A Virtual Book Club - What are YOU reading?!

Category: Books Page 2 of 12

Another Book Already?!

Yeah, I usually have a couple books going at once!

One of my husband’s favorite movies is Omega Man and when we saw I Am Legend, we both looked at each other…

“Wait a minute. This movie is familiar.” We looked it up via the blessed web and found out they are both based on the same book, so I added it to my wish list. That was years ago and I’m finally getting to reading it.

Strange that I’m deciding to pick it up now.

A quick bit of research on the book, I found that it was written in 1954, inspiring movies like “Night of the Living Dead,” a personal favorite. I also read that none of the movies follow the book close enough that the author wanted his name on them, so I’m excited to read the differences.

I’m about a hundred pages in and I’m loving it. For an end of the world by virus that mutates humans into vampires, it’s a fun, light read. Since it was written in the 50’s, of course it has references to ending some war with a nuclear bomb. Is that what made the virus?!

I’ve always been a huge fan of zombies, vampires, and end of the world stories, both in books and film. The causes change within each era but the how people deal with the disasters, government reactions, how they try to avoid it, and deal with each other is eerily familiar.

Looking around me now, watching the news, reading the papers, and scanning social media, it makes it a little more upsetting. Little did I know how real those stories could be and how helpful they’d become in dealing with my own world. No, I don’t think this is the end of the world, but it’s fascinating how predictable masses of people can be and it’s all right there in the stories.

Life imitates art or vice versa?

New Read – “A Literary Education”

Some of My Friends

It happened again. I forgot why I put this book on my wishlist. I need a better system. Or do I? Does it really matter where I got the recommendation? I suppose not. I’ve learned to trust my list. It’s there for a reason, so I buy them when I can.

As I sat down to read, I remembered; my mother-in-law had recently shared an article with me that she thought I’d enjoy. We’ve lived together for 18 years and the woman knows me well. She had pulled it out of a magazine and brought it over to me, old school sharing. There is something awesome about that. I have it still sitting on my desk. What do I do with it now? Share it with someone else maybe? By mail? Before the internet, I had a folder of pulled articles like that, some photo-copied and sent from friends and relatives.

“A distinction needs to be made between solitude and loneliness. One chooses solitude, one is afflicted by loneliness.” Alone Again (Unnaturally) by Joseph Epstein – National Review

My favorite line from that article was, “Proust notes that books have over friends that you can call upon them only when you wish and dismiss them at your discretion. Proust also felt that reading could be an aid to solitude, especially to the indolent mind that is unable to think in solitude but requires rubbing up against, through the stimulus of reading, a finer mind than itself.”

Long before all this “social distancing” stuff, I always had a hard time navigating the social world. The past six months has made that much worse. I feel like I simply don’t fit in, not for any specific reason, just in my head more than anything else. But yet I crave conversation, that back and forth with another thinking human. On a weekly basis I cycle through, “I need solitude to think. Thank you, world!” to “But I want to sit in a coffee shop with friends or join a writer’s group!” to “Screw it. People suck!” Books have been my compromise, the “rubbing up against” that I need to spark my own thinking. Books ask for so little in return and they never get in my way, despite how my family feels about the bookcases.

Reading the article, I suddenly felt less lonely and far more secure in my solitude. I immediately went online to look for the author. Maybe he has a website. What else has he written? I love the internet, and especially Amazon, but I found myself longing for a well-stocked bookstore where I could thumb through and pick out the book I liked best, maybe get a cup of coffee and talk to a person…there I go again. I picked this one mostly because of its title. “A Literary Education” is what I’ve been working on for the past ten years.

Do you read the introductions to books? For fiction, I don’t want someone else’s thoughts to color my reaction to a story. Sometimes, I’ll go back and read it though. For non-fiction, or collections, I generally do read them…unless it’s boring!

Last Friday, I really wanted to chill and read my new book, so I went around the house looking for a spot. I’m easily distracted, so I need a very quiet space to read and that is hard to find in the afternoon in a small house with four adults. My husband was still working in our room. My younger son was in his room working on his college classes. And my older son was doing some research on the computer in the livingroom. The perfect scenario!

I gathered my book, glasses, notebook, and a cup of tea and settled myself into my favorite spot on the couch. It was glorious. Right from the start I knew I had the perfect book in my hands.

“Initially my essay collections were divided between what I thought of as literary essays and familiar essays; the former were essays about other writers, the latter about the world at large, or at least those things in it that captured my fancy at the time.”

…drops pencil…what the…other people write about these things?!

There are times when I wonder what the point of my blog is. Ok…I’ll admit…most times I feel that way. But then I come around to, I write about what I like to write about, what I find interesting, and because it makes me happy. I don’t look for and write to a specific audience. I write my point of view, my opinions, my thinking, in the hope that someone out there might want to hear it.

I kept reading for over an hour, smiling and nodding, tearing up and underlining pieces that spoke directly to my poor little writer heart. When my time was up, I marked my place, closed the book, and went off to get dinner started feeling on top of the world. I’d found encouragement to keep working, keep reading, and to keep writing and I wasn’t even looking for it.

Once again, my “follow the trail wherever it leads” way of living has paid off big time. I can’t wait to read more of these essays. And the world will be reading mine as well. I’m not lonely, I’m in solitude, quietly working away in the background building worlds to share.

Mind Over Mood

Confession: I love self-help books and videos, especially workbooks.

I started reading this yesterday afternoon in the hopes of getting some help for myself. I’ve taken anti-depressants in the past, had some small semblance of counseling, but in the long run nothing helped but time. Stresses change, kids grow up, relocation; time changes the situations but not my thinking. For a long time, I honestly thought I had changed. I had cured myself, all I needed was some time and space to breathe.

But here we are. And I’m not ok. I don’t deal with stress well at all and I can easily spiral out of control, creating a vortex of depressive thoughts that spin into a storm of angry chaos, destroying everything around me, leaving behind only those strong enough to weather the storm. It’s not fun for me and it’s hardly fair to my friends and family. Something needs to change.

I learned about cognitive behavior therapy years ago and only recently felt pulled toward trying it. Yes, I know…I should probably talk to a therapist too, but if you know me at all you’ll know that just won’t work. I’m a “do it myself” kind of girl! Besides, all they are going to do is say what’s in these books and I can read in the comfort of my own home. They’d also ask questions…which is why this book is awesome. It’s a workbook!

For the foreseeable future, I’ll be spending thirty minutes a day in this book. I intend to read and then sit reflectively with the workbook pages alone.

Yesterday when I pulled the book off the shelf, I flipped it open and found the first chapter is called, “Understanding Your Problems.” I laughed and showed my son as he walked by. That’s when we both laughed. “You’re going to be in that chapter a long time, Mom.”

The fact that my sons are open about reminding me how crazy and confused I am, leads me to believe I can be saved. I may be a bit “touched in the head” but they love me.

I’ll be posting about my progress as I go. Maybe this book will help you, too!

“I Am Enough” Book

This was one of those books I had to add to my Amazon wishlist because I heard her interviewed on a podcast on one of my drives into the city. And, as usual, I can’t remember which podcast! When will I ever learn to write these things down? Probably never. Free-range brain, I guess.

I loved the interview. Her ideas about retraining your mind to focus on positive thoughts seemed like something I could really use, so as soon as I got home, I looked up her book.

I’m taking it in small doses, trying to let the ideas sink in. So far there are some good ones. I’ll be posting my favorites on my Instagram as I go along.

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all my adult life and most of it is because somehow along the way, I got the idea that I need someone to acknowledge what I’m doing and express their approval verbally at every turn. If they do, then I know I’m doing “right” and “good.” If they don’t I must be failing somehow and scramble to fix my behavior.

What if I only worried about what was making me happy? What if I was satisfied with what I was doing and accomplishing? What if I were enough for MYSELF?

That’s what I’m hoping to learn. This book seems like a good start down that road.

Sharing the Excitement of Discovery

I’m going to admit right now that I know nothing about Henry Ford other than “Model T” and “assembly line.” I’m about 50 pages in right now and I’m learning a lot.

The turn of the century…wait, we can’t use that with any clarity anymore! Umm…circa 1900? Turn of the last century? Late 19th, early 20th century?

Anyway, you know what I mean by now! Well, that era in US history hasn’t pulled much of my interest. We didn’t learn it in school, did we? In my memory, high school history goes from the Civil War and then jumps to the Roaring 20’s and then dives a bit into the Depression. 1850’s to 1920’s is a big gap. Did nothing happen?

Turns out a lot of things happened, a lot of things that were a result of the changes in our government brought on by the actions during the Civil War, among other things. And guess what else? Things were happening all over the world too, not just in the United States! Shit. I just now, like as I typed this, realized the Russian Revolution was happening. Wow.

You see, that’s why I like writing these. If I just read and take notes, it all goes in one ear and out the other…or maybe in my eyes in this case, but then where does it come out? Never mind.

What I’m trying to say is that this blog probably helps me more than it entertains and amazes you. For the past six months or so, I was only posting the picture of the book I’m reading on Instagram and then using it as a background for any quotes I thought were interesting to share. Those were automatically being shared to my personal Facebook page, but it turns out that only about four of my friends (one is my Dad, another is my husband, so really two or three actual friends) give a flying crap about any books, let alone the non-fiction that I love to read.

And here’s the interesting thing I learned from that experiment: just because no one I know likes to read and talk about books, doesn’t mean no one in the world does. It doesn’t mean that I’m alone in this world. And it doesn’t mean my excitement about the things I find is invalid and that I should keep it to myself. I just need to find new readers!

So, I changed things up again and made myself a new blogger page on Facebook. I still post the book pictures and quotes to IG but now it’s also shared to Facebook and anyone in the world can follow me there. Since some people just like the pictures and some like to read more, I’m also sitting down to write a bit more thoughtfully about the pictures and quotes I post each day and then sharing it here on my blog.

This daily post, now that I’m getting the hang of it, makes me think in one direction for at least thirty minutes a day and it is beginning to be the next best thing to talking it out in an in-person group of readers (something I couldn’t find BC and is now…well…next to impossible). I guess I’ll just have to keep tapping away here. Like sending messages in a bottle, someone is bound to come along and find it eventually. Hopefully, I’ll still be alive when they do, and we can share a drink together and chat!

The Old Man and The Sea

Am I too far from the sea to read this?

I usually have several quotes to share about a book I’m reading: things that struck me, bits I want to remember or that brings me to some idea I want to expand on, possibly not even related to the book itself but to a bigger thought…but not this time.

This time it was more about the story. There wasn’t much to pull out of it in pieces. It was more of a feeling. Reading it, I could feel myself swept away to sea, pulled by the story instead of a fish. Like the old man, I have nothing to sell at the end of the adventure, but I do have scars to show.

What happens to him next? Does he end up dying? Going out again? Why did he follow such a big fish and what could he have done differently?

I do have one piece to pull out of the story to save for later.

“Luck is a thing that comes in many forms and who can recognize her?”

Sometimes we see something and think…that was lucky…only to find later that it was not. Other times we pray for our luck to change when, in the long run, what’s happening is the luck we were looking for. It reminds me to take what comes and see what happens instead of wishing for a change.

But It’s My Right!

In all things.

In a perfect world, this would be a beautiful mantra to live by. But what about in this world? Can we live this way in a world where scarcity actually exists? Where we are bombarded with the worry that if we don’t take all we can, someone else will and we’ll be left with nothing?

I believe we can.

In many aspects of our lives, scarcity is real. We have a limited amount of time and energy, for one thing. I may have the means to visit every state in the union, but I only have so many days in my life. Most of us have a limited supply of money, everyone but the federal government that is. They seem to be able to keep printing new dollars every day with no recourse whatsoever.

Wait… Let’s stick to things we can do something about, like our own attitudes and actions.

There are things in our world that are only believed to be scarce and those are things we can work with. Love is one. Compassion. Empathy. Care. These are things that we can give infinitely, but should we take more than we need? Can I take too much love from others?

Yes. I can demand their attention, insist they love only me or give them hell for not giving me the affection I want. I think it is better to accept what they give voluntarily and learn to meet my own needs instead of insisting that others fill them.

Come to think of it, it may even work for scarce items like food and water. I may need a certain amount of water to survive and I could hoard it because I need it and live longer. But I could also choose to show compassion and share what I have, allowing others to do the same for me…or not. My life may be shorter, but it may also be more fulfilling.

This all sounds like bullshit. I’m dancing around an idea that I can’t quite put my finger on. What am I responding to? What am I really trying to say?

A friend suggested that since someone’s hours were cut back at work, that they should apply for unemployment. I was at a loss for words to express why I was so offended by the idea. In this instance, there was simply no need for more money, but that didn’t seem to matter. He had a right to more and should take it. I just don’t agree with that at all.

Hours later, driving in silence (which is one of the ways I really find time to think) the idea of scarcity came to me. Why do we scrabble for more, hoard it all up as if someone might take it from us? Why do we sit on our possessions like a fire-breathing dragon? My money. My things. My family. Mine!

I’m guilty of it myself. I have plenty. I could be giving more to help those that don’t. But again and again, I feel like I’m being taken advantage of. I’m already caring for my family and friends as best that I can. You all voted to take my earnings from me before I could spend it and give it to programs that help people…and it never seems to be enough. You wanted the government to do it with force and now you want me to give more voluntarily? I feel used and angry, like a child forced to share a precious toy before they were ready. You try to teach a lesson and end up creating monsters. Live with this monster you’ve created!

This scarcity thing, the use of force by vote, and the “it’s my right” idea, that’s what is bothering me and I can’t seem to put my finger on how to express it clearly.

Dreams

You are the hero and your
mentor/gaurdian is inside you.

A while back…when I had more time to think…I thought, “Maybe I should post these to my blog as well and maybe elaborate just a tad.” And then I forgot because there were pretzels to make, a garage to paint, and my son needed me to listen.

I thought of it a second time, but got caught up in how I should, if I should, and then…well…I’m already in the middle of this book, so I’ll wait until I start a new one. It would take too much time right now to go back and catch up. Then I forgot about the idea when I started a new book.

Today…I’m starting where I am.

I’m having a lot of dreams lately, as I have in the past, but they’ve changed focus. It dawned on me in the shower this morning (as things usually do) that they are “accommodating” dreams. Making room for things and people, ideas and concepts.

The work continues.

THIS is Why I Drink – Episode 1

Earlier this week I read an article in the paper that made me think, “THIS is why I drink!” I laughed (LOL’d you might even say) and thought to myself, I should write a blog post with that title. I even went so far as to laughingly post the thought to my Facebook page and my “friends” and I had a good chuckle over it.

This morning I had the thought again. What if I did? An assignment, even one assigned by myself, helps me to be a bit more productive sometimes. That’s it! No more rationalizing needed. I’m doing it!

And now, my friends, I bring you, the first episode of “THIS is Why I Drink,” a short, hopefully at least mildly humorous, post about the one (or two) things this week that have driven me to drink yet again.

On the docket this week, my neighbors. Not my actual neighbors, the ones that live on my street or the ones that come over for drinks, but the wider circle. The people in general that live in my town and surrounding area. Here’s what set me off.

I’ve been avoiding Facebook. I was about to say “like the plague” but now that everyone has come to a consensus we are in one and are acting accordingly, I should say I’m not going quite that far. I have been limiting my exposure though. The fear-based dumb-assery I started to find among the groups I belonged to and my acquaintances from past lives started spreading like wildfire once the plague landed here in the US. To be completely honest, I’ve been more afraid of people than the virus since the first weeks of the shutdown.

But, you know what they say…

And since I can’t control what the rest of the world does, I took control of what I do and took a big step back from social media for awhile. I must say, it helped my mental health tremendously.

But this week, as I took my quick daily scan of my closest friends and family, a suggested group popped up and I clicked it. Like a fool, I ran my socially thirsty eyes over a few posts to see what the tone of the group was and that’s when I saw it.

It was a question from someone asking what are some good sights to see around the area since they’d be taking a drive up over the next week. The comments were overwhelmingly hostile and I was (again) embarrassed that I live here.

There were many very aggressive and nasty comments ranging from “Stay home you piece of trash.” To “Why would you come here and spread your filth to us?” But the one that really struck me was, “We moved out here to get away from you people.”

Did you now? That’s very odd. I mean, it is a desert town outside of the city, yes, but it is also a town outside a large National Park. So, I’m not sure if that really constitutes, “getting away from people.” Yes, our homes are further apart for the most part. We don’t have a big movie theater or mall, but we do have the only Walmart in a 50 mile radius.

The town is here mostly because of the Marine Base and the National Park. It is definitely a smaller rural town, but if you wanted to get away from tourists, visitors just passing through, this is NOT the place to live. Our economy depends on those people on their way to see the park and/or to go camping.

So that was the moment, this week, that I closed what I was reading and sighed to myself, “This is why I drink.”

If I simply could not ignore a question like this, because I was truly afraid of the spread of the virus and couldn’t mind my own business…wait, that’s the thing right there! If I were so terrified of the spread, I would be at home so it wouldn’t matter one wit if a tourist came out to my town, so I would mind my own business.

But if I were somehow forced to comment, I would have tried a more positive approach. Like, “A lot of things are closed in town right now because of the shutdown. There are only drive-thru restaurants, no place to stop and use the bathroom, and it’s very hot, like over 100 degrees by 11 am. I’d suggest bringing a car picnic and doing an air-conditioned drive-through of the park or the deeper deserts. You could see the town, make plans for better times, or go see the wide-open spaces. This is a gorgeous place to hike the rest of the year though! Here are some links to my favorite places!”

But no, my lovely neighbors were hostile and nasty. It was not only disheartening, it was scary to see such vehemence from over 150 people in a few short hours.

And so…I drink. Bottoms up, everyone! Fear is in the air and it sure makes people do some ugly things!

DO get out and enjoy the sunshine as much as you can. Of course, try to maximize physical space, minimize contact with strangers, wash your hands, and most of all be kind to each other. We’re all having a rough time and we’re all doing the best we can with what we have.

I worried myself silly about sharing these thoughts with you here on my blog. I know you don’t need more negativity in the world, but you know what? No one is always roses and sunshine dust and that includes me. Now, don’t worry. This will only be a once a week rant style post. Some of them will be lighter than others. And I promise to balance it out with another weekly assignment at the beginning of the week called, “Why She Gets Up In The Morning!”

Disputes Over Ideas – Confusion of Language

Once again, the more I read about it, the more I see the similarities. Our current situation isn’t unprecedented. The end isn’t written in stone though. We could end up in a different place, as we have many other times when unrest began.

I finished watching “Trotsky” on Netflix yesterday and was out watering my trees this morning. I don’t have sprinklers. I like taking half an hour early each morning and inspecting the property while I water; a tree needs trimming, a shrub needs to be shored up, etc. It’s relaxing and meditative too. I get a chance to take a good look at what I have around me.

It’s early when I water in the summer, usually about an hour after the sun comes up. I’ve already been up for a couple of hours, reading and journaling. I’ve gone for a walk or done my yoga practice for the day.  I’m starting to get hungry for breakfast. And I’m thinking quietly, without other voices.

Today I was thinking about the book I’m reading, “A People’s Tragedy,” and the Netflix show “Trotsky.” And that led me to what I discovered about George Orwell. Well…maybe I didn’t “discover” it. I’d heard that he was a Democratic Socialist before, but when I read his books I assumed he had changed his mind and was writing to denounce it because that’s what I got from the stories. It turns out he was lamenting that the political philosophy was hijacked by thugs and ruined.

I’m getting the same feeling from the book and show today. The author of the book and the producers of the show have obvious sympathy for socialism. They are building up the benefits and positives, which they are correct about, and then showing why it failed and that it wasn’t the socialism/communism/or Marxism, that was the problem. It was bad humans.

The strange thing is what I’ve noticed about where my mind goes with the same information. I read what happened and I think, “That’s why it doesn’t work because of bad humans.” From what I’ve learned, all I see is an opening for bad people to do very bad things. Their system of government would lead to some wonderful things if we lived in a perfect world. But we don’t. And so far, it’s always ended in so much death and destruction.

I’m still studying and I’m learning a lot. I’d like to find more books about the history of Marxism and what evolved from it over the last 100 years. I’d also like to learn more about the democratic socialist movement we have today in the United States. I won’t say I’m looking for unbiased information. I don’t think that exists, but I would like to find several points of view.

A side note, I’ve tried discussing things like this on social media with friends, but it seems to me that we are all coming from different corners and we all have different definitions for words and phrases. It’s like we attempted to build a tower to reach the heavens and have been afflicted with the confusion of language, a “Tower of Babel” story. Each time I make an attempt, I’m baffled by people’s reactions and have to retreat.

Maybe it’s better to have discussions in smaller groups, so that we all have the chance to actually be heard. When I post a topic, everyone comes running at me from every direction. Friend A comments and before I can answer them, Friend B and C join in and then Friend D comes throwing insults to Friend A, replying to him instead of my post. Ugg. It’s anarchy and completely pointless.

The privacy of speaking instead of publicly writing would probably help too. Just because I commented on something or posted it, doesn’t mean it’s gospel. We seem to have lost the concept of batting around ideas and discussing things openly. We’re all making statements and defending our stances more than attempting to understand each other.

Instead, I simply post a picture of my cat. Sometimes we can agree that he’s cute and fuzzy, but then there’s always that one person that doesn’t like cats, the one that heard cats are evil and I’m evil for having it as a familiar, the one that wants to save them all from destruction and used by cults, and the one that thinks it’s just mean to keep one as a pet. Sigh.

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