Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Global reading notes: sidetracked, an unknown bestseller, Indonesia + Tasmania



Sidetracked between continents...
The plan for last week was: to read the next book for the 7 Continents Reading Challenge. It didn't really work out. Instead, I read a 5-million-copy-bestseller book that I hadn't heard about before: The Rainbow Troops (more about that, below). And then followed book blog links... and got even more sidetracked, in a good way. As it turns out, there are 2 book blogs that run short theme challenges - and both are interesting and inspiring, and connect to international books that are waiting in my shelf. So March will be the month of sidetrips and stop-overs for me.

Classic novel challenge
Book blogger John Wiswell from the "Bathroom Monologues" runs a yearly reading challenge for classic novels: "This is an annual tradition encouraging people to read the classic novels they've been putting off, because everybody has a few"... more here:  National Novel Reading Month

I will join with a classic of the different kind: "Maus" by Art Spiegelmann, published in 1991, is a classic in the world of graphic novels, and also the first graphic novels that won a Pulitzer Prize.

Eastern European Lit Month
"Winstonsdad's Blog" is a reading blog that focuses on global books - and this month, it will all be about books about / from the former USSR. The idea: "reading books from what made up the soviet bloc behind the iron curtain before it fell", here's the link: Welcome to Eastern European Lit month

I will join with the memoir "Picnic at the Iron Curtain: A Memoir: From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to Ukraine's Orange Revolution" by Susan Viets - the book won the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist's award.

7 Continents reading challenge 
The 7 continents challenge started in January, but it's open all year round, and there are still new readers joining. This week I browsed blogs and links, and now am tempted to get some of the books, too, especially the ones from France and South America. Here are some links:

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Reading... into Indonesia and Tasmania



And here are the reading notes from last week:

Rainbow Troops: Andrea Hirata
The “Rainbow Troops” is a memoir from Indonesia, it tells the story of a village school with compassionate teachers who encouraged kids to keep learning – one of thee kids was Andrea Hirata, author of the book.

The touching and surprisingly positive story turned into a huge bestseller in Indonesia, with over 5 million copies sold. It's also a beautiful and inspiring read about the power of knowledge and learning, and the power of magic of books and stories. Here's a summary: "The poverty-stricken school suffers the constant threat of closure by government officials, greedy corporations, natural disasters and the students’ own lack of self-confidence. The story is written from the perspective of Ikal, who is six years old when the novel opens. Just as the author himself did as a young man, Ikal goes to college and eventually wins a scholarship to go abroad, beating incredible odds to become a writer."

I arrived at the book through the Guardian "best books from".. series, and probably will go and see what they suggest for other countries. So far, the reads from there all have been really good.

Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett 
This book... was a wrong order: I read a German book review of Parrett's latest book, which is a book that leads from Australia to the South Pole...and ordered an English copy. Well, turns out, I ordered the "wrong" one: Past the Shallows is set in Tasmania, and in many ways is the counterpart of Rainbow Troops: it's the story of 3 brothers who live with their father, an abalone fisherman, on the south-east coast of Tasmania, and they don't have an encouraging teacher, but have to deal with a troubled father and a painful family secret. It's a sad story, but written in a beatiful poetic voice - and it's probabably the story of many kids who are up against the odds of life.

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Global Reading Challenge 2015 + Currently Reading:

For 2015, I try to read books / authors from different countries, the idea is to visit all continents. If you want to, join the reading challenge: 7 Continents, 7 Billion People, 7 Books - or just join the international facebook reading group.

Countries / regions visited so far: most population: China , highest coutry/region: Himalaya.

For more reading notes, click here: life as a journey with books. A reading list by regions is online at: World Reads by country


Monday, March 2, 2015

links that touched me... February 2015



When I come across an interesting link / video / story that touches me, I often copy the link to blog about it at a later point. Yet by then, there's already another interesting link that is waiting... to keep the links from vanishing unblogged, I started this "links-that-touched-me" series.
Here's the next part:

Saturday, February 28, 2015

walking along summer paths in winter, or: leaves



It was in September 2013 that I walked along this nature trail that leads through a marsh area, and noted:
 "...my favorite passage of the walk was the way along birches, with the first autumn leaves falling"
Somehow, the memory of it bubbled up this week, so when the sun turned Thursday into a startling blue-sky-day, I went on a drive to the Alb, and revisited the path. Up there, it is still winter.  And the trail looked all different:



So fascinating, to see the difference of seasons. It even was visible directly on the trail: they had a trail sign that points out the marsh animals, illustrated with a spring image of the area:



And one more photo: the view from the plateau down to the Neckar valley. You can see the difference of altitude: up there, it's all white snow. While down in the valley, the snow mostly is gone.



Links...

Friday, February 27, 2015

sky switch + moon trine jupiter

for sky friday: two sunrise moments from this week + a sky poem from the past. 
this is the same view, about the same time, just a day apart:






moon trine jupiter

dreams are flowers
unfolded by the fingers
of nocturnal motion

opening inside, invisible
they leave their marks
on the skins of our self

a brush in the sand of time
shifting memories

the tiniest drop of blood
underneath the words

a scent beyond
all those days

yet unnamed

Thursday, February 26, 2015

gray photo journey

The current photo challenge theme is "gray" - it would be easy to find a current gray sky moment for that, but instead I went for a "gray" walk through my photofiles, looking for unexpected bright gray moments:  

 
Lanzarote Island, sculpture at the centre of the island


Stuttgart city, museum plaza in summertime



Buddha park moment


Paris with gray XXL-poster


Crossing mountain passes and borders


gray and blue...



...gray hopeful graffiti.

(more gray moments from around the world: photo friday)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

the year of the sheep, chemo milestone, an art moment, healing and reading, & maybe a short trip



This week brought a new year, a museum hour, plans for a short trip, and a chemo milestone for me. And some mixed emotions. Here's a reflection of the week, and how things are going since they changed:

The Ups and Downs of Healing 
Wednesday started on a low, knowing that the next round of chemo is just 2 days away, and that I am not even half way through with all. Also, my body felt overly sensitive, I could feel each spot that was part of some medical interference during the treatments so far - from the original operation scar, to the chemo port device, even the regular injection point for blood samples.

But then, that also could be a good sign, I realized - my immune system is back to a higher level now, and so the sensitivity might also translate to healing. Here's a timeline of wound healing:


And here's the link to the wiki article: Wound healing. Looking at it, it’s like a project flowchart. It’s amazing, all the things our body can do, without manual.

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Chinese New Year and an art moment
Then came Thursday, and the New Chinese Year: The Year of the Sheep. I googled the term and had to smile at the news that came up: “But while it is farewell to the Year of the Horse, confusion abounds as to whether the coming year is dedicated to the sheep, ram, or goat. BBC News explains.” Here is the link to the seriously humorous article with video: BBC / Year of the Sheep And here is a more yoga/mindful article, with suggestions. The first sdvice includes: “Approach everything with kindness”. Here’s the link: 8 Ways To Make The Most Of The Year Of The Sheep

Thursday also brought a change of mood: the day was sunny and felt inviting. I had a casual meeting in the Stuttgart office, catching up on projects, and I felt like being out there - so I drove there earlier to visit the “Staatsgalerie” museum on the way. And it was lovely. Just walking up to the museum is special, with its very unusual architecture - see photo above.

They have some amazing works there, sorted in a timeline from old epoches to impressionists and on to modern art. So you can walk from Monet to Picasso, from Renoir to Paul Klee, from Ellsworth Kelly to Donald Judd, from painting to sculpture, from old to new..

No photos allowed, but here's a photo from a catalogue that shows one of the rooms, and a sculpture that felt like a zen labyrinth - a symbol of the walks we take, the places we see art, and how all those visits connect in growing circles: Monet's water lilies in Paris, Donald Judd's squares in Düsseldorf, modern art in the Tate in London...



It was so good, and being there, between those art works and memories they brought - all those colors and themes, I was just happy. Really, it was one of the happiest moments of the week.

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Treatment Overview..
Then Friday arrived, and with it the next chemo. It's the fourth one, and the last of the tough ones. They will change medication now, and the next rounds should be easier (that's at least how it is for most patients). Instead of thinking of it as a long, winding, draining road, I tried to turn the thought around and see it as a milestone that I reached. 

Looking backwards and forward in time, this is where I am right now in the treatment:
  • 10. October: realized I had a knot in the breast, doctor dates and checks, biopsy etc. 
  • 28.-31. October: in hospital for operation
  • November: healing time & island time (still glad for that)
  • December: chemo preparation, port operation, first chemo (19.12.)
  • 19. December - 20. Februar: chemo sessions #1-#4: these are the "tough" ones, with 2 different active agents: Epiburicin + Cyclophosphamid, in 3-week intervals so that the immune system / leukozyte level can get back into shape after each session
So this is where I am right now, and what I completed. And this is what is upcoming next, when things work out without complications:
  • middle of March - end of May: chemo sessions #5 - #16 (the "lighter ones" with one active agent: Paclitaxel), which can be given in 1-week intervals
  • and then... radiation. starting end of June, probably 5-6 weeks with daily radiation (5/week)
  • and then ...rehab (3 weeks) in August 
I usually try to focus on just the next days and steps, as otherwise it gets overwhelming to look at the immensity of it. Altogether, it's almost 10 months of diagnosis / operation / different treatments / and finally rehab to heal and recover from the time of treatments. But it's good to look at the larger picture every now and then, which now lead to this different thought:

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Maybe a short trip? 
Looking at the larger scale, and remembering the island and the positive energy it brought now brought the idea to try and see if its possible to include some short trips in this schedule - I talked with my docs, and a good option would be start of March. They suggested to rather take the car, not the plane, and go somewhere not too far, so that in case of any complications / fever, I could be back home for a check-up in a couple of hours.

So we could go somewhere in this region for 2-3 days, maybe Lake Constance or the Black Forest - just to have some time to breeze and be in another place would be good. Drive along roads, see something new. Get nice breakfast and dinner.. will see if this works out. It also depends on the weather, and not getting a cold or a flu. But it's good to explore places and hotel pages - even if it won't work out this time, there is now this idea of going, and places bookmarked, to look forward to.
I guess it also will be good to have those moments of "being out there", be it a museum visit, an afternoon of driving through the countryside, or a short trip.

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Chemo #4 + sun
Somehow the theme of places even was part of the actual chemo seesion - it was 7 of us in the chemo room this time, and we know each other now more and more, from the blood check dates. We had some good talks during chemo – one of us is going to “Kur” (rehab) next week, for a pause and to recover. It’s the second time of going through treatments for her, her cancer has come back, so she is experienced, and still humorous. We were all curious for what happens in rehab, and it was interesting to get an idea of how it works, the themes it includes: it's rehab exercises, spa, sport, meetings with psychotherapeuts.... Even if it's still far away for me, it felt like good timing, at this milestone day.

Back home, I felt okay for some more hours, and the sun was out - we went for a walk, and it was warm enough to even sit outside for a bit. From the previous sessions, I knew that my body would start to react with nausea at about 5 or 6, so I took a special tablet to help with it, and then went to the bedroom.

I first read a bit still sitting, and then lay down and checked the program – and saw that there was a film about Renoir, just starting. So good. It was like a cotinuation of the museum visit, and beautiful to watch. I didn’t know he struggled with his health, and at some point couldn’t walk anymore, and had problems with his hands, too, so painting was both his passion but also difficult. It’s hard to believe that he created such lightness with cramped hands. I could sleep then, and the heavy nausea didn’t visit this time. Saturday also felt a bit better compared to the previous cycles. Sadly, the skies now turned overcast and rainy, but that makes the sun hours from this week more precious, and I’m still glad about the museum moments.

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Reading
What still helps and inspires me in this time is reading, both international books, and memoirs of others who have faced health obstacles. These are the books I read this week:



"Aya" by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie is a graphic novel - it "tells an unpretentious and gently humorous story of an Africa we rarely see-spirited, hopeful, and resilient, the main character is "Aya", 19 years old with the plan to study. Aya won the 2006 award for Best First Album at the Angoulême International Comics Festival." - and it it’s like the reviews said, such a different image of / story from Africa. The story is set in Ivory-Coast, a bit soap-opera like, but lovely to read with the energy it has.

"The girl with the nine wigs" by Sophie van der Stap
The graphic novel reading also brought another read: while picking up “Aya” at the libary, I checked their new books, and next to that shelf was one with memoirs – and it turns out, they have Sophie Van der Stap's book there. She was 21 when she discovered that she had a severe form of cancer, and wrote about it - her book later turned into the film "The Girl With Nine Wigs", which was up in TV here earlier this month. Here's the trailer:

After her recovery, she wrote a second book - and that's the book they had at the library. So I picked that, too, curious to see how the original voice of her. In the follow-up book, she deals with returning to the “normal” life, which doesn’t feel normal to her, and she doesn’t return to her plan of studying. Instead she starts a romance with a married man, and visits her friend Chantal, who has gone through a difficult cancer like her, but without hope of curing. And then goes on a round-the-world-trip, starting in Buenos Aires. It’s touching to read how lost she is after the illness, and to see that she can’t really return to “normal”, that her whole life shifted into an emptiness – which she slowly starts to learn to turn into openness.

Claudia Kotter / Young Heroes
And the third book - is the memoir of Claudia Kotter, who was dealing with a rare disease (Skledoremie), and started a campaigne for organ donation after she faced with the difficulties of waiting for a fitting organ herself. Trnsplanations - that's yet another level of medicine that is possible, but complex and difficult to go through. It's an encouraging book, though.

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Milestone reflection
And a milestone note - so far, things have altogehter been less difficult than I thought and expected. So far, there wasn't a day that left me out of energy, unable to get out of bed due to pain or fatigue of migraine, both side effects that are common. I am glad I reached the 40% milestone of the treatments now, and that so far, almost each day also held a bright spot. Altogether, I try to see it as a time of learning more about life and it's shadow side, illness.  

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Related links:

I now started to mark all blog posts about this shadow journey with a tag, you can click here to read them... C is for cancer, and for courage, too

More reading notes...  my bookshelf / reading notes

More skies... at sky friday

Monday, February 16, 2015

city faces, zen faces, cosplay faces, art faces...

the new photo friday theme is "faces" - not easy for me, as i usually don't take photos of people. but a good reason to go on a photo file trip: 


Paris: face and facade


   
zen garden faces



Mayan face (in the British Museum)



Cosplay faces :)


Berlin wall



and here's my own face - the moment is from March 2014, and part of "The People's Art Project" by artist JR, who works with large-scale photos in cities. Here's a photo of one his city projects- which leads back to the theme "face / facade":





and heres's more about that museum day and his work:
street art, history, and a road trip: JR in Baden-Baden, Inside Out.

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more faces: photo friday
more art moments: meta cool places, modern shapes & more




Saturday, February 14, 2015

Is there such a thing as day?



A morning photo from this week. and a playful sky poem from the past, to go with it:

Will there really be a morning?
Is there such a thing as day?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?
Has it feet like water lilies?
Has it feathers like a bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I ’ve never heard?
Oh some scholar, oh some sailor,
Oh some wise man from the skies,
Please to tell a little pilgrim
Where the place called morning lies.

- Morning, Emily Dickinson

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links: