I hope everyone had a nice Christmas or at the very least are enjoying their precious time off.
I always get a little depressed after Christmas because December is such a positive time of the year for me. I love the anticipation. The lights. The family dinners. And then once the gifts are unwrapped, it kind of feels like we have an entire year until we get to enjoy that all again.
Normally, I make the usual New Years resolution to lose weight, but this year I'm over that. Mostly, I want to feel a sense of anticipation and joy that goes year round, not just the first 24 days of December.
I also want to be braver, in all kinds of ways. I keep thinking about this woman I saw in Italy this past summer. T and I were sunning ourselves on the beach, enjoying the view of Mt. Vesuvius, when a woman and her two boys came paddling around the nearby cliff in a paddle-boat. They tied the boat to a buoy and went snorkeling. The woman spoke Italian, but her two young boys answered her and spoke to each other in English with American accents. I suspect they were visiting their mother's family for the summer break.
I just remember being struck by how confident she looked. She didn't look supremely happy or anything, she just seemed very secure. She wanted to take her kids snorkeling, so she rented a paddle boat and paddled it quite far from the town. Her kids followed her example completely. They looked completely comfortable diving into that clear water and all of them were clearly have a great time exploring the aquatic flora and fauna of the Mediterranean.
Eventually, they got tired of that spot and pulled themselves back into the little boat and paddled on, still going in the opposite direction of the town.
I want to be like that woman. I want to share fun experiences with my family without getting bogged down by nervousness or details that can seem insurmountable but are really nothing at all (i.e. renting boats).
I also want her body confidence. This woman was beautiful because she was enjoying herself. She wasn't rail thin, but she looked so comfortable swimming with her boys, wearing a bikini with no cover-up. Nothing. She didn't appear to give a damn whether anyone was watching her or not. She was in the moment, let's put it that way.
That's all I want from this upcoming year. I want to look back and say I had fun and relaxed into things that may have initially made me uncomfortable.
Part of that means taking more risks. Come July, my funding runs out. I don't know what I'll do then, but I do know that this year I'm going to focus more on my writing than I ever have allowed myself to do before. I'm making this my priority. If I want to be a writer, then that's the goal I'm going to pursue. I'm not going to dither about day-jobs. I'll figure that out, but I'm not going to waste another ounce of emotional currency on it. I will make money. I trust that I can.
And I know I'll get some writing published. I know it. I know I can do it. I can visualize my novel, written in full form. I can see a finished first draft of my chemistry book. It's fully achievable on my part. But I have to make it the priority.
The last thing I want to work on this year is my marriage. It's so important to me that T and I figure this out. I know we can. We're still best friends, there's no reason that our respective neuroses HAVE to get in the way. We each can work on ourselves. There's all sorts of things I'm doing to help myself (therapy, mediation, exercise, writing) and meanwhile I trust that my husband is doing the same. We'll get there, and I think the first step is to prioritize spending time together. This means more camping trips on the weekends, more time spent enjoying (and making) good art, and more time exercising together. We love doing these things, we just need to focus on them more than we had been doing in the past few months.
So those are my goals for 2016:
-Be joyful and brave.
-Focus on writing.
-Work on the marriage.
What are yours?
Do you have a space where you prefer to read?
At the moment, I don't have my own space in the house. We moved some furniture around and now my office is looking very sad and bare. There's no where to sit or lay down. What's left is a large open space that is begging for a comfortable sofa/day-bed/arm chair or something similar; a foot rest perhaps, a side-table, and a reading lamp. Doesn't that sound lovely?
However, I resist buying furniture. It's expensive, and like buying shoes, I tend to make mistakes and wind up with something I hate. Honestly, it's better that I buy nothing at all and make due with what I have.
As of late, I've been reading on our living room sofa, usually first thing in the morning. I prefer to read for large chunks of time, so it's nice to sit with my legs stretched out onto the coffee table with a cup of coffee while I tackle a quarter of the book. But it's not the coziest spot. The downstairs is cold in the winter, and this morning I couldn't find a position that didn't kill my lower back.
I used to read in bed a lot. I had a wall-mounted lamp that had an extendable arm that you could adjust and swing around to get the position just right. I'd read late, late into the night, with my forehead resting on the lamp, which would get pleasantly hot from the incandescent bulb.
Now I don't read in bed because my husband always wants to watch a DVD on his computer (side note: we are trying to work things out. Breaking up for a few weeks helped us both reevaluate our priorities. It's still incredibly hard and rough at times, but I'm glad we're at least trying). Sometimes I ask him to wear headphones, sometimes I don't. Regardless of the sound, I find the computer distracting.
When I was a kid, I also used to read in a somewhat cramped spaces. The linen closet was a favorite location. It had an excellent overhead light and it was quite cozy to sit among the towels. I particularly liked reading my Little House on the Prairie books in there because it was easy to pretend I was in a tiny cabin while the blizzards of the Dakota territory raged outside.
The other cramped spot I remember enjoying was the gap between my bed and my book shelf. I'd sit and read Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre with my knees curled up to my chin. I don't remember being uncomfortable. I think that's part of what makes a reading nook work: it needs to be a cozy, small, warm, private space. This is partly why I think buying expensive furniture to furnish a reading nook in the middle of my office is not going to work. It's not a small space and I can't make it feel that way regardless. Pinterest would have you believe otherwise, but this way madness and credit card debt lies.
Ok, this may sound crazy, but I'm leaning towards throwing some pillows into one of my closets. We live in house with an insane amount of closet space for two people and we have those types of closets that are super-roomy because they're built around dormer windows. They have lights inside. They're confined and very private. They get very warm on a sunny day. Maybe I could find a cheap bedroll online, pile on the pillows and blankets and see how it works.
If I go for it, I'll be sure to update with pictures.
Is it weird for a thirty-year old woman to read in a closet? Or genius...
Do you have a reading nook? Where do you prefer to read?
When I was little, my parents both worked, so I went to a home day-care. This was the late 80's, so our toys and books were of that era and I remember.there was this one Teddy Ruxpin book (Grubby's Romance) that still nags at me to this day. It nags at me because one of the rotten kids at the day-care had ripped some of the pages out! And even though I knew better, I used to read that book over and over and hope that somehow those pages would reappear so I could finally read (and understand) the whole story. I'm not kidding. I still think about this book.
It's just the way my brain works. I'm totally obsessive about stories. I remember whole episodes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Duck Tales. If something is told to me in the form of a story, I pretty much won't ever forget it. But that means I can't stand to listen to or read fragments of anything, because I'll remember those fragments and the missing pieces will bother me. Badly. I just want to know the whole story, it's really not that weird if you think about it.
For example, if I'm in the car and This American Life comes on the radio, I can't leave the story half-way through. I mean, technically I can. The car-ride ends, I have to get out of the car and turn off the radio, but I hate doing it. I hate having this catalogue in my head of all the stories I've heard on This American Life without ever getting to hear the end. Podcasts have solved this particular issue for me, but the theme continues through my life.
For instance, even though I love comic books, especially Marvel characters, I've never been able to get into the Marvel comic series because the story-lines are so expansive, I can't stand the thought of just jumping into the story midway. I want to start at the beginning and that's basically impossible at this point. Even if I bought every trade paper-back, I don't think it could be easily done. (Nor would it make a lot of sense. There's a mountain of discontinuity in those series which would drive me insane.) No, I find it easier to buy complete collections of manga, which begin and end in very discrete intervals. That's doable. But a part of me is always going to be sorry that I can't get over this little quirk in order to enjoy some classic American comics. Like Spiderman. I would LOVE to get into Spiderman. But it's never going to happen.
Same goes for cartoon shows, especially animes. Fox was the worst at this. They would show episodes out of order or skip episodes for whatever reason. Why did they do that? Just tell me the whole story!
This is why when I want to read a comic or watch a TV show, I usually just go ahead and buy the whole series. It's not cheap, so I have to be pretty selective, but I find it so much more enjoyable to read/watch a story from beginning to end. When I first started making a little money from my summer jobs, the first thing I did was buy the Dragon Ball Z manga one by one, all 26 books. It was awesome. Finally, after all those years of Cartoon Network yanking my chain with the incomplete DBZ anime, I finally had the whole story.
Do you feel this strongly about stories? Do gaps bother you as much as they bother me?
Happy Sunday to you all! It’s a cold, frosty morning here in North Carolina. We live in an older house that doesn’t heat very evenly, but that gives us an excuse to light a fire and hibernate on the couch. Most of yesterday was spent in this position, watching Foyle’s War. If you are in need of an excellent British mystery series (set during WWII), I can heartily recommend that one.
This morning I woke up and found there were still live coals in the fireplace, so I added some more wood and voila, another cozy morning that I’ve just spent finishing a book of short stories, How to Breathe Underwater. I really loved this book and thought it would be worth sharing.
I’d never heard of Julie Orringer before, but it’s a name I’m going to be looking out for in the future. Normally, I struggle with short stories because they require you to start something new every twenty-pages or so. I have a bad habit of resisting new stories (and new places, new foods, new anything really). I hesitate because I don’t trust that I will get interested or enjoy it.
I never had that problem with Orringer’s work. Each story is exceedingly well written. It’s good, clean prose that never gets in the way of the plot or the characters; a great example for students (and aspiring writers) on how to be descriptive without getting purple and obnoxious.
The stories generally center around young women in transitional moments of their life, but it’s hard to say exactly why each story drew me in so easily. Nothing happened that was too extreme (baring the first story!) and none of the characters were “quirky.” And even though each story was set in very different circumstances and locations (Detroit, New Orleans, San Francisco, lake-side, suburban-side), I found them very relatable, perhaps because the narrators were all young women or girls. They were believable. I’d make similar choices in their circumstances.
However, I will warn you that while the first story in the collection is probably the best, it is also the most disturbing. I randomly started the book on the second story (based on my mother’s recommendation), continued on from there, and only later went back to the first story. Frankly, if I had started with the first story, I’m not sure I would have felt brave enough to continue on with the others. I would have worried they all would be dark (they weren’t). I had the same problem years ago with Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies. If you’re organizing the order of short stories in a collection, personally I think you should not start with one that is so agonizingly heartbreaking. Tuck that away for later.
My only other critique was that some of the stories in the collection progressed in a fairly predictable manner. Character, conflict, and setting were always strong, but occasionally the plot, while perfectly fine, didn’t surprise me. A few of the stories bucked this trend and I think they particularly stand out as the strongest in the book (Pilgrims, What We Save, Care, Stations of the Cross, and maybe Note to Sixth Grade Self).
Another minor issue I had was that some of the characters started having conversations to wrap up the story that I doubt anyone would ever have in real life. Fighting siblings and friends, in my experience, never talk out the issue. They just move apart or move on.
In any case, I really loved these and I hope to read more from Orringer. If you’re in the mood for meaningful, yet page-turning short stories, check out How to Breathe Underwater.
Whelp folks, I've reached my limit. The limit of what I can realistically do in a week. Between taking care of myself, my animals, writing, slush reading, blogging, working, etc., it's just become too much and something has to give.
When I was spending extended periods over the summer by myself, and when my reactor at work wasn't working, I had the time to blog five days a week. But right now? It's just too hard and I can't keep up this pace.
I think I did pretty well, all things considered, and now it's time for a change. Most people, unless they are professional bloggers, do not blog every day during the week. No, they blog at most maybe once a week. That is a pace I think I can sustain.
So this is just a friendly announcement that I've decided to cut back my blogging to once per week, only because I really need to devote more of my time to writing. I have thoughts. I enjoy sharing them online. But ultimately my goal is to become published, not to become a professional blogger. So this is me pivoting to new ideas and new methods.
If I feel like I can up the blogging rate again, then I will. And who knows, from time to time, I may throw in a mid-week post. Sometimes I'm just busting to share an idea.
But I've decided my new blogging schedule will be once a week, posting on Sunday mornings.
I hope you understand (if there is anyone out there who cares). It was just getting to be a bit much and I had to make a choice. This past week of Thanksgiving break was an unexpected delight having some time off from the blog (and the twitter monitoring that sort of goes with the business). I didn't realize what stress I was putting on myself posting daily until I allowed myself to forget all that for most of a week.
So I decided, hey, why not focus on taking care of me and take a break? What's the harm? Like I said, I'll still blog, once a week on Sundays, but otherwise, I'm doing my best to get rid of unnecessary stresses in my life.
Thanks for reading and I will be back on Sunday!
Writer, editor, scientist.