Two Old Favorites

My public library is just plain awesome.  I love it.  Nothing beats the library.
logo  Every year, give or take a couple of months, I get a craving to read an old favorite.  I’m getting ready to take a road trip to visit the Munchkin at her graduation.  I wanted to get something to read on the plane up and the drive back.

An all time favorite is Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown.  This is one book that I have read and enjoyed every year since I discovered it at the Munchkin’s seventh grade book fair.  I especially wanted an e-book for my iPad or audio version for my iPhone.

My library has a couple of different options for ebooks and audio books.  You can check out the Kindle or audio version of a book using the OverDrive Media Player app. Audio books are available from Recorded Books on their OneClickDigital app.

The e-book version of Hero and the Crown isn’t available on Overdrive, so I checked the library’s OneClickDigital page.  Lo and behold! A Recorded Books audio version was right there, available to check out.  The Library is closed today, but that is not a problem.  I downloaded the book and started listening on my commute home.  Wow!

I mentioned two favorites.  This other was a very copacetic find.  While browsing the catalog for The Hero and the Crown, another Newberry Medal winner came up in the search results: The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli. This book won the Newberry Medal in 1950.  The title jingled a bell in my distant memory, so I checked out the Kindle version.  I was reading it on my lunch hour and it became more and more familiar.

I read The Door in the Wall when I was in seventh grade.  I was volunteering in my middle school library at the time.  I became lost in the monastic life portrayed in the early chapters of the book.  This book further fueled my love of reading and kindled a longing for the monastic life.  I only recently ‘fessed up to this secret desire while sharing in our local small group discussion.  I thought it was buried beneath thirty-three dusty years of accounting, but the spark still burns.

Thus ends the story of my two latest finds among the stacks of the digital library system.

What are your favorite reads, and how did you find them?

Answered Prayers

Prayer works.

I was getting bored and frustrated with random reading.  There’s too much dystopia in the bookstores these days, don’tcha think. What happens when the lights go out?  Or an asteroid hits the moon? Or the rapture comes and I’m Left Behind?  I get enough dystopia just reading the newspaper every day.

It’s depressing.  Vampires, shmampires. It seems like everyone is trying to write the next The Twilight Series. Yawn.  “What does this have to do with prayer,” you ask? Hold your horses.  I’m getting to that.

I did enjoy Justin Cronin’s The Passage and The Twelve (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy).  It’s quite different from the usual smarmy vampire romance. The characters are interesting and engaging.  Enough interesting things happen and with cliffhangers at the end of every chapter the story keeps rolling along. What will happen in book three I wonder.  (Hurry up Mr. Cronin!)

Now that’s done and I need a new fictional fix.   I’m craving something without vampires for a change.  There’s a certain kind of story that just makes you feel good. Hmmmm.

Here’s my list of feel-good favorites that I turn to when I’m burned out.  Like Mom’s baked macaroni and cheese, they’re comfort food for the brain.
The Hero and the Crown & The Blue Swordby Robin Mckinley.  I can never get enough of these two stories.
Dances With Wolves 
Watership Down
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
Random Harvest, by James Hilton

I found myself standing in front of my bookshelf, looking at this collection.  I wasn’t really in the mood to re-read any of them, but wanted something like them. I prayed a little prayer and it trickled up to heaven. I prayed quietly, so silently that I almost didn’t hear it myself, feeling guilty that I wasn’t praying for something more providential, like ending world hunger, or for an end to human trafficking. (That’s whole ‘nother post.)

Somebody upstairs must have been listening. (Maybe Saint Catherine of Alexandria, patron saint of libraries?)  While browsing the online audio book collection of my local I found an available copy of The Hollow Hills (Book 2 of The Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart).

After a quick download on the Overdrive Media Player app, I started listening to it on my commute.  I could tell right away that this would be another of those feel-good favorites. But I really hate to start a series in the middle (pesky spoilers).  Book 1, The Crystal Cave, was not on audio.  Eager to start at the beginning, I checked out a really beat up first edition (1970) hardback from the library.

Yep, it’s an answer to prayer. It’s not even Christmas yet, and God has given me a personalized gift of love, a new book by a new author, custom made for me.

In my devotional this morning I read,
“Without God’s love, there is no way to establish [a foundation for a true family]. Without God’s love, there is no way for us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. Love is truly the source and wellspring of our life and happiness.”Exposition of the Divine Principle

I have received many answers to prayer over the years. They are usually related to work or mission.  More like a, “Let’s get this job done,” kind of answer (James 2:18); a soldier’s marching orders.  But this answer was special, because it was purely unconditional, from God’s heart of love to my heart.

I want to abide in Your heart of love always,
To be inundated, overcome,
Swept away by that sweet love.
No agenda,
Just Your loving presence.
With every beat of my heart,
Every breath I take.
Every day fresh and new.
Every morning amidst the sparkling dew.
Soak my feet with Your love as I walk barefoot in the grass.
Freshen me and breathe me in,
as I breathe You in
to dwell in the altar of my heart.

The Gratitude Game

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, wrote a blog post on Ecclesiastes Chapter 8. Here’s her original post.>>—-> How to Enjoy Tranquility Through All of Life’s Trials

Here’s my comment on her post. Rejoicing makes sense to me even if there’s nothing in particular to rejoice about. I recently read in a review of, Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, that the secret to happiness is gratitude. It rings true for me.

I make it a spiritual practice to challenge myself to look for unusual things to be grateful for–like dirt . . . and worms. Yep. As a gardener, those are two essentials for a successful garden.

Another favorite thing to be grateful for is books; books full of words, and libraries full of books, free for the borrowing. I’m grateful for parents who read stories to me, teachers who taught me to read and even one special children’s librarian who got me totally hooked on books in the third grade.

How about color vision? I’m grateful to have color vision. God made the world such a vibrantly colorful place, but without color vision we wouldn’t be able to appreciate its natural beauty.

What would you do if you were color-blind? I was surprised to hear that Monte Roberts, The Man Who Listens To Horses, is color-blind. Not only that, he is grateful that he is color-blind and looks on it as a gift. He says that his color-blindness enabled him to see what others couldn’t see in horse’s communication dynamics. He attributes his amazing ability to communicate with horses to his color-blindness.

I’m grateful for my introverted character. I encounter many obstacles misunderstanding and even prejudice in the workplace. Like Monte’s color-blindness, I see introversion as a gift. It gives me a unique perspective on the world and allows me to see what many extroverts miss. They may think I’m missing out on the vibrant colors of an extroverted life, but I wouldn’t trade my introversion in for anything. (Even a Lexus.)

(Dear @Lexus, you owe introverts an apology)

Torrance Public Library Summer Reading Program

TPL at the Wilson Park Farmers Market 6-1-13While strolling through the Wilson Park Farmers Market today, I came across one of my favorite things.  No, not okra, free books!  The Torrance Public Library set up a booth in the center of the Farmers Market to promote their Summer Reading Programs.  The Summer Reading Program starts on June 21.  The Summer Reading Rrogram is not only for kids.  There is even a program for adults.  Read books and win prizes.  More on the Summer Reading Program coming soon.

The Friends of the Torrance Library were there too.  Friends of the TPL 6-1-13 2
Friends of the TPL 6-1-13The Friends of the Torrance Library had set up a table where they were giving away free books for kids and free cookbooks.
  I picked up an easy reading kids book to send to my friend who teaches at the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona.


Mental Running

That’s the funny thing about running. The deceptive thing about it. It may seem mindless, but it’s really largely mental. If the mind’s not strong, the body acts weak, even if it’s not. If the mind says it’s too cold or too rainy or too windy to run, the body will be more than happy to agree.The Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen

Running is Mental – What keeps you going?

What got me started running was a review of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. That was the best book I read in 2010.  I loved the stories combined with cutting edge science and medical data.  That book, along with the C25K running program got me started. That was the hook and the bait snagged me.

My problem is that every October, right around the time-change, I get derailed.  My exercise program falls apart.  It doesn’t matter where I am, I get clobbered by SAD and the first thing to go is my workout.

Then sometime after the winter solstice (December 21-22) when the days start to lengthen, I slowly get back on track.  This year it started with a dream.  A running dream.

I was running up and down hills out in the countryside, surrounded by sunlit green fields. 

I fill my head with thoughts of running.  I have to get my mind in gear before my feet begin to move.  Browsing the library catalog I discovered a movie called The Long Run, about an African woman who trains for the most arduous ultra-marathon, the Comrades.
While I was browsing, the keyword, running, brought up a book, The Running Dream, quoted above.  I was intrigued by the title, because I had just had my own running dream. Jessica is a high school track star who loses her leg in a tragic accident. The road to recovery is a long one, full of challenges and growth.

In Born to Run, one of the people interviewed mentions that you need a heart to be a champion. The best part of the story is the way Jessica grows her heart, not just feeling pity, but real empathy for others that she encounters.  I won’t post any spoilers, so you have to read it for yourself.  It looks like this will be my favorite book for 2012, and I have barely started.  Wendelin Van Draanen also brought us Flipped, which was one of my favorite books last year.

What is your favorite mental motivator?  Is it a book?  Movie? or . . . ?

Teenage Dystopia

Definition of Dystopia from 

dys·to·pi·a [dis-toh-pee-uh]


a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression,disease, and overcrowding.
Compare utopia.
Origin:  1865–70; dys-  + (u)topia
Related forms
dys·to·pi·an, adjective
dys·to·pi·an·ism, noun
More on dystopia from  
The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi
I’ve been curious about the seeming rise in popularity of Dystopian YA Literature. In 2011 I read a few of these novels to see what was developing in this genre.  Here’s my list or recent reads.  

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer – This is the one I’m reading now.  The things that go wrong are deal with such ordinary things that I keep looking around to see if it’s happening now. Is the moon hanging low in the sky, or are we having runs on food at the supermarkets.  We do have lines at our local gas station. . .

It’s not exactly a creepy feeling, but this book makes me uneasy because I can totally see these things happening.  Other dystopian plots are just so out there that you know they are fantasies, even while you are enjoying being  caught up in the action.

I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier – This is an older story, late 1970s, that used to be required reading in some schools.  That was after my high school days.

Our dystopian reads (1960s & ’70s) were things like 1984Brave New WorldFahrenheit 451 and Lord of the Flies.


Witch & Wizard by James Patterson – This is the first book in the series that is popular around my office. None of us are YA.  We’re MA, OF or AR (middle-aged, old fogies or ancient relics). Reading stuff like this keeps us young, or at least give us the illusion that we feel young.  It also gives us something to talk about with our kids.

Witch & Wizard combines a dystopian world with elements of magic.  It features a super-villain with magical powers called, The One Who is The One (as opposed to the One who must not be named or Big Brother).  It was OK, but I  preferred Life As We Knew It

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. He is more famous for The Book Thief, but I liked Messenger better.  I would describe it as random-acts-of-kindness with a dark twist.  I listened to the audio narrated by an Ausie, so it had a down-under flavor.  I think this was my favorite novel of 2011.

The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany during WWII.  It’s pretty depressing, with Death as the narrator, but there are some interesting aspects.

I haven’t started The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins yet.  My daughter just finished and she describes it as “Better than Twilight, not as good as Harry Potter”.


All of the books listed above can be found in your local public library.  Many libraries now offer online, downloadable audio-books and eBook options, including Kindle versions available through has most of these in Kindle format as well.
What do you think of Dystopian Literature?  This isn’t an exhaustive list, and I’ve probably left out your favorite book (The Giver? – Among the Hidden?)  What is your favorite?  Why do you think this genre is so popular now?  Is it the unstable economy?  Wars and rumors of wars? 
If you were to recommend an alternative, more positive reading list, what would be on it?  

John Carter of Mars

John Carter fighting the great white apes of Mars.

Yesterday, the day after Christmas, I went to the movies with my family to see the latest Sherlock Holmes movie.  It was great fun, but what really got me excited was the trailer for the upcoming Disney movie, John Carter. Something seemed really familiar about it, and not just the Star Wars aliens. Being a book-before-movie person, I searched for a book by that title and hit pay dirt.  John Carter was one of my favorite heroes of the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, better known as the author of Tarzan of the Apes.
These are classic adventure stories that I loved as a kid.  I can’t wait for the movie to come out.  Looks like a blast.  The Princess of Mars is also available as an audio-book on CD from my local library.  It’s worth taking a look to see if it is in your library.

Elephants Don’t Bite. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

“Have you ever been bitten by an elephant? How about a mosquito? It’s the little things in life that will bite you.” -Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect

I love this quote.  Yep, It’s the little things that bite me.  The negative or lazy things.  But Darren Hardy points out that little, positive choices add up to a big difference over time.  It may take a while for the cumulative, compound, effect becomes evident, but it will happen.

I started reading this on the advice of Vemma President BK Boreyko. He recommends making the conscious choice to do something positive to maintain a healthy body and positive mind every day.

It fits in with the  Vemma philosophy of making a positive difference with people helping people.  If you make a positive difference every day, we can make the world a better place, starting from improving ourselves.  (People Helping People is also central to the Credit Union philosophy.)

I’m re-reading Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (GTD).  Actually, I’m listening to the CDs in my car.  I have a copy on my desk, but I’ve been too busy to pick it up.  I first went through GTD a few months ago.  After an initial burst of enthusiasm, I started slacking off after a month or so.  After missing a couple of important deadlines I realized that I needed a boost. (Or kick in the seat of the pants!)

So I went back to the El Segundo Public Library to pick up the audio again.  The ESPL is the only one out of the five libraries I use that has the audio version.  So if you want to check it out and listen in your car, stop by the next time you are near LAX.

Listening to GTD a second time has been really worth it. I’m just wrapping up the last disk now where David Allen gets into the deeper stuff about transforming companies with GTD.

Implementing GTD is just one of the many possible positive choices you could make to activate the  The Compound Effect.

What positive changes do you have in mind for the coming year?  What small, positive changes will make your resolutions stick this time?

The Best Card in Your Wallet

The smartest card in my wallet.

September is National Library Card Sign-up month. The American Library Association (ALA) is promoting libraries this month.

The best card you can put in your wallet is your library card. You can buy things with a credit card but you still have to pay the bill. Plus interest.  You can buy things with your debit card, and get cash with an ATM card, but none of those cards are free.

Sign up for your library card today and start to explore your public library.

A library card gets you loads of cool stuff for free.  First and most important, you can get books for free.  If you are a bookworm with a voracious appetite like me, there’s no way you could afford to buy all the books you read.

Second and thirdly, you can get a wide selection of music CDs and Movies on DVD and VHS.  Yes, some people still have a VCR sitting around the house.

Lastly, libraries stock a wide selection of audio books.  This is great for people who have very little time to sit down and enjoy a book by a nice warm fire while drinking hot chocolate. Pick up the latest thriller, motivational book, or best selling business book on audio CD to listen to in the car on your commute.

I first “read” several classics on audio while driving back & forth to work. My favorites are Les Miserables, the Three Musketeers, Joan of Arc by Mark Twain.

I have five library cards, copies are displayed on this page. Click on the card to go to that library’s online catalog.

Each library has unique characteristics.

The Los Angeles Public Library has a great selection. Their branch locations are not that convenient to my home or office. Still, if there is something I want that other libraries don’t have, the Los Angeles Public Library will usually have it.

The card I use the most these days is the County of Los Angeles Public Library Card.  They have a great selection with a widespread network of branches.  The reason that I use them the most is that a couple of their branches are on the way home from work.  I can reserve a book using their online catalog and pick it up on the way home.

The Torrance Public Library has six branches (as seen on my card).  The Main Civic Center branch has three floors, including a basement full of CDs, DVDs, Magazines and books on tape.  They also have reading areas and study rooms that are often used by tutors of ESL and other subjects. A large meeting room is available for community events.

Redondo Beach has an impressive modern library that was built after the Northridge earthquake damaged the original library in Veterans Park.  They also have a large selection of audio books for adults as well as a good selection for kids.  There is a community room on the second floor that is sometimes used as a polling place.  Volunteers staff a small bookstore run by the Friends of the Library.  The store has a good selection of Mysteries, Literature, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, kids books, comic books, cookbooks and classics, all for very reasonable prices.  Stop in to browse and chat with the friendly volunteers.

El Segundo Public Library is my latest discovery and card acquisition.  This is pretty close to my office so I can stop by on my lunch hour.  They have a goodly collection of books for sale just inside the door.  More books are on sale in another room just off to the left of the counter.  They even have a paperback bookswap shelf run on the honor system.  You can bring a book and swap it with something else.

Do you have a library card?  How often do you visit your library?  What do you tend to check out?  Books? Movies? Audiobooks?  Music CDs?  Post a comment and tell us what you like the best about your local library.

GTD Gremlins

In a fortuitous accident I discovered Tak Anderson’s Blog post, My GTD Moleskine Hacks.  I was curious, since I’m a notebook freak and always looking for new ideas.  I also wondered what “GTD” was all about.

One thing led to another and I ended up listening to Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (GTD), by David Allen on audio CD from the County of Los Angeles Public Library.  I’ve been using journals, blank books, composition notebooks, etc., etc. to take notes, keep lists and try to stay organized. Tak’s blog and GTD gave me lots of new ideas on how to use my notebooks to stay on top of things.

I’m reading Getting Things Done for a second time this month and implementing things one by one, step by step, one day at a time, like a clutter junkie. Last week my friend Bill told me that the personal label printer really was essential, so I put in my order for a DYMO LabelWriter 450 Label Printer (See all Labeling Software)
.  I printed out labels for a tickler file system and set that up in my desk drawer this morning.   I’ve been modifying the way that I use my notebook to capture every stray thought and make a note of next actions.  My brain may not be empty yet, or my mind like water but I’m making progress.

I have been looking for a book like this my whole life. I’ve read countless “get yourself organized” books, attended seminars, purchased planners, PDAs, and on and on. . . Whew! The harder I try to get organized with these these tools the more disorganized I get.

These always seems to be a dark and dreary basement teeming with gremlins lurking in my subconscious whose mission is to sabotage my best intentions. And these gremlins always succeed.

What is the worst and most frustrating gremlin? The Amnesia Gremlin. Organizational experts recommend making a to-do lists and sorting them according to priorities. The Amnesia Gremlin Is the one who makes you forget to check your list until it’s too late. Then he wakes you up at three AM on the day after the deadline to give you the raspberry and a major dose of insomnia.

Almost as bad is the Distraction Gremlin who works in partnership with the Procrastination Gremlin. Once your to-do list is written out in perfect penmanship and sorted according to A, B & C priorities, the Distraction Gremlin whispers in your ear saying, “All those As, Bs & Cs look too boring with their tedious priority ratings. Let’s do some of the fun things down at the bottom of the list instead.”

This sets you up for the Procrastination Gremlin who gets in the act and whispers, “Don’t worry, you still have plenty of time to get to those As & Bs. And
nobody really cares about those Cs anyway”

David Allen is the Gremlin Slayer. He is the only get-organized guru who has studied these hidden gremlins. His simple solutions gracefully neutralize the gremlins. I would describe them here, but I’d have to post a spoiler alert.

I highly recommend this book to anyone suffering from gremlin sabotage. It has been a big help, a career-saver and a life-saver.

More books from David Allen:

Blank Journal: Raccoon
by Marlene Greene
Moose Blank Journal
by Nodin Press

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