Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: reader Page 1 of 3

That Time of Year Has Come!

It’s that time of year again. When we all come together and compare note about what we read last year! Right?!

Anyone?

Beuller?

Well, I know I do. I get a nice cup of coffee, gather my notebooks and logs, a pen and paper, and then sit for hours looking over what I read and compare my stats to previous years. It’s an annual New Year’s Day tradition!

This year though, I was a little depressed at first. I read fewer books this past year, spent fewer hours reading, and read fewer pages! I could have sworn those numbers would be higher. I mean, I knew it would be fewer books, but I thought the average daily time and pages read would be higher. I read some long and some complicated books this year.

But here it is in black and white. Tabled out for the world to see. No way to deny it.

that time of year

My husband rescued me. He’s the king of pointing out things that I have missed. What would I do without him!

“Didn’t you make a plan to write more in 2021? I seem to remember you saying something about creating a practice of writing for one hour every day, even if you didn’t post it.”

The light brightens… “Oh, yeah!”

I did make that pact with myself, and because I only have so many hours in a day just like everyone else, my reading had to slow down to accommodate for the time spent at the keyboard.

Hold the phone for a moment…I achieved a goal! Yay, me! Damn I’m good.

This year I read sixty-two books, and out of those sixty-two books I wrote about fifty-nine of them. The year before I only wrote about nine of the seventy-one books I read. And the results of that are showing in my blog growth.

Nice, right? This is the kind of stuff that makes me feel great. I mean, I spend a lot of time complaining that I’m wasting time here. If you lived here, you’d hear the following sentences loudly lamented on a weekly basis.

“All I do is read books and half of them I don’t even remember!”

“No one reads any of this. What’s the point?!”

“I can’t achieve anything. I don’t even know how to set a goal and follow up.”

“Who drank all the whiskey?!”

But all this time, it’s been there working in the background. Writing about the books I’m reading helps me remember more of what I read. No one read my blog because I wasn’t writing. And I did set goals and follow up on them, it’s just that I had created such a good routine for myself that I didn’t even notice it adding up.

PS It’s me. I’m the one that drank all the whiskey. 😉

A quick nod to habits and routines. They really do work. Even the smallest addition to a routine can get you somewhere. What can we accomplish one step at a time? Anything!

What did I read this year? As usual, more non-fiction than fiction. Here’s the genre breakdown:

DNF: Did Not Finish

Over the last couple of days, I’ve considered what my goals for ’22 should be. (See what I did there? I refuse to keep writing out the year like a sci-fi movie.) What skills would I like to build? What do I want to achieve? I’m still not sure I’m a goals-oriented kind of girl. I’ll just list them out as I think of them so you can get an idea of who I am and where I’m going (and so I have something to look back at in January of ’23.

  1. Less hope. Less attachment. I’m working on letting go and loving what is right now, right here. Putting daily mediation back in my morning routine will help.
  2. Keep writing and post every day, even if it’s not a work of art. My morning routine will include writing earlier so that I get my most important tasks done first.
  3. Read more of what I have. I took a picture of the three shelves (I know. I said I keep it to one.) of TBRs, but it’s just too embarrassing.

Oh, who am I kidding? Look at this mess!

I’m not going to promise I won’t buy more, but I really need to focus and read what I have here. There is a lot of great stuff! I want to read these, but…there are so many awesome books out there.

Now, I’m reminded of the dad in About Time. The first thing I noticed was all the books he had piled everywhere, and I thought, “How does he have time to read all those?!” and my envy eyes were flashed.

With a better routine, and less distraction by social media, I believe I’ll get my hours back AND write every day. I can reward myself by having a little time in the afternoon for a cup of tea and a few more pages of a novel.

And here is the big one, so stand back a little.

  • In ’22 I will…gulp…send something out to be published. I subscribe to several magazines, and I found one that accepts submissions from readers. That’s where I will start. It feels safe enough. You’ll hear all about that when I do it. It will be soon.

Ok. That’s enough jibber jabber for one day! This is going to be another great year, and hopefully I’ll notice it as it happens instead of having to wait and discover it after the fact.

The Midnight Library #2

Have your ever been so focused on some task that you lost time?

I recently chose to do that while waiting for my son to get home. IG reels lift my spirit and make me smile. I had some time to kill and I was too tired to read, so I dove in for some laughs.

I love that sense of losing myself in a project of any kind, but it’s very hard for me. There’s almost always a running dialog in the back of my mind while I do anything that keeps me from real focus.

Other things I need to do. Guilt about spending time. Wondering if this is the best use. Ego about whether or not it looks good or will come out right. And on and on.

Moments like these: reading this in The Midnight Library, creating the graphic, posting it here, and the process of this comment, are growth instances for me.

The Cider House Rules #3

A book is different for each reader.

A Love Letter: A Long List of Wins

I don’t have a book quote to riff off of, or a podcast to share. I don’t have some special insight, or some polished bit of advice, not even an anecdote. But I still wanted to write to you today, so I’ve decided to write a love letter to my friends. Let’s see what happens.

Man child doing tech things that I can't possibly understand.
Man Child

Big news: my youngest son found work this week and is now looking for a place of his own, probably just a room at this point. He’ll be leaving our desert again. This time heading for the coast, where all the action is. At this time, he wants to continue his college classes and then transfer to a UC school next year, so he found some restaurant work because of its flexible schedule. He’s a smart one. I’m just happy that he won’t be in another state like the rest of our family. No offense to you guys, I know you’re all doing what’s best for you and that’s awesome, but, yes, if I had my druthers, we’d all live in the same area and party every weekend.

I spent an amazing afternoon with one of my closest friends this week. We went to the Macaroni Grill and ate something so glorious that I can’t keep my mind off it, butternut asiago tortellaci. So good, that I went home and looked up a copycat recipe to see if I can’t recreate this piece of heaven at home. You know how good it was? I usually eat as if someone will take the food away, but this I savored one tiny bite at a time while my friend and I solved all the world’s problems. I told the waiter all about it. And he was another win of this week.

That guy! There were only a couple other people in the restaurant, so he had time to stop and chat. My friend asks great questions, and he seemed happy to stand there and talk to us. I left that restaurant with a renewed faith in the people of this world. Here was another young guy, not unlike my own sons, that had moved all the way across the country to start a cool new life of his own, struggling a bit, like everyone else, but making it and happy. I would have liked to talk more. Why did he come here? And where was he going? We may need to eat there again next week. I think I’m in love.

Here is the biggest win of all: for the first time in my life, I noticed an emotional reaction and consciously chose how I would respond to it. Thank the maker! I’m catching on. Yes, I’m 48 years old and FINALLY starting to have some self-control. I was having a conversation with a friend and something he said just triggered something nasty in me. We don’t need to get into specifics because that’s not the point here. The point is that I actually had (and noticed) a moment where I felt thrown into an emotion.

Have you ever felt that? Something you see or hear just moves your whole soul to a sore point in your life and you feel like it’s brand new? Like…let me see…you burned yourself severely years ago, it’s been healed, a scar is barely visible, but then you see something that puts you right there at the moment and you feel the burn all over again. It really sucks. I’m sure I’ve been in the place before, but in the past, I reacted before I realized what was happening and created a new wound. Same analogy, I felt the burn memory like it was real, scraped at my body to get the heat off and went running for safety.

This time was different. I slowed down for a fraction of a second, took a deep breath and thought, “This is an emotion. Emotions are temporary.” In the next few minutes I thought, “Where did that emotion come from?” Then I sat with it awhile, wrote out the feelings, and moved forward. I didn’t need to be angry. I did mention what I was feeling and why, but I didn’t blame anyone or (my typical MO) snarl and bite like a dog protecting a wound. A few hours later, it was gone, and the journal entry of my process remained. I had done it. Success!

Now, I am well aware that next time might not go so nicely. I’m not a Zen master. But I now know it is possible to do this. And I’ve got one practice under my belt. I’m a happy girl.

Books are a love letter from the past.
The NEW one of the seven bookcases and ME!

There were other things that happened this week, as you can imagine. For a woman that doesn’t have a job and lives away from people, I sure do have a lot of activities. Well, maybe some people wouldn’t call it activity. I’ve been enjoying the company of my son while he is here, had several great text conversations with some friends, helped someone with a homeschooling question, and read and wrote a lot. Oh, and reorganized by books because I got a new bookshelf. I feel peaceful and, what’s the word, together.

And, as if this week weren’t amazing enough, I made another cheesecake from scratch, and it did not crack! First time EVER! This one is extra special because I wanted it to have a chocolate cookie crust and they didn’t have that at the store…so I googled it and made my own like a freakin’ boss!

Can cheesecake be a love letter to your friends? Yes.
Gloriousness in Springform

A special, heart-felt, THANK YOU, to all my readers, the ones I know about and the hidden ones, the likers and the lurkers, the ones that read now and the ones that may read in the future. Thank you for reading my love letter, for allowing me to pour my heart out every day. Thank you for letting me in. Your interest in my humanity is felt every time you visit, and it feeds my soul. If I could, I’d buy you all a round of drinks.

What did you win at this week? I’d love to get a love letter from you!

Listen Like You Mean It: Another New Read

“Listen Like You Mean It – Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection” by Ximena Vengoechea is my next read and I’m very much looking forward to it. It seems to be exactly what I need right now!

"Listen Like You Mean It" book cover on a desert background.

Something I have very hard time doing is listening in a conversation. I’m a talker. I’ll talk all. Day. Long. Non-stop. In fact, just yesterday I spent literally all day talking. I talked on the phone with one person as I drove down to have breakfast with another. I talked on the way to lunch with another friend. And then on the drive home with someone else. Once I got home, I talked about the whole day with my husband and talked with my son about his day as well.

Did I run out of words? Nope.

Can you guess what my biggest complaint is about the world? My immediately family will laugh and tell you, in my voice, without hesitation, “No one is listening to me! I feel so disconnected!”

Enter, “Listen Like You Mean It.”

Will this book help me out? Thirty-five pages in and I’m thinking, yes.

My first note in this book was, “I wonder if I can make reminders for myself, like a tattoo on my hand or a button on my purse.”

Two quotes from the first pages that have shown me that I’m on the right track:

“When we are on autopilot, we hear enough of what the other person is saying to hold a conversation, get our work done, keep in touch with our friends, and stay polite with our neighbors and shopkeepers.

…we tend to react based on how we wish to be treated, rather than respond to what our conversation partner is actually saying or in need of.”

“We may, for instance, assume that others relate to things in the same way we do, our of a desire to bond over a “shared” experience (You had a pet as child? Me too. It was great, right?).”

That’s me. I know I’m doing it and I’m believe that I’m doing it to show you that I’m just like you. We have something in common! But not everyone is telling their story to connect that way. They may feel upstaged or not heard.

Another thing I don’t do well is ask questions and get people to explain what they mean or how they feel. And that is a direct result of my surface listening. I’m only listening enough to connect what you’re saying to something I have done or felt, then getting ready to tell my side.

The very thing that I do to connect with others is the thing that makes most people feel unheard and discouraged from adding to the conversation. I’m creating my own feedback loop!

Listen Like You Mean It is going to be a game-changer for sure…if I can only remember to implement what I’m learning!

If you’d like to read along with me, go get the book at Thriftbooks.com and leave me a comment. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Read more posts about this book!
Patience and Trust: Not Every Thought Is Essential
Listening Skills to Practice
Final Thoughts

Feeling Nostalgic in a Good Way: Wait For It

I’ve been feeling nostalgic this morning and I had the most wonderful idea about what to write about! I’ve been excitedly working on it, but it isn’t finished and I have unfortunately run out of time.

Feeling nostalgic about where it all began today.

I’ll keep working on it and polishing it over the weekend in the hopes of getting it to you on Monday afternoon, or possibly Tuesday. I just don’t want to rush it. It’s too precious.

While reading “The Devil in the White City” this morning, I came across a few lines that triggered some of the most beautiful memories for me.

“The fair was so big, so beyond grasp, that the Columbian Guards found themselves hammered with questions. It was a disease, rhetorical smallpox, and every visitor exhibited it in some degree. The Guards answered the same questions over and over, and the questions came fast, often with an accusatory edge. Some questions were just odd.
‘In which building is the pope?’ one woman asked. She was overheard by writer Teresa Dean, who wrote a daily column from the fair.
‘The pope is not here, madame,’ the guard said.
‘Where is he?’
‘In Italy, Europe, madame.’
The woman frowned. ‘Which way is that?’
Convinced now that the woman was joking, the guard cheerfully quipped, ‘Three blocks under the lagoon.’
She said, ‘How do I get there?’”

The Devil in the white city by erik larson

I shut the book right there and started writing. My whole morning was lost to memories of my teenage years, a good amount of nostalgic tears, and a conversation with my son and a friend, in which I made them cry too, but I believe I’m on to a pretty nice post to share with you all next week.

I hope you’ll bear with me and wait. My reading and writing time is up for today and I must attend to my housekeeping and social duties.

See you soon, I promise!

The picture above and this post, Old Posts Make Me Smile, will give you a clue as to where I am in my mind today.

“In The Beginning” by Alister McGrath

I picked up “In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How it Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture” by Alister McGrath off the TBR pile this morning and I’m already loving it…as usual.

I love Christian church history, and this looks like it’s going to be far more than I thought it was going to be. I’ve always been curious about Christian history, as in, “How in the world did we get where we are?!” But it’s a complicated topic in that there is a lot of bias in how it is presented to the world.

When I read something written by a non-Christian, I get the sense of hostility and contempt. As if they are only writing the book to disprove the religion’s stances on life. Or there is the feeling of, “Oh those poor dumb people that believe it this shit.” It’s a turn off. I’d like a book written with respect if not reverence and belief.

When I read something by an actively believing Christian, there’s a lot of glossing over the subject. Depending on the author’s sect, they steer the narrative around certain pieces and towards proselytizing instead of informing and educating. This is also a turn off because I’m really curious about the actual history, not the spiritual significance.

Here is the thing. I believe that there is something bigger than us and that “god” is bigger than any book written by humans. I don’t believe we (humans) need to change the message for the listener. I don’t believe we need to hide certain aspects until people are ready to hear them. I don’t believe that humans can mess up god’s will toward others.

If it is real, then it will get to us how it gets to us, and I firmly believe that it gets to us in many different ways, tailored for each and every one of us in our own language and time. It’s a personal journey, not fit for anyone else in this realm of consciousness.

Which leads me to this question. Why bother speaking/writing about it? Why bother discussing it at all? Because that is how humans work. It’s how we discover and learn. It’s how we were created. And, in my opinion, how “god” speaks to us.

I’m really looking forward to reading this! Have you read “In the Beginning” by Alister McGrath? If you want to read it, run over to Thriftbooks and get it. We can chat about it later!

Violence and Chaos of the Natural World is What Grendel Represents

When last we met, I was spiraling into the depths of a natural world filled with violence and chaos. If you haven’t read it yet, pop back to “Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World?” and take a look.

Shall we continue?

“What does a kingdom pretend to do? Save the values of the community – regulate compromise – improve the quality of the commonwealth! In other words, protect the power of the people in power and keep the others down. By common agreement of course, so the fiction goes. And they do that pretty well. We’ll give them that.”

That is exactly what your kingdom, I mean, our nation’s government is doing right now. It’s also very much why I am leaning towards peaceful and non-violent anarchy. Live and let live.

“Rewards to people who fit the System best, you know. King’s immediate thanes, the thanes’ top servants, and so on till you come to the people who don’t fit at all. No problem. Drive them to the darkest corners of the kingdom, starve them, throw them in jail or put them out to war.”

This reminds me of my social media feed and tv news. Comply with what those in power wish or suffer the consequences.

“What is the state in a time of domestic or foreign crisis? What is the state when the chips are down? The answer is obvious and clear! Oh yes! If a few men quit work, the police move in. If the borders are threatened, the army rolls out. Public force is the life and soul of every state: not merely army and police but prisons, judges, tax collectors, every conceivable trick of coercive repression. The state is an organization of violence. Revolution, my dear prince, is not the substitution of immoral for moral, or of illegitimate for legitimate violence; it is simply the pitting of power against power, where the issue is freedom for the winners and enslavement of the rest.”

Public force and coercive repression, the cornerstone of any central government. When you pass a law by vote, you’re asking a separate group of people to use deadly force against those who do not comply. You may think it is best, but when people get held down, beat up, and shot by police for not stopping to receive the punishment for breaking that law, are you ok with that? When the police stop a teenage boy for not wearing a seatbelt, and for whatever reason they feel threatened and shoot him, that is the result of your law. When someone doesn’t pay the appropriate taxes and the government comes and takes everything they have, puts their family on the street, and takes that person to jail, that is a result of your law. When someone buys a drug and sits in their own livingroom alone to use it and relax, and the cops bust in to drag him to a box…I could go on and on but I’m digressing.

Bottom line is that when you vote for a law to be put in the books, you are authorizing violence on another in your name.

“Who says I have to defend myself? I am a machine, like you. Like all of you. Blood-lust and rage are my character. Why does the lion not wisely settle down and be a horse?”

Stop hating! Stop doing drugs! Stop … whatever. Geez! Let people be who they are and choose whether or not you want to associate with them. You know a lion by his look. You allow him to live his own way, in his own space. And you avoid running into him as prey. How about we do the same with other humans?

“Tedium is the worst pain. The mind lays out the world in blocks, and the hushed blood waits for revenge. All order, I’ve come to understand, is theoretical, unreal – a harmless, sensible, smiling mask men slide between the two great, dark realities, the self and the world – two snake-pits.”

I know, it’s all pretty dark and I had a bit of fun wallowing around in it today. I hope I didn’t terrify you. I do get a tad worked up though, especially lately. I’m feeling frustrated and lonely in this world. It seems everyone around me wants so desperately to live inside a fantasy world.

Nature’s reality can be terrifying and cruel, but we humans have a special gift, creativity. We can use it to recognize the world around us and attempt to do better for ourselves, or we can create a little bubble in our minds and live there as long as we can. That is until the bubble is burst and the world’s violence and chaos comes flooding in.

Me? I prefer to be aware of the real danger in this world and adjust my own behavior, take my own calculated risks based on my own experience (and the advice from trusted professionals), and allow everyone else to do the same.

I like Grendel. He’s a mean, nasty, violent dude. He has no remorse for who he is. He makes it very clear what he is and what he’ll do. It’s on you to be bigger and stronger than him or respect his boundaries and let him be.

Here’s something interesting I just found; this book is on the Banned Library site. Over the years it has been banned at several schools for being “anti-christian, anti-moral, and violent” and “profane.” Makes you want to read it even more, doesn’t it?

The Green Mile by Stephen King

The Green Mile by Stephen King book cover on a desert background.

I grabbed The Green Mile off the big library redistribution pile simply because it was King, and The Green Mile was one of my favorite movies. I love this edition because it has “Soon to be a major motion picture!” on the cover. The movie came out in 1999 and the book form came out in 1997. Twenty year old paperback. Win!

I have a goal in my life…to read every book Stephen King wrote. No, not really. I was a huge fan of him in high school and college, but the more of them that I read, the more I feel like many of his books are wonderful but a little predictable. They are comfort stories.

Here’s something I learned from reading both of the introductions. (I know…who does that?) The book was originally a series of shorter books which he wrote as they were published. He didn’t know where the story would take him when the first one was published. I’m imagining writing for THAT kind of deadline and getting nauseous. That’s a rare author that can do that. And the story ended up great! Surprise!

In the introduction, he talked about how Charles Dickens did the same thing but the story lasted years and how he used to read serial stories in The Saturday Evening Post.

“…I liked it because the end of each episode made the reader an almost equal participant with the writer – you had a whole week to try to figure out the next twist of the snake. Also, one read and experienced these stories more intensely, it seemed to me, because they were rationed. You couldn’t gulp, even if you wanted to (and if the story was good, you did).”

It reminds me of why you don’t ration things. It makes people want more of it, even if it’s not good, healthy, or productive. Telling others (or yourself) that you can only have a little makes it scarce and something to hoard. Your brain goes into active collecting mode regardless of how it makes you feel. Crazy.

One of the things I didn’t do with my kids was limit foods that most would call treats. All of the food was in reach and available. I made what I called “healthy” snacks just as easy and available as candy and cookies and over time they learned on their own when not to binge and when to indulge.

This book was written before we could binge watch tv shows. I’ve found the same level of satisfaction there as well. Shows that were fine to watch one episode a week were terrible tv when watched back-to-back for hours one Sunday afternoon. And then there are shows that I can’t get enough of, ones that feed my soul instead of waste my time.

I’m wondering what this book will be? I can’t know if it would have been better to read it one book at a time as it was published, or can I? Probably won’t. I know myself. I tend to be a page flipper and rush to get to the end so that I know what happens. If I deem it worthy, I read it again for more depth.

We shall see. I do know that I’ll be watching the movie after I finish reading this, if I can find it on Netflix. Probably won’t. They never have the movie I’m looking for when I’m looking for it.

If you want to read it with me, go pick it up at Thriftbooks.com and let me know what you think in the comments!


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

Ultimately, Most Life Choices are Just Best Guesses

There’s no way of knowing which life choices will end up getting us where we want to go in the long run. We’re working from a moving platform that is time, and aiming at a moving target that is satisfaction.

“…paralyzed by the idea that whatever you choose to do, it means choosing not to do a hundred other things…”

The invisible life of Addie Larue by v.e. Schwab

There is one thing that limits every human on this planet and that is time. We only have so much time in a day, a week, a lifetime. When you choose to watch an hour of TV, you choose not to do other things. If you choose to make a delicious dinner at home, you choose not to go out to a restaurant. It’s a fact of life that cannot be changed no matter how clever, rich, or powerful you are.

We all come to that realization at some point in our lives. Some of us have a very hard time accepting that fact and it makes us completely crazy. We stand there in distress, attempting to decide which is the better choice. What is the thing that make us the happiest? Which choice will lead us further down the “right” path? It’s enough to make any thinking person neurotic.

Ultimately, I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter. Once I accepted the fact that I can’t do everything, that I had to live with the choices I make, it started to become easier. The next step was to enjoy the choice I made. That’s where it got complicated.

At one point, you’re looking over the choices you have. You puzzle over it awhile and eventually make your choice. Then, while you’re happily cruising along, you start to wonder, “Would the other choice have been better?” And now you’re not enjoying what you have.

Now what do you do? Invent a time machine so that you can explore alternate realities where you didn’t tell that partner to leave, you didn’t take that job or go to that school, or you decided to apply for a job in another state and moved. Wouldn’t that be nice?

What if we had a machine that let you play out exactly what would happen after each choice you made, and then you could choose which would ultimately work out best? Oh! And it took no extra time! A perfect world.

It’s not possible, outside of sci-fi movies. What can we do instead? Make the choice that makes you most happy right now, and not worry so much or so far into the future.

Photo by Bhargava Marripati on Unsplash

I’m imagining back when my sons were taking an interest in indoor rock climbing. The woman helping them learn told them, “Your only goal is to find the top your own way. Hold on and look for your own next step. Make it. Steady yourself. And the look for the next one you can reach. You may need to go sideways or back down a bit, but you’ll get there.”

That’s life.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: