September Book Round-Up

Now that I have 40-60 minutes of commuting every workday, I’m getting through more audiobooks. I have a different set of criteria for books I listen to, compared to the ones I read. They can’t be anything too heavy, requiring intense focus: that leaves out anything literary or biographical. I usually stick to lighter women’s fiction, pop nonfiction, and the occasional thriller. I also listen to books I’ve already read so that I’m familiar with the story if I lose the thread while driving. A well-performed audiobook can be an entirely different experience; for example, while the purity of reading Harry Potter myself can never be topped, I also adore being read to by Jim Dale, a vocal master.

That said, I only have four new books on my list this month, because I’ve been doing a lot of re-reading, both in audiobook form and at home. Re-reading is my comfort food, and while things have been going quite well at work and at home, my brain is more tired than usual, and I’m craving the chocolate of comfort reading.

One Plus OneOne Plus One by Jojo Moyes

I’ve been reading rave reviews about Jojo Moyes for awhile, and finally decided to dip my toes in with this one. I will, without doubt, be seeking more of her books in the near future. This book was delightful and poignant at the same time; a tad unrealistic in spots, but compensated for with incredibly three-dimensional characters. The theme relies heavily on the constant terror of living in poverty, and that was thought-provoking for me.

You might like this book if you enjoyed… The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.

the vacationers

 

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

I wasn’t a big fan of this book, sadly. I expected to like it, when it was recommended to me by Amazon as a kin to Elin Hilderbrand’s beach books. (Note to Amazon: A vacation-like setting is not enough of a common denominator.) But while all of the Vacationers were unique, with plenty of foibles and conflicts, I didn’t find any of them likable enough to keep me caring about their futures. I only finished it because I didn’t have anything better to read at the time.

I think my main problem with the book was that I don’t prefer the “omniscient” point of view, where the author narrates by zooming up close to each character in turn, as the story dictates. I prefer a perspective that stays with one character for at least a chapter, so I can get to know that character better. Continue reading

Who’s Your “Creativity Role Model?”

Do you have a role model for creativity? You should. Creativity fuels every profession, from business to education to the arts. It helps us work better and smarter; to find solutions where there seemed to be none; to nurture passions. We should all strive to be more creative, and every striver needs a role model for inspiration.

I have two. One is my deceased grandmother, whom I’ve referenced as an influence on my writing. But she only considered herself a writer (of fiction, nonfiction and poetry) for the last couple of decades of her long life. Before that, Grandma was a painter, a sculptor, a mixed-media artist, a seamstress… the list goes on and on. Creativity flowed through her veins, and she channeled and redirected it at her will.paint

My other role model is an inheritor of my grandmother’s gifts: my sister, Kaitlyn. Continue reading

Quick-Quotes Friday #3: Wilde edition

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde: no other writer is capable of putting so much humor and poignancy into a single, simple sentence. Here are some of my favorites:

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

True. There is no one on earth who is exactly like you.

“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.”

We should all be special in our loved ones’ eyes. This, I think, is the death of a marriage: when one spouse no longer feels admiration for the other. 

 

“I am not young enough to know everything.”

I remember when I used to think I knew everything. Now I know nothing, but I seek to know everything. It’s much more fulfilling. 

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” 

Think about that one. It’s hilarious. And true. I hope I’m the first type. 

“Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.”

Which is why I am doing this. 

(It’s been a long week.)

Creativity in Cleaning

When it came time to return to work, I was most worried about how I would get my household chores done. I used to divide my regular cleaning between days, working around Edwin’s schedule: vacuuming the kitchen and attached dining room while he lingered in his high chair; scrubbing the bathroom during nap time. I knew I wouldn’t have that time available to me once school started, and I wanted to figure out a new way to approach cleaning, a chore I usually dread. How could I make it less frustrating, less dread-full, and maybe even… more fun?

I stumbled on the answer the very first week of school. Edwin’s family birthday party was to be on that first Saturday, and I was anxious about cleaning the house for the party after my first full week of work. Nick and I played with the idea of hiring a cleaning lady, even calling one that had been recommended to us, but it didn’t work out. Realizing that we would be doing it all ourselves, I asked my parents to watch Edwin for an hour or so after work on Friday, so that Nick and I could clean. They readily agreed, and even asked if we wanted them to pick up takeout for us afterward.

At that point, it occurred to me that this situation was looking a lot like a tradition my family had when I was growing up. Continue reading

Quick Quotes Friday #2

“Be anything but a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore: I’d rather have cancer than a dishonest heart.” -Truman Capote

I chose this quote for three reasons: one, I love the phrase dishonest heart; two, this quote is punctuated brilliantly; and three, it contains a cancer reference, my personal trigger.

Let’s take each of those separately.

What is a dishonest heart? Capote refers to “a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore.” The first two are opposites: a pretender puts on a false front, while a coward puts on no front at all. The second pair are also opposites: an emotional crook sucks feelings from those around him, while a whore gives too much to too many, rendering the currency meaningless. These descriptors portray how different types of dishonesty affect others, but that’s only half the picture. A dishonest heart can also deeply affect self. If you are not true to yourself, if you don’t know yourself well, you won’t be living an honest life. That does more damage to your soul than any outward dishonesty. Continue reading

Learn This Lesson From The Spider

spider webThe other day, my family was out driving around the countryside, and we stopped at a farmer’s market with a wide-board fence out front. On our way out, laden with fresh lettuce and apples, I stopped to marvel at a spider’s web. It was strung between the tops of two fence posts, but it wasn’t horizontal, as you’d expect it to be. Instead, it was shaped like a skyscraper with a wide base, reaching high into the sky. The top of the web seemed completely unsupported; I really couldn’t imagine how the spider had created it.

It made me wonder at this tiny spider’s ability to construct something so creatively engineered, for her own ambitious reasons (to catch more high-flying bugs? To rest a pregnant belly?). She knew what she wanted to do, and she figured out a way to make it happen. That’s genuine creativity in nature.

Is there something that you really want to do, a pinnacle you want to reach, but you just can’t see a way up there? Continue reading

Creative Ways To Reconnect

Before I get into the topic of this post, you’re probably wondering how the big, scary transition is going so far. If I had to describe my first week of work in one word, it would be unexpected. First, it was unexpected that my son would wake up with a fever on the last day of summer (he has been rarely sick in his 2 years, and never with a fever this high) and we wouldn’t be able to send him to daycare. We ended up having to call in grandparents to help with his care for a few days until Nick and I could take time off later in the week. (Thank God for grandparents.) In relation, it was also unexpected that all the progress Edwin made transitioning to daycare in August will probably come to nothing, as he’s been out so long that we’ll be starting at zero when he returns. (Sigh.)

It was also unexpected that I would walk into work feeling like I’d never left. Sure, some things have changed, but the feeling of being in school is as familiar as home. It was nice to see my friends and talk to other adults about big-picture ideas and the details of implementing them- the kinds of discussions I have mostly had by myself, or on this blog, for the past two years. It felt good to work uninterrupted, at least until students arrive. In many ways, my schedule is better than it once was, and I appreciate that. And I’m surprised at how well I prepared myself before I even left, by making lists and organizing my beginning-of-year files. I keep giving my September 2011 self a mental high-five. Continue reading