Reading and Two Movies for the End of the World

Scary headlines this morning regarding North Korea and … well, you know who. I am not building a bunker just yet, though I do always have some extra cash on hand, as well as a few cans of Goya beans.

Anyway…I still have three glorious weeks of summer vacation left before heading back to my classroom, and so I plan to continue reading and watching whatever I feel like before that alarm clock jerks me back into Routine.

Perhaps coincidentally to what is transpiring in the news, I just finished a beautifully written, poignant novel about the end of the world but, more importantly, the human connections and life questions that exist therein.  Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton circles around two isolated settings and their survivors: a brilliant, elderly astronomer named Augustine, who refuses to leave his post at the Arctic research center when a rescue mission flies out the rest of his colleagues. He then discovers a peculiar little girl left behind, and the two of them form a unique bond as they make a home in the abandoned snowy Arctic Circle.

Similarly isolated are the six astronauts aboard the Aether attempting to return to Earth from their mission to Jupiter.  Like Augustine, who keeps trying to contact anyone through his radio controls, Mission Specialist Sully persists in her attempts to communicate with Earth, though radio signals reveal no one, nothing.  As they near Earth, they notice an eerie darkness blanketing the blue planet: nighttime cities usually twinkling with billions of lights have been snuffed into complete black.

Beyond the adventure inherent to both dangerous settings, though, you will read of our human need to ask the “Big Questions” and our thirst for connection, touch, and love.  Brooks-Dalton reminds us that while solitude can be necessary and nourishing, our souls still need other people in order to fully thrive.  Nestled within the 253 pages, a few surprises will subtly reveal themselves and delight you.  And by the end, if you enjoy this book like I did, you will wish for a few more chapters at least.


2 Favorite Movies for the End of the World:

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10 Things That Make Me Happy

Several weeks ago I underwent major surgery, which left me healthier than before but also with six to eight weeks of recovery time.  Here at the five-week mark, I have consumed more popsicles than imaginable, formed an unhealthy attachment to Pinterest, read nearly all of Augusten Burroughs’ books (thank you for clueing me in, Leslie Griswold!), and become officially addicted to a plethora of reality television shows (the names of which shall remain secret in order to spare myself any undue embarrassment).

One program I hadn’t seen until this afternoon was called “Ten Things That Make Me Happy,” which highlighted two celebrities’ ten favorite things.  Sooo, being that I am a sucker for lists—as well as things that make me happy—I thought I would give it a whirl.  As I am currently under doctor ordered house arrest, I looked right here within the confines of my home.  Of course, I instantly found at least thirty – forty things that make me happy, but I trimmed the list down to ten…for today.

Buddha statues

I am not an official Buddhist (Catholic by birth actually, “spiritual” if I had to classify myself, though I cringe that it’s become almost cliché to say so), but I have read scores of Buddhist writings throughout the years and gleaned much wisdom from their words.  I have also always adored statues of Buddha.  Quite simply, they make me smile and feel comfort and peace—even Buddha would be happy about that. 

Dandelions on my wall







Retro bathing beauty    Just look at her.  Who wouldn’t feel pure delight and joy over displaying her in front of a DVD collection?    



This corner of my bedroom     A figurine bought on the Amalfi coast.

Giraffe painted by my mother.

Turquoise stones.      

My books  Solace.  Learning.  Adventure.  Calm.  Joy.

Mary statues   One of the only things from my Catholic upbringing that still offers me peace and comfort rather than issue and conflict.

An old rusty red teapot  My mother always placed this in her flower garden back home in North Salem.  Now it sits on my balcony and conjures up happy memories of bluebells, iris, and fireflies.     

Big Boy

If you have never stopped at a Big Boy (“Home of the Original Double Decker”) on a road trip through America’s back highways, woods, and truck stops, you have quite simply missed out.   My Big Boy figure (many more in storage) instantly takes me back to many a happy summer drives to Grandma’s house in the backwoods of Elk County, Pennsylvania.           


An unexpected gift  There is no blessing greater than an unexpected gift from someone. Large or small, such a random act of kindness instantly lifts one’s spirits and spreads love. This original painting is one of my most special possessions, a gift given to me randomly one afternoon in Asbury Park by someone just as special. It hangs on my wall and continues to make me very, very happy.

Hello world!

January 1, 2010.  A new year.  A new decade.  

A nasty case of cabin fever and sofa stiffness led me to Barnes & Noble this afternoon, which, for some inexplicable reason, led me to come home and begin a blog.  I shall try to explain. 

Bookstores have always been one of my treasured escapes.  Growing up in suburbia, I salivated over trips to the local library, where I would lose myself amongst the stacks and aisles.  Years later, when I moved to the city and discovered The Bookstore, I reached nirvana.  Real  bookstores, like Brentano’s, Rizzoli, and Three Lives & Co.  Crammed with my muses, heroines, and gods.   The smell.  The sacred hush.  Worshippers no less reverent than if in a church, quietly sampling a novel or book of poems, a travel guide perhaps, gently returning the tome to its shelf.   Heaven.

Hell.  Or my idea of it this afternoon anyway.  No longer in the city, much to my chagrin many days, I typically enter stores (or the dreaded Mall) in the early morning hours or not at all.   This afternoon, New Year’s Day, I figured I would try something different.  After all, who else would bother leaving all of the televised football bowls and greasy eatings to venture to a bookstore on the first day of the year?  Just about the entire county population it seems.  

I’ll admit I was feeling a bit unsettled from the start, having decided to browse the store without my usual “To-Read” list, “winging” it, as they say.  Then the woman entering the store in front of me failed to hold the door, though I was a mere couple of inches behind her.  Perhaps that was her way of telling me I should have been more than a couple of inches behind her. 

Alas.  Inhale.  I can do this.  Once inside, I was immediately assaulted by a cacophony of noise, chatter, and bustle.  A mob of tiny ruffians raced around the new releases (hey, why don’t you take some quarters and beat it to the arcade at the mall?).  A woman (a salesperson, no less!)  in Humor shouted to her friend in Romance, “I was feeling okay until about an hour ago!”  (yea, me too, lady.) 

I finally made my escape to Fiction, where my reprieve lasted only a mere moment or two before being cornered by two (yes, two!) bookstore stalkers: one, a straggly-haired, ageless girl (I think) who could have been in her mid-30s or a teenager, I have no idea; another, a poodle-esque white-haired woman wrapped in a long bubbly, cream-colored coat.   Do you know what I mean by “bookstore stalker”?  This is the person who decides to come and stand beside you at the very moment you reach the section you’ve been aching to peruse.  You move a little closer toward the person, thinking that might prompt him or her to shift position (to a different aisle altogether), but no hint is taken.  So you must shake your head, mumble a derisive “Bookstore stalker!” under your breath, and skulk to a different aisle yourself until it is safe to return to the original section.

Talking, chatter, squealing, arguments.   One poor schnook in Music seemed hopelessly befuddled.  “Well, what is the title?”  the helpful saleswoman asked.  “I don’t know.”   “Well, who is the singer?”  she persevered.  “She’s really famous.”  “Do you know anything more specific about it?”  she tried once more.   “It came out about a year ago.”   Okay.  Time to leave. 

And so, with an extra lap around Fiction, I grabbed my selections, made a quick drive-by through Notebooks to grab a new journal with which to begin the year, and headed to stand between the green velvet line markers.  Grieving over my lost, quiet bookstores of yesteryear, I wondered when we allowed this travesty to unfold.  And why.  We are loud everywhere else in life.  In business meetings, in the mall, in the middle of dinner, in living rooms, in classrooms.   Must we also be loud in bookstores?  Why do we have to yell out our business, reprimand our children, argue over tonight’s dinner menu, bark into cellphones across book-crammed aisles?   I suppose the pat rebuttal to my question might be, Just be glad people are still going to bookstores!   

Okay, fair enough.  People are still going to bookstores.  And I am too.  I’m even writing about it.   I will go to bookstores until my last breath leaves me.   Just not in the middle of the afternoon.