Category Archives: books

Discipline I Hope to Use…

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Cade loves books and the outdoors, and so although I don’t REALLY want to read, “The Hiccupotamus” or “Bear Snores On” one more time, I do. And even though it is consistently 90+ degrees around here I let Cade grab my hand and drag me from my rocker in the shade so he can wander down to the blistering sidewalk and play with grass trimmings. Inwardly, I sometimes stifle a groan when I’ve already read about Jonah three times in a row and he brings over “The Little Blue Truck.” And no, I do not enjoy waddling around in 90 degree weather achy and sweaty and short of breath. BUT, inwardly, I’m also thrilled. I don’t want his pleasure in playing outdoors or his fascination with books to ever end. One day, I promise myself, one day this will definitely be worth the boring repetition and the sticky sweat filled last trimester.

These are a few things I can’t WAIT to say to my boys when they get older:

“No reading at the table.”

“One more chapter and then it’s bedtime.”

“You have ten more minutes before it’s time to come in.”

“I know you’ve already showered once, but you’re covered in mud.”

“If you try to build that without dad’s supervision you’re staying inside for the rest of the day.”

“Put the book down when I’m talking to you.”

“Yes, you can bring a book as long as you sit quietly.”

 

One day I’ll be able to watch them play from the shade and they won’t need me to hold their hand. One day I’ll be doing dishes in a quiet house because everyone else has a book to read. There will soon be story time, and swim lessons, and library cards, and sports games, and I’ll go from active participant to sideline cheerleader and facilitator (read: chauffeur). Then they’ll be gone to write their own stories and explore more of the world and I don’t think for a second I’ll begrudge a single day of letting my son with a soggy mulch covered onsie snuggle in my lap to read a board book one more time.

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2014 Resolutions!

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Some people pooh-pooh resolutions. They say they’re “uneccesary” and “set you up for failure/disappointment” as well as “not focusing on the bigger picture” and being “too legalistic” (?! to that last one). Sorry, folks. I was raised to understand that goals are helpful stepping stones to get you to where you want to be, and resolutions are just that-goals. Not to mention EVERYONE could use a little discipline in their lives and resolutions can help.

As for setting you up for failure? Well, duh, if you make completely unrealistic goals then, yup, failure and disappointment are almost guaranteed to follow. I mean, seriously, if you put down “I will lose 150lbs in the New Year!” Is it possible? Yes. Healthily and while enjoying the rest of your year? Eh, probably not. Will you even be able to keep the weight off? HA! Most likely you’ll hit the gym hard in January slack off by March and then start yo-yo dieting throughout the summer. The goal “get in better shape in 2014!” is, well, more reasonable, but so vague as to be pretty much worthless. There isn’t much to really hold you to that goal, technically if you lose a pound by the end of the year you’ve “met” your goal.

So, a good goal? How about training for a race-push yourself to run more or faster than you’ve done before. Or, decide to try a certain number of “healthy dishes” throughout the year. Small goals that lead to lifestyle changes can be very beneficial and uplifting.

Here’s a few other tips:

Keep successfully met goals on your previous list for the following year. Made a goal to read ten new books and met it? Keep that goal for the next year. Having a goal on your list that you’ve met before allows you to A) make the underlying effect (ie an expanding reading base) a habit and B) gives you a goal that you know without a shadow of a doubt that you can accomplish since you did it the previous year. Eventually, those goals will hopefully just merge into your lifestyle and you’ll have to find new goals. 🙂

Limit your goals. Don’t make 50 drastic New Year’s Resolutions and then be surprised when you break or don’t met them. Give up one thing, not five. If you give up ALL sweets, soda, and fastfood in one fell swoop (especially if they were staple parts of your diet) than after a few weeks of salad and water you’re most likely going to give in. Give up just soda. Or JUST candy-but not cookies or cake. Give up McDonalds, but allow Chick-fil-a. Maybe eventually you want to be rid of all of the above, and that’s great! But take it one step (year) at a time to allow yourself time to make the adjustment.

Fail forward. Every year I put something on my list related to cooking. I have YET to successfully complete any of those goals. But this year I got really close! The point is not that I’ve “failed” those resolutions, the point is that I’m getting better at cooking. Life happens, you may not be able to fulfill all of your resolutions every year, and that’s ok as long as you don’t then completely give up. If your goal is to watch 50 new movies by 2014 and you only manage to watch 35, well, hey, that’s 35 new movies you’ve seen! If your goal is to give up soda and you forget and sip your hubby’s Mt. Dew while in the movie theater, don’t go “Well, that’s it for this year I guess…” and buy an extra large Diet Coke. Go “whoops!” and move on with your resolution. You’ll still have drunk a lot less soda by the end of the year, even if you slip up in a few places.

Share your goals. Basic accountability, people. I hate accountability. By nature I prefer to not tell anybody what I’m doing until it’s succesfully done. But that does two things that can be undermine the whole point of making goals. One, it makes it easy to give up on goals. If no one else knows you aren’t supposed to have McDonalds then noone will call you out when you chow down on your big mac meal and you can shove your guilt to the side with your fench fries. Two, because it makes it so easy to give up on goals, you fail at a lot more of them, and the frustration can easily turn inwards. You start believing you can’t really do anything, that you’re stuck where and how you are, that you’re a failure, and worthless, and fat, and slovenly, or whatever. When you tell people your goals, not only can they hold you accountable, but they can also offer support and encouragement. There is a reason self help groups can be effective.

To that end, here’s my list of goals for 2014.

2014 Resolutions

  1. Read 20 new books
  2. Watch 10 new movies
  3. Memorize 1st chapter of Ecclesiastes (I’ve been a slacker when it comes to scripture memorization. That needs to stop.)
  4. Make 5 new recipes and at least 1 has to use the crock pot. (Last year I had “make 3 and have Brian try them.” Well, I made more than 3 new ones, but Brian only tried two: a new frosting recipe and a cheesy alfredo sauce. In his defense, most of the new recipes were geared towards Cade…)
  5. Finish a scrapbook (yeek! I am getting so far behind!)
  6. No soda. (I really don’t drink much at all, this just makes it official.)
  7. No french fries, including (groan!) chick-fil-a waffle fries. Sweet potato fries are ok.
  8. Starting with 5 pushups these first two weeks, do pushups daily, increasing the amount by increments of 5 every two weeks. (I’ll be up to 130 pushups by end of December 2014)

There you have them! Not even 10 goals but plenty to keep me occupied. 🙂

We, the Drowned

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Just finished my third book in my attempt to read ten new books this year. “We, the Drowned” by Carsten Jensen is a historical fiction following the Danish port town of Marstal from the mid-nineteenth century through WWII. It caught my interest one day whilst wandering around Barnes & Nobles and the aclaim of being an “International Bestseller” clinched the deal. With that said, I still wasn’t expecting a thrilling read, but “We, the Drowned” turned out to be singularily compelling.

I am by no means a sailor, I have no deeply rooted desire for intercontinental ocean travel, I didn’t even read a lot of pirate novels in my youth, yet this book-dominated by the sea-was satisfyingly relatable and engaging. It isn’t a happy book, it isn’t sad either; it is relentless. There are no cut and dried heros or bad guys, seemingly no structured build of anticipation, climax, and resolution, the stories march sequentially forward while the characters meander in and out of them wrestling with internal philosophies and external hardship with the same dogged persistence.

There was very little prosey commentary on the ocean itself-which I appreciated-and yet the stark tragedies discussed were also not uneccessarily exploited with verbage designed to shock the senses. I grow tired of books that feel the need to be “gritty” and “real” by going into explicit detail about every horrifying reality they can cram into a plotline, because that is just as gross of a misrepresentation of reality as is pretending human babies are delivered at doorsteps by storks. There are horrifying events described in the book and Jensen confronts them head on, but he employs a masterful sense of balance to the description that packs a deeper punch then if he were to wax sensationalist.

I enjoyed this book very much, it far exceeded my initial expectations (I had resigned myself to the idea of skimming paragraphs filled with boring nautical details I would be ill equiped to understand-thankfully this was not the case), I would recommend this book for anyone interested in a thought provoking read.

Shhhh, Facebook, Be Quiet.

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I just finished the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain and I highly recommend it. Whether you are a fellow introvert or an extrovert puzzled by us weird wallflowers, the insights-backed by substantial research-in Cain’s writing are well worth exploring.

I have a long rambling post about this book in my drafts, but I kept wanting to add more and more to it until I finally realized that I what I really wanted was an in-depth verbal discussion with someone who had also read the book, not a one sided monologue.

However, I have one point I’d like to make, one “a ha!” moment I’d like to share. Being an introvert is why I don’t care on facebook about what you’ve had for breakfast. It’s why I don’t like games like “Foursquare” (I really don’t care where you’ve “checked in”) it’s why I loathe seeing a million and one self-portraits on Instagram, or minute to minute updates on how the flu is ravaging your body on Twitter.

Honestly, I truly follow and read a handful of people (family and a few close friends) on social media sites, the rest I just casually stalk. I dislike virtual “small talk” just as much as the real thing.

I also love the like button. I can acknowledge I’ve read and appreciate a post without being forced to make some brilliant or pithy comment. Not that all my comments are brilliant and/or pithy, just that I have exceedingly high expectations for the legitimacy of any comment I make. I need to have something to say, even if it’s just an “I hope you feel better soon.” If I don’t have anything to say, my clicking of the like button indicates that in a face-to-face conversation I would have smiled. Or shook my head knowingly. Or one of a myrid of other gestures of acknowledgement and/or appreciation.

Also, when do you stop commenting? How many replies are you expected to make? Making a comment on someone’s status is like entering an informal contractual agreement of conversation. So if I’m not sure of how I would respond to any responses the person may make, I resort to the “like” button instead. Not to mention the comments are public, so I’ve got to guage how weird my comment may come across to the person’s friends/family.

And as far as feeling pressured to be “extroverted”, there are definitely days that I feel obligated to post a status update-even if I have nothing important to say-just because I feel like I should. It’s about a 50/50 chance that I’ll actually post something, and if I do, I sometimes wonder the next day what compelled me to broadcast such a mundane observation to the world.

*For a more extreme version of an introvert on social media, you should check out my husband’s facebook. His last status update was a year and a day ago: “Disney’s The Lion King at the Durham Performing Arts Center= Impressive.” He has since been tagged (by mostly family) in a few pictures and posts and that’s it. I married a social hermit 🙂

Blurring Fact and Fiction

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Good fun or just cheap profits on dime novel-esque fiction? Brian and I were walking through Target when we saw a book “Heat Wave” written by Richard Castle. We both did a double take, picked it up, and laughed. Castle is a TV show about a fictional writer shadowing a NYPD female officer for “inspiration”. Castle is played by Nathan Fallion, (none other than Mal from Firefly for fellow nerds out there) and it’s a cute show, the Keefers have the first two season and Brian and I watch episodes here or there over dinner. The crimes aren’t super tricky to figure out, and it’s not like CSI where the forensics are detailed extensively, or Law and Order where the actual court proceedings come in to play. Instead, most of the pull is between Beckett (the cop) and Castle, with some fun side stories with supporting characters like Castle’s daughter and his mom. A fun show, a “clean” show as far as criminal shows go, more humor than horror, it’s an enjoyable watch. (Can I use “watch” like I’d use an enjoyable “read”?)

Anywho, ABC decided to take it one step further, and hired a ghostwriter to write the Nikki Heat books (the ones Castle writes in the show based off of Beckett). Richard Castle is listed as the writer, a picture of Nathan Fallion is inside the cover, and Nathan Fallion-as Castle-goes to the book signings. Fun? Weird? The books don’t seem like anything extraordinary, but the idea of pulling a character on a show further into reality through another form of media…I just don’t know how I feel about it. Part of me thinks it’s hilarious, part of me thinks the books are probably not very good and it’s just a marketing scheme (it is a good marketing scheme, gotta give ABC that much). What if Harry Potter began writing his own books “Outcast and Hero, an autobiography) and Daniel Radcliff went to book signings as Harry Potter? Is the blurring betwen fiction and reality all in good fun or does our society really need another dose of false reality?

I don’t have any other coherent thoughts, I don’t feel like the books mark the end of good liturature or anything like that (lets face it, Dan Brown beat everybody to that punch), but it was a thought provoking find. I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge murder mystery type of reader (except for classic childrens books like Sherlock Holmes and The Happy Hollisters). I find most of the popular adult murder mystery genre contrived, the writing stilted, and the characters shallow and stagnant, but I kind of wanted to read a few chapters of “Heat Wave” just to see how “Richard Castle” books read.

Thoughts, anyone?

How to break an addiction…

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Develop an overriding addiction! Works like a charm. No, seriously, it does. Brian left Friday early morning to visit his family in Lynchburg, leaving me holding down the fort here in NC while I work all weekend. You’d think we’d both be better at short periods of seperation buuuuut, no, we’re not. The morning started grumpy enough, I headed to bed around 2am (my eyes finally giving out on me after too much puzzling) and Brian woke up at 4am to get ready to leave only to discover that the power was out. Yup, and remained out for approx four hours. He left me with a flash light, extra blankets (it gets chilly quick with no heat!) and both of us disgruntled. Anywho, enough back story. Suffice it to say, when Brian isn’t around I feel disinclined to do anything. Be it get out of bed, shower, do the dishes, even feeding myself all kinda falls to the wayside.

I do manage to get out of bed and shower, but instead of bothering to wash a few dishes and make myself a substantial dinner, I throw in a hot pocket and search for something to entertain myself. The puzzle is beckoning, but at this point my back is almost seizing when I try to get up in the morning and it hurts to bend my knees. Even though it’s painful, the lure of it almost overwhelms me until I remember one of my New Years Resolutions to read 30 books I haven’t read yet and I march myself grimly over to the bookshelves in Brian’s room, determined to ignore the puzzle. My eyes fall on the hardcover box set of “The Hunger Games” trilogy. Books Brian read on his Kindle while in Iraq. I pull out the first one, remove the dust cover, grab my hot pocket, and start an addiction more consuming than the puzzle.

From Friday afternoon when I woke up to this past Sunday morning around 1am I read all three Hunger Games books in my spare time. I dreamt about the hunger games when I went to sleep Saturday morning, so restless and delusional I remember partially waking up at one point to yank out my pony tail and I fuzzily slip the pony band around my wrist (something I LOATHE having on my wrist when I’m trying to sleep) because I adamantly think I may be able to use the elastic as a snare in the Games. I wake up with it on my wrist and it takes me a few seconds to realize how foggy I was on reality.

These books were very engaging. Consuming. Addicting. Irksome, really. Maybe I was just in the perfect frame of mind for the story to take hold, but I was literally getting upset at running calls because I wanted to keep reading. I recommend these books. They made me want to punch things. They were really good.

I haven’t puzzled at all since picking up the first book. Not even when I came home this morning. The books are still tumbling through my mind, and what happens with any emotionally engaging (read: exhausting) book, it’ll take a bit before I can calm my thoughts down and go back to focusing on something else.

Read the books.

Also, if you’re addicted to something and need a break, try another-finite-addiction. May not be the ultimate cure, but it was a pretty darn good distraction.

Book Reviews

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This book was a recommendation from Matthew who originally sent me a P.G. Wodehouse skit that contained an Irish Wolfhound-so this kind of relates to Remus…sort of. That was my first introduction to this lighthearted, quirky english humor. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion, earning me the occasional puzzled glance from my partner on the ambulance. While some of the plot twists you can see from a mile away, others are pleasently surprising. The writing was straightforward without being tedious and irony was caked on pretty thick. I’m sure I missed some of the more subtle parodies and inuendos, but the ones I caught were plenty to keep me entertained and sometimes I felt the need to laugh at things that on retrospect I really couldn’t explain how or why they were funny. I give this book a solid two thumbs up, five stars, a hearty handshake and I’d offer it a cup of tea. source

 This book was hilarious. It dealt with far more serious topics than Piccadilly Jim, but I think thats what also makes it more funny (funnier?) in places. Again, I earned several weird looks from my partner, but she had learned by now that asking me “What’s so funny?” would result in a bunch of garbled nonsense and then “You’ll just have to read it, I can’t explain.” And that is exactly what I’m recommending everybody to do; read this book. If you have even the slightest inkling at ever being a professor, or teacher, or administrator, or anything in Academia (Capital A) this novel is a must. Or if you just like to laugh.
I give this book an A+, or promote it to Dean of any English Department. I truly enjoyed reading this book. source

The last 3 books I didn’t bother finding pictures for because their current popularity renders it uneccessay. That and my computer is currently scanning for viruses and it’s a pain to try and get google to work when the computer is this slow. I read the three Stieg Larsson books: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”. These were recommended to me by Brian who liked them so much he bought the collector’s hardcover editions and also put them on his Kindle. After hearing for weeks about how great these books were I gave in and read them. These books were definitely intriguing. They’re very gritty and graphic in places but the author doesn’t dwell on the nasty parts incessently, nor is it rampant throughout the entire book. The characters are very human, and the situations are crazy, but some how believable.

Brian got a little snarly when I mentioned the first book was a little slow to get into, but I stand by my assertion. Perhaps it was the plethora of unfamiliar Swedish names plus the list of financial scams I only partially understood that made the first 30 pages slow, but I submit, then, that only a Swedish banker could truly appreciate that part of the book. I do understand, and appreciate, the need for setting a stage and introducing everything that needs introducing in order for a story to take off, but that doesn’t make me feel like the beginning was any less tedious. Nevertheless, there were threads of plot forming that captured my interest from the beginning, and if it took a little extra line to reel in the meat of the plotline, it was worth the wait. I very much enjoyed these books. A little bit of conspiracy theories, a little bit of one man against a big bad coorporation, a few psycho’s tossed in, plus a Darth Vadar moment and a rebel with a good cause. This was a grimy, greasy series that actually had a happy ending. I can’t really say much more than that without giving out too many plot spoilers. I wish I could read it in the original Swedish because I’m sure much of the writing is lost in translation, but overall I recommend these books to anyone who likes a good underdog/murder mystery story. Hint: You can read just the first one, but if you read the second you HAVE to read the third. The second ends on a cliff hanger.

Thats all for now!

I have to visit Matthew again soon and steal more books…