Friday, January 29, 2010

but here I am and here we go again

So I'm trying to get back into the swing of things with my posting. We'll see how that works out for me.

Since January is pretty much over, I thought I'd take the time to recap a bit of 2009 for you. You know, before it becomes too ridiculously late in the new year (keep in mind that ridiculosity is relative). As far as my reading goal is concerned, I didn't quite make the 50 books (unless you count all the kids' books I read to my nieces, which for this purpose, I don't). I really only made it to 41, which compared to the 44 I finished the year before is a tad embarrassing. I was a little bummed about this late in the year, once I realized there was really no way I was going to make up the difference. But, then I got to thinking…. And I realized that with all the new things I took on in 2009, it's really not a bad thing at all. So I read a few less books. I also become much more involved in my church, made two backpacks for my nieces from scratch, spent a lot more time on the road between Chicago and Kentucky/Southern Illinois, hand-made some Christmas presents, and MOVED. All things considered, I think I came out of 2009 pretty well on the productive scale.

As far as actual books read, between Halloween & the end of the year I managed to read all but the last of the Harry Potter books. I also discovered Shannon Hale, a delightful YA author (my sincerest thanks, Corella), and made it through 3 of her stories. Some of my other favorites from the second half of the year were Gentlemen and Players (I adore Joanne Harris, although technically this was an audiobook), The 19th Wife, Beasts of No Nation, Foreign Bodies (this one amazed me. It truly did. But not until about half-way through.), The Angel's Game (definitely not as good as the first, but still worth the read) and The Book Thief, which was my final read of the year and a phenomenal book. The only books I really wish I hadn't spent the time to read were ones I just picked up off the shelves at the library - Having It and Eating It and I Just Want My Pants Back. If you're ever presented with either of these, trust me, don't bother.

So that's my wrap-up. As far as 2010 is concerned, I have decided to re-try last year's goal of 50. I'm doing pretty well so far, since we're still (barely) in January and I'm already a good way through my 5th book. My favorites so far have been How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls (if you ever saw the short-lived CW show Privileged, it's based on this book. Meaning I was never able to picture the twins as redheads nor Megan as anything but a size 2) and Big Stone Gap, which takes place in a rural Appalachian town in western Virginia. I recommend both. Hopefully I'll be able to keep up this pace.

Here's to a better year in 2010.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

kiss the girl!

Okay, since that last post was kinda uncharacteristically deep and introspective, if you've stopped by for something a little more light-hearted you may just want to skip it and watch the following, which is one of my favorite videos of my nieces.

(Please ignore my creepy whisper part-way through.)

Wherein Essie & Chloe describe a song from one of their favorite movies:

i'm rearrangin', hopefully i'm changin'

I have a confession to make.

Granted, I realize that many of you avid readers out there could pretty much make a similar confession, but I'm going to make it anyway. Here goes: Many times, I use books as an escape mechanism. There is nothing (or, at least, little) better after a long, hard, overall bad day at work than coming home and wrapping oneself in a warm, cozy blanket with a cup of good coffee/tea and a good book that makes you smile and maybe even laugh and forget and let go of the stress of the day. Books are a way of escaping to another world, of putting yourself in another person's shoes and seeing the world through their eyes. Books are enlightening; they teach us about other peoples and other cultures and other life situations that we could never experience otherwise.

But there is more than just the other that makes some books magical. Often, it is the sameness that hits us over the head as we read. A truly good author knows how to write a character in such a way that you recognize a certain part of yourself in him or her. Maybe it's a characteristic you've always known was there. Maybe it's one you don't have, but wish secretly that you did, or at least that you were a little bit better at mastering. Maybe it's one you see in yourself that you don't like. And sometimes, sometimes you see something of yourself there in print that you had never realized was a part of you. It may even just be a phrase or two in a story that opens up a part of your soul that was either hiding from you, or that you were hiding from yourself without even knowing it.

This last one is a phenomenon I experienced with a book I've read in the last week or so. I'm not going to tell you what book; frankly, I'm not comfortable with baring that much personal vulnerability for all the internetted world to see. But it happened. I connected with a character in a way I hadn't before, concerning a part of me that I'm not really so good at opening up about with other people. And in a very small way, it's changed me. In the safety of my own room, I was able to wake up to these thoughts and ideas that subconsciously float around in my head and affect the way I deal with other people on a semi-regular basis. I don't have it all figured out, but because it was spelled out for me so well there in print, I'm now able to put certain feelings into words, to give them a name and to recognize them for what they are.

This isn't the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last. And to be honest, my experience is that movies can have the same effect on a person. One of my favorite movies is Runaway Bride, which I saw for the first time in a very long time over the weekend. (Incidentally, this movie was the first movie I ever watched in a theater, but that's neither here nor there as far as this conversation is concerned.) I don't think I picked up on this the first time I saw the movie (sometimes these revelations take awhile to really get), but I remember seeing this movie one of those first times and frankly being a little uncomfortable with parts of it, even as much as I loved the movie. I saw some of myself in the character, parts of me that at the time I didn't like. I related to Maggie's inability to know some things about herself (even as simple as how she liked her eggs) because I spent a lot of time taking the easy way and doing what everyone else wanted, never wanting to cause conflict or to ruffle anyone's feathers. I, too, was good at making myself into whatever my current company would prefer me to be. Through the movie, I was able to recognize this tendency in myself in a way I never had, and since I was then cognizant of these personal issues, I was able to work on them over the years. Frankly, living on my own for so long has been one of the best things that could have happened to me concerning this issue - I've had to learn what I want, how I want it, and what to do about it. I think I've pretty much mastered this one, but I think this is a perfect example of what I've been talking about. Books, stories, otherness, help us see the sameness, too.

Sometimes this can be uncomfortable. But it's life-changing, and almost always in a good way. I'll let you know in a few years how this one turns out.