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, Brené 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.

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’m Reading Now

Happy Friday! Here is a list of five books I’m currently reading. I would love to know what you are reading lately!

Jean Vanier: Portrait of a Free Man by Anne-Sophie Constant will be published by Plough Publishing House on August 4th. Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche community in France passed away on May 7th. I’ve read his book Community and Growth, have heard him interviewed on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast, and have a great respect for him and the work he did. He served those who the modern world often sees as “the least of these”, and I was introduced to him through some of Henri Nouwen’s writings. I’m looking forward to an inspiring read about this modern spiritual giant who has left behind a beautiful legacy.

I am listening to The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton on audiobook. It is read by Joanne Froggatt (Lady Mary’s maid, Anna Bates, from Downton Abbey) and is a gorgeous, intricate, many-layered tale containing murder, mystery, ghosts, and voices from the past and present. I haven’t read a Kate Morton book in several years and am truly enjoying this book!

She’s My Dad: A Father’s Transition and A Son’s Redemption by Jonathan K. Williams with Paula Stone Williams is an eye-opening, heart-wrenching true story of a Christian minister’s family turned upside-down by the revelation that their father is a woman. Told through the son’s eyes, the story is filled with many references to charismatic 80s and 90s church culture in the U.S., ( with which I am, for better or worse, familiar). I am only about a third of the way through and will give a full review when I finish the book.

I just began reading In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden last weekend. It’s the story of a successful businesswoman in her mid-forties who decides to join a Benedictine order of nuns in Sussex, England. At this stage, she has just taken the train to the Abbey and has been allowed inside. This is going to be a wonderful story, I think. This is my first Rumer Godden book for adults; I’ve only read her children’s books. (My favorite children’s book of hers–and all-time favorite Christmas book is The Story of Holly and Ivy.) She has several titles I am adding to my TBR list…

As so many others are doing because of her recent, untimely death, I am reading Searching For Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding Church by beloved writer Rachel Held Evans. Because I have struggled with my relationship to church, I want to read the words of someone who has been there and understands.

What I’m Reading Lately

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Hello from the Finger Lakes! This cool and sunny sweater weather we’re enjoying these past few days is my favorite. The sun going down earlier means more time for books, which I always welcome! Right now, I have a great stack of books that I’m either reading through or about to start and I can’t wait to share them with you.

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Tom Asacker was interviewed in this episode of Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative Podcast last year when he talked about the stories we tell ourselves, how they can limit us, and what we can do about it. His book is I am Keats: Escape Your Mind and Free Your Self*. You know that voice in your head that says things like, “Who do you think you are to …” you fill in the blank. Well, that’s you telling yourself a story, a limiting story. Tom Asacker addresses this voice in your head.

Speaking of that voice in your head, in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Anne Lamott talks about that voice, the things that distract and how to focus on your writing, in addition to many hilarious, poignant, and very real stories from her own life with words. If you write at all, it’s good to read books that describe other writers’ experiences, paths that led to writing, and how they deal with distraction, loneliness, failure, and success. I picked up a copy at my local used bookstore and am nearly finished reading it. I recommend this if you take an interest in writing!

Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko  has been on my TBR list for such a long time! I finally placed a hold at the library and am looking forward to diving in. Isn’t that a gorgeous cover!?

I included poetry because I always have at least one collection going. David Whyte’s The Bell and the Blackbird was published earlier this year and I am slowly working my way through it. His way with words brings me to tears, in a good way. He writes with such depth and tenderness, clarity and boldness, delving into the difficult, the painful, as well as the joyful seasons of life. My particular favorites so far have been his poems to the late Irish poet John O’ Donahue as well as his poem to beloved poet Mary Oliver. If you haven’t read David Whyte’s poetry or essays yet, what are you waiting for?

The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl was a random book purchase, simply because I was intrigued by the title. My life has been anything but leisurely, especially since I’ve started a business, but I still want to know how to waste a day right when I get a spare one!

Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life has also been on my TBR for several years. After going through so many transitions and finding my way forward, I need to hear the wisdom of someone older and wiser that myself. Maybe the truths within the pages will assist me as I seek to connect the pieces and make sense of the journey. Look for more about this when I finish reading it.

Lastly, The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time is a book I placed on hold at the library after a recent bout with depression and extreme anxiety. This book sounded, well, up! And hopeful and like maybe there are actions that I can take, habits that I can form, ideas I haven’t thought of, that will help me reduce these symptoms and live with more positivity and calm. I’m about a third of the way through already; the writing is clear, the material easy-to-understand, and best of all, there are practical helps I can implement. I’m looking forward to reading the rest!

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Alright, that’s it for now! What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

* This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through one of the links here, it benefits me in a very small way at no extra cost to you!

Day 26: The Hurrier I Go

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I’m sure you’ve heard this Lewis Carroll quote,

“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

There’s a certain point at which that becomes true. Not that I am encouraging dawdling or procrastination, but hurrying hurts and usually winds up hindering our progress. Oops! I spilled something in my haste. Or, now I need to apologize for snapping at my loved one because I’ve made myself miserable trying to live at this breakneck pace.

We weren’t meant to flit and speed from one place and activity to another with no rest, no time for reflection. Here is a definition of the phrase “hurry sickness” coined by doctors Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman:

“a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time.”

This article on how to overcome hurry sickness takes a good look at the problem. We need help! As a culture, many of us don’t know how to relax or slow down, even if we only have a few pockets of time every day.

We have forgotten how to love stillness and silence, how to sit with ourselves alone and just be, how to fully enjoy a walk, appreciate the preciousness of a loved one’s smile, drink in the exquisiteness of a sunset, how to be silly and laugh long and hard, and how to look for joy in the ordinary. But we can slow down and become full of wonder again.

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This time of year, you’re probably looking ahead at the next two months wondering how you’ll get through all the activities associated with the holidays. I used to just square my shoulders and tell myself to hustle more.

And I would go through it all feeling panicky, breaking down into crying jags, yelling and being sharp with my words. And then apologizing for my unacceptable behavior. I just couldn’t handle the constant go-go-go, combined with baking like mad, lots of entertaining, the purchasing and wrapping of gifts and trying to make it all magical and perfect for my kids and anyone who came to our home.

I wanted the peace I attempted to give everyone else. I craved space, simplicity, and the beauty of delighting in small things.

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After a bunch of years doing it the hard way, with the help of books or articles I read and voices on slowing down, like Ann Voskamp’s, I am learning to change my holiday style.

Here are a few questions you might ask yourself before plunging into the season:

If I could arrange my holiday season any way I chose, what would it look like?

If I wasn’t concerned about anyone’s judgement about how I did the holidays, what would I say yes to and what would I say no to?

Who is most important to me and how can I focus on showing them love this season?

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Here is an old book that I love called Unplug the Christmas machine: How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted. It touches on typical roles that women and men take on during the holiday, four things children really want for Christmas, a simple Christmas, Christmas revival, the gift of joy, and it includes a handy resource section with recipes and alternative gift ideas. Of course, it feels dated, but it also feels wise and warm and cozy. Some of the resources may be outdated, but use the internet to find something comparable. This version is out-of-print, but amazon Marketplace has copies available.

And if you’d rather have the in-print version, that’s Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season:

The other book I’ve read over and over is: To Dance With God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration. Although I’m not a Catholic, I incorporated several of the traditions listed in this book to enrich my own and my kids’ holiday season. This book actually takes the reader through the entire church calendar, but I’ve used it for Advent and Christmas, primarily.

And finally, a sweet out-of-print old-fashioned book called The Child’s Christmas. I’m not sure how I stumbled across this one, but it follows a fictional Victorian family from Advent through Epiphany. It tells of all their traditions, what they ate and played and did, what gifts they gave and received, how they celebrated. I read it to my kids when they were seven and three.

I hope we can all find comfort and joy this year!

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Day 19: Flow and NaNoWriMo

 

1CBABC93-BDCF-4020-B2F9-85382DB7E6CEAccording to Wikipedia, “In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.” ( Read more at wikipedia about Flow. )

And that’s what I got into today. Four or five solid, uninterrupted hours of totally absorbing, fulfilling and satisfying work throughout the afternoon gave me such a sense of accomplishment. Mostly because I haven’t had this lately and have felt frustrated about it, it felt particularly great. I sewed continuously and everything worked. or once, no stitches to pick out, no epic fails. I just made lots of cute things and cut out shapes for more.

Although I haven’t read his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World yet, I’ve heard Cal Newport interviewed on Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative Podcast and know I struggle with focus and steering clear of distractions. This book is on my Kindle and I need to read it ASAP.

Here is a blog post by Srini Rao about Flow and Deep Work and ways he has oriented his own life toward this way of working.

Speaking of Flow and Deep Work, I am gearing up for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. I need to announce my novel on their site soon and am petrified. Has anyone ever participated in this or attempted it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on flow and deep work experiences and anything you know about NaNoWriMo.

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Day 9: Tulip Bulbs, Dean Koontz and Carrot Cake

After a busy weekend when we play out, Mondays always seem like I’m trying to find all the pieces of me and reassemble myself.

I woke late, went to the gym late and then planted sixty-one tulip bulbs around the gazebo. Yes, that’s a lot and my back can testify.

My sister-in-law sent me a very generous birthday gift of one hundred tulips and fifty daffodils. They arrived Friday.

I’m thrilled when I think of the beauty coming up next Spring, but now is the time to plant them while the ground is wet and the temperature mild. So I planted a little more than a third of them today and will work on planting them the rest of this week.

After I came in and showered, I put a gluten free vegan pizza in the oven for lunch and sat down to finish The Silent Corner: A Novel of Suspensethe Dean Koontz book Alan gave me for my birthday.

It wrapped up nicely, but clearly a sequel was on the way. And indeed, The Whispering Room: A Jane Hawk Novel is now available.

Jane Hawk, the protagonist, is definitely a badass, but one with a heart of gold. Everything she does is to protect her son, avenge her murdered husband and save the world. No big deal. If you like suspense novels, add this one to your list.

Next up on my fiction list is Neil Gaiman’s American Gods: Author’s Preferred Text.

My afternoon was spent sewing felt dolls and birds while watching The Tunnel on Amazon Prime.

And then it was time for carrot cake. Sarah Bakes Gluten Free is a blog filled with delicious gluten free and mostly vegan treats.

I have a friend coming over for lunch tomorrow and wanted a classic dessert to serve her. This recipe will produce a carrot cake you won’t forget. I subbed carrot for the zucchini and added 1/4 almond flour. With vegan buttercream frosting, it’s scrumptious.

What was your Monday like?

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What I Read This Summer

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My summer reading list was longer than I was able to get through, which is a common bookworm problem, but here is what I was able to read in the past couple of months and a few thoughts on each book.

Louder Than Words by Todd Henry inspired and encouraged by asking to the point questions and getting his readers to take a look at their message, their voice and their audience and focus on developing a specific vision and clear message to convey. I admit to skimming the last third and if I wanted to really glean all I possibly could from it, I would need to take the time to answer, in writing, all of his questions. This may be a book I return to, although compared to The Accidental Creative, it wasn’t as enjoyable.

The Truth According To Us by Annie Barrows was a slow, Southern read that drew me in gently but firmly until I needed to know what happened to these people. What an interesting, entertaining and feel-good yet not-shallow read. After finishing it, I purchased a used copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society  by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows and set it on my nightstand. I’ve heard good things about this book for so long, it was definitely time to read it. Right away I recognized the similar delightful style and cast of quirky and fascinating characters. They sparkle. They made me laugh. They were thoroughly believable and now I’ve added Guernsey to my travel bucket list. So I recommend both books.


I See You by Clare Mackintosh was creepy, but not as much as I’d hoped for. Except for the very end, which makes me think there must be a sequel in the works.

The Dry: A Novel by Jane Harper was much discussed, but I guessed who the murderer was early on. I hardly ever manage this, so I would say it was a bit of a let down. Also, the writing style was dry and dull, like the setting, so I wouldn’t read other books by this author.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware scared me so much in the beginning that I almost put it down for good. Not wanting to wimp out, I pulled myself together and kept reading. It was worth it. She was a bit like a more modern Agatha Christie, and I had an idea who might be the murderer, but was Red Herringed until the end. I liked the main character, her boyfriend Judah, which is my son’s name, and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the small cruise ship where the murder took place. I will read more books by this author.

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Naht Hanh was my first Bhuddist book and first book I’ve read by this author. Picked up at my favorite local used bookstore, Autumn Leaves, I liked the short chapters and his very practical and straightforward style. Really, I didn’t feel preached to or like he was trying to convert one to Bhuddism. Simply, he shared what helped him or possible scenarios of how one might incorporate breathing, being present, kindness, gratitude, etc., into one’s every day. I will read more by this author, and, in fact, I already have.