Reading

Rising to the Surface

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Sitting in the worn arm chair, I snapped the hard cover book closed. Finishing my fourth book of the year, I reminded myself, reading is better than scrolling. The tension found in the stories crafted by others is made up. Not so true of the drama unfolding every day in our exhausted world. Rather than the muddied truths unfolding on media, I’m choosing to pick up something other than a screen in the evenings. Drawing from history, Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach kept me engaged for days.

The story follows Anna, a woman coming of age as the remnants of great depression followed families to World War II. Her family loses status and connection. To survive, her father turns to crafty and questionable ways of earning a living. Eventually, he leaves.

In the leaving, Anna is forced to confront questions of who she is in a world where her father isn’t. Her trials and errors are mingled with wonderings of how she can contribute.

She becomes a diver in the Navy ship yards – almost unheard of during the 1940s. Drawing internal strength, she puts on the weighted suit, over 200 pounds of ancient equipment designed to help her breathe. Going under, she learns to walk the shifting floor of the bay in darkness. She has lifelines, yes, and a few tenders watching her steps. But mostly, she’s trusting her instincts to wander alone, using clutched hands to make an impact. Water continues to whoosh around her with little concern for what she’s working to accomplish.

Eventually, the knots untie, the parts are installed, and the lost items found. When her tasks are complete, she can’t rise too quickly. Pressure must release slowly as she returns to the water’s surface. A little more air, bursts at a time, bring her back to the top where the light is no longer murky. She still swims among the slimy kelp, but knows her time underneath went to a cause bigger than herself.

Today is the last day of a political administration that made me weep. In two days, I turn another year older. In eight weeks, I’ll face five years of learning how to walk in a world where my father isn’t. It’s felt muddy and murky, and some days, the pressure felt so intense I was knocked from my anchors. I had equipment and tenders, and mostly, I had myself.

I didn’t ask to go diving into darkness. We rarely ever do. But what I’ve found amongst the currents is the knowing that I, too, can do the work when the light refuses to penetrate through.

The pressure will lighten, bit by bit, as I let the air in, small sips at a time.

We’re rising to the surface today. I wonder what we will see when we climb, with heavy boots and protective gear, up the ladder.

What a beautiful thing.

Many Mirco-Accomplishments

“Never underestimate the power of a girl with a book.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I pulled out my journal this morning to try and recount what exactly we did this year where many days felt the same. I surprised myself, sitting in the sun, as I scrawled twenty pages of reflection on what we did accomplish.

Nothing grand. No big adventures.

Instead, many micro-accomplishments. Harvests of cucumbers. Tiny reaches out of our comfort zones. A new job. Adjusting again to forces outside of ourselves. A basil plant taking in sun from cold winter windows. Witnessing pain. A new vitamin regimen. Striving for beauty. Ten gallons of paint.

2020 wasn’t a grand year. We were alone. Connected through screens, we grew closer to one another in ways I likely won’t understand for awhile. Isn’t it amazing how every human on earth now has this pandemic in common? How many other life experiences will stitch us together like this? The individual living of this year is different in kaleidoscope ways, yes. The tube, the crystals, the spinning disorientation – all the same.

I wonder how long it will take for the scapegoat disaster of 2020 to be reclaimed with something different. The ticking of time tonight can not erase what still lurks. 2021 may hold better. It may hold different. I know it will require processing, patience, and tending to pain.

Back in January I wrote I wasn’t going to be so bold to predict what would unfold on this year’s pages. I couldn’t have fathomed what actually was written in ink. I feel much the same about tomorrow. A new January. A new calendar. Pages to be ripped and discarded from organizational systems and goals to be scratched onto chalkboards in white. How many will be smeared in waiting in June?

This year, I read. A lot. On the floor, in the corner, tucked into my bed with cold bowls of vanilla ice cream. I got new glasses and my squinching face relaxed just a tiny bit as I escaped into story. Words comforted me. Challenged me. Seemed to be a constant companion.

As they lay Ruth Bader Ginsburg to rest, I welcomed with appreciation, all the work she accomplished to make the world a better place for my mother, for me, for women around the world longing for something different.

Never underestimate the power of words. How we absorb them, shape them, use them to search for beautiful things.

On this, the last day of a year we will never forget, I leave the list of books I read with you.

Bridge of ClayMarkus Zusak

Little WomenLouisa May Alcott

Red at the BoneJacqueline Woodson

Nine Perfect Strangers Liane Moriarty

There, There Tommy Orange

Dumplin’Julie Murphy

Counting by 7’sHolly Goldberg Sloan

Still MeJoJo Moyes

Little House on the PrairieLaura Ingalls Wilder

Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and FoodAnn Hood

Turtles All the way DownJohn Greene

In PiecesSally Field

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country Helen Russell

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s StoneJ.K. Rowling

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away my Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a StoreCait Flanders

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity & LoveDani Shapiro

Such a Fun AgeKiley Reid

A Tree Grows in BrooklynBetty Smith

The CactusSarah Haywood

Little WierdsJenny Slate

Wine Girl: The Trials and Triumphs of America’s Youngest Sommelier Victoria James
The GownJennifer Robson

Magic HourKristen Hannah

The Hypnotist’s Love StoryLiane Moriarty

The Year of Magical Thinking Joan Didion

The Scent KeeperErica Bauermeister

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to SurviveStephanie Land

The Secrets We KeptLara Prescott

The Night Tiger Yangsze Choo

RedwallBrian Jacques

Mountains Beyond MountainsTracy Kidder

The Library Book Susan Orlean

The Alice NetworkKate Quinn

The Light We LostJill Santopolo

NeverwhereNeil Gaiman

The Henna ArtistAlka Joshi

The Velveteen RabbitMargery Williams

More Than Words Jill Santopolo

When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War IIMolly Guptill Manning

Fortune’s Rocks – Anita Shreve

The Vanishing HalfBrit Bennett

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Ordinary LifeTish Harrison Warren

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRueV.E. Schwab

The Practice: Shipping Creative Work Seth Godin

The AfterGrief: Finding Your Way Along the Long Arc of LossHope Edelman

Finding Freedom: Harry & Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal FamilyOmid Scobie & Carolyn Durand

Goodbye to All That – Writers on Loving & Leaving New YorkEdited by Sari Botton

Angel FallsKristen Hannah

The Family Fang Kevin Wilson

Bel CantoAnn Patchett

Tomorrow Will Be Better Betty Smith

September Favorite Things

Hold the phone.

Starbucks launched the Pumpkin Spice Latte three days ago! I’ve got a hard rule (self-imposed and regulated) that the famed PSL can not be consumed until October. By then it will have been out for like six weeks! Old news. The weather should be colder, leaves changing, sweaters bursting forth from wardrobes saying, ‘pick me, pick me.’

No! We are ahead of ourselves. None of those things happen in September!

Never you mind that the leaves are sorta, kinda, changing in my back yard. Or the fact that I wore short boots and long sleeves to work this week, even though the temperature reached 90 degrees.

Marketing is confusing me!

Stop, breathe. Be grounded in this new month and enjoy these new favorite things. Because before you know it, it will be time for candy corn (also self-imposed rule that only allows for consumption in October). Ooooo Candy Corn!

Staying in September. Here are this month’s favs.

  1. Stationary by Emily Howell 

Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 3.28.24 PM

I’ve mentioned her before and I’ll mention her again. Emily creates beautiful things. I knew I wanted some personal stationary and she captured my vision so well! Now I have the perfect cards for snail mail that remind me just how beautiful it is to send people love through the mail. In the form of notes written with ballpoint pens.

2. Moon River by Carla Bruni

We’re heading to Paris soon and I keep swooning every single time I hear Carla sing this song. I’m going to be that drifting world traveler! I’ve got her voice on repeat. She also sings lovely songs in French and you can get her full album here.  Or wait months for me to successfully learn this song on the ukulele. I printed out these chords to give it a go.

3. Duolingo

Speaking of French … if you’re interested in learning a new language in a fun way download the Duolingo app. Each night, Dylan and I log in and have our ten minute French lesson. I’m doomed when I arrive in Paris because right now all I’ve got is Tu manges un orange.  And Je suis une femme. 

Hopefully my list of words and phrases will expand beyond croissant, pizza, cafe au lait si’l vous plait. If you’re not interested in French, you can try learning Klingon or High Valerian.

4. These SmartWool Running Socks

I’m kinda picky about socks for working out. My brother gave me a pair of these and I’m obsessed. They hit the ankle just right, don’t rub, and there are no seams inside that bother my toes. Lots of fun colors too.

5.  What Happened by Hillary Clinton

Say what you will about Hillary Clinton but I found her latest book pretty fascinating. I believe at her core she is trying to make the world a better place. Her call for radical empathy at the end of this book made me cry and truly appreciate the many shoulders of women I stand on today. The ones who show up, love, do the hard work, speak their truths. It’s a start to changing our world!

Now I have to go and assess how I feel about caramel apple cider before October. I don’t have a rule about that and it sounds lip-smackingly delicious. Like with this syrup.

Mmmmm…. the apples are calling!

That’s Going to Be Fun for You?

I read fast. My eyes scan pages and absorb words quickly, inviting me into worlds not my own. Don’t ask me for details about story or memoir, though, because once I’ve finished a title I seem to forget. My reading comprehension sucks. The pleasure is in the journey, not the destination.

On our most recent road trip I read four books. Four. Last week I spent 38 hours in the backseat of a Subaru and there is not much to see from Wyoming to East Oregon. Enter books. Thank goodness I don’t get car sick.

Before the trip I sat down at our kitchen table and opened up a new browser to search for books to download to my Kindle. Picking out books to read is what I live for! I selected five titles and tucked my little e-reader in my travel bag.

Our trip was an amazing break from the day to day grind. When I told some of my friends that I was driving 38 hours across the country, they looked at me like I was crazy. When I told them we were driving with my in-laws, their mouths dropped a little more, and eyes got bigger seeming to ask, ‘That’s going to be fun for you?’

Yes! Fun for me. I am incredibly lucky in that I like my in-laws! My father-in-law drove the whole time. My mother-in-law packed delicious snacks and navigated our route, picking our hotels, restaurants and day trip itineraries. While Dylan and I are both grown people, these two parents continue to extend their love for us as we dozed in the backseat. After a hard year of taking care of hurting, searching people –  ie. myself, my husband, my mom – riding along in the backseat where all my needs were met was just the heart medicine I needed. It is nice to be cared for and out of your routine.

A list of beautiful things from our time in Oregon:

  • New breweries: these people like to drink beer as much as we do in Northern Colorado. I now know how tourists must feel when they come to our town. Another brewery on that corner! No time to fit in all those delicious pints of craft beer.
  • Kite Surfing on the River: no, no, I didn’t try, but we did watch hundreds of colorful kites kiss the sky as surfers handled the wind on the Columbia River. We stuck our toes in the water and laughed as the ripples lapped at our legs.
  • Salt and Straw & good friends: One of my oldest friends Jenny now lives in Portland. She took us to her neighborhood food trucks (THAT’S A THING PEOPLE!) and out to the trendiest ice cream store I’ve ever been to. Apparently Oprah endorses their Arbequina Olive Oil flavor. I couldn’t mentally stomach spooning olive oil into my mouth over and over, but the creamy concoction was delicious on a small metal tea spoon. Instead I turned to the beautiful combination of Carrot Cake Batter with Hazelnut Praline. For those easily overwhelmed types like my husband, they also have vanilla.
  • Canon Beach: We went to the ocean. Nothing like having your feet in the sand with cold water running over your toes. Wind in the hair, sand pushing back against the arches of your feet, reminding you that you wear shoes all too often. Cloud cover and waves crashed together in a soothing blanket of gray. The ocean is big. It makes me feel connected to the edge of something. I loved walking on the sand and exploring that quaint little town.
  • A family wedding: Dylan’s cousin got married and I was honored to be a part of the celebration. As we walked up to the rehearsal dinner which was held in a neighborhood park, huge trees sheltered us from intense sun. Who knew it could be 105 degrees in the Northwest. Rays of sunshine trickled through the leaves. We approached from about fifty yards away watching the bride practice going down the aisle with her dad. I stopped and stood still, catching my breath at the beautiful scene unfolding in front of me. Other members of the family kept walking ahead. One breath. Two. I swatted at a tear starting to trickle down my cheek, escaping my from my sunglasses of protection. I missed my dad as a flood of memories from my own experience down the aisle came back. More though, I was overwhelmed with the truth that I am living in the light again. Grief still exists, yes, but that’s not all. I sent up a silent whisper of thanks in realizing I am returning to living in joy. The choices to be taken care of, to explore, to love and feel loved, those are all beautiful, beautiful things.

 

Here is a list of books I read on the trip:

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

Vinegar Girl: A Novel

Someday, Someday, Maybe: A Novel

The Here and Now

Giving Light – Christine C.

And to round this fabulous contest out – I’ve got one more, very simple entry.
Thank you to all who participated. I am tickled that others have chosen to join me in the search for beauty.

Without further ado – 5 Beautiful Things from Christine.


1. Summer nights at Wilderness Ranch
2. Support of family and friends
3. Christmas Trees with white lights
4. A good glass of cabernet
5. A fireplace and a good book on a snowy day

I will be announcing the winner of the contest in the next few weeks. Christmas holidays are starting to get a little overwhelming.

Love to you all.

 

THE DEADLINE FOR ACCEPTING ENTRIES FOR THE GIVE LIGHT GIVEAWAY HAS PASSED. I AM FINISHING UP POSTING CONTRIBUTIONS. STAY TUNED FOR OTHER CONTESTS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO CONTRIBUTE TO 52 BEAUTIFUL THINGS IN 2017.

366 Pages

I just read a post by  Jayme Henderson on her blog Holly and Flora with the title “Making Cozy a Priority” and I want to send a major hallelujah to the author. This phrase beautifully captures my priorities for this past weekend. I wanted to steal the title, but you know… plagiarism, so instead I am sharing my delight in her creativity and wonderful way with words. Jayme, I think I can relate to how you feel.

This week, my beautiful experience was reading a whole book in one day. 366 pages read in a total of five hours . Blissful hours sitting on my comfy red couch and glancing, ever so often at the twinkling lights on my Christmas tree. It feels luxurious to be able to devote so much time to an experience that brings me such joy – dabbling in the story, texture, vibrancy of someone else’s creation through words, ink, and heart.

Death_to_stock_photography_weekend_work (10 of 10)

In an article in The Atlantic written in 2014, they reported that only a quarter of Americans read more than one book a year. ONE BOOK! I know I’m an anomaly and that I enjoy reading at a level higher than the average bear, but this year, I’ve read 42 books. I think it is shocking and slightly disappointing that the average American can’t stomach one book a year.

This weekend I brushed off other commitments and chose to devote a full day to a novel experience. I love reading, love story, love words, love authors, love creativity and individual’s efforts to share their experiences with others.

You know what else is beautiful about reading a whole novel in one day while choosing to prioritize the cozy? Beautiful treats. I have this red, fleece lined cable knit blanket that accompanied me on my literary journey. Thank you PotteryBarn for taking creature comfort to a whole new level. Breaks included nibbles of gingerbread, a glass of egg nog, and the lighting of a flickering cinnamon candle. Tastes and smells of the season that in two weeks will simply lose their charm.

I know that next week will be full of wonderful celebration, exercises in traditions, family, people, gifts, lights, and magic. It, too, will require immense and wonderful energy.  For just this weekend, I was able to rest and invest time to allow myself to get lost in literary worlds.

At times, our priorities pull us in all kinds of directions. Have I done laundry? Nope. Gone to the grocery store? Nope. Cleaned, or tidied, or stocked the pantry? Nope. But hey, the gifts are wrapped and the lights are on the house, and the Christmas Cards sent. I choose to embrace the beauty in welcoming the gift of  time to fully experience literature. I’m adding 366 pages to this year’s total.

How do you take care of yourself during this crazy time of year?

 

Wanna Hear a Joke?

Heard any good jokes lately?

This is my new favorite one.

A dyslexic man walked into a bra.

I have a love for cheesy humor and small things to delight in. I have to admit, my inspiration for the week seems to be less than emotion evoking, so I apologize. I’ve got some things on my mind that are thwarting the deeper thoughts from flowing.

I’m sure you’ve all heard many quotes about the little things, and so as we continue to pursue the big things, here are the little things I have found along the way this week.

Bad jokes – they always make me laugh and I found a list of fifteen I hadn’t previously heard. Here is another.

What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.

Cherries – the little orbs are on sale at King Soopers and they are fresh, juicy, bursts of summer

Watching friends get married – it is amazing to be on the other side of the wedding experience, and I have a new appreciation for watching people glow as they walk down the aisle in white and grin like never before as the bride and groom meet in front of the people they love. Weddings are fun – the one this weekend had delicious beer and such a fun band!

Reading a whole book in a weekend – oh the joy of turning the pages! It has been ages since I have had the free time to sit and read a book from cover to cover in one weekend. I went to the library and picked out three books, and read a newer Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus book “Dedication” in less than two days. I have a love for easy to read “Chic Lit” where stories of drama, coming of age, and love are interwoven. The chance to hold some literature, no matter what caliber, will always be a beautiful experience for me.

Cavatappi at Carrabbas – It’s true, my family goes to this restaurant a lot. We had their food at my wedding and I know what is on happy hour at the bar. This restaurant has become a staple in our family’s lives for better or for worse, and so I suppose I am thankful for delicious food shared with my parents and my husband. I tried a new dish – branching out – and well, yum. Who doesn’t love pasta and the comforts carbohydrates bring.

This is a fabulous exercise for grounding and calming you down when life swirls you through your days. Please share with me a few things on your list.  What little things brought beautiful delights for you this week? Maybe next week I’ll have more earth moving things to say. Thanks for continuing to follow along.

No biscotti or nail polish. oops

“Yes Please”

I’m reading a book right now, not surprising I know. “Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness”, by Ariel Gore. It is about happiness. Perhaps a sociological examination into the way women experience happiness, are expected to exude it, and some of the things that hinder the concept’s accessibility. A critical look into a newer phenomenon of positive psychology.

I find it interesting really, that this book caught my eye at this time of the year. I suppose I haven’t found as much time as I’d like to read this year with a wedding to plan, and a full time job, and family and friends. The library, though, has always been one of my safe places. Rows upon rows of that wonderfully beautiful book scent. The tactile experience of flipping pages with a thumb nail in an almost silent space. I love how the carpet absorbs all of our noises, gently reminding us that this place of learning is sacred.  For whatever reason, digging around in the sociology section of our local library, I was drawn to this one.

blue birdI’ve been reading it in small doses, and this week have almost reached the end. In one segment, Gore asks colleagues and friends if they are happier now than they were at this time last year. I read the question, and was blown into a tornado of pondering space. After my brain calmed down a little bit, I was able to say yes. First a whisper, then perhaps a little louder to myself. Then a yes with a resounding fist pump. I am in such a better place than I was last year at this time, and right now I am going to sink into that feeling with immense gratitude.

No, things are not perfect, and I know situations change. Fear calls us into the what ifs and the over protective planning mode all the time. But overall, 2014 has been a year of joyful anticipation, and details and family and love and for that I am so wonderfully grateful.  Time progressing is beautiful, and looking back and being able to say, “look how far we have come” is an immense privilege. There is beauty in asking reflective questions, and taking time to be proud of progress.

Sunday, I spent all day reading and writing in my journal. What a lazy one I was, especially in light of the hovering reminder that Christmas is just a few days away. Still shopping to be done, certainly, but that is what days off like today are for. (Did I just admit that I still have shopping to do 2 days before Christmas? This is so unlike me!) I love a good book, like I mentioned before, and I adore the opportunity to indulge a full afternoon dedicated to one page turner. This week’s was, “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler. I did not really know what to expect when I got her book at the library. The neon lights caught my attention, sure, and the title. Sometimes, though, books by comedians are challenging to me – the humor lost in my too quickly read pace. If I slow down to read things out loud I do better, but I read so quickly I sometimes miss the joke.

yes please

Let me tell you, Amy does not disappoint. Her reflections on her career and life mixed in with immensely funny segments brought such comfort to me this weekend. I cried a little. You aren’t supposed to admit that you cry when reading a comedian’s book. Really though, she touched on so many things that I can relate to right now – about standing up for yourself, about looking for opportunities, about not tying your identity to any one part of your life. As we all know, things change (dammit) and she encouraged me to continue to surf the waves.

I was strongly reminded that there are perfectly acceptable times to say no – for self preservation, for boundaries, for protection in a world that does not quite look out for you in all the ways you would hope. Gently encouraged, though, too, that there are more opportunities to stand up for what you need, to seek new adventures and trust the universe with a polite, “Yes Please”.  These are some things I would like to say “Yes Please” to for the coming year ahead:

  • Time with my husband – continuing to figure out this thing called being married………………………. Yes Please
  • A little bit of fun adventure …………………….. Yes Please
  • Not worrying about money …………………. Yes Please
  • Opportunities to continue to develop in work ……………. Yes Please
  • Chances to have fun…………………… Yes Please
  • Vanilla lattes……………. Yes Please
  • Books …………. Yes Please
  • Chances for gratitude ………….. Yes Please
  • The trust that happiness abounds ………… Yes Please

Are you happier now than you were at this time last year? What do you want to say “Yes Please” for?