A milestone

I started this blog over ten years ago because I love two things above all else: reading and writing. In 2009 I discovered this new(ish) blog thing, and thought, “I could do that!”

So I did.

[Here’s that first post from August 23, 2009.]

I wrote about books mostly. (And still do!) I didn’t care if anyone read my posts or not (And still don’t!) because I just needed to write, for gosh sake. To put my thoughts on “paper” in a way that didn’t feel self-absorbed. I am never more fully myself than when I am reading, so this is me--all four hundred and twenty two posts–at my best.

Several years ago I moved from Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress site, thanks to the help of Jennette Fulda from Makeworthy Media. Jennette is a blogger I follow, as well as a self-employed web designer, and I knew her professional touch would give my work the look it deserved.

Until recently, I blogged for Netgalley, receiving digital reader’s copies from publishers in exchange for an honest review. Choosing titles to request from their catalog was like Christmas every day for this reader. And then nearly two hundred titles later, it wasn’t fun anymore. The long list of unread titles on my Kindle made my palms clammy and I got restless. Time to move in a new direction.

After retirement I began to include not only what I’ve read, but also what I’ve lived. Let me be honest. That little change-up has stretched me. Writing about my life doesn’t come easily–I feel self-conscious in a way that I don’t when writing about books.

So much has happened in the past ten years. I gained and lost the same thirty pounds twice (!) and my hair is gray. Five members of my immediate family were diagnosed with cancer. My children left Our Town. Four grandchildren have squirreled their way into my heart. I watched a loved one struggle with addiction and recover. I lost my father. I have traveled more of the U.S. in the past ten years than I did in the previous fifty. I facilitate writing workshops. I retired.

You might not be able to tell from every post, but it’s all there–the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hidden behind a word, wrapped around a sentence, or tangled within a paragraph.

WWW Wednesday

I’m participating in Taking On a World of Words blog hop this week by answering three Ws: what I’m currently reading, what I just finished reading, and what I think I’ll read next. Comment with your own Ws below, and be sure to hop over to Sam’s blog to connect with other readers on her WWW post.

Release date: March 14, 2017

Currently reading:
I started Himself  by Jess Kidd (NetGalley) last week and it’s taken me to a time and place I’ve never been. Twenty-something Mahoney travels from Dublin to the small village of Mulderrig. He left as an infant, but it’s the circumstances of his leaving that rub. His mother, the village wild thing, disappeared without a trace one day, and Mahoney with her. So how did he end up on the doorstep of a Dublin orphanage? And with a photo of his mum with cryptic note penciled on the back: “Your mammy loved you.” Add to that the fact that Mahoney has a gift: he sees spirits. Right alongside the visible world, Mahoney sees ghost figures walking about, lingering nearly everywhere. Mahoney sets out to uncover the mystery of his mother’s disappearance with the help of an elderly eccentric Mrs. Cauley. The duo is sure to make friends and enemies, in the village and the spirit world, is my guess.

Release date: April 11, 2017

Recently finished:
The last book I finished was Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic which really resonated with me. I’m lucky in that the writer’s studio I attend has a facilitator who believes in the serendipity of creativity, so the book itself was more gift than revelation. I’ve read some pretty harsh review of Big Magic (can you say New York Times?), but I think even the first few chapters are worth the price of the book.

Reading next:
I’ve been waiting for how many years for this one? Let’s see. The Historian was published in 2005, so that would make it an even dozen. Elizabeth Kostova’s new novel The Shadow Land is due to be released in April. The story is set in Sofia, Bulgaria once again, and from the publisher’s blurb, it includes an urn, some ashes, mystery, and danger. I’m taking bets on whether or not Vlad will make a reappearance in this novel. I can’t get to this one soon enough.   

Work has been busy (we’re mid-marking period, and I just collected an essay!) so I’m behind on my List; the sad fact is reading slows down considerably during the school year. The struggle is real, my friend. But thanks to Taking On the World Of Words and Sam for allowing me to tag  blog along every few Wednesdays.

Tag … you’re it!

I wrote about Not the Average Mama last month–Jessica’s blog is a must read, whether you’re a step or not. This week, Not the Average Mama is participating in a book tag via A Kinder Way. and I thought I’d join the fun. Consider yourself tagged and share the love!

What are you reading now?
I’m reading a digital reader’s copy titled A Hundred Thousand Worlds by by Bob Proehl, published just this week. It’s a romp through a Comic Con-like world, and it’s been fun to lose myself in a world that I know nothing about.

What’s the next one on your list?consequence
I’m torn–do I start another DRC for review or catch up on some hard copies I have on my shelf? I’ll probably start Eric Fair’s Consequence. I heard him on NPR this spring and his story is compelling.

Do you prefer a Real Book or a Reader?
It depends. Advanced reader copies are usually digital, so my Kindle has quite a queue. And then, of course, Amazon tempts me with Kindle deals. But a trade paperback book would probably always be my first choice–I’m just running out of places to put them.

Do you stop mid book if you don’t like it?
I used to never quit on a book. Now, I if get through about a quarter of the book and I’m not drawn to continue, I don’t. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Do you have to finish a chapter before setting the book down?

What’s the best series you’ve read?
I’m not really a series reader–though I read the Harry Potter series, of course. Even as a young reader, I didn’t go for the Nancy Drews that all my other friends were hooked on. I must admit, though, that I have a current obsession with Flavia De Luce mysteries.
What’s the first book you remember loving?
The Box Car Children–the first one. My second grade teacher Mrs. Zimmerman read it to us one chapter each afterno0n (unless we begged for one more and she gave in) and it was the first “chapter book” I had ever heard read aloud. I read it again myself a couple times as a child, and then to my own children twenty-some years later. I loved the chipped china cups Jessie found, and I can almost taste the potatoes she roasted in the fire. I’m still infatuated.

Ever been in a book club?
A few of my teaching colleagues and I had a book club for a couple years. I loved it because we talked about something other than school, and I got to see a different side of my co-workers. It kind of fizzled out, in part because of our busy lives, but I wonder. I think sometimes people start reading because it’s a good thing to do–kind of like taking vitamins–and that rubs off onto book clubs. I’m more of a I-must-talk-about-books-like-I-must-breathe type of gal.

Favorite book you read in school?
Now that I teach literature, it’s hard for me to remember what I loved as a student and what I love as a teacher! I didn’t like Fahrenheit 451 as a student, but I love teaching it. Same thing with Lord of the Flies. I think my favorite from high school is probably F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. Or maybe Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Or maybe …

Least favorite book you actually stuck with?

Recently, I’d have to say it was The Goldfinch. That book got so much press and I found nothing really redeeming about the main character. Same thing with Jonathon Franzen’s novels. I want to like them so that I, too, can be an oh-so-cool modern reader, but I find myself becoming frustrated by characters’ lack of moral insight. I’ll read a book with characters who are evil, but they’ve got to have some sort of realization, if not transformation. It’s the human story, after all.

What is the best book gift you’ve received?
When my husband and I were dating, I coveted a coffee table book about Ethiopia titled African Ark. It was extraordinarily expensive in those 1990 prices: $75. He surprised me with a copy for Christmas (or my birthday?)–I knew it was an over-the-top gift for his bookstore staff/college student budget, but he always spoiled me. 

What author would you like to have a cup of coffee with?
Ray Bradbury was such an incredibly vibrant man, so engaged with life and the creative process. I’d like to start an I’d Like To Be Like Ray campaign; he’s such an example of how aging can be a time a generative period of life. Here’s a video I show my students each flameyear–what’s not to like about a man who wants to get his cat in the shot?!

If you could visit a place in any book, where would it be?
Kenya, for sure. I read Izak Dinesan, Beryl Markham, and Elsbeth Huxley and wanted to live in their world more than any other. Of course I realize that colonial Kenya was an oppressive place for the indigenous peoples and the wildlife. I don’t condone colonialism in any way–but those authors wrote about the land, lifestyle, and people in such a Romantic way, I was hooked. Still am.

What character from a book would you love to meet?
Interestingly, I find myself drawn to characters from the classics more than contemporary titles. (Except, maybe, for that little Flavia I mentioned earlier!) So it would be a toss up between Jane Eyre or Elizabeth Bennett.

What is your favorite children’s book(s)?
I have so many, and most are favorites because I connect them to my own children–and since they now have children of their own, that means some of these titles are a bit dated. I hated the Berenstein Bears series (but my daughter loved them!). The kids also loved the Ruth Stiles Gannet’s Dragon books: My Father’s Dragon and Dragons of Blueland (Me, not so much.)
These are keepers:
Nicholas Bentley Stoningpot III
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge
Blueberries for Sal
(when we go blueberry picking I still say, “Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk”! and drive people crazy.)
any Tomie dePaola book
any Patricia Polacco book

Blogs I love: part 2

Hopefully you had a chance to check out a few of my favorite blogs when I posted about them here. It’s always fun to send readers to bloggers I love myself. So without any further ado …

blogs I loveThe Truck Traveler
Zelijka lived in Serbia and her life was like so many of ours: she had a desk job in an accounting office, working 9 to 5 … or something like that! When her partner took a new job as a long haul trucker in Eastern Europe, she decided to join him on the road as often as she could. Just. Imagine. Chucking the desk job in favor of seeing Russia. Belarus. Croatia. Montenegro. Her posts always give some historical background of the sites she writes about. Photos included! Zelijka’s blog is so original–it’s a must read for anyone who has ever dreamed about the open road.

Miss Anna Pie
Miss Anna is a mommy blogger, and I suppose I’m much too old to read her. But I don’t care. I can’t for the life of me remember where I found her blog, but I’ve been following for a couple years. Anna is an accountant, her hubby a seminarian, and they are people of faith committed to living intentionally and simply. Now this might sound like quite a few other bloggers out there, but this is also a young couple who felt called to foster children. Anna is honest and open about the challenges of raising two (then three!) Littles, as well as navigating the bureaucracy of our social welfare system. Several months ago the family’s petition to adopt their Littles was granted and just last week they became a forever family. You’ll love Miss Anna Pie’s voice–she’s real through and through, with a little sass thrown in for good measure.

Retired English Teacher
One of my life’s goals is to become a retired English teacher, so imagine my delight in finding one to stalk follow in the wild on line! Sally Weesely lives in Colorado and writes about her girlfriends, books, writing, family–all things I have come to love even more passionately as I creep pretty darn close to 6-0. There is no glam or glitz in her blog, but her voice is sincere and her heart just shines. I’d love to go to coffee with her. Give me a call, Sally!

Not the Average Mama
I’m no stranger to step-moms. My kids have one, after all. I’ve had two–yes, you read that right, but that’s another story for another post. Now meet Jessica–a twenty-something young wife and step-mom who is more together than just about any other mom (or step-mom!) I know. Her relationship to her kids (and, gulp, their mom) amazes me. There are no games in this step-mom’s life, I’m guessing. She is way too thoughtful and straightforward for that. I’ve never sailed the step-mom waters myself–but if I was to use my own relationship with my kids’ step mom as any kind of measure, I’d have to say I pretty much capsized that boat. So I am amazed and encouraged and even a little jealous that there are women out there like Jessica.

That should give you some good reading over the next few days! And I’ve got more where these came from, so stay tuned to … part 3?!

Blogs I love: part 1

I read quite a few blogs and would love to share my favorites with you. Here’s my first installment of Blogs I Love:

blogs I love
Kristina B@Flickr.com

Caty Dearing
Caty writes about being a wife, mom, teacher, and writer. She’s a refreshing mommy blogger because she’s incredibly insightful and doesn’t shy away from tackling difficult subjects in an honest manner. (Read: she’s not all beauty hauls and recipes and cute kiddie photos.) She’s also a woman of faith, but she is thoughtful, not heavy-handed. I enjoy her posts … and I’m hardly a mommy blogger. Grandmommy, maybe!

Drink More Decaf
Imagine chucking it all and living in an RV, roaming the country from East to South to the Great Wild West, stopping every now and then to settle in somewhere for a week or two or three. Sounds romantic, right? Well that’s exactly with Sharon, Dave, and their dog Frodo did–and you can follow their adventures and her musings on her blog Drink More Decaf. Sharon gives me a glimpse of a life I think I might love, sharing the ups and downs along the way.

And So It Goes
Janet Givens is a woman of a certain age–like me!–but she’s  not about to sit back and let life pass by. Janet has opinions and she isn’t afraid to share them in thought-provoking posts. A recent favorite of mine is about clothes lines–but not about the beauty and nostagia of them as I might write–and the ecology, economy, and liberty they might afford us. Janet also served in the Peace Corps in their over 55 program, and the book about her experiences, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe, is on my TBR pile.

Denice’s Day
If you read my blog, you’ve probably followed some of my links to Denice’s Day. Denice is a Renaissance Woman, in my mind. She’s a reader, blogger, photographer, baker, and quilter–I swear there’s nothing she won’t tackle. (And do well, by the way.) Her posts let me peek in on things I’ll never attempt, not because I wouldn’t want to … but because I just don’t have her talents. I’m also one of the lucky ones who can call her friend and let me tell you–our coffee dates never last less than 2 or three hours!

That’s it for Round One of Blogs I Love … I’ve got plenty more where these came from. Until then, pop by any one of these blogs today and you’ll be happy you did.