Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/congmicj/cathyconger.com/wp-includes/query.php on line 751

As a writer, needle artist and photographer, I invite you to share my pursuits with me on this site. Among other things, there is a weekly post called “D-mail” that examines the spiritual meaning in current stories, both personal and news events.  I invite your comments at  cathycongerblog@gmail.com

“The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.”  N. Platt

I have been meditating on a wonderful book that I finished recently.  The book is

The Prosperous Heart: Creating a Life of “Enough” by Julia Cameron.

Julia Cameron is best known for her first book for artists, The Artist’s Way.  She has an impressive list of credits in both writing and the theater.  The thesis statement of the book is that true prosperity has very little with how much money we have in the bank.  Rather, it is possessing the ability to see clearly and appreciate the truly valuable intangibles in our lives.  She says that the opposite of prosperity is not poverty; the opposite of prosperity is anxiety.  This is a 12 week workbook in which you learn to keep a morning journal every day, keep track of your spending and do not put yourself in debt, take a walk daily, and take a time out each day to notice what’s happening in your heart.  Other topics in the 12 weeks include figuring out what your core values are and what “enough” is for you, what does it mean to trust both in God and in our fellows, developing a state of gratitude, clearing away the clutter in our homes and lives, finding a community of both an inner circle of friends as well as mentors and those who build you up.  Week six is about kindness to self and to others, week seven is on forgiveness and dismantling negativity.  Week eight is another inventory, focused on time instead of money and week nine is about being generous.  In week ten you revisit the previous lessons and see how you’re changing.  Week eleven is about creativity and the final week is on creating a prosperity plan.

Whether you are an artist or not, whether or not you trust in God or not, a prosperous heart is a fundamental need in all of our lives.  I highly recommend this book.

Mountains Beyond Mountains: the Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder

Pulitzer prize-winning author, Tracy Kidder spent years following Dr. Paul Farmer around the world to document the experiences and achievements of this astonishing doctor and public health warrior.  From his beginnings in an eccentric, always poverty-stricken family, Dr. Farmer pulled himself up through sheer force of will and passion to graduate from Johns Hopkins Medical School, set up a medical missions work in Haiti during his residency at Harvard, and go on to sacrificially give of his life and personal health to bring to the world’s attention countless public health crises.

You will learn a tremendous amount about Haiti, about the almost saintly manner in which Dr. Farmer treats his patients, about Dr. Farmer’s colleagues around the world, and about the gripping plight of the worlds’ poor.  Author Jonathan Harr wrote, “The central character of this marvelous book is one of the most provocative, brilliant, funny, unsettling, endlessly energetic, irksome, and charming genuine hero alive in our time.”  Dr Farmer is definitely on my list of people I would want to spend a day with.  This good and true story is hard to put down.

This fall I read one of those books where you dog-ear nearly every other page to mark a gem of wisdom. Thresholds and Passages, by Cathee A. Poulsen and Fran Lankford, had something eye-opening or comforting or clarifying on nearly every page.  It’s content is both spiritual and practical; anyone can identify with the authors’ both humorous and “real” discussions about everything from recovery from being a victim of adultery to finding yourself on the back side of nowhere, far from God.  They give real life help for real life problems women face today and are not afraid to reveal the secrets in their own lives to do so.  Fran Lankford just happens to be a member of my church and I am ashamed it has taken me this long to read the book!  Sorry Fran!  But once I did, I ordered a dozen to give as Christmas presents.  I think you will find help, encouragement, and solace in Thresholds and Passages.

This week I have been reading a wonderful book,  The History of Love by  Nicole Krauss.                             .  The book is written in two voices and takes place in the present with flashbacks to the characters’ childhoods.  The first voice is Leo, an elderly Jewish man who immigrated to New York City from Poland after being the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.  He made his living by becoming a locksmith.  He has been working on a book his whole life about the woman he loved and lost during the war.  He discovers that she too survived the Holocaust, moved to New York, and gave birth to Isaac, who is Leo’s son.  Not knowing Leo was alive, she married and built a life.  Leo discovers that he has a son, but doesn’t want to spoil the boy’s life by revealing himself.  He does, however, follow the boy’s life, collecting photographs and newspaper articles about the boy, who grows up to be a famous novelist.  Before Leo, now very elderly, works up the courage to go meet his son, he reads in the paper that his son has died.  The day after he attends the funeral, a package shows up at his door.  Opening it, he finds a book manuscript written long ago in Yiddish.  The author is himself! 

The second voice is that of a young Jewish girl named Alma, who was named after the main character in a book written in Yiddish called The History of Love. Alma and Bird, her little brother, live in New York with their mother, now widowed.  The History of Love brought her parents together and this book is very special to the family - especially when the father dies.  Her mother is a book translator and cloaked in some mystery, has been hired by a man in Spain to translate The History of Love so that he can read it. Anxious for her mother to find love again, she secretly writes a romantic letter to the man in Spain as if the letter were written by her mother.  As her mother turns out chapter after chapter of the translated History of Love, Alma becomes fascinated by the book that captured her parents hearts and the heart of this Spanish gentleman, and for which she was named.  Somehow the paths of these two voices are going to cross.

This book grabbed me immediately because of the brilliant, visceral descriptions of the old man’s everyday life and thoughts.  By the end of the first page, you can see this quirky old Jew, smell him, and hear his voice.  The writing takes you through his joy, laughter, curiosity, frustration, and awful grief which you feel every bit as though you were right beside him.  Alma too is written as the precocious, imaginative girl I wish I had been as a child.  Even though I haven’t finished this book, I highly recommend it!

I just finished reading Made in America: an informal history of the English Language in the United States  by Bill Bryson  copyright 1984

The title would lead you to believe that it is about language, but it is about so much more. You will learn all sorts of history trivia and facts about America from the Pilgrims to the computer age that you never learned in school.  Along the way, Bryson tells about new words and expressions that emerged from each era of history, where they came from, and what they mean.  It is truly fascinating - even for those of you who aren’t into history (or English language for that matter). Since it’s been around for awhile, you can probably obtain a copy from any used book source or a library.  My poor husband has had to endure my, “Did you know that…?” and “Oh for heaven’s sake!  I didn’t know that.” all week so now he has to read it!

Cathy

I recently read the book  Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.  This amazingly well-researched and fascinating story is about the quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard-educated physician, epidemiologist, and anthropologist, to rid the world of tuberculosis.  Raised in a poor and very unusual family, Dr. Farmer, brilliant, curious and tenacious, was able to attend Duke University on a scholarship, study in France, and attend Harvard Medical School as well as earn a degree in anthropology and public health.  Unbelievably, he spent over half his time during that period working in Haiti, where he built a clinic and solved innumerable public health problems in the village and area around his clinic.  On the back of this book is the following:

Tracy Kidder’s magnificent account shows how one person can make a difference in solving global health problems through a clear-eyed understanding of the interaction of politics, social systems, and disease. Profound and powerful, Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to haiti, peru, Cuba, and Russia as Dr. Paul Farmer changes people’s minds through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.”

I loved this book and could hardly put it down.  It seemed inconceivable that one man, from humble beginnings, could overcome so many obstacles and still change the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.  I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of him!  Read this book.