Sunday Dithers

Here I sit, another Sunday of early fall slipping away in to twilight, the glow behind the curtains growing fainter and fainter as the charcoal smell in the air gets stronger and stronger – our neighbors are grilling out tonight. It’s the perfect button-ending to a weekend of merry making and laughter and getting to be with my family and some of my best friends! Today has been a day of catching up on homework, getting ahead in my leisure reading, and drinking cup after cup of coffee and apple cider made courtesy of the AMAZING new Keurig coffee maker we were gifted for our upcoming wedding (thanks Julie, if you’re reading!). School is finally getting well under way, with the first few couple of bigger assignments quickly nearing their due date, and with the colder mornings and the early evenings, I can’t help but feel like I always feel this time of year, surrounded by school and homework and warm drinks.

Reading this week has taken a DEFINITE Gothic turn (in case you couldn’t tell based on the above passage, lol!) and I’ve been hanging out primarily with my main man James and his turning screws! I’m only to the third “chapter”, if you can call them that in a little novella like this, and our Governess has just picked up darling Miles from the school from which he’s been expelled. So far I’m loving what’s been going on, although I have to say my favorite part is most definitely the way that James has set up his whole story, with Douglas  telling the story that he was told by the governess – I can never seem to get enough of the frame tale, going all the way back to when I first got introduced to the Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights! I’m a little unsure of how to feel about these supposed ‘angelic’ children, though, when clearly there is something totally not right about these kids and what happens to the women who take care of them. I just want to yell the whole time THIS SHIT IS REALLY HAPPENING TO YOU, DON’T LIVE IN THIS HOUSE WITH THESE KIDS, THEY WILL EAT YOU! I don’t know if that’s really what will happen, but it’s like watching a scary movie when they all decide to split up and go look for the source of the creepy, remarkably axe-like sound coming from below them. *facepalm* Of course, that’s also what builds all the tension and keeps me reading to see what will happen, but whatever. I love it.

I’m also giving Fragile Things, a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman, another go. I first read it for last years RIP Challenge, but only got through about half the stories before it was due back at the library. I’ve got the ebook version this go-round, so I’m refreshing myself on the ones I read last year (my favorite of which is STILL “October in the Chair”, dedicated to Ray Bradbury, one of my all time favorite authors) before getting to the new ones, which I’m hoping to be able to take my time with! I’m excited to wrap up one of these so that I can get to Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury later this week, which is the next one lined up on my pile. We’re only about three weeks out from the wedding and honeymoon (EEEEEKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!) and I’ve got to begin the difficult process of deciding whether or not I’m going to take my Kindle, and, if not, what books are going to be making the trip with me – wish me luck, and happy reading!

I’m Baaaaack…..

There really isn’t much to say! I’m back – not that I’m sure many of you will read this! Basically, my fiance and I have moved back to our home town, my fall semester has started up and, as seems to happen every time the air gets chilly, I’ve been bitten by that reading bug and I’M BACK, BABY! I’m working at Barnes and Noble, am down about 45 pounds, and with Carl’s RIP VII in the horizon, I can’t wait to get back to the book blog! And, with that, how about a picture:

Saturday’s ‘Splanation – Where I’ve Been all Week

So, I could wait and write this big long update tomorrow on Sunday, when it would fall oh-so-in line with those lovely Sunday Salons. But tomorrow I don’t have an entire day of class where I’ll be doing little else but sitting and listening (well, mostly listening, anyway), so you’ll be getting the big post today instead!

<– That’s me with my BEAUTIFUL parents this past Sunday at KU’s official commencement ceremony. Yes, yes, I graduated in December, and there was a nice little walk across the stage, but this was the big one. The big kahuna, the walk through the Campanile and down the hill to Memorial Stadium…to those of you who didn’t attend KU, that may not make much sense, but its a big deal. The big deal – the tradition and all that. So I put that attractive polyester robe back on again and, hand in hand with Beardman, walked down the hill and sat in the sun and heat through a bunch of mediocre commencement speeches…BUT I DID IT. After five years of talking/joking about it (the rumor goes that if you walk straight through the archway in the Campanile, you’ll never graduate. It may be suspicious, but I sure as hell never did) it’s come and gone and it feels, well, not that different. But it was still a lovely day! That kicked off this past week where, as Beardman requested and was given the entire week off work, I did nothing but sit around, watch Mad Men, slack on my recent exercising goals, and soaked up the time I had with him after not seeing him almost at all during his finals. It was fantastic!

Part of the other reason this past week was so wonderful was because, with his finals done and with both of us officially and traditionally graduated, we were able to get back to our shared guilty pleasure. Emphasis:: GUILTY pleasure. And I’ve mentioned this before on the blog, but I’ll say it again with nerdy pride: Beardman and I LOVE

Yeah. That’s right. I’d also add to that list Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: TNG, and, of course, any of the first three Star Wars movies. To be honest, I didn’t ever play before Beardman came along. I wanted to. But I was broke and wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to actually jump off the “deep end” so to speak, so I never did. But he’s loved it for ages and, after playing for the past year or so, I can now say that I do too!

For those of you who don’t know – World of Warcraft is this huge online, live, multi-player role-playing game. Kind of like a computerized, global Dungeons and Dragons, with different rules and less cheese. You pick a “race” of people (orcs, anyone? humans? elves? WoW has them all) and then a “class” (here’s where you see shamans, priests, druids, and hunters) and then, well, you’re unleashed on the world and you run around and complete “quests”, level your character to the maximum level, and then spend the rest of your time fighting other players, running through pre-planned events, and buying and selling everything from clothing to honor. It’s great. And what’s quite possibly the best about it is that there is always someone better than you, always someone worse, and always something new to do if you get tired of doing whatever you’re doing. Beardman likes it because a bulk of the end-game content involves fighting other players and a bunch of dick-wagging to see whose armor is better and whose dad could beat up another dad. It’s great. I love it because there’s a great story behind the video game, and I love having goals to work towards. Even if they’re arbitrary ones. Even if there isn’t a reward. I’m task oriented, and in one way, that’s what this game is – a series of tasks.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this week that you haven’t seen me on the blog! I’ve been sleeping and playing and Mad Men-ing and I can’t believe that Beardman’s “stay-cation” week is over and as of Monday it’s back to the nine to five. For him. I’m still jobless, so I’ll still be around. Playing, reading, and finally finishing up my thoughts on The Illustrated Man, which will all be up in the next week or so! Happy reading!

Re-Diagnosis

Look at that girl. Look at the way she’s holding her heart, so absorbed in her book she doesn’t even appear to be where she is. I haven’t felt that way about a book in a long, long time. And it’s getting frustrating. And I think part of this has to do with the fact that this project is not working for me the way I thought it would.

When I first set out on this project not that long ago, I was in a different head space. I had just graduated college with my English degree, and I had gotten fired from my first job. I was feeling sad and stuck and like, maybe I hadn’t gotten out of my college experience as much as I should have. I started looking back at things and I realized there were a great number of books that I was “supposed” to have read during school that, for whatever reason, I never actually got around to reading. So I wanted to change that, wanted a project that would give me “focus”, and wanted to be able to step away from my old blog, which had seen me through high school and college, but just wasn’t suiting what I needed anymore. And thus, this blog was born.

“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.” – Angela Carter

But the truth is, I hated the project once I took it on. As is usually the case when I make lists and try to stick to them exclusively, I was at once overwhelmed by the number of titles to choose from, and felt restricted by my own rules of not being able to read some of the great books that have come out recently, or are looming on the literary horizon. Plus, once the books became “assigments” for this blog, I ended up disliking them every time I picked them up, and in the three months of this project I only actually finished two or three books that were for this list. It’s hard to type those words – to feel like I started out on this project with such lofty goals, and that I have somehow failed those project goals.

“We read to know we are not alone.” – C.S. Lewis

But then I just want to say fuck that! I’ve realized in the last six months of being out of school that the rigor of academia, the system I lived in and thrived in for so long, is not necessarily the field that will be best of me to remain in. And I can still read books, learn from books, talk about books with intelligent people, and in the long run being a public librarian will allow me to put books in to the hands of kids and teens who need to read and want to read. And I don’t have to do all of these things wading through classic tomes. I recently finished reading Nina Sankovitch’s Tolstoy and the Purple Chair (a FABULOUS book that I plan on reviewing later this week) and that book taught me, more than anything, that there are lessons waiting to be learned in almost every book, and whether a book is hard or easy doesn’t determine whether it is a “good” or “worthy” book.

“To feel most beautifully alive means to be reading something beautiful, ready always to apprehend in the flow of language the sudden flash of poetry.” – Gaston Bachelard

So I still think that reading is the way that I’m going to find my way through this mental haze that graduation and ensuing unemployment seems to have put me in. I still believe in the power of words and literature, and in the fact that we as people are composed of stories at our core, and by understanding the stories we can begin to understand each other, at least in part. However, part of me is also having some trouble giving up on the idea of this project. To be honest, I do feel a bit like a failure in the fact that I was so sure that this was what I wanted to do, that I could do it, that these classic novels held all the answers. And that’s not to say that I don’t still have every intention of reading those same classic novels on this journey. But I just no longer think that these are the only books with the answers. And, reading them in the situation I was in, I wasn’t able to get out of them the depths that I’m sure they contain.

“Read in order to live.” – Gustave Flaubert

But, as a very wise professor and very good friend of mine told me when I stopped in to see her last week, in tears over my copy of Persuasion because I JUST COULDN’T FINISH IT and that was yet another book from the list I just wasn’t able to get through: there will always be books. And I’ll always be reading them. I have a lifetime to read, but only one lifetime to enjoy what I read. Amen to that, and that’s my new diagnosis – to read, openly and indiscriminately, and without guilt or reservation. And I’m still hoping you’ll join me for the trip!

Friday Follies: Sustainable Eating and Organic Crazy!

I know I haven’t done a Friday Follies since I did my e-obsessing for Downton Abbey and I figured it was about time for another mention of another one of my crazy passions! Before I go much further, I want to make a bit of a disclaimer that this is a subject I’m still in the midst of learning quite a bit about, and while I don’t have all the answers, I’m open to discussion as long as it remains respectful! That being said…

I can’t get enough of sustainable food, organic eating, homesteading dreams, and educating myself about some of the many flaws and dangers of the mass agricultural system. I’ve watched near every Netflix documentary I can get on the subject, and I’ve googled my way around dozens of blogs. I’ve read Michael Pollan’s book and even seen what the infamously cute Jonathan Safron Foer had to say about the subject. Beardman and I get in to fights about it all the time (while he acknowledges many of the same flaws in the system that I do, he’s much more ‘realistic’, he says, about the kind and timing of a change in the system we both think is bound to occur). While I don’t have the answers to all of the points I’ve seen made on both sides, I’ve come to believe the following so far: the Earth is broken, and largely because of human activity. The system we have now is full of cruelty and disrespect towards Nature and her wonderful routines and methods of survival. It’s causing not only sickness in our Earth, but in us and in our future generations. We owe it to ourselves to educate ourselves about where our food comes from, and to demand from those that provide the products we purchase that they do so from farms and organizations that don’t use mass feed lots, antibiotics in their feed, or corn to raise their animals on. I also believe that the way things are doing now IS NOT the way that they are supposed to be done, and that there ARE other ways of doing things that could potentially “feed the planet” in the way that we seem to think our current system does.

I believe that there are hidden costs to our so-called “cheap” foods, and that if it were economically possible, more people would shop local and organic than currently do. Because of this, I believe that it should be of political importance to provide the kind of economic and policy support to those farmers that farm organically, in a small-scale frame, and outside the current mode of mass agricultural production. I believe that this is a cause that will eventually have to come to a head, and as gas prices and health tolls become more and more evident and important, I only hope that the change comes without environmental or food-based disaster. I don’t want any of this to sound preachy, but after reading what I’ve read and watching what I’ve watched, I felt like I wanted a place to gather my “sustainable eating” manifesto! I invite you to check out any of the following sources, which I found the most helpful in helping me decided exactly what it was I did think on the issue of what I was eating and where it was coming from.

             

Because of a lot of things mentioned in these sources, Beardman and I have cut back on the amount of meat that we eat, have begun buying what meat, dairy, and produce we can from the farmers market or local organic grocery (we can’t afford to buy everything there, which is an eventual goal of mine, but we keep an eye on what’s on sale and go when we can), and have begun growing our own herbs, strawberries, and peppers, in order to try and keep cutting back on how much we contribute to a mass agriculture system I don’t really believe in. I’ll admit right here that this is pretty much all me – Beardman agrees with certain points but not others, and remains “pragmatically neutral” on the topic, but he sure does love me and goes with what he thinks is my craziness on this particular issue – but I don’t really mind that in this situation!

Gone with the Wind: A Surprising DNF

To be honest, guys, I have no idea what happened with this book. I felt like I was in love with it from the beginning – the sweeping settings and the emotionalism that Mitchell gave to the land and her characters and the nature of the pre- Civil War south. And I was undecided about Scarlett, but was having fun making up my mind. But then I got busy for a weekend, didn’t pick the book up for a few days, and when I came back, something had changed. The book and I just weren’t clicking. Now it feels like every time I open the book it gets closed in exactly the same spot. And I’m not sure what happened.

After Sherman burns Atlanta and Scarlett makes her way back to Tara, suddenly she’s this different woman, and if I didn’t like her before hand I sure hated her now. Gone was what I felt was the fear and uncertainty of the Scarlett in the early parts of the book, and here was this woman who was nothing but shrewd and calculating and, to be honest, mean. And the more I got in to this character’s head, the easier it was to make up my mind that I didn’t necessarily want to be there anymore. But it wasn’t just that. I mean, I still love Mitchell’s writing and many of the other characters she creates – I still adore Melanie and Rhett, and am heartbroken every time the broken Mr. O’Hara makes his reappearance on the page. But that’s not enough. I kind of wonder if perhaps my adoration of the movie doomed my ability to love the book from the beginning. Not that the movie is better than the book or visa versa, but I think in this case my familiarity with one (and by familiarity, I of course mean obsessive knowledge of) kind of preempted any ability to create this world or these characters in my own way. As much as I love Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, they are the Scarlett and the Rhett that I know, and I can’t seem to be able to separate them in my mind.

I’m not saying that this is a book that I won’t return to. I’m hoping to. But I think that this is one of those times and books that, for whatever reason, I just don’t think that right now is the time that I should be reading this book. I kind of believe in the kismet nature of reading, and that if a book really isn’t working, it isn’t necessarily the book as much as the environment surrounding me as I’m reading the book. And right now, with summer and graduation and moving are all looming on the horizon (as well as the fact that I’ve got summer classes approaching), it’s just not the time for this book. I feel like I need something lighter, something thinner, something that I can dig in to and be in, but that won’t require weeks and weeks on end of me doing that. I’ve got some Ray Bradbury short story books on the list, as well as some more Fitzgerald, and there really is nothing like F. Scott to pull me out of a bit of a reading funk and remind me why I love reading and why I’m undertaking this whole process in the first place! I also recently downloaded some non-fiction books on sustainable farming and eating (none of which are new reads, but books that I adore and have checked out from the library umpteenth times) which I’m looking forward to talking about more this Friday!

I’m kind of sad and disappointed that I wasn’t able to get through all of Gone with the Wind. It’s only the second or third book I’ve taken on for this project, and it’s a little disheartening that the whole experience is ending this way. But c’est la vie! Such is life, and I’m one of those readers who tries to never dwell on the DNF for long – there is still a whole universe of plots, characters, and experiences out there waiting to be absorbed! How about you? Do you let yourself DNF, or do you have to finish whatever you pick up? Are you a sprint-reader, or down for the marathon haul, regardless?

TSS: I’m From

I’m from the bathtub of blankets and Little Women rustling pages. I’m from the farmstead, the Knights of Mahaffie and midnight walks to tether-ball broken playgrounds. I’m from principal for a day and backyard archaeology and I swear that’s a sea turtle buried behind the kickball field. I’m from bike rides to Dillons and walks to the library, from tired young legs sticking to a mother’s prescribed path. I’m from kitchen chair blanket forts and October ice storms shattering Bradford pears.

I’m from the land of the Jayhawks and sunflowers, farmers fresh markets and frigid winter visible breath. I’m from flip-flops in January and driving home for high school lunch. I’m from the arms of Jessica Darling and darling Anne, from Campanile hills. I’m from Grecian suns and Irish storms, a Gemini and Cancer and half siblings with whole hearts. I’m from a bad futon and good blanket, from sitting as close to the window as possible for the beautiful light despite the cold on the other side. I’m from the theater boards, a drama queen from center light and best friends. I’m from slow cooking rice and sausage jambalaya, from my father’s cooking and my mother’s laugh and the thought that my grandma is proud of me. I’m from the Goo Goo Doll drives with saddened best friends, summer theater work for no pay but great pictures.

I’m from my niece’s premature fingers to six year old walk to kindergarten. I’m from my brother’s southern drawl heard only every few years, from a family scattered and heartened and whole. I’m from land-reached stars and slow summer buzzes. I’m from constant noise and color and laughter and banana bread. I’m from local music and rye whiskey. I’m from banjo playing and tent laying, the Wakarusa valley with seasoned burned brush and silt bottomed lakes. I’m from Edward Scissorhands before early cheerleading practices, my dad’s bad jokes told so well they’re hilarious – from my mom’s constant laughter, regardless. I’m from sorry shady gardens and cold snow walks to help my dad bring in firewood to dry. I’m from grandma’s Christmas candy and the chance to fly West to see those heartily loved but seldom seen. I’m from bluegrass and dead grass and library sciences. I’m from clean kitchens and farmers’ markets, from America’s bread bowl and the heart of the country. I’m from the written word, the sung word, the words written to my sister in steam on a bathroom shower.

I’m from Christmas’s always together at my parents house, from the bannister and basement and crawl space by the heater where I used to read until my dad didn’t want to keep lighting the pilot light. I’m from reading at recess, from Shel Silverstein and from the children’s boxcar. I’m from V.C. Andrews and Christopher Pike, crates of books beneath my sister’s bed that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. I’m from a backyard summer tent, the collected Goosebumps and *Nsync tangled in miles of orange extension cord. I’m from homework asked for from the teacher, the winner of Race Across the States, from Quest and games of Risk.

I’m from Manderley and Narnia, from Hogwarts and Hobbiton and Ender’s game. I’m from books taken without knowing, pretty covers stacked in basement shelves, from no limits and encouragement to explore. I’m from tornado alley and a Roman hotel just of the Colosseum. I’m from wanderlust and travel and drinking underage in Cancun. I’m from my family’s trip to Paris, my parent’s trip to Hawaii and my grandparent’s travels to Puerto Rico. I’m from an uncle who likes to sleep naked and a fiance who talks in his sleep. I’m from frozen breath in cold lungs, from Captain and Diet Coke (NEVER regular Coke) and Earl Grey tea with tons of honey and a little cream. I’m from still believing in Santa Clause always believing in Rory Gilmore and copious coffee.

I’m from a girl who wanted to read and write and be more than her long hair and awkward limb. I’m from Disney magic and nostalgic longing and spring runs in grey rain that pops the green around it to emerald. I’m from the yellow brick road and ruby slippers. I’m from future motherhood and impending marriage, from homeschooling and farm steading and sustainable support. I’m from your local library, from mood swings and crazy and chocolate and caring. I’m from my parents standing by the fountain, my mother’s long hair and lace wedding dress contrasting my father’s handle barred mustache.

I’m from a chalkboard in my mother’s hand, written in front of bare walls in a freshly built house. I’m from my grandpa’s blossom tree and my face pressed close to my sister’s, no space between us.

Where are you from?
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I saw a post just like this at A Room of One’s Own. She saw it at Tales From the Reading Room, who got it from Charlotte’s Web, who saw it at Susie J’s blog back in 2007, where I believe this originated. I loved reading Jillian’s, and couldn’t wait to add my own! Also, this post is part of my: