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Monday, November 27, 2017

"Save Send Delete" Is a "A Diamond of a Book That Shines a Bright Light on Our Own Personal Relationship with God and the Universe"


You can read this review at the Amazon page for "Save Send Delete: here: https://www.amazon.com/Save-Send-Delete-Danusha-Goska/dp/1846949866

“Save Send Delete” by Danusha Goska is A Diamond of a Book That Shines a Bright Light on Our Own Personal Relationship with God and the Universe

It is rare to find books written today that are so brutally honest and so bravely written; a book that has ability to affect its reader at so many different levels. Based on a true story, Goska (a.k.a. Mira, the story’s protagonist) forces the reader to openly confront and internally discuss their own belief system through her “fated” year long e-mail debate/relationship with a celebrity Atheist scientist, “Rand.”

The author’s “no holds barred” writing style forces the reader to wake up, take notice and face our own views about God, religion, faith and love. I was held captive with her imagery, tone, prospective and story telling expertise. The author’s vivid description made me feel as though I was a passenger on her roller coaster life’s journey from the mountains of Tibet to the slums of Patterson, NJ. I could actually see, hear, taste, smell and touch her words. I have read very few books written today that have felt this “real” to me in all its beauty and brutality.

But more importantly, I believed Mira’s tenacious faith in God and humanity. I believed every emotion Mira felt. Goska is never condescending with her message nor demanding that the reader share her views, but after reading her viewpoints, it is very hard to find fault in her well-constructed arguments.

While some readers may not like or appreciate the e-mail format of the book, I cannot imagine a different format for this novel. One vital component of this book is the on-line relationship that develops between Mira and Rand. This format enables the reader to experience the emotional undertones of their relationship. They fight, they banter, and they often disagree but always maintain respect for each other’s opinions and ideas.

Mira, an extremely intelligent, self-assured, modern woman and accomplished writer, sometimes struggles between her confident, pragmatic side and her softer, more vulnerable side. Like all of us, she does not always have the right words for what she wants to say or the courage to express her first thoughts or emotions to Rand, especially when she starts to fall in love with him. But she always manages to resolve these inner conflicts and tell Rand exactly what she is thinking without compromising her own beliefs or alienating him. They actually listen to each other. We all could learn some listening skills from this couple in today’s tumultuous society.

This story is multi-faceted and will appeal to many different audiences. While it convincingly defends the existence of God and one woman’s unshakable faith in God, it also serves to lift the human spirit itself. Mira, the main character, is not perfect nor does she fit the stereotype of being the “perfect” Catholic. She has had more than her fair share of anguish and strife but continues to see the good in mankind and selflessly give to others. Through her, the reader is truly able to experience God’s unconditional love and believe in hope again.

But, this is not just a book about God, religion, and the power of the human spirit, it is also a story about human relationships and how these relationships can make or break us. Mira plays many different roles in her relationships (daughter, sister, friend, student, teacher, and lover). It is through these relationships that one gains a true sense of Mira, her compassion, her loyalty, her tenaciousness and her sometimes brutal honesty. She does not sugar-coat the facts; I find this aspect of her personality very refreshing.

Because I used to be a teacher, the interactions between and Mira and her students touched me most. Mira’s dedication to her students is something that all teachers should strive to possess. Some of the stories the author tells about her students broke my heart but Mira was always there for them, no matter what. Great teachers have the ability to inspire but this gift is often squelched in today’s learning environments.

However, I also found myself caught up in the budding on-line romance between Mira and Rand. Their relationship grows from a debate between two antithetical mindsets to a romantic love affair between two brilliant minds. I admired Mira for standing her ground with Rand and not letting him push her around. Mira is one strong woman with an enormous heart coupled with just the right dose of chutzpah and school girl infatuation. I will not go further lest I spoil the ending for all of you who have not yet read the book.

It was by accident, that I stumbled upon this book, much like Mira stumbled upon her relationship with Rand. My own relationship with God faltered a bit after losing both of my parents. Like Mira and Rand, my parents had diametrically opposing views about God which I hadn’t thought much about until I read this book. I do not know how my parents came to terms with this chasm in their relationship but would like to believe that their love for each other was greater than their need to think alike. They accepted each other for who they were, just as Mira and Rand accepted each other. In any event, I feel a bit stronger in my faith after reading this book and will no doubt be re-reading it when I am running low on faith or self-worth.


“Send Save Delete” is an amazingly inspiring work of art. It definitely deserves a place on your bedside table and in every single book club discussion across America. Very few books possess the innate ability to start meaningful and soul-searching conversations about so many different topics.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Paterson to Garret Mountain Thanksgiving 2017

Franklin Mill

Abandoned mill

Water tower

Sunlight on leaves over dry raceway

Leaves in Passaic River

Leaves going over first stage of falls

Chimney

Water from New Street Reservoir

Tank

Barbour pond, low from dredging

Chunky basalt

Tree growing from chunky basalt

sunset

big horse

little horse

stable

sunset

Manhattan skyline

Libby's

streetlight

































Thursday, November 23, 2017

Even Hitler Was Never Alone on Thanksgiving








Those of us who are alone-in-the-universe torment ourselves with this truth: even Hitler had a girlfriend. "Even Hitler had a girlfriend" went on to become a movie and song title.

Well, even Hitler was never alone on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday that writes in unambiguous, boldface type.

Americans circle up with anyone they care about. If you are alone on Thanksgiving, the message is loud and clear: no one cares about you.

I have encountered thousands of people. I have made eye contact. I have shaken hundreds of hands. I have kissed dozens of lips. I have had sex with a few men. I have been related to hundreds, many of them alive today and within a short car ride's distance.

And all, after sampling me, have spat me back out, rejected me, assessed me as not worthy to be friend, not worthy to be family, not worthy to matter.

Those of us who are alone must come to terms with that rejection, that assessment of us as unworthy, as best we can.

Given that life as a human, indeed life on the planet, is so much about human contact – since the bathysphere, even deep-sea peculiarities have been having eyeball-to-eyeball encounters with humans – those of us who are alone, on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays, ask ourselves, what the hell am I doing on planet earth?

My current theory. God is Louis B. Mayer, a Hollywood Golden Age movie mogul. He is directing an epic production. He needs lead characters, stars, the ones who were captain of the football team and cheerleaders, who went on to stay healthy, marry right, and reap large harvests.

And God needed extras. Slaves to build the pyramids and be crushed, maids, the soldiers who caught the enemy's hand grenade while Audie Murphy lived to fight another day.

I'm clearly not one of God's stars. I'm clearly a very expendable extra.

On Thanksgiving, I do feel some human connection. I feel connected to my fellow humans out there who are also alone on Thanksgiving. I don't know who they are or where they are, but some spiritual thread unites us.

I'm looking ahead to Christmas alone and New Year's alone, and then that sigh of relief on January 2nd.

***

When I receive an exceptionally funny, smart or telling email, I save it. During the holiday season, in the dark of the year, as others are off loving and being loved, I reread the past year's messages and understand them in a way that I could never have understood them in the heat and flux, the disappointments and politics of the moment.

Recent years have been challenging. I've been diagnosed with cancer twice, with a chronic illness that may blind me, and that has certainly ravaged my body, and my sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died. I've published a couple of books, and I and millions of others have been hit by two hurricanes, Irene and Sandy, that flooded the building I live in, forced me out at night with none of my belongings, and shut off power.

So I'm now going through years of saved emails.

I'm reacquainting myself with "Ursula." Ursula was smart as a lemon laced papercut, richly cultured, and laugh-out-loud funny. She was in my life, talking up a storm, praising me and cozying up to me, and then she dropped like a rock. I have not heard from her in three years.

Not only did she stop talking to me. She erased her entire Facebook presence. The messages she sent to me have disappeared from my inbox. I only have them because I saved them.

This has happened to me many times on the internet. Suddenly I am someone's best friend forever, and just as suddenly I am second-hand news.  

This is why one must balk when people equate Facebook with the L word.

When someone can use the L word with you and then disappear without a trace, that's not connection. I'm tempted to say it's "narcissism," but that's crueler, more judgmental and more negative than I want to be.

Perhaps a better word: Facebook is a library of humans. The Facebook user picks up a "book" and flips through the pages and moves on to the next.

Someday we'll have a full vocabulary for all of this. We don't yet.

Ursula sent me a private message on December 5, 2013. She told me that she had multiple health, social, and money woes, and that she was suicidal. "I'm blanking for myself," she wrote. The holiday season was making everything worse.

Even in her worst moment, her writing glittered. "I'm blanking for myself." I've never read a better brief description of what it's like to hit a dead-end. She looked at herself, her life, her future, and she came up blank.

She was thinking and talking about methodology. Gun? Blades?

Through snail mail, I sent her a small but heartfelt something that cost me money, something I rarely do, because I assume that anything I can afford to buy for someone else won't be as wonderful as something they can buy for themselves, because everyone has more money than I.

I also gave her my phone number, and asked for hers, and I phoned her. I rarely talk on the phone. This was a big investment for me.

In any case, she disappeared in August, 2014, nine months later.

Oh, she's still alive. I googled her. Just no longer on Facebook. Or talking to me. No idea why.

***

Thanksgiving was a relatively happy day in my childhood home. Aunt Phyllis and her kids would come. My mother would cook two full dinners: a full ham dinner accompanied by all the fixings you'd associate with a ham dinner, and a turkey, with all its fixings, and a panoply of American and Slovak and other Eastern European desserts. Of course I helped her cook. We'd be up till midnight in that tiny kitchen, fluorescent light overhead.

I like cooking so I rarely have to miss foods from my childhood. I helped my mother make them and I've made them ever since.

Except one dish.

Thanksgiving stuffing.

My mother used the classic recipe: celery, onion, bread crumbs, pork sausage, sage, and thyme.

When I tried to recreate it as an adult, I never could. I knew darn well why.

Bread crumbs, in and of themselves, are not all that enticing. What makes stuffing so good? Fat and salt.

I have always been too cautious to add enough fat and salt to make the stuffing my mother used to make. My attempts at stuffing have been so dry and unpalatable that I gave up. Until this year.

"You are alone in the universe and your expiration date approaches. Fat. Salt. What have you got to lose?"

This year I bought a bottom-of-the-barrel, cheap pork sausage. Mostly pork fat. I rendered that down, added the celery and onions to the fat, and made my stuffing.

Witchcraft. It was really good. As good as I remember. After having eaten one serving, I now feel like a lead balloon.

***

I just had a heart stopping moment in this business of looking at years-old emails.

Years ago a man on Facebook called me a "douchebag" because I posted a meditation on my Christian faith. He posted several follow-ups, deriding Christianity as a hoax and faith as a fool's errand.

He was so nasty and dark I had to look him up.

He's now dead. From what I was able to discover online, it looks like he may have committed suicide shortly after that dust-up with me.

And I just cried about this idiot stranger's death.

Look. As dark as things get, I cannot let go of my faith in God. Not "cannot" as "I don't want to." But "cannot" as in I see too much evidence for it.

There is a light in the darkness, and we are not telling the truth if we don't acknowledge that light.

Darkness, darkness, darkness, yes. The darkness of loneliness, poverty, disease, death.

But this.

I wish I could drag that rude, insulting, fat-faced troll back from death and tell him that I care about a man I never met, and that I wish that I had said the right thing to him that would rescue him from his pain and doubt and make him believe, and I know that people I have never met care about me – even if I'm not good enough to be invited for Thanksgiving.

It *is* better to light one candle – to join with the light – than to curse the darkness. To use the excuse of loneliness or whatever bad thing that has happened to you to join with the darkness.

Don't bemoan being alone. Make high fat, high salt stuffing.

That's a light shining in the darkness. No matter what, don't let go of it. Join it.



Saturday, November 18, 2017

Garret Mountain from Paterson's Cotton Mill

 Franklin Mill, 1870, former cotton mill, now an office building

Water tower on McBride Avenue Extension

Flag over Great Falls

Setting sun on Passaic River

Great blue heron on Barbour Pond

Trout stocked

Red tailed hawk

Looking over cliff into Barbour Pond ... without my cane!

Wall around Barbour Pond

Cedar supports on Gazebo

Leaves on ground

Bird's nest

Stables

Sunset over Stables

Fence around horse pasture

Tower

Moss

Roots

Sunset

Franklin Mill at night