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Alice Sebold crafts a gut-ripping tale of loss, grief, recovery, and the afterlife in The Lovely Bones.
It was on my list of movies to watch, but I never got around to it. Being a firm believer that books are always better than the movies, I decided to read her story instead.
WOW. It’s one of my top 10 books. Immaculate writing, master-like use of multiple point of view, soul-stirring cadence, and a haunting tale that never leaves you. Even after you close the book and return it to the shelf.
There are at least two hundred thousand perfectly crafted sentences in this book. Like “You don’t notice the dead leaving when they really choose to leave you. You’re not meant to.” and “The events that my death wrought were merely the bone of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future.”
She is an artist, sketching her characters with a few telling details. Each sentence wove an image into my mind. I was right there with the father feeling his loss so acutely it became mine for a moment.
Her concept of heaven sits reassuringly on top of earth. But the pain of seeing and not touching loved ones. Of watching but never being able to participate–it’s agonizing.
Suzie is a character you are immediately drawn to from the first sentence of the book.
“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”
Her family could be anyone’s family.
That’s one of the most powerful things about this book. It could happen to any one of us.
I finished the book humbled. Grateful to feel the weight of my bones and muscles. Able to interact with anyone. Being alive never felt so tangible.
If you haven’t read it or seen the movie yet, you can buy the book here on Amazon. And even if you did catch the movie, the book is exquisite. Read it.
I went into the city last Monday night to make sure I didn’t miss a second of the final Speak Now 2011 Taylor Swift Concert on Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden (MSG).
Linds was gracious enough to drop me at the train station after we saw Breaking Dawn, which may be the best of the Twilight installment.
The next train departing in 5 minutes. A New York walk to the last train platform and I was on my way.
I listened to Taylor Swift the entire train ride and the entire walk to my cousin’s apartment. Ingrained Speak Now in my brain again.
I’d listened to the CD 55 times while revising my YA manuscript. Taylor just speaks to my story and puts me into my characters again.
Cousin AJ and I had a lovely dinner at Blue Bell Cafe, which is my fav place in her area. She graciously put me up for the night in her stylish yet comfy abode. Many thanks!
We hung out, watched tv, unpacked a gorgeous bunny chandelier, and finally went to bed.
The next AM was TAYLOR SWIFT DAY. I slept in, showered, watched tv, and got ready to meet my dad and Ant.
Dad got into the city at 5. It took 20 minutes to drive 9 blocks from my cousin’s apartment toward MSG. We parked 6 blocks from Madison Square Garden in a gusty rainstorm. Dad didn’t have an umbrella.
We made it to Nick and Stef’s Steakhouse by 5:30. Got our table and gobbled down fried calamari, filet mignon and mashed potatoes. The filet delish. The potatoes smooth but tasteless, requiring salt and my steak sauce. The Calamari good but a tad chewy. Liked the marinara sauce.
Ant joined us at 6:15–very prompt. We wrapped up dinner at 6:30.
Then we walked over to MSG with Ant leading us through Penn Station to avoid the rain.
We got to the steps to MSG and saw t-shirts for sale. All t-shirts were $25. I already love her music but I now appreciate her conscientious pricing. Madonna’s concert charged upwards of 40-50$ for a t-shirt.
Big lines, few salespeople. I corralled Ant into t-shirt mode. You watch every purchase and the second they start to shift to come back through the line you surge forward to fill in the space. Otherwise, everyone else cuts you and you never get your t-shirt. At one point, I executed a gorgeous 360 that landed me two rows closer to the t-shirts.
I knew what I wanted. One for Linds. One for me and Ant had his picked out. I got up front and the sellers were yelling who knows what they want? I said me and screamed out the letter and size for each t-shirt. Intense.
Meanwhile Dad is securing the Taylor Swift concert book for me. As we head inside the venue, girls go by us in hand-made Taylor Swift t-shirts. With lights strung around their signs and their bodies. These are serious concert goers.
We get inside and I receive a free Cover Girl lip stick. Dad requests one for Mom. I go to the lady’s room and change into my Taylor T-shirt.
Then we (Ant and Me) take pics with the Taylor poster.
We see the little girls at the Cover Girl makeup stations getting made up. It looks pretty fun. If I was 12 I’d love it.
At this point, Dad has to go to his section 105 and Ant and I head to ours 106. Ant asks the lady and her daughter who are between us to move down so we can sit together. Sweet.
Ant puts on his Taylor t-shirt too. We look at the sea of teens and tweens. We are bringing the average age up 25 years easily. Dad must feel ancient.
The opening act starts up. Adam Brand. Songs were countryish and easy to listen to.
There was a short break and NeedToBreathe came on. They reminded me of Kings of Leon. Also pretty country but more of a rock sound.
The amazing thing was the concertgoers. They were decked out. Glowsticks, Christmas lights, posters that lit up. Hardcore Taylor fans.
Reminded me of a PG rave.
Taylor came on about 8:20. She sang most of the songs from Speak Now.
The absolute excitement and energy of the crowd infected us.
Ant sang along to the songs, but I belted them out and danced around nearly knocking over the 7 year old beside me.
Taylor’s set list was:
The Story of Us
Back to December
Better Than Revenge
You Belong With Me
She was breath-stealing, soul-expanding, ear-hugging amazing. Everyone in the audience sang the songs along with her.
She paused a few times and gave the audience looks of utter amazement and appreciation. Whether planned or spontaneous, it was lovely to see a performer showing appreciation for her audience.
She made MSG feel like an intimate little venue. There was an absolute magic to the night that enchanted everyone.
I gotta say, I felt l9 again. Full of hope and potential. Like I could take on the world and win.
I really enjoyed her singing, playing (of guitar, banjo, and piano), and dancing. She had flawless and fantastically fast costume changes. She put on the performance of a lifetime and eclipsed every concert I’d ever seen. Including Madonna.
I think part of the reason fans adore her so very much is because she exudes a genuineness and a warmth.
She gives back to the audience. Not only did she put on a killer performance, but she also brought out guests.
She and Selena Gomez performed “Who Says?”
Later Taylor recounted how she was named for James Taylor and he came out to duet on “Fire and Rain.”
When she closed with Love Story, I felt like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. I didn’t want to wake from this dream nor did I want this night to end.
A thousand thanks to Ms. Swift for putting on an extravaganza that is far beyond what we call a concert.
A hundred thanks to Dad for driving down on a work night and driving back home in torrential rain at 12 am.
- Don’t speak unless spoken to before I’ve eaten
- Don’t tell me all the plans for the day before my coffee is fully drunk
- Don’t ask me why my hair looks like this
- Don’t tell me everything that’s gone wrong with your day so far, if I wanted to wake up to bad news I’d listen to NPR in the morning
- Don’t ask me to do five things until my eyes are fully open
- Don’t be surprised if I’m still in bed and fall back to sleep while you are speaking to me
- Rome wasn’t built in a day…neither were the plans we made. Tread carefully when derailing them.
- Saying yes and then waffling at the last minute is inconsiderate. If you were trying not to hurt my feelings, you failed. In fact, you hurt them way worse than a simple no right away ever could have.
- Now I have to scramble to fix your screw up. Thanks. Thanks so very much.
- It’s the Hallmark anti-card saying I’m not important and spending time with me doesn’t matter.
- When you back out at the last minute, you leave me in a lurch. And friends shouldn’t leave friends in lurches.
- It sets a precedent. If you’ll do it to me once, you’ll do it to me again.
Today I’m taking over Kourtney’s blog. Yes, it’s the magic of the holiday season and a dog can type.
Wanted to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. Hope you get to share it with your loved ones.
Here’s some cute pics of me Kourtney took recently.
That’s me sitting on the front porch. I love my sunshine.
Nothing like a nice nap curled up on Kourtney’s comforter. On her side of the bed of course.
I think I look pretty distinguished here. Maybe, Emerson for President 2012?
Here’s three things I’m grateful for:
- Whenever Kourtney forgets my snicky snack, Grandma S reminds her.
- Whenever Kourtney goes away, Grandma S sleeps with me.
- Whenever Kourtney is busy working, I can sleep in her lap or on her Tempur-Pedic.
Life is not a meritocracy.
I didn’t deserve a trip to Italy this year. I found a way to make it happen, but I didn’t deserve it.
And the ten years of back-breaking-down agony, yeah, I really didn’t deserve that either.
We like to think that things happen for a reason and that we are the reason.
But I don’t agree.
Life is not a meritocracy.
Sometimes things just happen to you. And then it’s on you to make something of it.
We are not all rewarded when we are kind or gracious and we are not all punished when we are cruel or devious.
That isn’t how things work. So next time you try to rationalize how much you deserve something over someone else, recognize it’s a combination of hard work, constant diligence, and dumb luck.
My friend didn’t deserve to die of cancer at 21 nor did my grandfather deserve to live until his 80s.
Life is not a meritocracy.
Yesterday someone called my grandmother’s number and asked for Grandma.
In my family, we have a nickname for our grandmother. No one calls her Grandma.
My aunt, who answered the phone, said, “I think you have the wrong number.”
They guy asked, “Is this Henrietta?”
That happens to be my grandma’s first name, so my aunt asked, “Who is this?”
The guy replied, “It’s your grandson.”
My aunt knows all my cousins/her mother’s grandsons and this wasn’t one of them, so she played along. “Which one?”
The guy said, “Guess.”
So my aunt made up a name. “Peter?”
They guy said, “Yes, Grandma it’s Peter.”
My aunt was cleaning and decided to see where he went with this. “Oh Peter how are you?”
“Well, Grandma, my friend won a free trip to the Dominican Republic and took me with him.” He goes on for a bit about the trip.
“That’s wonderful, Peter,” my aunt said. “Are you having fun?”
The guy/scammer said, “That’s why I’m calling. My friend’s car got pulled over and there was marijuana inside. Now I’m in jail.” He breaks down in tears.
“Peter, that’s terrible. You’re parents must be upset.”
“Grandma, I can’t tell my parents.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I need your help. Can you please send me some money for bail? I can put my lawyer on to talk to you right now.”
My aunt finished her chores at this point and said, “Well Peter, I don’t have a grandson so you’re not getting any money.”
The scammer calls her a stupid f*ing douche bag and hangs up.
It’s a spin on the old FB post or email of friend/family in foreign country in trouble. And they are targetting tech-unsavvy elderly people. Beyond criminal.
I talked to my grandmother about it and reminded her:
- If someone calls and asks you to guess who they are, always say a name that you don’t know. Never name people you do know. Don’t help the scammer.
- If someone impersonates a loved one in trouble, take down the information, but don’t send them money. Call your relatives/friends to confirm where they are.
- If they want you to wire money anywhere be suspicious.
- The Dominican Republic is not a typical vacation spot unless you’re into illicit activities.
What if life is levels of unhappiness filled with smatterings of joy?
What if the unhappiness we all run from is our natural state and the fleeing happiness an aberration?
I’m thinking Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs here. Channeling my memories of college psychology. Maslow’s hierarchy meant that every time a need is met, a higher need then appears in front of us, waiting to be fulfilled. This progresses from physiological to safety to social to esteem to self actualization needs.
I’m proposing that unhappiness is much the same. We have a base level of unhappiness. But once we motivate and find a way to achieve happiness it is short-lived.
The next level of unhappiness drops onto us. And we are back in the pit. The self doubt. The hopelessness. The smoldering inaction.
Until the unhappiness reaches unacceptable levels. We act to escape it. This action is usually followed by a brief period of respite. Of happiness.
And then then we reach the next level of unhappiness.
What if life is unhappiness punctuated by feeling good? What if we are meant to trudge through existence, toiling away for a glimpse of something better only to find it isn’t?
Have you ever lived out a dream only to wish you hadn’t? Finding that the dreaming was far better than the reality. And once lost, the vacuum breeds grayness.