Thursday, September 10, 2015

August Reads

Big Girl Panties  Great Read!  I needed some light reading and this was perfect. Stephanie Evanovich knows how to write relationships and also sex scenes. I was a little flushed at the cheeks at times when she was describing the SEX scenes.  So if you pick this up to read and are offended by some of the graphic details I apologize, but if you can get past those scenes the story is really lovely.  If you love sex scenes you will be happily pleased with how well she writes these, and no the book isn't  soft porn :).  Main character is overweight/obese female who meets a gorgeous male physical trainer  coming home on a airplane.  They both have assumptions about the other when seeing they will have to sit next to each other.  What comes out of that meeting is quite perfect. 

The Bookshop  This was another good read. Penelope Fitzgerald was the author and I haven't read anything by her before but she is known for her short fiction.  This was a book, but was not lengthy in comparison to the other books I read this past month.    Any book based out of a book shop has me.  I thought the characters were well developed and described- the kind of book where you have in your head what each character looks like.  It is a "real life" story about a lady who opens a book shop.  Trials/tribulations she encounters with opening this shop are the main themes in the book, but off these struggles blooms different relationships between book shop owner and some of the interesting people who live in this town.  Not many of these book shops are likely left or opening and so it brought me to an era I would have liked to be a part of.  Most of us who live in Iowa City, IA are spoiled with Prairie Lights Book Store- which appears to be thriving and not at threat to closing like so many other book stores have because of the new technology: Kindle, Nook, etc along with the ease of ordering a book on-line.  After reading this book it made me enjoy walking through Prairie Lights and even Barnes and Noble and purchasing a book or two. 

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman #1) Graeme Simsion writes a great book.  This was our book club read for August.  It was so funny, real, touching, and just a good read.  Excited to find out it is the first in a trilogy.  The main character, Don, is a professor of genetics who doesn't have any luck with dating/meeting women.  He decides he is going to find his perfect mate by putting together a survey to find that perfect gal.  Rosie then enters his life and she's not his perfect mate per the survey.  However, Rosie, despite her imperfection, is so perfect.  If you like a little romance, humor, snarkyness you will find it with this book.

On the Banks of Plum Creek  (Little House, #4)  Laura Ingalls Wilder- need we see more.  Daughter and I read this on our family trip to South Dakota.  Our goal was to have it finished by the time we arrived in Springfield, MN where this book takes place.  However, time flies and we finished it within the first days of August.  This story is great, probably not my favorite out of the series, but it is quintessential Wilder: Laura, protagonist, and her family trying to make their life in the prairie.  I enjoyed reading it again.  Daughter enjoyed it also.  Here are a few pictures from the trip to MN to see "on the banks of plum creek". 
The Banks of Plum Creek

Although we, my son and I, were disappointed that the dugout was no longer there.  No idea why I thought the dugout would still be standing.  They do have a plaque marking the place, but the dugout fell in long ago. 

The replica of the dugout at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. 

Can not fathom riding across country in this wagon- yep that is the real size :).  I guess I can't complain about my mini van anymore.
Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters! This book by Rachel Macy Stafford was a needed read.  I have a horrible admission- I use my cell phone to talk to friends and family when I'm driving.  I stop at stoplights and will return a text.  I know this is dangerous yet I just can't shut the phone off.  So this book has woken me up.  She talks about safety, but she really sells getting off your phone to really enjoy this life you have with your family and friends and really be present.  Being present has been a long goal of mine.  Her writing style is perfect for this topic and I wrote down many quotes/ideas from the book.  Here are just a few....
"Living hands free means making a conscious decision to temporarily push aside distractions and give your undivided attention to someone or something meaningful in our life"- pg 23
"Rachel's Definition of Daily Distraction: takes the focus of what truly maters, prevents me from being fully present, stops me from investing time and energy in people I love, hinders ability to slow down, relax or get adequate sleep, holds me back from enjoying life, taking risks and being my authentic self".
She had a whole list of sabotaging factors that I connected with from her list:
phone (email and text), laptop computer (social media, online shopping), to do lists, overcommitment, excessive feelings of guilt inadequacy, perfection or self-doubt.
"grasping what really matters mean going to tender places in one's soul"- pg 43
"the truth hurts, but the truth heals and brings me closer to the person I aspire to be."
"Say these 3 phrases daily to your children 'I see you', 'You matter', and 'I love to watch you...'"- pg 80
"It is the times I least want to be Hands Free that I most need to be Hands Free"- pg 119
If any of the above statements stop you in your shoes and you can say "yes" I really think reading this book will be great for you.  I'm not perfect I still talk on the phone when in my car, but I do it less and I really focus on when anyone is in the car I'm present- focused on the time together, even if it is just time to be quiet together, listen to the radio, or have those discussions that would not have taken place if I was not Hands Free.
Still Alice Lisa Genova is amazing!  Here is her bio from Goodreads:

Lisa Genova graduated valedictorian, summa cum laude from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology and has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Still Alice, Left Neglected, Love Anthony, and Inside the O’Briens.

OK so you are a neuroscientist and have written how many best sellers?  Crazy!  This book I had somewhat avoided for awhile because it had been so talked up.  However, I saw it at the library and picked it up.  Boy am I glad I did.  It was so well written and I think a very accurate picture of early onset Alzheimer.  After reading the book I watched the movie and thought Julianne Moore was excellent.  I just didn't like that they put Alec Baldwin in the part of her husband.  He wasn't believable as a physician/researcher.  I liked the book much more.  I am planning to read some of her other books in the future. 

OK- that's it.  Great month of reads.  Hope you are enticed to read one or more of these, but if you just pick up a book or visit a library/book store in search of your own I'm ecstatic!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Where have I been?

I look at the number of blog posts I've done in this last year and it is pretty abysmal.  I've been struggling with my writing for awhile. I think it is more than writing I've been struggling with and I've just finally waken up and discovered...

Last year was hard: lost my grandpa, lost my uncle, had a likely career ending injury in running and racing with the tear of my ACL, followed by rehab that was challenged and required another surgery, and of course the fun (not) of additional body weight to my 5' 3" frame via emotional eating.  No this isn't a pity party it just hit me the other day when out to breakfast with a friend that I came to the realization that I've lost bits of my self, accept for the weight gained, that has thrown me out of sorts.

I've felt lost.  I've tried to replace the love for training, and running/racing with trying to make writing a goal to focus on.  I took a class and learned a ton, which I'm grateful for, but I also learned that the story I thought I wanted to write just couldn't come out of me.  I felt like a fake trying to write about "an everyday woman accomplishing her BIG" (70.3 triathlon).  How was I suppose to write about accomplishing my BIG while not even able to have confidence or enjoying the writing/drafts I tried writing?  That self doubt and lack of confidence has also made me question who really reads my blog/posts and the importance of my writing.  Does anyone really care?  Am I self centered and writing about things that really don't matter.  My one caveat is I never feel bad about writing about what I read, because I feel like if my monthly blog posts about that month's "reads" gets someone else to pick up a book and read the writing has totally been worth it.

So in the last few weeks I've picked up a book myself and started to read about " You're Loved No Matter What-  Freeing Your Heart from the Need to be Perfect" by Holley Gerth.  It was on the new nonfiction shelf at the library and the back of the cover really spoke to me...

As women, we tend to think that if we could only get our act together, life would be perfect.  but you're not supposed to be perfect.  you're supposed to be human. And humans are messy, flawed, glorious, and deeply loved.

It's time to lay down those unrealistic expectations that exhaust you.
It's time to embrace who you are- even the messy parts.
It's time to start living fully instead of just trying not to fail.

Let's do this. Together.

Sounded too good to pass up.  So I read the first two chapters and was wanting to write notes in the margins and underline words that spoke to me- and you know defacing library books aren't my style- so I went out and bought the book.  Now, warning, for those of you who aren't religious or don't believe in God, she talks about God quite a bit, but she's one of those people who writes about God and talks about God and her words/sentences/quoting of the Bible don't turn me off.  Some books, people, and blog posts turn me off with the God or Jesus word.  I'm religious, I'm a Lutheran, but yet I'm not one of those who loves being told how the Bible is to be interpreted or how to parent, work, be a woman based on this author's beliefs about God/Jesus, etc- kind of like nails on a chalk board for me when I'm reading these pieces. 

Holley however, is not like that for me.  I feel her way in which she incorporates her faith and getting over the guilt and desire to be doing everything perfect is music to my ears, not nails on the chalk board.

So through reading this book I've made some decisions.  I will write when I want to and what I want to.  I need to move onward away from the writing which was so focused on my love of running, training, etc.  At the same time I don't want it to be forced writing.  I want it to be enjoyable. 

I was feeling very boxed in with my writing the last few months.  I just want to write for writing sake, not to get published, or to create a full/finished draft of a book or short story.  I've gone so far as to tell my lovely writing group that I'm taking a hiatus.  I was going to writing group and felt like I wasn't contributing to anything and leaving feel again disappointed in myself for not doing more with my writing- hence not being perfect. 

After making the decision to not be forced into a writing time line or writing project I've discovered I'm writing more now than I have in the past months.  So I'm not starting a new, I'm just continuing on with this blog in somewhat atypical form- unplanned, unstructured writing and just writing for the fun and enjoyment of it.