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A Title of Truth

Posted by casey on April 29, 2009 in On My Nightstand

img_5636_edited-1Most of the time a title is a bit of a theme statement, something the book is always able to connect to or is trying to.  Every now and then you get a title that makes you wonder where this story could possibly go.  In Dave Eggers’ “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”, that is exactly what you think, even while reading it.  Normally, wondering where a story is taking you is viewed as a negative, but in this winding, nonfiction tale of life, it is enthralling.  The wordy title is in fact perfect and the book itself does not fall short of living up to it.  Dave Eggers truly wrote his heartbreaking story in a genius manner that leaves you staggering.  Yet another recommendation I am thrilled that I took.

The Reviews

“Scathingly perceptive and hysterically funny…Eggers reveals a true and truly broken heart.” People

“AHWOSG never comes on as oppressive or self pitying.  Eggers has instead pitched his tone at an uncommon sort of irony, using it not as a device to keep us at arm’s length but to involve us – to make the story of his life tellable, and thus, somehow, survivable.  Heartbreaking? Certainly.  Staggering?  Yes…and if genius is capturing the universal in a fresh and memorable way, call it that too.” The London Times

“There is a restless energy all over this book…a keen mixture of self-consciousness and hope, of horror and hysteria and freshness and wisdom.” Village Voice

“A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers

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Dave Eggers lost both of his parents to unforgiving diseases in an unimaginable time frame at an age when he should have been attending college parties and cramming for exams.  Instead, he became the main guardian to his elementary aged brother even with having older siblings.  His bluntly honest tale takes you through the first years after his parents’ death as a young man raising an even younger boy as they try and navigate their newly found “freedom” without their parents.  Pizza for breakfast? Sure.  Clear the furniture for sock sliding? Of course.  The key though is staying “under the radar” so to speak – Eggers desperately wants to fit in and make them blend but he equally desires to be separate and distinct because well, he knows that they are just that fan-freaking-tastic. 
 Each day he takes you through further shows how they will not be stopped, how together they will endure and can survive.  Eggers balances a sibling bond with parental responsibilities and what sounds depressing is not once presented that way. Not once.  In fact, while nothing in this book should be humorous, when you take a step back and realize this was his life and all of it did happen, the entire book and its presentation is hilarious.  Chuckling out loud so people stare at you hilarious.  The jokes cannot be explained, or the humor rationalized, you must experience it yourself.  Dave Eggers invites you into his twisted mind that is so obviously grieving and in some pain yet he doesn’t see it like that.  It is his stream of thought and what seems to be every waking thought he has that rambles you through the truth of this life.  You visit various residences, meet the teacher nights, survival scenarios, jobs, baseball games and the frisbee throwing which brings a whole new light to what being confident looks and sounds like.  Yet it is true, and truth these days, is refreshing. 

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The Opener

Do not miss the beginning of the book – “Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book” which really gives you a great introduction to Eggers and his humor.  However, don’t follow Rule # 1 (There is no real need to read the preface.)…you must read the preface because the laughter brought huge, heavy tears.  You simply must read it. Here is a snippet –

“The author would like to acknowledge his propensity to exaggerate.  And his propensity to fib in order to make himself look better, or worse, whichever serves his purpose at the time.  He would also like to acknowledge that no, he is not the only person to ever lose his parents and that he is also not the only person ever to lose his parents and inherit a youngster.  But he would like to point out that he is currently the only such person with a book contract.”

Thought-Starter

“Every day is a world-cleaning sort of revolution, a bloodless one, one more interested in regeneration than any sort of destruction.  Every day we start with a fresh world-or better yet,  each day we start with this world, the one we know, and by nine….ten a.m. we’ve destroyed it.”

Quote-Worthy

“Oh I’m kidding. I kid you.  About being at peace.  This trip is about the fact that things have been much too calm in San Francisco – I am making enough money, Toph is doing well at school – and thus completely intolerable.  I will return home and look for ugly things and chaos.  I want to be shot at, want to fall into a hole, want to be dragged from my car and beaten.  Oh, and also, I have a wedding to go to.”img_5641_edited-1

Disclaimer

I do truly love this book, but I am also well aware that it is not for everyone.  I was warned when recommended it that the first thirty pages were hard to stomach but once you got through them you would be hooked.  I agree.  The dry humor keeps you going, and he says what most are thinking…that being said, in order to appreciate this book, you cannot be offended by his blunt statements and often what you may consider vulgar word choice.  To appreciate the book you must first appreciate its honesty – I found myself looking at Dave Eggers’ picture often as I read which is how I think I reminded myself that his is what he lived through, what he chose to survive and see like this (his own manner of optimism….or severe pessimism…I can’t decide) before he had lived a quarter century on this planet.

Join the Club
One Step Closer to Genius

Read a great book lately?  E-mail any book finds you would like me to check out with my “trained amateur eyes” and review to lifeofthekazmanns@gmail.com

 
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Goin’ Muddin’

Posted by casey on April 28, 2009 in Snapshots

Ready…
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Set….

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Go!!!!!!

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Halfway Under and Still Standing

Posted by casey on April 28, 2009 in Home, Life as I Know It

There haven’t been many times in my life thus far, that I have had to say “It is just the principle of the matter.”  However, I am currently standing on sheer principle as “they” say and while that also has me drowning, I am sticking to it….based on principle.

I personally do not feel there are many things we have that we can truly own and embrace as ours.  Our values and beliefs are a rare rainyskything we for the most part get to choose, and choose to stick to if we so desire.  To me, that falls right in line with the principles you stand for.  These are in a small sense, what makes you, well, YOU.  Maybe that isn’t so much a small sense, but a grand one.  Where will you draw the line?  What do you set your limit as?  Who and what is important to you?  Will you make sacrifices and if so what for?  What and who will you support?

Those are all questions answered based on your values and what you stand for.  I stand for honesty, loyalty and determination.  I believe in working hard and reaping rewards for that work. I believe in finding what you are passionate about in life and allowing yourself to do it.  I value truthfulness, respect, humor and tenacity.   Yes it has proven to be naive, but I truly hope and think that when you show someone these things they will be reciprocate it.  Each time that doesn’t occur I am just as baffled as the first.  (Yes I am one of those likes to see the good and hope for the best in people and yes that sets one up for a lot of disappointment.)

All of that being said I am currently dangling from a high wire of principle and I tell you what, thesimg_4439_edited-1e hands can hang on for a long time.  Yes, it would be easier to “suck it up” and give in regardless, but solely based on principle I am not doing it. Not – This – Time.  I know you can’t go through your life always doing this and if anyone knows that sometimes you have to just deal with it and move on it is me, but this time I can’t do it.  This time I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself for not hanging on a bit longer and trying to turn this thing, at least for me…on principle.  Yes….things can get dirty this way, but if you don’t have what you value and stand for, and if you don’t have your friends, then really, what do you have?

img_4178_edited-1 No I am not going to be more specific (even though I told you Being Specific Was an Art and totally necessary) because right now you don’t need that.  What you do need though is to think about what principles you have that you wouldn’t give in for.   Remember this is your life, so make the choices in every aspect of your life, that you are going to be able to stomach once they are done.  At least try and fight for it…without a fight, you will lose every time.

Right now the water is rushing in and I am halfway under.  But at least I am still standing.  What, or who would you drown for?

 
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The Art of Being Specific

Posted by casey on April 21, 2009 in Home

Okay, here is the thing – we all need to be WAY MORE SPECIFIC!

 How many times have you gotten “upset” (also known as ticked off, pissed, furious, frustrated, roid-rage esque levels) because something wasn’t completed to your specifications?  Then you come to realize (after they blatantly point it out to you) that you never told them those specifics in the first place.  Let me give you an example to paint a clearer picture for you.

“Wait, I swear I told you I wanted you to put the peanut butter away in the pantry, not the refrigerator.”
“Nope, you just said put it away.  So I chose there.”
“Oh right, I just would have put it in the pantry because obviously that is right.” (okay that last part is said to myself, not out loud)

I think I myself need to specify that one, this is a completely made up example of course, two, I have never had roid rage since well steroids just aren’t my thing, and three, I have never gotten furious about peanut butter.  Jelly? Maybe.  Definitely not peanut butter though.  I have meandered again, haven’t I?  The reason I bring this up just does happen to be about peanut butter and jelly though, so you see I actually wasn’t too off topic.  If I had a “Take a Survey” option on here I would, because I would like to know how many of you remember the ‘How to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich’ lesson from elementary school?  You know, write the steps down and then watch your teachers make disastrous PB &J sammies according to your directions?  Well if you don’t remember, I will help you.

pencilFirst, you write the steps down….then you watch your teachers make disastrous PB&J sammies according to your directions. I know I’m a witch (insert your own rhyming word if you so choose) but I couldn’t resist.  Literally though, the kiddies are instructed (after a lesson on sequencing and how putting things in the proper order while being specific arecrucial) to write down a detailed list of instructions on how to make this particularly scrumptious, bring us back to childhood sandwich so that someone who had never seen one before could construct this masterpiece perfectly!  As expected and secretly hoped for, for sheer entertainment value, their steps are always severely lacking in specifics.  My favorite disasters included the

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Get bread. Oh I got it. A whole stinking loaf.  Schmear (not spread or smear, SCHMEAR) peanut butter on one side of the bread.  Oky doky, insert hand into peanut butter jar and start rubbing it on one side of the loaf of bread.  That’s right, over the plastic  package. I mean I was never told to pull two slices out from inside of the bag – just to get the bread and schmear.  Repeat with jelly.  You got it – a beautifully sticky loaf of bread that now has the package rolled onto itself over the bread because you told me to put it together.  I say that qualifies as Failure Numero Uno.

There were a lot of “put the slices of bread together” steps without telling us to make the peanut butter and jelly touch resulting in a ball sandwich, a mismatched corner to make a really creative design sandich, and always with the peanut butter facing up so it got in your hair with each bite.  Yes, we sampled every sandwich we made and No, I do not want a PB & J for ages.  Most kiddos failed to tell us to scoop the ingredients out with the knife resulting in a lot of knives in jars but never being put to use.  However, the best were those that forgot to mention an ingredient altogether giving us paper sandwiches and my personal Failure Favorite of the day….enjoy!

-I am never going to mention spreading the peanut butter or the jelly with a knife.  Just spread it.  Therefore, I used my hand.  However, I also failed to tell you to spread it on bread.  Just spread it.  So I did, on my colleague’s hand.  Peanut butter on one hand, jelly on the other hand.  Take a taste you say?
Okay….this is me, licking peanut butter off of her hand in front of my class. 

Be thankful they are only nine, or they might have thought we were being kinky.  It had to be said…I told Rebecca I would.  You see, the point here is that without the specifics we get really off course which gives us an end result that is definitely less then desirable.  If you want your project bound in a particular order with a black binding, not white, (if you are so particular) be sure and tell the poor schmuck who is doing your labor.  I mean, if you don’t you don’t really have the right to be “upset” when it isn’t how you wanted it.  So, unless we give the specifics or the “deets” (that’s details for you old folks :) ) be prepared for anything and a mess that may resemble something like that below. 

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You never know, you might end up licking your cubicle mate’s hand if you aren’t specific and they could have just come from the restroom….I on the other hand watched her wash them prior to the hand sandwich.  Perfectly sanitary.

 
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New

Posted by casey on April 19, 2009 in Nieces and Nephews Oh My!, Snapshots

New doesn’t even begin to describe my newest nephew.  He is perfect.  He is soft.  He is loved.  He has finally arrived, and yes, he is just so darn new.

Inroducing
Braiden Kazmann
April 16, 2009 at 5:43 a.m.
8 pounds 9 ounces
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Seen here being held by Colter’s dad, Braiden’s Papa at two days old.  Some pictures are just so humbling.

 
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Welcoming Myself

Posted by casey on April 19, 2009 in Home, Life as I Know It

Home 
The very thing that can make us feel confined we can also crave

Lately, I have spent more time away from home than in it, or at least it seems that way.  My rear may have some permanent numb spots from time spent in the car and the overnight bags (which I love using because they all match and just make quite a set if I must say so) never seem to be fully unpacked before they are being stuffed again.  It may just be a late arrival from a refreshing dinner out with friends, or forgetting a worry filled workday with the latest happy hour specials. Regardless, away is away.  I also remember that while many times, pulling into the driveway means the flooding thoughts of various chores that are awaiting my arrival, Today I Craved Home.  Laundry, dog washing, dishes, and even mopping couldn’t deter me, I just wanted to be at home.

That feeling of just not getting to be there enough, the place where you are supposed to relax technically and if nothing else just hang with the dogs.  I began to think of all the things about home that I first see and smell that tell me I am there.  In perfect timing, I saw it.  It being the snapshot of home.  Elaborate???  Fine. During the countless drives home from college, I anxiously wadallasited for this sight, the city, to tell me I had made it.  That I was almost there.  There was something about seeing the Dallas skyline in the distance and watching it approach that always let me truly feel I had conquered yet another trip, the city still waited and home was just around the corner.  While actual home is a little further outside the city than it used to be, Dallas is still Dallas and today I got this beautiful glimpse that filled me with the same comfort it always does.  So I grabbed my camera to share what this sight actually looks like from the car.

I think that obviously we all from time to time, need to be away from home.   Like anything,  if you take time away from it you appreciate its comforts and meaning even more.  After being away I forgot less and less the responsibilities it entails and recalled why it is home in the first place. 
Yes, I have filled my home with the various knick knacks that many women dream of, but I also have worked extremely hard to make those knick knacks meaningful.  Take for example, the stone carving I found of an old tree with the quote “Grow old along with me, the best has yet to be” , or the white statue of a woman and a deer that so resembles my mother.  img_2492There is the “Wall of Fame” of family portraits I have taken lining the upstairs hallway and the steeple clock Grandpa built.  The smell of linen is always there to greet me which is why I will always choose to enter through the wash room…it doesn’t get better than the smell of clean laundry.  Okay, baked goods, fresh flowers and cinnamon candles are right on up there, but I can usually count on it always smelling like fresh, dryer sheet linen.  Then, there is the sound of the dogs collars jingling and their whimpers as they are always so surprised I have arrived and equally relieved they are no longer alone.  They know their routine and run straight to the back door excited to go outside and play only to turn right back around and make sure I am still there to welcome them inside again.  Their enthusiasm really is unmatched.  My home would be so empty without my dogs. Oooooohhhh how about the feeling of crawling into your own bed and pulling the covers all the way up?  That is a good one too.  Almost makes me want to head that way right now.

I love how you just know you are close to home.  Yes, the img_5799_edited-1road signs help…duh, but they way the dogs start shaking and looking at the window because they too know it is near.    So for now, since I have been out and about, busy with life I am again content to simply just be at home.  On the couch. Cleaning.  Sleeping.  Typing.  Any of it, so long as it is at home.  I am sure by 10 a.m. tomorrow I will be ready to be back to it, but the comforts of home really are nice.  (I should try and focus on these instead of the things that make me so antsy to get out of it)  I certainly welcomed myself home today, so, if you have been gone too, Welcome Home.  I hope you were as happy to see it as I was.

 
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Act Your Age

Posted by casey on April 12, 2009 in Snapshots

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Just let your true maturity show…no matter your age. 
You will feel much better.

 
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Egg-Cellent

Posted by casey on April 12, 2009 in Home

img_5374_edited-1  The title may be corny, but a whirlwind weekend has drained me of any wit.  Therefore, I apologize in advance but I did want to make an Easter-ish post.  I’ve said it before and I’m sure it will come up again.  In fact, I am sure I will somehow manage to repeat this on each and every random American holiday.  Holidays were huge in my family.  All of them.  Easter was no exception and our elaborate baskets and egg hunts were planned out for weeks.  I think Easter was the one occasion a year where my mother truly tried to make life hard on us, by hiding our baskets in the sneakiest of secret locations that we hadn’t even noticed with our naive little eyes in our house before.  My brother and I would peek everywhere and tear up closets and shelves, sure that this glorious basket of sugar would be there.  It never was.  We would often find each other’s basket before our own and play the “Ill tell you where yours is if you show me mine.”

This year after a day of random, pointless errand running (Which I do not recommend because it often results in the spending of money on unnecessary goods.),Colter and I stumbled upon the Easter section of World Market and thus our plan for baskets for each other began.  I warned Colter early on that I get excited about these things and start to think outside of the Peep and Cadbury Egg filled box to img_5645_edited-1which he reminded me that he was new to this.  Regardless it was a fun child-like tradition that allowed me for ten seconds to feel a little like a kid as I would get to be the receiver of an Easter Basket for at least one…more…year.  As the nieces and nephews take over, it is entertaining to take yourself back to those child days.  Although, I think the dogs enjoyed searching for the basket more than we did.  Okay fine…placing it in the middle of the yard didn’t exactly hide it, but still.

As I get older and more children continue to join our extended family it brings back each of the traditions and holiday activities that had been stored away in the memory bank for years.   Trying to continue all of them and join each family’s ideas of the holidays is img_5420_edited-1where it gets interesting.  I believe it will be one more challenge for Colter to overcome with the “Orr Family” as he learns more and more of the things that were done for us as kids on the holidays.  Since we did not get a new nephew this weekend (still waiting)I am officially unveiling Cathryn’s Easter portraits instead of those of a new baby.  It has been such a joy for me to be close to Drew and Jess so I can see Cathryn at each stage…where as with JP, it has been a smidge more difficult since he is 3 hours away.  At 8 months old, I spent the day snapping away at my precious niece capturing all of the silliness and grace she already possesses.  If the colors and joy in these pictures doesn’t make you think of Spring, look again.  Here are a few from the many shots of the day.  Happy Easter, pace yourself on the sugar!

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Oh the Suspense

Posted by casey on April 11, 2009 in Home

img_5667_edited-1   This holiday weekend, we are patiently awaiting the arrival of our new nephew via  Jordan and Maddie.  We are filling the time with long walks, loads of pineapple and a million other tricks to help coax this child into joining our world.  It seems he is quite comfortable where he is though.  So we wait…Waiting to most people brings images of sitting around aka “couch time” or  even boredom possibly.  However, what you might have forgotten is that Jordan and Maddie gave us our first nephew JP 18 months ago.  An adorable boy at 18 months old means no sitting, nor boredom and definitely a new image of what waiting looks like.

For this weekend waiting has been helping Jordan and Maddie to squeeze in every last moment of  an only child lifestyle for JP.  You want to be Superman? Got it – Uncle Colter can fly you around.  You want outside? Oky doky let’s go.  Wait now inside? Fine.  Oops, back outside? Sure.  Through the doggy door? Why not? Having two uncles here and his grandfather means there is always someone to throw, kick, or roll a ball with.  He has been living it up and we can only hope that we have exhausted him to the point that he won’t even notice his new brother when he arrives.

Even knowing it could be any minute, Maddie and I have continued to be shocked by the realization that they img_5694_edited-1are about to have two children.  Obviously she is feeling this much more than I, since I actually have nothing to do with it other that “Auntie” duty (and documenting the weekend/event with my sidekick the camera and this lovely blog of course) I think Jordan and Maddie always like to have some underlying drama to the timing of their children’s birth.  You see Maddie was actually due with JP the day before our wedding, and when he didn’t arrive, insisted on still making the trip up to Dallas to support me.  We joked about how about the time I was walking down the aisle, she would most likely be walking up to aisle to the hospital.  No such luck.  JP was born 5 days after the wedding.  It was a great second, suspenseful plot to the day though.  With son #2 it has been the coinciding holiday tomorrow and today, which was Jordan’s birthday.  So far, we have made it.  Contractions? Check.  Enough contractions to do anything about it yet? Nope.  So we played, opened presents and successfully ate cake without numero dos making his entrance. (And so the waiting continues…)

The Easter eggs are stuffed and will be hidden in the yard first thing in the morning…that is if in the next twelve hours we aren’t REALLY waiting the new arrival.  In which case, my job is to still document and then give JP his Easter egg hunt regardless. (who is currently beating my flip flop to smithereens with a plastic bath while rocking out the “one pant leg rolled up” look). Ahhhh the joys of children.  Know what is crazy?  Besides the fact that I am about to be a quarter of a century old (yes I will be reminding you of that for the next 6 months), I am about to be an Auntie to 5 kiddos.  Auntie of 5???  That’s old.

 
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Small Yet Significant

Posted by casey on April 8, 2009 in Snapshots

Remember, something that may look small and simple,

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can in fact when put in the right hands, give you something incredible. 
In this case, one of the most intricately woven patterns of  rhythm you can find.

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One more piece of evidence of why we shouldn’t underestimate the things that seem small and insignificant when they stand alone. 
When magnified and put into play it all becomes significant.  One of life’s many beauties…

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