I’ve had The Time Traveler’s Wife on my to-read-shelves for a long time. Yesterday, I suddenly felt the urge to read it, so I picked it up on my way to the train station. (As an aside, that urge is one of the things that makes reading so magical. I will be standing in front of my bookcases, looking over my books, and suddenly, one will call to me. It’s a random and glorious process.)

I have to say, what a lovely, lovely book. The story is so improbable, yet so realistic at the same time. Clare and Henry are so grounded in each other that you can’t help but be afraid for them – and then the worst comes true and you almost have to weep with them. I’m sorry if I’m sounding overly sentimental – the book is that good. It’s romantic and funny and pragmatic and so many other things…

it captured my heart. And today, that is why life is good: because some books do that. They take you with them and you read and read and hours later, when you come to the bittersweet spot that is the last page of a good book, you savor it, then stand up, and stretch, and slowly come back to this world. But the characters never really leave you, and for that, I am thankful.

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imho

From kottke.org:

The children’s menu: the death of civilization

A restaurant owner opines on the importance of the dining experience.

Mr. Marzovilla welcomes young children at his restaurant, even discounts their meals on Sunday evenings, and is not above serving a simple appetizer portion of pasta to please little ones. But he has strong opinions about food, and about the messages parents convey to their offspring through what they eat. Children’s menus aim too low, he argues — they’re a parenting crutch.

I think this is true. I always wonder why kid’s menus are of the chicken nuggets and fries variety. There’s so much more kid-friendly food out there! I think it’s kind of like how kids can be well behaved in public places, as long as you take them there regularly and show them what you expect of them from a young age on. My elementary school constantly organized field trips to museums and symphonies and performances, and I think we were pretty well behaved. Of course, we had endless lessons to prepare us for that! (To this day, I remember the lesson that you always, always, always clap after a performance. If you didn’t like it, you can clap softly – but you do clap. And it still shocks me when someone doesn’t do so. Indoctrinated much?)

And now, the bridge to today’s Thankful Tuesday: life is good because my parents never just fed us hotdogs and fries, but made us eat all kinds of veggies and other supposedly non-kid-friendly stuff, and took us to museums and performances and all kinds of fun things. I’m pretty sure I’m a better adult for it, and I plan to do the same for my kids.

to the point

I was flicking through random pages on the internet, in search of something to write about for today’s Thankful Tuesday post, when I came across the following reason to be thankful:

because I wasn’t in the obituaries today.

That seems to be as good a reason as any, so today’s declaration is that life is good because it’s life.

two minutes

I was talking to one of my classmates a while ago, and I mentioned that one time, during a family-reunion-type-thing, the obligatory grandkids photo was taken just as I went to the car to grab something I’d forgotten. Apparently, I wasn’t missed until it was printed.

We had been telling funny family stories for a couple of minutes by then, all light and easy conversations to fill the gap between theology classes. Then she told me that while my story was good, she had a better one: her dad had once forgotten her during a bombing. He grabbed her little brother and ran outside, leaving her behind.

Yeah.

She laughed about it, so I did too (besides, I am no stranger to the strategic deployment of humor in crisis situations). I asked her about her experiences in fleeing her country, we talked for a little longer. But her story stayed with me.

Today, in the Netherlands, we remember our dead. The focus used to be exclusively on WWII, but as that generation is dying out and other wars have occurred, our two minutes of silence have been extended to contain other dead of other wars, as well as those that died in peacekeeping missions.

(4meiutrecht.nl)

I know that at 8 o’clock tonight, when the city is silent and I can only hear the flag at half-mast moving in the wind, I’ll be thinking of two kinds of victims: the dead and the maimed, and those, like my classmate, who had to leave everything behind.

It seems almost unbearably cruel to say that today, life is good. But it is, and I hope it will stay that way for generations.

S.M.T, Master of Arts

I officially graduated last Wednesday and am now allowed to sign my emails with Master of Arts, if I should wish to do so. It’s weird – American Studies hasn’t been my only focus for a while, but it’s still such a part of my life (hello, cultural framework!) that it feels strange to actually physically possess that diploma and not be an American Studies student anymore. One thing is sure: I worked hard for that diploma and had some amazing experiences (say, Berkeley. But also speaking at two American Studies Days, attending countless cool classes, reading so much and really broadening my cultural and theoretical horizons). Things are still kind of up in the air about what I’m going to be doing next year, but rest assured that I’ll be around the university for a while. After all, there are still books in the library I haven’t read…and it turns out I really like the taste of academic success!

look, it's my name!

I may not be wearing a cap and gown, but the dinosaur is!

post-graduation drinks

at the post graduation dinner

and if I needed proof that I have so many people that care about me, I got it last Wednesday. I was surrounded by people and flowers (I can count six vases in my room right now) and gifts (my family got me the complete works of Calvin and Hobbes in three big bound books – fabulous!) and so much love and so many people that are proud of me.

I have to say, there’s nothing like a life-cycle event/milestone like this to remind me that life is good.

Thankful Tuesday

There were a million things I had trouble adjusting to when we moved to the Netherlands. I remember being kind of bewildered in those first months and even years because everything was different. I remember going to the first day of school in a sun dress, which was completely appropriate attire in sunny California, but out of place in Groningen, the Netherlands, where kids were wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I remember being “the new kid”: a somewhat terrifying experience for someone as rooted as I was. I remember not understanding what people were saying to me, and if I did understand, I didn’t know how to say what I was thinking in return. I remember what felt as the complete lack of order in school, even if these days I doubt my memory of full-on anarchy is accurate, and I suspect it just felt that way because I was so used to order and discipline and the relief that I felt when I knew what was expected of me. But most of all, I remember so much confusion and pain and the completely new feeling of being self-aware and self-conscious of who I was and how I acted and how much I felt like I didn’t fit in.

But this is Thankful Tuesday, not, say, Fretful Friday, so we’re not talking about all that. Because I also remember a new, good feeling – that of freedom. Freedom that was brought to me by today’s Thankful Tuesday subject matter.

a bike.

All of a sudden, I could go to the library by myself. I could go to school without having to be picked up by my mom or dad. I could go to friends’ houses, sports practices, whatever, without being dependent on other people. Independence has always been important to me, so it felt great to be able to do what I wanted, when I wanted.

And still, my bike lets me go places, do stuff, again, be independent. I can clear my head, get from A to B (and C, and D, and E), enjoy the weather (or hate the rain, depending on the season). I can be me, whichever me I am for that moment. I can be free.

Life is good.

Thankful Tuesday

Every Thanksgiving, people gather round the dinner table (at least in the US), and tell their families who and what they’re thankful for. And while my family hasn’t celebrated Thanksgiving in a while, at the end of every trip, my family does have this tradition of talking about our favorite moments of those days. Usually these conversations take place around a table at the airport while we’re having a last coffee or whatever before those that are leaving board the plane.

I like these moments. I may be the only one, though, seeing as that as soon as I ask: “What did we do this time that you liked best?” a collective groan has been known to go up.

But tough luck, guys. I’m instating the tradition of Thankful Tuesdays on this blog. I’ll try to write a post every week about something that makes my life better, more fun, more fulfilling, or something I just couldn’t do without. If you feel like it, leave a comment with whatever is really making you happy these days. (The concept of Thankful Tuesdays comes from Mama:Monk, although I know the phenomenon from Mir’s site Woulda Coulda Shoulda, where it’s called Love Thursday, and I’m sure at least a gazillion other blogs do it as well).

On this first Thankful Tuesday, I’m thankful for food and friends. This is the breakfast we ate in Hamburg this Sunday morning.

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Think organic, think good coffee, think cute interior, think nice people.

Think lots of fun, and lots of things to remind me that I’m happy to be me at this place and time, and am lucky to have so many wonderful people surrounding me.

Life is good.