Content to live—with Yeats, with myself

I spent the better portion of last night sitting around a table in a back room of a cafe/bookstore talking poetry with strangers. It was invigorating and enlightening and enjoyable, and a reminder of how important it is to tend my intellectual garden.

Intellectual discovery is an important contributor to emotional wellbeing. When we aren’t discovering new things, learning new things, we can start to feel stagnant, and that can lead to feelings of ennui and unhappiness. But as busy adults—parents, bread-winners, professionals—it’s easy to overlook our own intellectual needs. We might read articles or books related to our work, attend professional conferences, or educate ourselves about the latest best practices in caring for our loved ones, but fail to nurture our real intellectual passions. While we gain valuable knowledge, we don’t engage our emotions in the process—or at least not in the same way as when we just go learn something for the sake of learning it. Continue reading

Frank Lloyd Wright + Chicago Architecture Biennial = Free Tour (= Sublime)

This is a thank-you Facebook story. It’s also a thank-you, real-life friend story.

Yes, it’s possible to be both.

I’ve been seeing ads in my Facebook feed for a couple of weeks for free shuttle-bus tours to and from the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed S.C. Johnson headquarters building in Racine, Wis., in conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Biennial. They intrigued me, and I had every intention of following through and signing up for a tour. But I didn’t.

Then I went to my book club meeting last weekend, and friend J mentioned that he had just taken this tour and really enjoyed it. I went home that night and made my reservation. Two days later, I was on a bus headed for Racine. Continue reading

Magical thinking: A celebration of the Chicago Cultural Center

I wandered into the Chicago Cultural Center yesterday and found magic.

That’s usually what happens to me at the Cultural Center. Yesterday, magic took the form of the Dance-Along Nutcracker, which drew aspiring ballet dancers of all ages to don leotards and tutus and dance together to selections from The Nutcracker (and The Grinch) played by the Lakeside Pride Symphonic Band. I’d never heard of this event, but the sweetness of it literally had me near tears. Continue reading

Relief: Illinois has a state budget

Finally, Illinois has a state budget after more than two years without one. I, for one, am glad, even though it means my taxes will rise (gasp!) … because the truth is, they would have risen a whole lot more down the road if this state had continued to (attempt to) operate without one. Credit rating agencies were threatening to cut Illinois’ bond rating to junk status if no budget emerged by July (we’re still not assured that won’t happen anyway), and that would have caused the problem to spiral further out of control. Continue reading

Online book club: The Natural Way of Things

I’ve just posted a new book review on Escape Into Life, of The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood. (TLDR version for anyone too lazy or disinterested or exhausted: OMG, go read this book!)

That said, the book left me with a lot of questions—enough that I re-read it almost immediately, writing notes and jotting down thoughts as I went. Unlike many books these days, there are no book club discussion questions at the end, even though I think the book would make a wonderful book club selection. So if you like that sort of thing (and I’m of two minds because while I don’t usually pay attention to the book club notes myself, I know book club organizers who make great use of them), here are some suggestions, based on the questions and themes that occurred to me as I read.

  • Wood tells much of the narrative of the book by alternating between Verla’s story and Yolanda’s perspective. Why do you think she does this?
  • What is the importance of the forced march out to and back from the fence on the young women’s first day of imprisonment?
  • Why do you think Nancy wears a child’s pretend nurse’s uniform?
  • What is the significance of the doll that Hetty demands the others make for her? Why do you think she wants it, and why do you think she becomes so attached to it?
  • Why do you think Yolanda sews her “secret” contribution inside the doll? (Trying not to give anything away to those who’ve not yet read this far.)
  • Were you surprised by the change in Boncer after Hetty goes with him? Why or why not?
  • Why do Yolanda and Verla become allies? Is there a precipitating incident that draws them together? Do you feel that they are reluctant allies in any way?
  • When Yolanda and Verla hold hands at the end of their initial meeting, Verla is surprised to learn that Yolanda is stronger than she is. Is either of the two stronger than the other at the book’s close?
  • Why do you think Verla decides at the last minute to get off the bus when she wouldn’t let Yolanda convince her not to get on in the first place?
  • Madness is a constant theme in the novel. Do you believe any of the characters actually is or becomes insane?

More Questions!

Although the book itself doesn’t include discussion questions, the publisher’s website does.


Church of the Informed Citizen: Healthcare and some Illinois environmental nastiness

The much-awaited Senate proposal to repeal/replace Obamacare has occupied much of my attention this week. Here are a few articles I think do a good job of outlining and analyzing its provisions and impact.

Continue reading