Saturday, January 7, 2012

Above Suspicion

I've been re-reading all my Helen MacInnes spy thrillers, beginning with the very earliest, published in 1941. This author has a way of weaving ordinary characters into history, helping us see events like World War II the way it was experienced by those who were slammed by it. It was a time of great wrongs and savageries, but it was also a time of courage and honor. Yes, there's danger, and action, and lots of plotting in between. Her political sense is astute, believable, and even prescient. Even though, at the time, MacInnes lived in New York, she had a deep understanding of the situation in Europe. This was partly due to what she had observed and experienced first hand as she and her college professor husband traveled extensively throughout Europe in the years leading up to the war. It was also due to her husband's involvement with the British Intelligence Center in New York. A brilliant scholar himself, he encouraged his wife to write and supported her almost instant successes.

After the war there were other intrigues to chronicle. I've followed MacInnes through The Communist takeover of Eastern Europe, the Cold War, and the stirrings of a New World Order based on finance and funded by sordid drug cartels. It always leaves me wondering if her later research and writing will prove as prophetic as the first.

MacInnes's first novel, Above Suspicion, was set in 1939, It follows the adventures of a college professor and his wife as they are asked to add a little intrigue to what they feel may be their last vacation in Europe before the war breaks out. Their job is simple: follow a path from one embedded contact to another and make sure there is a reliable message chain in order, that the Allied information "at the top" has not been compromised. I started it before I went to sleep last Friday night, and finished it...well before I went to sleep last Friday night...or was it early Saturday morning. I don't know. It was just hard to put down until it was over--all that suspense.

And in addition to that, there's an appreciation of integrity, of character in her heroes.  I find myself re-reading sentences like these:

"There's nothing like self-pity for thoroughly dissipating a man, and when a nation indulges in that luxury, it finds itself with a dictator."

  "Courage. Courage. It's the only real weapon we've got. A man can win when he still has his courage."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Resolutions Do Work Sometimes or...A New Me

 I resolve, I decide, I commit
 When the old year is over, that's it.
 Everything will be new
 I'll be changed through and through
 If I only can live what I've writ!

I took a peek at last years resolutions, just to see if I had managed to follow through. Surprisingly enough, I did better than I expected. Alright, I did set them really low, but it worked.

I wanted to lose ten pounds. I lost forty.
No, it wasn't easy. It was difficult to write down every calorie and avoid sugar, but I had also talked Turtle into doing this diet thing together, and the incentive of having to be accountable to each other helped both of us. On days I felt like giving up, he didn't, and vice versa. I also prayed a lot. You could say I was determined, but needed help.

The good thing is, I feel better! I look better! I don't have to take my high blood pressure medicine anymore. The bad thing is the knowledge that I will have to eat this way for the rest of my life to keep the weight down...or start running marathons. Hmmm. If I only had younger knees...Nah. No marathons for me. I'll just keep dieting, thank you much. At least I no longer crave as much food.
I had to come to this realization: If you weigh 120 pounds, you only have to eat enough to support that weight--roughly 1200 calories a day. If you eat enough to support a 150-pounder, 1500 calories a day, you will soon weigh that much. Alas. The flip side is this: Eat enough for the weight you want to be and you will reach that weight. It might take a year but it is worth it.

Ok. Enough bragging about successes. Now it's confession time. My other resolution was to organize my house--every drawer, every closet, every cranny and nook. I tried. I did organize most of the drawers and closets, but the nooks and crannies were my nemesis.

This year. This year, I'll tackle them all: the attic, the cellar, and the (shudder) cabinet full of old photos, cassette tapes,  and floppy discs. Yikes. Do you think I'm overreaching?