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Title is from Britt-Marie Was Here. I’m glad the library had this one available, but I’m just going to buy it. I’m sure I’ll be reading it again.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I love Fredrik Backman. He quickly has become one of my favorite authors. He writes impossibly sweet books that leave me teary-eyed and laughing and relaxed and grateful, which is a stark contrast to how I feel most of the time, particularly after reading the news.

This post contains slight spoilers, so if you haven’t read Britt-Marie Was Here or My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry or A Man Called Ove, you might want to rush immediately and read all of them before you come back here and read further. If you’re local, I have A Man Called Ove if you want to borrow it.

About mid-book, Britt-Marie Was Here starts a chapter with the statement, “At a certain age almost all the questions a person asks him or herself are really just about one thing: how should you live your life?” This also pretty well sums up Backman’s writing. He weaves the faults and the triumphs of his characters together to reveal their impact on each other and the world through the small, everyday choices they make.

  • The police officer who helps out a local kid with a shifty record because he didn’t become an officer because he loved rules so much as because he loved justice.
  • Britt-Marie’s prim assurance to her unlikely friend that he’s not “the only one with tendencies to live a wild, irresponsible existence.” I love her so much.
  • The social worker who tells Britt-Marie that she puts up with all the stress of her job because the sunny stories make it worthwhile…and that Britt-Marie is her sunny story.
  • The confirmation that it’s not only okay to be different but that different is actually the best way to be – “Because all the best people are different – look at superheroes.”
  • The usefulness of being a bit chaotic, because “when the real world crumbles, when everything else turns into chaos, then people like Elsa’s granny can sometimes be the only ones who stay functional.”
  • The beautiful relationship between Ove and his wife, described with wonderful sentences such as “People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had,” and such exquisite moments as “She had a way of folding her index finger into his palm, hiding it inside. And he always felt that nothing in the world was impossible when she did that.”

And then gems such as this are sprinkled throughout: “The Monster looks at her as if she has just asked him to get naked, roll in saliva, and then run through a postage stamp factory with the lights off.”

You must read these books. I’m just going to keep gushing at you until you do. And then probably a little afterwards, too.

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Books, coffee, and wine. Yep, sounds about right. Books pictured: Furiously Happy and A Man Called Ove. 

February is one of my favorite months, because I get to celebrate some of my favorite people. Officially, I mean. I can celebrate them any time, really. But they were born in February.

Michelle and I hung out one weekend for Galentines. There were movies (Both Pitch Perfects and Antman), wine, and junk food. And then my sister’s birthday was this last weekend. We went to see La La Land (meh – see below) after trying to see it for a couple of months.

In related news, February is also when I watch more movies than usual.

La La Land was what I expected. It was cute, and there was singing/dancing, which I enjoy. I also like the 10,000 nods to old films. But also – the savior of jazz, should ever such a person actually be needed in the world (i.e., such a person is not. Jazz is fine. It is both respectful of its roots and excited about its future. It is wild and vibrant and often experimental – *cough*aswereitsroots*cough* – and it doesn’t need saving) is probably not going to look like Ryan Gosling, adorable as he may be. If the roots of jazz are really what his character wanted to go back to, it might have been helpful for said character to remember that jazz was born of struggle, so maybe white, straight male is not the most appropriate face of that.

I have watched less TV this month, but what I have watched is still superhero-y and This is Us. I can’t get enough of that show. I love seeing a depiction of what it’s like to live with anxiety. I love the cast and that they play with the fans. I love their sorry/not sorry video, although what they really need to apologize to me for is Jack Pearson. TV has been waiting decades for Jack Pearson, and frankly – so have I. Except…he’s fictional. So basically I’m never getting married because this show has raised my already lofty standards, and a Jack Pearson sort of guy, if such a person does even exist, is probably already married or dead. Either way, he’s unavailable, so I’m going to be alone forever. Thanks, This is Us.

I didn’t finish a lot of books in February, but I read excerpts of quite a few. I currently am reading eight different books. James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room and bell hooks’s Killing Rage are on my nightstand, and I recommend both. I always love Jenny Lawson’s work, and her Furiously Happy is no exception.

You may have noticed I have not been into blogging this month, which is funny, since I’m talking about blogging at my mastermind writers group tomorrow. I also haven’t been writing a lot. I blame the ridiculous springtime weather we’ve been having. It always inspires me to withdraw (because allergies and because spring is hard for me). This is where the discipline of writing comes in handy, because I scheduled two writing nights this week, and they were more productive than the rest of the month put together. It was a good reminder that I don’t have to wait for inspiration to do the work of writing.

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer. Hop over and read some other posts, and share with us what you’re into this month!

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When all else fails, raid the recycling bin.

January was intense. A lot has happened in our world and to my friends this month. While I have been active and keeping informed, I’ve also enjoyed some downtime.

Books

This month, I finished up some books I had started and read another book by someone who is becoming one of my favorite authors.

I enjoyed The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery (Cron and Stabile). That is, I enjoyed it after reading the part about Ones, which I am now 97% certain I am. I can’t really call my experience through that chapter “enjoyment,” but it was helpful.

My favorite book I’ve read this month is Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. I have a whole separate post planned about this book, but for now I want to talk about this author. I love his characters and how he develops them. I need to buy all of his books and study them with fervor. I want to write characters that well.

TV

This is Us. I am firmly seated on this bandwagon. Stupid awesome show. It makes me cry and cry. I love  them all, but Randall is my favorite. Also, I am happy to see Milo Ventimiglia and Justin Hartley throwing off shirts again. I support this.

I’ve also been on a superhero kick (I mean…even more than usual). So clearly I am rewatching/binge-watching Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, and Smallville. For some reason, I see the need for heroes these days. And by heroes, I do mean Cat Grant, Iris West, and Felicity Smoak.

Life

I had…fun? That’s not exactly it. I had moderate anxiety and the tiniest of panic attacks graciously buffered by camaraderie and humor and overwhelming kindness and the joy of seeing both old and new friends at the Women’s Rally/March in Denton. I enjoyed lunch and dinner with friends to talk about it, and my hope was given a little boost by those conversations.

My parents visited last weekend. We ate a lot, and my mom and I watched romantic comedies, and before they went home, my friend Margarett brought them a puppy to take with them. His name is Butch, and he is corgi/shepherd, and he has got that whole puppy eyes thing down. I’m sure there will be pictures aplenty in the months and years to come.

I’ve taken up my seasonal knitting habit again. It’s so calming. This year, I’m obsessed with blankets. If you visit, I might try to pawn one off on you. Many of them will be going to supplement the United Methodist Church’s donations to homeless shelters, because how many blankets do I really need? I am currently working on one in blues and grays that will act as a bedspread:

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Writing

I totally skipped my January newsletter this month, but I had something to share at my Mastermind group, so there’s that. I am working on about four very different projects. I think I can finally admit that having several projects going at once is the key to my sticking with a writing schedule and ever getting anything done. I am exhausted, exhilarated, and happy.

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – hop over, read what others are into, and share your own post!

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Friday Five2

“Five” is more of a guideline, really.

Because I believe in reaching beyond limits and breaking all manner of ceilings, I’m not going to limit my links this week to five. I believe we can all benefit from going beyond our limits today (and also tomorrow…and for the next four years…). Going beyond our limits and doing and being more is something it would be good for us all to learn to practice.

Things I saved from the Internet this week:

  1. Happy birthday to Michelle Obama on Tuesday. BookBub lists five books she has mentioned loving, because reading and knowledge are power. And I love people who read to kids. This year, I want to follow her example. Reading to children is the only thing I miss from working daycare.
  2. Off the Shelf compiled a similar list of what has been on Barack Obama’s bookshelf.
  3. Ann Patchett wrote a touching goodbye tribute to the Obamas.
  4. My friend Bola has created a character that I can’t wait to see on the screen. A black mermaid? Yes, please. Follow The Water Phoenix on Facebook.
  5. I am not your Teachable Moment – from Everyday Feminism.
  6. Dallas is getting a new independent bookstore – Interabang Books, coming in May!
  7. Another reason to get a piano – studying/playing music is linked to increased civic engagement, improved reading comprehension, and better math skills. While I am firmly in the camp that believes that defending the study of music because it’s good for other things is “like defending kissing because it gives you stronger lip muscles for eating soup neatly,” I also recognize that it is good for other things. And we may need it to be good for other things…
  8. …because Betsy DeVos. Tell your senators no. Here are some ways.

And my favorite thing I’ve read this week – it’s long, but so worth it. To Obama, With Love, and Hate, and Desperation.

Edited to add – my friend Jamie Wright Bagley has a poetry e-course that is up on her website. It’s free, but it’s only available for a limited time. You want to do it!

 

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I love structure. I am comfortable with making vague goals, because I know that as soon as I voice them, I already have structures in mind for achieving them that don’t necessarily come through in words. But if, like me, you are interested in improving your reading diversity, choosing products that are both better quality and produced by better business practices, and ridding yourself of all the clutter/debris/extraneous mess that you have stashed in your home, here are a few more structured ways to do that.

  1. Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2017 reading challenge. I like that she has reading for fun and reading for growth challenges. I also love her highly organized tips (including printables) for tracking your reading and that she offers the chance to join an online book club for those who want social support.
  2. Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge is my favorite challenge for finding things to read that I never would have read before. They, too, offer social support via their Facebook group and give you the opportunity to meet in person with people you’ve met via the challenge. Bonus – discount on an order if you finish the challenge!
  3. Inc.com praises ThirdLove bras. I NEED ONE. Also Thinx, which has great ramifications for women in countries where feminine hygiene products aren’t readily available. A lot of people have tried them and sing their praises (even though the HuffPo article says “total disaster,” indicating that the chooser of that title doesn’t understand what the words total and disaster mean), so I’ll spare you my personal recap when I try them. Unless they’re terrible, which I don’t anticipate.
  4. Peter Walsh is doing a 31-day decluttering challenge this month. Each day takes about 10 minutes, so it’s not too late! Go! Go! This is not a drill!
  5. And bonus – for those hoping to up your donations to charities this year, here are some tips from Consumer Reports on how to choose a charity that uses the money in the way they claim to use it.

If you were looking for structure to some of your goals, hope this helps!

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2017 Resolutions

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I have a stocking that’s mine (on the right) and a stocking that’s a reminder that I’m not alone in the world. This is the first decoration I put up every year, and it’s my favorite. I like starting the season with the hope that  life will not inevitably always be the way it’s always been.

I love this time of year. I love the invigoration of setting new goals. I am nervous about this year because of the political climate, but I am refusing to give up hope. I am anxious, but I am determined. I am sad, but I am unwilling to settle for wallowing.

My goals for 2017 are pretty simple. Most of them are a continuation of things I’ve already started to do. Some of them are specific, but most of them are unruly, because the main goal is to embrace the wild.

  1. Wild is my word for the year, and I want it to spread throughout my world like fire. I want to burn away all that is not true, beautiful, just, and good. I realize that’s a tall order, but I can’t very well start my year of wild by taming my expectations.
  2. Read 100 books.
  3. Learn conversational Spanish.
  4. Continue to make my home a place that is welcoming and does not hinder the life I create. This life looks like cozy nooks and a well-stocked kitchen, pantry, and bar for spontaneous hospitality. This life looks like flowers on the table and blankets on the couch. This life looks like finally getting the last of the boxes unpacked from the move last summer.
  5. Continue to improve my health and well-being. This will probably look like a significant weight loss. I have 22 more pounds to go to reach my birthday goal, but as – much to my chagrin – I no longer have the metabolism I had when I was twenty, this will probably look more like 15 pounds, which is still pretty great. This will also look like pearls in my ears, red on my lips, and cute shoes on my feet, as emotional well-being is often manifested in how I care for myself physically.
  6. Finish at least one manuscript and publish a 2018 calendar.
  7. Run a 5K.
  8. Go on a writing retreat (can be alone or an official one with a group).
  9. Get paid for writing in some way. This can be as simple as submitting a piece for publication and having someone say yes, but I want to see tangible proof that it’s something I can do.
  10. Continue/establish beloved traditions. I want to have baking weekends. I want to have parties that people come to expect every year. I want to have traditions that are just mine – that embrace the single life I have now instead of waiting on other people to have traditions.

Do you make resolutions? If so, what are they?

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Reading Wild

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“The best way to save coffee is to save what’s wild.” From Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Simran Sethi

Reading is the main way through which ideas and action are loosed for me. Many of the books I’ve read this year have revealed truths long buried in my soul and have reminded me of why I do some of the things that I do.

In 2017, I am going to set my goal to read 100 books (a goal that I have not met in the last few years, but we’re going to ignore that. Hope springs eternal). In addition to books I enjoy with my book clubs and books I read just for fun, I am going to read more of the following:

  1. Books like A Man Called Ove that remind me that love is meant to be wild and scandalously extravagant and helpful and generous.
  2. Books like Bread, Wine, Chocolate that help me focus on the why (fighting oppressive food systems that leave people in poverty and destroy biodiversity) behind the what (loving coffee and food and talking about it a lot) of my passions.
  3. Books like Between the World and Me that continue my education on justice issues.

I also want to continue to read my daily news, except I want to read with more intention of finding quality (i.e., well-researched, well-written, lacking in tactics such as clickbait that give the impression that they are more fluff than substance, etc.) information to share with others.

Do you set reading goals? If so, what are your goals for 2017?

 

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