Thoughts On A Sunday

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Sometimes, the days get hard, and there is too much to do.  Then, my little dog, curls up next to me, happy to sleep close by, and reminds me someone loves me no matter what.  As long as there is a belly to scratch, she wants to be my friend.

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Long Term Project

Whenever I get into a funk about one thing, it tends to leak out into other areas of my life.  I’m cranky about my writing, so I don’t feel like running.  My runs are not going well, and suddenly I don’t want to sew.  As crazy as it is, I think there is a part of me that doesn’t want to feel better.  Maybe I have a secret martyr complex, and want to stay miserable.  It’s slightly tragic, but mostly just annoying.

There is one good thing about having my moods from one project bleed into another; as soon as I have something going well, I start to feel better about other things.  It doesn’t matter that they are completely unrelated, I get my hope and good spirits back.

With my recent funk, I started looking for something to do.  You know, other than lay on the couch playing endless games on my phone while watching Netflix.  While the couch potato act might be satisfying to the funky mood, it is not productive in any way, shape, or form.

I was digging around in a box of sewing things, for a reason I can no longer remember, when I ran across a kit to make a cross stitch bookmark.  It had been years since I had done any cross stitch, but it seemed like it would be a quick project while I waited for my lives to refill on Free Fall.  I worked on it a little at a time for a couple of days, and had a cute bookmark to show for it.  Yea me!

This brought me down to my basement where I was pretty sure I had a couple of other cross stitch projects waiting to be finished. Enter Oscar.

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Oscar the Grouch, one of the most relatable Sesame Street Characters (the other being, of course Cookie Monster).  I’m pretty sure this was bought to go in my daughter’s room when she was a couple of years old, making it a project I started around a decade ago.  When I pulled it out of the package again this week it was just a blob of green stitches I had done and abandoned. 

I cannot clearly remember why I set this aside, but I can only presume by the fact that it has survived a couple of moves, that I intended to finish it.  I’m not quite there yet, it will probably take a couple of nights of watching tv with the kiddos to finish from here, but soon I will finally be able to call this project done.  Big One no longer cares about a Sesame Street cross stitch, since she is 13 and too cool for that, but I am still calling it a win.  Not only am I finding an old hobby again, but I am proving to myself, I finish what I start.  A small, less than 5×7, cross stitch project that I come back to finish after 10 years?  This shows at least a little determination.

Who cares if I am in my 30s.  Oscar will hang above my desk soon, reminding me that I can keep going, even after a little break, and big grump.

50 Books-Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

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This is just a short post today, due to a short book.  I promise I am still plugging away at Ulysses!

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Where did I get this book and how many pages?

I had both a digital copy and a physical copy of this book.  The physical copy was bought long enough ago that I honestly cannot remember where it came from, and the digital copy was a part of a free book app I have on my ipad with a very large number of classic books.  I realized shortly after I started reading that the beginning of the two copies was slightly different.  Further investigation led me to realize that the book I had was ‘condensed and adapted’ whatever that means.  Instead I read the digital copy, which, with illustrations removed was only 41 pages.

I’m not sure what was intended when this book was placed on the list.  The listed book is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Maybe it is implied that a person would read the entire collection, and maybe I should have done that before counting it as done.  I chose to do just what was written on the list, but it kind of feels too short.

Have I read this book before?

Yes.  I was pretty sure when I started, but wasn’t completely sure when I had read it before.

What did I think?

It was all right.  I have not read the entire series, so I obviously did not enjoy it enough to continue on.

What do I think now?

It’s still all right.  Alice has a wonderful and weird little trip down a rabbit hole.  It’s silly, and ridiculous, and fun.  In spite of being a short book, it has it’s quotable moments.

Should you read this book before you die?

This is hard one to determine.  There is nothing that stands out in this book for me.  There is no big lesson to be learned, no life changing takeaway that I noticed.  It’s just a silly little story.  Maybe that is the reason to read this book.  Not everything you read needs to change your life.  Sometimes it is enough for a book to make you smile.  I think the greatest reason to read this book before you die is simply because there is no reason not to.

 

 

As promised, I am still working on Ulysses.  I don’t want to give too much as to why it is taking so long here, when there will be a post coming soon.  Hopefully really soon.  I mean this one is taking a ridiculously long time.

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As I continue on my quest of dual reading, I will also be starting on Frankenstein by Mary Shelly.  I thought about saving this until a little closer to Halloween, but well, I want to read it now instead.  The weather has been cool, and it just feels right.

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I hope a few of you are reading along, or at least considering if you should include a few of these books in your life.  I am a firm believer in copious reading, no matter what book is chosen!

Make Something

I’ve spent a few weeks in a writing funk.  This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I sincerely doubt it will be the last.  It is an unfortunate fact, but there it is.  Sometimes my writing ability can be interrupted by life.  I’m still getting my story ideas, but I am losing my inspiration to write them.

It started a few weeks ago, when I was working on getting some critique on the beginning of a story.  I went in knowing my own story weaknesses, but feeling like what I was submitting was all right.  I left realizing that everyone else saw the same weaknesses I had. 

Suddenly I was hit with an absolute knowledge that everything I wrote was crap.  Seeing my own problems was fine; I could pretend I was just being paranoid, or maybe giving myself a little tough love.  When someone else sees the same problems it means they are actually problems and I should fix them.

Trying to make a go of a creative career is not easy.  You have to be sensitive enough to follow your creative path, and express real emotion.  You have to open yourself up in a way that feels almost wrong; a part of you is exposed to the world that you would normally keep hidden.  You put that part out there, and then allow others to pass judgment in the name of making things better.  You have to be raw and place everything out there, yet tough enough to shrug off everything negative.  As soft as silk, and yet as tough as nails.  I’m not even sure what material out there would come close to that, but I’m sure I am not made from it.

I can’t take the critique without suffering a few scars.  Maybe it means in a few years I will be out, or at least in a perpetual state of ‘revising’ before letting anyone read.  Hearing negatives hurts, even if it is for my own good.  Sometimes, it breaks my confidence down for a little while, and makes it hard to write more.  This is my fatal writing flaw, worse than any grammatical or spelling error I will every make.  I take the hit, and I will get back up, but I might need a little rest first.

I think the worst of it all, knowing that some of it was true.  Many of my own fears of the piece were exactly what was said back to me.  I’d feel better if I could laugh and say they were wrong, but they zeroed right in on the target, and sent their shot there.  Sure, some of it I will brush off, because I know the purpose of the little facts that were included early on.  I know the big picture thoughts behind certain things, and maybe they just missed my point.  It’s all right.  Other things I will have to change because I know it is for the best of the story. 

After spending some time on my pity party is it time to pick myself back up.  Just because I made a few mistakes doesn’t mean I should never try again.  Every critique is important, as long as I take it as a lesson for future learning.  The most important thing is to get back at it, and make something.

 

 

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50 Books- Pride and Prejudice

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I know, someone out there is thinking, wait a minute, she said she was reading Ulysses next.  It is true, I was (and am) reading Ulysses.  However, due to many factors that I will get more into when I post on Ulysses, I decided to do simultaneous reading with a few books.  Over the last week I read both Ulysses and Pride and Prejudice, however since Ulysses is about 1000 pages, I did not finish that one yet.  Don’t worry, I am not giving up on this challenge yet!

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Where did I get this book and how many pages?

Last week I did post a pretty picture of a nice, hardcover, Jane Austen collection which included Pride and Prejudice.  That copy was purchased at a PX (military Walmart for anyone who is not aware, sometimes also called BX) about a year and a half ago.  The truth is however, while I bought it with every intention of reading all four stories, I have never opened the book.  While it does photograph well, I actually read a kindle copy I have on my ipad that is 253 pages long.

Have I read this before?

Yes, I read this book about a year ago.  I cannot remember exactly when.

What did I think?

There is a lot of hype around Pride and Prejudice.  Mr. Darcy is a bit of a smart girl dreamboat.  It is almost a cliché to have a girl who loves to read and who spends her time dreaming of Mr. Darcy, and wishing to be Lizzy Bennet.  When I read this book the first time, I didn’t have pure reasons.  I consider myself to be decently smart, and want to be well read.  I also wanted to understand the weird references I ran across on the internet. 

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When I finished the first time, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be.  Maybe it was my own high expectations, but it seemed as though this wasn’t the superior love story I have always heard it to be.  Darcy was cranky, Elizabeth was a poor judge of character and a bit cruel, and most of the supporting characters were a bit, well, stupid.  I mean seriously, I don’t think I could have lived with Lydia without giving her a good smack every now and then.  Of course, this might be why I am not invited into fancy society.  I liked it, but it seemed a little oversold.  It just wasn’t as exciting to me as everyone claimed it to be.

What do I think now?

I was wrong the first time.  During my second reading I was able to see more subtle things I had missed the first time through.  The first time through it had seemed as though their relationship had been rushed, almost as if they were just coming to a conclusion in order to give them a happy ending.  But during the second reading, knowing everything I now knew about the characters, I was able to see the relationship progress a little better.  It was much more gradual than it first seemed, and it was a little easier to understand the actions of some characters.  I’m still not sure I would have been able to live with Lydia without giving her a good smack, but then again, I am not exactly a proper Lady. 

This is definitely a book that was better the second time through.  I’m sure at some point there will be a third time through, and I expect it to be even better next time. 

Should you read this book before you die?

It feels like the romantic, overly girly thing to say to say yes, but I like it enough to want to share also.  There is a reason this is a classic romance; the characters are flawed, but come to discover what they can love in each other.  This is the book women can read to see what they are doing wrong in your relationships.  Don’t whine that someone did you wrong; get better at learning the true character of person.  Some people are really just charming bastards dipped in chocolate, and some people are kind and large hearted, with a sour outer coating.  You really need to get to the center to decide which is which.  As much as this is hyped by women, there is lessons to be learned for men as well.  Don’t assume the woman you are insulting is worthless after one glance because there is much more to a person than what is on the surface.  And don’t always go for the outgoing, flirty girl either; sometimes there is nothing to a person but their surface.  You need to look deeper. 

 

 

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If you want to keep reading along, I am still plugging away at Ulysses.  I am hoping to have this one posted next week, but we’ll see how it goes.  This is not a small or easy to read book, so I may need to push it out one more week.  I’m hoping not!

In the meantime, I am going to keep up with some simultaneous reading, starting on the next book so I don’t fall behind.  Next up is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. 

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Working

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I have to admit, I’ve been having a bad day for over a week now.  Sometimes everything seems to be going horribly wrong, even when you know that technically it is only a couple of small issues.  I tell myself I will get out of this funk, as soon as inspiration calls.  Unfortunately, I was not at work, and inspiration did not leave a voicemail.  Time to get back to work and see if I am lucky enough for a call back today.

Back to School

When school let out for the summer, I had a bit of a freak out.  I had never had a year home by myself, with both girls in school and me not working outside of the house.  It didn’t take me long to decide that I liked it.  I could write when it was quiet, clean whenever it suited me, eat whatever I felt like.  Basically I could make my own rules without having to explain to the children why the rules for Mama are different than the rules they live by.

It was amazing. 

I think there is a bit of understandable reluctance when I had to give that up for a couple of months.  Just as there is a little bit of understandable relief now that the school year has returned, and my house now belongs to the dog and I for eight hours a day. 

My old routine can return; reading, writing, running, cleaning, everything done exactly when I want to do it.

However, I can’t seem to remember how I used to live.  I know I used to spend Mondays, cleaning my floors, hitting a high word count and putting away laundry.  I know Tuesday was a slightly lower word count, occasionally grocery shopping, and beginning homework for the week.  I know which days I would post on the blog, and what kind of post I would aim to have each day.  I remember when I did everything, and even why things were done when they were. 

I just can’t seem to make it work again. 

I’m only a few days in, but somehow things are not working the same as they used to, and it is quite devastating. 

Some may not even be phased by this change.  This is an opportunity to start over, and do everything a new way.  Maybe make a few improvements.  And I am sure I will get there in a couple of weeks.  Instead, today I am still stuck mourning the old routine.  It had it’s problems, but I liked it.  I could fight for it, pushing to make it work again, but I know it is a pointless pursuit.  Eventually, I will wake up, get the kids off to school, and get right into whatever I have planned for the day.  After a while I will realize that without noticing I have a new routine, and it is working.

Maybe that is the real constant; it isn’t the day to day activities, it is waking up and knowing I will make the most of the day, in my own way.

Just Bloom

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I have spent many years wasting time, concerning myself with what everyone else is doing and hurting when they do things better than I do.  I held back what I could do, knowing it was going to measure up and being too embarrassed to try anyway.  At some point in life, it is time to say screw it, and just bloom, no matter what everyone else is doing.

Cancelled

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Today’s regularly scheduled life has been cancelled.  I am choosing instead to spend the day (as much as is humanly possible) with my nose stuck in a book.  If you wish to communicate with me, please submit your request in novel form and add it to the pile.  I will review your submission as soon as time permits.

Thank you.

50 Books- Life of Pi

 

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Two books down, 58 to go!

 

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

I checked out this copy, with 319 pages, from my tiny local library.  This is in fact the entire reason it is so far up on the list of reading; our librarian is moving away and will be leaving her job.  I have no idea how long until the library will be open again after she leaves.  Life of Pi was the one book from this list I was absolutely certain the library had, and I wanted to borrow the copy before I ran out of time.

Have I Read This Before?

No.  I have seen previews for the movie, but that was all.

What do I already know?

There is a boy and a tiger on a boat, and they are not Calvin and Hobbes.  They may or may not spend time on the boat doing math.

What did I think?

This book was interesting on a couple of different levels; there were things that caught my attention as both a reader and a writer, but it doesn’t always mean it was a good thing. First I’ll talk as a reader.

The first almost 40 pages were completely dull.  Seriously, I was bored out of my mind.  It was sheer will power and determination to complete this challenge that kept me going.  I know it was all technical background information, things that were important to the story at least in a way.  Knowing he knew how to swim, knowing he was familiar with the keeping of animals, those mattered later.  Knowing the basic concept of the book, that there would be a boy and a tiger on a raft, I could understand why this was information we needed.  However there was 4 1/2 pages on swimming pools in France, 7 pages on the safety and humanity of zoos, 5 pages on his nickname, another 15 pages on zoos and zoo animals, followed by almost 30 pages on religion.  It was background as to who the character was, but it took a long time for me to get into the overly descriptive way the story was being told, and the way the author chose to beat you over the head with background information.  While I began to get used to it around 40 pages in, I didn’t start to enjoy it until almost 100 pages in.  At that point, I was hooked.  The story had begun to get interesting, and I was finally invested enough to want to know what happened.  I didn’t just want to know, I needed to know.  Until I was around 240 pages in, and then events began to get weird.  Granted, he was floating on the raft at that point, and there was to be expected that he might be getting into a strange mind place, but it was almost too weird.  Until this point, you almost believe it could be a true story; here you begin to wonder if the boy has completely lost it.  I honestly think my favorite part is the end.  I do not want to spoil it for those who have not read it, but there are a few things they tell you early on, including the fact that the boy does in fact survive.  The last ten pages made me completely rethink the entire book I had just read, but again the author was beating you a little with the possibilities, by outlining things I had already noticed.  Maybe not everyone would, but it felt almost like he wanted to make really certain no one overlooked it. 

As a writer, there were things that fascinated me because they seem to break the rules of successful writing.  When sending a manuscript off to agents or publishers, you are usually asked to send the first 10 pages, (if they want a writing sample).  This works with the writing rule to hook your audience early; if they do not like the fist 10 pages, they will never get to the next 10 pages.  However, as I said before, I was not really enjoying the book until almost 100 pages in.  If I had been scanning this in a bookstore, I would have probably put it back on the shelf. 

Then, as also already mentioned, the end of the book seemed to be trying to spell something out for the reader to make sure they did not miss it.  It left me with the slight feeling that the author wasn’t sure I would understand.  As far as writing rules, don’t underestimate your reader’s intelligence is a big one for me.  I don’t enjoy being talked down to, and I try not to do it to others.

The largest writing rule broken comes in the front cover; the description of the book offers the promise that this book may make you believe in God.  That is a bit of a tall order.   I’m not sure I can stress enough the need to not promise more than you can deliver to anyone.  You may be a writer, a chef, an artist, or a drivethru worker; if you promise me the best I expect you to deliver.  Promising to make me believe in God is a bit of a high expectation for a book.  Religious texts have not even succeeded in conversion, why would a novel?

To see basic writing rules broken, these things that they often say if you break the rule you will never be published, was interesting enough in a published book.  But this is also an award winner, best seller, and listed as essential life reading.  It fascinates me to see the reward from taking a risk and writing a story the way you feel it should be told, not how someone else tells you.  Sure, not everyone will be this successful, but it is a good reminder to take a risk every once in a while.

In the end I did enjoy the book.  The tale of the boy and the tiger, and the fight for survival was compelling; once I got there, I had to get to the end and know exactly what happened.

Should you read this book before you die?

Eh, you can, but you will probably be fine without reading it.  Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it, but this was not a life changer for me.  Whatever the criteria that was used for creating this list, it still won’t make my personal top 50.  This isn’t a book I will come back to again and again, but I’m also not deeply unhappy that I read it.  I think this book will speak to some people more strongly than others and maybe if I read it at a different point in my life it would have a more profound effect on me. 

 

Time to move onto the next book!  For those who remember from last week, the plan is Ulysses by James Joyce.  This is a big one, so it might eat into my 1.3 books per week and take a little longer.

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If you are reading along, I will be following Ulysses with Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  I know this would be easier if I simply read down the line of the list, but hey, it’s my challenge, I make the rules.  I have to mix it up a little in order to keep myself interested, but also to let myself get copies of the books.  Why wait to read something on the list when I have another one right in front of me?

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Happy Reading Everyone!