List: 5 Obscure Words that Give Me All the Feels.

I love lists so each Saturday my plan is to share a list of some sort,                                  covering a range of topics.

5d82718862128153420ecdaeb146f9c0

Image found via Pinterest.

  1. Helhjartat  ~ Everything I do, I do with my whole heart.
  2. Meraki ~ To do something with soul, creativity or love, leaving a piece of yourself into what you are doing.
  3. Metanoia ~ The journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self or way of life.
  4. Sonder ~ The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own.
  5. Vellichor ~ The strange wistfulness of used bookstores.
Advertisements

Five on Friday.

Each Friday I try to share five links that made me think, inspired me or I just found entertaining throughout the week.

5 on Friday graphic

 

  1. Preparing for our first vegan Thanksgiving.
  2. I love having journal writing prompts at the ready.
  3. A peek into the writing mind of J.K. Rowling.
  4. “To put it another way, it took me two decades to become brave enough to be angry.” Read this piece by Lindy West.
  5. I’ve been exploring this link between voice and integrity and authenticity. Do my words come from integrity or do they add to the noise of the world? This speaks to that.

Books Read in September + October.

Sept Oct books read

“My Name is Lucy Barton” a novel by Elizabeth Strout

There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in a hospital for almost nine weeks.

25893709

Lucy Barton goes in to have her appendix out—a rather routine procedure that turns out to be anything but routine. Complications lead her to be in the hospital for nine weeks. During that time, her estranged mother comes to visit, staying at her bedside, at times almost feeling like an apparition from Lucy’s past as they both pull up stories of people and places from their fragmented yet shared history. Below the surface of their conversations lays a thread of tension that has been present throughout Lucy’s life. The more they talk to, at and around each other the more that tension flashes to the surface before disappearing into the depths of time once again. This novel reminded me of Dani Shapiro’s memoir, “Hourglass.” They both explore time and the passage of time in such a beautiful way, the way it informs our lives and how we move through it together and, ultimately, alone.

A sentence I love: “Maybe it was the darkness with only the pale crack of light that came through the door, the constellation of the magnificent Chrysler Building right beyond us, that allowed us to speak in ways we never had.”

“Hunger- A Memoir of (My) Body” by Roxane Gay

Every body has a story and a history.

From the first sentence, Roxane Gay takes on through the intimate story and history of her body, as she sees it, as she looks back on it, as she experienced it and as she continues to experience it.

While her life could decidedly be broken in half after a horrific act of violence between before and after, Gay spirals her story back and forth through time, edging closer to something then backing away again, the way we often do with our own history.

This is a powerful, vulnerable and incredibly honest look at one woman’s relationship with her body, how she inhabits it, how she doesn’t, how she moves through space, how she doesn’t and how people and society at large respond to her and how they don’t.

A sentence I love: “I live in a contradictory space where I should try to take up space but not too much of it, and not in the wrong way, where the wrong way is any way where my body is concerned.”

“We All Looked Up” a YA novel by Tommy Wallbach

“It’s not the end of the world,” Stacy said.

It’s not, at least not at this particular teenage angsty moment  that Peter is turning over in his mind. But the meteor that they soon learn is headed toward earth could possibly be the literal end of the world. President Obama went on television and told them as much. He said they had about two months left. Two months? To do what? There was no way to prepare for such an event. Nowhere to hide, no where to be safe. So what do you do? Go on living your mundane life, going to school, doing homework, studying for tests? To what end? If there is no future to work toward, how do you spend your time? These are questions that a group of high school students must wrestle with not only theoretically, but in reality. Each chapter tells a different point of view until they weave together to reveal a story of what we do in the face of death, something we do at some level every single day, but how do things change, how do people change when it no longer is some vague prospect way off in a very distant future but is coming at you within the space of two months?

A sentence I love: “Every other human quality was hidden easily enough—intelligence, talent, selfishness, even madness—but beauty would not be concealed.”

“Turtles All the way Down” a YA novel by John Green

At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School.

Turtles+All+The+Way+Down+transparentPart love story, friend story, mystery as well as a deep exploration of what it means to grieve, to lose, to deal with mental illness, John Green weaves these all together in my favorite book of his to date.

Aza struggles with anxiety. Because much of the struggle is on the inside even her Best and Most Fearless Friend Daisy has trouble comprehending the depth of Aza’s pain.

When a billionaire goes missing and a hundred-thousand dollar reward is offered for info leading to his return, Aza and Daisy jump into the mystery unaware of what exactly they are getting themselves into.

Green gets into the psyche of today’s teens with his usual grace and the way he allows us access to Aza’a mind as it continually spirals out of her control is something that will stay with me for a long, long time.

A sentence I love: “I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.”

“Teaching People, Not Poses- 12 Principles for Teaching Yoga with Integrity” by Jay Fields

As for many people, my yoga teacher training changed my life.

This slim volume packs a lot of wisdom for the new or seasoned teacher. Each principle is followed by suggestions on how to actually use the advice she gives. I felt like I walked away with tools I could use to be more grounded in integrity as a teacher and also as a complicated human with my own set of flaws and gifts and challenges.

A sentence I love: “It’s about playing your part to help create a world full of people who have the courage and the spirit to set aside fear and to live in alignment with their deepest, truest most full self.”

Habit, Routine + Ritual.

Routine and Ritual

“We are what we repeatedly do. Success is not an action but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

Whenever autumn rolls around, I find myself drawn back into that back-to-school mode. Since I am long out of school, it’s a time of year when I turn inward and really look at how I am spending my time. By then, I’m coming off a summer of loose routines, fun and spontaneous adventures and I’m ready to dive back into a structure that feeds my creativity.

This year I’ve been thinking about the differences between habit, routine and ritual. Habits—good and bad—are those things we do automatically without too much thought: brushing our teeth, taking a shower, a walk after dinner. Routines are a set of habits that lend structure to your day. So a set of habits such scraping your tongue, drinking a glass of warm water with lemon, gentle yoga and meditation become a morning routine. Nighttime routine might consist of a cup of tea, turning off all electronics, setting the alarm, reading a book before going to sleep. I think of routines as safety nets to our days.

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” ~ John Maxwell

I knew I had to change something about my morning routine. My habit was to eat breakfast while watching a show on Hulu that I had missed the night before. But that became a slippery slope and before I knew it a whole morning could be wasted in front of the TV and on my phone. So, my one change was to eat breakfast at my desk. I make some toast, fruit and tea, go into my writing room, close the door, light a candle, read an inspiring writing book while eating my toast then write my morning pages while sipping my tea. Then I set a timer for 30 minutes and work on my novel. I’ve started doing a freewrite based on a card drawn from “The Observation Deck” then I move onto my draft and start knitting together what I have, cutting what doesn’t work, asking myself question. I keep a writer’s notebook specifically for this project where I keep my freewrites, notes, questions, timelines. After the timer goes off I’ll go do some small household task like wash the dishes or put in or fold a load of laundry then set the timer again.

“If you want your day to be organized, develop a routine. If you want your day to be meaningful, create rituals.” 

This one small tweak of a habit—moving where I ate my breakfast—cracked open my morning routine and helped me create a ritual that sustains my creative process. Lighting the candle, reading an inspiring book, drawing a card from the “Soulful Woman Guidance Deck” all weave together to create a ritual to nurture my creativity. When I start my day immersed in the creative process, it sets the tone for my day, it adds meaning to my life.

List: 5 Favorite Things about Fall.

I love lists so each Saturday my plan is to share a list of some sort,                                    covering a range of topics.

Bonfire

Image found via Pinterest.

  1. The shift in energy. Not only is there a crispness in the air but there is a crispness in my personal energy. I become more focused, ready to dive back into a structure that supports my writing. I haven’t quite succumbed to the hibernation of winter and still manage to get outside to enjoy a walk around the lake in the sunshine, taking in the trees ablaze in color at the water’s edge.
  2. Soups and stews and my crockpot. I food that fills me up and warms my belly in the fall and winter. Now that I am vegan, there are so many recipes I’ve saved that I can’t wait to try.
  3. Bonfires. It’s too hot to have them in the summer. Cool, fall nights are the prefect time to sit around a roaring fire under the stars with family, friends and some wine…and,of course, s’mores!
  4. The fall book releases. Sometimes I have them written into my calendar so I don’t forget the pub dates. It’s like Christmas in September! And that includes the publication of the annual Best American Short Stories. I think I’ve bought it every year for at least the last fifteen years. It’s an excellent opportunity to read a diverse range of writers on a variety of themes and styles. Each one is like its own little master’s class in the short story form.
  5. Tea! Lots and lots of tea! I drink it at my desk when I’m writing in the morning, in the afternoon while reading, at night to help me wind down. So soothing, so simple.

 

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” ~ Lauren DeStefano, Wither

Books Read June-August.

Books June-Sept

“Alice & Oliver” a novel by Charles Bock

There she was, Alice Culvert, a little taller than most, her figure fuller than she would have liked.

Looking back it is interesting that the novel starts with her physical looks, and the mundane concerns so many women have about their bodies. Those concerns are swiftly replaced by literal life and death concerns with Alice’s sudden cancer diagnosis. Her life as a fashion designer, wife and new mother morphs into life as a patient fighting for her life. We get an intimate look at a marriage and what it means to vow to stay together in sickness and in health. Flaws that every marriage has are magnified under such duress. We are also offered a realistic look into our feeble healthcare system as Oliver struggles to handle not only the day-today care of their infant, Doe, but the monetary costs of a life threatening illness as he navigates the insurance labyrinth.

A passage I love:

She raised her head from the stretcher; snow stung her cheeks. For long moments she almost believed some peculiar form of magic was indeed waiting for her. Alice could not help herself: she extended her tongue.

 

“The Bright Hour- A Memoir of Living and Dying” by Nina Riggs

The call comes when John is away at a conference in New Orleans.

Yes, I read this memoir about cancer and a marriage right after reading the novel about cancer and a marriage. Not on purpose. Got a little freaked out that the Universe was trying to tell me something. Prepare me for something.

Nina Riggs is a poet, wife and mother who is diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer at the age of 37. It all started with one small spot. Within a year, she was terminal. Through her poet’s eye and mind, she is able to look carefully within and around her to describe what it is like to live “with death in the room.” She calls on writers she has loved over the years to help her make sense of this new, brief yet full world she is now living in. She manages to make us laugh as she becomes determined to find the perfect couch to leave behind for her family and to laugh and cry as she reveals conversations with her husband and sons. It is a breathtaking book that calls on us all to live each moment fully no matter how close death is standing next to us. Because, really, we never truly now how close it may be.

A passage I love that breaks my heart:

Around 4 a.m. I feel his hand on my back. “I’m so afraid I can’t breathe,” he whispers.

“I know,” I say, scootching a little toward him but still facing away, “So am I.”

 

“The Vacationers” a novel by Emma Straub

Leaving always came as a surprise, no matter how long the dates had been looming on the calendar.

I meant to take this on vacation with me back in May because reading about a vacation on vacation sounded fun. But then I forgot to pack it. It all worked out though because reading this book felt like a vacation in itself as she described the lush scenery, the scrumptious food.

The Posts, Franny and Jim, are on a two-week trip to Mallorca to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. Their daughter, Sylvia who has just graduated high school is looking to lose her virginity before heading off to college. Their son Bobby comes with his older girlfriend who is a fitness buff and rubs Franny the wrong way. Franny’s best friend, Charles has come with his husband. Everyone’s problems has followed them to this beautiful vacation spot. As a food writer, Franny throws herself into feeding her family and friends all while a seething resentment lurks just beneath the surface. Over the course of 14 days, things that are hidden are revealed and things that should be revealed stay hidden. A funny, touching glimpse into the messiness of family and friendship.

A sentence that made me laugh out loud:

Like most things, sex got better with age until one hit a certain plateau, and then it was like breakfast, unlikely to change unless one ran out of milk and was forced to improvise.

 

“The Accomplished Guest” stories by Ann Beattie

“There’s no copyright on titles,” he said. ”It wouldn’t be a good idea, probably, to call something Death of a Salesman, but you could do it.”

I remember reading her first collection, “Distortions” and had no idea it had been published 40 years ago. When I was first learning to write, I would read her stories, each one seeming like its own little master class in the form.

These feel the same way. Entering a short story by Ann Beattie is to enter a world fully formed. In this collection people wander in and out of each other’s lives as guests, as hosts, as visitors. The settings will be familiar to Beattie fans: strewn up and down the east Coast from Maine to Key West. Spanning events from birthdays to anniversaries, all explore reunions with people we used to know and the people we all used to be.

A sentence I love for its sensuality:

He broke off a bit of bread and breathed in its yeasty aroma; he pushed the point of his knife into some sunflower-yellow butter, well tempered, and smeared it over the bread’s pocked surface.

 

“Morningstar- Growing Up with Books” by Ann Hood

When I was four years old, for reasons no one in my family could explain, I picked up my older brother Skip’s reading book and read it.

I love reading about how books have influenced lives, especially when it’s the life of a writer I adore like Ann Hood. She takes us on a journey through her life via the books that wormed their way into her psyche, helping to form the woman she became. We learn about the books of her teen years from The Bell Jar to Marhjorie Mornigstar. We learn what books stoked her political fire and which led her to want to travel the world. It’s a beautiful tribute to books, to reading and how they can change—or even save—our lives.

A sentence I love for reading my own heart:

But not to me—no, I understood that I would always buy books, that I was a reader and a writer and that to be surrounded by books would always bring me comfort.

 

“Walks with Men” fiction by Ann Beattie

In 1980, in New York, I met a man who promised me he’d change my life, if only I’d let him.

I came across this slim volume of fiction nestled in the used books stacks of a local bookstore. An Ann Beattie book I hadn’t read yet? Sold!

I guess, technically, this would be considered a novella. But it really seems to exist outside of a genre. It echoes Beattie’s own trajectory as a successful young woman arriving in New York City, ready to be a writer and all that entails.

No sooner has Jane, a valedictorian from Harvard, arrived in the city when she strikes up an odd yet intense deal/relationship with Neil, a writer 20 years older than her. He promises to tell her anything at all, as long as it is unattributed and that nobody knows about their relationship. Having been in a secret relationship myself at one point, I wanted to scream, No, run. Don’t do it. Of course, Jane doesn’t run. She stays and Neil proceeds to educate her by laying out rules from wearing only raincoats made in England to having sex in an airplane bathroom. His certainty about everything both seduces and repels Jane. When his certainty is found to be a mask for his deceptions, Jane must decide who she is and who she wants to be.

A sentence I love for surprising me:

Sailors know how to train their eyes on the horizon to avoid seasickness. When you’re landlocked in New York City, look at the farthest curb, which, in its own way, is the horizon line.

 

“Night” by Elie Wiesel

They called him Moshe the Beadle, as though he had never had a surname in his life.

I’ve had this book on my shelves for over twenty years. I remember Oprah mentioned it on her show and I went out and bought but could never quite bring myself to sit down and actually read it. Well, with everything going on in our country right now and in the world, it felt imperative that I read it.

After reading it, it feels imperative that we all read it.

As a young Jewish boy, Wiesel and his family are rounded up and carted off to concentration camps. What horrified me was how even as it was happening, they didn’t really believe it was happening. They believed that somebody would stop it. That it wouldn’t be allowed to go so far. Perhaps the idea of such unadulterated evil is too hard for the human mind to process.

It was hard for me to process as I read it. It’s a first hand account of what it was like to be targeted based on your religion, deemed less than by others who sought to erase your very existence.

I read every word.

We should all read every word.

And heed every word.

Before it’s too late.

A passage that haunts me:

Night. No one prayed, so that the night would pass quickly. The stars were only sparks of the fire which devoured us. Should that fire die out one day, there would be nothing left in the sky but dead stars, dead eyes.

 

Thank you, Dani Shapiro.

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 11.56.39 AM

Jealousy. Envy. Not pleasant emotions. Personally, I don’t believe the two are interchangeable. To me, jealousy is about what somebody has, something that you want for yourself. Envy feels more inward. When I feel envy it’s because I want to be like that person. I want to have their qualities, not their things.

So, the other morning I realized I envy Dani Shapiro. I admire the hell out of her. I read all of her books. I listen to interviews with her. Every blog she posts feels like she is writing directly into my heart. So when envy came up I knew enough to pause instead of my usual MO when something uncomfortable arises which is to get the hell away from it. (Thank you yoga practice for teaching me to stay.)

Envy is an especially efficient mirror back to yourself if you stay with it. What you learn can act as a compass to your own truth north. I asked myself what I envied exactly.

~ All the books she’s written from memoir to novels to writing about writing

~ the way her days seems to be intimately woven around her writing life

~ she teaches meditation, yoga and writing retreats

~ she teaches in exotic locales like Positano, Italy

Then I ask myself what is exactly that I want in my life.

~ I want to explore different kinds of writing

I am taking notes now on a nonfiction book based on the class I created called Poses, Pens + Inner Peace while I continue to work on my novel and essays and blog posts.

~ I want to spend more portions of my days immersed in writing.

So, after meditating and a brief yoga practice to get all the kinks out my mind and body, I’ve begun taking my breakfast and tea straight to my desk where my first treat of the day is to dip back into Shapiro’s wonderful book on the creative life, “Still Writing.” From there I set a timer for 30 minutes and work on my novel. Then I do some mundane household task then come back to the novel or a blog post or some other piece of writing.

~ I already teach a class that combines yoga, mediation and writing.

It’s something I knew I wanted to do the minute I stepped on my mat. I feel the same energy on my mat that I feel in my writing—an energy that connects to deeper parts of myself. Holding space for a group as they release stories through yoga and writing and share with the class is an honor to me each and every week.

~ I want to expand Poses, Pens + Inner Peace beyond that one Thursday night class.

I envision taking this class as a retreat to different parts of the country, even abroad, bringing groups of women together in a sacred circle to heal, to reclaim parts of themselves they have lost, to celebrate their magnificent light.

So, really this is a thank you to Dani Shapiro. Thank you for living an authentic, beautiful, messy creative life that tugged at something in me and allowed to envision what kind of creative life I want for myself. Thank you for the example of your work ethic that I can admire and emulate to then take the steps to make that vision a reality. Thank you for the honesty of your words that pierce my heart. Thank you for sharing those words with the world.

List: Top 5 Books that Illuminated my Writing Path.

I love lists so each Saturday my plan is to share a list of some sort,                                    covering a range of topics

five books

These are the top five books that started me on the writing path and that I turn to again and again.

  1. “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. This is the absolute first book that offered me a glimmer of recognition that perhaps I could write. Actually, that I must write.
  2. “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott She helped and continues to help me loosen the grip of perfectionism by taking it word by word, allowing myself to write shitty first drafts and writing what I can see through a 1-inch picture frame.
  3. “Ron Carlson Writes a Story” by Ron Carlson As he takes us meticulously through his process of writing one particular short story, Carlson reminds of the importance of doing the work, of staying in the room even when—especially when—I want leave.
  4. “The Writer’s Portable Mentor” by Priscilla Long This is a book about process and craft but it goes deep into all the layers of craft far beyond character, plot and setting. Never fails to get my pen moving again.
  5. “Still Writing” by Dani Shapiro I have read this gem at least three times, maybe four and am currently reading it each morning as I eat my breakfast and drink tea at my desk before plunging into my own writing. Her honest reflection of the writing life comforts me as I continue to show up to the page and to my own writing life.

What books illuminate the writer in you? Please share in the comments!

Five on Friday.

Each Friday I try to share five links that made me think, inspired me or I just found entertaining throughout the week.

  1. This whet my appetite for more international travel.
  2. Pretty sure I’ve had ALL these feelings.
  3. I love doing this kind of workout when I don’t have a lot of time.
  4. A great resource for vegan recipes. And these brownies look ah-may-zing!
  5. One of the best pieces I’ve read on the horror that descended on Charlottesville.