Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks

Quotes from The Best of Me .... 

"Life was messy. Always had been and always would be and that was just the way it was, so why bother complaining? You either did something about it or you didn’t, and then you lived with the choice you made.”

“It was a life, she eventually concluded, that had been lived in the middle ground, where contentment and love were found in the smallest details of people’s lives. It was a life of dignity and honor, not without sorrows yet fulfilling in a way that few experiences ever were.”

“Being together isn’t about a honeymoon. It’s about the real you and me. I want to wake up with you beside me in the mornings, I want to spend my evenings looking at you across the dinner table. I want to share every mundane detail of my day with you and hear every detail of yours. I want to laugh with you and fall asleep with you in my arms. Because you aren’t just someone I loved back then. You were my best friend, my best self, and I can’t imagine giving that up again… You might not understand but I gave you the best of me, and after you left nothing was ever the same.. "

“Everyone wanted to believe that endless love was possible. She’d believed in it once, too, back when she was eighteen…”

“Dawson, like Tuck, was one of those rare people who could love only once, and if anything, separation had only made his feelings grow stronger. Two days ago, that realization had been disconcerting, but she now understood that, for Dawson, there had been no other choice. Love, after all, always said more about those who felt it than it did about the ones they loved.”

“Don’t take my advice. Or anyone’s advice. Trust yourself. For good or for bad, happy or unhappy, it’s your life, and what you do with it has always been entirely up to you.”

“She turned to face him. ‘What were we thinking?’ ‘We weren’t,’ he said. ‘We were in love.’” 

I've recently become a fan of Nicholas Sparks.  All of his books have been New York Times bestsellers with 8 of them being released as movies ... Safe Haven, The Notebook, The Last Song, Dear John, A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle, Nights in Rodanthe, and one of my favorites ... The Lucky One. 

This book touched me deeply because there was a great life lesson for several of the characters as well as the reader.  It's a message about living with regrets.  The definition of regret is to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity.

In the story the two main characters, Dawson and Amanda, fall in love as teenagers.  But because her parents don't approve of him, they are soon separated.  

Dawson was the one who insisted that she let go of the relationship and follow her dreams, but he never married, never dated, just worked hard to make a good living.  

 Amanda moves away to college and ends up marrying a dentist, has 4 children, but suffers the pain of losing a child to cancer.  Her husband tries to drown his pain with alcohol which puts a huge strain on their relationship.   

The 2 young lovers are reunited after 20 yrs by the death of a mutual friend and soon come to realize they are still in love.  Next comes the question, how to move forward.  The author's words jumped out at me ... "people in pain don't always see things as clearly as they should".   That's so true! 

The man who died, who was a friend to both Dawson and Amanda, left some letters he had written to them.  It seems that he lived with some regrets of his own, but had some very good advice for each of them.  He writes "you've got to understand that you can't look back anymore.  It'll destroy you in the end ... Neither one of you can keep living with regret, because it drains the life right out of you ...".   

In contrast, loving someone and knowing that you are loved in return has the power to renew a person in a way you would never dream is possible. And when you truly love someone, you are willing to give them the best of you, and that's something that we should never regret.

The book doesn't end the way that you hope it will but it's a very good ending to the story that leaves the reader satisfied and filled with hope.   In Amanda's words to her son, the message of the story is summed up like this ... "You'll make mistakes and struggle like everyone, but when you're with the right person, you'll feel almost perfect joy, like you're the luckiest person who ever lived. ... you'll love and be loved ... and in the end, nothing else really matters."  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New England 2013

Founded in 1722, Christ Church in the City of Boston, known to all as the Old North Church, is Boston’s oldest surviving church building and most visited historical site. The enduring fame of the Old North began on the evening of April 18, 1775, when the church sexton, Robert Newman, and Vestryman Capt. John Pulling, Jr. climbed the steeple and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea across the Charles River and not by land.  This fateful event ignited the American Revolution.

The Inn at Ellis River began life as the home of Alice and Andrew Harriman and their family. Harriman, a talented carpenter, built the farmhouse in 1893 along the banks of the Ellis River, and the road leading to the inn bears the family’s name. Nestled by a mountain stream at the edge of Jackson New Hampshire, a classic New England village, the Inn at Ellis River is your perfect choice for a weekend getaway, skiing or hiking vacation, or to celebrate any special occasion. 

The White Mountains are a mountain range covering about a quarter of the state of New Hampshire and a small portion of western Maine in the United States. Part of the northern Appalachian Mountains, they are the most rugged mountains in New England

Most of the area is public land, including the White Mountain National Forest as well as a number of state parks. Its most famous peak is Mount Washington, which at 6,288 feet (1,917 m) is the highest mountain in the Northeastern U.S. Mount Washington is one of a line of summits called the Presidential Range, many of which are named after U.S. presidents and other prominent Americans.

The Nubble Lighthouse is a lighthouse in Cape NeddickYorkMaine. In 1874 Congress appropriated $15,000 to build a light station at the "Nubble" and in 1879 construction began. Cape Neddick Light Station was dedicated by the U.S. Lighthouse Service and put into use in 1879. It is still in use today.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Families are messy ...

Families are messy. I know this because I’ve lived in one all my life. Your family is probably messy too, although you probably don’t like to admit it.

I found out today that my Uncle Frank died 5 months ago. He was 93 and my father’s oldest brother. None of his family bothered to contact me or my brother. I found out by doing some research online. That makes me very sad. I loved my uncle Frank. I want to be angry at my father’s family, but I know it won’t do me or them any good. It would only serve to carry on the family legacy of bitterness.

 I have to force myself consciously to make a choice not to respond in anger because that’s really what my nature tells me to do. It’s just sad to think how the people who you think are supposed to love you, your family, could do something so hurtful to cause you further grief. I guess it’s because they are family that it makes it hurt so much. Something happened, I’m not really sure what it was when my father died years ago, that disappointed them and they’ve never told me what it was. I pity them really because they miss out on the really good things that my father passed on to his kids and grandkids. They rob themselves of the beauty of family connection.

 Most families prefer to keep their family issues a secret. That only perpetuates the problem. Families are only as dysfunctional as the secrets they keep. Healthy families talk about their problems and find solutions and love each other even when they are disappointed. Yes, families are messy, but individuals have a choice whether or not to continue to hurt those around them or bring healing. I choose healing.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Knowing death leads to reverence for life" by Charles L. Bridwell

It occurred to me that today's youngsters are so insulated from death that they don't comprehend its finality, its coldness, or its permanence. Yet, they are exposed to "make-believe" death at every turn on television and in movies. They're only getting half the picture; and only the "fantasy" part, at that.

Arnold Schwarzenegger argued yesterday that violent movies (for which he is famous) are not a cause of real-life gun violence. He said, "We have to separate out what is in the movies – which is pure entertainment – and what is out there in reality." Millions play "shoot-'em-up" video games and watch violent movies, but the vast majority of them don't grab a gun and kill people. They seem to fluidly move between reality and fantasy. So, even if movies and games have some detrimental influence on the mind of youths, there must be other causes.

Surely, those who kill innocent people are not lucid. Most are probably mentally ill to some degree. Perhaps the prescription drugs youngsters are given so frequently are a factor, too. But, I have to wonder if some are really disillusioned about the reality of death, based on a "fantasy" perception.

Many have never actually seen a dead human body. Some have never attended a funeral. Most have not lost siblings or parents to death. And while we wouldn't wish that on them, death is a natural part of living. In simpler times death was real, close, and sometimes suffocating. The dead were cleaned up and prepared for burial by friends and neighbors, often on the kitchen table. A wake was held in the home, followed shortly thereafter by a funeral. With no embalming or refrigeration, the smell of death was experienced and remembered. Youngsters may not have helped with preparations, but they were doubtless aware of death's realities.

Americans once raised, killed and prepared their own animals for food, and the kids saw it, or even participated. Many a lad was sent out to kill a chicken for a meal, under orders from his mother. They raised calves, lambs or pigs that were considered pets, and then later slaughtered. They understood that animals die to provide meat. Today's youngsters see meat in sterile, plastic-wrapped packages, and may be oblivious as to whether it came from a cow, hog, or chicken.

Those who hunt comprehend their impact on their prey. What hunter hasn't simultaneously felt exhilaration and a twinge of remorse when he made a good shot, then watched his quarry gasp its last breath to become his food? Only a thoughtless slob kills without feeling. Hunters aren't blood-thirsty, but the prey must die to be eaten. Ethical hunters usually develop a deep reverence for all life; both human and animal. Young hunters, at first thrilled by the chase, later mature into stewards and protectors of wildlife; and they contribute the majority of funds for wildlife conservation.

Native Americans lived close to the land, and often prayed before their hunts. They offered thanks to the deer, buffalo, duck, or fish for giving up its life so they might eat. In many ways, they were more spiritual than some "civilized" people. They were certainly more in-tune with the real "circle of life" so erroneously portrayed in movies like Bambi or The Lion King. Their lives were rooted in one reality; hunt or starve.

Is it possible that exposure to the death of humans and animals creates a reverence for life? I submit that it does. I grew up on a farm, helped butcher livestock, and have been a lifelong hunter. Yet, I have a deep love for wildlife, a reverence for their existence, and a desire to conserve and nurture them. I, too, have sought the blessings of the Creator before a hunt, and whispered my thanks to a dying animal for giving its life to become my sustenance. It's an enigma, but I've also cried unashamedly at the death of pet, and while holding the hand of a beloved relative on their death bed.

A rural upbringing also included a healthy exposure to birth, the springing forth of life with all its splendor, gore, and awe. Any birth is miraculous, whether it's an animal, bird, fish, or human. No witnesses remains unchanged; untouched by the miracle they beheld. The husband who attends his wife during birth empathizes with her near-death experience, and treasures the memory of welcoming his children into the light.

We can't all have a pastoral existence; nor will we likely raise and kill our own livestock, or actually depend on hunting for food. We probably won't be preparing our dead for burial. We may not all witness a birth. But I, for one, believe those events engender a deeper understanding of death, from which can spring a deep, lasting, and realistic reverence for life.

It might be illuminating to study mass shooters, to scrutinize their influences and experiences, their homes and families, and what drugs they were prescribed. Did they believe in God, or in right and wrong? Were they abused, neglected, or ignored? We might not unearth their penchant for death, but perhaps we could gain an insight into their unfeeling, deliberate, and horrible disregard for life.

*** * This article may be freely distributed, quoted, or reproduced with proper credit. clb