Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters


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Thank You, John Green, For Everything

“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

-John Green, The Fault In Our Stars

 

Before I get to the 5 Reasons You Should Read Any John Green Book, I’ll start here…..

I recently read two John Green books:

The Fault In Our Stars 

An Abundance of Katherines 

…and not quite so recently, I read another of his:

Looking For Alaska 

I’ll start by saying something surprising, given that I’m writing a blog about the author. I didn’t love Looking For Alaska.

I liked An Abundance of Katherines.

I loved, loved, loved The Fault In Our Stars.

In fact, I just spent a few hours of my life crying, sobbing really, as I read The Fault In Our Stars. And even though I didn’t love the character Alaska in the first book I read of Green’s, I still liked it. I still related to the characters.

John Green is a classic American writer disguised as a Young Adult author that some people might not take seriously. I mean, his books are easy to read and are probably geared toward teenagers, but they always involve a greater theme, references to books that would make the most sophisticated (slash pretentious) college student who is getting an English degree proud to recognize, and truly life-changing sentences.

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”

-John Green, The Fault In Our Stars

Here are five good reasons to read any John Green book.

1. You will be forced to remember the people you dated in high school, and the way you remember them will probably make you laugh and wince and then, eventually, smile with nostalgia. 

In An Abundance of Katherines, there’s this guy who has dated only girls named Katherine. This (of course!) felt like a giant statement… that perhaps we all date a different version of the same person until one fine day, you finally will yourself to change and then, and only then, can you find the one you are meant to be with. This book also made me think that maybe “meant to be with” is a naive statement. I still don’t know what “meant to be” means and sometimes I feel like I don’t even know what love is. The characters in Green’s books find love in different ways, but they’re usually very quirky teenagers with a view of the world I had never considered. A lot of them have a much straighter head on their shoulders than I ever have managed in this life.

And I did remember all the past boyfriends. I did cringe, but then I remembered those old hand-holds, the kids we named at the age of fifteen, the breakups, and finally, the fun moments that made it all worth it.

Even though this is a post about John Green, a Feist lyric comes to mind

The hardest part of a broken heart isn’t the ending so much as the start.

Though it’s hard and painful, try to remember the good times; try to remember the good part of a relationship and let yourself smile with the memory, rather than cry with the end of that relationship.

AND remember… age has nothing to do with it. The feelings I felt when I was 14 are just as real (even if misguided or hormone driven) as the emotions I feel on this very day.

Also…. a thought….

“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.”
― John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

2. You will be humbled by the fact that there are tons of people who are smarter than you are. 

It’s hard to admit, but yes, there are thousands and thousands of people who analyze more thoroughly, who have better grammar, and who actually understand quantum physics.

“…because nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”
― John Green

3. You’ll want to create a fantastic nickname for yourself and all of your friends. 

Looking For Alaska

Miles= Pudge

Chip= The Colonel

Alaska= Alaska (but her name is so odd, it’s like a nickname)

An Abundance of Katherines

Colin= so important, that the other Colin in the book is called TOC (The Other Colin)

Hassan= Daddy

Katherine= Katherine The Great, K-1, K-19

Old People= Oldsters (not the most original, but still poignant)

The Fault In Our Stars 

This book was perhaps too serious to have awesome nicknames, but I think you get the point already.

Do you have any nicknames? Mine include Mel, Lou, Melly, Mel Bel and occasionally, Twin or just Meredith… who is my twin.

4. The hurtful truth of death, depression, illness, heartache and sorrow will cut you to the core. Get ready. 

“The marks humans leave are too often scars.”

– John Green, The Fault In Our Stars

I literally, literally, cried for probably 75% of the pages in The Fault In Our Stars. It’s about teenagers with cancer. And then, it’s about so much more than just teenagers with cancer. It’s about teenagers with hopes and dreams. Teenagers who love and want to be something great. They want to go places, read all the books, have all the conversations. They want to see, even when they have cancer in their eyes. They want to go on walks, even when their lungs cannot handle much more than a walk to the mailbox. They want to fight for a good cause, even when their last checkup confirmed cancer- everywhere.

“That’s the thing about pain,” Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. “It demands to be felt.”

– The Fault In Our Stars

How could you not cry?

Or not look outside and see that the sky is still there, you can still see the birds, take in the fresh air…

Or feel selfish for the last time you felt sorry for yourself?

A great quote from another book I read, Norwegian Wood: “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes feel sorry for themselves.” It kind of fits the situation.

5. You will laugh a lot. John Green is HILARIOUS. 

That was one of my favorite things about his writing. His characters are always saying the funniest things. The kind of I’m-actually-laughing-out-loud-as-I-read-by-myself type of writing. He’s nerdy and isn’t afraid to show it. More often than not, his protagonists are also nerdy and very smart and have the oddest friends who keep the humor pumping out of each chapter. There are always light moments amidst the dark. That’s a good reminder, too.

I will read his other books as soon as I get my hands on them.

You should start reading John Green NOW.

“My responsibility is to try to tell true stories. To me a true story is always hopeful, but never simply, uncomplicatedly happy.”

-John Green

Well said, John. Well said.

And thanks for writing.

Love, Lou

 

 

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In Dubious Battle

Steinbeck could easily be my favorite author. I’ve read Grapes of Wrath three times and have plans to read it again. My favorite short story of ALL TIME is written by him and called Johnny Bear (just google it and you can probably find a copy to read.)

JS is amazing. I can’t get over the way he captures human nature the way no other author has been able to do. He gets inside the brain of mankind and he doesn’t leave any of it out. He has a point, a message, but he rarely rants about one thing without giving “devil’s advocate” a say. How can we hate the man who’s plowing down our house? He has a family, too. Blame the bank, blame the system, the government… it’s all men, but it’s beyond men. Hate doesn’t exactly have a say when it comes to society treating some well and some poorly.

In Dubious Battle was once described to me as an intense, in-your-face, punch in the gut version of Grapes of Wrath. I’d have to say I completely agree. “Read it, Melinda, and you’ll love it,” I was told. And so I read it.

I don’t know as much as some, but I have reason to believe that the union isn’t what it once was. I’ve seen unions do things that aren’t helpful. My own husband works at Whole Foods, where there is no union, but they treat their employees SO WELL because of it. They don’t need a union. If I were to have ideals about the working man getting his due (which I DO!), I’d have to say that’s the Old Union. People with Shame On posters drive me up the wall.

Anyway.

In true John Steinbeck fashion, this book has paragraphs that I read over and over again. Not because I didn’t understand it, but because I wanted the words to soak up into me and become part of who I am. I want to remember the words. I want to repeat them, think of them, and learn more about myself in the process.

in dubious battle, book review, john steinbeck, reading, unionIn Dubious Battle is about a man, Mac, who is a member of the Party (which party, however, is never specified), and becomes the [hidden] leader of a fruit picking strike. Jim joins Mac, and in doing so, becomes more like Mac than Mac, himself.

Before Jim joins the party:

Jim looked evenly at him. “Do you ever work at a job where, when you got enough skill to get a raise in pay, you were fired and a new man put in? Did you ever work in a place where they talked about loyalty to the firm, and loyalty meant spying on the people around you? Hell, I’ve got nothing to lose.”

“Nothing except hatred,” Harry said quietly. “You’re going to be surprised when you see that you stop hating people. I don’t know why it is, but that’s what usually happens.”

Advice:

“…You can’t make a general rule of it, because sometimes it flops, but mostly a guy that tries to scare you is a guy that can be scared.”

“Do you know that ten men can lift nearly twelve times as big a load as one man can?”

“Jim, I wish I knew it. But in my little experience the end is never very different in its nature from the means. Damn it, Jim, you can only build a violent thing with violence.”

John constantly pulls me in with his words. They’re beautiful. Simple and pure and lovely.

The candle and the dawn fought each other so that together they seemed to make less light than either would have made alone.

The air was full of their apathy, and full of their discontent.

Mac, who is such a leader, teaches Jim that in order to win this strike, he can’t think of individual men. If one barn has to be burned, then so be it. It’ll be better in the end. If Mac has to make some kid’s nose bleed to prove a point, it’s not about the kid, it’s about the strike and the small steps toward progress. “Making a billboard, not a corpse,” as he puts it.

I don’t think that violence is ever a good thing. I think human beings need to defend themselves and stand up for what they believe in. I truly believe that men, like the men that John Steinbeck writes, are hard to find these days. I’ve only met a few in my time.

No matter your political party, whether you are in a union or not, or whether you come from the bank side of things, or the farm, reading any John Steinbeck novel is a good dose of reality for you. We can’t forget the wars of dignity that have raged on. We cannot let the government take over our food the way they did during Steinbeck’s time. I think, if he could write a book about it, he’d write about Monsanto and GMOs and the way that people are being poisoned by their own government. He’d possibly point out that our basic needs were being controlled. I can just hear him saying:

They’re makin’ the people sick. They are. And you know what’ll happen next? People’ll have to go to the hospitals. But they can’t afford no hospitals. Then, guess what? They owe the bank. They owe the bank because of what they fed him. Made ‘im sick, then fed him more poison while he was there. A man has a right to grow his own crop and not get sued. A man’s got a right to feed his family somethin’ real.

Those words will never be JS’s words, but I hear them all the same.

Love, Lou


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And Then I Read The Corrections and Vowed Never To Be Like…

…well…. anyone in this book, really.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen is another must read. (I’m sure I’ll do a review on a book I don’t like very soon, because all I seem to be doing these days is reading. [I’m currently in the middle of a book I’m not enjoying, but I’ll get through it, don’t you worry.])

UFFDA! Welp, since I don’t want to be like anyone in this book, I’m currently dealing with a little bit of denial. Not really, but sort of.

You see, I’m a Midwesterner. I DO consider myself from the Southwest nowadays, but when it comes down to what I call POP, or how often I say UFFDA, or the fact that I get my Minnesotan ACCENT back whenever I’m within a ten mile radius of someone with their own Minnesotan accent…you get the pictures. Once you’re from the Midwest, a part of you will always stay there. I will always have lefse in my heart (and regrettably not in my stomach.)

writing, memory, fishing, dad, vivid

just caught fish at a LAKE… yup… MN for sure ;)

So as I read The Corrections, I was constantly reminded of that random old lady down the street, that person I could have turned into, the way my life might have turned out had we stayed. (NOTE: This is in no way a statement about everyone in the Midwest being like the characters in this book, but hey, just read it, and TELL me you don’t at least see a little bit of yourself… and learn to laugh at yourself, too, please.)

As always, I feel the need not to tell you too much (as I am usually accused of doing here in the Williams household.) I will give you just enough info to convince you that this book will in some way improve your life.

“She had so much personality and so little anything else that even staring straight at her he had no idea what she really looked like.”

Because do you want to be an unhappy man, with an awful, lying and conniving wife, who ultimately blames his parents for everything that goes wrong? 

Do you want to have affair after affair with married men and women random people while you pine away at your career because you literally have nothing else in life? 

Does getting fired from the best job you can imagine sound great, especially after taking a ton of drugs and doing something very much against the rules, appeal to you?

AND…Drum roll please…. do you want to feel as if the only chance for your own personal happiness lies in having one last Christmas with your three children in town, because you suspect all might fall even further to sh*t and if it doesn’t happen now, it most certainly never will? 

Now listen. I am not one of those “Nobody can be truly happy, marriage is b.s., and the American Dream is the biggest joke, right after something baseball related (do I know anything about baseball? No. But someone who does would say something about it here.)” I’m not. I’m really happy, I swear. I think people make their own happiness based on what they choose to have in their lives, which includes people, objects, laughter and more. That is: the right people, not many objects, tons of laughter, and a lot of other factors that we decide as we wake up in the morning. 

“And if you sat at the dinner table long enough, whether in punishment or in refusal or simply in boredom, you never stopped sitting there. Some part of you sat there all your life.”

Even being a fairly positive, optimistic person, I still loved this good-and-depressing book. I was wrapped up in the drama of each individual story. I wanted the characters to fall further and further, simply to understand and learn how that could possibly happen in life and why, during the fall, it seems okay to be going down instead of up.

Enid, the mother and wife in this story, is an always judgemental, yet always feeling judged, good and “true blue,” tradition following Midwesterner. She and her husband Alfred have one of the saddest relationships I’ve ever read about, and to make matters worse, he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. All she wants is for her three children, Gary, Chip and Denise to come home for Christmas.

The fact that Gary’s wife refuses to ever step foot in her in-law’s house for a holiday again makes this difficult. So does Chip’s sketchy new job in a foreign country, where his main concern is conning the people in the US. And Denise shows interest only because, as the youngest, she feels the most obligation to at least make her father happy, if nothing else.

“The only guaranteed result of having an affair would be to add yet another disapproving woman to his life.”

This book will keep you up at night as you read about business ventures that are way over your head, heartbreaking mistakes, even more heartbreaking judgments, and ultimately… the love of a family, and how no matter how messed up every. single. person. in said family may be, there will always be a hidden reason you should love them and be grateful for them.

And you’ll immediately start feeling like the crazy you thought your parents were, they aren’t. (love you mom and dad!)

And you’ll see your marriage as one of the most functional in all the land.

And you’ll never want to travel to a foreign Eastern European country for “business.”

You might even stop trying to change everyone around you and start accepting them for who they are. You might reach over and grab your spouse’s hand, realizing that the gesture means more to some people than a million dollars. Your heart might warm, even though this is a pretty hard-core realism-induced depressing-state-of-America type book.

You’ll see the light, or it may find you within these pages.

Let me know if you read The Corrections. I’d love to hear that it affected someone the way it affected me.

Love, your truly happy, content, and Midwestern

LOU

The Corrections, book review, hey lou writes, writing

Promise!


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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


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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


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Everyday Happenings

Blog Everyday In May Challenge cont…

Day 6, Monday: If you couldn’t answer with your job, how would you answer the question, ‘what do you do’?

This is a fun one. I’d say there are three main things I do.

I write. I hope that one day, it is disqualified for this list… aka, it’s my only job.

writing, short stories, young adult, fiction

almost 3 years ago, at my parent’s house, working on the first book I ever wrote! It was a doozy let me tell you

I read. Every day. Can’t get enough of it. I wish I had more hours in the day simply so I could finish books in one sitting. In fact, part of me wishes I hadn’t entered this challenge, because all I want to do at this very moment is get back to reading The Magician King because it is so good. I had dreams about it last night!

new writer, young adult, reading

CURRENT READ!!!

ps I always, always take book jackets off. I hate them.

I laugh. Most of the time it’s Greg’s silly moments that make me laugh hysterically, but sometimes I am all alone. In fact, Greg tells me that I am the only person he knows who makes themselves laugh as often as I do. What can I say? I guess I’m pretty funny! :)

writing, laughing, what I do

Lou and Lou laughing away :)

So, if you ever think of me, picture me doing at least one of these three things.

What do you do?

<3 Lou

 


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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

 


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Finally Ready

 I’m finally ready…

I have my coffee. I'm READY!!!

I have my coffee. I’m READY!!!

The new year is here! We’re 5 days in!!! Five is my lucky number. Perfect timing to get back in the swing of things!!!

I’m finally ready to take on the new year. When the clock actually changed, I felt a little overwhelmed. Does anyone else have a different feeling about this one? When 2011 turned into 2012, I felt almost nothing. Another year. Another time when I felt I knew almost exactly what was in store for me. I felt content and comfortable. This time around? I feel a bit unsettled. It’s not a bad thing, not a negative feeling. Just a bit like something is stirring…like there is a change coming, or something entirely unexpected. When the year changed at midnight and I gave Greg a kiss, I felt for the first time that I didn’t know what was coming for the new year. I have no idea what a year from now will look like.

That’s a very exciting thing to realize.

I don’t know where I’ll be living, if I’ll have a kid… what job I might have. I don’t know if I’ll experience something that will change me forever. Every day, we have a chance to make a change or be changed. I know this. But I also feel that especially now, there’s room to grow.

I wanted the year to start out with an exciting trip. My twin sister Meredith and I planned a two night stay in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We had an amazing, sister-bonding, freezing, and life changing time!!! Sometimes the answers to ALL of life’s questions lie in having coffee with your twin. Sorry for those of you who don’t have one! ;)

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Meredith and Me! Walking in the freezing cold!

I jotted down a few new year’s resolutions. Here they are:

Eat Controllably I think this about sums it up. Be in control of what I eat. I don’t feel that I’ve been all that out of control, but after a ton of holiday cheer, it’s definitely time to kick it back into gear with the healthy food!

Move Every Day I know that I don’t have to sweat like a pig in order to get some kind of workout. Some days I go on a short walk or do my [five pound] arm weights… just to make sure I get some movement in!

Stay Positive To go along with this one? Start every day with a smile. It feels cheesy as hell, but when I wake up I make this goofy forced smile, and eventually it turns into a real one! It works!

Give Everyone the Benefit of the Doubt Yes, even that jerk who just cut me off on the highway. They could be having a horrible day. They could be rushing toward a dying family member… you never know! It’s about time I stop judging for good and start worrying about my own self, not what others around me are doing.

Pray More I always need to pray more. When I do, amazing things happen.

Be Patient It is a virtue, after all.

Be Kind I want to be kind all the time!! I might as well start now!

Find Time For Me Discover who I am. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day- if I sit and reflect on the day, the good and the bad, and take in the present moment, I feel much better. Why shouldn’t I do this every day?

Read and Write Each and Every Day I feel more… ME when I do this. I love to do both. When I neglect this part of my life, I find that I allow small things to stress me out. Reading and writing help me stay on the right path.

Be a Better Daughter, Wife, Sister and Friend There are moments when I’ve fallen short in every way.

This is my first “New Year’s Resolution” list. I think I can stick to it! I’ll let you know! :)

What are your resolutions? Have you stuck to any in the past? Are there repeats happening this year? I’d love to know!

<3

writer, poetry, short stories

Maybe I’ll get more in touch with nature, too… ;)


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Be Notorious

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The book YOU need to get TODAY and let change your life.

According to the online Webster definition of Notorious, it means:
adj; generally known and talked of; especially: widely and unfavorably known.

This doesn’t sound all that great. I’ll probably never be widely talked of (I’m no celebrity) and the idea of being unfavorably known? That’s a little scary. It’s scary to think that people might not like me.
HOWEVER. This is the quote that’s been changing my life lately:
Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.” -Rumi

I’ve been obsessed with Rumi lately. The old poet who speaks so often of love, God, life and relationships… well, his words truly are life changing. This quote in particular really gets to me.
Take the first line…

Run from what’s comfortable.

Why should I? My life is very comfortable. I’ve been enjoying things. I have a lot to look forward to each and every day. But have I truly felt alive? Have I felt that through all of this comfort, a reason why I might be here on this Earth? No. I know that in order to make a difference and live a life that matters, I need to be uncomfortable. What I’m not sure about is whether it will be a mild discomfort or a big one. I guess I’m kind of ready for both.

Now let’s face the second line…

Forget safety.

What’s safe? The first thing that popped into my head, which I’m sure most  people won’t really agree with, was not having a dog to take care of. Wearing all of my layers in order to not freeze to death… making sure I wake up in time to make coffee and prepare an awesomely healthy breakfast… which means going to bed early enough to do that… safety is everywhere. In every action I’ve been taking. What does this mean? Forget safety? I don’t think it means that I should stop wearing my seatbelt or anything like that. However, I think it means going out on a limb. It means living enough to let things happen, whether they are good or bad. I won’t actually put myself in danger, but I won’t take every little precaution necessary to be safe. If I’m safe my entire life, well… that doesn’t make for much of a life.

Live where you fear to live.

What does that mean to you? For so many it means alone. For some it means living in a new place. It means taking that new job or quitting that old one. It means going for your dream even if you go broke trying to do so. Live where you fear to live. That will make getting up every day much more interesting… wouldn’t you agree?

Destroy your reputation.

Now, I’m not talking Kristen Stewart style or anything. This is inspiring because it really brings home this: It does not matter what other people think. How in the world could it matter? No one else is with you 24/7. YOU are the only one living with your every day actions. You are the only one who should care about your reputation… which means the way you think about yourself!!! Wouldn’t it be funny to hear someone say, “Yeah, I think I have a pretty good reputation. I mean… I like myself.” That would be refreshing. Not only would that person A) be awesome because they truly didn’t care what other people thought, but they’d also B) be even more awesome because they truly liked themselves. I’m craving more people in my life who truly love who they’ve become. I love authenticity, but without the pretentiousness that sometimes comes along with that. Would you be acting differently if reputation had nothing to do with it? That’s what inspires me. I need to do what I want to do, regardless of what others think. Even if that destroys my reputation. My current one, anyway. I guess we’ll always have one. It just might change!!

And finally…

Be notorious.

Which to me, means live with bravery. Be known for doing something crazy or exciting. Be known for going out on a limb and not giving up when you land on your stomach and get the wind knocked out of you. Anyone can survive that… after you get past the part where you can’t breathe.

So I’ll be doing my best to live out Rumi’s words. I feel TRULY inspired. I hope you do, too!!


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Things I {Hate To} Love

Things I {Hate To} Love

I don’t know if it’s just because so many things I love fall under that famous “stuff white people like” list, or because some of these things are just embarrassing, but I felt the need to add the “I hate” to this. We all feel that way sometimes, right? We hate to love the pop song that won’t stop being played everywhere we go -because what’s more unoriginal than liking something that the whole world apparently does, too? People like to be their own person. I totally get that. They like to be “the first person to love that band/song/product and now everyone does and it’s so annoying.”

But here is my unashamed list:

1. Twilight

This is a blog about writing and fiction, so here you go. I’ll admit it: I have been to more than one Twilight party, okay? The first time I read the series was my sophomore year of college. Greg and I were doing long distance (he was living in Nashville going to Belmont University) and all you have when you’re doing L.D. is phone conversations. Though I still missed him terribly, I pretty much ignored him for two weeks while I read through the entire series non-stop. I’d be half way listening at night… and he’d say, “Okay, just finish the book. Goodnight. I love you.” Which was great. I’m glad he was so understanding! I love a good love story. And Edward… the Edward in my mind, not the one on screen, is the best looking person in the world. (besides Greg ;)..)

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My first Twilight party… notice how we’re doing the book cover pose!

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My first premier! We were so tired!

HOWEVER: I couldn’t read the series a second time. I tried… but I got too bored during New Moon. It is actually pretty cheesy.

2. Gotye: Somebody That I Used To Know

I know, I know! Somebody please get the radio stations to stop playing that song! I have a special love of this one for many reasons. Not only does it evoke so much emotion in me that I almost WISH I could relate to the song (almost…), but it’s one of the few things I can say I really did like before it got huge… I mean, I first watched the you tube video when maybe only 1 million had watched it. Ha Ha. I got to it before it was on the radio, at least. I love it! It’s emotional! He’s shouting at her! His teeth are huge! I love it! He looks good with paint on his face! She is like a better version of Katy Perry! I loooove it.

PLUS: His other stuff is great. Check out Save Me and Heart’s A Mess… amazing songs!

3. Miley Cyrus: Party In The USA

I can really sing along to this one. Plus, I have been to numerous weddings where this was the song that made the dance floor come to life. It’s awesome! Also: Miley looks great after cutting out wheat and getting engaged.

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My friend Jeremy and me… actually dancing to this song at our friend’s wedding!! It was awesome we got a picture!

4. T. Swift

Don’t we all? Mean is my theme song (I wish it had come out when I was in high school!). Ours is another (don’t even get me started on the music video!! tears!!). And the songs about horrible relationships? Well, I can’t exactly relate, but they get to me! {As long as the word “princess” isn’t in her song, I’ll probably really <3 it. (that theme was something I found way too cheesy and overdone and didn’t like at all!)} She’s great. I don’t necessarily want to love Taylor, but I do. She’s cute and always looks like a Pinterest picture. PLUS: She met my older sister at a spa in Minnesota and told her she was beautiful, which Jessica most certainly is :)

5. Jane Austen

I’m not exactly sure why it struck me to add her to my list, but when I took my Jane Austen class in college there were a lot of haters. Some people prefer the zombie versions of all of her books, but not moi. Her books make me cry and laugh. I get so swept up in the suspense of the love she evokes… Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility are my two favorite Jane Austen books! I understand that some people hate the cliched love. Some people think her stories are filled with swooning women who are forced to stay at home and men who take advantage of the situation. But man… sometimes that whole way of life just doesn’t seem all that bad. Why not have a man ride up on horseback and ask permission to speak with you? Why not curl your hair, wear beautiful dresses, and speak properly? I like that romantic way of life. It’s not perfect… but neither is the way of life now.

6. Whiskey

I actually don’t hate to love this at all. I just love it. I was recently introduced to a fine rye whiskey and I sipped on a tiny amount for about an hour (thanks, Will!!) … and YUM!!! The aftertaste was like HONEY!!! Which just so happens to be my favorite food of all time. No getting drunk for me- I don’t have to get past “warm and tingly” to enjoy some of this alcoholy. {I just might be sipping on some right now. Don’t judge me… my house is freezing.}

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My first spirit purchase

7. Tattoos

Don’t hate this one at all, either, actually. I love them. I live vicariously through anyone who has them. They’re beautiful and daring and stylish…. I just haven’t had the nerve to get some ink. {If I ever do, it will say “two and two are four.” Read 1984, people!} All who have- you are my hero. Don’t be surprised if I approach you and ask you about your tattoo. I do it all the time.

7. The Wire

I already cuss a little bit too much, but this show put me over the edge. And Bodie…and Omar… don’t even get me started on how much I love them both. I had never even heard of this show before a friend let us borrow the DVD of all five seasons. Apparently it’s something that “everyone loves and is overrated…” but I just don’t see it.

8. Organic Food

Really, it’s pretty much all I buy. It’s always shocking, but some people love to give me a hard time about this one. Why? Why is it so crazy that I want clean and healthy food, which preferably didn’t use up millions of gallons of oil to get to my kitchen table? It’s important! I don’t want to be preachy or anything, but after I read Michael Pollan’s Ominvore’s Dilemma I was like okay. I get it. If you want something a little lighter… Food Rules by M.P. will do just fine, too. These books changed my life. Literally, I could hardly function in society for almost a month after reading them. I eventually settled down a bit, but I still feel very strongly about the food industry. Did you know? …Other countries (think France…) spend up to 20% of their income on food. That’s compared to our very low average… some as low as 6%. Greg and I made a very conscious decision to spend more of our income on GOOD food, and less on other things. For instance, I’m not a TV hater (shout out Cindy! haha), but we do not own a TV at the moment. We are saving money by not paying for cable or the actual TV! We dress like onions (layers and layers!) in order to keep our heating bill down. We don’t make meat the biggest portion of any meal, but get our protein in there, as well as our veggies. The outcome? We feel great and we have fun buying the ingredients for every meal we make. :)

9. Tea

It’s just funny, because right when we started saying “I am just really into tea right now!”, someone showed me that dang “stuff white people like list,” and that quote is basically on there. I love it. Green and white are the best!!

10. My Husband’s Beard

I guess this made the list because it does make us a little more hipster-y than we already are. (Greg’s brother gives us a hard time… but I’ll always deny the fact that Greg and I are hipsters. I don’t have quite that much energy to wear that type of clothing every day! But my older sister did give me a birthday card that said “Hippy Birthday”… hmmm. Oh yeah, and Greg works at Whole Foods, plays in a folksy americana band and wears Clarks. Haha) Anyway, back to the beard. It’s kind of messy and food gets trapped in it… but it’s cute! I encourage it. Bonus: I have this weird obsession with Abe Lincoln, so there’s also that appeal! However, Greg just trimmed it this week, so we have a while to go again before it’s quite up to Abe standards.

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I heart his beard! <3

11. Single-Origin Coffee

See 9. Tea

12. Being A Good Wifey

I’m old fashioned in this way. I’m not quite a feminist, at least in terms of what that usually means in this day and age. (don’t pretend like you don’t know what I mean!) I like the idea of being the best wife I can be, having kids (eventually), and cooking meals, but just as long as Greg does all of those things too! (minus having the kids part, of course!) I know some women who really loathe the idea. I say, as long as I’m happy and laugh at least 20 times a day, life is good. Also, if I get my share of stuff done, Greg will, too. A good marriage means being a team, and I like playing my role there. I don’t really care if that’s buying into some trick that our society has ingrained in me. I like it anyway!

13. Natural, or “Eastern” Medicine

Now, let me start this one by saying that I do love Western medicine, too. I wouldn’t be alive (a few times over) if it weren’t for modern Western medicine, in fact. (I was born blue. I had my appendix taken out my Sophomore year of college. Thank you, very much!) However, I am totally against over medication and over dependence on over-the-counter drugs. I am terrified to O.D. on Tylenol. Seriously. I grew up with a mom who only really gave us Bayer Aspirin (“…because it’s been around the longest!”) and only when we really needed it. In my (very non-medically educated) opinion, there’s hardly anything that a good night’s sleep, kale, and some hot tea with honey and lemon can’t cure. The last time I thought I was getting sick, Greg made me our “Be Well” soup, and voila! I was better right away. We pretty much throw anything healthy we can think of, and mostly kale, into a mostly water broth and eat it for a few days. It’s absolutely amazing. I like the idea of herbs and healthy eating… I love the idea of prevention through what we eat, rather than using drugs to cover up the damage done. Being dependent on a massive amount of pills makes me so sad for people. I think there are other options in some cases (but definitely not all!! remember… I know it took more than kale to get my almost ruptured appendix out of me!!). Food dye, pesticides, and over usage of drugs is more of a medical problem than most people would like to admit.

Okay, I think I’m done. There are lots of other things I love, but I’ll probably make a “part 2” for this topic. I wanted to write this post for a few reasons. One is that I have had some great people in my life who were unashamed to love what they loved. Take my older sisters, for instance. Emily loves Hanson, from the moment they first struck it big, all through people hating them, and even now. They ARE great. If you think otherwise, take a listen to some recent Hanson stuff. I saw them in concert and it was one of the best shows I’ve been to!! Also, Emily likes the band One Direction. Sure, they’re very poppy, hardly real musicians, and their songs all have the same sort of ring to them. But they’re cute, their songs are fun to listen to and they’re British! She likes them! She isn’t afraid of it! AND she won a trip to New York to see them in concert!! So cool!!!

Then there’s my sweet older sister Jessica. She loves faeries (spelled that way!) and glitter and anything girly and beautiful. She has always been herself. Growing up, there were times when I thought, “Wow, that’s odd…” but now I always think, “Wow, that’s so cool!! She’s doing what she loves! She doesn’t care what other people think!!”

Meredith and I have looked up to them all our lives and found inspiration and bravery because of their fearless love for whatever they, well, loved.

It’s fun to sing along to songs on the radio, no matter how overplayed or popular the song is. It’s fun to read a book, even when there are people who want to say it’s stupid and only for silly girls. I love getting lost in something. And hey… there’s a reason those things get super popular! For the most part, they’re great!

<3