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

Tag: reading habits

Morning Meditation – A Break

I wasn’t going to write this morning, but the day started so unexpectedly beautiful that I had to use it all as a morning meditation and share it with you. No pictures. That would have ruined the mood.

This is the one day a week that I have to be up and out the door by a certain time. It’s my “day out,” visiting with friends and shopping for household goods I can’t find in my own small town. Let me rephrase that; I CAN find them, I just don’t want to. It adds value to my life to spend time “down the hill” in the city visiting friends, and why not shop at a few nicer stores while I’m there!

I don’t usually write this day. I have little time, and something has to give. But today something was different.

I woke up to a strange feeling. Cool.

It’s the middle of August, that time of year when I have just about had my fill of excessive heat warnings, blazing hot afternoons, and swamp cooler fans running on high all night long. And then the wind started to blow yesterday afternoon and it was 77 degrees at 8pm. I opened the windows and turned off the fans smiling. Would that break actually come like the weather report suggested?

When I awoke, there was a chill. I looked at the thermometer, 57 degrees. I took a deep breath and put on my favorite sweatshirt to sit and read, sip my coffee and watch the sunrise.

I thought to myself, “Screw the morning routine. I need to relish this.” But after an hour of reading “East of the Mountains” (which I haven’t blogged about yet, sorry), my habit mind insisted that it was workout time and I heeded its call. Thirty minutes of cardio. Twenty minutes of silent meditation. A bit of breakfast: oatmeal, raisins, and walnuts. And…

Water the yard before the sun gets too hot.

Nope! Not today! No need. I sat down to spend twenty minutes in my new book “No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners.” I found a new mantra there. “Every day is a good day.”

My son walked in from the trailer looking for coffee. He’s back at home for a few months, but that’s another story. I put my book away and went out to water the trees while he made his breakfast.

But my morning meditation continued.

In the yard that joyous feeling swelled up inside me. The sun had been up for an hour, a cool breeze was still blowing softly, the sky was that brilliant clear desert blue, and the sun was warm and friendly on my back.

The California Thrashers were signaling their territory…loudly. The quail were scratching about and chattering in the bushes. The hummingbirds, as usual, were there to get a taste of the water I was putting on my lilac bushes. It made me want to get out in the yard, get my trail cam back out and start recording my bird visitors again.

I came back in the house to my son watching some tv show in German while he ate. That’s why his German is so good. He watches German language shows with the subtitles on in German. Long term homeschool win, again.

And my morning meditation continued.

As I’m writing this, I hear more cars on the paved road half a mile away, hammers from the beautiful new house they’re building at the end of the street. My dog is at my feet wondering why we’re typing in my office and not on the couch today. My cat keeps walking over my desk to inspect the house plants that I moved onto it yesterday so they had more space to grow. These are some happy plants.

And now I just thought of a picture I do want to share with you!

morning meditation

This was a beautiful break. I didn’t get to read as much as usual, but I got to write to you. It turns out you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

Making Time for the Little Things You Want to Accomplish

You know that thing that you wish you could make time in your day for? What if you did? What would it be? What if making time for it was a decision you could consciously make?

Making time to read every morning.
My Morning (photo by author)

Learn to meditate, read that book, start a journal, finish that craft. There are loads of things we tell ourselves that we would love to do them if we only had the time. But really…how much time we need to start?

What do you do when you first wake up in the morning? If you’re like me, you stumble into the kitchen for coffee and hope there is some still left! I used to plop myself down on the couch and turn on the tv to vegetate awhile. It was a habit I created when I was younger. I was tired and grumpy and needed an hour or so to sip my coffee, watch the news mindlessly, and give myself some time to wake up. I needed that time and felt violated if anyone interrupted my morning routine.

And then I had kids and my morning routine was shot to hell. I couldn’t get up before the kids, they usually woke me up at the crack of dawn. The morning routine became about them, taking care of their needs. It was fun most days.

As they got older and we considered homeschooling, I began to be aware that I needed time for myself, time to read, reflect, and relax a bit. I ended up creating an evening routine for that, reading to my kids before bed, and then sitting in their room reading and journaling while they went to sleep. It wasn’t always relaxing but it worked well most nights.

Once they were “school age” and began sleeping past the earliest rays of sunlight, I started being able to get up before the chaos and when I did, I returned right back to my old way of coffee and tv news, with the added time-suck of social media. Habits do not die easily! My morning hour turned into two, while I listened to the news and scrolled through Facebook chatting with friends.

I’m not sure how it came to my attention or why I suddenly thought of it, but I do remember I was growing frustrated with how little time I had to read. My evening routine was great, but I was tired and could only read for about half an hour before I became sleepy and went to bed. The boys didn’t need me to sit there until they went to sleep anymore. I needed to find more time in my day, when I was more alert, if I were going to get any serious reading done.

That’s when it dawned on me…first thing in the morning. I’m conscious enough to scroll through my social media feeds and read articles while I drink my coffee. Why not use that time to read my book? So that’s what I did. I promised myself that I’d get my coffee, sit on the couch, and read for fifteen minutes before I did anything else.

Fifteen minutes after a week or so, turned into thirty and that year I finished 15 books. Over the years, I’ve increased my reading time little by little. In the past I was never able to focus on books for more than a few minutes at a time, but it turns out that it just takes practice to increase that focus. I still only read for an hour at a time, an hour and a half if the book is fun and exciting, thirty minutes if it’s complicated. Then I need to get up and move around, change positions, or change books every hour or so, but I’m up to three hours of reading a day now. And most of that is early in the morning, before I do anything else. I have a new habit. I reach for my book and my coffee now, automatically. This past year I read 64 books.

So, what if you could do that thing you wanted to make more time for? What if you had it ready and waiting for you in the morning, like the coffee maker prefilled and put on a timer? All you’d have to do was pour your cup, pick up your thing, and head to the couch to start. Write your first thoughts before any new input. Listen to that podcast or audiobook while you craft. Read that book for fifteen minutes. Meditate on the steam from your coffee. Whatever it is, make time for it first thing in the day and the rest of the day will already be won because you already did something awesome.

An Unexpected Windfall Shifted my Reading Habits for the Worse

An unexpected windfall and an unintended experiment in reading habits, has led me to the real reason I read the way I do. So many fancy words. The reality is that I tried something different based on some new input and discovered something…all by accident. I do better in anything when I allow myself to create my own path.

This is the kind of reading habits I love to see!
Photo by John Michael Thomson on Unsplash

Late last year, a friend from my homeschooling days messaged me that she was moving out of state. She had a large library of books that she needed to re-home and she didn’t have time to take care of it properly, so she called me to see if I wanted to take charge of it.

Me. The honor of being a personal library’s foster mom. Wow. …faints dead away…

Yes, I am aware that not everyone loves books as I do. And I’m glad that is the case because I feel special. These books need me!

My reading habits are…intense. I know that. I do love books, but I’m not a fanatic. I’m aware that they are simply bound pieces of paper with writing on them. I do not worship them for their form but for the information they contain. The big thrill came from the idea that someone out there knew me well enough that they thought of me when they had to get help re-distributing books. That made my heart happy. I felt seen and appreciated for who I am at my core.

That day I took home an entire pick-up truck full of books and the following week, she and another friend returned with another truck and unloaded those onto my front porch as well. I spent a whole day just taking them out and putting them into piles. And I dream of doing it again, more thoroughly, very soon.

I could have spent an entire week going through those books. Organizing things is another passion of mine that can consume me and leave no room for more mundane things like eating and housework. Don’t get me started on a messy room or a Lego pile.

Out of that first sort through the boxes, I set aside about 60 books that I wanted to keep for myself. I do not feel selfish about this. There were many more books left. Then I called a few local book reading friends and they combed through them all once again…and I grabbed up a few more.

My only disappointment was today’s homeschool community in my neighborhood. Fifteen years ago, if I had posted that I had free books on my porch, at least twenty families would have swarmed my house within the week, and nothing could have stopped them. They all would have wanted to get there while the getting was good. This time no one came. I’m trying to blame it on my rural location, but I think it’s something else, and it ain’t fear of a virus. But I digress.

The next step was to find homes for the rest of them and that is an ongoing project. There must be people with wild reading habits like mine, right? Lucky for me, my local community center (of which I am the Secretary, so I have some pull there) was willing to house them for the time being. We plan on putting together a big sale to benefit the center, keeping some for our small library, and then donating the rest to the used bookstore in town. But…covid…so it’s been slow go getting that started.

Guess what? That’s the background to what I really wanted to talk about.

As I combed through those books, piling them up by genre, I carefully picked out some to add to my TBR pile. I did not pick them willy-nilly. I tried to stick to books by authors I had already read, or titles I had on my wish list. My friend and I have similar passions in the book department, so many of her titles were classics, history, and philosophy that I was already interested in reading. My final tally was 74 books, about 14 more books than I typically read in a year. I was a very happy reader.

That is until I noticed something. My reading habits have changed, and not for the better.

I’m five months into this TBR pile and I’m not happy. I keep going to it and struggling to pick a book. And when I do, I’m not feeling inspired by the words. I told my son yesterday that I feel like I’m following someone else’s roadmap of sites to see, a prescribed list. I don’t like it.

Don’t get me wrong. The books are great. There have been a couple that I loved, but in general I have felt that something was missing, and I think I figured out what that is.

The next few books in line on my TBR shelf have always been connected to what I’m already reading or thinking about. In books, articles, and podcasts, I find new authors, new titles, new subjects that I’m eager to dive into, and I add those to my wish list on Thriftbooks as I find them, but I don’t buy them yet. They are there as a reminder of what I have been studying.

I keep my TBR pile to one small shelf, usually consisting of about 5 to 10 books, that I buy from my ever-developing wish list. Every book in my house that is not on that shelf is a book I have already read. Inside the cover is my name and the date that I read it, along with notes in pencil throughout. I have a connection to each one and each one is connected to the next.

The past five months of reading look more like prescribed college reading list, than my own personal learning journey. It doesn’t feel good, and I don’t think I’m learning as much as I have in the past.

What should I do?

Well, I think I’m going to go back to my old reading habits, selecting books that are mentioned in the books I’m currently reading, following the rabbit trails. The books that I have from the wonderful day, I’m going to put on a special shelf (when I get two new bookcases…soon…has to happen) and keep them for when I’m called to read them. They are great books, and they may be mentioned in something else, and I’ll be led to them again, organically, the way God intended. There are also times when I do reach a dead end and need to pick a book at random.

What’s the takeaway here?

Book selection is a personal journey, and no two paths are exactly the same. My friend and I have similar tastes in books. We were both homeschoolers in a similar style. Our map may be the same, with the same roads and sites to see, but the order and pace in which we want to see them is very different.

I was so excited to get those books and spend a whole year reading for free, but it had a cost after all. Reading someone else’s books has made me start to lose interest in reading all together. I can’t have that. So, I’m back to hearing my own drum and dancing to my own tunes, as erratic as that may be.

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