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Posts Tagged ‘Reading’

For the record, I did NOT put that much cheese on mine. 🙂

This week I offer one quote from Charles Dickens in honor of his 200th birthday and because it tied so nicely into August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest which I participated in.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers and are famous preservers of youthful looks.” -Charles Dickens

“The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.”Thich Nhat Hanh

“Be like the sun for grace and mercy. Be like the night to cover others’ faults. Be like running water for generosity. Be like death for rage and anger. Be like the Earth for modesty. Appear as you are. Be as you appear.” — Rumi

Gratitude List for the week ending February 11

  1. My application to the Highlights Foundation Poetry for All Workshop was accepted! So I’ll be heading to Honesdale in May.
  2. In the light of less than a half moon, the stars in Breckenridge are brilliant.
  3. Fresh snow for skiing!
  4. Homemade 3-way Cincinnati chili – YUM!
  5. Another Margareaders meeting, and everyone enjoyed the book I chose – One Thousand White Women.
  6. Julie B.  She knows why.
  7. Meeting with my in-person critique group. Go Boulder Picture Book Writers!
  8. Rocky laying at my feet under the desk while I work
  9. Watching Em have fun selling Girl Scout cookies – AND the fact that the sale is over! (We still have three boxes of Thin Mints left if anyone is interested)
  10. Reading easy readers with Jay. He never tires of it and is getting better and better.  Soon he will read on his own!

What are you grateful for this week? 

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Even Wile E. Coyote gets to read!!!

Sorry I am a day late with the check-in this week.  A bomb went off in my day yesterday and I just couldn’t get it finished, but here goes…

I don’t even know where to start with this week’s check-in.  If you read my earlier post, you know that one of the assignments for this week was a reading fast – no reading at all for a whole week.  The rationale is to get out of other people’s thoughts and creations and into your own.  What I can say for certain is that while it was pretty miserable, I learned a LOT about myself.

  • Week 4 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Identity.”  This week is all about dealing with your real self and your realfeelings, as opposed to the ones that are on public display.  Mission accomplished.  Painfully so.Morning Pages: Yup.  I even powered through a couple of times when I wanted to stop after two pages.  Sure enough, something significant would come out in that third page.Artist Date:  Tuesday night, at 9:00, I found myself too tired to do any more work and DYING to read.  I was so angry that I couldn’t and found myself thinking, “FINE!  You want self-exploration, inner peace, silence, solitude?  I’ll give it to you!!”  So I did a 30-minute meditation with no music, no guidance from a recording – nothing.  I almost always use some sort of music or mantra when I meditate, and I have never sat for that long of a time in one block.  I’d love to say it changed my life, but it didn’t.  It did, however, calm me down and get me through the evening. I slept better that night than I had all week.

Any “Aha” Moments? Uh, yeah. Brace yourselves.

  • First, I knew I loved reading, but despite the fact that my house is loaded to the rafters with books (which should have been a clue), I didn’t realize how integral reading is to my life and well-being.  At different times during this exercise I felt anguish, longing, anger… Not dissimilar to the range of emotions you feel when after a break-up, actually.  Sometimes, not being able to pick up a book felt physically unbearable.  I’m not even kidding.
  • Second, I learned that I DO use reading as a way to escape from unpleasant feelings and self-examination.  Not all the time, but definitely sometimes.  Over this past week, whenever I felt upset, my hands just itched to pick up a book.  Not being able to forced me to confront what was bothering me.
  • Third, I learned that I DO use reading as a way to avoid creating.  I amazed myself with my productivity this week.  I even finished a brand new story!  I’ve been promoting the MeeGenius children’s author contest, writing on my own blog and still, I didn’t feel totally out-of-control like I sometimes do.  Although I missed reading my favorite blogs and hanging out on Facebook and Twitter (I did a teensy bit, but FAR less than usual), it was a blessing to have an excuse to skip all that reading.  I will, however, be glad to get back to them.  Kind of like greeting a friend after an absence.  🙂

So, what did I do while I wasn’t reading?  Well, I decorated my house for Christmas.  I cooked several meals on Sunday so as to be prepared for the week ahead.  I listened to Christmas music.  I took the dog for long walks.  I watched a movie and The Grinch with my kids.  I reflected (even when I didn’t want to).  And I wrote.  I learned that you really do need the silence spaces in order to let creativity bubble up to the surface.

What will I do with these lessons?  One thing is for sure, and that is I will NOT do a reading fast EVER. AGAIN.  HOWEVER, I do commit to bringing more awareness to my reading – just checking in mentally to see if I am reading for pleasure, for purpose, or to escape myself or my writing.  If it’s the latter, I will attempt to explore those feelings further before running away with a book (or Google Reader).

I also realize that I need to put more structure around my social media time.  I’ve known this for a long while, actually, but it took this week for me to admit that it’s getting in the way of my writing.  I LOVE blogging, reading blogs, Tweeting, Facebooking.  I’ve made some amazing friends this way!  *Here’s me looking at YOU.*  I will keep doing these things, but I am going to have to prioritize and set time limits.  For example, reading the blogs of my regular followers will always come first.  Next will be the ones that provide professional benefit to me.  If I have time left after that, I can read the ones that are just for fun.  And no matter what, I have to actually STOP when the time is up.

For one thing, I’ll never take reading for granted again!  While I certainly do not think that reading is an enemy to creativity or self-exploration, I do think bringing awareness to when, how, and why I choose to read when I do will be a good practice going forward.  I don’t think I’ll have any choice but to be honest with myself if I’m picking up a book, a magazine or scrolling through my Google reader as a way to escape difficult feelings or to shove my creative self away under the guise of “other work” I need to do.

A few favorite quotes from the Week 4 chapter:

“People frequently believe the creative life is grounded in fantasy.  The more difficult truth is that creativity is grounded in reality, in the particular, the focused, the well observed or specifically imagined.”

“Until we experience the freedom of solitude, we cannot connect authentically.  We may be enmeshed, but we are not encountered.”

“Reading deprivation is a very powerful tool–and a very frightening one.  Even thinking about it can bring up enormous rage (Uh, yeah!)  For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction.  We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.”

The only other thing I have to say is — THANK GOD THAT’S OVER!

Have you ever examined hobbies or habits to see if you use them to escape?  Not only reading, but watching T.V., listening to music, surfing the Internet, etc.?

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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Oh the HORROR! The HORROR!  I just finished reading Chapter 4 of The Artist’s Way (which, if you are a regular blog reader, you know I am working through), and found out that one of the week’s assignments is TO GIVE UP READING FOR A WEEK!!!

The rationale behind this exercise is sound.  Cameron says that blocked creatives often use reading as an escape from their own creativity, as a “tranquilizer” of sorts.  The idea is to get out of other people’s thoughts and creations and into your own. Maybe, if I don’t read for a week, I might even *gasp* WRITE!

So, after a good bout of keening on the floor in great likeness to Rain Man in the “Hot Water Burn Baby” scene, I managed to pull myself together in order to write this post.

This will be the longest I’ve gone, in living memory, without picking up a book.  It’s like cutting off a limb.  Reading is like breathing to me.  How many more melodramatic statements can I make?

What does this have to do with you?  Not much unless you live within screaming distance, except that this reading deprivation exercise has to include blogs.  So if I normally read and comment on your blogs, I want you to know why I will be AWOL for a week.  It’s not because I don’t love you; it’s because I’m being subjected to something far worse than Chinese water torture.

I will still be checking my own blog comments, email and Facebook in order to manage administration for the 12 x 12 in 2012 writing challenge, so please feel free to continue signing up for that!  I will also post on my blog, because I figure that’s writing, not reading.  Right?  Right.

Okay.  I’m going to stop feeling sorry for myself right…. NOW.

Sniff!

Have you ever had to go for an extended amount of time without reading?  How did that work out for you?

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After my previous bummer-esque post about why I don’t like New Year’s Eve, I figured I’d do a 180 and wish everyone a Happy 2010.  It turns out that a change of scenery was just what I needed to wring out the old year.  We spent the night in downtown Denver last night.  We kicked off the evening with a horse and carriage ride around LoDo, had burgers and milkshakes at Sam 3’s diner and capped the night off with the 9:00 family-friendly fireworks on the 16th Street Mall.

I watched the fireworks again at midnight from the windowsill of our hotel room while everyone else slept.  I have to admit it was a little magical.

After a buffet breakfast and a swim in the outdoor semi-heated pool (it can only be so heated when it’s below freezing outside), we came home to a big warm dog to hug.  I feel rejuvenated and thus inspired to list ten things I’m looking forward to in 2010.  These are in no particular order:

  1. Not having a real job anymore.  It will be nice to have more flexibility in my schedule.
  2. Writing this blog.  Perhaps sounds a bit self-serving, but I’m having so much fun I can’t wait to do more with it this year.
  3. Writing in general.  Given that focusing on my writing was my #1 reason for leaving the real job, I so hope that in one year from now I’ll be reflecting on how wonderful it was to have been published by someone – anyone.  Anyone???  I am especially hopeful about my children’s books, although I hope to publish some articles this year too.
  4. Family vacations.  Probably repeats of last year: skiing, Michigan, Rainbow Trout Ranch – but all good.
  5. Summer with the Kids.  Last year was so crazy trying to manage child-care, work, vacations.  I’m looking forward to having some good old-fashioned summer fun with the kids this year.  Please remind me I said this at the beginning of August when I’m at the end of my rope!!
  6. Running.  I want to get back into it this year.  I’ve continued the recreational runs, but I want to get fired up and do a few road races this year – the Bolder Boulder in particular.
  7. Having a DOG!!! Rocky is a fixture in the family already, and I can’t believe how happy it makes me to have a dog warming the hearth.
  8. Book Club.  I finally get to be in a book club!  I’ve tried multiple times to start one or join one, but the people I’ve invited have either already been in a club or the ones I’ve wanted to join were already full (or I’m just unpopular, which is also a distinct possibility).  This year, however, a good friend of mine is starting a new one and I get to join!  I know some of the women, but not all, and I can’t wait to meet everyone and get started!  Our first book is The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.  This leads me to…
  9. Reading.  No matter how many books I’ve read the previous year, I love the open canvas of a new year and all-new books to read.  Last year, the first book I read turned out to be my favorite for the whole year – The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.
  10. Volunteering.  If I have any traditional resolutions this year, one is to get more involved in the community.  Now that I have a dog, the only other big hole is feeling like I’m making a direct difference in the lives of others.  I’ve never been huge on volunteering, mostly due to time constraints but also because for some reason it makes me self-conscious.  I hope to overcome both obstacles this year and get my kids involved too.

That’s all for now, folks.  Happy New Year!

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The title of Em’s new Fancy Nancy book is a very apt way to describe our Christmas this year – Splendiferous!  We spent Christmas Eve baking cookies and  tracking Santa’s progress via Norad.  Then we read Twas the Night Before Christmas and hustled ourselves off to bed to make way for Santa, who left everyone  just what they wanted.  After opening gifts, Mommy and Daddy got the best one of all – nice long afternoon naps!  We enjoyed our traditional Beef Wellington for dinner (like butter!), and wrapped up the evening with a little Christmas dancing.

The next morning I tested my omelette-making skills courtesy of my prize gift from Phil – Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  They were BY FAR the best omelettes I’ve ever made (Mushroom & Gruyère – yum!).  All hail Julia!  In order to burn those calories, we hit the sledding hill to test drive the new sleds the kids got from Grandma.  Then we came home, sipped hot chocolate by the fire, sighed contentedly.  If only it didn’t go by so fast!  Here is a little photo essay of our three perfect days.

Baking Cookies for Santa

Setting out Santa's Snack

Not a creature was stirring...

Santa's generosity

A dolly for Em

A toy boat for Jay

Pictures for Grandma

Just one creature was snoring...

Beef Wellington for Dinner

End of Christmas Dance

Taking the new sled for a test drive

Watch out!

Crash!

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Yes, the countdown to my last day of work continues (T-3 days), but instead of the continuing chronicles of my to-do list, today I’m going to write about last night’s pilgrimage to Barnes & Noble for some Christmas shopping.  I say pilgrimage because it seems like I’ve hardly left the house in the past two weeks, much less interacted with actual people in the outside world.  As a Gemini, I am a communicator by nature.  Keeping my mouth in disuse for too long is dangerous.

Perhaps that’s why, when a perfectly nice woman asked me for my opinion about some journals she was buying for a friend’s triplets, I said (after giving her my thoughts):

“Wow – triplet thirteen year-old girls.  I feel sorry for her parents.”

“Yeah, and they also have twins and a singleton.”

“Sheesh, two more and she’ll be Octomom!”  Whereupon, wide-eyed and horrified with myself, I wanted to clap my hands over my big fat mouth.  Luckily, the woman laughed, nodded, thanked me for my help and went on her way.  Whew!

But I digress.  I wanted to write about one of my life’s great passions – books, books, books, books and more books.  Books are my gift of choice for myself and others, especially children.  Whenever a friend or family member has a new baby, they get books from me.  I give books to all my nieces, nephews and younger cousins for holidays and birthdays.  In this day when all things bright and electronic are competing for their attention, it is more important than ever to give kids the opportunity to curl up with a good book. I feel it is my obligation to give them a chance to fall in love with reading.

The kids (other than my own) in my life might find this pretty lame.  I realize they would probably prefer to receive video games, Apple products, movies and such to a mere book.  Many people would argue that you should give the gift that the recipient wants, not what you want them to have.  Yet, I believe the humble book is taken far too much for granted.  Why wouldn’t it be what with whole stores selling nothing but books.  I distinctly remember a time, however, when receiving a book was on the same order of magnitude as getting that year’s “it” toy.

I was as huge of a reader growing up as I am now.  I got almost all of my books from the library (how quaint!).  Why?  There were no bookstores in my hometown.  Amazon.com did not exist.  The Internet did not exist.  (Also, I had to walk barefoot in the snow six miles to school every day – but that’s another story).  Purchasing a book required driving at least an hour in any direction, and since the whole area was buried in snow for six months of the year, that didn’t happen very often.  Thus, opening up a book on Christmas morning was a call for celebration indeed.  I still remember the year I got the whole set of Little House on the Prairie books.  NINE WHOLE BOOKS just for me.  I could read them over and over and over again.  Such a novelty!

Now you can buy a book any old time you want – without even leaving your house.  Physical bookstores even have cafes in them.  They have wireless access, sofas and chairs, pens and paper, newspapers, magazines, movies, music.  The next time I go, I have half a mind to bring a sleeping bag and a cot with me and just set up camp.  Seriously, each time I walk through the doors of a bookstore there is a remnant feeling of not being able to believe my dumb, stupid luck at finding myself among such splendor.

Perhaps it’s impossible to expect today’s children, who’ve grown up with constant and instant access to any and all forms of the written word, to relate to the simple joy of a single book.  Therein is my personal noblesse oblige – to herald that joy to the next generation.  Go forth ye, and read!

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