Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On Gratitude

The holiday of Thanksgiving has taken on different connotations over the years, anything from an annual family reunion to an excuse to over-eat to "that day before Black Friday." However, at its core, Thanksgiving is a four-day weekend dedicated to gratitude.

On the whole, it's not in human nature to feel gratitude on a regular basis. (I am not referring to feelings towards helpful individuals or in case of a particularly lucky turn of events, but a diffuse sense of "I have it pretty good. Thank you, world, for treating me well.") It makes sense, in terms of our survival needs, to focus on the problems, on what is lacking. When afflicted with a toothache, we don't feel happy for having a healthy heart--we run to the dentist. When the roof is leaking, we don't appreciate that fact that at least we are not homeless--we concentrate on getting it fixed. All proper reactions, of course, but as we run from one problem to the next, do we tend to acquire the sense that it's ALL that life is about?

At best, the sense of permanent dissatisfaction drives us to achievement, self-improvement and, occasionally, greatness. Too often, though, we forget to focus on what is not broken, on parts of our world that did work out just right, on little moments of joy and grace. And in failing to recognize the good stuff, we become the poorer for it.

Fortunately, we do get this special weekend in November. To slow down, to look at what we do have, to spend time with loved ones and yes, even remember the good times we've had with those lost to us. Life's little (and not-so-little) problems will still be there on Monday. These few days are ours to enjoy. Let's make the best of the opportunity.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hi and Welcome!

Welcome to the Musings, a magical place where books rule and nerds don't drool. (However, salivation over anticipated new releases is expected and encouraged. Just keep it off the furniture.)

As you might have guessed, my name is Marina (Masha is my family nickname and Google handle). I was born and raised in the former USSR and read my first book at the age of three. It think was something about a bird, but don't hold me to it. The important thing was, I got hooked and never looked back.

I like to call myself an "American by choice," but as much as I had wished to live in the U.S., the choice, and the sacrifices that came with it, were my parent's alone. They gave up their home, careers and comfort to make sure I would live in freedom. In December of 1987, I took my first steps on American soil and fell in love with my new country with the intensity that can only be understood by religious converts.

I love the American people--the way they move; the way they smile at strangers; the way they say "thank you" for the smallest favor; the way they constantly find excuses to celebrate and enjoy life. Some might point out that the country is not what it once was, that there are hardships and problems, both current and on the horizon. No matter. From where I stand, the idea of America, the constant striving towards happiness and greatness is still alive and not going anywhere.

That brings me back to culture in general and storytelling in particular. The best way I can think of repaying my new home country for her hospitality is to help support art, especially literature, that celebrates all that makes America special to so many around the world. If you share my desire, or just looking for a different book-related place to hang out, come on over and let's have some fun.