A Man Called …

There’s a book you may have heard of in recent years. It’s called A Man Called Ove and it was a worldwide bestseller.

The main character is a fellow named Ove who has known heartbreaking tragedy and who is getting on in age. He recognizes, as many of us do at a certain time in life, that the world has left him behind.

The book was written by Swedish author Frederik Backman. Published in 2012, it has been on my reading list for nearly a decade. A Swedish movie was made a few years ago. Last year, every time I went to the movies, there was a preview for a new American version that looked really good.

It opened nationwide earlier this month so I had to hustle to read the book first.

The book was one of the best I have read in the last two years. It was actually exactly what I needed. Ove’s character and his motives are layered and complex. His actions, while foreign and misunderstood by many around him, made perfect sense to me.

The story is told from his perspective so you get tremendous insight into the man. I laughed out loud in many places and found others quite sobering.

You get less of that with the new movie. Tom Hanks does a nice job translating Ove to the big screen as he stars in A Man Called Otto. Don’t ask. I have no clue why they changed the name. Regardless of what you call the character, the film shows some of the complexities of the man. It mixes the bad with the terrible, the funny with the cranky and the good that is this man. It’s not as funny as the previews might suggest. I did laugh. It is amusing but I felt like whoever made that trailer didn’t see the entire movie or understand the point.

Two days later, I was able to see the original film, the Swedish made A Man Called Ove which requires subtitles since I don’t understand the language.

I thoroughly enjoyed this rendition as well. It could be the subtitles throwing me off but this Ove doesn’t come off as complex as he is simply angry. All the same, actor Rolf Lassgård gives a great performance and I enjoyed this one too. You should see it as well.

It got me thinking about life and temperament and how we manage the things life sends our way. It’s rarely all good or all bad. If you take someone else’s interpretation of a story as fact, you’ll get the things they want you to know or consider.

If you get the whole story, in this case the book version, you’ll find much more detail and opportunities to judge for yourself. As much as I enjoyed both movies, I’ll take the book any day. In fact, read it first and I promise you’ll better appreciate both movies.

Leave Every Day

Leave every day better than you found it.

Sometimes the best advice is the kind you find along the way while out roaming. This picture was snapped while out roving the mean streets of New York. Be nice to cashiers. Smile at strangers. Help an elderly person with that case of water they’re trying to wrestle into their cart.

Treat yourself kindly, take a walk, pick up some litter and do what you can to leave the world a better place than you found it.

It’s a rewarding way to live.

Gratitude

This has been a challenging week on a number of levels. When things turn difficult, I try to be mindful of the good in my life. After all, negativity breeds more negativity and it’s easy to become so focused on the bad that you can see nothing else. Gratitude is a key to happiness.

Here are some things I’m grateful for today:

1. It’s Friday and it’s a long weekend for some of us here in the US.

2. I have plans to see my cousin this weekend. Before starting my No Spend Challenge, I decided to give myself a budget for a movie and lunch out because I have been that excited to see the new Tom Hanks movie. We will walk in the sunshine, see the movie and have a bite somewhere.

3. I’m reading a really good book right now. A Man Called Ove is actually the basis for the movie I’m going to see. The curmudgeonly hero is quite relatable.

4. I spent last night doing fun chores including some decluttering and styling shelves with things I already owned. Decluttering doesn’t equate drudgery and can actually be fun!

5. Season three of All Creatures Great and Small on PBS began Sunday night. It’s a short season of just seven episodes but for those seven weeks I have a reason to look forward to Sunday night. If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend starting with season one. It’s the best thing on tv right now.

6. I have a roof over my head and can afford to buy groceries. Many people are not so fortunate right now.

7. Adventure season is just around the corner and I think there will be some good ones this year.

8. Pictures are a return ticket to places and people we want to remember. The above picture is from a rainy Saturday in NYC. The below picture was sent to me by a cousin this week. That’s me with my parents in 1977. What an angry baby! Looks like I could have benefited from some gratitude way back then!

9. My cat likes me and has spent as much time with me as possible this week. He is a sweetheart.

This is not the full list but these are the highlights. What are you grateful for today?

That’s The Thing About Distance

This bridge in Central Park is pretty from a distance and looks especially nice in this setting. Get a little closer and you’ll notice some interesting details. Here’s a better look.

And another.

From a distance it just looks like a pretty white bridge. Come a little closer and you’ll see it’s intricacies. The patina is nice too. It is weathered and a little flawed. It’s the wear and all those small bits of detail that make the bridge truly interesting and beautiful.

That’s the thing about judging from afar. You don’t know what you don’t know and the most impressive qualities are often only found up close. The most interesting parts of character are often the worn and flawed parts.

That’s true of pretty white bridges and of people too. Distance can be deceiving. The next time you decide to judge, you might get in for a closer look. You might like the subject matter less or you may find it has a certain je ne sais quoi!

Reflections In Lights And Death

A man I know passed away last week after bravely battling a terrible illness. I met Tom in 2020 when I joined the local Educational Service Center board and we became colleagues.

He was always quick with a joke, eager to put a newcomer at ease, and a smart man who was respectful of others. He liked to travel and learn. His wife Fannie also attends our meetings and is a kind soul. The two seemed perfectly matched.

But that’s the end of what I knew about Tom till I read his obituary and learned things that made me wish I had asked more questions while he was living.

Tom was a fan of lifelong learning, a Scout leader and a Sunday school teacher. He was a longtime Civil War reenactor and lifelong history buff. He enjoyed the outdoors, gardening and yard sales. Tom was an inventor who made an ice cream machine that operated by pedaling a bicycle. He even built a 1965 Plymouth from the frame up.

I always liked Tom but had no idea he was such a character. Old photos in a slideshow projected on the wall played while we waited in line. If I didn’t know it by then, it was clear that Tom packed as much living into his life as he possibly could.

I had a newfound appreciation for Tom’s zest for life.

It made me a little sad to think of all the great learning I missed out on because I knew none of this. Of course, when getting to know someone, you don’t know what you don’t know and have to rely on them to give you some clues. I suppose that’s why we often learn so much about people from their obituaries.

As I looked at Tom’s wife and son, their family and so many friends lined up to say farewell, I started thinking about how Tom left a mark on us all. Every person there knew Tom for a different reason and everyone had different stories to share. Every one of us is richer for knowing him.

Later in the evening I strolled through the holiday lights at the Gallipolis City Park and stopped to visit the war memorial. I’m typically so taken with the statue above me that I fail to notice much else.

But on this night I saw the face of the soldier reflected in the marble wall of names below. It made me pause.

It occurred to me that something of Tom is reflected in everyone fortunate to know him. It’s nice to think that humans can live on through the influences we have on others. I won’t soon forget Tom or the lessons learned during the brief time we knew each other.

One of those lessons is to do a better job listening and paying attention so I can learn something I never knew I wanted to know.

Preserving Food And Memories

This image comes from my whirlwind trip to Ohio’s Amish Country this fall. The Farm At Walnut Creek is a working farm where you can see people farming, cooking and handling animals. Inside the house, the basement kitchen was a bustling place during my visit.

My nose led me inside to purchase warm loaves of homemade bread but I lingered a while to observe their activity. I enjoyed listening to the ladies speak to one another in their Pennsylvania Dutch and watched as they toiled about their work.

But the thing I liked best here was this wall of homemade canned goods.

Both of my grandmothers canned vegetables, fruits and meats – most of it stuff they raised themselves. This activity was common for their generation but it’s increasingly rare to hear people talk about canning today.

I’m all for the old ways but, if I can’t freeze it, I am not going to mess with it.

Yet, I have fond memories of green beans, homemade pickles and fresh grape juice canned to enjoy another day.

The mere sight of all those rows of canned goodies was enough to take me back to the sweltering kitchens of my childhood. It was here that food was prepared and giant pots of boiling water were used to vacuum seal dozens of lids on jars for another day.

It’s both a survival tool and an act optimism that you will indeed survive the seasons long enough to enjoy all that good food. I would love to announce that canning will be my next new hobby. But, as long as I have freezer space and a supply of ziplock bags, this will not be the case.

Instead, I’ll just enjoy the picture and the memories of green beans on a cold winter day.