December 19, 2010

The Influential Fifteen

Recently someone tagged me in a Facebook note about 15 authors who have been influential in his life.  The challenge to me was to quickly think of my own list of 15, and post it in a note while tagging others.  Normally I'm not one to do such, but once I started thinking about who had influenced me and why, it was just too much fun to pass up.  So I did it.  If you're not a friend of mine on Facebook and would like to see my "Influential Fifteen," I've included the list at the end of this post.

As I read the instructions, my immediate reaction was to think that there aren't that many authors who have influenced me.  I mean, sure there are authors whose writing I enjoy, but authors who have truly influenced me in some way?  Well, it turns out there are, and after I posted my list, I thought of more to add.

When completing the task, most people simply listed names; however, the person who sent it to me gave reasons as to why each of his authors made the cut.  I liked this extra bit of insight into his life, so I did it as well. I wish other friends had done the same. To me, it's fascinating to read why someone decided to include William Goldman on his list as the first author. So when I created mine, I did so with much thought about why each author deserved to be there.  Sure, I could have simply created an impressive lineup of "greats" or best sellers, but just in case someone was interested, and also because it was a bit of an exercise in self-discovery, I gave it more than a quick, passing thought.

And so, dear reader, I ask you this, if you love to read, who has influenced you and how or why?  I'd love to see your list. You can post it in a comment or send it to me in an   e-mail. It truly is interesting to reflect on who is swaying us as we wander through life.

Here's my "Influential Fifteen" (in basic order of when they influenced me during my life):

Mother Goose - OK, I know she’s not a real person, but the nursery rhymes written by "Mother Goose" were hugely influential on me, so she makes the list.  My Mother Goose book was the first one I remember truly loving as a child. The nursery rhymes were the first I memorized and learned to read. Thus began my love affair with the written word. 

Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss - I mean come on. Who hasn’t been influenced by the good doctor?  I dare anyone to tell me they haven’t quoted one of his books or mentioned one of his characters at some point.  I often create my own written or verbal versions of Green Eggs and Ham to fit the occasion. Dr. Seuss gave me the love of whimsical rhyming. 

Arlene Mosel - She wrote Tikki Tikki Tembo (not to be confused with Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling), a children’s book about a little boy who fell in a well, but almost wasn’t saved because his name was just too long (Tikki Tikki Tembo-No Sa Rembo-Chari Bari Ruchi-Pip Peri Pembo). I'll never forget his name or the book. She took a folktale and showed me how storytelling can be fun and memorable.

Laura Ingalls Wilder - She was one of my first introductions to more grownup reading in third grade and I read all her books voraciously. I loved the adventures of her life and fell in love with idea of writing thanks to her.

Edgar Allan Poe - "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore..."  Yes, at one time I could actually recite all the words to The Raven.  He was one of my first horror author loves, and it all started with Vincent Price movies. Once I found out they were based on the writings of E.A. Poe, I had to read everything he wrote. Thus began a darker twist to some of my young writing, something that would be encourage later by another author.

Dante Alighieri - I’ve been fascinated by The Divine Comedy since I was in middle school. Yes, I was an odd child.  I mean really, what 7th grader wants to read The InfernoPurgatorio, and Paradiso?  It was beautiful, complicated, difficult, long, and made me think.  I still love it. 

Stephen King - Oh the hours I’ve spent in Mr. King’s twisted worlds. I was a fan from the beginning with Carrie. I wasn’t old enough to see the movie, but that didn’t stop me from reading the book, and every King book that followed, until around 2001.  I haven't been such a fan since that year, but I'm giving him another shot with Under the Dome. He helped me realize it's OK to let your mind wander to creepy, dark places and express it on paper.

Kathleen Woodiwiss - Do not laugh at this one. Yes, I used to read bodice rippers when I was a teen.  Hey, the instructions were to list influential authors, and by golly her writing was influential on my life at the time. I moved from Little House on the Prairie to historical romances with ease.  It’s amazing what you can learn in books.

William Faulkner - This one isn’t because I loved his books or his writing, but simply because I chose him to base my first college English research paper on when given a choice of authors.  It was there that I learned I love to do research, love to write about it, and I’m good at it. The instructions say influential authors, not authors you love to read.

Maya Angelou - I first heard her recite one of her poems at President Clinton’s inauguration (no snide comments please), and immediately was captivated.  I have to admit though that I most enjoy her poetry when she’s reciting it.  She made me want to write poetry again, something I had given up for several years. I now indulge in poetic freedom. 

James Patterson - Mr. Patterson’s books helped me through a few tough years when I really needed a good thriller to take my mind off of things.  He also made me think I wanted to write thrillers, which I can’t do.  I’ll leave it up to him.

John Grisham - Two reasons he made the list.  First, I just like reading his books.  Second, he’s the person who made me realize that your first career choice, isn’t necessarily your last.  You can always follow your heart and become a writer.  

Julia Cameron - No one said they had to be fiction authors. As a writer I have a strong desire to edit as I go and that’s a bad thing.  Ms. Cameron's books encourage artists in general to just let go and let their art flow. I need that reminder now and then.

J.K. Rowling - I didn’t realize young adult fiction could be so enthralling. She’s also another writer who inspired me to keep writing, no matter what my circumstances. 

Marian Keyes - I thought I should just go ahead and confess that I love stories about messed up Irish families. Ms. Keyes makes the list because she reintroduced me, as an adult, to chick lit. I realized it was OK to occasionally indulge, so I do every time she releases a book.

December 6, 2010

Musica Aeterna

My, what a mixed reaction my last post received.  Some loved it, saying it was inspirational and moved them to take action.  Others told me it was a little too preachy and I should keep my opinions to myself.  It's OK.  I can take it.  I'm not striving to please anyone except myself, but let's see if we can find some middle ground with this post.

I've recently been introduced to the wonderful world of movie soundtracks.  Yes, I knew they existed before and even owned a few, but unless the music in a movie really stood out, I never paid a lot of attention.  Now I do, thanks to a wonderfully geeky discophile in my life.  He's introduced me to music I likely never would have had the opportunity to hear (Perfume - The Story of a Murderer), and has given me music I fell in love with immediately (District 9).  Music has always played an important role in my life, but thanks to him, my horizons have been vastly expanded, and I now hear and feel the music playing in the background of every movie I watch. I notice how it affects the scene, and I understand how it can change the mood.

But after movies have ended, I'm now finding that I want to own many of the soundtracks.  Yes, some of them conjure up images of the movies I enjoyed, but most simply provide outstanding music that works as the soundtrack for my life.  Some songs are perfect for reading, others for writing, some for cleaning house, some for taking photos, and some lull me to sleep when my mind is racing and can't settle at the end of a long day.  There seems to be a soundtrack for every scenario.

Perhaps the best is that lately, I find myself simply sitting with my eyes closed, letting the music flow, conjuring new images and emotions.  It relaxes me, takes my imagination to new places, and allows me to be a little more creative.  There are also times it brings up memories of people from a forgotten or not so forgotten past, and I'm transported to a time that can't be recaptured, but can always be remembered.  The ultimate though, is when I simply drift off, unaware I'm doing so until the music ends and I awaken to silence. 

If you don't pay attention to the music in movies or even some television shows, I encourage you to listen.  And if you really enjoy what you hear, take steps to own some of it.  Let a little instrumental loveliness flow into your life and be the soundtrack for some of your day-to-day activities.  Appreciate what the composers and musicians have created. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to turn off the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean and play a little music from Frost/Nixon.

November 26, 2010

Making Repairs

Greetings Dear Readers,

I know it's been more than a month since I've updated my blog, and there is simply no excuse.  Well, I have a million of them, but none are valid.  The fact is that I let myself get distracted by other things, such as reaching my goal of writing 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month and watching some of my favorite shows on TV. If you're still with me and still reading, I hope you recognize this is just how life is and how we are as people.  Even things that are important to us are sometimes set aside in favor of things that are frivolous and fun.

As you know, if you've read my blog for any length of time, I don't really have a focus or specific topic.  Whatever happens to be on my mind at the moment is what I write about.  I considered changing that for the new year, thought maybe I would drag you along with me on a journey in writing a book, but I've decided against it.  For one, I think you'd be bored.  For another, there are times I simply want to share things that are on my mind and have nothing to do with writing; this blog is my personal venue for doing so.  Which leads us to what is on my mind today.  Actually, what has been on my mind for some time.

Relationships.  Whether friends, family, or significant others, relationships are difficult to maintain.  One wrong word, one wrong deed and everything can fall apart.  It can take years to mend and sometimes it can never be mended.  We're supposed to forgive those we love, move beyond the misspoken word or the angry statement, but too often we don't.  We hold on to the perceived wrong, the perceived ugly action and we effectively end what was once a beautiful thing that gave us joy and filled a place in our life.

Why is it so hard for us to give the other person the benefit of the doubt?  Why can we not move past the first transgression?  Why do we sometimes actively look for other transgressions after that first?  I don't have the answers.  I wish I did.  I know we've all been on both sides of the action.  We've all held a grudge and we've all been the victim of someone not giving us a true second chance.

There are several scenarios happening with people I know right now.  All it would take is conversation, forgiveness, and trust for them to regain the happiness they once had.  I don't know if it will ever happen, I can only hope.

An elderly father and his son who had a falling out several years ago haven't spoken, other than the son yelling from his front porch for the father to go away.  What is the issue?  One can only guess about the deeper underlying causes, but the surface story is that it's years of perceived misunderstandings.  The father isn't the most tactful person, and the son isn't the most forgiving.  The son has held on to an early wrong, and he's never moved beyond it.  In fact, every word and deed since that first wrong has been proof that his first judgement of the father was correct.  Now they don't speak.  The father wishes desperately his son would talk to him and let him be part of his life, but the son is having none of it.

Friends haven't spoken in years because one made a selfish decision at a time when things were strained in her life.  One doesn't know how to reach out to the other and ask for forgiveness.  The other doesn't know how to offer forgiveness unasked.  So a friendship built on years of shared secrets, tears, laughter, adventures, and love dissolves.  Over the years they think about each other and the selfish one reaches out, but the other has to forgive and trust has to be given again.

And that's what it comes down to; forgiveness and trust need to be given to the "offending" party.  Not the fake, smile to their face and tell them you forgive them kind, but the real deal; the kind that comes from your heart and the depths of your soul.  It has to be complete forgiveness.  Without forgiveness, trust simply can't follow.  If trust doesn't follow, then all of it is for naught.  But true forgiveness is difficult and sometimes impossible.  Will the son ever forgive his father?  I really hope so.  I can think of nothing more sad than for one of them to die before they've made amends.  Will the friends reconnect so forgiveness can happen?  We'll see.  One has reached out to the other, so perhaps there is hope on the horizon.

So my questions for you, dear readers, are these.  Who in your life do you need to forgive?  Who do you need to extend trust to right now in order to repair a relationship well worth saving?  Who do you need to apologize to or make amends with in order to move toward obtaining forgiveness and trust from them?  Maybe the answer is no one.  Maybe you're one of the lucky few who has perfect relationships.  If so, you are fortunate indeed.  Call or write your friends and family and tell them how much you love and appreciate them.  But if you're like the rest of us and have a relationship in need of repair, take a deep breath and make the move to regain the joy you once had with the person.  Maybe you can't get it back, but if you don't try, you won't know.  What if you take a chance and it works?

October 9, 2010

NaNoWriMo Approaches

In less than one month, people in various parts of the world will participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  Just what is NaNoWriMo?  It's one month of writing insanity, in which one attempts to meld 50,000 words into a single document that emerges as a potential novel.  Yes, write an entire 175 page novel during the single month of November.  Can't be done you say?  I beg to differ.  Now I'm not vouching for the quality of said novel, but it is doable.  Just ask the many NaNo "winners" who reach their 50,000 word goal by November 30, yours truly included.

The primary goal of NaNoWriMo isn't to create a quality novel that can immediately be sent off to be picked up as the next best seller and hailed as Oprah's next book club fave.  The goal is to get creatives to put aside their internal editors for a month and just let the words flow.  For me, this is a necessary exercise.  You see, eleven months out of the year I have this compulsive need to edit as I go, which significantly slows my writing progress and often impedes my creativity.  But for one glorious month I actually manage to simply write.  Often this carefree attitude carries on for several more months, resulting in work that is imaginative and simply fun to create.

There's also the added benefit of joining write-ins.  These are weekly gatherings of writers at set locations to bang out as many words as possible for a set period of time.  During our evenings or afternoons together, challenges will be issued and encouragement will be given to keep everyone moving toward their 50,000 word goal.  It's a chance to step out of the everyday and simply focus on what we love, creating worlds with words that will hopefully one day be honed to perfection, then read and enjoyed by others.

If you like to write and have never participated in NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to check it out and give it a try.  Even if you don't actually achieve the 50,000 word goal, you will not regret bonding with some new writing friends as you let go of that blasted internal editor that threatens to doom a perfectly fabulous story.  Care to join me?  Go to the National Novel Writing Month website and check it out.  I'll be there, adding daily to my word count, chiming in on the forums, and moving forward with freedom through a story limited only by my imagination.

September 12, 2010

In Praise of Friends

Recently I was talking to a friend who seems to have an inordinate amount of people in his life who are very self-focused.  Let's face it, we all tend to be to some extent, but some people definitely swing more towards self than others.  Think fast and I know you can come up with at least one person in your life who has this tendency.  I know I do. Hopefully I'm not that person, but there's always that possibility.

These are the people who, if you asked them, couldn't name five things about you, even though they've known you for years.  Ask them.  Just five things.  Tell me if I have siblings, and if they are male or female.  Do you know if I've ever been married, and if so how long?  Name two cities I've lived in, not counting the one in which you met me.  What do I do for a living?  Where do I work?  What do I do in my spare time, besides write this blog?  Name my favorite drink.  Do I like animals and do I have a pet?  What is my biggest fear?  What is my biggest accomplishment?  Tell me one thing you like about me, besides the fact that I will listen to you spill your tales of woe for hours on end.  There are people I've known for years who would tell you we're good friends, but can't answer even two of those questions about me.  Sad, but true.

Then there are the people who are so in tune with me, they know me better than I know myself.  For instance, a friend who, when my mom stated I didn't like vegetables, corrected her by clarifying that I don't like most cooked vegetables but instead like them raw.  I didn't actually realize that about myself until she stated it.  Just a small fact, but something very personal that was noticed and noted.  Fortunately, I have more people in my life like this, than those who are self-focused. 

I have friends who remember other odd facts as well.  Like the friend 2,000 miles away who remembers I have a 3-4 hour meeting every Thursday morning that is usually the low point of my work week.  The friend who knows I like getting a surprise limeade in the middle of the day for no reason at all, just because it's my favorite drink.  The person who remembers I like all tomato products, but not actual raw tomatoes (the one exception to the raw veggies thing).  The friend who knows my favorite type of place to relax and unwind.  Or the one who knows I abhor all Nicholas Sparks books and movies.  These are the friends I hold near and dear, no matter how many miles or hours separate us.

I like to think I lean more toward being a thoughtful friend rather than a selfish, and have an amazing amount of "friend knowledge" stored in my brain.

Person A has lived and traveled many places in the world, hates seafood, is a sci-fi geek, can tell you who composed almost every soundtrack for every movie, loves cats, can be tender and caring, arranges DVDs by category and alphabetically, is a fabulous freak for grammar and pronunciation, is coolly creative, enjoys reading, and can make awesome pop culture references (there's much more, but I'll stop there).

Person B collects Barbies, loves cats, reads more than me, likes to drink a huge glass of iced tea every day, changes her mind at the drop of a dime, is an awesome gift giver, has a tender soul, wanted to be a nurse at one point, and is from Kentucky (again, there is so much more). 

Person C loves to shop for antiques, can be brilliantly snarky, dresses her dog in costumes for halloween, takes life in stride, is colorblind, dares to try new design ideas in her home on her own, and has a great story about how she met her husband (you know by now...there's so much more).

Person D listens to Jimmy Buffett and borders on being a Parrothead, enjoys disc golf and played in Japan, is a OU fan much to my dismay, would give you the shirt off his back, is an artist, can be sweetly sensitive, and is willing to make a fool of himself on the dance floor with me (yep, there's more).

I could go on and on about more people.

I love all my friends, both old and new.  I like learning about them and building a relationship that will stand the tests of time and distance.  My mom once sent me a quick little e-mail about how blessed I am to have so many good friendships that have lasted.  She's right.  I may not speak to everyone every day and I may not e-mail as often as I should, but I've developed connections with some very amazing and wonderful people.  Let me just take this moment to let those of you who are among my friends and read this blog know...

I love you all dearly, and would not be the person I am today had I not known you and let myself be known by you. 

Before you begin to worry about me, rest easy dear ones.  I'm just taking a moment to do what we rarely do in life, publicly appreciate those who are important to me, and my hope is that you will take a moment to do the same with those in your life as well.  

August 22, 2010

The Power of Words

Let's talk words. Nothing is as powerful as the written or spoken word. Sure, you can end a physical life with the cut of a knife, but think of the devastation or the ecstasy the wrong or right word can bring. An innocent e-mail with a flippant remark, read the wrong way makes the recipient wonder about the sender's true intent. A well placed spoken jab can destroy an entire relationship beyond repair in a matter of seconds.

No matter the language, words have the ability to change lives, for the better or worse in an instant. How often have you said something and immediately wished you could take it back? How often have you said something and immediately been glad you did? A moment of intense feeling where the words, “I love you,” are uttered without thinking can move a relationship in a new direction, good and bad. A moment of intense feeling where the words, “I hate you,” are shouted without thinking can annihilate a relationship. That's all it takes. Three small words; so much power.

Then there are the words that sometimes take too long to come forth; the long overdue apologies or inquiries about a tough situation in someone's life. Why do we wait so long? Why are the healing words often harder to utter or write than the ones that bite? We dance around the subject and avoid the person completely, until we are to the point where the words must be said or written if there is any hope of the connection with the person surviving. Leave the words unstated, and watch the relationship unravel. Yes, words keep us connected with one another; whether spoken or written, they bind us. Even when not vocalizing their emotions, people are often described as “speaking” with their eyes or “saying volumes” with a look. Words are important.

In today's world we gravitate towards Facebook, Twitter, and texting. Shorthand forms of communicating, but all created to convey our feelings, actions, adventures, and life in words for the world to see, helping us connect to others over distance and years. Even when adding photos to our online pages, we often add captions, and wait to see if someone will respond with a comment. More words; just usually short and misspelled words.

Gone, for the most part, are the days when people would correspond; sending long missives to one another describing in detail the events of their life or the things on their mind. Now we're lucky if we see something in a mass posting on Facebook updating us on the latest happening. Is it just me who misses getting handwritten letters or cards that have more than just the person's signature inside? And as for e-mails, I like epic tomes from the right person, even if it's only about how they slept too long, cooked eggs for breakfast, cleaned house all day, and decided to go to a movie. I now have a written record of this person's life, their thoughts, how they were feeling on a given day, and know that they thought enough about me personally to sit down and write more than just a few quick lines in a 140 character Twitter blast to the world.  

Yes, words are powerful. They connect us, destroy us, help us feel loved, move us to tears, and can make us laugh out loud. No wonder I continue to have an ongoing love affair with words. They are what help us move beyond ourselves to include others in our lives. So how are you using your words today and with whom are you sharing them?

August 14, 2010

Going Solo at the Farmers Market

Tonight I stopped in to visit some friends, and it was brought to my attention that it's been two weeks since I last updated my blog. You have my apologies. I was temporarily sidetracked, but rest assured, it won't happen again. You, my dear readers, have my full blogging attention.

If you're a friend of mine on Facebook, you know I spent my morning at my local farmers market. These lovely sunflowers were my absolute favorite find. For weeks I had been looking forward to today's market because it was to be “The Pie Festival,” but in the days leading up to it, I haven't been feeling well (no worries, it's minor and I will live). Imagine how thrilled I was to wake up this morning feeling better than I had in days, and it was a bonus that the weather was near perfection. Looking out my bedroom window, I saw a gentle breeze stirring the leaves in the trees, so I slid the glass open and let the cool air flow over my face as I closed my eyes and savored the feeling of the warm sun. Yes, it was a good day to walk down to the market.

I've been there before with other people and have enjoyed myself immensely, but today was my first trip alone. It won't be the last. There really is something to be said for browsing through a farmers market solo. As I arrived they were beginning the first pie eating contest of the day. I would have stayed to watch the one man and several elderly women battle it out, but I was distracted by a display of lovely plants for only $5. Because I'm notorious for being the world's worst mother-figure ever to plants (they always die a slow, and I'm sure, painful death), I had an empty spot that needed to be filled outside my front door. Hmm, $5 seemed reasonable for a plant that would likely breathe its last within a month, if it was lucky. After quizzing the plant guy for what I'm sure seemed like an eternity to him, I settled on a hosta that I'm hoping will at least survive until winter. The plant guy was so optimistic about the plant's chances of survival, he pointed out there were actually two of them in the pot, and next spring I could move one to its own little pot, giving me two plant babies to try to maintain. Excellent!

My new found plant friends and I wandered along, soaking in the sights and smells, watching the people, and picking up the fresh fruits and vegetables to take in their amazing aromas. My next distraction was a booth that looked like a painting. Flowers. I adore flowers. If I could afford to fill my home and office with fresh flowers every day, I would. Note to any prospective suitors out there, flowers are one way to win my heart (just don't send me roses). I had seen this particular vendor before and knew exactly what I wanted (see the photo of my sunflowers), but they were missing. Disappointed, I decided to pick something else and began weighing my many options. Suddenly, I spotted them. There they were, in a lonely little bucket far behind the tables of flowers, near the vendor's travel trailer. My lovely sunflowers were waiting for me to find them. I'm sure the woman selling them must have thought I was a bit nutty because I was almost giddy when I asked if they were for sale and she confirmed they were. Fifty cents and two sunflowers later, I was once again meandering among the crowd, listening to the live band playing, and watching for my next conquest.

I stopped here and there, hearing stories from the vendors about their wares and telling them I was from Texas when they detected a slight accent and inquired about it (it tends to get stronger when I'm relaxed and engaging people in casual conversation). Then, I saw it; my final purchase destination. Tomorrow is a shared birthday for my mom and stepdad. I never know what to get him, but a pie is always a safe bet. Like a vision on the horizon, there it was, White Box Pies. After several minutes of debate, because choosing between huckleberry and apple is a major life decision, I made my purchase. It was only then that I realized I had only two hands to carry a plant, two sunflowers, a large pie, my keys, and a rather big purse. Because I'm determined and resourceful, I managed to make it home with all intact. Note to self: Next time take your little rolling cart to carry all your treasures.

If you've never been to a farmers market, you really must find one and go. You can't beat the fresh produce and local flavor. If you've been to one, but never alone, I highly recommend it. Going alone gives you time to truly browse the booths you're interested in, talk to vendors at leisure, and meet others shopping at the market. My little rolling cart and I will be making our way through my farmers market the next chance I get.  

July 30, 2010

Got a Minute? Write a Short Story

Now for something a little different. I'll share an item I wrote based on a posting on the One Minute Writer site for Friday Fiction.

The challenge?  Write a short, short story in just one minute.  Yes, they actually have a timer. The topic for today?  Robots.  I accepted, and below is what I came up with in a minute. Think you can do it?  Give it a try and see how you do.  If you like to write, it's actually a lot of fun.  Remember, this was written in a minute, so I'm not claiming this as a good representation of my work.  It's just something fun to do if you have a spare minute in your day.

"Reset.  Yeah, well pushing reset doesn't work.  What else?"  Sarah tossed the instructions across the desk.  "What am I going to do with you?"  

The rusting robot simply sat in a heap on the bed.  Sarah pulled it onto the cart and rolled it outside to the alley.  At this time of night, no one should notice.  She propped the robot against a neighbor's fence and wiped her fingerprints, inside and out.  Once back inside she hesitated for a moment. 

"Nothing else to do I guess."  Sarah dialed the number then reached for a tissue.  "Hi, I'm calling to report a dumped A6G49.  Yes, I know it's illegal to own a model that old. Would I call and report it if it belonged to me?  Could you just come pick it up?" 

She hung up and stared out the window at the metallic figure in the shadows.  "Forgive me my friend."

July 18, 2010

So Many Books, So Little Time

I was recently browsing through one of my favorite websites,, and was struck by how many wonderful and not so wonderful books I’ve yet to read.  Although I’ve already made my way through an impressive number of tomes in my lifetime, there are still so many stories I haven’t had time to explore, so many worlds still undiscovered.  How will I get to them all?

If I have one lifelong love in my life, one true thing I could never imagine giving up, it’s books.  Just the sight of them in my home evokes a sense of comfort and calm.  And when I say they have been a lifelong love, that is no exaggeration.  I’ve been reading voraciously since I was a child, and before I knew how to read, my mom read to me.  They’ve always been there like an old friend, waiting to teach me, show me new lands, comfort me when I was down, and take my mind off the real world when I needed an escape, even if only for a short while.  Long before I learned to “Google it,” I learned that I could find the answer to almost anything in a book in the library.  And the smell.  Ah, there is nothing so soothing to me as the smell of a used bookstore.  My stress level immediately plummets as I walk through the doors.  

Technology is wonderful and everyone knows that if I had money to burn I’d be a top notch techno geek with the latest gadgets, but Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc. simply can’t replace my beloved books.  Don’t get me wrong, I truly do think e-readers are great.  It’s just that I like the feel of a book in my hand.  I enjoy the texture of the paper when I turn a page, the weight in my arms when I carry it, the art on the cover (even when it’s bad).  

And although I own at least twenty real bookmarks, I grab whatever slip of paper is near when I finish my first reading session, and use it to mark the beginning of my journey.  Normally, I don’t give it a second glance until I finished the book.  You see, at the end, part of my experience is looking to see what it was that was handy when I started reading so many chapters ago.  Marking my progress through books have been photos, notes from friends, ideas for stories of my own, shopping lists, birthday cards, envelopes, expired coupons, the list goes on.  

Some people choose to plow their way through book after book, reading as quickly as possible so they can move on to the next.  I've never been one of those.  I take my time, choosing to savor the moments the author presents to me.  I don't like to rush my way through.  This isn't a sprint to the finish line, it's a voyage across the ocean.  If a friend and I start a book at the same time, I will always reach the end of the tale well behind her.  It's not that I can't read quickly, it's that I choose not to when it comes to novels.  And if I’m truly enjoying a book, I will slow down even more as I near the end, postponing the inevitable day when I read the last word and have to say goodbye to the characters and world that have entertained me for so many hours.  

As I browsed through Goodreads today, marking books I’ve read and rating them, I found it interesting how many genres I’ve enjoyed over the years and how many have been made into movies that I’ve never seen.  My taste in books has always been very eclectic, which makes it difficult when someone asks me what I like to read.  I can’t pin it down for them because it depends on my mood.  I can tell you that once I’ve read a book, it’s very hard for me to bring myself to watch the celluloid version of it.  I’ve done it a few times, and have almost always been disappointed.  Inevitably characters are left out, scenes are changed, themes have morphed, or entirely new storylines have been added.  Nothing ever compares to the world or the characters as I imagined them in my mind.  

So why this long blog about my love of books?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s just that Goodreads has me longing for the days of my youth when I could spend an entire summer reading my way through every type of book.  Now it seems that life gets in the way.  Back then, nothing kept me from my love.  I spent my summers living a very active life, but I also spent them falling in love with heroes, being frightened out of my wits by ghosts, living on the prairie and battling the wilds, being abducted by pirates, and more.  Could it be that there are simply too many distractions today?  Maybe one day I’ll experiment by going off the grid to see if doing without television, internet, texting, etc. frees up time for unlimited reading.  I wonder if I can do it?  Hmmm... now there is something to think about.  

In the meantime, with the help of Goodreads, I’m making a long list of books I hope to someday experience.  If you have any suggestions for recent must reads, send them my way and I'll add it to my list, try to read it this summer and let you know what I thought.

July 5, 2010

A Lovely July 4

I’ve always wanted to live someplace where I could sit on my porch or in my yard and watch a huge fireworks display on Independence Day.  So it isn’t a big dream, but it’s been one of my small, wish list kind of things that has now come true.  Last night the town I live in put on a wonderful fireworks display over the lake near my condo, and surprise, it was visible from my balcony.  Hooray!  We watched all evening as a steady stream of cars and pedestrians made their way up the road toward the park where live music was playing (yes, we could hear it while sitting outside).  At one point we thought about walking to the park and sitting with everyone, but the homemade Swiss, bacon burgers and caramel apple pie we ate earlier made us a little lazy and the chairs on my balcony were oh so comfortable.

The show started right on time as I was chatting with a neighbor who was wandering the grounds below us.  She raced to a nearby knoll to see the amazing view, while we “oohed” and “aahed” from above her.  It was spectacular.  Can fireworks be anything else?  And next to the lovely display and spending time with my family, the best part for me was knowing that I wouldn’t have to fight traffic or drive for hours to get home.  Once the awesomeness was over, I stepped inside and poured myself another limeade.  This is how life should be all the time.

I tried to get photos, but this was my first time taking fireworks pics and I chose the wrong setting in all the excitement.  Since I was holding the camera off to one side and randomly clicking off shots so I could enjoy watching the display, this is the best I got.  I eventually realized most of my shots were of the dark sky because my hand had wandered upward, and so I gave up completely.  Why try to capture it in a photo when I could just sit back and enjoy the moment?

So that’s how I spent my July 4 evening.  I hope yours was just as wonderful.

June 28, 2010

Chicken Success Tastes So Good!

I have successfully cooked my first whole chicken using the Technique Chicken Roaster! Yahoo!

As you can see, it actually looks edible. It was moist, tender and the seasonings I picked were perfect (garlic, onion, Serendipity, Mrs. Dash). I did have a minor miscommunication with my oven at one point (we’re still getting to know one another), but we worked things out and the chicken was yummy.

I invited my very brave mom and stepdad over for dinner to try it out with me, and I’m happy to report that they not only survived the experience, but enjoyed it. As a side dish, I made a lovely pasta salad using my Fasta Pasta cooker (see previous post). This was also a first for me. For those who don’t know, cooking with success is a feat. I am so untalented in the kitchen, a few months ago I managed to slice my thumb open with a butter knife, requiring five stitches and sending me into shock as I drove myself to the emergency room. The thumb is still mostly numb, providing a wonderful reminder of what not to do with knives and frozen items.

So there you have it. My first successful whole chicken. Now that I know how easy it is and that I can do it, you can bet there will be more roasted chickens in my future.

June 24, 2010

Best Inventions Ever

Anyone who knows me well knows I love food, but I’m not the best cook.  I could use a few lessons… or a few hundred lessons.  The problem is that I have no confidence in the kitchen and some of it seems downright tedious.  I’ve been surrounded by wonderful cooks my entire life – my mom, grandmas, aunt, even my ex-husband.  They all knew how to serve love on a plate.  Me, not so much.  Oh, some of them tried to teach me, to no avail.  I psyched myself out and was content to just enjoy the fruits of their labor and help clean up the mess.

Lately though, I’ve found myself wanting to learn to cook actual grown up meals.  Fortunately, my mom has been cluing me in to items that make even incompetent, unconfident, hate to spend enormous amounts of time in the kitchen me able to make something I wouldn’t be completely embarrassed to serve.  They are, as I tell my friends, “the best inventions ever.”  I know several foodies.  If any of them are still reading this blog, they will probably laugh at this post.  Go ahead, I can take it.  I know I’m a baby in the kitchen and I’m celebrating my first steps.  It’s OK.

My favorite “best invention ever” is my rice cooker with a steamer in the top.  I absolutely love this amazing appliance.  I’ve never been able to cook rice properly and now I can not only do it with ease, but I can add fish, chicken, pork, and veggies in the steamer and create an entire meal by pressing one button.  Even I can’t mess that one up!  Alright, I’ll admit there was one time when I did way over season my salmon, but other than that, I’ve cooked many perfect meals with my best invention ever rice cooker.

My second “best invention ever” is my Fasta Pasta cooker.  I still haven’t decided if the two words are supposed to sound alike, and if so, are they supposed to be said with a Jersey accent or a slight British accent.  Give it a try and let me know.  Either way, I love this little rectangle container made of plastic.  It allows me to cook perfect pasta in my microwave.  I’ve made ravioli, penne, rotini, rigatoni, angel hair, egg noodles, shells, spaghetti, and macaroni all perfectly, without exception.  I adore pasta, so this was a perfect gift.  No more guessing if the pasta is done.  Measure it out, fill the container with water to the proper line, set the microwave to the correct time and work on other items while it cooks to perfection.  Take it out, pop the lid on (which has a handy, dandy strainer built in), drain the water, and there you have it; perfect pasta. 

Today I came home to find a new gift in my condo, left by my mom.  It’s a Technique Chicken Roaster, or as my mom calls it, a beer can chicken cooker.  At first glance it looks like a big, heavy duty chip and dip holder.  In fact, that’s what my brother in Texas thought his was until mom cleared it up for him.  It’s all one piece, has a cylinder in the center that holds liquid, and the rest is a big ring to catch the chicken grease I’m assuming.  I’ve never attempted cooking a whole chicken as an adult (there was an incident as a teen, but we won’t go there), so this is exciting and a little scary.  And hooray for me, Safeway has whole chickens on sale this week, so I’m going to buy two and try to cook one on Saturday.  I don’t know what liquid I’ll put in the center, I’ve been told I have lots of options.  So wish me luck as I try out the chicken roaster to see if it rates being added to my list of “best inventions ever.”  My mom hasn’t been wrong with anything yet, so I’m guessing this one will be a winner as well.

June 3, 2010

I'm Back!

It’s been almost a full year since I’ve posted anything. By now I’m sure everyone has given up on me and moved on with their lives. Sadly, I’ve realized the world truly does not revolve around me. Let me have a moment… OK. I can continue.

It’s been a busy year. I finally found a wonderful little condo with a lovely view of hills and trees (the photo below is my view). It’s exactly what I needed, and not a day goes by that I don’t gaze out in wonder or walk through my door and thank God for the blessing. Of course the condo has its quirks, but don’t we all. The fact is that it’s just the right size for me and has some of the top features I was looking for in a home. I’m happy.

If you read my post about kissing frogs last year, you’ll know my search was interesting. In fact, I drove two real estate agents to the brink. Thank you Mike Gleason for hanging in there with me! I know I was challenging. I made offers on three places. The first I backed out of when they countered; it just didn’t feel right. The second felt right, but… umm… well… the sellers used a loophole to renege on the deal they accepted. Bad deal, shame on them, ‘nuff said. The third was my condo. Of course there was much angst over whether or not to make offers on several other places before the cute condo, but that special feeling just wasn’t there.

With the new condo came a new town. I moved to the other side of the world, or so it has seemed at times. I’ve had to learn where familiar stores are in my new hood, changed where I attend church, and have been busy making new friends. I haven’t ditched my old friends and haunts, but living where I do has definitely expanded some horizons.

In addition to all of this, my new niece is now almost a year old and I also have a new nephew who arrived a month early in April. Sadly he’s in Texas, but I have plans to meet him in person someday soon. Yeah, the blog about that trip will be one to remember. More details about that later.

So life moves on, even if a blog doesn’t. Perhaps I’ll be a little more faithful to posting now that I have a view to inspire me to write and new lands to explore for cool photographs. Who knows where life will lead, but I will do my best to keep you updated.