New Review!

I got a new review on Goodreads for Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad and I just have to share – this one meant a lot to me:

Nikki writes: “Once again, Ms. Terrell takes the reader on a journey through her life. The glimpses and stories of what it is like taking care of the people who raised you are stories that bring hope, a few tears, and a whole lot of love. Through reading Ms. Terrell’s adventures with her 100 year old father, we see the love they have for each other, and the strength this season of life requires.The book offers hope, humor, love, compassion, tenderness and family.”

adventures with dad book cover

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*Becoming* by Michelle Obama

Becoming touched my heart. It made me cry, it made me laugh, and it made me remember the pride I felt in America when we came together to make something amazing happen. In an odd way, reading Becoming – a book that recounts the author’s past – renews my hope in the future. I figure if Americans can come together to elect Barack Obama for our president, we have the potential to do great things in the future, too.

Michelle Obama is a wonderful writer – a natural. Reading her book feels like sitting down at the dining room table with her and talking with her about the things that women friends talk about when they’re together – the experiences of being a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a career woman – and how we juggle all of that.

I feel like I know Michelle Obama now. Like she’s a friend. I’m so glad she’s taken the time to write Becoming and to define, herself, who she is – rather than to give that power to others.

***

“I confessed then to the Queen that my feet were hurting. She confessed that hers hurt, too. We looked at each other then with identical expressions, like, *When is all this standing around with world leaders going to finally wrap up?* And with this, she busted out with a fully charming laugh.

“Forget that she sometimes wore a diamond crown and that I’d flown to London on the presidential jet; we were just two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“That was how we talked about bullies. When I was a kid, it was easy to grasp: Bullies were scared people hiding inside scary people.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“Everyone on earth, they’d tell us, was carrying around an unseen history, and that alone deserved some tolerance.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“I’ve been lucky enough now in my life to meet all sorts of extraordinary and accomplished people… What I’ve learned is this: All of them have had doubters. Some continue to have roaring, stadium-sized collections of critics and naysayers who will shout *I told you so* at every little misstep or mistake. The noise doesn’t go away, but the most successful people I know have figured out how to live with it, to lean on the people who believe in them, and to push onward with their goals.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“You had only to look around at the faces in the room to know that despite their strengths these girls would need to work hard to be seen…I knew they’d have to push back against the stereotypes that would get put on them, all the ways they’d be defined before they’d had a chance to define themselves. They’d need to fight the invisibility that comes with being poor, female, and of color. They’d have to work to find their voices and not be diminished, to keep themselves from getting beaten down. They would have to work just to learn.

“But their faces were hopeful, and now so was I. For me it was a strange, quiet revelation: They were me, as I’d once been. And I was them, as they could be. The energy I felt thrumming in that school had nothing to do with obstacles. It was the power of nine hundred girls striving.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“One day in San Antonio, Texas, I noticed a minor commotion in the hallway of the military hospital I was visiting. Nurses shuffled urgently in and out of the room I was about to enter. ‘He won’t stay in bed,’ I heard someone whisper. Inside, I found a broad-shouldered young man from rural Texas who had multiple injuries and whose body had been severely burned. He was in clear agony, tearing off the bedsheets and trying to slide his feet to the floor.

“It took us a minute to understand what he was doing. Despite his pain, he was trying to stand up and salute the wife of his commander in chief.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“I was getting worn out, not physically, but emotionally. The punches hurt, even if I understood that they had little to do with who I really was as a person. It was as if there were some cartoon version of me out there wreaking havoc, a woman I kept hearing about but didn’t know – a too-tall, too-forceful, ready-to-emasculate Godzilla of a political wife named Michelle Obama.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“I was used to it by now – his devotion to the never-finished task of governing. For years, the girls and I had shared Barack with his constituents, and now there were more than 300 million of them. Leaving him alone in the Treaty Room at night, I wondered sometimes if they had any sense of how lucky they were.

“The last bit of work he did, usually at some hour past midnight, was to read letters from American citizens… He read letters from soldiers. From prison inmates. From cancer patients struggling to pay health-care premiums and from people who’d lost their homes to foreclosure. From gay people who hoped to be able to legally marry and from Republicans who felt he was ruining the country. From moms, grandfathers, and young children. He read letters from people who appreciated what he did and from others who wanted to let him know he was an idiot.

“He read all of it, seeing it as part of the responsibility that came with the oath. He had a hard and lonely job – the hardest and loneliest in the world, it often seemed to me – but he knew that he had an obligation to stay open, to shut nothing out. While the rest of us slept, he took down the fences and let everything inside.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

 

“Don’t look at me. I just got here myself.”

My young friend, Jonathan, gave me the gift of Kurt Vonnegut’s If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? for Christmas. I enjoyed it immensely. I found Vonnegut’s musings on life comforting and reassuring. Vonnegut reminded me that the times we are now entering are not any worse that the times that have come before. And he assured me that – although I maybe can’t fix the whole world – I can, at least, make my little corner of it a more humane and beautiful place.

“I apologize because of the terrible mess the planet is in. But it has always been a mess. There have never been any ‘Good Old Days,’ there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, ‘Don’t look at me. I just got here myself.'”
– Kurt Vonnegut

 “Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: ‘Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.'”
– Kurt Vonnegut, quoting his son, Mark.

“The teacher… asked me one time, ‘What is it artists do?… They do two things,’ he said, ‘First they admit they can’t straighten out the whole universe. And then second, they make at least one little part of it exactly as it should be. A blob of clay, a square of canvas, a piece of paper, or whatever.'”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“I suggest to you Adams and Eves that you set as your goals the putting of some small part of the planet into something like safe and sane and decent order. There’s a lot of cleaning up to do. There’s a lot of rebuilding to do, both spiritual and physical. And, again, there’s going to be a lot of happiness. Don’t forget to notice!”
– Vonnegut speaking at Butler University.

“My politics in a nutshell: let’s stop giving corporations and newfangled contraptions what they need and get back to giving human beings what we need.”
– Kurt vonnegut

***

“How about Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

‘Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth,
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy,
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called the children of God…’

“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

“‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”
– Kurt Vonnegut

***

“Revenge provokes revenge which provokes revenge which provokes revenge – forming an unbroken chain of death and destruction linking nations of today to barbarous tribes of thousands and thousands of years ago.

“We may never dissuade leaders of our nation or any other nation from responding vengefully, violently, to every insult or injury. In this Age, the Age of Television, they will continue to find irresistible the temptation to become entertainers, to compete with movies by blowing up bridges and police stations and factories and so on…

“But in our personal lives, our inner lives, at least, we can learn to live without the sick excitement… And we can teach our children and our grandchildren to do the same – so that they, too, can never be a threat to anyone.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

***

“When my father was dying, he said, ‘I want to thank you, because you’ve never put a villain in any of your stories.’ The secret ingredient in my books is, there has never been a villain.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“…I would like to infect people with humane ideas before they’re able to defend themselves.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“Culture is a gadget; it’s something we inherit. And you can fix it the way you fix a broken oil burner. You can fix it continuously.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“Persuasive guessing has been at the core of leadership for so long for all of human experience so far that it is wholly unsurprising that most of the leaders of this planet, in spite of all the information that is suddenly ours, want the guessing to go on… Our leaders are sick of all the solid information that has been dumped on humanity by research and scholarship and investigative reporting. They think that the whole country is sick of it, and they could be right. It isn’t the gold standard that they want to put us back on; they want something even more basic than that. They want to put us back on the snake-oil standard again.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“Our founding fathers never promised us that this would be a painless form of Government, that adhering to the Bill of Rights would invariably be delightful. Nor are Americans proud of avoiding pain at all costs… So it is not too much to ask of Americans that they not be censors, that they run the risk of being deeply wounded by ideas so that we may all be free. If we are wounded by an ugly idea, we must count it as part of the cost of freedom and, like American heroes in the days gone by, bravely carry on.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“So the advice I give myself at the age of 71 is the best advice I could have given myself in 1940, when detraining for the first time in Ithaca, having come all the way from Indianapolis: ‘Keep your hat on. We may wind up miles from here.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“And here’s what I think the truth is: we are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, we are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“Much has been written about the effects on institutions of higher learning of the sudden influx of veterans after my war. One thing it did was bamboozle many teachers whose authority and glamour was based on their having seen more life and the world than their students had. In seminars I would occasionally try to talk about something I had observed about human beings while a soldier, as a prisoner of war, as a family man. I had a wife and kid then. This turned out to be very bad manners, like coming to a crap game with loaded dice. No fair.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

***

Kurt Vonnegut speaking to Joe Heller, author of *Catch-22*:

“‘Joe, how does it make you feel to realize that only yesterday our host probably made more money than Catch-22, one of the most popular books of all time, has grossed world-wide over the last forty years?’

“Joe said to me, ‘I have something he can never have.’

“I said, ‘What’s that, Joe?’

“And he said, ‘The knowledge that I’ve got enough.'”
– Kurt Vonnegut