Friday, January 22, 2016

My Love/Hate Relationship With Snow

Snow day!

Y'all, I LOVE the snow. I love the perfect, untrodden fleece of soft white comforting the ground and the rooftops, the scarves wrapped loosely around tree limbs. I love the serenity of no traffic passing by, no people rushing about, everything halted in time. I love the silence and peace hanging chilly in the air. I love the 6am phone call from the school district announcing the schools are closed and the text from work promising a free day off. I love the excitement of children waking up and seeing the snow outside their frosty windows, the squeals of pure, innocent delight, childhood memories in the making.


But y'all, I HATE the snow.

I hate the cold, wet bite of it. I hate the burning sting of it on my skin. I hate the cold, wet cuffs of trousers and sopping, refrozen gloves. I hate to see the untouched bright blanket blinking in the sun destroyed by boot trails and snowballs. Y'all, I'll admit it, I hate snowmen.

But how do I explain that I still love the snow, nonetheless? I love to watch my kids revel in the joy of snowplay, I love to watch my husband turn into a big kid when the snow falls. I love to observe the snow; I just hate to engage with it.

I am the World's Okayest Mom. While I loathe rolling large balls of snow into sad-looking "men" and throwing and/or being hit by snowballs, I do love making hot chocolate and building log fires and watching movies with my family, all the indoor joys of snow. I'll leave the outdoor frozen activities to the big kid I'm married to.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

5 Goals For the New Year

Cheers to 2016!
It feels a little late in the game, being the 13th of January, but I do have some New Year's Resolutions I feel ought to be written down and solidified somehow to make them real. Already I've broken, like, all of them, but maybe it's because I haven't set them in stone anywhere yet?

Below are 5 things I'd like to accomplish in 2016, including acknowledgement of the barriers to accomplishing them. Writing down the things that make resolutions hard to keep is a good step towards keeping them, or so my friend across the cubicle wrote on our company's blog (25 Tips for Success: New Year's Resolutions). So here I go - plans and goals for the new year.

1. Spend less, save more. I have big plans for saving money this year. I think I do every year, but this time I mean it! There are things I'd like to accomplish that require saving up for. The benefits of saving money are obvious, but the "costs" are harder to quantify. Truth is, I enjoy spending money. When I'm feeling low, I like to buy clothes or books. My goal this year is to resist that urge. The money may be there to spend, but I want to choose not to spend it. I need to find other therapies besides retail therapy.

2. Read the books I have.  Following #1, I want to try not to buy any more books until I've read all the ones I bought last year and haven't read yet. The Reading Challenge last year was so much fun, but it made me go a little crazy buying books. Now I have whole shelves full of books I bought last year but haven't had the chance to read yet. Before I buy more, I want to read these first. There are plenty to last me! If I can just fight my addiction to buying new books and stay out of bookstores... That's my biggest barrier to that one!

3. Lose the Office 15. Like going away to college for the first time, going back to work meant putting on some unwanted extra weight. Going from an extremely active lifestyle of working out multiple times a week to sitting at a desk eight hours a day has cost me my hard-earned waistline. I have a goal of losing 15-20 lbs by my birthday in April. If I can make that goal, I have a birthday treat waiting for me; I'll try out Stitch Fix. I've heard so many good things about it but don't want spend the money on nice things I'll hopefully under-grow. This kind of ties into #1 again, too.  Rather than spending money often on little things, I'd like to get back to my goal weight and then only spend money on a few very nice things. Barriers to losing weight? Keto is boring, and finding time to work out is next to impossible.

4. Exercise more. Tying into losing weight, I want to get back to the gym. The barriers to this are huge: time and interest.  I have only a limited amount of free time anymore and a very limited interest in my new gym. I realize now how spoiled I was with my old gym. The Community Center had fantastic classes with fantastic instructors that I was super excited about. The gym I've joined in my new town, however, lacks everything I loved about my old rec center. So convincing myself to go to it - knowing none of the classes are fun and the only other thing I'll be interested in doing is the treadmill - is tough. But I want to try. Lesson learned though: Don't join a gym that won't let you visit it several times first.

5. Put another book in print. Last year, of course, I published my first book. This year, I'd like to put another book in print - perhaps poetry or short stories. My biggest barrier to that, however, is imposter syndrome. I'm really just a complete farce of a writer. This is a hard feeling to bypass. After publishing my book, I refused to read it again, afraid I'd lose all courage if I did. Well, I got a Kindle for Christmas and decided to read my book in Kindle format. I've lost all confidence, just as I feared. One day, I'll probably release a second edition of The Last Petal Falling, filling in all the details I realized I should have included and bulking up the story in places that lack and fixing phrases I now wish I'd put differently. But until then, I need to keep writing. Push through my complete lack of faith in myself and my certainty that I'm just a big fraud and put something else out there. I can't let the self-doubt win!

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Challenge Accepted! December Books

Sad confession time.  I only got through 1.5 books in December.

And the only reason I have taken so long to blog about them is because I really wanted to at least finish the second book so I could write about two, not just one.

December is a busy, crazy month, so I'm don't feel too bad about failing the 2015 Reading Challenge. I only missed it by three books. I consider that pretty good!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (A book set during Christmas)

Another sad confession. I've never read A Christmas Carol - until now, of course.  I have, however, seen A Muppet's Christmas Carol, and like most people, I knew the story.

What can I say? It's a Christmas classic. I spent the whole time reading seeing Michael Cain, Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Gonzo.  I could not even remotely imagine Bob Cratchit as a human or the Ghost of Christmas Present anything other than a giant puppet. And there was only one Marley... Even so, kudos to the Muppets for following the book almost word-for-word.

I'm not sure if this is a commentary on the book or the movie.

Daniel Martin by John Fowles (A book with more than 500 pages)

Ahhh. Now this is the book I wanted to talk about.

"A masterpiece of symbolically charged realism....Fowles is the only writer in English who has the power, range, knowledge, and wisdom of a Tolstoy or James." (John Gardner, Saturday Review)

First, a little background. I love background.

I took a modern fiction course in college with Ellen Gilchrist. In that class, Prof. Gilchrist introduced us to a wide array of fantastic novels I'd never heard of. Even the ones I didn't love still made a lasting impact on me. In that one class, she introduced me to three books I'll never forget, two of which have become lifetime favorites, and one of which literally changed the way I looked at literature forever.

That last one was 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But Daniel Martin is one of the two that has become a lifetime favorite.

I chose this book as my "book with more than 500 pages", knowing that choosing it would mean not completing my challenge. I was okay with that. This book is no quick and easy read. The plot develops slowly yet steadily, like life. No details are omitted. Deep introspection of the narrator and thorough psychoanalysis of the supporting characters accompanies every small moment. Reading this book is like reading God's diary. How do I even begin to describe this novel?

It is the most intelligent, intellectual, insightful, raw, honest, and challenging book I can think of. 

To give the plot line almost does the book a disservice, because it is so much more than just a story. Daniel Martin is a middle-aged British screenwriter, living in California, coming to terms with his past, present, and future, all of which seem in some way to take the form of the females in his life: his grown daughter, his ex-wife, his young girlfriend, his ex-sister-in-law. The past he has spent his entire present trying to put behind him finally pulls him back when his estranged ex-brother-in-law/best friend requests to see him one last time before he dies of cancer. Daniel must return to England and face all that he has successfully ignored for far too long.

Daniel Martin is a story. It is also politics. It is religion. It is psychology, sociology, anthropology. Throw in the discreet and moving sex scenes, and it's biology. This is my third time to read it, and like the two times before it, I have learned in it new things about humanity and about myself. It took all of December and a week of January to finish, and that's with steady reading. It is so dense, so rich, it can't be taken in all at once.It has to be read in chunks, chewed on, mulled over, considered.

However, if you have the patience and want to read a really great book, I highly recommend it.

Oh, one more thing. You know that song "Nightswimming" by R.E.M.? I like to think Michael Stipe got the idea from this book. It was listening to that song that made me decide Daniel Martin would be my 500 page book. (More like 640.)

So what did I not manage to read in 2015?

Three books:
A classic romance (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)
A book your mom loves (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson)
A book that came out the year you were born (The Color Purple by Alice Walker)

All of which remain on my To-Read List for 2016.

To see what else I have read this year: