A Reader

 

Mikki at a New Orleans Book Store - 2012

 

More than one friend has told me about reading a really good book, and parsing out the last few chapters, to make the read last. And each time I’ve heard this, I’ve marveled. Whenever I’m reading a great book, I want nothing more than to zip right through it. It’s all I can do to function properly within the parameters of the rest of my life when I’m in the middle of a page-turner.

 

But now, I don’t know, things have changed. These days, when I read a book I’m super-into I get a dark feeling as I near its end. And when the last page has been read and the book is closed, I actually experience a bit of mourning.

 

I’m going through that right now, as I just finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls. I had gotten comfortable with “Vivian” and her New York City life. I liked my time with her. I liked her. And now that I’m done with the book, I miss her. I miss her wit and her insight. I miss her unique-to-her skills and sense of adventure. I miss that book’s world.

 

For some time I’ve been aware of the fact that I will never live long enough to read all the books I’d like. That’s heavy enough. Couple that with the aching that accompanies the finishing of a lovely tome and I find it’s a bit much.

 

But I am a reader. No denying it. And that’s why Graham Swift’s Waterland is at my side, ready to introduce me to a new world, to new characters. I have no idea what’s coming, as this book is on loan from my friend Lorinda. No matter – I’m ready.

Stuff

 

 

I’m trying to get rid of stuff. It isn’t that I’m becoming a minimalist or anything, I’ve just reached a point of accepting certain realities. Namely, stuff and stuff cannot occupy the same space. Practically, that means I can’t squeeze one more book onto an overburdened shelf, nor can I ram one more hanger onto an already packed rod. I’m not sure, but this urge to purge may be seasonal. It’s getting to be that time of year when we hunker inside. That means the inside of home needs to be comforting, not stifling.

 

I’m a big fan of stuff. Truly. Like most folks, I tend to appreciate some stuff more than others, and that’s okay. Some stuff is so dear, I wouldn’t dream of relegating it to a goodwill pile. Certain books are like that. Sure – after I read some books, they simply don’t belong in the house (or in my memory, for that matter). But once in a while a book comes along that needs a permanent spot on one’s shelf. Maybe it deserves to be reread. Maybe it just needs to be touched or held once in a while.

 

Other stuff can be meaningful and important to a person, too. And those things are worth holding on to. Those are the things that, when someone asks to borrow them, we waver. Personally, I’ve had to learn hard lessons about precious things. Like when someone asks to borrow a few of your records, then moves away, taking your vinyl with them. Or when someone borrows one of your nicest dresses, rips it, and blames you for the damage. Yes – this is asshole behavior, and perhaps one shouldn’t be loaning stuff to jerks in the first place. The problem, though, is that you don’t always see that kind of behavior coming. Some folks are trustworthy right up until they’re not. And once I learn that about someone, yet continue to trust them, I’ve no one to blame but myself. Fool me once is enough, y’all.

 

Now that I’m getting better about knowing when to lend things out and when to not, I’m happier. For me, my new basic rule is this: If I ever want to get something back, don’t lend it in the first place. When someone asks to borrow a book (or anything else), I think about it long and hard. Is it a book that needs to reside with me for all time? Or can I let it go – for all time? If and only if the second question’s answer is yes, do I lend it. Short and sweet. Because here’s the deal, friends – no one will ever appreciate your stuff as much as you. Even if they openly cherish and respect their own belongings, they will probably not extend the same courtesies to yours.

 

So as I prepare for the end of the year and try to make more room in my life, stuff is being sorted and discarded. It feels good, and because I’m honoring my needs, it feels honest. I will always be a gal with stuff. It’s in my nature. But if it isn’t useful or beautiful to me, I needn’t keep it. Here’s hoping I can purge the right things, and that I don’t even notice their absence.

In Process

 

 

This little painting is something I turn to when I need a break from other works. Or when I finish something and haven’t yet decided what to start next. I’ve been dabbling with it for months on end.

 

Have you ever started reading a book, and you just can’t get into it? That’s sort of how I feel about this painting. The idea was in my mind for a few years, so starting it was good. Joyful, even. But like a book that fails to grab me, this painting is dulling my senses.

 

My friend DK once told me that if I start a book and don’t enjoy it, I should put it down immediately and start reading something else, as “life’s too short to read bad books.” She’s the most well-read person I know, so I really had to think about her advice. I’ve yet to heed it, mind you, but I’ve not forgotten it.

 

So I guess I’ll keep plugging away on this little painting, much like I plug away with books that aren’t my keg of beer. Maybe in the end I’ll be glad I finished. I certainly hope so. Otherwise, what’s the point?

“Furiously Happy”

 

 

I’ve been reading Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson and I cannot convey how much I’m enjoying this book. Not long ago, I shared my newfound appreciation for Ms. Lawson’s blog and her writings. Well this book is just bringing it all home. It’s deep and it’s hilarious. Honestly – I adore it.

 

And as you can see from the photo above, I have zero-point-zero shame in showing my appreciation for the book’s cover. No pride, either. But really – no shame.

 

And during senseless, tragic times, I will take any and all bringers of light moments. We sorely need them. God love Ms. Lawson for that.

Thursday Memories

 

 

My desire to pare down possessions continues. (It’s been actively going on for several months, mentally going on for decades.) And as the fine people at a local charity are picking up quite a haul today, I’ve had occasion to go through some things to add to the donation. One item that ended up in the give-away box was a gardening book about Eudora Welty. Tucked in its pages, I found the pieces of paper shown above. That means I had that book with me when Mister and I traveled to Japan in the 1990s. The map is from Kyoto. The beer label, well, I don’t remember. I’m guessing I got that in Tokyo, but I’m not sure. The only things I remember for certain are taking a bullet train to Kyoto, hanging with dear friends, “The Caboose” in Tokyo (which may or may not be gone now), Mister’s odd ability to spot and understand Kanji at twenty paces and Typhoon Tom. Yep. Mister and I were stuck in the airport during a typhoon. But I digress…

 

I have a thing about books. I want to hold on to them, to keep them. I want them on shelves and stacked on tables. Art books, coffee table books, fiction, non-fiction – I take all comers and I love them. I’ve read most of the books in our house. (I do have several in my to-be-read pile, and that’s cool.) And some books I’ve read are adored more than others. And then there are the books that don’t really hold any significant meaning for me. For the most part, I got something out of them, but do I need to see them on a shelf? Do I continue to derive pleasure from their presence? No. Not really. Those are the books I’m letting go. Those are the books I hope will find their way into the hands of some eager reader, at a discounted price. And maybe those books will be loved by another. Maybe even prized enough to warrant a place of honor on a shelf.

 

In the meantime, I go through each give-away book, just in case I’ve left something important tucked in the pages. I haven’t found any money yet, but I have found memories. That counts.

Too Fond of Books

 

 

I have 2 new non-fiction books on my table, waiting for their spines to be cracked. And I really want to get to them, but I’m not quite finished with a couple of other books. And I fully intend to finish those before starting something new.

 

I love reading and would wear out my eyes doing nothing else if I could. But of course, that’s neither practical nor possible. And – I’m being honest here – I can never find a fully comfortable position that my body can maintain for hours on end. I want to, mind you, but it just doesn’t work out. That, friends, is a genuine bummer.

 

I am pretty excited to finish John Irving’s first novel (Setting Free the Bears), which I should wrap up soon. That guy’s brilliant. And crazy. And maybe crazy-brilliant. And I’m still working on a book of essays by mentors from various walks of life (Getting There: A Book of Mentors). That one’s interesting, entertaining and uplifting.

 

When I am able to file those books away, there are others, waiting patiently to turn my brain. And I shall give them their due.

Finally!

 

 

You may not believe this, but I finally finished reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

 

Perhaps you recall a post from the beginning of February, in which I described the impetus for picking the book up in the first place. And how I’d gotten through at least enough of it to be inspired to write a song. Though I didn’t go into details at that time, a lot of life (namely health stuff) was swirling around me and I was slow in attaching myself to Mr. Steinbeck’s tome.

 

Cut to the last few weeks, and I found myself wanting to get through the danged thang if only to put it on a shelf and be done with it. And then something funny happened. At around page 400 (I kid you not), I finally got interested. So the last 200 pages of the book were really compelling for me.

 

As a general rule, I believe life is too short to read bad or uninteresting books. I don’t know why I kept coming back to East of Eden, but I’m glad I did. In the end, I absolutely loved it. I’m guessing my failure to find interest in the first two-thirds of the book is due to my own shortcomings. Sticking with it, however, is due to my tenacity. (See – sometimes I’m nice to me.)

 

One final thing… When I re-read that original East of Eden post from early February, I loved the last lines about saying Yes to life. If nothing else, finishing the book and revisiting that post reminded me to go for it. Whatever it may be…

Unexpected Pleasures

 

 

A couple of days ago I shared a bit about this year’s WEXMAS party. But I neglected to share anything about the gift Mister and I brought home: Thou Spleeny Swag-Bellied Miscreant – Create Your Own Shakespearean Insults book.

 

Here’s how it works. You open the cover to reveal ring-bound pages, divided into 3 sections. You can choose any “page” from each section. Read together, they equal something along the lines of this…

 

 

At first, I thought it was just another dorky WEXMAS gift. But now I’m starting to appreciate it. I mean, my vocab could definitely use a refresher. Maybe this little book is just the ticket. After all, I don’t want to always sound like a Milk-livered Burly-boned Coxcomb…

The Rearview

 

 

This year has been a doozy. There have certainly been some ugly times and occurrences. I don’t deny that. But as I look in the rearview at the last 12 months, I’m choosing to focus on some positives. I thank you in advance for indulging me…

 

Slippers – Yes, after decades of wearing socks for warmth, I finally broke down and got myself some damned slippers. I’m wearing them as I type and I wear them all the time! I love them truly. I love them madly. I love them deeply. I had no idea slippers could change my little world.

 

Saying Yes – This year saw me taking a different tack when faced with situations/opportunities that frighten me. For example, in the past, I never would have said yes when asked to participate in a public reading. But I did it, so there you go. Other experiences have been added to my life as well, and a few more are already on the calendar. When I was recently asked to do something very cool and very scary, I told the organizer the truth: This idea is amazing and yet the very thought makes me terribly uncomfortable. Because I’m afraid, I think I’d better say Yes. I’ll participate.

 

London – I about blogged that trip to death. And I’m still talking about how great it was! No doubt, Mister had a lot to do with that as he was such a great fellow traveler. But there was also something magical about the vacation. Sure – Kate Bush was a dream. But so was the Harry Potter Tour. And so was Dinner By Heston Blumenthal. And so was our beautiful Navy-colored hotel room. And so was every other fabulous thing. Again, I’m still talking about it.

 

Painting – I finished a painting a couple of weeks ago and I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’m a slow painter, y’all. I own that. So when I decided I wanted to finish this particular piece by year’s end, my painting buddy Nicole laughed and laughed. (Sadly – she didn’t just meet me.) Betting her I would finish spurred me to actually do it. And I did. Good for me.

 

Books – I read some top-notch books this year and reading is one my greatest pleasures, so I’m quite happy with this one. And I’m reading a couple of grand books now. As I’m known to say, no matter how long I live I’ll never get to read all the books I want. So I’ll take what I can.

 

Letting Go – This one is partly due to having read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. I certainly don’t claim to be a Master or anything, but I’m learning people. And that counts. It feels good to not have to try and make sure every friggin’ thing is just so. We all know how well that turns out, right? The work on this one continues.

 

My Kate Bush Mug – This may seem like an odd thing to love, love, love, but I do, do, do. Love, love, love it I mean. I keep it on the back of the shelf, so when the dishwasher is holding a few to-be-cleaned cups I reach in and find the Kate mug. I can’t tell you how big I smile when that happens. The cup reads “It’s coming! It’s in the trees!” It makes me very happy, y’all.

 

D2T2 – This little creative idea was born at the end of last year during a beautiful, drunken afternoon. And though it’s been challenging to undertake an artistic endeavor each week of the year (yes – I know we dropped the ball a few times), it’s been inspiring. And I have to say – the creative wheels seem to be turning more than before we undertook the task. What’s more – these projects netted art! How cool is that?

 

Mister – Nothing I write here could ever come close to conveying my truth where this guy is concerned. I can’t properly describe my feelings, my respect, my love. To say I’d open a vein for the man is just scratching the surface. I love him more than butter. It’s crazy. It’s surreal. It must be love.

 

I could keep going, but this is a pretty nice list. And to end it on the love of my life seems appropriate.

 

So here’s to the New Year. To New Adventures. To New Opportunities. To New Life. Cheers!

D-Squared T-Squared – Week 34

 

 

This past week found us working on an idea Mister’s been considering for a while. We gathered some supplies and now we’re seeing if we can bring his vision to life. This one is going to take a couple of weeks, and that’s okay. In fact, Mister’s quite happy about the required time. He isn’t too keen on the pressure to complete an art project in a one-week period. (It is rather arbitrary.) Time is sometimes necessary for creation. Go figure.

 

So this one will take us a while, friends. And I’m not gonna give away any details until the project is complete. For now, you’ll just have to be content with knowing our materials mission required an intense visit to a local book re-seller…