50 Books- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

photo (6)

50 Books- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

I honestly cannot remember where I got this book.  Most likely ordered from amazon.com, as I have so few options to find good, English language books.  Wherever it came from it clocked in at 324 pages.

Have I read this book before?

Nope.  The opportunity never presented itself, and it was not a book I sought out.

What do I already know?

I went into this one knowing nothing.  After the first five pages I glanced at the back cover and saw it was about a guy in a mental hospital and was the origin of Nurse Ratched.  Maybe 25 pages in my husband informed me it was a movie with Jack Nickolson.  I almost wish he hadn’t told me, because I am sure it influenced how I saw the character, but in truth I think he would be perfect.  (I know about the movie now, I haven’t seen it.)

What do I think now?

When I started, I wasn’t excited.  I mean, seriously, not into the book.  I could not have cared any less, and I wasn’t really into it.  I had already read The Bell Jar, and had a committed person book I was loving.  I wasn’t sure I could like this one; it just didn’t seem like my style of book.  I mean, it was all about a testosterone fueled, swaggering, loud mouthed guy causing trouble; not my thing, but thanks.

Within about fifty pages, I was hooked.  Okay, yeah, McMurphy is everything I already said, but he was also incredibly smart and intuitive.  He knew how things were, and could see exactly what was really going on with everyone.  He read the patients, the nurses, the doctors, and could see their buttons.  He knew just how far he could push, and exactly what he could get away with before the consequences were past what he could deal with.  It doesn’t mean he always stuck within those limits, but he was smart.  The obnoxious layer everyone could see was truth, but it was also a cover; no one would look past that outside to see everything else he was.  He painted his outside in such a way that people could not see the depth within him.  More than that, he did more good for the patients than the doctors did, even if it didn’t seem like he should have.  His methods were strange, but he brought about real change.

The end of the story is heartbreaking, but I honestly could not see it ending any other way.  This story wasn’t really meant to have a happy ending.

Should you read this book before you die?

Yes.  Absolutely.  There is so much going on here, and it is such a good story about fighting what is keeping you down.  It might not be the happy inspiration you need, but it is still worth the work.

Coming up next, is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy followed by Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.

Happy Reading Everyone!

50 Books- The Way We Live Now

photo (6)

50 Books to Read Before You Die- The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

This is another book I found on Oyster where it is listed as having 876 printed pages.

Have I read this book before?

No.  I don’t think it has come up before in previous classes or conversations.

What do I already know?

Nothing except the book length.  I didn’t even read the description in Oyster before I started.

What do I think now?

In the very beginning of the book one of the characters, Lady Carbury, is working on having reviews written about a book she has recently written.  She is very concerned with how her book will be received by the general public.  She does not care about writing a great book, only writing a book that people think is great.  It may seem like the same thing, but in fact it is not. A book that is thought of as great, will sell well and make money, whereas a book that is actually great may or may not catch on.  It is all about perception.

This is definitely a theme throughout the entire book.  There are many characters who are thought of as great, but in truth they are no better than anyone else, and may in fact be horrible people.  It was a fascinating, and gripping study of human nature, assumedly in a specific time period.

There were many things I saw as relatable, particularly the desire to have a book I write perceived as a great work.  I mean, sure I want to write something that actually is amazing, but having people think it is amazing is just as important.  Great reviews can translate into sales, and high enough sales can translate into a paycheck, hopefully a paycheck high enough to allow the author to have the freedom to keep writing.  If you make enough money with one book, you don’t have to have a day job, you can just follow your dreams.  I mean honestly, who wouldn’t want that?

Should you read this book before you die?

This book was much better than I expected.  It was long, and for some reason I couldn’t read more than a few chapters at a time, but it was well worth the read.  Writing like this doesn’t come along everyday.  You try to write characters that feel real, and situations that allow them to act as a normal human would, but there are always flaws.  This came about as close as possible to a real picture of human behavior.  I loved it.

After this long read I need a slightly shorter book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, followed by Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

Happy Reading Everyone!

One Year Old

I have been debating on what to write for this post for a couple of days.  Well actually for almost a month.

I have been blogging here for one year.  It feels like it should be a party, celebrating everything I have accomplished and everything this blog has become.  In truth, I am doing less celebrating and more reflecting.

I started this blog for a reason.  I wanted to share who I was, and find others who were going through similar things.  I was looking to make a connection, to reach out into the world and make it a little smaller.

I know my blog is small.  It has grown since I started, of course, but not at a record breaking pace.  I don’t have a slim focus, which makes it difficult to gain a following.  I write about what crosses my mind, what worries me, and what interests me.  Sometimes it means I have something exciting to say, and other times I have nothing.  It doesn’t make it easy for others to know what to make of me.

I haven’t been making the connections I set out to make, but I think I am staying true to who I am.  I guess I can’t hope for much more.

My second year of blogging has begun, my next chance to do what I set out to do.  Now it is just to do it.

Running Late

So, remember a few months ago when I said I was taking a pottery class?  I shared pictures of a few in progress projects, and said I would share the finished projects?  I remembered too.  I know it might not seem like I do, as I haven’t posted them yet, but I do.

So, what is bringing on my memory?  I start a new pottery class next week!  Yes, I loved it enough, I am doing it again.  But first, let’s share what I made.

photo 1

Before…..

FullSizeRender-6

and after!  (Sorry about the cruddy lighting.  This is why I am planning to work on my photos for this blog.)

photo 2

Before…..

FullSizeRender

and after!  Plus two more similar sized bowls you can barely see behind!

Sadly I don’t have a all of them as before and after, but I do have the two from my first couple of classes.  They are sad, wonky pieces, and I love them.  Of course, I also love the other, better pieces.  Being a coffee lover, I of course had to make myself a mug (and the only decent picture in the batch).

FullSizeRender-1

And I made a matching bowl.

FullSizeRender-3

I made a pencil holder, for no apparent reason.

FullSizeRender-2

And a set of chopstick bowls.  I only took a picture of one, but I made four.

FullSizeRender-5

I think they last two pictures are my favorite pieces however.  First a collaborative project; I made the bowl, and a friend made the octopus.

FullSizeRender-4

And the final before and after, Little Ones’s pieces.  She made a bowl, a plate, a puppy head, and a heart.

photo-2

Before…..

FullSizeRender-7

And after!

Here is to another pottery class, taking better pictures, and posting things on time!

50 Books- Wuthering Heights

photo (6)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

I already owned a kindle version of this book, which boasts 233 pages.

Have I read this book before?

No.  A year, maybe two years ago, I decided to read it and couldn’t get past the fifth page.  I had only decided to read it based on a critique I had read of a character in another book that I didn’t totally understand.  Okay, fine, I was reading a critique of Bella from Twilight, researching the qualities that make a character largely disliked.  She wasn’t the only character I was reading about, just the one relevant for this discussion.  One of the critiques was her favorite book being Wuthering Heights.  (I’m not sure where that came from, so it might be wrong.  I’m not a Twilight person.)  This was considered to be a bad thing, because the character was depressed, and their favorite book (quoting from memory here, it’s been a long time) ‘had characters who literally died of depression.’  Having never read the book, I didn’t get the reference and wanted to understand.  I just couldn’t do it though.  The book didn’t grab me at the time, and I felt that was enough.

What do I already know?

Well, apparently people die from depression.  I know there is foggy moors, and someone named Catherine.  As far as I have heard, Mr. Heathcliff is considered to be romantic and sexy, much like Mr. Darcy.

What do I think now?

Um.  Well.  It’s not good.

All right, that is overly simplistic.  First of all, I have said before I am not a large fan of the Bronte sisters.  I find them to be dark in a depressing, not fun way.  I know I was going in with preconceptions, and I am happy to say that many of them were false.  Or at least not entirely accurate.

I did struggle with the beginning again.  I don’t like the dynamic of the story within a story.  I met many characters right away, and maybe it was intended to get me invested in their life but it actually was kind of confusing.  The story takes place over a a few months, but the story within the story is over decades.  By the time I saw the characters who were introduced in the beginning again, I couldn’t remember exactly what was going on with them.  Additionally, the breaks in the action occasionally threw me off as I tried to remember who was telling the story now, and how they were telling it.  It was a distraction, but no the end of the world.

In spite of the distraction, I did get into the story eventually.  I had to give it about 50 pages, but I got there.  I could see some of the bad stuff happening, and see how everything could come together to create such unhappy characters.  As compelling as the story became, I hated it.  It was depressing, and frustrating.  These are horrible people.  One household of cruel and unfeeling people who have been given the power to make so many others miserable as well.  I was almost happy with each death that occurred because it was either removing a horrible human being from existence, or freeing someone who was within their power.

More than anything, I do not understand how anyone can consider Heathcliff to be a romantic character.  He is an ass.  I’m sorry to be honest here, but let’s be realistic.  He couldn’t have the girl he loved, so he destroyed everyone’s life around him.  Comparing him to Mr. Darcy is completely inaccurate in my mind.  Sure, they were both a bit surly, but Mr. Darcy’s crankiness is explained by his ingrained pride and incredible shyness, both of which he works to overcome in order to win his love  Heathcliff was a snot nosed kid who worked to get money in order to make the people who were mean to him suffer.  No, his life wasn’t easy, but he chose to come back after he got out.  Seriously, I don’t get the attraction here.  Please, if you are in the Heathcliff fan club, explain the appeal of this man to me, because I do not get it at all.  Honestly, I would like to understand.

Should you read this book before you die?

As much as I did not like this book, I do see redeeming qualities.  The writing is good, and it is a good portrayal of anger, resentment, and revenge.  I might not like any of these people, but the story of their fate is still engaging and, well, entertaining.  It is great for what it is; it’s just not for me.

Coming up next is another long one, The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope followed by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

Happy Reading All!

2015 Goals

All right, as it is January 12, and I am only now getting around to making some goals for the year, I suppose the first should be stop procrastinating, but that might be a little too obvious.  I actually have no guilt from setting goals a little late in the month.  I honestly feel a goal should be made when it makes sense; beginning of the year goals make sense because they have a built in time frame, but it is not the only time I will make goals for myself.  I do it all the time.  But whenever I do, I take the time to think about what I am doing, and make a goal I believe is right for me for many reasons.

With this in mind, here are my 2015 goals.  I know I could keep them to myself, and no one would ever need to know if I failed, but what is the point of having a group of strangers I talk to if I am not going to share with them my embarrassing moments?

Goal #1

Improve my technology/social media skills.

There is a large world online and it terrifies me.  I am barely comfortable blogging, rarely tweet, and almost always forget to instagram.  I want to get better, but there is so much out there for me to learn, and I am hampered by the absolute knowledge that no one cares about many of the stupid things I think, see, and do. Honestly, taking pictures while my food gets cold feels ridiculous, and 99% of people would not get the little jokes I can fit into 140 characters.  Maybe it’s a confidence thing, but whatever it is, I would like to get better.  I’m not sure I will ever be a video blogger, but I can get better at creating a layout for my site, and editing and posting better pictures.

Goal #2

Branch out with my writing.

Last year I made it a goal to finish more manuscripts, and I did all right, but not great.  I feel like my focus was so narrow, I didn’t have time to explore.  I would like to finish full novel manuscripts, but I would like to do something else as well.  I’d like to work a little on writing short stories, and improve my blogging habits.  I started out pretty regular, but it dropped off a lot.  I out off writing posts, and condensed some things way too much.  I mean come on, I spent a week in Rome, saw so much, and came back feeling inspired and desperate to see more. And then what did I do?  I condensed it all into one brief post that barely touched on my trip.  What the hell?  I call myself a writer and I couldn’t write a decent post about a place I loved so much?  I want to keep working on the old goal (publishing a novel), but I want to spend time writing about whatever inspires me, and not skimping on the details.

Goal # 3

Focus on my health.

Okay, this is a typical new years resolution thing, but it is not about weight.  I could easily make a goal with a specific number of pounds I want to lose, but that would only be part of my goal.  I want to feel better.  I want to run more, and do actual real world races again this year.  I want to focus on overcoming the depression and anxiety that threatens me frequently lately.  Losing weight or gaining muscles would be awesome, but feeling good is the actual goal.

Goal #4

Learn something new.

There are so many specific skills I considered listing as a goal.  I want to learn a new language, try knitting cables, play the ukulele, and paper piece quilting, just to name a few things.  Instead of listing a specific goal, I am leaving it open.  I’ve never been great with languages (said the writer) so I might not be able to master a language.  Maybe I will try the ukulele and decide I hate it.  There are variables I can’t control here.  Instead, I am going to make it a goal to work to learn something new, maybe many something news.  As long as I am trying, I am succeeding here.

Okay, I could swear I had five goals, but only four come to mind now.  I guess this is further proof that my methods are good; if I remember any other goals later, I can always add them.  After all, it’s about learning and growing, something I should always be working on.

Happy Monday, and Happy 2015!

50 Books- Men Without Women

photo (6)

Men Without Women By Ernest Hemingway

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

I found this book on Oyster, where it reports it would have 156 printed pages.  Having read the book on my phone, I am pretty sure it had many, many, many, more screens than the reported 156 pages.

Have I read this book before?

No.  I have been thinking about reading Hemingway before, but I had not considered this one.  I have a copy of The Sun Also Rises on my shelf that I figured would be my first Hemingway.  I guess not.

What do I already know?

I didn’t know anything before this started.  When I decided to move this book ahead of a longer one, I learned it was a collection of short stories.  It is not a lot of information, but it was something.

What do I think now?

Some of the stories were good, some were not my thing.  I was surprised to learn I had read one of the stories before without ever knowing it, The Hills Like White Elephants.  It was part of my high school reading, though I cannot remember when.  I remember we were reading the story as much for everything that was not said between the couple as everything that was.  I don’t remember exactly what we were supposed to get from the story, but we were supposed to realize what the couple was talking about without them ever actually saying anything.  Rereading the story, I felt like they were talking about their relationship, like she wanted to get married but was trying not to push the topic, and he was just not that into things.  Looking it up on Cliffnotes I learned that apparently the girl was going to get an abortion and was terrified while the man was not concerned, telling her it wasn’t a big deal.  So not what I read, but I guess that was part of the beauty; the story was vague enough everyone can read something different into the story, apply it to their own life.

Should you read this book before you die?

One of the joys of this book is that it is a collection of short stories.  You can read just a little, and go through the emotional arc of the story in a much shorter time space.  It is like a introduction to the  classic, great writers, without the commitment of a 300+ page book.  It’s perfect.

Moving on past Hemingway, I am working to tackle Withering Heights by Emily Bronte followed by The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope.  Happy Reading Everyone!

What We Do

Last year was not great for my running.  I was constantly letting my laziness and exhaustion overtake me instead of pushing myself, and I did zero races.  I’m not talking about virtual races, I’m talking about standing at the starting line with a large group of strangers, running through the cheering crowds, pushing through the course, crossing the finish line and having a medal placed around your neck and limping away triumphant race.  I love races.  I’m not fast, and I’m never in it for the possibility of winning.  I’m there for the feel of the crowd, the excitement in the air, and the exhilarating moment of crossing the finish line.

This year, I decided I needed to get to a race again. I have already picked out two semi-local races, spread apart and with a few options for distances which will let me have options if my training does not go well.  I was just waiting to get started training again until I got over being sick.  I had a massive flu/chest cold incident which has left me with the joy of coughing fits whenever I either move around too much or in a strange way.  Not the end of the world, but not something that would work well with running in freezing temperatures.

Yesterday worked to show me just how far I had fallen.  As I mentioned before, yesterday was my Big One’s birthday.  Growing up in a large, and quite bluntly poor, family, we didn’t do much as far as birthdays went.  There were no big parties, and we didn’t go out to eat.  Instead, on your birthday you were allowed to choose what was cooked for dinner, as well as what kind of homemade cake you wanted.  Living far away from everyone and everything, we keep the tradition.  Its simple, easy, and all about family.

Big One had a simple request for her birthday; a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup cake, and curry.  Our curry is a little different from other curries.  Our curry is based on our favorite Japanese curry house, Coco Ichibanya.  It’s a thick curry sauce, almost a gravy, that we eat over rice and chicken cutlets.  Most of this was easy enough, however we had no chicken breasts.  The store down the block, about 1/2 mile away, was out of chicken leaving me with there choice between disappointing my child on her 13th birthday, or making my way to the next closest grocery store, 3 miles away.

Yes, I did it.  I walked three miles the next town, bought the chicken, then walked three miles home.  After that excursion, I whipped up the cake and then lay down for a long rest.  Walking six miles had been nothing such a short time ago, and now it exhausted me.  Not a happy thought.

I consider myself lucky however.  Sure it, was not a fun walk, and I have a wonderful blister as a souvenir, but I was able get what I needed for my child.  The look on her face, when she was able to have what she wanted was worth every sore step I took.  It’s just what we do for our kids.

Most Important Part of Today

I know it is cheesy and weird, but I am still trying to get my life together for this new year.  Two weeks of kids home, plus being sick (which I still am), have left me off schedule and feeling lost.  Fortunately, the children went back to school yesterday, the husband went back to work, and it gave me a chance to rest and recover slightly. However today, I am officially back in school as well, which takes away my rest time.

None of that matters today however.

Today, there is something more important than any of that.  This girl.

IMG_1793

Not the dog, the sleeping child.  Today is Big One’s 13th birthday.  She is officially a surly teenager.  She denies it of course, but I have my doubts and am preparing full swat team riot gear just in case.  Now that she knows everything, she has instructed me to not panic and to continue on as we always have in the past.  Of course she also promised me that she would not now or ever decide to start dating and having a social life.  I think this is definitive proof I cannot trust anything that comes out of her mouth anymore.

But for this one moment, what comes out of her mouth does not matter at all. It is all about what I have to say.  Happy Birthday to my Big One.  She changed my life, and continues to make me a better person.  I look forward to everything she is going to put me through over the next seven years of her teenagedom.

Kicking Off 2015

It’s a new year, which means people everywhere are making promises to change they will not actually keep.  I always try to avoid making resolutions and instead make goals.  It seems the same to some, but to me it is very different.  A resolution is something you are going to change about yourself; a goal is something you want to accomplish.  When I feel as though I need to change something about myself, I change, I don’t wait until the beginning of the new year.  However, goals help to keep you focused; it’s nothing something I want to change, it’s just something I want to achieve.  As I said, it’s a small distinction.

Last year, I made five goals for myself, not all of which I accomplished.  As I make new goals for myself, I also reflect on those from the year before.  So, first the breakdown.

Goal 1, start a blog.  Okay.  Done.  Obviously.  I didn’t grow the blog quickly, or post consistently, but I got started.  I think I am still finding my voice here, but I made the first step, and that was getting started.

Goal 2, finish the three stories I began.  Okay.  Not done.  Two I didn’t finish, and the third I did, but it was barely begun at the beginning of the year.  Somehow this goal got a little twisted in my mind and turned from finishing projects I had begun and turned into writing three novels.  Either way I didn’t do it.  I did however finish two novels, learn a way to outline my story ideas that works for me, and managed to finish a story in one month for NaNoWriMo.  I definitely made progress in learning what works for me when it comes to writing.

Goal 3, work on my healthy habits.  All right, it was a rough year, but I never stopped trying.

Goal 4, publish a novel.  Also, not done.  I went into the year with so much hope and optimism.  Bluntly put, I knew nothing about how to publish a novel.  I didn’t know how hard it was, or how long the process could take.  I had no idea about any of it.  On top of that, I feel as though I may have had an overinflated idea of how good my novel was.  A year of perspective, and putting it kindly, it was not ready.  I was not ready.  There are still things I like about the first one, but overall, I think it was more of a mess than it should have been before I started the query process.  Some of the writing was great, but the story was not. Instead of trying for publishing, I think I should be ripping it apart and using it for spare parts.

Goal 5, create something on a regular basis.  I wanted so much to just keep making things, and I think I managed that.  Not everything was great, or perfect, but I never stopped trying to create something new.  So, I guess for this one, go me!

It’s hard to say I actually accomplished my goals here.  I guess three out of five isn’t bad.  I learned a lot, and I know I really improved my writing this year, even if other things did’t go as well.  Maybe this is a sign I need to pick my goals better, and think a little more this year.  There is nothing wrong with setting your goals or resolutions on January 1st, but there is not reason you can’t make them a little later either.  So no, I am not posting my goals today.  Instead, I am giving myself at least another week.  I want to be ready, and know I am choosing something I want for myself.  In any case, with goals today, tomorrow or three weeks from now, I am going to make something out of 2015.  Maybe that is the only goal I need.