Summer Reading Update

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I haven’t gotten to see this view this year, but I’ve been staring at this photo I took several years ago and dreaming.

I’m realizing that I don’t stick to my reading lists. It’s much the same as buying a book that I’m excited to read and getting distracted by another book before I even begin the first. I am notorious for this.

I began reading Jurassic Park a few weeks ago. I’ve been thinking it would go better as an actual book read rather than ebook. I’ll probably check in with the library to see if they have it. I’m not sure exactly why I wanted to read it other than it caught my attention while scrolling through books. I loved the movie as a kid, and I’ve been looking to read outside my box. I’m really enjoying it. I like Sci Fi movies, but I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never read much of it. Recommendations are appreciated.

This is me rectifying my reading sins.

After Where the Crawdads Sing, I’ve began listening to The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms. When I first started it, I was worried because it came across as very chick lit. There’s nothing wrong with chick lit, but I just don’t tend to enjoy it. However, the humor caught me. I think I’m beginning to appreciate chick lit more as I get older as long as it’s funny or smart. The voices the narrator uses has me chuckling. It seems like what I call a good palate cleanser. It’s something fun and refreshing after a heavy read.  I’ll update more when I finish or at least get further along.

Let me just say that all Mississippians have been offended by the heat. We are fed up and over it. Even for Mississippi, this is ridiculous.

I haven’t been doing as much writing in recent weeks. I’ve been focusing on reading more. Most writers agree that a lot of reading makes for a better writer.

I’ve got several books on my radar. Some of which I am looking forward to listening to on Audible. Maybe if I read books set during the fall of the year, I can convince myself that I’ll get to experience it soon.

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Where the Crawdads Sing

Read on. No spoilers.

I’m rediscovering audiobooks. My first true experience with them was in 2013 when I listened to The Hunger Games series. I enjoyed it so much because I was driving a good bit. It’s definitely different than just sitting down with a book and easier to manage on the go. Then, I drifted back to the wonderful world of bound pages and digital.

I listened to Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens this week. A friend told me it was terrific, one of my bookclub friends loved it, and Amazon kept recommending it to me. Finally, it was Audible that caused me to give in. WtCS became my first Audible book, and it was free.

It took me about a week to finish. I listened in the shower, quiet mornings at home, on the drive to work and home again, and even during the slower moments at work. I sat at my desk with one earbud perched in my ear, the other ear listening for the phone or customers.

I was captivated by Ms. Owens’ descriptions of the marsh land where the book is set as well as her explanation of the local animals. I love a good story, but I love it even more when I learn something.

The main character, Kya, really touched me. Her circumstances were so undeserved with her kind, tender heart. She reminded me of myself in ways. It brought back my childhood spent running through pastures, playing in the garden, and wading in the creek. She liked being alone and on her own. I get it completely.

The book begins with her childhood in the 1940’s. The characters are well thought out. The story is mountains and valleys of highs and lows. This quiet, outcast girl educates herself and lives a life that the rest of her town does not comprehend. I loved that about this book.

The narrator, Cassandra Campbell, does such a great job. I love that her voice changes for each character. I love that she conveys the emotions and reactions so well. I was pleased to find that she does a lot of narrating. I’ll for sure be listening to more from her.

I would recommend this book. It was an easy read although the conflicts in Kya’s life had me holding my breath. The coming of age aspect of this book is broken and beautiful. Kya’s story is imperfect and kept me absorbed from beginning to end.

Talk on Indolence

“Well I’ve been lockin’ myself up in my house for sometime now
Readin’ and writin’ and readin’ and thinkin’
And searching for reasons and missing the seasons.
The Autumn, the Spring, the Summer, the snow.
The record will stop and the record will go.
Latches latched the windows down,
The dog coming in and the dog going out.
Up with caffeine and down with a shot.
Constantly worried about what I’ve got.
Distracting my work but I can’t make a stop
And my confidence on and my confidence off.
And I sink to the bottom and rise to the top
And I think to myself that I do this a lot.
World outside just goes
It goes it goes it goes it goes it goes”
– The Avett Brothers, Talk on Indolence
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As of late, I’ve recognized so much with the lyrics above. I’ve been a level 368 introvert, and I’ve been loving it. I enjoy seeing family and friends, but lately I’ve been enjoying my own company. I’ve worked hard at convincing myself that it’s perfectly fine for me to do so.
The older I get the more that I find myself getting overstimulated around people. I’ve always been one to shy away from touch. Now, voices, smells, and loud laughter seem to grate on my sensitive nerves. The anxiety really gets to me.
Earlier in the summer, I made a list of books I wanted to read over the slow months of debilitating Mississippi heat. I am half way through the first on my list, and done with one that I found because of a song. I found my favorite band, The Avett Brothers, through a book. I found a book that I was really sucked into because of a song. I’ll get to that shortly.
I’ve barely noticed the last two months slipping by. Suddenly it’s August, and I realize that the second half of the year is upon us. The second half is always my favorite. In Mississippi, we have summer and then extended summer before about a week of fall. I live for that week. I become what my book club girls call “basic” during the last half of the year.
I’ve been really indolent lately. I’ve been doing exactly what the song says, “readin and writin and readin and thinkin”
I finished Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher. I’ve heard of her several times in the same circles as Colleen Hoover. I put her in the Rolodex in the back of my mind to read one day. Although I confess, I thought she wrote romance, and she does, but not like I was thinking. I found Mud Vein while looking up the song Landscape by Florence + the Machine. That’s when I saw comments about people finding this song because of the book. When I checked out the book, I read the summary and thought it might be interesting.
Let me just say that this is not a read for you if you are a sucker for happy endings. Also, not if you enjoy likable characters. If you like unusual stories about broken people struggling to get by and exist in this messed up thing we call life under almost unbearable circumstances, this might be for you. The protagonist is a writer that keeps her own company. I know a little something about that. It’s a dark read.
I’ve been reading a lot of those lately.
All in all, the first half of 2019 has not been kind. Being a recluse is a coping mechanism. Reading and writing and reading and thinking are survival tools. Everyone has their own way of finding their peace, and these are mine.

I Do

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I had a conversation about marriage with a young lady the other day. She’s engaged to a great guy. I’ve never met him, but he must be something special if talking about him makes her eyes light up the way they do.

She confided in me that although she’s so in love with this man, she’s also afraid. We live in a divorce culture, she said, and I don’t want that to happen to us. She asked about my marriage. I told her we’ve been married fifteen years. With big eyes, she asked me, “How do you keep it all together?”

As far as divorce culture goes, I couldn’t offer much, but in the way my own marriage works and why it works, I have a lot to say. I told her that different things work for different people, but I explained some of what works for us.

I told her that you can’t go into a marriage with society’s expectations. People love the idea of a traditional marriage where the husband works, the wife has and tends to babies, and there’s a white picket fence. The first thing I told her was that sometimes life won’t allow that to happen. Circumstances change, stuff happens, and things hardly ever go as planned. I had her attention at this point

Secondly, listen to your vows and mean them. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, richer or poorer, til death do you part. That means when things get hard, you work through it together. In my case, if your husband gets hurt and can’t work, you step up. You have to be willing to live in a shack if you must and take care of each other. It means that whenever life throws something huge at you, you deal with it as a unit. It means that when you are angry and fighting that it’s you and your husband against the problem and not against each other. It means you still love that person even when you don’t like them. It means that you love them more than you love yourself. She listened and nodded and told me that all that sounded pretty miserable.

I laughed and told her that just because there is bad, doesn’t mean there won’t be good. That’s different for everyone too, but for us, it’s making up wacky song lyrics. It’s dancing in the kitchen while we cook together. It’s being cuddled up on the couch watching a movie. It’s one of us doing something so silly that we both can’t stop laughing. It’s listening to the one you love sing along with the radio in the car and feeling like there’s no way you could ever love them more. It’s waking up after a nightmare and feeling safe and taking comfort in their warmth beside you. It’s being glad they’re with you while you watch a sunset or fireflies or the ocean kissing the rocks. It’s being in the hospital and finding strength in them. It’s holding their hand while your baby is being born. It’s finding out that you’ll probably never have children and finding comfort in one another. It’s little notes to each other. It’s being so thankful when they wash the dishes/do the laundry/scrub the toilet. It’s wanting to do similar things for them that you know you’re going to hate but doing it anyway because you love them and want to see them smile. It’s talking for hours about life and the universe and experiences and things you enjoy. It’s arguing and debating politics/religion/whatever you disagree about and still loving each other afterward. It’s dreaming together about what you both want out of life as individuals as well as together.

I told her it’s realizing that whatever you’re going through is only temporary. The bad is only temporary. It’s understanding that you are married to an imperfect human. A human that is going to make mistakes, make you angry, and make you sad. Because you love them, you forgive them and still cherish them.

I’ve been married to Tony for fifteen years. It’s hard to believe and easy to believe at the same time. We know the ins and the outs of each other. He’s seen me at my worst and my best. He’s seen me fall apart. He’s never threatened to leave or walk away when most would. Because when he said “I do” he meant it.

The most important thing is to mean it.

I told her that there was no way to predict what time would tell. Life changes and evolves. So do people. There’s no guarantee that comes with a marriage license that it’s a sure fire happily ever after. I didn’t want to sugar coat anything for her. I am the type of person that if I know something is doable, that’s all the assurance I need. She seemed like the same. A long happy marriage is doable if both give 100%. I know from the experiences of my friends that isn’t always the case. I hope I gave her a little hope. That’s all anyone can ask for.

 

What I’m Reading

In my recent days as a shut-in, I have to say that my reading life has improved. I’ve been reverting to a time when I could have four reads going at once and not miss a lick. It’s been a bit all over the place. Last year, my book club selection was out of my comfort zone, and it very much paid off. I’m hoping with the new things I’m interested in, I might find myself more than a step out and go all in. Recommendations would be nice.

What I’ve Read Recently:

Burying the Honeysuckle Girls by Emily Carpenter

Honeysuckle Girls

I don’t know a single lady from the South who doesn’t appreciate a book set there. This book was one I found free with my Kindle Unlimited. I’ve had it in my list for months without starting it. Once I did, I knew it was one of those I could read in a day. It’s about a young woman with issues who digs into her family’s troubled past where secrets might destroy her and everything she knows. She realizes that most everything she’s been told is a lie and goes on a quest for the truth that leads her down a dark path fraught with pain. If you’re looking for a happy ending, this one might not be for you.

Verity by Colleen Hoover

Verity

This book in a word is incredible. Twists and turns for days. I read this one in no time at all. The only time I put it down was to catch my breath. It brought out so many emotions in me that I had to pause to vent. It is dark and twisted. It was completely different than anything else I’ve read from this author. It has abundant secrets, and the writer in me loves that. Since reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, I’ve been looking for something along those lines that could shock me. This is the one.

It’s about a writer recruited to finish a series of books for another author, Verity. She’s invited to Verity’s home to work in the office where Verity’s notes and plot lines are handy. What she finds is more than she could have imagined. As she gets to know Verity’s family, she finds herself in a more than difficult situation. A hidden manuscript of Verity’s reveals some shocking secrets. Things are not what they seem in Verity’s home. Verity is not what she seems.

What I’m Reading:

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

This is one of our book club selections and is proving to be a good read. I’m enjoying it but taking my time to read it. It’s dredged up a few memories for me. It’s Tara’s tale of growing up with a family led by a father who believes the world is out to get them, particularly the government. There are moments where your heart aches for her, especially her childhood years. I would recommend this book even though I haven’t finished it.

I have several books that I’m planning to read over the summer. In true book girl fashion, my TBR pile is ridiculous. Just a few on my agenda are:

Until the Day I Die by Emily Carpenter

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Shrill by Lindy West

I’m enjoying summer. I’m looking forward to how the world slows down during the summer. Sometimes because school is out, and sometimes because Mississippi heat is just offensive. I’ve been trying to soak up a little sun, baby my tomato plants and my flowers, and let go of the things I can’t change. I think the majority of us take life so seriously that we find it impossible to unwind and let be. This is something I’m learning. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unedited

Just be. Be present in the moment. Enjoy your joy without reservations.

Smile for the camera. Display your unedited self. Love it.

Your wild hair is gorgeous. Your freckles are galaxies on your body. Your crooked smile is adorable. Everyone has rolls at one point. Cellulite is normal. Stretch marks are badges. Your curves are appreciated by someone. Bad hair days are common. You are not measured by the size of your waist.

Post that no makeup, unfiltered, untouched, unedited selfie. Rock it. Own it. Love it. Who cares what anyone else says?

I’ll go first.

Wandering eye. Crooked smile. Breakout. Bad hair day. Imperfect skin. In need of new glasses. Unusual nose. Eyebrows not plucked or waxed.

Also.

Big toothy smile. Happy face. Moisturized. Natural. Feeling loved. Bright crescent moon eyes. Good mood. Feeling good in my skin. Real.

Not everyone will appreciate it. That’s ok. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but my husband says I’m his Tennessee whiskey. Not everyone will appreciate my looks, my body, or my personality. That’s fine.

This is me. Unedited.

I spent too many years of my life trying to please people. So have you. Let it go. Shine without reservations. Your own mind can be a toxic place where self love doesn’t grow.

Don’t over think it. Do what makes you happy. Take care of yourself. Enjoy your life. Live that moment. Be gloriously and riotously you. Be happy. Unedited.

Of Love and Loss

Since Tony and I have been together, we’ve lost a lot of people. Family, friends, and people we care about lost to accident, disease, mental health, and even violence.

It’s hard to comprehend the void left behind. One day they’re within talking or touching distance, and then, they’re no longer there. Just a barren space where they used to be. It’s like your brain struggles to come to terms with the fact all of their things are here, but they’re not.

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”

— Edna St. Vincent Millay

The loss of a child is even harder to bear. It’s hard not to question God when one so innocent is stripped away.

“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”

–John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

Loss is also more than losing a person. Loss can be the vanishing of a dream. It can be the loss of an ability. We mourn it just the same. I’ve watched people in my infertility groups go through it. When a doctor gives hope, but insurance denies coverage and the funds are just not there, the loss can be devastating.

“Grief is the price we pay for love.”

–Queen Elizabeth II

And then, there’s love. Healing, wonderful love. If not for love after loss, my feet may never have made another mile. I would have withered. Tony and I are especially good about leaning on each other when needed. With every loss I’ve suffered, he’s been there with an “I’ve got you.” That one phrase has so many meanings. It means that he’s my shoulder to lean on, my feet when I can’t move, and my voice when I have none.

When we lost the twins, I thought the world would actually come to an end. I felt that the sun was going to fall out of the sky. I couldn’t see around my own grief to realize that the sun was still there shining as it always did, water still flowed, the world still moved. I suffered both types of loss: the loss of my beloveds and the loss of my dream of having children. I bitterly grieved both.

Love is essential to dealing with loss. Love is essential to thrive. I’ve fought, screamed, cursed the world, and thought for sure that I’d die from heartbreak. Then comes love. Even through his own grief, his own pain, his own loss, Tony reached for me, drew me in, loved me with a patience I can only aspire to.

I pulled myself away from friends, family, and people who have known me all my life. My husband fought to keep me. He’s loved me and kept me stable when I craved the opposite.

I hope I was able to love him through his losses as he did me.

Being well loved brought me back to life, allowed me to live again in the sun, and coaxed me back to everything I’d loved before. Things that helped me heal.

Books, plants, nature, the night sky, my beloved alone time, and the love of my husband keep me from the vacuum of my losses.

Love never fails. Even in the face of loss.

I’m Sorry, Writing

I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you. I’m sorry I’ve pushed my notebooks into the corner. I’m sorry I’ve let my laptop sit unused. I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long. I’m sorry I left the words swirling around in my head until my emotions get the best of me.

I’m sorry I’ve kept all my words to myself. I’m sorry I’ve let shame, pain, anger, and confusion keep me prisoner. I’m sorry I’ve been letting myself get overwhelmed without coming to you and using you to cope. I always have and haven’t been lately. The last few months of my life have been proof.

I’m sorry my pens have been sitting in cups without so much as being used for a signature. I’m sorry I’ve let myself get to a sorry state of not being as consistent. I’m sorry I’ve let life dictate what my writing hours are used for and letting it steal them away.

I’m sorry I’ve let unimportant things take your time.

I’m sorry I’ve been unavailable.

I’m sorry, writing.

Healing

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Tony and I have faced a lot lately. Death and illness and life have been kicking us while we’re down. Saying things have been difficult is an understatement.

For the last year, I’ve been going through things with my body. A lot of it good, some of it bad. I’m focused on turning things around. I’ve lost some weight, working on losing more. I’ve derailed and got back on track more times than I care to count. Surely one of these “back on tracks” will stick.

I’ve been eating low carb. It’s been working wonders for me, for my PCOS, for my skin, for my life. I never knew how much sugar and grain were damaging my body until I cut them. I know what I can eat, what triggers my issues, and what to do to fix it. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun, and people don’t usually understand.

I’m learning more about myself. I’m learning that in order to function, I have to shut the world off sometimes. I have to be alone with my books, my flowers, my music, and my husband to find my peace. I realize that I have to purge or detox myself from the bad, the scary, the pain, and the News. Self care and preservation is sometimes just protecting your heart.

My views on my body are changing. I can touch my soft belly and not be repulsed. I recently heard Megan Crabbe describe her cellulite as being constellations in the sky of her body. I found that to be beautiful. My body is still changing and healing, but I’m getting more and more comfortable with it. The more I care for it, the more I love it.

I’ve been going through some healing with my body, mind, and with my soul. It’s taking time. Body wise, I’ve been feeling much better. I’ve had more energy being on track. I’ve been feeling like the old me, and I’ve missed her. Emotionally, I think Tony and I as a unit are on the downward side of the hill. Hopefully, the worst is behind us and with a little love and care, we can move forward to a better place.

 

 

Embracing My Hazel

Me, left. Aunt Hazel, right.

I was raised by a bunch of strong women, independent women who taught me their ways. Especially my grandmother and her sister, my aunt Hazel.

Anyone in our family can tell you many a funny story about Aunt Hazel. She was independent, sassy, funny, and didn’t have much of a filter. She was eccentric  She was an animal lover. She used to have cows that she cared for. She bottle fed the babies and got attached to them. Everyone said her cows followed her like dogs.  Her dogs were family members. When she lived alone, I would spend nights at her house. In the morning, she got up and made us all breakfast. All of us got eggs, grits, and toast. Including her dogs.

After breakfast, we would go “tend to the flowers.” We dug, watered, planted, trimmed, picked, and admired her many plants and flowers. She had the most beautiful purple heart. She’d chase me with the water hose all over the yard and for a while, you’d think she was my age.

After we’d got in a few hours work, she’d ask me if I was hungry. If I was, we’d got to McDonald’s and get a happy meal.

She loved bright colors, big earrings, anything shiny, and made most of her own clothes. Orange was her favorite color. She used to wear orange lipstick and bright blue eye shadow. My cousin, Jamie, told me that she needs to see me with those particular shades one day. I’m still getting up my nerve. You’d think with her stylish nature, Aunt Hazel would have wanted a flashy car. No. Not Aunt Hazel. She had a 60’s model Ford pickup that was black and gray. I loved that old truck.

Since I was a child, I’ve been told how much I look like my Aunt Hazel. The more time goes by, I find myself acting like her more and more. I can look at her pictures and see my future self. I already have plants and flowers all over my porch. I have dogs that think they are human. I guess I need to invest in a few cows.

She had no children, and the closer I get to 40, it’s becoming more likely that I won’t either. She was everyone’s favorite aunt. That’s how I’d like to be known as well. I’m gearing up to become a sassy senior lady who says unpredictable things and mows her grass while wearing bright lipstick. I’m invested in becoming the lady the neighbors whisper about because she’s talking or singing to her plants. I want to be the favorite aunt who loves other’s children like they’re her own and lives on her own terms. I want to be the one with the kind heart and silly smile that can put everyone at ease. I hope to mellow like she did.

I’m embracing my Hazel with each passing day. Maybe I can pass on to others what she gave to me.