Monday, April 20, 2015

Reading...Bird by Bird

A friend of mine recommended Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott many years ago, and I see it pop up frequently on what-to-read-if-you-want-to-be-a-better-writer lists. And there is a reason, because this book is fantastic. I was probably a chapter in, and already thinking "why did I not read this sooner!" It sat on my shelf for almost 10 years, and I kept kicking myself for not picking it up sooner. 

In this book Lamott shares with readers what she teaches at her writing workshops. She shares what she's learned over decades of writing, essentially saying this is what works for me and for most of the other writers I know. She starts at the beginning, discussing the craft of writing, the work of telling stories. She talks about writing as a vocation, a calling -- and how that affects life and relationships and how writers see themselves. She talks about why we write, about the lure of publication, but how we need to write for more than just that. 
 
This is the first book of Anne Lamott's that I've read, but I want to go to the library and grab everything she's done. She's funny, gracious, generous, and sarcastic. 

Bottom line: if you're a writer and haven't already picked up this book, do yourself a favor. If you're not a writer, you might just enjoy it anyway!

Monday, April 13, 2015

No accounting for taste

Sometimes, it seems like there's a book (or author, or series) that everyone seems to rave about and I just can't bring myself to join the club. But I've learned there's no need to apologize for that -- not everyone has the same taste, and not every book is for everyone. There are a lot of things that might turn me off of a book: the writing style, the plot, and yes, even the characters. I hesitate to admit that these days, particularly because apparently there's a lot of discussion out there on "unlikable" and "likable" characters in fiction. Stacked and Book Riot  have both written or hosted thoughtful posts on the subject. And I get where they're coming from, especially when people use the "unlikeable" label on a character in a way that continues to put unfair pressure on young people (girls in particular) to be "perfect." 

That said...

Sometimes in real life, I just don't want to spend time with a person, and sometimes I don't want to spend time with a fictional person either. And I get what this author is saying when she points out that reading books with characters we don't like can help us to be better human beings. It can help us stretch and grow and maybe even be a little more compassionate. And I often read books with characters I don't like (on a side note: does anyone agree that there's a difference between "characters I don't like" and the current use of "unlikable character"?). But in that case, there's something else compelling about the book that keeps me going. Sometimes, even that so-called "unlikable" character is compelling enough that I want to read about them. 

But sometimes, I just don't want to spend time with that character/characters anymore. There is nothing about the story or secondary characters to keep me interested, and I just respectfully walk away. And you know what? I'm not sorry about that. Yes, I feel bad for not liking your book, but there are probably a bunch of people out there who love it. And that's awesome. It's just that sometimes I feel the need to tell people: it's okay to not like a book. It's okay to not like a character in a book. And it's okay to decide to spend your time somewhere else.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Monday list

Today is a list making day. We went out of town this past weekend and got in relatively late last night. So today's a catch-up and make lists kind of day. My to-do list is growing ambitiously long, but maybe I can keep some momentum this week. All that to say, that I was going to post something witty and clever tomorrow, but in the spirit of the day I thought it seemed an appropriate day to post a nice little list of things that are making happy today:

1. Weddings. Our Easter weekend travel was to attend the wedding of a dear friend. It's the second wedding we've been to in the past month or so (this being the start of wedding season after all), and I just love weddings. Saturday's event was lovely, sweet, intimate, and personal. It was a privilege to share the weekend with our friends-who-are-family.

2. Easter pictures. Following some advice in Accidental Creative, I've been trying to make my social media use more minimal and deliberate (for example: check Facebook only once a day for a set number of minutes instead of mindlessly throughout the day), but I can't stay away from all the adorable Easter weekend pictures of friends and family. Spending time celebrating spring (new life), fun, and happy times with friends or family is, in my opinion, a fitting way to celebrate Christ's resurrection. Bring on the joy!

3. Iced coffee. I busted out the Toddy brewer last week and made a batch of iced coffee. It's warming up here in South Texas, and I've been craving iced coffee like nobody's business.

4. A washer and dryer at my house. Sometimes, it's the little things. Although, one could argue that this is a big thing. I'm always thankful not to have to go do laundry somewhere else, and it's something that's stuck in my mind today.

5. Technology. I often have a love-hate relationship with technology, but after a wonderful (if too short) visit with out-of-town friends or family, I'm always reminded about how great it is to have so many ways to keep in touch with people who don't live in the same town or city.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Blog reading

Several weeks ago I posted about some book blogs that I enjoy reading. So today, I thought I'd sit down and mention some favorite non-book blogs. The funny thing about that -- I realized how many non-book blogs I visit occasionally, and how few I read regularly. I started thinking about how much I enjoy the blogs I do read, and how maybe I should broaden my blog-reading horizon (except who has time for that?). That said, here are a few of my favorites that I visit on a regular basis:

Run Tess Run
Tess writes about running and yoga and her family and just life in general. She is funny and smart and I feel like reading her blog is like sitting down and having chat over a cup of coffee.

Make.Believe
Erin is a busy lady! She's a teacher, business owner, knitter, and seamstress. So I always love to get a little peak into what she's up to. Plus, our husbands have the same name

The Listener
Lorie writes amazingly thoughtful essays. I'd try to pin down what they're about, but they're about all kinds of different things. Self-doubt, holidays, memories, exercise, job hunting. Basically she talks about things that are on her mind, things she observes, things that catch her attention.

Lottie and Doof
Full disclosure: I have only made and probably only will make a few recipes from this site. But it is gorgeous, and the recipes I have made from it are amazing. If you love food blogs this is a great one.

Homesick Texan
Yummy, yummy, yummy. That's all there is to it. A word of warning: read this blog with snacks handy, because it will make you hungry.

Smitten Kitchen
Speaking of hungry....I don't visit this site all the time, but it is a great resource for recipes of all kinds. Mostly, I've used it for pies, but everything looks amazing.

Alpha Mom
Great resources from a variety of contributors. There's something for every parent on this site. And if you need a laugh, check out the Pregnancy Calendar. Hi.larious.

Jen Hatmaker
Thoughful, funny, warm. She's even more fun to follow on facebook. Now I just need to go read one of her actual books.


Looking at this list, I see I could definitely use some variety. So I'm open to new reading! Got any blogs...about anything!... that you enjoy visiting on a semi-regular basis?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reading...Bright Before Sunrise


Bright Before Sunrise Bright Before Sunrise, by Tiffany Schmidt, is an all-it-takes-is-one-day-to-change-your-life stories. 
Brighton Waterford has, in her own words, turned "behaving into a science." Since her dad died when she was 12, Brighton has made it her job to make her dad proud by being nice...by joining the clubs he joined...by doing all the things she should. And it isn't until she spends most of one evening and late into the night with Jonah Prentiss that she realizes how superficial, bottled up, and lifeless she's truly become.  
Jonah Prentiss is a baseball rock star whose life is shattered when his mom has an affair with his physical therapist, getting pregnant, divorced, remarried to the therapist, and moving Jonah to the posh suburb of Cross Point in the middle of his senior year. Jonah is angry at his mom, angry at her new husband, angry at his dad (who blamed Jonah for the divorce and moved to Florida), and simply biding his time until he can leave the soulless streets of Cross Point for college...and anywhere else. Until he ends up spending most of the evening and late into the night with vanilla-ice-cream Brighton Waterford, and discovers that maybe there is something great in Cross Point after all. And maybe it's time he accepted his "now" and lived life moving forward, not backward. 
And, of course, there's chemistry and sparks and swoon. But it's about beginning a relationship where the two people challenge each other and bring out the best in each other. It's a well-written story with two dynamic protagonists. The story takes place over the course of one day and night, and definitely lends itself to being read all at once. I have to say that even I was able to devour it in about a day (I may have stayed up past my bedtime to finish). 
Bottom line: if you're in the mood for a quick, fun read or some well-written teen romance with great characters and hidden depth, pick this one up.



Friday, March 20, 2015

Five points to Gryffindor

Well, the never-ending scarf is finished! I probably could have made it a bit longer, but overall I'm pretty happy with it. Hopefully the recipient will be as well!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ode

Today, we interrupt our (not at all) regularly scheduled programming to talk about something that I am currently obsessed with. It's not a t.v. show, it's not a book, it's not a movie, not a web site, not a blog (which reminds me I need to do another blogs-I-like post), not a band....no, but it's something pretty aweseome.

Cereal.

I'm going through what I've decided to term the Season of Cereal. What should I have for breakfast? Cereal. Time for a snack? Cereal. Don't feel like cooking dinner? Cereal.

I tend to go for non-super-sugary cereals, so things like Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Kashi GoLean, Raisin Bran, and Grape Nuts are currently in the rotation. It's like comfort food I don't have to cook. Easy on the tummy, so good at any time of day. A little protein, a little carbs...perfect. Throw some berries or bananas on top...extra perfect.

It's perhaps not the healthiest habbit, but hey, I could be eating ice cream and at least cereal is usually fortified with a few vitamins and has some fiber in there too. I'm sure I'll outgrow this phase soon...or not. :)