Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters


7 Comments

Summer Reading Just Got Better

Summer reading- it isn’t just for school.

Remember when you signed up for your first honors English class and suddenly regretted it because there was a summer reading list?

I do.

Back in high school, I didn’t come close to finishing all of the assigned books, whether it was summertime or not. I wasn’t as much of a reader as I am now. (Thank God that has changed!)

I had a request (so exiting!) here on HeyLouWrites to give out a suggested summer reading list to YOU… from LOU. Of course, I was game.

THEREFORE,

each week I’ll tell you which books to read, why you should read them, and give you just enough of a scoop about them to give you a hint as to whether or not you’re interested. Personally, I think you should give every book a try.

Because why not?

After all, I won’t be grading you on this. There is no deadline. No weekly quiz, no final exam. And you won’t be called on to read out loud.

How much more could you want? :)

Every Sunday this summer I’ll give you two reading suggestions, as well as the book I’m currently reading. My own personal goal is to read at least one book a week. YAY

Ready? Okay. Let’s get reading. 

summer reading, books, writing, reading

LOVE THESE BOOKS

BOOK ONE: THE WILD CARD

Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk 

“A girl calls and asks, “Does it hurt very much to die?”
“Well, sweetheart,” I tell her, “yes, but it hurts a lot more to keep living.”

This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s crude, sexual, violent, rude, inappropriate…but most importantly… awesome.

Yes, this offensive book is a page turner from page 1. (Or should I say… page 289?)

Tender Branson grew up in a cult. He knows he’s ugly, and he is terrified of sex. Terrified. He urges people to end their lives, something he has contemplated doing a lot lately.

“…the only difference between suicide and martyrdom is press coverage.”

In true Palahniuk style, which, to be honest, I can’t handle every time, this book will outrage you and surprise you. But I guarantee you will like something about good ol’ Tender.

BOOK TWO: THE BESTSELLER

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery 

“The real ordeal is not leaving those you love but learning to live without those who don’t love you.”

Someone once told me they couldn’t finish this book because the main character was too pretentious.

I said that was precisely why I couldn’t put it down.

When I bought the book, the guy at the book store said, “Okay, it’s amazing. Just be prepared to face the fact that you will never be as smart as the main character. Like ever.” I took his word for it and started reading in my car. (while it was parked- I get sick if I read in a moving vehicle. which is a total bummer.)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog does something I love … it shows the growth and change of a person, all within a few hundred pages. Renee is a simple concierge in a fancy hotel. People treat her like crap all day long because she must answer when they call. But in reality? She is way smarter. She knows more about everything, and she often finds grammar mistakes in the snobby notes the rich people leave her.

For anyone who loves grammar, this book will make you laugh out loud.

And for anyone with a heart, this book will make you bawl your eyes out.

I didn’t think I would. Sure, I liked Renee and the other protagonist, Paloma (a young girl who wants to burn her apartment complex down), by the end, but I wasn’t aware of how attached I’d grown until the last page.

Find out who you are, what you believe in, how well your grammar skills truly are, and why your family is probably normal, compared to most.

“Personally I think that grammar is a way to attain beauty.”

You will soon understand how a hedgehog could be elegant.

BOOK THREE: MY BOOK CLUB’S CURRENT READ

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I LOVED The Time Traveler’s Wife. I can’t wait to get this book and read it. Niffenegger won’t let me down, I can already tell. I mean, look at that amazing title! Isn’t it just lovely?

Next week I’ll tell you how it was.

Now get reading!!! Let me know if you pick up any of these books this week, if you’ve already read them, and then, of course, what you think once you’ve read them.

Can’t wait!

Love, Lou


4 Comments

Chicken Nuggets

How sad! I’d never let anyone eat my little chicken babies. But I thought, you know, [evil] McDonalds aside, they are little bity cute chicken nuggets. Right?

Today’s Blog Everyday In May Challenge couldn’t be easier.

Day 14, Tuesday: Ten things that make you really happy

1) The Chicken Named Linus (named by Greg) (All of my chickens have boy names. It’s the new age thing right? I’m just being a typical parent in the two thousand tens) Linus, we suspect, might be a rooster. {S}he is the most alert, the tallest and biggest, and has different mannerisms. Always on the lookout, always scoping out whatever new thing we put in their box, always the first to explore. I’m pretty sure {s}he is at the top of the pecking order already.

raising chickens, writing

The Leader

2) The Chicken Named Ray Bradbury (named by Meredith) Poor Ray. She seems to be at the bottom of this pecking order deal, and gets pasty butt all the time. I’ve held her under the running water to get it off, and then blow dried her butt. Yes, I’ve done these things out of love. She is the most “pecked on” but seems to be getting along just fine.

raising chickens, chicks, writing

The Little Guy

3) The Chicken Named Mu’réigh (Pronounced like Murry, but hey, he’s kind of pretentious) (Named by Alex) Mu’réigh is the least problematic, calm, and normal chicken ever. So cute. She’s also becoming the fattest, or at least the widest. She’s a little ball of fluff!!!

raising chickens, chicks, writing

The No Problem Gal

4) The Chicken Named John Steinbeck (Named by Yours Truly) John is the most standoffish. She is the only one who won’t eat out of my hand. She turns around or turns her head, letting me know that the trust needs to be gained. She kind of reminds me of John Steinbeck’s writing… a bit unsure of the powers at hand. Right? I will win her love.

raising chickens, chicken nuggets, writing

The Stand Off Gal

5) Gregory Daniel Williams aka Lou He’s the kindest, funniest, handsomest (a word I made up) guy in the world. He makes my every moment worth living. I look up to him and I think we’re a perfect match.

writer, new writer, short stories, author, beard

The Love of My Life

6) Being Married (which pretty much refers back to #5, just anything to do with Greg in general!) Our winter wedding was beautiful and perfect, though I must say, life after the wedding is even better. The last three and a half years have been the best in my life. Greg and I have both changed a lot. We’re hardly the same people. But we have changed together… which is the most important part. He’s such a great guy. More on Greg here. :)

wedding, being married, happy

January 2, 2010

wedding, marriage, happy

Our first dance!

wedding, marriage, happy

We were so nervous!

7) Being an Aunt to these little guys. Carson and Landon :) They are so cute and hilarious. Landon loves cars and Buzz Lightyear. Carson loves the Hulk and animals. (Carson says he wants to be a farmer when he grows up!) They know how to share, say thank you, and give great hugs and kisses. I love my nephews!!

new writer, short stories, writer, nephews, poems

Carson and Landon <3

nephews, gardening

Their trip to my house this week. They loved picking out garlic and lettuce!

8) Family  I think my parents did a pretty good job raising us all. My oldest sister, Jessica is the only one with dark hair and green eyes. She stands out in a crowd because of her exotic beauty. She’s done a great job at leading the way in this world. Emily (mother of Carson and Landon!) is so strong. She is already such a great example of an amazing mother. She is the one ALL my guy friends in high school had a crush on. Who can blame them? Meredith is my best friend. I am so lucky to be a twin… and not just to anyone, but to the best girl in the world. She teaches me so much about how to be a better person.

sisters, family, happy

Jessica, Emily, my mom, Me, Meredith

sisters, family

Love them!

9) Reading (of course) If you hadn’t realized yet, I love to read. I spend most of my time doing it. I get lost in books. I get attached to characters. It’s my favorite thing to do!

reading, writing, happy

And I always do my makeup, curl my hair, and go out to the flower groves to do it. (ha)

10) Last but not least, WRITING Writing makes me happy. I feel like I have a purpose in this life every time I sit down to write. Someday you will be able to pick my books up off the shelf at your local bookstore, but for now, read my short stories here and my poetry here. I’d be so honored it you did!!!

writing, being happy

Me, just being me… happy :)

<3 Lou


3 Comments

2+2=4 {Not Just A Math Equation}

Update: WE HAVE BEEN BUILDING OUR CHICKEN COOP ALL DAY!!!!

but you can’t say I’ve missed day 4 of the challenge… it’s not midnight yet! The challenge continues…

Day 4, Saturday: Favorite quote (from a person, from a book, etc) and why you love it

First off- The Runner Ups:

You are what what you eat eats. -Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. -Ray Bradbury

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. -John Steinbeck, East of Eden

I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy. Holden in Catcher In The Rye, J.D. Salinger

All right, then, I’ll go to hell. – Huck Finn in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

(Pat yourself on the back if you can tell WHY those are quotes I think of each day.)

Drum roll please… my favorite quote of all time is this:

Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. -Winston in 1984, George Orwell

Have you read this book? If not, you should. I think it’s the most imperative read out there.

I’ll tell you why.

We are living in a day and age when media and advertisements rule all. One story in the news will disappear while another shows up out of the blue, telling us something completely different. It’s confusing.

One example:

Drink milk- we all need our calcium. What those ads don’t tell you is that drinking milk is one of the worst ways to get calcium into your body. In fact, calcium is actually stripped away in order to process the milk. Dr. Frank Sabatino, PhD (as quoted in Main Street Vegan by Victoria Moran) says, “Bone health is not dependent on the calcium you take in, but on the calcium you keep in. Calcium, in its charged state, can be used to alkalinize the body by buffering or neutralizing acidity. As the body becomes more acidic from a diet high in animal protein, it will pull calcium out of the bones to neutralize the negative effects of acidity and inflammation.” Also: Scandinavia and the USA have the highest rates of hip fracture. And the highest dairy intake. (the good news- we can get our calcium where the cow got hers, through greens. one cup of collard greens has more mg of calcium than a cup of milk)

I won’t even get into the more depressing “facts” floating around. There are too many.

If you read 1984, you will see that Winston is conflicted. His job is to take yesterday’s news, make it disappear, and replace it with today’s news. He sees the error in this because the news stories are always opposites.

“We are at war with Eurasia” one day.

“We were never at war with Eruasia, we are now at war with Eastasia” the next.

Winston knows that they were at war with Eurasia. He remembers it. But that is not the way he is supposed to think.

War is peace.

Freedom is Slavery.

Ignorance is Strength.

That’s what Winston is supposed to believe. But guess what? He doesn’t. He knows that as long as he is aware of the Truth, he will be free. He can pretend to agree with the government. He can go with the flow of the crowd. As long as he can think the Truth.

When Winston is faced with the toughest, challenging moment of his life, here’s what he’s told:

‘How can I help it?’ [Winston] blubbered. ‘How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.’

‘Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.’

Do you think it’s enough? To know the truth and hold onto it no matter what? Do you think that if you were in jail for years and years, but you still had your own freedom of thought and knowledge, that you would in some way, actually feel free? I honestly don’t know if I’m that strong. It’s scary to think about. All I know is that I will take Ray Bradbury’s advice and never stop reading. We can’t stop reading, ever.

We need to believe what Winston believed. We can’t let anything take that away from us. (Um, I won’t spoil the ending, but just know, your life will never be the same after reading 1984.)

If I ever get a tattoo, it will say: two and two make four.

Because freedom truly is the ability to say something real, even when the government (or any “higher power”) tries to tell you otherwise.

2+2=4.

It’s true.

What idea or quote do you hold onto as a way of living life?

<3 Lou


8 Comments

I Love Magic

I’ve never written two blogs in one day, but I just finished a book and I HAVE TO TELL YOU ABOUT IT!!

It’s called The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

{I’m surprised I could even take time to write this, rather then start the second book, The Magician King.}

I am one of those folks who loves Harry Potter. (I always, always, accidentally type “Harry Pottery” and have to delete the y. Why?) I get lost in the world of magic, usually convince myself at least a few times that magic has to be real, right?, and then stumble back into the real world like everyone else. I’ve read the entire HP series about seven times. Which is why I was a little bit skeptical when Greg told me I had to read The Magicians. You see, Greg has never read Harry Potter. Ever! Can you believe it? He says he will.

Anyway.

Greg read both The Magicians and The Magician King within three weeks. That is rare. He said he loved them, Quentin is a star of a main character, and that I really should read it. I didn’t want to. This one actually had a cool cover, so I wasn’t judging a book by its cover (thank goodness.)

magic, the magicians, hey lou, writer

Highly recommended by Lou

Also- doesn’t the tree in my own backyard kind of resemble the one in the cover?

author, short stories, ya novels, fiction, hey lou

I thought so…

I was, however, judging a book based on a different book. I should never do that, either. I pre-judged The Magicians, thinking it couldn’t live up to Harry Potter(y) expectation and I might as well quit while I’m ahead. Ho, ho, ho. This book is NOTHING like Harry Potter.

Yes, they are magicians. They do not call themselves wizards.

Yes, they go to school. But this is college, complete with cuss words, sexual relations, and gruesome deaths/injuries that we didn’t see until the seventh book of HP.

Yes, the main character is a slightly lanky, kind of depressed boy who can’t find happiness. But he isn’t Harry. Not even close. Quentin has a harder time being a hero, doesn’t always manage it, and nothing seems to end well.

If you were a kid who loved The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, you will also have an extra heart for this book. Quentin grew up reading a series of books about little kids who travel through a grandfather clock and wind up in a magical place called Fillery. Well, Fillery has more up its sleeves than staying tucked away in Quentin’s childhood. That’s all I’ll say about that.

There are so many surprises, so many character returns, so many plot twists, that it was hard to keep up with this book. If I hadn’t read it within four days I would have been lost. The 402 pages encompass approximately 6 years of time. The first half is four years of school. At first I thought it was a bit choppy, a bit sterile. I thought I wouldn’t really care about the characters because I didn’t know them very well and who cares if ____ dies?

Turns out I cared… a lot.

This isn’t a book to take lightly. You have to pay attention, realize the subtle ways Lev Grossman has introduced us to characters who we actually know better than we think, and you have to get ready for some real disappointment.

That’s all I’m going to say. Greg says I have a terrible habit of ruining the ending for people. NEVER AGAIN. Just let me know if you read it.

;)


10 Comments

Can You Find What’s Missing?

Sometimes people ask me one simple question:

How do you find time to write?

And workout? And read an entire book in less than a week? And cook all of my meals from scratch? And spend a large portion of my day just sitting outside, watching birds or gardening or hanging up the laundry to dry? 

Okay, I added all of the others, after the first simple question, How do I find time to write? But I’ve had at least a few people ask me these questions at different times. I really have. And I will be the FIRST to admit that I don’t have a perfect scheduled out system to my life. I forget things, I make mistakes and I do waste time.

Just not very often.

Let me give you a clue as to WHY.

Here are some pictures, taken at different angles, of my living room/dining room.

hey lou, writing, new writer, short stories

Piano and bookshelf

Greg plays the piano ALL THE TIME!!! Coolest thing about it? I grew up with my dad playing this very same piano. My parents recently bought a new vintage piano and gave us this one. Also- this bookshelf is inside the wall. No space is wasted and it is beautifully carved out of wood.

Here’s a close up of the picture of my grandmother, which is sitting on the piano.

My lovely Grandma, Pearl, sitting at her typewriter :)

My lovely Grandma, Pearl, sitting at her typewriter :)

Okay, more pictures. Keep looking to find out what’s missing!!!

hey lou writes, young adult, short stories

“Dining room” and front door

Best part of this picture is the table that my parents bought when they were newlyweds. I wouldn’t buy a new one, ever.

writing, short stories, new writer

Christmas trees and music :)

Yes, we keep our Christmas tree up all year long. We’ve had it up since October 31st, 2010, when we bought it on sale at Hobby Lobby. This room is usually filled with band equipment for Wildewood.

Justin Townes Earle, couch, hey lou writes, writing, reading

Where I read!

And there you have it. The rest of the house is similar. We have a small bedroom with hardly anything inside, a laundry room with a computer for Greg to work on music recordings, and another room that stores most of Wildewood’s equipment and Greg’s big drum set. It’s a modest, yet amazingly comfortable and spacious living arrangement. Oh, it’s also on a half acre. Don’t ask me how we got so lucky. But ask me how often I thank God for such a home. Answer: Every single day.

Did you see it? Or NOT see it? Have you guessed it yet?

I can read, write, blog, clean, sit in the warm sun, garden, workout and spend time with my husband ….ALL BECAUSE…

We have no TV. There it is. This is not a TV bashing blog, either. But will I ever own one again? Not for all the money in the world. (Okay, come to me with a million dollars and I might buy one. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be where anyone can see it) 

In our last place, a small apartment, I really tried to evaluate why I was either unhappy (at times), felt lazy or fat (at times), or felt disconnected with the world around me (almost all the time.) I remember this specific moment. I was watching a “reality” show. Maybe it was The Hills? I’m not quite sure. But what I do know is this: I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh. Here I am, watching someone else live their life. How lame. I need to go live my own life!” And there you have it. Greg and I moved into this place, got rid of our TV, and we’ve never looked back.

I know what some of you are thinking. But, Melinda, The Hills is trash reality TV and I watch great shows or the Food Network or the Discovery Channel… I don’t waste time. I learn and laugh and relax after a really long day. 

Well, I say HOORAY for all of those people who do exactly that. I would say in the beginning that I did miss those “good” TV shows. I like watching other people cook. I love a good special on Abraham Lincoln or a newly discovered animal in the ocean. But do I still miss it at all? Does it even EVER cross my mind? No.

In fact, I am still very busy and on the days when I have zero time to relax, I often wonder how in the world anyone has time for TV. I know that most people are on even tighter schedules than I am! Explain that!

Having no TV hardly makes me a hermit, either. We have Netflix and we watch movies on our laptop. Um… we have the INTERNET… so, yeah, it’s not like we miss out on any news. Simply having a twitter account makes me weirdly more informed about the world than I ever wanted to be.

I recently read this awesome blog about budgeting money. It made me think. I may not be the best at budgeting money, but I have become really good at budgeting my time. It’s something I can truly say I’ve grown to be good at, and I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. Here’s what a typical day looks like for the Williams household:

A.M.

Greg and I try to wake up together, and unless he has to work at 5 (yikes!), which is rare, we make this happen. Our usual wake up time is anywhere from 6:00 to 7:00, depending. We wake up at LEAST an hour and a half before either of us have to leave. Why? So we can do this:

-Greg makes the coffee

-I made the breakfasts

-Weather permitting, we sit outside to eat and drink

-We might both spend 30 minutes reading

-We might start chatting, which I always love

-I’ll go for a thirty minute run or do a workout at home

-We talk about our days, challenges we might face, and how excited we are for the relaxing evening to come

MID DAY

Greg and I both work. He works full time and I work part time. (I do, however, spend more than a full timer’s worth of time writing.) If we happen to have a day off together, you can bet we’ve done these things:

-Pulled weeds/gardened

-Gone on a short walk

-Made some more coffee and sat outside (bird watching is our new hobby)

-Read more

-I write

-Greg will practice harmonica/drums/piano

-Whip up a good and healthy lunch

-Do laundry, sweep the floor

-Laugh our heads off at least three times (Greg is the funniest person I know)

P.M. 

This is where life really gets busy. Greg, being in a band, has lots of practices and shows. On a rare evening when we have “nothing” to do we’ll make time for:

-Making dinner together

-Talking about our day

-Getting caught up on life… dishes, putting AWAY the previously washed laundry… etc

-Reading some more

-Writing some more

-Practicing music some more

-Going on that run, if I didn’t get to it in the A.M.

See what I mean? Nowhere in there do we have space or a care to “budget” our time to fit in TV watching. Books are better, anyway. It might seem boring. I’m sure what I’ve just described, as a life being lived, seems utterly unexciting to the untrained eye. However, it is anything BUT. We spend quality time. I’ve learned to appreciate the sound of birds and learning what type they are. I’ve learned to savor each moment of silence I can muster up in a day, preferably with Greg right alongside me. I’ve learned to garden and I actually look forward to picking weeds. I get to be outside, I’m healthy and have a body that’s able, and I am caring for something that will provide me with vegetables and fruit to eat.

One drawback, if you can call it that, is how sensitive I have become to too much noise and distraction. I feel just a tad overwhelmed when I am somewhere with TVs blaring or a hundred different sounds buzzing around my head. I feel as if I can’t even listen to or hear the person sitting right next to me. Even in the car, if Greg and I have music playing, we’ll usually both reach to turn it down at the exact same time, and laugh and say, “I couldn’t hear a word you were saying.”

I guess that means I’ve learned to give my full attention to one thing at a time. Plus, I’m addicted to reading. This past month we got our Netflix DVD in the mail and we put off watching the movie for two weeks because each night, when it came down to it, Greg and I both opted for our books instead.

I’m not saying you should go throw your TV out on the curb today. I realize that for some people, this is extreme. (Like the lady who told us we were practically Amish for not owning a microwave… I think she’d faint if she read this.) But just like my last post about phones, I guess the reason for writing this is to encourage people to follow their dreams and not have distractions from those dreams. IMAGINE what you could accomplish if instead of watching TV for two hours a day, you did something productive… something you’ve always wanted to do. Like…

-get in shape (those two hours could be spend hitting the pavement)

-WRITE (it takes tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime)

-sign up for an art class

-volunteer

-go outside and TAKE A WALK (the most therapeutic thing on the planet, in my opinion)

-or whatever it is you’ve been putting off!!

JUST DO IT! (like Nike says…)

Your brain, body, and family will thank you for it. I promise! Feel free to ask me anything about my no-TV household. It’s a topic I’m very passionate about and I have a LOT MORE to say, believe it or not.

Let me know how it goes, or if you do something similar!

<3 Lou


5 Comments

I Ran, I Read, I Cried

I had quite the weekend. I would consider myself having had TWO workouts.

The first, was the 5K Color Me Rad run I completed with my older sister, Emily.

reading, writing, melinda williams

at the finish line!

If you haven’t heard of this, or if no color run of any sort has graced your own city or town, it’s kind of weird. People run around for 3.1 miles and there are these stations where you get hosed down, sprinkled, or thrown buckets of paint on your person. People show up wearing white. They leave looking colorful (or like they just have on a green shirt! Emily got the bucket!)

I’m really happy because I didn’t have to stop and walk, which was my big goal. Yayyyy

writing, running, reading, hey lou

I thought this really shows just HOW colorful everything was!

It was super fun!! I highly recommend you find one of these races and participate. Families with little kids were walking the course and the kids loved getting paint on their clothes!

Alright. My other workout was one of the best whole body workouts, definitely including the abs quite a bit. It left me a little sore.

Doesn’t that happen to you, too, after you’ve sobbed your eyes out reading a book?

It totally happened to me.

I read Barbara Kingsolver’s greatest novel, The Poisonwood Bible. Again  AGAIN!  I judged a book by its cover. Why do I keep doing this? This is another book, lent to me by the same person as the last book I so wrongfully judged. It sat on my bookshelf for many days. This cover stared at me.

reading, writing, short stories, young adult

it’s kind of a cool cover, actually

I feel in love with this book and wound up finishing it in two days. I could NOT put it down. I brought it in the car, just in case I turned up early anyplace and I could read for another precious few minutes. I hardly slept. Maybe part of running the 5K and not walking at all was simply my determination to get home and read… ha  just kidding!

If you read this, get ready. You will need a whole box of tissues, or you will simply have to throw whatever sweater you were wearing into the wash.

But you should also get ready to laugh out loud, cringe, pick up some new sayings, and have some preconceived notions thrown out the window. I know I did all of these things.

The family in this book is similar to my own in a few ways:

There are four daughters, two of which are twins

The father is a pastor (mine’s Lutheran, in the book, they’re Baptist)

My grandpa (mom’s dad) grew up in Madagascar with this missionary parents (and wrote a book about it!) 

reading, writing, missionary

I know, so cool, right??!

The family in this book is also very different from my family in a few ways, too.

Our minister dad isn’t totally and awfully abusive, like in the book (writing Bible verses as punishment just doesn’t seem to match up with what they’re actually there for… )

The youngest two in my family are twins, not the middle two

None of us have been to Africa

That’s just to name a few ;)

Yet again I read a book that made me reevaluate my entire life. It gave me a new perspective on my own country, my home and the way I judge people. It seems that is all books have been doing for me lately, which I am thankful for.

When I put the book down, I LITERALLY stood up and was overwhelmed by the size of my living room. It felt humungous… It took many steps for me to get to my kitchen, which just absolutely shocked me. Weird, I know. But you have to understand – for two days I’d been living inside the book, meaning I was living inside a tiny mud hut in a small village in the Congo and I had almost zero resources. Walking across a wood floor in an adobe house with everything in the kitchen I could ever want was suddenly amazing. I made my dinner in a daze. I took out my frozen peas, heated them up on the stove with soy sauce and a little tofu, put it on a bed of arugula and added olive oil. I hadn’t quite considered the technology it took for all of that to end up on my dinner plate.

I felt ashamed of the life I live, thankful for the life I live, wary of the choices people in high places have made all throughout history, yet hopeful. This book did it all.

I was riddled with the smart and witty quotes.

“I’ve seen how you can’t learn anything when you’re trying to look like the smartest person in the room.”

“Sugar, it’s no parade but you’ll get down the street one way or another, so you’d just as well throw your shoulders back and pick up the pace.”

“Everything you’re sure is right can be wrong in another place.”

The Poisonwood Bible also made me stray away from my usual and slightly ignorant belief that I should feel sorry for people with less. This book showed the beauty of living with practically nothing. The people in the Congo (at least in the village written about in this book) lived on one primary source of food, a gooey and tasteless substance, but it was simple and kept them alive for hundreds of years. They had homes made of mud, one pair of clothes (if even) and schooling wasn’t a top priority. They were smart in other ways. I am reminded of that famous quote:

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Albert Einstein 

I am now a Kingsolver fan. Next on my list is her book about living a year on only local food (something I wanted to do!) called Animal Vegetable Miracle. Can’t wait!!

Don’t forget how lucky and blessed you are on this fine morning. If you’ve complained about the size of your home or the fact that your car isn’t nice enough, you definitely need to read Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver :)

You’ll wind up a much more content person if you do!

<3


3 Comments

I Did The Thing You’re Never Supposed to Do

reading, writing, hey lou, short story, young adult

I have to admit it: I did the thing you’re never, ever supposed to do- especially as an avid reader or writer who knows better. And it isn’t the first time I’ve done that, truth be told.

I’ve committed similar crimes. Like the time I broke that sacred rule among all women and excitedly said to a woman I barely know, “Oh my gosh! You’re PREGNANT!!”

And she wasn’t. (I know, I’m still cringing, too. It was awful.)

I’ve done worse things. I’ve learned many lessons on what to say in public (my mom’s rule after a family outing, “Don’t say a word until all the car doors are shut and we’re driving away!”) and when to bite my tongue.

You may not think it’s as big of a deal… this other thing I did, but I do. I’m always glad to be proven wrong, yet I always fall back into the similar pattern. Have you guessed it yet?

I JUDGED A BOOK BY ITS COVER!

That’s right. I do this all the time, despite knowing how wrong covers often are. One solid picture that represents hundreds of written pages? A picture can say a thousand words… it can also misrepresent about 100,000 words!

My latest victim of judgement:

Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth

This is the cover I sat and stared at, not really wanting to pick it up:

books, writing, reading, short stories Let’s admit it. It looks kind of cheesy. I guess it’s some tv show now, though I’ve never heard of it. My boss at work gave me this book to read and I ignored it for about a week. I was turned off by the three gals riding bicycles and the funny expressions of the two older women in the bottom picture. I didn’t want to know why the nun looked so smug/full of knowledge/kind. Weird of me, right? I just couldn’t really get past it.

Then I read the first page. And I finished the book in about three days.

It was an excellent, fantastic read! A real page turner.

Set it London in the 1950’s, this book depicts the true accounts of Jennifer, young midwife (about my age), and what she saw and learned and dealt with. I had no idea conditions for people were so awful. My perspective on life has completely changed. It’s one of those books… the kind that have you reevaluating what you take for granted every single day. After reading I realized I am LUCKY and BLESSED beyond belief because I have:

A running toilet, in a nice bathroom (many people in large cities in the 1950’s were still using outhouses or communal bathrooms in apartment buildings… one single “toilet” for hundreds of people)

A house for only two people (small one bedroom apartments would be occupied by a family of six or bigger)

A great hope for a healthy pregnancy with luxuries, such as prenatal visits and a clean facility to show up to (the nuns and young midwives traveled around on their bicycles for home deliveries, mostly to small and overcrowded apartments, as mentioned above)

A husband who is very kind and gentle (domestic abuse was prolific and unspoken)

Plenty of sunshine and green vegetables to eat (rickets were common due to lack of vitamin D, being in the big city and surrounded by tall buildings and therefore, shade, and other deficiencies due to poor nutrition)

A car (the nuns and other midwives seriously only had their bikes. I want to challenge myself to ride my bike when I leave the house, but I just haven’t done that yet. When it’s freezing cold and raining, I’m glad I don’t have to go out with that as my only option)

A job that has great hours and smiling faces and doesn’t include the word “factory” (many worked in factories, some of which were so awful that if a family arrived at the “workhouse” they were all separated – like a concentration camp- and rarely left)

That’s just to name a few. This book was filled with gripping stories of childbirth, poverty, laughter, tears and human nature. Some of Jennifer’s preconceived notions were completely turned upside down. The crazy lady who showed up at almost every birth wasn’t just being a pest, she truly cared to know if they were healthy and alive. The girl who had stolen a large amount of cash wasn’t just a horrible thief- she’d been tricked into prostitution and couldn’t find a way to escape. The women who had the dirtiest apartment was depressed and driven to drink because her husband was so abusive.

I know it’s just a book, but these stories are such a great reminder to me to not judge people. To give them the benefit of the doubt (one of my new years resolutions!) and to look kindly on all people, as you never know what they’re going through. Some stories in this book were hilarious, too. Some filled with joy and hope. Those were my favorite parts.

I highly recommend this book! Just don’t pay any attention to the cover.

:)

 

 


2 Comments

Anything You Want to Be

Recently, I was reminded of the best Halloween I remember growing up. As a rule, I pretty much hate Halloween. I don’t like anything scary. I don’t like to be tricked, I’m not a big candy eater, and the costumes of today are too ridiculous for my taste. However, there was a great year, back when I was about seven. (notice, I have on a sweatshirt… we are both wearing gloves… it was freezing cold in Minnesota. I was a little mad about the sweatshirt, but I still felt lovely!)

short stories, poetry, young adult

cowgirl and Belle :) <3

Meredith was a cowgirl and I was … Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I remember it well. I had the idea in my head, and so Belle I was. I didn’t have a special yellow dress imitating the dress she wears in the movie. Simply feeling beautiful and believing I looked like her was enough. Don’t get me wrong, I think the costumes that are an exact match are cute, too. But I think there’s something special about a kid who smiles, knowing who they are for Halloween, whether or not anyone can guess it.

And believe it or not, I’m going to relate this back to reading a good book.

When I read a great novel, I automatically put myself in a character’s shoes. It’s perhaps WHY I get so wrapped up in books.

Here’s my list of books I could not finish:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Blindness by Jose Saramago

Room by Emma Donoghue

Why? Because I had nightmares. Yep. All three of these books (just to name a few) gave me nightmares… horrible, wake up shaking type nightmares, therefore I couldn’t finish them. I sought out people who had braved it ’til the end and made them tell me the ending. I couldn’t stand the thought of being on the road, afraid for the life of my child… afraid that I would be captured and eaten by cannibals. Going blind is probably my greatest fear, and while reading that book I had a nightmare that Meredith went blind, awful things happened, and I could do nothing to save her. Don’t even get me started on Room. I thought about it night and day. And for these reasons, I think these books are great. They are too good. They were so real, I believed I was there. It got into my head. I became the character in so many ways, and that created a world that I didn’t want to be in.

The same goes for books that I can finish all the way. That list is way longer, thank goodness!!

When I read Grapes of Wrath, I felt as if I were Tom Joad, or at least felt comforted knowing he was by my side through the journey to California. I felt I had lived in Greece and had a very strange upbringing when I read Middlesex. My stomach churned and I seriously doubted the people around me as I sat and read The Bell Jar. I cried at the end of Of Mice and Men, because I felt that I had been taking care of Lenny right alongside George.

As a writer, I hope to always place the reader in the story. A good friend of mine once read the first draft of my first manuscript… she gave it back with critique. She had written on the third page in, “Remember how it felt to read Harry Potter? We know Hogwarts. We’ve been there. Make the planet resonate with me in the same way… I want to be there, not just read about it.” That critique changed my writing. I realized that instead of telling, I had to show. We’ve all probably had a teacher give us that advice, but what does it really mean? It means that instead of saying:

I like the desert because I grew up here. My house is great. I don’t think I ever want to move away.

I could say:

The cactus growing in my backyard is enchanting. I have no doubt in my mind that New Mexico is rightfully named “The Land of Enchantment.” In the spring flowers bloom, which always surprises me. Flowers on a prickly cactus? When I still lived in Minnesota I never would have believed it. There are windows in every room where I live. The view changes daily, because the birds are always different and the sunset is never the same as the night before. So many people I know say they can’t wait to get away. Not me. I could live here forever.

By the way, that last paragraph is entirely true!!

What book did you dive into, almost literally? What character did you relate to so strongly, you felt as if you’d been walking in their shoes? Which authors do this best? I’d love to know!

<3

 


4 Comments

Being Patient and Kind <3

I’ve never been a huge believer in giving up something for lent. It can be fun to challenge yourself… but only if it’s just that: FUN. It’s no good to give up something and then make everyone around you as miserable as you are. Am I right, or am I right? I’ve never successfully given up one particular thing for the entire season, which always left me feeling like I didn’t accomplish something I should have.

SO! This year, rather than giving up something, like coffee or sugar or laughter (ha), I decided to add something to my every day life.

Greg and I have been reading 1 Corinthians 13 every single night.

It sounds simple… the “love is patient, love is kind” verse we all know. I have done a lot of thinking on this particular verse of the Bible, and I think that I’ve always passed it over as something that is “too popular.” How ridiculous of me, first of all. We didn’t have it read at our wedding because I wanted to be more original. Again, how ridiculous. The entire chapter is beautiful and meaningful in a way I had never understood until reading it with my husband every night. It’s perfect for a marriage. In fact, I’d say it’s downright required.

I recommend this sort of “every night ritual” for anyone. ANYONE. Single, married, divorced, dating… basically, if you interact with other people at all, this verse could do you some good. Why not try to be patient and kind in all we do? It will only make the world a better place. Why not STOP being envious of other people, STOP being too proud, and start living a more humble and content existence?

I want to be someone who isn’t quick to get angry. Especially before I ever have kids… I’d love to get my temper in check. (not that I have a crazy temper, but we can all use some improvement, I’m sure!) I want to be someone who can forgive and clean off the slate, especially in my marriage. “Love keeps no record of wrongdoing” has been one of the most influential parts of my lent challenge. I’ve let a lot of things go. I want to protect what’s important to me, trust in Greg, never give up hope for our future and persevere through it all. I’m more than three years into my marriage and I can say that I’ve failed in every single one of these and I will probably fail in them again. I’m human. All I can do is try, pray and wake up every day with a smile that we’ve made it this far! Making something real last is worth it.

The result of all this?

I’m happier, smile more often, I feel lighter (in my soul!) and my marriage is in better shape than ever before. If you read something over and over, eventually it takes on a whole new meaning. Each day something different will pop out at you. It’s just like hearing a song and because your life is different than the last time you heard it, the song has completely changed.

I recommend this challenge, and not just for lent. It’s almost over, anyway. I have a feeling that even after Easter comes and goes, Greg and I will still continue to study this passage and I will continue to pray for those changes to stay with me and grow in my heart. <3

writer, short stories, young adult, new writer, fiction

one of my favorite pictures of us!

On a different note, another thing I did in the past month was read one of the craziest stories of my life.

myra breckinridge, short stories, poetry, young adult, hey lou

you will not believe what these pages hold

Ever heard of Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal? I hadn’t, either. That is, until my brother-in-law told me I should read it. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t tell anyone under the age of 18 to read this book. It was excellent, but uncomfortable (aren’t most great books at least a little bit uncomfortable?) I don’t want to spoil the ending in any way, shape or form, so I won’t tell you too much. I will say that this book is a page turner, CRAZY, sexual, surprising, and will make you gasp as you read it.

Just trust me.

:)


4 Comments

Gatsby is a Verb

Gatsby is a Verb

and Fitzgerald was WAY ahead of us…

{You may not understand the phrase, “Dude, you totally just Gatsby’d that.” But don’t worry… you will soon. }

I am in a fantastic book club. We’ve read so many great books this year…The Night Circus, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Casual Vacancy, The Hunger Games Trilogy, and more. This month we decided to read a classic. And since the movie is coming out soon, Book Ends Book Club chose The Great Gatsby to read… and boy, am I glad we did.

Because this book is such a classic, I’m going to go ahead and assume that everyone basically knows what happens in the book. {aka, minor spoiler alert!}

Some discussion topics we covered included:

Why was this book called The Great Gatsby?

Is the generation in the 1920’s just like us?

Is marriage ever worth it? Will anyone ever just be faithful?

What was Gatsby’s big downfall and how can we learn from it?

How much of the past should we focus on?

This was one of the most enjoyable book discussions I have ever had a hand in. I honestly wasn’t expecting such a reaction from us gals who read it, but we all had a lot to say.

First things first.

I’d like to point out is that our generation is NOT doing ANYTHING new. We think YOLO  {which I’ll never say again on this blog… I hate it! Just say the words!} and ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN and making the most of the night LIKE WE’RE GONNA DIE YOUNG are new themes? We think that all of us young adults in the year 2012 could possibly have come up with any of this on our own? Let me show you something.

In The Great Gatsby:

When Myrtle (wife of Wilson) first met Tom (husband of Daisy) and he began to flirt with her on the train, at first she felt as if she should brush it off. They were both married, after all. This might not be a “do the right thing” kind of feeling… she just wasn’t sure how to respond. But then…

“…I was so excited that when I got into a taxi with him I didn’t hardly know I wasn’t getting into a subway train. All I kept thinking about, over and over, was ‘You can’t live forever; you can’t live forever.’”

See? In her time of cheating and excitement she thought “you can’t live forever.” She had a “You only live once” moment. This was written in the year 1925. They wanted to live it up, too.

Another interesting point I’d like to discuss is this quote, said by the narrator {and who I’d like to call “hidden or behind the scenes main character”} :

“I’m thirty,” I said. “I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor.”

So when we’re 25 we can lie and call it honor? I’m 23, so looks like I have two more fun years ahead. Just kidding! But this quote is one that I underlined because it really had me thinking. More than once, the age of thirty is mentioned in The Great Gatsby, and Fitzgerald has a way of making it sound, well, old.

Which is quite the opposite of how I’ve been feeling lately. There are too many people thirty and above in my life who seem younger than ever. They don’t seem like that mystical age of “thirty” that people fear. They’re living life, getting into shape, making thirty look so good, that I am no longer afraid to age. So at least our generation is breaking that mold, especially if the twenty-somethings of the 1920’s (or perhaps just Fitzgerald) couldn’t quite cope with aging.

WE CAN. We are. We are going to live like we’re young forever, just like all the songs say :)

Next came the big topic— Gatsby himself.

Gatsby spent five years pining away over the memory of a lost love. He loved Daisy, lost her while he was away for the military, and never quite got past it. It’s that old tale… she married someone else. But his memory of her escalated to almost silly heights. She was perfect, the one he wanted, and Gatsby went to amazing lengths to see her again.

Only to pretty much have it go horribly wrong. She wasn’t as great as he remembered. She didn’t really love him as much as he had hoped, and they didn’t end up together. (oh, yeah, and three people, Gatsby included, died because of all the mess…) They probably never should have been together. And since he is The Great Gatsby… I think that his actions are strong enough to cause Gatsby to now be a verb.

If you GATSBY something, you give it too much credit. You “the grass is greener on the other side” the heck out of something.

Examples:

An ex-boyfriend. If you Gatsby this person, you only remember the good things. You forget all the times he made you cry or paid more attention to another girl. You remember the one time he called when he said he would or told you that you were beautiful. You want him back. You think he’s just as good looking as way back when.

A life you wish you had. Attention! Single people- not all married people are what they seem. Married people- not all single people are living the high life.

Something that looks glamorous… like smoking. Some of you may think I’m crazy for adding this here. But seriously. I know I’m not alone in thinking, every once in a while, that certain people make smoking look cool. I’ve smoked two cigarettes in my life. One was in seventh grade with Meredith in the backyard. The second was this week. I Gatsby’d the whole thing. I thought, “I’m stressed, this will relax me. My lungs are healthy. They can take it. Also, I dressed great tonight and I might even look okay doing it.” Result? I didn’t feel relaxed, but I also didn’t get sick like my friend thought I might. I just didn’t feel anything at all. I certainly didn’t feel cool. I’ll leave the looking-good-smoking thing up to my girl crush, Melanie Laurent. (google her!)

Or people may be Gatsby-ing you. While we were at book club, discussing the new Gatsby theory, one member received a text message from an ex boyfriend from more than seven years ago. It said something along the lines of, “Hey. Thinking of you and that one time we first hung out…” blah blah blah. Yeah. I know. It was freaking meant to be or something. The moment could not have been more perfect. She admitted that he was certainly Gatsby-ing her lately.

Just like another post I had concerning marriage, this book leads us to the inevitable question:

Does marriage ever really work as perfectly as we think? Is the dream of marriage a reality for anyone?

Three of us who were there at book club were married. One was not. The one who wasn’t said, “Okay, I’m going to say something that you guys probably won’t agree with… but this book makes me think that no one should get married.”

She expected us to all shout out that she was very wrong and that we were offended, but we all took a look around, thought about it, and muttered “yeah… kind of.”

According to the book, anyway. There are so many reasons why I would agree with her statement. People change. People grow out of love. People do things that are reckless and stupid and selfish. People who should stay together get divorced. People who should get divorced stay together. The past holds too much importance for some people and not enough for others.

NONE OF IT MAKES SENSE. Except for when you wake up in the  morning and have a reason to smile. Then, and only then, does life make sense. Whether it’s because your cat has just snuggled up to you (which I will never understand…) or because you husband is there with his arms around you… if there is at least one little reason, then yes… life begins to make sense. Even though we are all imperfect, Gatsby-ing, crazies who are floating along this thing we call life, we are doing it, at least.

This book actually inspired me to live a little. It made me realize that people are human and that (just like for Daisy and Tom at the end, who disappear after basically messing everything up…) life will always go on. That’s the thing about it. We wake up, live another day, and hopefully we can smile and enjoy it. Just make sure you don’t Gatsby anything. Or if you do, make it a good one.

<3