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Chronicle

“…if he were still alive and I told him now that I wish I could preserve the older memories, erase what they have been replaced by, he would tell me that to be a witness to history is a burden for the chosen.” Yasmine El  Rashidi‘s novel, Chronicle of a Last Summer, is a different sort of coming of age novel. It’s less the coming of age of the narrator and more the coming of age of a country. El Rashidi takes us through three different summers – 1984, 1998, and 2014 – of the narrator’s life growing up in Cairo.

The narrator is a little younger than I am, and it was interesting to see how much the state of the world, even across an ocean, tempered our worldview in very similar ways. Even as small children, we were given quite a bit of responsibility and freedom to explore while the grown ups talked about grown-up things – things we were intentionally kept from knowing. Our childhood was a swirl of independence and oblivion.

In the beginning, I wished I knew more about Egyptian history and politics. I know some of the basics, but I felt like the 6-year-old narrator, left out of the adult conversation. This was one of my favorite aspects of the novel, because it shows how well the author portrayed the mind of the child, drawing the reader into her world and cloaking what was going on around her in exactly the same way she was experiencing.

This first sections was where some of the most beautiful moments with the characters happened. As the novel progressed and the narrator grew older and more aware of what was going on around her, we lost some of the elements that one typically associates with deep characterization. Instead of moments that revealed strengths or weaknesses, personality quirks or depths, these things were replaced with caricatures of each character’s political stance (or lack thereof). This choice stripped the characters of some of their humanity but gave us such musings as “Is the silence of objectivity and being an observer, witness, the same as complicity?” and their subsequent development. While it allowed the richness and complexity of Egypt to shine through, it made it harder for me to maintain interest in the characters themselves.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel, and it has sparked my interest in hearing more of her perspective on her country, which you can hear in this reading here and also in her nonfiction work, The Battle for Egyptwhich chronicles the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

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Friday Five3

Since our last Friday Five, I have been intrigued by people doing things right. Some of them are serious and some less so, but either way, we don’t always hear these stories, so I thought I’d share. Enjoy!

  1. The geniuses at Girlxoxo are my heroes. Here is a master list of reading challenges for the year. Click on that, and come back. Are you back? Did you see?!?!?! I KNOW, RIGHT?!?! This is the best.
  2. I imagine that there are several issues on which Sarah Silverman and I would disagree, but this is absolutely the nicest way I’ve ever heard of handling someone who called you something terrible.
  3. A compilation of writing advice from 27 successful writers.  I particularly enjoy James Altucher’s advice to drink coffee + read and read and read + write and John Avlon’s description of writing for the ear.
  4. Danielle Henderson via Shondaland teaches us how to gym for non-gym people. *raises hand*
  5. How to apologize, the master class. The podcast linked within the article is long-ish (well, not for a podcast, I guess, but I’m having attention span issues today) but worth the listen.

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THE BEST DAY!!!

New Year’s Day is easily one of my top ten favorite days of the year. Maybe even top five. I love setting new goals or revising old ones. I love – if even for just a day – looking forward and being intentionally cheerful about what the year might bring. I looooove breaking in my new planner – saying my official goodbye and thank you to last year’s calendar with its scuffs and battle scars and breaking out the shiny new one.

My word for the year is “core.” I have a pretty strong sense of what is important to me and what traits I want to cultivate the most, but this year is devoted to saying those things out loud (or at least on the internet). I am going to talk more about this later this week, but by the end of the year, I want to see a marked improvement in how my core values shape my goals, commitments, and strength.

I have listed a lot of goals and dreams for the year in my 52 Lists journal, and I won’t bog you down with all of them. But here are the key ones:

  1. Read 100 books. That’s just two a week with a couple of weeks off. That’s how much I read when I am reading consistently. Reading grounds and calms me. I fall out of the habit when I over-commit to other things that leave me drained and stressed, so ideally this goal will help me do more reading and less stressing this year.
  2. Make some of these books really long ones. Specifically, I want to read Don Quixote, Infinite Jest, and Anna Karenina.
  3. Finish the first draft of Fishbowl. My hard deadline for this is June 15, so the year’s end may even find me in revision mode. But the first step is just to finish.
  4. Finish Epic Meal Planning edits. Possibly even publish?
  5. Continue learning Spanish and read at least one book in Spanish (with minimal dictionary usage) by the end of the year.
  6. Take a solitary writing retreat. Criteria: 1) outside Denton, 2) two days minimum, and 3) no Internet.
  7. Go to a coffee shop or wine bar at least once a month. Write more about coffee shops.
  8. Build up my emergency fund and get back in the habit of paying off credit cards fully every month. I’ve lapsed a little, and I don’t like it.
  9. Financial/health combo goal – actually use my gym membership regularly or cancel it. Paying for something I don’t use is ridiculous. So is being sedentary.
  10. Try at least one new recipe a month. My meal planning is in a rut. I need new ideas. Feel free to post your favorites in the comments section.

What do you want your 2018 to look like?

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Wild streak

It seemed fitting to end the year of wild with a little heat in my hair.

Other than cosmetically, however, I am not sure how wild the year was. It had its moments. We road-tripped to Virginia and made no real plans for the trip there and back. I ran alone sometimes. I tried new things and spoke out a little more about things that are important to me. I also discovered I’m wilder than I suspected, which is equal parts exciting and scary.

A significant part of the year seemed to be tangled up in trying to balance the wild with safety. This post from my 31 Days series sums up that struggle nicely. Wild is not safe. But wild can be free. It just needs a little room to run. I seem to love (and by “love,” I do mean “thrive in”) the chaos of the wild. I wouldn’t have guessed that.

I’m not through unpacking all of it yet, but that’s okay. The word doesn’t have to end its influence just because the year does.

In other resolution news, I’ve managed to meet at least a little of each one.

  1. Read 100 books. I read 63 books (or, at least, I kept up with 63. A few seem to be missing). I really loved a lot of them. The ones that stand out are Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, Meagan Spooner’s Hunted, Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series, and all the Fredrik Backman books.
  2. Learn conversational Spanish. I took a Spanish class at work. We only got to things like simple directions around campus, but it’s a start.
  3. Continue to make my home a place that is welcoming and does not hinder the life I create. My office is a madhouse. Everything that is still unpacked is in there, and it’s a lot. I think I met this goal in a way that I didn’t intend, though. Even though there are pockets of mess all around, I still had people over more often. I meant to keep my home in a way that was not a hindrance to hospitality, but what seems to have happened is that I just decided that it wasn’t going to be a hindrance and lived my life anyway. Acceptable.
  4. Continue to improve my health and well-being. This is another goal that morphed. My health is better. My blood pressure is staying down, and my focus has improved. Anxiety is still afoot, but it is the monster in the back of my mind instead of the one staring me down when I open my eyes, so that’s better. I haven’t lost the weight like I intended, but I haven’t gained either, which is something, considering that I didn’t pay much attention to it at all.
  5. Finish at least one manuscript and publish a 2018 calendar. I did not finish a manuscript. But I worked on one more consistently than I did the previous year, so…progress? I didn’t publish a calendar like I meant to, but I did make my own calendar of coffee pictures (currently hanging in my kitchen, and it’s sooo cute). I think I just needed to prove to myself that the printing of the calendar was the easy part if I would just get the pictures together.
  6. Run a 5K. Running is so much harder now than it was 20 years ago. I think I finally accepted that this year. This is a doable goal; it’s just not a quickly doable goal. I have a vague hope that I will run consistently one day, but this is not that day. And tomorrow’s not that day, either. Don’t hold your breath.
  7. Go on a writing retreat. Yay! I did! I went to Andi’s retreat, and I have to finish my Fishbowl rough draft by the time the 2018 retreat rolls around. I may have to insert some solitary retreats in there this year to get this done.
  8. Get paid for writing in some way. I totally did this. I make enough in writing to cover my grocery budget, and my Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify subscriptions. SEO writing is not my calling, but it’s a writing job, and I am happy to have it.
  9. Continue/establish beloved traditions. My traditions that have stuck are my Advent/Christmas rituals and my Hemingway party, and they’re both the newest ones. It seems like each home has its own traditions. The cooking/baking weekends all happened when I had a great kitchen (and Maggie to help). But parties with lots of people and space for a full-sized Christmas tree? That I can do here. I look forward to seeing what else this space might hold for me this year.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Friday Five2

I spent today shopping for future book club books and completing my meal planning, budget, and writing calendars for January, so I am prepped and ready for the new year. I will complete the obligatory year-in-review post on Sunday, but I’m looking forward to the year ahead. Here are some things that resonate with my 2017 and some things I’m excited about in 2018.

  1. I LOOOOVE this piece by Jess Zimmerman on Catapult on claiming your complexity. This sums up a lot of what I have journaled secretly in this year of wild. I’m still picking apart what to let loose and what to keep, if not hidden, then at least secluded.
  2. My favorite food author this year (and easily top five every other year I’ve been reading her) is Joy Wilson. I haven’t done as much cooking this year as in the past (my kitchen and I haven’t quite meshed yet. We have issues.), but her writing has made me remember that I do love it and will find my groove and get back to it someday. I love her blog. I loved both Over Easy (coffee, breakfast, and cocktails) and Homemade Decadence (soooo many desserts – it almost has me convinced I can make a cake and not screw it up).
  3. Modern Mrs. Darcy has her reading challenge for 2018 posted! Yay!
  4. So does Book Riot! Yay!
  5. And the thing I am looking forward to the most next month? The 24in48 Readathon! Good time to get a jump start on those reading challenges. Sign-ups are open. Let me know if you sign up so we can read together. I mean, not together. Separately in our own houses. But at the same time.

What are you looking forward to in the next month?

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Friday Five 4

Happy messy coffee beverage! Traffic was a mess this morning, but for the best reason. Graduation ceremonies! I waved at all the people putting out traffic cones and the people whose ceremony was e.a.r.l.y. The traffic cone people waved back. Understandable. They weren’t trying to cross the road in heels.

Here are some things from the intrawebs that made me happy this week:

  1. This year, Equal Exchange has been posting a series on food systems and the citizen-consumer’s role in them. They’ve been popping up in my news feed again this week, and I’ve enjoyed that. Here is the first post, introducing the issue.
  2. I love this post from Social Dance Community about why we get so addicted to social dance.
  3. Google’s Year in Search video is one of my favorite things.
  4. I look forward to the Hater’s Guide to the Williams Sonoma Catalog all year long. This year’s guide did not disappoint. HILARIOUS.
  5. And finally, a gentle nod to what I’m going to spend a lot of time doing this weekend (in between meetings and parties and whatnot). It’s okay that I have 10,000 books I haven’t read.

 

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Friday Five 4

Today I am in training most of the day. It’s about a topic I’m interested in, and there are snacks. But real talk? I kinda just want to nap.

Here are some things I’ve loved this week. My Facebook saves have been cute-animal-intensive. This solidifies my plan to do as little as possible this weekend and rest.

  1. I appreciate the work that Pastor Charles Johnson is doing in Texas. Fair warning – this interview is from a highly biased source, and I find the interviewer annoying in that regard, but I like his answers. Yay, public education!
  2. Tracee Ellis’s speech that lifts up single women with no children? LOVE.
  3. Andi is reading books about books during the holidays. I might have to join her. Drop by and leave suggestions if you want.
  4. This dog. “THROW THE STICK YOU MONSTER.” Hilarious.
  5. Goats really are the best animals. THE BEST.

Feel free to drop inspiring things (especially cute animal videos) in the comments. Have a good day!

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