(Closure)

The world lost another human icon not long ago. It was in September of last year and most people, including me, didn’t even hear about it. In fact, I didn’t even know he was still alive–it had been that long since I’d thought about him, over forty years to be precise.

Wait, that’s not entirely true. I did speak of him back in early March when I was prompted by a class of seventh graders to share an embarrassing moment growing up. But often when we speak of the past we do so without regard for the present. The most precious of events are frozen in time, locked in a kind of memory vault. Preserved. Guarded. Untouchable. To hold them any other way only reminds us that time is always in motion, bringing us each one day closer to our own (unheralded) mortality. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I met John Siemer only once. It was in the late 1960s, or early 70s, I was seven or eight, perhaps…I hardly even remember anything of the occasion other than the few seconds I’m about to share. But I knew him well nonetheless. As Engineer John of the Cartoon Express, WKJG Channel 33 of Fort Wayne, Indiana, he’d come into our home five days a week via a grainy color television set and my younger sister and I were held spellbound.

TV was different back then. It was fresh and clean and safe, mostly naive in its portrayal of family values (at least in hindsight. Today’s shows seems to swing the other way) and what Engineer John did for the local market–for kids anyway–was deliver that goodness first thing in the morning. But even more  special than watching the show from the living room floor was being in the studio in person, something my parents surprised my sister and I with shortly before the show ended.

There is not much that remember of that day–that’s the other thing about memories, they’re often just snippets–but I do remember during the show Engineer John came walking over in his overalls, train engineer cap and red kerchief and began asking each one of the kids in the audience what we wanted to be when we grew up. To my elementary-age self this was not just a question, but something way more monumental. A question so gravely important, it would set whatever cosmic, unnameable things into motion, that my word would then cast to stone, making them permanent, unalterable. My answer would define me.

I wrung my hands together and began to think. Fortunately, I was seated near the back row next to my sister, so I had time to prepare. But Engineer John was moving  through the audience very quickly, kids rattling off their answer into the microphone with little or no deliberation. Ha. Did they not know that the wrong word spoken at this moment would be catastrophic? I studied my lap and tried to focus, but nothing would come to mind. I was drawing a complete blank. I couldn’t think of one job, much less MY one job. Astronaut tried to sneak it’s way in but I stopped it as it seemed like that was what every boy was saying on account of the recent moon landing. I started to panic.

When Engineer John finally came to me, I looked into his broad smiling face and I looked at the mic. I  fumbled for a word, any word. Fireman, I said.

Fireman? What was I thinking? My best friend’s dad was a fireman, but other than the fact that he drove a purple El Camino I knew nothing about him. I felt relieved, but not in a good way. What had I just done?

I didn’t have time to reflect on the possible consequences as in the very next moment something even worse was about to happen, something only a little boy and older brother would find embarrassing. Engineer John had moved on and was addressing my sister. And what would you like to be when you grow up? he asked.

She looked at him, all fiery-red hair and freckles. Tarzan, she answered.

Everyone laughed and they looked up the bleachers at us and I felt the earth spinning, it was the future realigning itself to this sudden and drastic change.

Tarzan? John Siemer repeated.

My sister nodded, That’s right.

Well, all right, he said and moved on and I did what any self-respecting older brother could do. I hung my head.

* * *

For forty-some years that was all there was to this story. Just a single moment of innocence and simultaneous embarrassment. This week there was written a second chapter.

We were having friends over for Sunday lunch, after an afternoon of biking. I’ve mentioned them before on this blog. Their daughter has type 1 and the mother and I became acquainted through Without Envy before they even moved here. We all became close friends once they arrived. Seated around the table we were talking about Fort Wayne, where the father, like me, had once lived, and for some reason I mentioned the Engineer John show.

That’s my brother-in-law’s father, he said.

Wait? What?

Engineer John, he was my brother-in-law’s dad. He died recently.

I looked at him and for a moment I felt like a kid again, sitting with royalty (don’t let that go to your head, A).

I guess I was wrong. Memories do sometimes evolve. And, thankfully, so too do  little boys’ (and girls’) wishes.

RIP, Engineer John (Siemer).

In Good Time

One of the first things I did after Lia’s diagnosis for T1 was go out and buy dress clothes. It sounds crazy, I know, especially all of these twenty-five months later. What an impulsive, irrational thing to do, right, as if $100 slacks, a couple of nice shirts, and a pair of new shoes would serve in some sensible fashion as a means of returning control to me a little something of what had been lost. It didn’t of course, but who can blame me. History is full of many a father’s reaction to disheartening news met with haste, impulse and abandon.

Let me explain to those of you who might not have all the details. In April 2007, with Franca’s support, I left a fifteen year long career in operations and supply chain management to pursue a dream of writing a novel. Though it was a new direction for me it had not come out of the blue. For every one of those years leading up to that moment I had treated my writing like a second job, a thing I did everyday, at the same time of day and with the same determination and dedication given my corporate job. From four a.m. until six, I wrote. Five, often six, days a week. Over that time, I wrote one book, then another. I made every effort to get them published but gave up after a few promising but disappointing starts. Looking back at those manuscripts now passing on them was very much the right thing to do. I still had much work to do. If I only had more time.

With that in mind, I decided in 2007 to give up my “first” job and give writing a full time try.

I loved it. Living as a writer. Working in the house. Wearing what clothes I wanted and not those which were required. I entered and won an Emerging Artist Grant for a novel I was reworking and I honestly felt at that time that it wouldn’t be long before I’d be earning an income from all those many years of effort.

Then, two years after quitting my job, everything suddenly changed, and in ways most of you know very well. With Lia’s diagnosis and a little education I came to shortly understand that it would challenge our lives and in this case in particular, our family’s finances. Almost at once, I believed that the resources we’d set aside to allow me time to write would be grossly inadequate to cover the looming (and unavoidable) medical costs, much less my “starving artist” endeavor. But beyond even that was the feeling I had that writing fiction was simply unthinkable, spending my day making things up just seemed wrong what with everything else that was at risk.

So, I suspended my writing and prepared myself for the notion of returning to a salaried position. One year passed, though and another and somehow we endured. We focused on Lia’s health, on learning all we could about diabetes, and fundraising for the JDRF. I never had to put those new dress clothes to test and return to the job market, but I never fully divorced myself from the notion.

Eventually, I returned to my imagination and writing, but this time I approached it with the added advantage that I wanted–needed–to show Lia that you could pursue anything you wanted in life, even with the worry and cost of diabetes. And so we have. With just one income. With sacrifice. With a passion for pursuing a dream.

Like many things in life, things gradually worked themselves out, and so it is with great pleasure that I am pleased to announce my debut novel, A Lovely, Indecent Departure, a phrase that hardly describes our last two years, but captures nonetheless the heart and hopefulness of family.

A Lovely, Indecent Departure

A novel by Steven Lee Gilbert

To read more about the novel, my life as a writer and find ways to buy the book, please visit:

 Steven Lee Gilbert.


 

No Strangers Here Today

Like many families, the talk this time of year in our house centers around the holidays. School is out and the kids and Franca are home and there is much ado about gifts, food and sharing in each other’s company. It’s a special time, if we can keep it in our hearts (and that means keeping it out of our wallets), that allows us the opportunity to step away from the regular routines of life and simply enjoy the time and attention of the people we love and admire.

Talk also turns to diabetes, or more specifically, those difficult three days right after Lia’s diagnosis. We remember all too easily the rush to the emergency room, listening in shock and disbelief as the nurse explained the procedure for administering an IV, then the anger, and eventually all those emotions giving way to the worry and grief and reality of a threat that will never, ever go away and leave our daughter.

There are a plethora of adjectives I could use to describe the last two years. To list them would show a settling acceptance of diabetes, a path that has taken us from those early disheartening hours to a dutiful tolerance. Questions of how and why rarely come to mind. Only if someone asks do we even revisit the early symptoms or recount those first terrifying moments that greeted us in the ER. Diabetes has become, much like a new family member, a collective part of who we are.

Of course, there is still plenty to aggravate and worry us: the shots, the glucose testing, the danger that in any one moment we might make a mistake in its treatment. But diabetes is no longer the obstinate stranger it once was, and for all of us that’s a good thing.

Amongst the friends and family visits, we are planning, as we did last year, to drop by the children’s ward again today to hand out journals to children in the same situation as Lia found herself: sadly and dreadfully admitted to the hospital over the holidays. A year ago, it was a good experience for us, especially for Lia. This year the mood has changed, however. There is a bit less excitement for it. I’m not sure why that is, except to say that marking this day began as a way to commemorate both her sufferance and Lia’s (and everyone else’s) resilience in overcoming this adversity.

Those things are still important to us, as is spreading goodwill and the charitable news that journaling can help with healing. But like any new acquaintance, with time the newness wears off. You have watched them and learned and discovered the good with the bad and if they are to be important to you, you have grasped what it is about them that allows you to consider them to be relevant, if not a friend.

Perhaps it is that way, too, with diabetes. A familiar thing that cannot be ignored. But is it a reason to celebrate?  I don’t know. I am taking my cues from Lia, and this year it seems it is not. She appears just as content and happy to have all her family together in one place for the first time in a long time. And that’s something we all understand.

 

The Story That Keeps On Giving

It has been a busy past couple of months for us with teaching, writing and a little travel to New England for the Thanksgiving holiday. But I took some time over the summer to recap for a local magazine just what our first year with diabetes was like and I’d like to share it with you here. For many of you, this will be nothing new, both in terms of what you read as well as what you and your special little loved ones have endured. To be certain, it’s a story I love to share and with nearly another year having passed since Lia was diagnosed, the fear, the hope, and the love with which we greet every day has not changed. We’re still learning to live without envy.

Into D-Wild

Steve and I love the outdoors. As parents, we try very hard to instill that love in our children.  When not on a His-and-Her-only retreat (for you other outdoor enthusiasts check out Mount Le Conte, a “primitive” lodge in the Smokies reachable only by hiking. You will not regret it!), we’ve had the kids join us for a wide variety of outdoor recreation in the hopes that our love and respect for nature will rub off on them: camping in the Appalachian mountains; a four-day canoe trip down the Buffalo River in Arkansas; and once to the beach (heat + sand + tent = Sad Franca, so we didn’t do that again).

Three summers ago, just months before Lia’s diagnosis, Steve and I took three days to hike 42 miles of the Appalachian Trail. It was an awesome time together and afterwards we talked of bringing the girls with us on the next one. Diabetes derailed those plans and other than visiting a couple of park-managed campgrounds, it kept us from venturing too deeply into the wild. But only for a while.

This year, we decided we would give it a try with diabetes as our fifth traveling companion. After careful planning–thanks to Mike at Rainforest Treks, a website about hiking with Type 1, as well as Melissa at meewah*betic, for all of their hints about food, insulin, and what to bring; and also to OnePanWonders’ “Dicentra,” for what to cook–we settled on a 12 mile section of trails winding through the beautiful Mount Rogers National Recreation Area of southwest Virginia.

 The Pack List

Our pack list consisted of the usual backpacking fare: tent (a four-person four-pounder, thank you very much Tarptent), sleeping bags, extra clothes and kitchen gear, but also had to include whatever diabetes supply needs and emergencies we might encounter in the woods for the two full days we expected to be “away from civilization”. Steve whittled the list down–with help from those mentioned above–to the following:

  •  Glucose meter kit w/ test strips, lancet device, extra lancets
  • 2 spare infusion sets, plus tubing
  • 2 spare cartridges
  • 2 syringes
  • 2 vials of 50ct test strips
  • 1 vial of insulin
  • spare meter
  • extra batteries for meter and pump
  • spare battery cap, spare cartridge cap (really channeling Murphy’s Law here, thank goodness these things are light)
  • 2 individually wrapped ketone strips with color chart (again, Murphy’s Law)
  • glucagon kit (Murphy again, damn you!)
  • Emergency contact info, health insurance card (we didn’t take along prescriptions, but next time we might. With Walgreens on every town block, who knows)

The Food

As you know, I love cooking and food. Being outdoors is no excuse to leave this passion at home, otherwise it’s just a walk in the woods, not a journey toward some fabulous dish prepared in a single pot on a little camp stove we toted for miles on our back. Things have come along way since the days of some fat man named Cookie serving cowboys beans around a wagon. Still wanting to keep things simple though, I had only three requirements: It had to taste good, it had to be light enough to carry, and it had to help in the control of Lia’s blood sugars. I settled on the following:

  •  Lunch at the Trailhead:  Ham and Cheese, or PB&J Sandwiches
  • Day #1 Dinner:  Gnocchi with saged butter and parmesan cheese
  • Day #2 Breakfast:  Crepes with Nutella, Peanut Butter
  • Day #2 Lunch: Modified Esmeralda wrap (whole wheat burritos with crème cheese, black beans, avocado, and bacon)
  • Day #2 Dinner:  Manly Man Orzo
  • Day #3 Breakfast: Oatmeal with dried fruit, hard boiled eggs, bacon (pre-cooked at home)
  • Day #3 Lunch: Dilly Tuna Salad Wrap

For on the go snacking, each of us carried some variety of homemade granola or trail mix, crackers with Justin’s Nut Butter, and beef jerky. For the likelihood that Lia might suffer a low, she carried glucose tabs, a bottle of juice, and sucked on Werther’s Original Hard Candies whenever she felt the need.

To get all this food where it was needed, our camp, the girls divvied it up by meal, so in addition to each of them carrying her own pack things, they carried a breakfast, lunch or dinner. Steve carried the stove and cook stuff.

 Blood Sugars

For the two days we were hiking, Lia’s BGs averaged 161 and 135, respectfully. She suffered no lows and the highest it climbed was the middle of the first night at 263 (ah, gnocchi…. and here we were worried about carry-over from all that outdoor exertion!). Helping these numbers was a +30% temp basal set for the four hour car ride, a 50% reduction during the hike, and a return to normal once we set up camp (These worked for Lia, please don’t assume they will work for you).

In fact, we noticed that as long as we kept her well-fed with proteins and whole grains, her BG was cooperating just fine. She snacked on the granola, dried fruit and nuts, and relied on the  Werther’s when needed along the trail. The Friday morning breakfast of crepes with Nutella was probably not a good choice. She was headed for a low by lunch–which we successfully avoided–a situation not helped by the empty calories of Nutella (even though it is just so yummy).

We took breaks often. Each time we stopped, we checked BGs and had a snack. We had comic relief when the girls and I put our packs back on:  it was not an easy feat and it sometimes required assistance. Lia ended up in the upside down turtle position many times and Krista took a most unflattering picture of me that I won’t share with you. We all had a hiking stick to help us get up (and down) those sometimes very steep and rocky hills.

 The Hike

When we arrived at the trailhead parking lot at Grayson Highlands State Park around noon, it was a chilly 54 degrees. The foliage in Southwest VA at that elevation is nearing its peak: bright reds, yellows, and oranges already carpets the entire landscape.

What I love most about hiking is the quiet and noticing the details of the forest floor. No one I know cares very much about moss (except my friend, Jenny), but I just love to see all the different and beautiful varieties of moss. During one of our breaks, I asked Steve if he was pointing out the flora we saw along the way. He told me that no, in fact, he was not because Lia was talking about scat and boogers. In terms of quiet well, Lia wanted to tell us all that she knew, and with Lia, a story often takes twice as long to tell.

When we arrived at our campsite on Friday night, we couldn’t believe our luck. The Scales, as they call it, is an old corral where they used to weigh livestock back in the old days, but now, it is an open field surrounded by a wooden fence, a nice, mostly-clean privy, and even tapped spring water. After a long climb to end the day, we felt like we’d won the lottery! It was getting very cold and windy so we set up the tent and the girls began arranging our beds, Steve worked building a fire, and I started on dinner. After the gnocchi, which was hot and delicious, we stood around the fire a little while and gazed at the billions of stars that aren’t normally visible from our “city” street at home. This, I feel safe in saying, was everyone’s favorite and most memorable moment, gazing up at all that dark sky.

That night, the wind howled. The sleeping quarters were cramped, what with the four of us and a big dog to occupy that four pound tent, but we managed. The next morning, we had breakfast, broke camp and set out. It wasn’t long until we ran into a few of the feral ponies that live in the park, one of which allowed the girls to get close enough to pet. The area also sports a vast horse trail network and we encountered a number of people on horseback, one man and his granddaughter stopped and spoke with us for a while at our lunch spot and even gave Lia her first riding lesson! Not long after, we had a big laugh at Krista’s expense right when her retainers (which we told her to put away in the carrying case) were blown off the rock we were sitting on and fell onto a big cow paddy. She won’t allow that to happen again! In the end, it turned out that we out-hiked ourselves and were done with the 12 miles about a half day ahead of schedule.

Our trip was a total success. We had a great time, laughed a lot and spent time together in the great outdoors. We know the girls are willing to go out into the wilderness again to do longer hikes. Lia has an appetite for roughing it. Krista likes it, too, as long as she can be fashionable.  We’d like to take them to LeConte someday soon. We feel confident enough with this experience under our belts to take on something a little more challenging.

 Steve and I would love to venture out again as a couple, too. But that will be more difficult. It’s not Lia being outdoors that worries us; it is us not being there with her. We don’t want to be out there, where we can’t be reached—just in case. Our level of comfort for that isn’t there yet, but it will be one day, we’re confident, when she is older. For now, we take comfort in the fact that she loves being outside and enjoys the small wonders of nature that surround us every day.

Back Where I Belong

I tried it. I gave it a shot. It just wasn’t working.

The thing I liked about blogging about diabetes and our family, and of which I found most helpful, was the sense that whatever I was writing about was mostly for my benefit, or to share with others close to me and my family, either directly or through this amazing community of moms and dads and people with diabetes who live with the very same struggles with resilience, optimism and love.

Writing was and still is a way for me as a parent to process the hurt, the frustration, and the endless worry that comes along with this outrageous, childhood-stealing disease. It has never been about the simple sharing of information. I tried recently to change that on Without Envy. It didn’t work for me, for whatever reason. Maybe some day it will, but not now. For the now I am back where I belong. A bare bones theme, writing simply without envy.

Already it feels better.

 

Note: there are and will continue to be some opportunity for me to just share outside of the blog with readers. Here are two recent articles I wrote for Diabetes Health.

 

 

Homemade Bread
(So Easy, Even I Can Do It)

I was born with no sense of smell, a fact I hardly notice (other than to regret having passed it on to one of my kids). Without fail though I am reminded of it when someone enters the house and if a loaf of bread is baking or just come out of the oven they comment on the wonderful aroma. While I may have no olfactory inkling of what they are talking about, I know joy when I hear and see it and that is enough to clue me in on just what I am missing.

To be sure, I’ve had plenty of time to get the picture. For fifteen years or more we have been baking our own bread at home. It began with disdain for the taste and nutrition lacking in store bought bread and blossomed into a full on and eventually successful war against sugar and especially High Fructose Corn Syrup. The bread, hands down, was the easiest of the many battles we waged in that fight to put good healthy food on our table. And the nicest part about it? Other than the cost and obvious health benefits, making homemade bread takes about as much time as it takes for a pot of coffee to brew. It’s so easy, Franca even taught me how to do it, and in a moment she’ll teach you, too.

But first, let’s talk about why you should be making your own bread. Like almost everything that is good for you, most of you will already know why, so I’ll just keep things simple and visual.

Here’s just a partial list of the “extras” that go into making that loaf of industrial bread:

soybean oil, sweet dairy whey, butter, maltodextrin, honey, high fructose corn syrup, calcium sulfate, soy flur, dough conditioners, such as: dicalcium phosphate, calcium dioxide, sodium stearoyl lactylate, ethoxylated mono and diglycerides, mono and diglycerides, and/or datem, yeast nutrients: ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, calcium carbonate, monocalcium phosphate, and/or ammonium phosphate, cornstarch, wheat starch, vinegar, natural flavor, beta carotene (color), enzymes, calcium propionate, soy lecithin.

In comparison, here’s what goes into our simple homemade bread:

oil, honey, flour, salt, yeast, water.

If you want to go the extra step–and we usually do–we add:

flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pepitas, and chia seeds, all usually ground but not necessary

‘Nuff said? Let’s move on.

How to Make a Loaf of Bread

The tools

the tools
We use a kitchen aid mixer, but it’s just as easy to mix it in bowl. Other than that all it takes is a couple of measuring cups and spoons, and a kitchen towel.

 

 

the ingredients

The ingredients

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp olive oil

3 cups flour

3 tsp yeast

1½ tsp salt

1-1½ cups water

** if making wheat bread add 4 tbsp gluten
*** if desired, 2 tbsp each of ground sunflower seed, flaxseed, chia, pepitas

Now for the rest, here’s Franca–

(We had a good chuckle from the inferior audio our cheap, little camera provided — what’s with those S’s anyway–as  well as Franca’s double fist pump at the start. In the interest of full disclosure, she had to make three loaves to get this video so by the final cut she was ready to have this over with).

So that’s it. Baking bread at home. Stress free. And, if you’re lucky, scented.

Growing Old from the Inside Out

I’m not making any great leaps of the imagination in suggesting that sometimes dealing with diabetes makes me feel a bit like this lady:

We’ve all worn that ragged mask now and again, for any number of valid reasons. Blood Sugar. Work. Spouse. Family. Finances. Did I say blood sugar already? Stress is a part of life, especially so when you throw something as routinely uncooperative as diabetes into the fray. Suddenly, a weeping Picasso doesn’t look so bad. At least she’s not lost her mind completely and had the wherewithal to tie a pretty bow in her hair.

No End in Sight

There’s nothing I’ve seen to suggest that the battle for a worry-free life is about to end anytime soon. A recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that about half of all Americans will suffer from some form of mental distress at some point in their life, and if a 2010 list of the top therapeutic classes by sale of prescription drugs is any indication, I’d say they’re on to something. Psychotics and antidepressants take 2 of the top 10.

Like any other health issue, stress can be a result of, or at least aggravated by lifestyle. Positive relationships, good nutrition, plenty of sleep, and exercise can alleviate some or all of the symptoms (sadly not necessarily the source) associated with pushing ourselves past our limits. But what about when the worry is lasting and unavoidable and no amount of a “taking better care of ourselves” will make the dreaded feeling go away?

Wait, it get’s worse, sorta

I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve been missing what I’d hoped would have become an annual treat for me, a weekend away. After my fly fishing trip to the mountains, which came just a few months after Lia’s diagnosis, my mind felt refreshed, rejuvenated, and I was happy. I felt the same way without leaving the house when seven months later Franca and I underwent a nutritional liquid cleanse, at the conclusion of which we both would’ve sworn our bodies had grown younger. As it turns out, that could very well have been the case.

Bring in the Telomeres

In a study conducted in 2004, two scientists from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco, Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel, showed that chronic stress may actually make us grow older faster. Their work specifically targeted mothers caring for their chronically ill children and the conclusion they drew was that the chronic stress these women were feeling was actually shaving years of their lives. Big years. We’re talking a shorter lifespan by 9-17 years!

Here’s a short video explaining the telomere.

And also a wonderful blog post explaining it better than I ever could.

Is There Any Good News?

Well, yes, as a matter of fact there is. Exercise, nutrition, lifestyle, all those things I mentioned before, appear to be the answer to lengthening our telomeres and reverse–yes reverse–the aging process. For those of us treating and caring for a loved one with diabetes, we might have to work a bit harder, but the opportunity is there. I just need to stop wishing for that fishing trip and get out there and make it happen.

 

Reader Envy

As a writer I am moved by inspirational stories, interesting content, or just plain old fashion good writing, of which there is plenty to find coming from the growing community of D-bloggers. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t find myself envious of what someone else has written either because of their talent or the fact that I didn’t get to the subject matter first (happens all the time: you get a great idea for a story or post and then read where someone else beat you to the writing of it. How can an emotion be depressing and rewarding at the same time?)

I am not a voracious reader, that is, I don’t read a ton of books all the way through (see first sentence for requirements), but I am a writer and I do read a lot of books or articles and when friends ask for reading recommendations I find myself a bit flabbergasted that I can only come up with the most recent titles, or, more likely, just the one sitting on my desk at that very moment, a weakness I blame on second hand smoke, which, not surprisingly, another writer has already written about (see what I mean?).

Most of the books I read I get from the library, so I asked them for a rundown of what I’ve checked out, but unfortunately for me–and apparently criminals, too–they don’t keep historical records from worry of being asked to provide such a list by a court of law (honestly?). Almost as frustrating is going to the library to retrieve the books I’ve requested through their online catalog only to find some bizarre title that I can’t for the life of me recall why I’d ever wanted to check it out in the first place. I’d offer examples of this, but since I’m sure it is my recall and not my reasoning that is at fault here once again, It’s probably best if I leave those titles undisclosed–assuming of course I could remember them, which leads me back to…

I’ve also tried keeping up with a booklist on my computer, but according to the file’s last saved date, the most recent book worthy of mention I read on June 28, 2006; and I’ve also learned of websites that will not only keep track of the books you read but recommend others you might like based on the genre, style, and who knows what else. For some reason though I just can’t get into the knack of keeping an electronic list anymore than I’ve been able to use an Ereader to enjoy a book (I’m trying though, I’m trying).

Where does that leave me? Well, this blog has proven in the past (here and here) to be a pretty good outlet for sharing little bits of the reading I’ve done and I think it could stand a bit more. Books. Journals. Articles. Essays. Other blogs. Whatever sparks my interest, inspires or is just plain good old writing.

I don’t think people read enough–I know I didn’t use to. Maybe that’s because so much of what we read doesn’t go deep enough into the type of emotional terrain that can move us. I’m not talking earthshattering content, but enough to make us think or explain or relate in some way to what’s going on in our own lives. Something that speaks to the heart: You’re not alone.

If nothing else, sharing it on Without Envy will give me a place to go to the next time a friends asks, What have you read lately?

Next week on Reader Envy, something light: Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Envy is often the fountainhead of unhappiness. We’ve all experienced it. A neighbor’s shiny new car. Their figure, the clothes they wear. What they get paid for the wonderful work they do. It starts on the playground as children and continues, I suppose, until dementia or death. It’s so prevalent and part of who we are it is the steam that propels even many fairy tales.

Mirror, Mirror upon the wall, Who’s the fairest of them all

Soon I’ll have that little mermaid, and the ocean will be mine

And someday, I’m gonna be a real boy!

While not all bad–think positive motivation: envy can encourage us to reach for the sky–overcoming a desire for a thing we don’t have (or in the case of malicious envy, wishing that someone else simply didn’t have it) is not easy. It is part of the human condition and ingrained in our nature to feel this way, as much as is self-preservation or procreation, or as Charles Darwin famously put it: our struggle for existence.

Coping with the green-eyed monster involves altering our perception of what happiness is. It helps if every now and then a thought or antidote comes along that makes reshaping our attitude easier to do, some reminder perhaps that acceptance of who we are is more important than our possessions or appearance or achievements. Unfortunately, such outside influences don’t come along very often. We usually have to find them for ourselves.

But not always.

This personally works for me. To fully appreciate the clip you could use some background if you haven’t seen it, but I’ll spare you. Watch the movie. It is one of the best ones ever.

Embrace. Kiss. Love.