A few book thoughts, and Kindle upgrade?

I’ve been reading a few books.

1. The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama (and some other guy). I know, it’s utterly blasphemous to say this, but it’s… boring.  Not that the *message* is boring, because it’s not. The Dalai Lama is pretty much the best person on earth, period. And everything he says comes out so light-hearted and fresh; that part is great. The other part (the “other guy” parts) is so dull and plodding and is just really… slow. And uninteresting. How can you make the Dalai Lama boring?! I don’t know, but this guy did. I don’t even remember his name, that’s how uninteresting it is. Probably not going to finish this, although I might leaf through it some more.

2. Henry and June, Anais Nin. This, however — fabulous. Her unexpurgated journal entries from the period of when she had a tempestuous affair with Henry Miller and some pretty interesting involvements with his wife, June. Oh, and her husband, Hugo. All in 1930 Paris. It’s… pretty much the exact opposite of boring. I’ve never really read Nin, but this is really pretty terrific stuff. Love it. I want to be a frisky young wife in 1930s Paris and have an affair with a hunky writer! Well, maybe not. But it’s pretty fun to read about it!

3. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Umm… what? Well, we’re going to Deutschland in a few weeks and I’m kind of fascinated with the Nazis and WWII, and this book has been recommended so many times. So I started it, just to get a fuller sense of history before we went. It is REALLY good. Not dry at all, very interesting, written like a novel but full of super-interesting facts about Hitler and how everything happened. According to the Kindle I’m only 4% into the book but it’s already really gripped me. It’s also 1200+ pages so I’m not sure I can get it done before we go, but so far so good.

Some other books I’m looking forward to: the Jim Henson biography that just came out, and Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield. I’m saving those for the trip — perfect airplane books!!

Speaking of books and Kindles, I’m considering upgrading my Kindle to a Paperwhite. I have the super-basic Kindle which I really like, but the lack of a light can be a hassle when traveling (or trying to read about Nazis deep into the night when someone else is trying to sleep). I have a booklight but it’s awkward and won’t stay clipped to the Kindle. And I like that the Paperwhite has even longer battery power. Thoughts? Anyone have a Paperwhite? I’m hoping it will go on sale on Black Friday.

I’m trying to keep up on my magazines as well. Silly, I know, but they sit around and then I can’t remember if I’ve read them or not, and then they sit around some more, and then I’m looking at the July edition of Martha Stewart’s Living in November. So I’m just trying to keep up on them, and I think I’m going to narrow down subscriptions to just Martha Stewart (which I love just for the photos and recipes — not that I do ANY of the things she recommends, but the whole magazine just makes me feel cozy) and *possibly* Real Simple, which is entertaining and I do use the recipes sometimes. I get Oprah but I’m totally sick of her. Somehow I also get a free subscription to Redbook, which is strange. Not sure how to cancel that; I don’t really read it. We get some other subscriptions to newsy/culture magazines (New Yorker, Atlantic, etc.) and those are nice to have around. But I’m pretty tired of Miss Oprah.

I think that’s about it for now. Other than booktalk, everything is going pretty well. The yard is a big mess (all the leaves came down at once and then it rained) but the house is cozy and Thomas is terrific and the boy is the best boy ever. So all is well.

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a day to myself

Well, almost.visitor

1382433_10153393167925251_1993199140_nSeriously.  2 pm on a Sunday, little Mr. Raccoon sauntered through the yard, not scared at all, climbing up the redwood tree to watch me curiously. 2 pm! Broad daylight! Sigh. We have a bit of a problem. Not sure what to do. Urine and cayenne have been suggested. I’ll try anything. Needless to say, Thomas’ adventures for the day were curtailed.

K. had a class to help with today so I had a day to myself. I made a big list of what I could do, ranging from the incredibly lazy (lay on the couch reading all day) to the overly-ambitious (disassemble the dining room to put down the new/old Persian rug my dad handed down to me).

I opted for something in the middle:

  • A lounge in the hot tub first thing in the chilly morning
  • A little housework (vacuum, put some stuff away)
  • A little yard work (sweep up crabapples, think about mowing the lawn, decide NOT to mow the lawn)
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector
  • Make Julia Child’s coq au vin recipe (this took most of the rest of the afternoon)
  • Do a little art
  • Watch a dumb movie (Ghostbusters… seriously)

I’m sort of carrying over some of the Halloween spirit into November. I’m finishing up a James Herbert book (Others) and we’re watching some really great classic horror/scary movies. Last night we watched The Changeling (with George C. Scott); it was actually really quite good. I was impressed. We also watch Burnt Offerings a few weeks ago: that was the complete opposite. Cheese-o-rific. Oh well.

(side note: Rick Moranis is truly hilarious in this movie. Also this is a serious case study in 80s decor and style.)

a little booktalk

I had to travel for work recently so was able to catch up on some reading.

I read The Elephant Keeper’s Children (Peter Hoeg) for bookclub — it was okay. It was an interesting mix of madcap adventure, religious philosophizing, and quirky first-person narrative. It reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time, and also a Flavia De Luce mystery, with some oddments of structure thrown in. I liked it but had problems with it. It was a little hard to connect to the characters, and those that I wanted to know more about, were closed to the reader.

Then I raced through the latest Pendergast novel by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston, Two Graves. This series is hit or miss, but I thought this was a hit. Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast was back in all his pale, elegant mysterious glory, and there were Nazis! And twins. And a volcano! It was just exactly what I needed to read on a 9-hour journey home (three-leg flight plus significant wait time at the airport…) I like it when books promise adventure and thrills and deliver just that. It was totally brainless but had enough fun plot twists that it kept me thoroughly entertained on the long journey home.

Now I’m reading Shogun by James Clavell. I don’t know what possessed me… but so far it’s quite good! I wish the writing were a bit smoother but it’s really interesting and entertaining so far. It gets rave reviews and seems to move along quickly so hopefully, even though it’s enormous, it won’t take forever to read. Has anyone read it?

So far reading seems to be going better this year. I hope to at least get 52 books — 60 would be terrific. The number doesn’t matter, but it’s nice to have a tidy list at the end of the year to look over and remember. Plus there are SO MANY BOOKS and only one lifetime — we must make progress!

Home sick today (actually, just taking care of a sickie, but since it was a violent stomach bug, I’m worried that my time is coming…) so got some reading done. Just a bit, since I took a five hour nap. I never nap. But hardly slept last night, so it was necessary. Thomas the kitty has been carefully watching over us and enjoying an extra day in bed.

Things have been busy — I was gone for a week to LA and Pennsylvania, and previous to that had gone skiing for a day. Tomorrow night we are going to see Eddie Izzard — I’m so excited! And Sunday is a live performance of Philosophy Talk which is syndicated on public radio stations… not totally familiar with it, but it sounds like fun. Berkeley is good for things like that.

A very busy spring is planned: a trip to Nashville, a ski weekend, a trip to Oregon, a visit from Erin, and another TBD trip in May. We were planning to go to Scotland in May but have decided to go in the fall, instead. If not Scotland, perhaps Spain or something else — whatever seems like the best idea. That little nagging feeling says, “Stay stateside in the spring… overseas in the fall.” Since I ignored that little voice last year and went to Amsterdam anyway and was a zombie the entire trip, I’ll listen this year. We’d still like to go to Scotland, but the trip isn’t coming together for some reason. We’ll see what happens.

Have I mentioned that I love being able to travel again?

the year that was, and the year that will be

Goodbye, 2012! Hello, 2013, you gorgeous thing, you.

First, let’s talk about books and reading. 2012 was not The Year of the Book for me. It was, apparently, the Year of Staring Into Space, and then, it was The Year of Actually Having A Life. So not a lot of reading got done. If I’m being generous, I can claim to have at least partially read 44 books (four of them are still sort of in progress… does that count?). A few re-reads in there, some short books, some long ones, some good ones, some bad ones.

A few favorites:

  • Carter Beats The Devil (LOVED!)
  • The White Devil (a nice ghost story twist)
  • The Family Fang (another new favorite)
  • Gone Girl (although I liked her other ones more)
  • and The Gormenghast Trilogy, even though I haven’t finished it yet.

Totally haphazard reading this year, with no real direction, lots of “filler” (whatever leapt into my hand next, regardless of whether it was really going to be any good or not), and some that were supposed to be good but that I didn’t love (The Marriage Plot, The Art of Fielding). Overall, rather a disappointing year in books. But that’s okay — it was a rough year, and for at least half of it, I didn’t really have the wherewithall to do any sort of focused reading. I read magazines and online news articles, I watched Star Trek and Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica. And then Real Life picked up and I didn’t have as much time to read, which isn’t a terrible thing, when looking at the overall big picture of my life. Having too much fun to read? Well. OK, then.

And as for the year personally, it was up and down, as anyone reading this blog will know. I did manage to go on an overseas trip, which was great but I was still too numb and tired to fully engage with it (although of course I DID enjoy it plenty). I worked really hard at doing nothing, for the first part of the year — trying to heal, trying to get energy back, trying to let go of grief and guilt. Then the second part of the year came and love found me, and life, and sun, and good things. I got to see my family and friends a lot more than I have in the last 5-6 years, Thomas the Kitty felt better and more grounded, and life in general improved immensely. So the year is ending on a high note, and I am happy.

As for the year ahead, I’m not making any self-improvment goals other than to follow happiness (even if it means pushing myself sometimes) and to try to be kind as much as possible. A few things I would like to DO, however (because they sound like fun — I suppose this falls under my first category of following happiness):

  • A trip to Scotland, or overseas somewhere (this is sort of in the works already)
  • Start building the studio/guest cottage in the backyard (I’ve decided that we have too many predators here to make chickens a viable option)
  • Make some art — a couple of paintings, a couple of cards, some random projects
  • Do something that scares me: right now, that includes being part of a storytelling workshop, which really terrifies me, but I’ve been invited and I’d like to give it a go.
  • Paint the dining room wall
  • Get some landscaping done in the front yard (now that the horrible junipers are gone! Yay!)
  • Go camping at least twice

That’s a pretty good list, full of fun things and nothing that feels like work (except maybe the “doing something that scares me” but I mean that only in the best way, so ultimately — hopefully — I’ll be glad I did it). Last year I took it way, way easy, which is what I needed. This year, I don’t want to push myself so much as just open things up and let in the light and life and love, and get back out there in the world and have some fun.

Oh, and read more. I’m following Stefanie’s lead and making a reading guideline, with plenty of flexibility. I’d like to get more real reading done this year. Some thoughts:

  • Finish Anna Karenina. I started this a few years ago and I really liked it, but didn’t finish it. This year, I’d like to mark that off the list.
  • Finish all my current not-finished books, including the Gormenghast Trilogy, which is a monster. We’ll see — that one might take awhile.
  • Finish Northanger Abbey: this is on Stef’s list too, but I started it this year and didn’t finish it, so it goes along with the two previous entries.
  • Neil Gaiman’s newest, when it comes out this summer. This is a no-brainer.
  • Let’s go crazy and say ALL of my book club books (all 12!). Usually I miss a few at least, and sometimes more than a few. This year I’d like to read all of them and participate in my book club more. They’ve been very kind and generous and lenient with me for several years now and it’s time to step it up.
  • Read at least five books already on my shelves. People have given me some “you need to read this” books in the past year and I haven’t read any of them.
  • Finish The Sandman series (I think I got to #5 or so)
  • Discover a new author with a nice big catalogue of books to catch up on.

I know there’s more, but that’s a good enough list for now. Mostly I’d like to make better book choices and enjoy my reading more, and make it more of a priority. And to wrap up some loose ends, book-wise.

Welcome, 2013. I’m really glad to see you!

upgrades

On Christmas Eve, my computer broke. Actually it broke the night before, and then I tried to fix it, but it broke further, so I had to take it to the Apple store and thankfully they fixed it and it was only $19 which seems like some kind of Christmas miracle. So I upgraded my OS and things seem to be fine now.

The DVD player is also woefully inadequate — it is about 15 years old, and although it still works, I wanted to be able to access Amazon Prime movies and such, and right now to do that I have to hook up the (previously broken) computer plus speakers plus the TV and then the computer would freeze sometimes and it was very frustrating. So I got a new one.

First world problems, I know.

And the printer broke. Or, stopped working. Whatever.

So some upgrades are happening, which is a nice way to start the new year. The garage is freshly cleaned out, the house will be Christmassy and cozy for another week or so, and hopefully the Technology Gods will be appeased for another few years.

I hate to think of life as having ‘grades’ or one’s life needing to be upgraded, but things are definitely good. Christmas was lovely, low-key, filled with yummy food and coffee and nice gifts and movies and the kitty and the sweetie. I was perfectly happy and content. The weather outside really was frightful, and the fire (candles in the fireplace) was delightful. I had nowhere to go. No snow, but buckets of very cold rain. We all snuggled under blankets and watched The World’s Fastest Indian and Doctor Who.

I hope you all had holidays wonderful, merry, and bright — I’m home most of this week and am looking forward to neatening up the yard, continuing to get the house ready for 2013, and catching up on rest. I should do a book post this week as well — 2012 was a strange year for books for me, but there were some good ones in there that deserve a mention.

Happy Christmas, and a lovely New Year, all. Thanks for supporting me on this journey. Love to you all.

not quite a book post but

…there will be one coming soon since I’m over halfway through Carter Beats The Devil and I LOVE IT.

I had to (temporarily) give up on The Gormenghast Trilogy — it is a huge thing, plus it’s extremely slow-moving, and very strange (but lovely) and I think I’ll just have to keep working at it all year. Which means I need to own the book — it’s due at the library yesterday, so. Will work on that one. I hate giving up on it but it’s going to take me awhile and there are other books in the wings that I want to get to.

This year was a strange one for reading. I started off being able to barely read two sentences before I passed out from exhaustion, then I re-read the entire Harry Potter series (love love love) and then it got better. But then I got a life! And so I didn’t read as much. I feel sad about this — I miss reading voraciously — but I suppose having fun and doing new things and traveling and all that is a worthy tradeoff. There will be years in the future where I do lots more reading, I’m sure.

I spent today talking with work folks about very inspirational things: how to help people (and ourselves) realize hopes and dreams, and recover their lives. My life has been recovered, and for the first time in many many years, I know I can truly do whatever I want. So what do I want? Let’s dream a little. What would I do, if I could do anything? I had such a good time today learning and really using my brain, so I’m thinking about school. What would I like to learn?

  • Art Therapy (Therapy in general)
  • Literature (I’d love to get a lit degree just for fun)
  • Critic (I think I’d actually be quite a good critic. Not sure of what. One probably does not go to school for this. But.)
  • Random art classes (I already have an art degree and I know I don’t love having my art being graded. Non-credit classes, however, sound fun)
  • Writing (’cause why not? I realize I can do this without a degree but I loved my writing classes in college)
  • Finish up that minor in Philosophy
  • ….aaaaaand let’s throw in some zoology just for fun.

The only one of these that would be worth anything in the real world is the first, but that’s probably more than I want to take on at this point. However, random art classes and writing classes sound doable. I might have an opportunity to do some theater/storytelling stuff at some point in the near future, so maybe I can work on something there and see what’s what.

I like school. I wish I had money and time to just go to school full-time all the time.

But since I don’t and I can’t, maybe I can do some fun learning just for me.

Here’s to a new beginning.

IMG_1154

Post-Halloween Wrap-Up, Plus Thoughts

 

I work with some awesome gnomes — er, people.
It was a good Halloween season. Three awards at office Halloween party, two costumes, one horror theater show, five total trick-or-treaters. Not enough rain or cool weather (but I think that’s on its way — I always get so impatient right around now. It’s the Oregonian in me. By my reckoning, we are at least a month overdue for serious rain), but the garden’s all done, the leaves are turning and falling, and things are going pretty well.

I tried to read The Tommyknockers as my last RIP book, but I have to say… it’s just not getting me. I think I have to call it quits, and move on to my book club book, which is The Art of Fielding. I know nothing about it. Baseball something? I don’t know.

I haven’t been reading much. I guess that’s what happens when your life finally picks up pace a bit. I miss it, but I’ve also been having a hard time finding books that I really love. I guess it’s a combination of being busy and being in a bit of a reading slump. A year-long reading slump? What? It could happen. This has been a long, rough, but ultimately good year. You know it’s crazy when even reading doesn’t happen (or help). But now things are good. I’m coming out the other side. Things are actually far better than I ever imagined they would be for me. The last 5-6 years had been utterly draining, sucking all the life and hope out of me. I have hope again. A life. I find myself spending time thinking about things like, “Hmm. Where would I like to travel to next?” and “I really should see more theater.” Thoughts like these were utterly unimaginable even a year ago. I am almost ashamed of the frivolity of some of the things I spend time thinking about, now.

I always had this feeling that if I just worked hard enough, tried hard enough to have integrity, to do the right thing, to stick with it, to be the person I’d want someone to be for me, it would all pay off at some point. I guess it has, although not in the way I thought. I think back to just shy of a year ago, when everything shattered and I had no idea what was going to happen next. I hoped it would all be okay. I looked forward to the day when I would feel better, when I knew what was going to happen, when the direction of the next chapter of my life seemed more defined.

Now I know:

  • I kept the house, and have somehow done it all on my own. This makes me happy and proud. I love my house. I am not crazy about living way out here… but I do love my house very much.
  • I finally feel well. It took a good six months to feel normal again, and another 2-3 for my everyday emotions to thaw enough to feel spontaneously happy. I feel pretty darn good, now. I have capacity for joy again.
  • And joy has found me, again. I’m not lonely anymore.
  • Thomas is feeling better too. His panic attacks have subsided, and he’s bouncy and Tigger-y and generally a joy to be around.
  • Work is getting better too. Or, there’s hope on the horizon, anyway.

Better is better. Better is WAY better.

things happening

Among which the most awesome is the fact that I finally got those awful junipers pulled from the front of the house. This is about half-way through. It’s so much better. My mom is coming this weekend and we’ll get some new things to plant, something more modern. Goodbye horrible prickly ugly 60-year-old junipers!

Another thing happening is that somehow I managed to turn 38 . I mean, seriously. How does this happen?! There ought to be a law. Celebrated with a special someone, and had amazing chocolate-hazelnut mousse cake for dessert. Nothing wrong with that, my friends. Nothing at all. 

(Being silly, contemplating the amazing cake)

Lots happening here at home, which I probably will eventually talk about here. However, in the meantime, all is well. I’m pretty busy right now but it’s all good.

I did manage to finish The Nasty Bits (Anthony Bourdain) and am currently working on Miss Peregrine’s Home For Unusual Children. I like it, but the links to the photos are always completely obvious/overworked and a little unnecessary. I think it would have worked just as well without the photos. I’m only about halfway through, so maybe it becomes a little less labored (photo-wise). Still, enjoying it.

It’s almost autumn, my favorite time of year. Lots more posts to come, about books and gardens and cooking and so forth; just wanted to pop in with a quick update!

 

lately

Oh, July. Wow, it is flying by in a huge rush. I will be leaving again soon for my brother’s wedding, and so there’s been a mild flurry of last-minute activity on that front. It’s been very fun to get to help with invitation and wedding stationery needs (menu, program, etc.) Sometimes that graphic design degree comes in handy… And I’m working on a Super Sekrit project that I MUST get done this weekend.

Thomas recovered from his adventure, only to go on another adventure to the vet on Monday. Time for vaccines and to get microchipped. He is always such a good kitty at the vet (although the car ride completely stresses him out). Unfortunately the vaccines made him extremely lethargic, so for the past two days I’ve been worrying over him. Thankfully, today when I came home I first noticed that all of his food was gone (which hasn’t been the case for quite a few days) and then he came sauntering out, not exactly frisky, but certainly looking more like himself. Which is good on many counts, particularly because he needs to be healthy while I’m gone!

On the book front, I’ve been reading all of the L. Frank Baum “Oz” books on my Kindle. I read most of these when I was a kid — our library had a terrific collection of them, all very old, with big thick covers and wonderful illustrations. I haven’t read them since, but all of the amazing characters are coming right back to me. I think these books are brilliant and my brother and I both absolutely adore them. They’re free on the Kindle and I thought since I finally finished all the March sister books (Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys) I’d move on to these. They really don’t make children’s novels like this anymore — the crazy imagination, both innocent and yet fraught with real danger. The lovely language and careful attention to description. I just love them.

I’m also reading The Family Fang for bookclub — it’s pretty terrific so far. I can’t wait to talk about it. My reading this year has been really bad, but part of that is because for the first 2-3 months of it, I was half paralyzed and could hardly read anything. Oh well.

Life’s pretty good. I’ve been having a hard time sleeping lately — not sure what is up with that. Spending time with friends as I can — I still have no friends out here, but I’ve managed to wheedle some friends out here for visits. Enjoying gardening, trying to stay present in the moment as much as I can. The T. stuff still comes up and trips me sometimes — I’m getting lots better at deflecting the guilt and responsible feelings, but they still get me. Thankfully I have some wonderful friends and guides to help me when I lose perspective.

I’ve come so far from that cold and bleak November last year. I’m actually often actively happy now! My stress level has diminished dramatically. I still find myself wondering what to do with myself half the time, but that’s okay. I’m doing what I feel like doing, when I feel like doing it, and really not trying to push any further than that. I’ve sort of decided to give myself a year (give or take) to get over the physical and emotional stress of everything, before deciding What’s Next for myself. There are some awfully nice possibilities, but for now I’m trying to just keep my goals small:

  • keep the yard somewhat under control.
  • keep the house clean (ish).
  • feed myself well.
  • keep myself and the kitty healthy.
  • do what I want to do, and don’t do what I don’t want to do.
  • make small improvements as I see them (to self and property).
  • don’t worry.

That last one takes some getting used to, but I’m working on it. Actually that’s a pretty good list for anytime.

It’s not perfect, but overall things are really good, with some genuinely wonderful parts. I’m so grateful that I get to experience those again. It’s pretty much a miracle that I get to have this second chance at life. I hate to characterize the last few years as anything other than “just doing what needed to be done, and with love” which it certainly was, but it was also pretty hard on this here girl. I can take care of myself now, and that’s really good.

everyone likes ice cream bars (even kitties)

Even kitties need some cooling off when it’s 104 in the shade. (dang, that’s a cute photo, if I do say so myself)

Hot hot hot. Of course I chose Saturday, the hottest day of the weekend, to clean out the garage. I couldn’t help it — I was in the mood. You know that mood? The clean-out mood? I made some good progress. Still have some sorting out to do but now it looks like the amount of stuff in there, is the amount of stuff I think should be in there  — rather than the way it was before, where I was like, “Who has all this stuff?!” It’s much better now. I sweated out a lot of toxins that day. I always wanted my own sauna…

The rest of the weekend was a good mix of getting some stuff done, some napping, some relaxing. I rode my bike today, did some reading, etc.

I’m reading Postcards From The Edge. I don’t really get it. I’m not really into it. But it’s short, so I’ll finish it. But I don’t get it. Is it an 80s thing? It’s… almost boring? I don’t get the drama or the humor. Maybe that’s a good thing, considering the subject matter.