"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." ~Oscar Wilde
I realize my collecting of books can be called by some as hoarding. That’s a transitive verb that means to collect and often hide away a supply of…(fill in with whatever you like). In general, it is often considered negative, which is understandable if out of control. Hoarding is a subjective situation and one may consider my having over 300 books as hoarding—one that is not an avid reader, that is. They are all neatly placed on shelves and not hidden away, stacked in corners, or falling out of boxes.
Aside from the enjoyment I get out of reading, there is an appreciation for the beauty of books. They aren’t just printed pages glued together and bound. They are mental stimulation as I’m exercising my brain. They expand my vocabulary and knowledge. They enhance my imagination and take me to places I’ve never dreamed. As a writer, it will strengthen my skills and broaden my abilities. They also help with anxiety and stress. There are so many benefits I could go on about, but in the end, you either like to read or you don’t.
I will admit that it got out of control in the past. I started buying used books—the collectible variety—with no regard to whether I was interested in actually reading them. That has changed and I’m more thoughtful about what I add to my library. I’ve weeded through all of them, keeping only the ones I will read. I also trade the some of the books I’ve read with the used book store. I keep only the collectibles and those I may read again.
One might say I won’t be able to read them all in my lifetime considering the amount—but one never knows. Challenge accepted! It will only take twenty-five years reading one book a month with my estimated collection. Having read thirteen so far this year, it's doable.
There is one weakness I have when coming across books—handwritten notes. I don’t condone writing in books, but seeing a heartfelt message written inside dated 1925, or even last year, fascinates me. Resisting the urge to buy these simply because of the notes inside takes willpower.
Either way, I challenge anyone to read as there is always a book that will interest you. It would be impossible to not find at least one. If you don't like to read, you just haven't found the right book.
With eight days of Yoga behind me, I think I have officially started a routine. This includes both exercise and eating healthier. I have always despised dieting as it means to do without—in my mind. I don't mean healthy in the sense of brown rice and no bread. I mean healthy in the sense of fewer calories by measuring (okay yes, sometimes eyeballing) the portions. This also means choosing wisely what I decided to eat.
Although I never thought I’d ever do this, I am going to quote Kanye West. I honestly don’t know if he came up with it—I just heard him say it during an interview with David Letterman. Rather than a diet, I am now on a “livet."
I like the idea of the word as eating healthy and exercise helps you do just that—live. I’m learning that I can keep the calories down and still enjoy the foods I want. I don’t know how it is for you, but conditioning my mind to enjoy what I eat has been easier than I thought. Maybe because I was ready for it, I don’t know. My weakness is Mexican food and it’s pretty much a staple in our home. Quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas—essentially anything that I can wrap a tortilla around. Chips and salsa? Yea, I’m all about that. I did something remarkable the other day. I counted out the exact number of tortilla chips for a serving size to go with a homemade avocado dip. Did I eat just those? No. However, the three extra chips I added were enough and didn’t break me. I am a bottomless pit when it comes to tortilla chips with salsa, guacamole, or queso. I don’t get full. I simply run out of chips. That day, I was satisfied with the portion I served and honestly felt good about myself.
Today’s lunch was Poblano Chicken Quesadillas that teetered on 250 calories. I got the recipe from Cooking Light’s website and made it my own. I eliminated the mushrooms as I am not that trendy. And, I don’t poach chicken—ever! I lightly seasoned the chicken, pan-frying it in a little olive oil. Using one of those handy calorie calculator websites, I got lower than the original recipe’s calorie count. Mostly because I wasn’t cooking for six people and needed far fewer ingredients, including cheese. For those of you who enjoy cooking, you learn what ingredients work together as you hone your culinary skills. You also learn what doesn’t work, like mushrooms in a quesadilla.
My goals are set small now, making success feel more attainable. I’ve become friends with the bathroom scale after many years of bitter fighting. I simply ignored it as the scale never had anything nice to say. Now, I look forward to our morning conversations.
The word Yoga translates to mean union—the union of your divine consciousness. It’s a spiritual discipline, but a discipline nonetheless. I’m on day seven of my tour of divinity and I’m determined to make this a routine way of life. One might think that Yoga is easy, but one would be wrong. It’s not just stretching in quirky positions and lying on the floor. It’s described as a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices. These past six days “practicing” Yoga have been a bit challenging to say the least. Mostly because I lack balance—putting on underwear offers unstable footing. You may also realize that you aren’t as flexible as you once were. Of course that doesn’t stop me from trying to put my foot behind my head.
Although I have taken Yoga classes in the past, it wasn’t with any frequency and it’s been years. I stayed to the back of the class and giggled as I wobbled through the poses. This time, to save face, I headed to the library and grabbed a few DVDs. I grabbed one for beginners, one for weight loss, and one for better buns (the main reason for exercise). Given my limitations of being essentially new to Yoga, rather unsteady, and slightly inflexible—I exercise until my body says, “Nope.” Each day I push a little further and it’s actually working out for me as I go further each day. The key is to follow the correct techniques, listen to your body, and breathe. I’m not doing any of those fluidly, but I’m getting there.
There are various kinds of Yoga, and it’s not just about the physical exercise—but a way of life.
This by no means covers all the aspects of Yoga, but for me, it’s a start to understanding how to achieve my goals both mentally and physically. I think the bottom line is to do something for yourself that in the end makes you feel good.
That whole "miles to go before I sleep" line has me thinking. How I view it is solely based on my mood. It can either mean that I have a lot to do before I can rest for the day or a lot to do before I die. Although I don't make lists of things to do as I should, I think about all the things I want to accomplish. Making a list is actually a very satisfying way to feel like you've accomplished something. I do adore crossing things off my ever growing, continuous list. Everyone does. I think about my existence on this plane, happy for the things I have more than disappointed for the things I don't. This is solely based on averages, not always daily. Once again, all based on mood, and perspective.
As I've grown older, I am more settled by the fact my list of things I want to do before I die has shortened to a more healthy and reality based one. Remember that MASH game we all played in high school (not sure if that's still a thing). M is for mansion, A is for apartment, S is for shack, and the H stands for house. One of these things will be your future by the end of the game. Naturally, back then I wanted a mansion. Not so much now--way too much upkeep and I can't even think about the electric bill. I'm wondering if Apartment can have sub-categories that include a townhome or condo? As far as the Shack goes, I've done that already. I'm now wondering if my life is actually playing out just like the game. We all think of a shack as being uninhabitable, but it's defined as a roughly built hut or cabin. People pay a lot for those kinds of places these days. Nevertheless, I think I can cross this off as been there-done that considering one of my "homes" was rough for a while. There was a legitimate house—once upon a time. It had a huge yard, trees, community pool, and plenty of living space. It also had property taxes, an HOA that was rather Gestapo-ish, and a constant battle with chinch bugs. I have an appreciation for rock gardens at this point.
Now, I have a condo in a beautiful community that's quiet--relatively, considering the kids. There's a lake, pool, hot tub, and no lawn I need to maintain. I've loved and appreciated this home for the past three years, but now it's time to make a move. We need more space as our family is growing by one, that handsome man I’m destined to marry. So, in this the part of the game you list your crushes, those hot men you will live happily ever after with. What I wouldn't give to see a copy of the outcome of this game back in school. If I were to summon my 9th grade self, I can think of only one celebrity I no doubt selected for this great honor. Simon LeBon from Duran Duran. That's a no brainer for anyone in the mid-80s, or at least someone from that band. I'd get to tour the world, backstage access (of course), and I'd get serenaded every day. I can't even imagine who else I selected at the time, but probably some cute guys from school. These days, I have no desire to live a celebrity life and I already have the man I want--but for the love of the game, let's list some contenders. Chris Hemsworth, who needs no explanation. Tom Hanks, because I'm sensible and he's adorable. Ewan McGregor, who's sexy, sings, and has that whole Scottish accent thing. And finally, let's go with Paul Rudd--that cute boy next door that makes you laugh. With the exception of Chris (who is exceptional), I think my choices are age appropriate. And, I imagine all of these guys have good credit--that's just sexy.
When it comes to the car selections, I know my younger self was obsessed with one car--the Corvette. I can't even imagine having a Corvette now and insurance has to be outrageous. Although still a sexy car, they are incredibly impractical. Before kids, I had fun in my Miata and Jeep Wrangler. After kids, I had no fun in a mini-van--a car definitely not ever chosen by my 15-year-old self. Nowadays, I'm a simple girl and just need something that fits the family and runs well. But, since I need to choose four vehicles, I'll fill in the blanks. Audi Q5, because who doesn't want an Audi? Range Rover, because being a bad-ass mom is important. Jeep Wrangler is still a good choice since I have teenagers driving and it has a towing hitch. And because being bad-ass extends outside of my motherhood, a Porsche Carrera GTS convertible--specifically that new Tiffany blue. I'm still a girl after all and the kids don't have to go EVERYWHERE with me.
And where will I be driving that Porsche? Well, for now, Orlando. Back in school, I'm sure I chose far off countries and exotic places--Italy, Spain, or some remote island in the South Pacific. Try driving a Corvette on those sandy roads along the shore. I'm happy in Orlando, but I need of four places to live for the game. My choice of Italy hasn't changed, and George Clooney would love me as a neighbor. I definitely have a cup of sugar he can borrow. Spain is a contender, and I'm sure Antonio Banderas could give me, uh...us, some insider tips on the best neighborhoods. My older self also wants Mexico, not just because of the family lineage, but because it's rich with culture and has beautiful beaches. We'll leave the criminal element out this fantasy. My final choice would have to be somewhere along the coast in the States, preferably sunny and warm. Why the US? Aside from my family being here, it's familiar and I need a little of that at my age. Besides, there are plenty of places to explore and many cultures to learn in my own backyard. I love the melting pot that 'Merica is.
There are some variations to this game. Some include career choices, pets, and even the career of your future spouse. I don't recall all the categories I used then, but I know that how many kids I would have was one of them. I'm maxed out at three, so there's no need to venture there. Wouldn't want to jinx myself and end up with four. I shudder at the thought of being pregnant again at this point, especially since I'm pretty sure my future always predicted just two--twins. HA! What the hell did I know then? How I wanted twins, one boy and one girl. The hands of fate knew I could only handle one at a time and threw in an extra one to secure my want of a girl. The MASH gods know what they're doing and we don't question them.
Well, this isn't the productive list I was planning when I started. However, it helps me remember all the things I wanted to do before I die--or, rest for the day, whichever. I will say that my perspective has definitely changed over the course of my life, as have my priorities. I'm happy with the man of my dreams, the townhome we've chosen, the car that gets me where I need to go, the city in which I live, and the number of kids I have. I do hope I have many more miles to go as I obviously have things to do and places to see.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am opposed to the idea of New Year's resolutions. However, I am all about personal goals and challenging myself. In my house we have set a reading challenge between my fiance and me. We are challenging ourselves to read around 55 books collectively. Naturally, we hope for more, but in the basic structure of a day with work and family, sometimes it's difficult to squeeze in the reading time. Reading isn't merely a hobby of ours, but a necessity. There are numerous benefits to reading and the notion that reading is a drag is only for those who are a drag. I didn't meet my reading challenge for last year, which was low to begin with. I found myself busy with other things and didn't manage my time wisely. I forgot that the very things I needed would have been found by picking up a book—mental stimulation, stronger analytical thinking, improved focus, and most of all, stress reduction.
As a writer, it is absolute must that I read. My writing and vocabulary skills will not only improve, but I'll find the inspiration I need to write my own stories. How a writer makes me feel as a reader will only aid in reaching my goal of how I want my reader to feel. My first three books of the year have writers who have inspired me. I started off the year with the historical fiction Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. She researched Zelda's life, the untold stories, creating a plausible viewpoint from Zelda's perspective. It's written in first person, so I had the benefit of reading Zelda's internal dialogue. Her story has stayed with me and offered empathy for a woman people have claimed to have ruined her husband's life and career--if the many stories about her are even true. Did she really keep F. Scott Fitzgerald from attaining his goals as a writer? Did she really keep him up late partying and make him the raging alcolholic he was? What I gained from the novel is that she could have easily been a victim of circumstance and society. As far as I see it, F. Scott Fitgerald is responsible for his own actions—as we all are
What's currently on my typewriter is a first-person story that leans towards creative non-fiction, with some historical events. I doubted my direction of first-person, but now feel more comfortable with carrying on after reading Fowler's book. The interesting part about creative non-fiction is that it's more common that we think as many fiction writers include their own experiences and people in real life. The names are changed to protect the innocent, although "innocence" is not always the case. Whether or not you're into fiction or non, in the camp that Zelda was crazy, or that she hindered Fitzgerald's success, the book is an excellent and eye-opening read. If anything, it will make you think more about her situation from rational perspective. It's very much like the idea of reading a book before watching the movie. You get more of a backstory, the reasons for the character's behavior, and insight that the movie can't offer in 90 minutes. This novel is no different in that regard when trying to make your Zelda determination
Another great read was Dominick Dunne's autobiography/memoir, The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper. Dunne writes about his start in the Hollywood scene and the many people he met along the way. His writing feels honest and there is a sense of humility. The catch with autobiographies is that they are an account of our life as we "remember" it. Although Dunne refers to his journals that he kept along the way, it's not easy to think the same as our younger selves. Trying to rely on our memories, even with photos and journals, doesn't necessarily lend itself to an accurate event. But, Dunne puts it plainly in the title, "Recollections." What I appreciated the most is that he is overall respectful of those he writes about. He doesn't assume he knows why other's behaved as they did despite having background stories. Dunne also wasn't afraid to be a bit self-deprecating. His account of his life didn't feel exaggerated—something I am immensely aware of. Dunne's writing will affect how I share my story. I want the feeling of openness and honesty with each word, regardless of after-affects of popular opinion. Everyone around you, in your inner-circle, think they know you. They may in some form or fashion, but writing down your thoughts in the quest to be completely true will probably make them question how much they really know. I admire those who do, even if I don't agree with their decisions in life.
I recently completed Circling the Sun: A Novel by Paula McLain, a fictional memoir of Beryl Markham. Beryl was born in the UK, however moved to Kenya in 1906 when she was four years old. She became the first woman to become a licensed horse trainer in Kenya. Beryl is also the first woman to fly across the Atlantic solo when she flew from Europe to North America. Although Beryl wrote her own memoir in 1942, West With The Night, McLain offers the emotion behind her story. It offers the feeling of hearing Beryl's story as it's happening, or as we imagined she was feeling at the time. Her story is inspiring for me as a woman, encouraging me to move forward with my own goals. She was determined and unafraid of society's limitations on a woman. The rights of women have come a long way since the 1920s, so it's not lost on me that my advantages are far greater than hers. If anything, there should be no excuses on my part.
This is the second novel I've read by Paula McLain. I read her historical fiction, The Paris Wife, about the life of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife. It could definitely be said I appreciate the biographical novels as that is what I seem to read the most. Hadley's story is also a remarkable one and she displayed self-sacrificing dedication to her husband and his writing. Unfortunately, her efforts were unappreciated by Hemingway at the time and he moved on to another woman, Pauline Pfeiffer. It was after three more wives and several women later that he appreciated Hadley, calling her the love of his life. Nevertheless, McLain did it again for me with Circling the Sun, drawing me in to an extraordinary woman's life, leaving me wanting to know more about them. I want a better understanding of how McLain came to her conclusions of how these women may have felt during these events in their life.
I'm about to start reading Zelda: A Biography, written by American biographer Nancy Milford. Because of Therese Ann Fowler, I truly want to know more about Zelda and if my empathy for her is justifiable. This will be my second biography by Milford, who also wrote Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Millay was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize (1923) and she did so writing beautiful poetry. Needless to say, I have acquired Millay's poetry in my fascination with her life and her work—all because I picked up a book. She is also responsible for the the popular line in her Fig from Thistles: First Fig poem, "My candle burns at both ends" —an idiom that applies to me sometimes.
Aside from the inspiration I derive from reading, the increased vocabulary, and the many other benefits, I do believe I've become a bit more cultured My appreciation for poetry has expanded over this past year with both Millay and Sylvia Plath, having read their biographies and journals.. I think Oscar Wilde summed it up nicely with "It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it."
Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real
I am a woman-child at heart; continuously evolving to find my place in life. I am a mother, a daughter, and a sister. I am a lover and a dreamer--an explorer and a traveler. But it's my passion for writing that allows me to explore my ingenuity. This is something that undoubtedly carries over to the many roles that make up the ever evolving woman I am.