Books I’m Starting with in 2021

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If you’re a book lover like me, you probably feel the thrill of gazing starry-eyed at your TBR pile and choosing a few books to begin with. And you might pick an overly-optimistic number of books to read for your 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge as I often do as well.

OK, on to the good stuff: I have a list of eight books that I might be reading until April, at least the non-fiction part.

My first few choices for fiction are: The Night Country by Melissa Albert and Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz. The first one is the sequel to The Hazel Wood that my daughter and I read last year. A dark, fantasy YA novel that we both enjoyed. The second is a sequel to The Magpie Murders that was so like Agatha Christie mysteries that I rejoiced and read it several times through.

For nonfiction, I’m going to read Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I bought the book many months ago and it’s been flashing its many-colored cover at me from the shelf ever since. I heard Glennon interviewed on Unlocking Us, Bren√© Brown’s podcast and immediately ordered the book, intending to read and then share it with friends. Ah, the confidence I always have when it comes to reading.

And Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me was one of the many book gifts from my husband this Christmas. It’s been in my wishlist for a while, so now that I have it, I will be able to read it and join in the conversation.

Two books that I purchased before the holidays were One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer and Designing Your life: How to Build a Well-lived Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. After listening to several Yogahealer podcast episodes where Cate Stillman referenced Kaizen, I decided I needed to learn more and purchased the first book. The second one came from my desire to delve deeper into joy.

Ever since finishing Braiding Sweetgrass, I’ve wanted to return to nature writing. I discovered Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald and thought it might satisfy this craving. The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World by Lewis Hyde has been another book waiting patiently on my bookshelf for a few years. I need a book on creativity, although Big Magic is king in this genre.

Lastly, my son keeps giving me Wendell Berry books for Mother’s Day and Christmas gifts because he knows how much I love reading Berry’s words. No complaints here! Thanks, Judah!!! Anyway, this Christmas, he gave me A Timbered Choir, a collection of poetry.

And I better not write down any other possible titles I’ll be reading because then I’ll be writing a blog post of purely fiction. I would love to hear about what you’re reading this January!

A New Year’s Intentions

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Happy New Year, readers! I’ve been so quiet here and missed this space every day. I hope you all had the best holiday season possible (if you were celebrating a holiday). And if you still are celebrating (like I am), or looking forward to winter holidays, I hope they are happy and that you and your loved ones stay healthy.

The month of December flew by as it so often does. One of my intentions for the future is to have my life so organized that I can take time in December to observe Advent more fully. Usually, it’s a blur of activity. That is something that I will work toward changing.

Looking at January and beyond, I am slowly thinking about what intentions I want to set for the year. I definitely will be focusing on building my business mainly through consistency. That’s an area I’ve failed miserably at in blogging, being present on social media, and in product development for my business. Having to show up for people forces me to be more consistent.

Because I know this, I created my first ever online program that opened up today! It’s called Winter Vitality & Renewal and the focus is on vibrant, healthy living in all areas of life. I’m drawing from my background in Ayurveda, Yoga, and herbal medicine, but I’m not stopping there! Also included are book recommendations, poetry, quotes each week, videos, and podcasts, from many sources. Like I mentioned, wellness includes all of life, so we will be discussing relationships, creativity, seasonal eating, physical exercise, sleep, digestion, immune health, and more. I’d love to have you sign up and participate if you’re interested in any of these topics.

In addition to this, I am working part-time for the local non-profit I interned at last summer. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with local residents and share what I’m learning about wellness with the community.

This will also be a year to finish things, or to work toward completion. I’ll still be a student in the Ayurvedic Practitioner program at Yoga Veda Institute for another two years. I’ll be finishing up a second yoga certification with them, my second Aromatherapist certification at the School for Aromatic Studies, and a Liz Steel watercolor course I signed up for three Januarys ago (can it be?!?).

I love to work, but this year I am scheduling in a weekly artist’s date (a practice from The Artist’s Way) for myself as well as at least one of the watercolor classes. The artist’s dates will likely be videos of museums or gallery shows or ballets or musical performances, but that’s ok.

If you are familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, you’ll remember how she addresses the voices that tell us we’re wasting time/being silly when we do anything creative and the fear that others will think we’re not good enough. Actually I’m listening to the audiobook for the third time because I so need to hear it!

And of course, I’ll be reading plenty of books this year! I LOVED The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. I gave it to my daughter for Christmas and she read it in four days and loved it too. I’m currently almost finished with The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, which keeps getting better the further I go. I’m also finishing up Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home by Toko-pa Turner. This book has gently supported me as I have intentionally worked on inner healing for the past five months. I highly recommend it. And I’m also almost finished with Richard Rohr’s The Wisdom Pattern which put into words what I had been feeling about faith and the church over the past five years. Order, chaos, and reorder are a normal part of life, and especially a spiritual life.

On Tuesday, I’ll be sharing some of what else I’m reading this month. If you’re on Goodreads, I’d love to connect with you and see what you’re reading. Feel free to comment here as well.

Summer So Far

Hi readers! I’ve missed this space so much the past few months and finally told myself enough is enough: no matter how full my schedule, I need to make time in my week for writing. So what have I been up to? Well, let’s see…

In May, we tilled and planted our garden, which is now flourishing with vegetables, herbs, and flowers. It’s mostly been a hot, dry summer here in the Finger Lakes Region of NY, which means that Alan and I have spent many hours watering the garden with a couple of watering cans. Our current hose doesn’t reach that far. At least I’ve logged plenty of steps on my FitBit.

Toward the end of June I signed up for a 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training through Yoga Farm in Lansing, NY. It’s right across the lake from us, but thankfully, the pandemic has convinced Yoga Alliance to allow online teacher trainings, so I don’t have to leave home to get certified. This program is awesome, but it does require many hours per week to stay on top of it. Since I’m trying to finish up a required Ayurveda course through Yoga Veda Institute before August 31 (part of my Ayurvedic Practitioner training), plus I’m working on Yoga Veda’s 450-hr yoga teacher training, I have had my moments of “What was I thinking?!?”

What I was thinking was how much anxiety many people are facing due to income loss, isolation, so many changes to our everyday lives. I want to be able to offer some free online yoga classes to contribute to personal resilience-building, good self-care and wellness habits, and overall positivity. The sooner I can do that, the better.

As far as summer reading, I’ve slowed down a bit because of all the studying time, but here are a few books I read that I recommend:

For sheer escapism, I’ve read (audiobook) The Secret Letter by Debbie Rix, (audiobook) A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir Jennifer Ryan and I just finished The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. All of these books had likable characters and a cozy feel that I need when I’m feeling stressed. 

Other books I loved or am loving include The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, (which I read with my daughter), An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Braiding Sweetgrass is the one I’m still reading and the writing is exquisite and is teaching me much about plants, native American culture, indigenous plant wisdom, and how to think about caring for the planet. (More on this book as I read it.)

I found a few podcasts and other resources I wanted to share here as well on Permaculture/Regenerative Agriculture/Climate Justice:

The Post Carbon Institute is treasure trove full of resources. Earlier this summer, I took their now permanently FREE community resilience course called Think Resilience. If you care about things like food security, local economy, and how to make your home and. community more resilient, I urge you to take this course!

Post Carbon Institute’s What Could Possibly Go Right? Podcast is also worth a listen as Vicki Robin’s interviews many “cultural scouts” in the field. Their recent webinar Decolonizing the Mind with Sherri Mitchell blew me away. I was challenged to think about the way I think, to understand better what it has been like for the indigenous people that were here before the Europeans (the colonizers) came over. I have so much to learn!

The Permaculture Podcast  has a few years’ worth of interviews and the ones I’ve been listening to are fantastic. One of my favorites was with Rob Hopkins (a hero of mine), founder of the Transition movement and author of the recommended read From What Is To What If?.

And if Permaculture interests you, Permaculturewomen.com have a FREE year long permaculture course that I’m currently working through.

When the pandemic arrived, I decided it was past time for me to learn how to become more resilient, how to grow food for myself, and figure out how to develop several different sources of income in order to thrive in this increasingly unstable world. I hope if you don’t already have these skills, that you will look into some of the free resources so you can begin building resilience for yourself, your family, and your community.

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Alright, so now you know a little of what I’ve been up to. Oh, and I forgot to mention my husband and I have performed music several times around the area this summer. That’s been our only forays into public other than necessity food/garden shopping. We feel safe as long as we’re outside and not too close to people. Once the weather gets cold, we’ll be performing, sharing new songs, and behind the scenes content from home via our Patreon page. You can check us out there or on our Facebook page!

I would really love to know what YOU have been reading and learning this summer so far, what your garden looks like, or any other thoughts you want to share in comments. Also feel free to email me: kimcz76@gmail. Have a relaxing Friday evening!

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Evening Poetry, April 15

Walkers With The Dawn 

by Langston Hughes

Being walkers with the dawn and morning,
Walkers with the sun and morning,
We are not afraid of night,
Nor days of gloom,
Nor darkness–
Being walkers with the sun and morning.

You can find this poem in The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes.

What I’m Reading in April

When I plan my reading for a month, I typically add one too many books to my monthly TBR. And this is fine, unless I have a book review due and miss the deadline, as I’ve done with Netgalley reads. (Anyone else have this problem?) It’s been helpful for me to remind myself when I’m doing my bullet journal planning each week to list the books that have to be read and a review written.

This month I have two ARCs from Celadon Books (Thank you, Celadon!!!) that I’m reading. I just finished the first one, Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan, and I LOVED it! I actually didn’t think I would because I’m not a dog person, but the main story is about the author with dogs woven throughout. (More on this book when I write the review.) The publishing date is April 21. The second one, Hollywood Park: A Memoir, is being released on May 6, but it’s a longer read, so I will start that one in a few days.

Then I have two books with a focus on sustainability that I’m reading for myself and as part of a community reading initiative for my job at a local nonprofit. The first one is From What Is To What If by Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement. I’ve been reading and following this movement for nearly a decade and all I can say is, I wish our town was a Transition Town–we’d have a lot more resilience in dealing with this new economic downturn and food supply disruption. But it’s better late than never, so I’m reading this book to help stimulate my imagination to think how life can be different. The second one is Wendell Berry’s The Art of Loading Brush: New Agrarian Writings. These are essays critiquing modern American culture. In my mind, there is never a better time to read Berry’s words than right now.

 

I’m also reading a novel along with my husband, Alan. It’s called Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr. Did any of you see the tv series The Alienist that was out a few falls back? It was pretty freaky, and I don’t do scary books/movies/tv shows, but I was able to watch it with my hands over my eyes during some scenes. Actually we both watched it. So when Alan picked up this book, written by the same author, and had me read the first few pages, I said I’d get the kindle version so we could read along together. One chapter in, and I’m hooked.

I’m also reading poetry which I’ll share here, as well as a few other books I’ll get around to sharing soon. So what are you reading this month? Whether you are reading any of the ones listed here, or have a list of your own going, please share in comments!

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately

With so much of everyday life feeling upside down right now, I am doing my best to keep my life as normal as possible. This includes getting up early for yoga and meditation, eating meals at nearly the same times each day, and reading as much as I did before. (Or maybe a little bit more!) Reading relaxes, comforts, takes me out of my own story, and connects me with people past and present whose stories and experiences are different than my own.

So what have I been reading?

The first is Kitchen Table Sustainability: Practical Recipes for Community Engagement with Sustainability by Wendy Sarkissian, Nancy Hofer, Yollana Shore, Steph Vajda and Cathy Wilkinson.

My lovely boss recommended I read this to better understand the way our local non-profit works and to help me see what can happen when local residents are engaged in projects that bring improvements to their community. (Thank you, Theresa!)

These pages contain stories of what worked and what didn’t. I learned that it is much better to go into a community that may have high poverty and crime rates, for example, and look for the assets already there, rather than simply focusing on the needs. What might those be, you ask?

Local people have untapped practical skills and know what they would like to change, but they have to be asked, to be consulted, rather than ignored in favor of bringing in “the experts”. They need encouragement in order to be confident enough to speak out, because they don’t want to appear foolish in front of others in their community. Engaging local residents requires patience and careful listening as people share their ideas. It requires connecting people to each other. It requires long-term thinking. If you’re involved with your community in any way, I highly recommend this book!

For a fast-paced thrilling read, here is Hide Away by Jason Pinter. Introducing Rachel Marin, a strong woman with a violent, tragic past that she is trying her best to forget. She is doing her best to care for and protect her two children and live as normal a life as possible. But she has this impulse to stop crime when she sees it. So she gets involved in helping the police with a murder investigation and things get a little scary.

I enjoyed the ease and pace of reading, Rachel’s strength of character, as well as the personalities and dialogue of the two police officers working on the case. This is going to be a series, apparently. It reminds me a bit of Dean Koontz’s Jane Hawk series, so if you like those books, you will probably like this as well!

Did I tell you I’m reading through the Bronte sisters’ novels this year? So far I’ve listened to the audio versions of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Shirley. The first two were re-reads, but I’d never read Shirley before.

Set in Yorkshire, on the moors, during 1811-1812. There was a lot happening then: the Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812, an industrial depression focused in the mills, and the Luddite uprisings. If you’re interested in history, this novel could be a springboard into all of these subjects. Against all of this political and economical upheaval is the story of two young women who are finding their place in the world, falling in love, dealing with family, suffering losses, and discovering their inner strength. I’m glad I read it and, if you’re a Bronte fan, put this novel in your TBR pile.

So that’s a little taste of what I’ve been reading lately. What have you been reading?

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Evening Poetry, February 5

Just Beyond Yourself

by David Whyte

Just beyond

yourself.

It’s where

you need

to be.

Half a step

into

self-forgetting

and the rest

restored

by what

you’ll meet.

There is a road

always beckoning.

When you see

the two sides

of it

closing together

at that far horizon

and deep in

the foundations

of your own

heart

at exactly

the same

time,

that’s how

you know

it’s the road

you

have

to follow.

That’s how

you know

it’s where

you

have

to go.

That’s how

you know

you have

to go.

That’s

how you know.

Just beyond

yourself,

it’s

where you

need to be.

You can find this poem in The Bell and The Blackbird.

Book and Podcast Favorites

Yay! It’s finally Friday. (Did you know my favorite day is actually Thursday?) Anyhoo, I’ve got some favorites podcasts and books to share with you!

Podcasts:

My favorite new podcast: Wildly Aligned Podcast with Natalie Brite. Thanks to my friend Britt for sharing a post on Instagram with Natalie’s positive voice. I’ve listened to this episode twice and am going to listen a few times more.

Do you ever get into a funk (aka depression) and just need to renew your mind? Yeah I was in one for two solid weeks and was wondering if I was going to be able to pull myself out or if it finally was time for meds.

Then I listened to this podcast and it was like the clouds parted, angelic choirs sang overhead, and I saw the light. It was as if my whole being was saying a big “Yes!” to every word.

Beyond Aromatics Podcast by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy or NAHA (of which I am a member). On this episode, Tiffany Carole shared about AromaPoint Therapy, which she developed, in which different diluted essential oils are placed on specific energy points on the body. She shares three points where anyone can apply the recommended oils. I applied diluted Bergamot to the Shen Men point on my ears and actually felt a calm release about 10 minutes later. Don’t knock it till you try it!

Visual Marketing With Tailwind is a podcast mostly devoted to Pinterest. Until a few months ago, I was barely using Pinterest and hardly ever for business. Then I started a marketing course and the instructor drilled into us that Pinterest was more important than Facebook or Instagram, and indeed, reminded us that Pinterest wasn’t actually a social media platform–it’s a search engine.

So, I started using Tailwind, which is an app which lets you schedule pins for a month or two at a time. And my views went from 1K-31K in 3 months. You better believe I want to know all I can about how to use Pinterest to get traffic to my website and Etsy shop! This episode is one of many that will provide useful info for those who want to grow a following and get more traffic to their site/blog/shop.

Books:

It’s been too long! With all the other things I’m juggling (Ayurveda classes, aromatherapy classes, Etsy, website, blog, social, our music duo) I haven’t been keeping up with telling you what I’ve been reading and loving. But here are a few (I’m currently at 103 books read for the year, so I’m breaking a personal record.)

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbie Waxman was the most light-hearted book I read this year so far! If you like to read about people who love books, this one’s for you.

Nina is a quirky, introverted twentysomething who lives in L.A., works at a bookshop, discovers a family she never knew she had, and meets a very promising man.

The author’s way with words is clever and unusual–no cliches here. And there are parts that made me laugh out loud, which is not something that happens often. (Unless I’m reading David Sedaris.)

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is my top pick out of all the books I read this year. I listened to the audio version read by Juliet Stevenson and I absolutely recommend you read it this way.

The story: one cold Winter Solstice night, a man appears in the doorway of The Swan, an inn on the Thames. In his arms he holds a small girl and nobody knows where she came from.

Three different stories unfold that include a missing child. Which family does the girl belong to? Or is she someone else entirely? And what did happen to those other children? Exquisitely written, woven with mystery, magic, and myth, this book will enchant you. 

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware was the scariest book I read this year. Here are some of the scary bits: a nanny alone in a house with children who hate her, the house is in the Highlands of Scotland, the house is also a “smart” house so everything from lights, to the refrigerator, to music is controlled by an app and is under constant surveillance from the parents who are away on business. Oh, and there are malicious, ghostly happenings that are directed at the nanny, as they were at her predecessors.

OK, I’m a wimp and don’t read horror, but this came close. I had to read this during daylight hours with people around. So if you like thrillers, this one is for you!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Saint X (Book Review)

<a href="http://<a target="_blank" href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1250219590/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1250219590&linkCode=as2&tag=lifeofkim-20&linkId=7bf3e133a18b21e6e50a0488d9c45b87">Saint X</a>""Saint X is one of the very few books I’ve read this year that I could not put down! The bright, tropical cover disguises the depth of the subject matter. For although it is a clever, suspenseful thriller, this novel addresses the evolution of self, the parent-child relationship in its various stages, the advantages and guilt of white, wealthy people, and the disadvantages of poor people of color on Caribbean islands and the rest of the world.

It starts like a film, zooming in to the fictional Caribbean island of Saint X. It’s the mid-1990s. The reader is introduced to a well-to-do white family from New York vacationing at a luxurious resort for their New Year holiday.

Alison, the elder daughter, is eighteen, pretty, self-absorbed, bored, and typical of girls of that age. The unusual one and the heroine is the younger daughter, Claire, or Clairey, as the rest of the family affectionately calls her. She is seven years old, has an unusual appearance, is shy, socially awkward, and appears to display possible OCD tendencies. The parents remain on the periphery of the story, and what we know of them is seen through the eyes of Claire.

The other main character in the novel is Clive Richardson, a young man who was born and lives on Saint X, and who, along with his friend, Edwin, becomes a suspect in Alison’s death. In comparison to the comfortable lives led by Alison and Claire, Clive is without the advantages that wealth can provide. He grows up without many prospects for the future, so after high school, he and Edwin find employment serving the rich white people at the resort. Which is how they meet Alison and become involved with her on the night she goes missing.

As the novel unfolds, we glimpse some of what Alison gets up to and who she interacts with in the days and nights leading to her disappearance and death. After her body is discovered, Alison and Claire’s parents are frantic to find answers, to discover who is responsible for their daughter’s death. Although Clive and Edwin did spend some time with Alison on the night she disappears, not enough evidence is found to charge them with her supposed murder, so it goes unsolved.

The novel moves forward to when Claire is in her mid-twenties and living a fairly normal life in New York City complete with a good job and friends. She calls herself by her middle name–Emily–in an attempt to put the past behind her. Except she can’t. She still longs to learn more about Alison, and more about why and how she died.

We flash back in time to the months immediately following Alison’s death when Claire’s parents are wrapped up in their own grief and she feels forgotten. Then we see her as she grows up, through all the awkwardness of adolescence and into young adulthood, and how she must deal with the way people treat her when they discover who she is. And even though she wishes she could forget, Alison haunts her wherever she goes.

So Claire is in NYC, trying to live like other people do. As a way to assuage her guilt for her affluent background, she moves into an apartment in a part of Brooklyn that is mostly inhabited by economically disadvantaged people of color. She is still socially awkward, so she doesn’t interact much with the other tenants in her apartment building, but she wishes she could.

Then, out of the blue, while taking a taxi home one day, Claire looks in the rearview mirror and is shocked to find that her driver is Clive Richardson–the man that she has always believed was involved in Alison’s death! Everything she lived through as the sister of a murder victim comes flooding back in that instant. She becomes obsessed with getting Clive to confess. She relentlessly stalks him every night after work. She finds out everything she can about him. Then she pretends to befriend him.

What comes of this obsession with and connection to Clive? Will he eventually confess to his involvement in Alison’s murder? Will Claire ever be able to heal and let go of the past? Ah, but that would be telling! That is what you’ll find out when you read Saint X for yourself.

I was very fortunate to receive an Advanced Reading Copy of Saint X from Celadon Books; however, all opinions are entirely my own. Saint X, written by Alexis Schaitkin, will be published on February 18, 2020 and I absolutely recommend this novel to lovers of mysteries, crime thrillers, and really good fiction.

Evening Poetry, October 24

Dreams

by Mary Oliver

All night

the dark buds of dreams

open

richly.

In the center

of every petal

is a letter,

and you imagine

if you could only remember

and string them all together

they would spell the answer.

It is a long night,

and not an easy one–

you have so many branches,

and there are diversions–

birds that come and go,

the black fox that lies down

to sleep beneath you,

the moon staring

with her bone-white eye.

Finally you have spent

all the energy you can

and you drag from the ground

the muddy skirt of your roots

and leap awake

with two or three syllables

like water in your mouth

and a sense

of loss–a memory

not yet of a word,

certainly not yet the answer–

only how it feels

when deep in the tree

all the locks click open,

and the fire surges through the wood,

and the blossoms blossom.

You can find this poem in Dream Work.