Theeb #FilmReview #BriFri

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I traveled, vicariously, with a Facebook friend to the Museum of London for the new display on recently-analyzed skeletons. Tina reviewed another Inspector Banks mystery, with an emphasis on the music and the food. Sim’s virtual walk in London took her to the Ritz — ritzy, indeed. Jackie continued the recap of her 2005 trip to Ireland with a castle, shops, and the sea. Jean reviewed Stranger in the House about soldiers return from WWII and continued her readalong of the Faerie Queene.  Becky reviewed The Two Towers, part of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and a true-crime tale of a child murderer in Victorian times, The Wicked Boy.


Theeb
Filmed on location in Jordan, with non-professional local actors

Theeb ended up in my Netflix queue because it won the award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer at the BAFTAs.

As I wrote last week, “British” can be as big as the empire, in some ways. Naji Abu Nowar, the director of Theeb, is British-Jordanian. He was born in Oxford, moved with his family to Jordan at age 10, and returned to London for college.

Theeb isn’t a great film for an Anglophile fix with just one English actor in a fairly small, but pivotal, role. On the other hand, the undercurrent of the plot is directly related to the British presence in Jordan. Set in 1916, the local people are trying to deal with the disruption in commerce created by the strategic Ottoman Railway while war rumbles far away in Europe.



One More Week in May #ReadersWorkouts

Readers' workouts
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Welcome to Readers’ Workouts, the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

My goal for May is 1100 minutes of exercise and I got to 800 yesterday. Two hundred minutes in eight days means 25 minutes a day. I’ve been averaging over 30 minutes, so I’m not worried!

How is your exercise going? Share on your blog and link your post below. Or tell your story in the comments. Be sure to visit the other participants for support and encouragement.



Empathy Resources #CompassionateSunday

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
A process for developing personal compassion to engage in compassionate community for a more compassionate world

Welcome to Compassionate Sunday. We’re working through Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, one step per month.

If you live in the St. Louis area, an in-person study group started working with this book and will continue for the next few months. Let me know if you’d like to join us and I’ll you hook you up!

If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step) or what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step), self-compassion (The Third Step), or empathy (The Fourth Step) use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.


The Fourth Step of Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life is empathy. I’m finding this one builds on the first three steps I took, but also forced me to take a fairly big leap into the compassionate zone. The first three steps focused on me — what I can learn, what’s going on in my world, what I want to do to express compassion for myself. Empathy is the first step that really requires me to focus on others.

For that, it turned out, I needed some outside help. Here are some resources I found.

Six Habits of Highly Empathic People covers the science of empathy and illustrates habits with interesting examples from history:

The 20th century was the Age of Introspection, when self-help and therapy culture encouraged us to believe that the best way to understand who we are and how to live was to look inside ourselves. But it left us gazing at our own navels. The 21st century should become the Age of Empathy, when we discover ourselves not simply through self-reflection, but by becoming interested in the lives of others. We need empathy to create a new kind of revolution. Not an old-fashioned revolution built on new laws, institutions, or policies, but a radical revolution in human relationships.

The author of the above article is also featured in a video talk about empathy.

Two brainsLifeHacker’s take on empathy also includes a nice list of how to practice empathy as a habit. As a photography and computer person, I appreciated the metaphor in this reason for why empathy is so desirable:

You will experience the world in higher resolution as you perceive through not only your perspective but the perspectives of those around you.

According to the Skills You Need site, in the view of Daniel Goleman, (author of the book Emotional Intelligence) understanding others is only the beginning of empathy. We can build on that to also develop others, have a service orientation, leverage diversity, and increase political awareness. In this election year, we may want to remember, and act on, the positive side of political behavior.

Many people view ‘political’ skills as manipulative, but in its best sense, ‘political’ means sensing and responding to a group’s emotional undercurrents and power relationships.

What books, websites, or advice helped you the most in developing empathy?



Pinar del Rio, Cuba #SaturdaySnapshot #WeekendCooking

Today’s post features my favorite meal during our trip to Cuba. I’ve written before about the food for our first two days in Cuba — delicious but with a certain sameness about the offerings. The variety of food increased when we arrived in Havana.

Our most varied meal was served at an organic farm that we visited during a day trip from Havana to the west of the island, in the Pinar del Rio province.

Organic farm in Cuba
Terraced, raised beds for growing organic vegetables on a hillside
Organic farm in Pinar del Rio, Cuba
The dramatic view from the open-air pavilion where we were served lunch
Pinar del Rio, Cuba
The farm’s specialty herbal cocktail, said to have health benefits. We were offered the choice of having it with or without rum.
Pinar del Rio, Cuba
First course: squash soup
Pinar del Rio, Cuba
Medley of starchy vegetables

new Weekend Cooking logoJoin me next week — I’ll share some of what I learned about agriculture in Cuba for the Weekend Cooking folks.

Here are my previous posts about Cuba, most with photos for Saturday Snapshot at West Metro Mommy Reads:

London’s Skeletons #BriFri

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I reviewed Ken Follett’s A Dangerous Fortune. Jackie shared photos from a 2005 trip to Ireland.  Sim shared her whole list of posts recounting her fantasy walk through London using the Tube Map as her guide — she’s completed 29! Becky reviewed a play (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and two books (The Fellowship of the Ring and Cain His Brother).


I’m traveling in Britain this week, vicariously, via a Facebook friend. She’s been visiting some of the places I wanted to go in London but didn’t make it to on my first trip, including the British Library and a play at The Globe. They’re on my list for the next trip!

I did visit the Museum of London, as she did, very early in our stay because it offers such a helpful overview of the city. What I didn’t see was the new exhibit about recent scientific discoveries from old bones in the Museum’s collection. The analysis of four partial skeletons generated surprising results — London was a diverse city, in all kinds of ways, from the very beginning. The BBC covered the story just before the exhibit opened last fall.

The London Wall
A piece of the London Wall outside the Museum of London.

For all that I love about the English, I despair about their sense of superiority over everyone else — largely because of how that attitude has determined what it means to be white in America. But, I’m also sad for the white English. They lament the loss of the British Empire, but seem unable to appreciate the great gift they have now — the entire British Empire resides on their island. The white driver of a car we hired for a day actually said to me, “It doesn’t feel like England anymore.” Perhaps this discovery will help re-wire the English psyche, providing evidence that their pre-history was also diverse.

A lot of things have come into my thought process here, but the most complete version on my blog is the book review of Sugar in the Blood by Andrea Stuart, a book I searched for in vain at every bookstore I visited in England. There were always at least two books about William Wilberforce on the shelf — apparently, the British would prefer to think about their role in ending slavery rather than their role in starting it.

What have you encountered from the British Isles this week?



Stretching Feels Good #ReadersWorkouts

Readers' workouts
banner designed by Isi

Welcome to Readers’ Workouts, the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

I mentioned last week that I wasn’t doing anything but walking. In the past week, I tried a bit of stretching. I noticed a marked decrease in flexibility from before. Yoga poses that used to stretch my inner thighs now stretch my outer thighs because my hips are so tight. But, just a few stretches and I’m already seeing an improvement. I’m also remembering why stretching works so well for me. I’m convinced that I have fewer problems with my knees, hips, and back when I perform stretches routinely.

How about you? Is stretching an important part of your routine?

How is your exercise going? Share on your blog and link your post below. Or tell your story in the comments. Be sure to visit the other participants for support and encouragement.



The Room Likes Me #Empathy #CompassionateSunday

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
A process for developing personal compassion to engage in compassionate community for a more compassionate world

Welcome to Compassionate Sunday. We’re working through Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, one step per month.

If you live in the St. Louis area, an in-person study group started working with this book and will continue for the next few months. Let me know if you’d like to join us and I’ll you hook you up!

If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step) or what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step), self-compassion (The Third Step), or empathy (The Fourth Step) use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.


This post is brought to you courtesy of my week. It has two trains of thought. I hope they hook up strongly at the end and don’t collide into each other!

First train — public speaking.

Picture Cuba
This announcement was on a big poster in the lobby of Kirkwood Public Library last week — pretty cool!

I gave my fourth presentation at a local library about Cuba yesterday and I have a fifth scheduled next month. The most helpful advice that I ever received about speaking was to realize that the audience is on my side. I knew it was true because when I’m a part of an audience, I like the performers before I’ve even seen them and I wish them well because that will give me the best experience.

So, there’s a good example of empathy and its positive effect on me. When I’m in an audience, I put myself in the shoes of the speaker. I express my support with a pleasant, expectant look on my face and by chuckling audibly at the first funny bit that I hear. When I’m the speaker, I put myself in the shoes of the audience. I believe that they want to like me and I honor their trust in me by being fully prepared. I relax into the love and support that I know is in the room for me, even if it’s an audience composed completely of strangers.

Second train — witnessing whiteness.

Witnessing Whiteness by Shelly Tochluk
The book we use in the Witnessing Whiteness program through the YWCA of St. Louis

There’s an awkward phase that white people go through when we wake up to race. Shelly Tochluk describes that dynamic in her book Witnessing Whiteness:

Where once we never noticed race (or at least claimed not to), increased awareness makes issues of race appear ever-present. Race consciousness is at its height and we can often feel paralyzed while trying to figure out how to behave in order to subvert the racism in the room while not appearing racist by concentrating on the race in the room! (p. 38)

Witnessing Whiteness is the book we study in the 10-session program of the same name. Amy Hunter (check out her amazing TEDx Talk) started this program as an offering of the YWCA of St. Louis about 5 years  ago and interest in it exploded after the events in Ferguson in August 2014. I went through the program then which qualified me to be a co-facilitator. I’m currently co-facilitating for the second time.

Amy occasionally pops in for a session, so we were pleased that she joined us last week for our discussion of Chapter 2, featuring the above quote. She says that the problem for white people is that we so desperately want to be liked — it’s part of our social conditioning. Wanting to be liked is so much a part of our conditioning that white people assume everyone else feels the same, but they don’t. Amy points out that black people in our culture don’t experience everyone liking them, so that desire to be liked plays a much smaller role in their interactions with the world.

Amy’s remedy for us white people is to walk into the room that Shelly Tochluk mentions with the strong belief that everyone in that room loves us. “Why wouldn’t they?” says Amy. “You’re a lovable person and you know that because there are people in your life who love you. I love you! Everyone in that room will love you, too.”

Coupling the trains

Museum of Transportation
We visited the Museum of Transportation on Thursday, my birthday, giving me the metaphor for today’s post.

Amy’s advice is very similar to what worked so well for me as a speaker. I’ve heard her give that advice several times.

How come I still struggle with it?

I realized that it’s because when I put myself in that room, unlike when I put myself in an audience, my thoughts aren’t all positive toward any new person who walks in the room. What’s up with that? Why am I such a positive participant of an audience but such a judgmental person at a party or meeting?

As far as I can tell, my difficulties arise from a series of unfortunate events in Junior High school combined with the odd focus on business opportunities at networking events. I experience rooms of people with a toxic mix of defensiveness and a “what’s-in-it-for-me?” attitude. It’s no wonder that I’d rather give a talk to 50 people than make small talk with them. In the first situation, I’m convinced that they like me. In the second, I fear that they are judging me. I believe those things because that’s how I am in those situations.

I turned 54 last week. Forty years is a long time to nurse a wound from Junior High. I can let that go. I also don’t have a need to get something out of other people that I meet. Relationships that are mutually beneficial are always a bonus, but not a desperate need at this stage of my life.

I want Amy’s vision of experiencing a room full of people who love me, even if they don’t know me yet. To get there, it’s clear that I want to be a loving person in that room. Empathy is my path. Last week’s meditation on empathy is a good tool — I can send energies of friendship, compassion, joy, and even-mindedness to every person in a room. If that’s who I am in a room, it will be much easier for me to believe that everyone else there is also open and willing to love me as I am.

A long train

What do you think? Did those trains of thought link up in a way that worked for you? Obviously, I’m still my refining my thoughts around these issues, so I’m open to constructive criticism, challenging questions, and more ideas.



A Walk in Havana #SaturdaySnapshot

I got distracted from my recap of our Cuba trip when I was preparing a presentation on our trip to give at local libraries. I’ve given three, so far. I’ll be doing a fourth one this afternoon and a fifth one next month. If you live in St. Louis and want to come to one of these, let me know and I’ll send you details. If you’re a librarian in the St. Louis region and think that your patrons would enjoy seeing photos and hearing about Cuba, let me know and we’ll set something up.

I don’t want to leave my recap in the middle of the trip, so I’m starting it up again for Saturday Snapshot.

Our best photos of the whole trip came from one afternoon walk in Havana. The earlier visits to famous old plazas (Plaza de Armas and Plaza de la Catedral) came accompanied by a variety of buskers. They weren’t too aggressive but annoying after a while. Our leader decided we needed to get out where tourists are rarely seen. We got to see how Cubans really live and they got to look at the rare sight of a bunch of camera-wielding tourists, which seems a fair exchange for photographers who tend to get more than we give in most situations.

Man in Havana, Cuba
Rick took this one of a friendly Cuban. I love the colors of the bike and buildings.
Man on balcony, Havana, Cuba
Another one where Rick got a positive response from a resident.
Woman on balcony in Havana, Cuba
People and laundry on balconies were irresistible subjects for photographers.
Shoppers in Havana, Cuba
Part of our walk was along a busy pedestrian shopping street.
Empty playground, Havana, Cuba
This playground was closed, but the kids were in school so I hope it opened later in the day.
Soviet-era car, Havana, Cuba
Havana is famous for 1950s American cars — but those are mostly used as taxis for tourists. On the side streets, we saw a lot of these old Soviet-era cars.
El Capitolio, Havana, Cuba
El Capitolio was modeled off the Capitol building in Washington, DC. I was amused that both domes are undergoing reconstruction right now. It was originally built to house the Cuban Congress, but got re-purposed after the Revolution for the Cuban Academy of Sciences. It’s next life, after this remodel, is scheduled to be similar to the original one — a home for the National Assembly.

Here are my previous posts about Cuba, most with photos for Saturday Snapshot at West Metro Mommy Reads:

A Dangerous Fortune #BriFri

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I reviewed Trash Macbeth. Tina shared a book about Yorkshire featuring the haunts of James Herriot, veterinarian and author. Jean updated her progress on the Faerie Queene and reviewed The September Society. Jackie shared photos of her 2005 summer trip to London, complete with pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Sim visited the Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park during her virtual walk through London. Becky reviewed Mary Poppins (the book) and Everland.


Book: A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett
Genre: historical novel
Publisher: Dell
Publication date: 1993
Pages: 576

Source: from the library as an e-book

A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett
Ken Follett’s chunkster about 19th century England, featuring a boys school, a bank, and a crooked diplomat.

Summary: A Dangerous Fortune begins with the unexpectedly dangerous antics of school boys at a boarding school and then follows their lives into adulthood as they became powerful men in English banking and South American politics in the 19th century. The treachery, of course, only deepens as the stakes rise.

Thoughts: My brother got on Follett kick recently and wanted me to join in since his books work so well for my British Isles Friday wanderings. I resisted for a while. Eye of the Needle was probably the first adult thriller that I ever read, at age 16 or 17. I was completely engrossed and utterly terrified. I’ve never read another Follett book since. Although, now that I think of it, I’m sure that I’d find it quite tame these days — it’s just that I had never been exposed to that sort of story before.

A Dangerous Fortune is more of a historical novel, although it has definite thriller elements to it. The banking portions are surprisingly fun to read and relevant to the present day, since the words “too big to fail” showed up in the news again just last month. Follett’s cast of characters is large and colorful. Sometimes I fault male authors for their female characters, but I was happy with his selection of women who bettered themselves in the only ways available to them in 19th century England, while making realistic assessments of the pros and cons of their options.

Appeal: A Dangerous Fortune will please Anglophiles, history lovers, and mild thrill seekers

Have you read Ken Follett’s books? What did you think?

Signature of Joy Weese Moll



May Flowers #ReadersWorkouts

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Welcome to Readers’ Workouts, the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

We’ve been getting more showers than flowers. Yesterday, we were impatient enough for a walk, that we just put on raincoats and went out in spite of the weather. I’m on track to meet my goal of 1100 minutes this month. I’m mostly walking at the moment — it’s probably time to add back in some stretching and strength-training.

How is your exercise going? Share on your blog and link your post below. Or tell your story in the comments. Be sure to visit the other participants for support and encouragement.



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