then I moved on to the second book in the series. I have not read the third book, because my little library doesn't have it. Anyway, that is neither here nor there. What I am trying to say is that I don't really remember much about Sarah. I liked the book. I remember that much, but beyond that it gets a little fuzzy.

I was left with an overall opinion of, and frustration with that era (which was already well-established after reading The Red Tent last summer), which is this: wasn't anyone, man or woman (but especially woman), ever allowed to just say what they thought? The way women had to tiptoe around their peers, their servants, and even their husbands (aren't spouses supposed to be the ONE person with whom we share EVERYthing?) made me want to scream! Is that really how life was back then? For some reason it makes me sad to think that it was. Maybe it's my inner hopeless romantic talking, but it doesn't seem like any woman was cherished and loved quite the way they should have been, if they ever had an iota of fear over being cast out because of something they said. Does that make sense? I am having a hard time putting my thoughts into words with this. I realize that it was a different culture in a different time, but to me love is love. Did love and devotion mean something less back then? I understand that a certain order had to be maintained, but what about in the privacy of the tent? Could husband and wife never speak honestly to one another without fear? Will I ever start a new paragraph, or will this one just go on and on into oblivion?

Does anyone else know what I'm trying to say, cause obviously I don't. I just find that when I read books that take place in "Bible" times, and become immersed in a female character (which I am bound to do - it's kind of scary, actually), I inevitably feel like I am suffocating. Am I the only one? Anyone?