Book Clubs #SOL17

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For my book club meeting tonight we read Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdich. This is the first book of hers I have read. Although it was well written I did not care for the story. The diary/letter to an unborn child format was pulled off nicely. The descriptions were beautifully written in sections. I cognitively understood the story but didn’t care all that much about what happened to the characters.

Since the book just came out I wasn’t sure I would get a copy in time for the book club meeting. I ended up with a hard copy and was able to download the digital copy this week too. It did make me think about how I would react to the idea of the world ending. I am not sure I would stuff the walls of my house with booze and cigarettes though. As depressing as the story actually is, the book doesn’t have that connotation as you read it. There is a thread of hope.

One of my favorite sentences is on page 265: “Sometimes the lake breathed a tortured sigh, its lungs full of broken glass.”

I took my notes on notecards for this book. I have a new found love for notecards lately, especially color cards!

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Another book I have for a book club this week on Thursday is John Green’s new book Turtles All the Way Down. I enjoy John Green’s writing and am always recommending his books to my middle schoolers. He plays with ideas and language and that is exciting as a reader and a writer.

The notes for this book I gathered on my phone in my Google Keep app. I love this app and dictate to it often especially in the car.

I like books that feature mental illness and I thought it was portrayed well in this book. I just finished Challenger Deep by: Neal Shusterman last night and that was a great representation as well. Much different than other YA books for mental illness and well done all the same. It is from the same author as Sycthe which I adored and read this past summer. I just found out that there is a sequel that is coming out next month! (Insert reading book happy dance….here!)

Anyway, back to Turtles. I read this book on my kindle which does not give a reader the advantage of page numbers for quotes. Some of my favorite quotes from this book are:

“Maybe I’m just a lie that I’m whispering to myself.”

“Please don’t make me share my dumb poems with you. Reading someone’s poetry is like seeing them naked.”

“Fourteen days of my life reduced to one sentence because I can’t describe anything that happened during those days. It hurt, all the time, in a way language could not touch.”

“But you are also the most fascinating person I have ever known, and you are not like mustard. You are like pizza, which is the highest compliment I can pay a person.”

“I’m a story they’re telling. I am circumstances.” 

John Green, I think your book is like pizza! I think that will be my new go-to compliment for everything!

Now onto the next book! Happy Reading!

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Library Holds: Slice Of Life #SOL17

There is something satisfying about walking into the local library and picking up a delightful stack of books that I have put on hold. The Google Library Extension is my friend. I know that the more books I check out the more money the library receives so I feel good about it.

Yesterday I picked up:

Smoke and Mirrors from Neil Gaiman, to further my knowledge and read exemplars of short stories – I am a huge Gaiman fan and was surprised I had not downloaded this book on my Kindle already

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Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich which is my book club pick for December

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Out on A Wire by Jessica Abel which is a wonderful resource for writing and storytelling recommended by author Rachael Herron – Jessica also has a wonderful podcast that has workshop episodes

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I am looking forward to reading during my lunchtime today!

#happyreading

The Perfect Meal #SOL17

slice of life_individualIs there such a thing as a perfect meal?

I think there are perfect recipes.

There are favorite meals, memory meals, and the storied snack.

Favorite meals are the ones you eat because they are delicious. My husband makes his signature spaghetti that is requested on birthdays and special events. A book club friend always makes her food with so much love and care that we can taste it when she serves it. I have “stolen” several recipes from her including Birthday Pasta. A relatively simple meal that is so good it is requested on birthdays…hence the name. It is made with butter, cream, mushrooms, and parmesan cheese. In my own version, I add chicken and spinach. Almost all her recipes have a story to go with them too.

Memory meals remind you of a specific event or remind you of someone or a certain time in your life. My brother dropped an entire plate full of spaghetti and sauce down the stairs in the house I grew up in which makes me laugh to think about it. My mother in law makes smoked butt and rutabagas because it reminds her of her childhood. Cabbage soup, scrambled egg sandwiches,  and crepes remind me of my Oma.

The storied snack is what you bring to someone and it has a story. In the Southern Living cookbook, there is a recipe for Praline Grahams that are always a hit and so simple to make.

The experience matters too. Creating hygge with candles, a fire, and the special people around you can add to the delight of a meal. I have made roasted lemon chicken with potatoes and carrots (Ina Garten recipe) with my son so many times at his request. We have eaten the whole dish just the two of us! It is about the food, the people, the lighting, the conversation, and the plates! I am a big believer is real plates for special occasions, even when there are 40 people in the house for dinner!

One of my new favorite recipes is the prosciutto wrapped chicken thighs with pesto cream sauce and asparagus. It will be the recipe of choice when we have dinner guests over. Last weekend, we made brown sugar balsamic pork loin that was a huge hit too.

What is your perfect meal? I am making myself hungry!

Welcome to November!

Today has been a good day!

  1. An early morning run
  2. Coffee routine with my hubby
  3. Good morning meeting
  4. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) started today! Today’s word count: 1,807 – The goal is to write 50,000 by the end of the month
    1. This did not go as well as I thought it would. I had plans in place and then sat down in front of the BLANK screen and I panicked a bit. It is ok. I have many more days to go.
  5. Book of the Month selections came out today!My Pick!
  6. Great evening planned!

If I can squeeze in some reading, it will be even better!

#happyreading #happywriting

Commute #SOL17

screen-shot-2017-03-14-at-1-30-42-pm15Over the past two years, I have cultivated a closer relationship with my car than most people in my life.

My commute is the longest it has ever been in my professional career. The time can range from 50 min to 90 plus.

There are a few behaviors that make these daily miles more tolerable than others.

The most effective activity for me to keep my sanity and not be bored is listening to PODCASTS on my commute.

This is the key to my sanity and anti boredom. Most of the podcasts are writing and reading related which adds to my TBR list. I am always looking for great recommendations. There is lots of coming and goings so I have time.

I spend way too much time in my car. I heard on a podcast this morning there was a woman that went to her car to write because that was the only place she could find silence. The idea of spending more time in my car makes me physically ill. Being in the car is necessary and I have found some ways to tolerate it.

One of the underlying reasons WHY I tolerate the commute is because it brings me to people that I honestly enjoy working with. I have never worked in a building with such professional, well rounded wonderful people. I probably should use a better word than wonderful…They make my heart happy. Truly, Not an easy feat in my world.

The drive time is good transition time from home to work and work to home. I can think about my day on the way in and send emails and texts and make my burn list (what I am currently calling my to do list). I do get some work done. One pitfall is that I drive East in the morning and West in the afternoon. Happy am I on days that are cloudy and/or rainy because I do not get blinded by the sun. The driving is easier. The transition time also allows me to really be home when I am home, and at work when I am at work. This has not always been the case for me. I used to do hours of work at home. The time also allows me time to think and create and dictate to my phone.

According to an article titled, “Commuting: “The Stress that Doesn’t Pay”

Commuting harms our psychological health and social lives.” from Psychology Today from Jan 12, 2015 the average commute is 25.4 minutes. Anything over 90 minutes according to the article is categorized as a “mega commute”. If the traffic is flowing I tolerate the drive better, partly because the drive is then shorter. I cannot control the unpredictability of the traffic. I cannot push the people in front of me to go faster or to get out of the lane that I think that they are driving too slow in whatever lane they have decided to mistakenly drive in. I also do not have the magical ability to snap my fingers and move cars over on the road…or off the road. If there are issues, then I push into the mega commute time frame which makes me cranky….quite cranky. Which is not good for my health – or the wellbeing of the people around me.

There are many health risks associated with a commute that is longer than 30 min including high blood pressure, lack of sleep, higher exhaustion levels, back pain, and higher risks of anxiety and depression (TIME, Feb 26, 2014).

There are days I am physically uncomfortable and I can’t settle into a comfortable position in the driver seat. I readjust to no avail. I do positive frame a lot of situations on the way to and from home. There are things now that make me happy and less stressed that never even crossed my mind before: new tires, a fresh oil change, a full tank of gas, an open road with no construction. Another idea that makes me happy is when I have a day off the first thing I think about is that I don’t have to spend 2 hours in the car.

There is a ritual and a routine to it. I check my WAZE app to anticipate an alternate route so I have a better chance to have the shortest drive possible. I also make sure that the PODCAST for the drive home is cued up and downloaded.

Stress is a fact of life that will not go away anytime soon. I can positive frame as much of the commute experience that I can and make it as tolerable as I can.

I will continue this pattern until I just cannot anymore and then this season will be over. There is always a chance that lottery ticket in my wallet is a winner!

Ray Bradbury’s Writing Triggers #SOL17

screen-shot-2017-03-14-at-1-30-42-pm15The more I find out about Ray Bradbury, the more I love him.

As much reading about writing as I have done, I have never come across Ray Bradbury’s NOUN writing exercise. It is brilliant! I love lists and I love writing! It is perfect!

Here is the link to the Brain Pickings article outlining his unusual writing practice.

I started my own list and have been writing 100-200 word pieces using one noun from the list as a trigger. I am hoping this exercise is the key to unlock some of the stories that are hiding in my mind.

My First List of Nouns:

The night. The Dark. The empty. The foot. The drawer. The book. The manuscript. The eve. The house. The fireplace. The castle. The moors. The pool. The date auction. The class. The ring. The roller skates. The pen. The candle. The heart. The mirror. The run.

My Variation

I asked some friends over the weekend to text me a short list of nouns to use as springboards for writing. This variation is more in line with the random word prompt. The lists are not my own so the emotional story unlocking potential is not as prominent.

Here are opening lines of a story I wrote using this noun list: The Horse. The Banana. The Table. The Peanut Butter. The Glasses.

It was a rainy,  too warm October day when the horse dropped dead in the middle of the pasture. He didn’t know what to do with death. Peanut butter freed a six year old’s horses around the corner. The little one hid in a closet and wasn’t found for 2 days. A peanut butter and banana sandwich can be deadly in more ways than one. One bite taken out of the square white softness was enough to change a whole family, and the town they lived in.

Jack took his glasses off and set them on the table and rubbed the space between his eyes with the two fingers of his right hand. They were stained with dark black ink as they always were. They were calloused and rough. He could hold balls of fire without pain. Maybe they could even resist death. He hadn’t had the opportunity to experiment. Jack joked and told people that he could handle the heat because of all the evil his hands had done.They never knew if he was kidding.

My plan is to try this prompt with students as well to see what unlocks in their minds!

#happy writing

 

 

 

 

American Ninja Warrior – At Home

slice-of-life_individualOur family is obsessed with American Ninja Warrior. We have watched it as a family for several years and this past weekend we transformed into participants with our at home version.

We set up a course in our house this past weekend on a budget. My husband used all the random items in the garage to make obstacles and it was super fun. The kids and I have talked about making obstacles in the backyard including a warp wall and a peg wall,  but that is a project for next spring.

We set up “floating chairs” in the hallway, balance beams with an egg balance, a tape maze, a ring toss, a ball toss, a rope and elevated ladder they had to walk across, and a climbing wall. A bell was used as a buzzer at the end of the course.

 

tape maze

Above you can see the tape maze that the kids had to navigate with an egg on the spoon. We lost about 3 eggs over the course of 2 days.

Garage Ninja

Above you can see the climbing wall and the ladder the kids walked across with the assistance of the rope tied to the beams. The ring toss in the foreground proved to be difficult and ate up a lot of time for several participants.

The kids went through the course and we timed them each heat. It occupied about 4 hours total over the weekend. There were several rounds of competition and then they decided to run it backwards. It was super fun the whole time.

For one run we taped a cell phone to their chest and recoreded from their perspective which was fun to watch. A much cheaper version of a Go PRO!

There were educational pieces as well discussing the timing, minutes, seconds, and tenths of seconds. We problem solved how to get a faster time and what factors contributed to slower or faster times.

This will definitely be a continuing practice at our house throughout the winter. The kids are already planning their own obstacles they would like to see in the next course. We also plan to incorporate some elements that resemble Survivor games as well. It makes for a good combination of skills and ideas that are not all physical.