Strangled Charity

I have a decidedly dumb dilemma. Books. Too many of them. Well, more accurately I have too many uncorrected proofs. Nearly 70 different titles. In the beginning…we’re talking 2006..I was asked to join LibraryThing’s Early Review program. Here’s how it works: ever month LT posts a list of new books to be published and you request one to be reviewed before publication. I have been honored to “win” nearly 70 early publications and I have reviewed them all. Well, let me clarify. I have faithfully reviewed every title I have received. I’m still waiting for two…

In the beginning it was a pride thing. I was so thrilled to be asked to join this program that I saved every single book I was asked to review. I wanted to keep an entire collection of “librarythings” to mark the accomplishment. But now they are taking over! Ironically, the two favorites I wanted to keep I loaned away and never saw again (The Translator and Losing Clementine). But, back to the books I can’t keep. I argue with myself and moi about what to do all the time.

Here’s how it goes:
Me: We donate them to a charity?
Myself: It’s uncorrected proof. No one wants to read an unfinished product.
Me: We could donate them to a library?
Moi: You wrote tags, notes and stuff all through them. You underlined and dog eared pages. (Shame on you, librarian!)
Me: We could give them to friends?
Myself: And how would you decide who gets what? Think of that Orgasmic Pregnancy one! Who would get that?
Me: We could offer them up free to anyone interested near and far? FaceBook? They would just pay my shipping costs?
Myself: And what if people don’t send you $$ to mail them? You are trying to renovate your kitchen, remember?
Me: We could throw them out?
Moi: You would hate yourself and chase after the recycling truck to bring them back.
Me: We could just keep them?
Myself: Out of the question. You don’t hold onto books unless you love them. You are running out of room with things you don’t love.
Me: I do hate clutter.
Moi: See?

So. What to do? Maybe when the weather gets warmer I’ll set up an alfresco book store with a big ole “Free” sign and see what happens. It could be a study in sociology. Do people like uncorrected proofs? Would they mind my in-page musings? Do people like free no matter what? And who will take that Orgasmic Pregnancy book?


Yes You Can!

Drake, Jane and Ann Love. Yes You Can!: Your Guide to Becoming an Activist. Ontario: Tundra Books, 2010.

Right away I have to say I wouldn’t have classified this as “juvenile” literature. The language might be a little simplistic, definitely geared toward young adults, but the message is something we should all sit up and take notice of no matter what our age: if the world around you makes you sick do something. It’s the age-old promise, “you CAN make a difference!” But first you have to DO something.

Yes You Can is a how-to manual of sorts. Each chapter covers a different step to becoming an activist including an example of someone taking that particular step. The histories of organizations such as Amnesty International and Save the Children illustrate what can happen if the right steps are taken successfully. For every chapter there is a section on the historical time line of that step in action. There is also a section on the accomplishments as well as the challenges called, “Milestones and Setbacks” which put everything into perspective. Almost like a textbook there is a checklist to test what the reader has (or hasn’t learned). My favorite piece of advice was “know your cause inside and out.” The ability to see both sides of any argument can go a long way in the effort to sway opinion or make a change.

My only sticking point? This classification of juvenile literature. Why juvenile? It really should be “for all ages” because the vocabulary used in Yes You Can! is not consistent. There is talk of “family” and “classmates” in one chapter and “colleagues” in another. I don’t know any child who would refer to his or her peer as a colleague.


Broken Beautiful

I was invited to a Girls’ Night In last Friday. It sounded amazing. Pedicures, manicures, massage, pampering, girly time. Despite the temptation of all those pedicures and manicures I concentrated on another cure. By 5:30pm I was hitting the streets training for Just ‘Cause. I don’t think I can call walking “training” without a little smile on my face, but after five miles my hips told me differently. They gently reminded me I may not be able to finish twenty let alone times three. Doesn’t matter. I’m here for the cure. I’m broken but I’m still beautiful.

The Sunday sunshine saw me out again. This time I had kisa drop me off at the public library. I’d walk home from there. 5.5 miles if I did it right. I’m noticing my new neighborhood. My new town is beautiful but in a very broken way. Bottles dropped by alcoholics who have had more than their share. Gamblers casting off their loser scratch cards by the hundreds. Flattened things. Unrecognizable things. Dirty things. Things that make my eyes slide away. My favorite moment: a young cat peers out from under a sodden, mangled box with worry in his eyes. I smile with conspiracy. Have no fear. I won’t give you away. Stay stone still and no one will take you away to anywhere. We will walk on by. Promise.

I have decided there are more important things than worrying about what everyone else is doing. I watch people become sulky and sullen when they don’t get what they want and I’ve decided it’s none of their business anyway. Instead, I will pour my energy into something more worthwhile. Petty you is not pretty to me. Everyone will be in for a shock. Maybe I’ll get that pedicure after all. In pink. Then I can say I am living it right. Broken, but beyond beautiful.


Cancer Come Get Me

Carver, Raymond. “What the Doctor Said.” All of Us, New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2000.

“What the Doctor Said” is about a patient receiving word from his (?) doctor that he has cancer, a cancer so lethal the doctor “stopped counting” the tumors on one lung. You can’t pray but it won’t make a difference. It’s heart breaking and stark. The message is beyond clear. You. Are. Going. To. Die. No bones about it. No hope. No cure. No way out. Imagine that. You are D-E-A-D.

This poem is perfect timing for me. I have mentioned before I have signed up for a cancer walk. 60 miles in three days. The attitude is yeah-yeah another charity. I’ve even gotten an eye roll. I hear the words: So what? Big freakin’ deal. I shouldn’t take it personally, but it still amazes me. No one has asked how they can help. No one has asked ‘how can we donate to the cause?’ They can’t wrap their brains around the fact that this walk could save a life. This walk, this dollar donated might make a difference. It’s amazing. It’s as if the world has become cynical enough to say “you won’t make a difference so I won’t throw my money away.”

What happens when you get a life threatening illness? What happens when you are told you will die? How does it make you feel to have someone say it won’t help you? The attitude is “so why don’t you go ahead and die? It will be painful but just die because I can’t make a difference. I won’t make a difference.”

Drives me nuts.


For a Reason

It’s like a mantra. Things happen for a reason. Things happen for a reason. Things happen for a reason. I know this to be true. We didn’t succeed with the first few houses because they were not ours to have. Something bigger and better lay at the end of Ivy. The timing was all wrong in November. February couldn’t be more perfect. Things happen for a reason.

When my friend decided not to walk the twenty miles for Project Bread. I was not surprised, yet disappointed all the same. It took me a day to think things through. Would I walk without? Would I want to? It took me a week to bail myself out. Things happen for a reason. In reality, walking for hunger is a good cause for someone else. I am wedded to the crusade against cancer and domestic abuse. Been there, done that. Keep doing this. I decided to walk away from the Project Bread walk and find my Just Cause. 60 miles in three days. For breast cancer. This I can do. This I don’t mind doing on my own. I walk for Nor. I walk for me. This is the walk I am meant to walk.

When my friend of 35 years had a heart attack I had mixed emotions. A long history of ups and downs, goods and bads clouded my real emotion – fear. You don’t want people your own age to die. It’s not your time so it shouldn’t be theirs. Butbutbut, things happen for a reason. For the past three months I have wallowed in self indulgences. Since Thanksgiving I have been giving into temptations of every persuasion. Fat and lazy, I have become. When someone told me I looked beautiful I knew it was a lie. A sweet lie, but a lie none the less. I’m heavy. My heart failing friend woke selfish me, myself & moi up. Things happen for a reason. As soon as this house thing happens I am running back to healthy. I swear.

When a good, good friend brought up a painful memory it was hard to face it. Hard to take ownership of it and say yes, I really did do that. It’s unimaginable now, but yes, I really, really did that. Blame game. Pointing you out for no reason other than to strike out. Things happen for a reason. I’m glad you brought up the past and that awful time. I’m still struggling with what happened and more importantly, why butbutbut I’m done burying that past. I can dig it up and say I take responsibility for being so awful to you. I take all the blame for the blame game. It wasn’t you. Never was you. Sorry I said it was you. I’m seeing things better now that I’m so removed.


Just ‘Cause

I think I found my next charity event. In memory of Noreen.


January Was…

January started off and ended with a head cold (damn you, kisa), a really nice dinner party, a re-commitment to the houses HOUSE (glutton for punishment that I am), a re-commitment to charities with a big one – training for a 20 mile walk for Project Bread, a huge re-commitment to friendships and huge changes at the library. For books it was:

  • Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather in honor of New Mexico becoming a state in January.
  • Red Death by Walter Mosely in honor of Walter’s birthday being in January
  • Biggest Elvis by P.F. Kluge in honor of both Elvis and P.F. celebrating their birthdays in January.
  • Devices and Desires by P.D. James ~ in honor of mystery month.
  • The Eleven Million Mile High Dancer by Carol Hill
  • Edith Wharton: a Biography by R.W.B. Lewis ~ in honor of Edith’s birthday on January 24th.
  • The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman ~ in honor of Barbara’s birthday.

For fun:

  • The Letters by Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger ~ a story that partially takes place on Monhegan. How could I resist? This is the blog that was plagarized by some dumb-azz.
  • 30 pages of Nutritional Wisdom ~ a Christmas gift from my sister.

So I didn’t get a LibraryThing Early Review book in January. That’s not a big deal. I have certainly gotten my fair share over the course of the program so I’m not complaining. I do have to admit, I feel a little guilty. For the first time ever, I am really late publishing the review for the last ER book. Maybe that had something to do with it…who knows?

ps~ I did get one for February, or so I am told! :)


Accidental Walk Two

I didn’t mean to walk today. Wow. That sounded weird. Weird and incredibly. What I meant to say was I wasn’t supposed to put in a training walk for Project Bread today. I have a partner for this endeavor and I would prefer to put in the walks with her. But, here’s the deal. I have had a sore throat to the point of pain for almost a week. Someone with a lot of medical credentials at the end of her name asked me if I thought not being able to swallow for a week was normal. Okay, she had a point. I had been living on a “hot” diet for a week – anything cold killed my throat. I wanted nothing more than another week in bed.

Instead I found myself on the treadmill. Trying to read and walk at the same time. I wanted to walk two miles just to say I did. Laundry spinning behind me. Snow falling outside. Kisa on his way home. Me, trying to read The Biggest Elvis, book bouncing up and down. Just to say I did. I ended up walking to a program called “Rolling Hills.” Alternating speed, alternating incline. It was funny, trying to balance the book while all this was going on. In the end it was 35 minutes, 1.6 miles…and no sore throat. Whle I didn’t make two miles I’m psyched. I think I could get used to this walking thing.


Project Hunger Walk One

Project Hunger Walk One – No Laughing Matter.

Gone are the days I can hitch a ride without feeling selfstupid. I hate inconveniencing anyone. I hate relying on anyone. Carpooling with kisa is completely different. We both end up in the same place each night. When it’s all said and done he’s always going my way anyway.
This night was different. She needed me to get her to the gym and I needed her to drive me there. Worked out perfectly that we could work out together. Truth be told, I’m more out of practice than out of shape when it comes to being in a gym. Signing in, finding an empty locker, scanning the cardio equipment for something not in use and a little less than out of order and never mind finding two together.
She got the treadmill in front of me and I ignored the people to the right and left. Or tried to. What is it about treadmills so close together? Like bald tires on black ice my eyes kept sliding over to the chick chugging along beside me. She wasn’t running…yet. But, she was cruising. To avoid further jealousies I busied myself with starting my workout. At first glance I couldn’t figure out my machine. It’s like reading a book in French for hours and then trying to read German. Everything looks nothing short of hieroglyphics. My treadmill at home is completely different than the machine I was now trying to decipher. Sensing complete ridiculousness I pressed “quick on” and started moving.
Speaking of silly, it felt completely stupid not to run. It took everything I had not to crank up the speed to at least a casual jog, an offhand trot. Walking seemed…well…slow. So slow! Out of boredom I pretended I was walking in my grandparents’ day. Ten miles. In the snow. Uphill. Both ways. Then, slowly, I started to feel shinsplints. My ankles started to ache. I wasn’t making fun of not running anymore. This was actually going to take some work. Suddenly this walking thing was no laughing matter.

So, seriously: 2.2 miles/35 minutes. So it begins.


And So It Begins…Again

Every once in a while an opportunity comes along that seems almost too perfect to pass up. They are the moments that grab you by all the attention you have; so much so that you can’t look away.

I was on Face trying to save face. Normally, as my sister can tell you, I fly under the radar on FB. If she catches me “on” she considers it just that…catching me. Then she chats. Most of the time I don’t mind. It’s early morning and no one will notice. But, as a rule I don’t spend more than a minute looking at my own face. I say a few things to other faces and I’m outta there. But, back to the other night. I allowed myself to be “caught” by four different people (none of them being my sister, go figure)…for almost two hours.
When I was finally let go I came away committed. And with that commitment came the profound understanding that not only was I back on the TrainingForSomethingBig bandwagon, but that I was actually happy about it. And what’s more – I was looking forward to every little thing about it.

So, here’s the deal. We are walking for Project Bread. 20 miles. May 3, 2009. You read that right. Walking. 20 miles. I have kisa on the brain when I think about running anything more than five. I see his stern face and his No.Remember.Your.Knee look. It’s a look of concern. It’s a look of caring. But, it’s also an I’ll Kick Your Azz look. He was the one who had to put up with me directly after The Fall.

Duly noted. So we walk.


Lending and Learning

This weekend was a chance to help. Myself. Saturday was all about carving a pumpkin to make me happy. Sunday was walking 5 miles for Baystate’s Rays of Hope Breast Cancer Charity Walk then having good girl time (as opposed to bad?)…

I am making a vow to walk the Rays of Hope every year. I may not walk as part of a team again (too much pressure to want to stay together), but I will definitely make this an annual thing. I will never, ever call attention to myself for the hurts I have faced but I am proud of the healing just the same. This walk was just what I needed. Maybe a certain someone will want to join me next year (what do you say, Smiley?)… So, anyway, this is a picture of me waiting for the rest of the team to arrive. I sat on my car and watched the others roll in. I won’t admit to how ridiculously early I really was, but it gave me a chance to watch walkers unite, hug, cry. Out came the pink ribbons, the pink balloons, the pink hats, the pink face paint (yes, yours truly smudged hers within moments of application), pink pink pink. Everywhere. I own so much black I actually had to go out and buy the pink shirt in the pic!

This was a day of coming together for the cause. Coming together period. I didn’t think of anything me, myself or moi. I wore no name except for that of my Team. I was not one person but an army of ones walking. I think that’s what knocked me silly on this Sunday. Running, you run for yourself. You lose the crowd. Everyone spreads out and becomes their own warrior. Walking binds you to the footsteps in front of you. Makes you move as a group. We were pretty in pink, proud in pink, perfect in pink.

S~ Thanks for hanging out later. While we didn’t talk about this walk all that much, it was nice to have that gabby, girly time. After the day I just had, it was perfect.


Sarah’s Challenge

See Sarah Smile!

See Sarah Smile!

This is my friend Sarah. We started off as coworkers. Even though she has moved onto bigger and better things we have remained friends. She has a huge smile and an even bigger heart. Here’s the proof: she walking a full freakin’ marathon for charity – yup 26.2 miles in one day. Here’s her story:

You are a charity walking machine, but this is your biggest yet! What made you sign on?  

 Last year I walked the half marathon and I loved it. Even though i was sore for a few days afterwards. I asked my dad to participate with me this year and he really wanted us to walk the whole marathon. I knew I couldn’t get a better walking partner than my dad (who has RUN many marathons) so i agreed to walk the full 26.2 miles!

How are you training for it, besides one foot in front of the other?

My ideas for training started with a book, and a set schedule but I struggled to get into it. Yesterday I walked 6.2 miles, and i am feeling it. my plan is to walk at least twice during the week for 3 miles or more, and then do my long walks on the weekend. my long walks will be 10, 13, 18 and 21 miles. In September I will start to shorten the mileage to get ready for the event.

When and where does this HUGE walk take place?

This is the part that hooked me both last year and this year. The walk is the Boston Marathon route. I have watched my dad run this marathon so its an honor to be able to experience this with him. Especially since neither of us our in running condition to do the real marathon. This is the next best thing.

This is something I asked our friend Rebecca: most athletes I know have a ritual or lucky talisman – something that inspires them before the event. What’s yours?

The things that inspire me most at these events are the volunteers and the photos that remind of us we are participating. The marathon has a mile marker with a photo of a child who is battling cancer. Those kids are fighting for their life, all i have to do is keep walking.

Here’s another question I asked Rebecca: Are you walking in anyones honor or memory, and if so, what is his/her story?

i am not walking for one particular person but for the general cause. I am amazed at the courage of anyone that goes thru cancer. To be honest, I am scared of someone I love or myself having to go thru something like that. I admire the strength of those who have cancer, their loved ones, and the people in the medical field who try to beat the odds and get them through it.

I’m not trying to guilt anyone but if walking a marathon and asking for your help in donating can help the fight against cancer then it is the least I can do. It is what I’d hope someone would do for me or someone I loved.

Speaking of donations, how much $$ do you have to raise?
my dad and i need to raise $250 each.

How can people donate?
my website is http://www.jimmyfundwalk.org/sb08

my dad’s site is http://www.jimmyfundwalk.org/bb

if you can donate that would be awesome. no amount is too small.

To learn more about you or the walk where can people go?

if you do not want to donate online, email me and we’ll figure something else out

my email is sburke81@yahoo.com

And when is that walk again??

September 21st


Bill, My First (not)

CancerI sent in my registration today. It’s in the mail which means there is no turning back now…unless I want to commit a federal offense. I’m committed alright! Committed to the run. Bill, your challenge will be my first even though it’s your third. No. That’s not entirely true. I’ve run one other 5K in my life. Just as I’ve only run one other race besides that. So, come to think of it, your third annual challenge is technically my third race ever. Go figure.
March 15th. Mark my calendar in red. I signed up. I paid to play.
Here’s the deal: Look Park – twice. 8am. Bill’s Challenge III is sponsored by Cancer Connection. Bill was CC’s first client. He was so involved in Cancer Connection that after his death the 5K challenge was created in his honor. Somehow I missed the 2006 & 2007 challenges but thanks to my father-in-law, hello challenge 2008, here I come.

Here’s my deal. I am not running for personal time. I could care less about beating anyone else (least of all myself). I run to fight cancer, honor someone special, raise awareness for issues like domestic abuse, bring places like Darfur into focus…I could go on. I run to help. Always have, always will. If I’m not moving my feet for something good, it’s not worth doing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, show me the cause and I’ll find the fight.


Carpenter’s Boat Shop

Sometimes I think I walk through parts of my life with my eyes closed. I really didn’t consider all that the Carpenter’s Boat Shop does until the loss of Ruth. I guess it’s fair to say I take for granted that which has been in my life forever. Forever and a day. A constant presence is never questioned. Such is the case with the Carpenter’s Boat Shop in Pemaquid, Maine. I’ve known “the Boat Shop” every minute of my existence whether I was aware of it or not. Skiffs on the beach came from there. People from the island went there. An exchange as subtle as clouds in the sky. Taken as truth and never thought more about.

Imagine a life on the rocks, for whatever reason. Hopes dashed. Dreams in ruins. Desperate for a break. Hungry for a fresh start. Not knowing where to turn. The Carpenter’s Boat shop is that safe haven. No. Harbor. They use the metaphor of a harbor on their website. That’s a better way to describe what they do. The Boat Shop is a place where someone can go for guidance, security and redemption on many, many levels. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. Especially the spiritual. In the process of healing, they teach a trade: woodworking. Boats, furniture. Repair on all levels.

Carpenters


Take Another Piece

The second charity of the year to contact me was my very own Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I say “my very own” because I ran a half marathon for them last May. I know this organization all too well. To be more precise, I ran, walked, limped, hobbled and probably most importantly, raised funds for them. Some of you might remember the journal I kept. I documented all 60+ runs that brought me to the final moments of the end: 13.1 miles. See, LLs takes ordinary plain janes like myself (and joes) and turns them into athletes, however temporary. The Society doesn’t just ask for a handout, they ask you to give everything you’ve got – blood, sweat and tears – and thensome. In return, they turn one of your greatest challenges into your greatest adventure. They take your energy (or lack thereof) and add to it more pride and accomplishment than you’ve ever seen. With the help of trainers, coaches and 24 hour support they train you to not only to raise the funds, but to finish the endurance challenge of your choice. You start the challenge worrying about how to ask people for money and you end it with the understanding that there are extremely kind and generous people in the world. You start the journey thinking you can’t run a single mile and end it knowing you can run 13.1 or even 26.2 miles.  In short you go from being a doubter to a believer in the one thing that matters - yourself. They may ask you to raise a ridiculous amount, they may ask you to run a ridiculous amount, they may ask you to give a ridiculous amount, but they give you back something far more precious – a huge sense of accomplishment. Believe me, I kick my own ass all the time, but I was never more proud of myself than on 5/13/06.

So, here the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society contacted me again…wanting another piece of me. They are relentless! And why shouldn’t they be? Cancer is just as relentless. The day after my race I lamented that cancer just doesn’t quit.

I didn’t sign up for another challenge. I wrote a check instead. Actually, what I should say is, “I didn’t sign up for another challenge…yet.” See you in the gym.


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