Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

I was going to do my fiction post on The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney since that one has been extremely popular at the library, but I got halfway through it and had to skim the rest. It was just weeeeeeird. There was an irritating sprinkling of Fifty Shades, infuriating protagonists, and just way too many things happening with the storyline. I have no qualms about tossing it aside.

Into the Water was written by Paula Hawkins, who also wrote The Girl on the Train. Now, I had every intention of reading that one given all the mixed hype and 500 person waitlist it garnered at the library, but I’ve seen the movie and I hated it, so I probably never will. In any case, I thought I’d give Into the Water a try. The book rotates between different narrators in a variety of POVs, and takes place in a small town beside a river. At the time the book opens, a woman has been found in the river and it is presumed to be suicide. The strange thing is, she isn’t the first one. In fact, over the course of the towns history, several “troublesome” women have been found in the part of the river they call the “drowning pool” (for obvious reasons). The book follows several characters learning what led the woman to this point, as well piecing in the past and uncovering secrets that may suggest she didn’t jump voluntarily at all.

What I liked about it:

  1. The Pacing: I actually finished this one fairly quickly without skipping ahead to read the ending, so the pace of the novel was all right; it kept me going, in any case.
  2. The Prose: I noticed some lovely prose scattered about the novel. Paula Hawkins definitely has a way with words that I respect.
  3. The Plot: I found the general plot interesting, though there were some things I thought should have been delved into a bit more, and other things I thought were brought up too much.

What I didn’t like about it:

  1. There were just too many damn narrators and a couple of them were completely unnecessary characters.
  2. It was predictable. I knew everything that was going to happen 100 pages before it did. I kept reading because I was hoping something would happen that would shock me, but it just never did.
  3. Overall just MEH. Just not crazy about this one. It will be interesting to see if it gets any hype.

It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I apologize if you loved the Girl on the Train and were dying to get your hands on this one, but I’d grab something else instead. If you’re into mystery with strong female characters, try something by Ruth Ware or Emily Littlejohn.

Okay, now I’m going to take a hiatus from the library and start reading down my bookshelf. I’ve got over 300 titles there waiting to be read, which is absolutely insane. I should have never kept adding books when I already had a ton to read. Anyway, I’m giving myself a year to read the books on my shelves (and donate the ones I don’t absolutely love), otherwise I’m going to be a hard ass and make myself DONATE THEM ALL. They don’t do any good sitting on the shelf making me feel guilty all day.

 

Simplify Your Stuff

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Welcome to the first #PrettySimpleSunday of many! Today we’re going to have a lovely discussion of simplifying your stuff. Basically just a general term for all the crap scattered about your home or collecting dust and bat turds in the attic, or, god forbid, piled high in a storage unit you never visit.

I’ve decided to start with an all-encompassing stuff post, because that’s really a great place to start when you’re feeling overwhelmed with your life in general. For me, it was necessary to tackle the stuff before I could tackle my health, work, relationships, and whatever else was feeling cluttered or off. Okay, maybe it isn’t actually the best place to start, but it’s definitely the easiest. It builds up your confidence to tackle other aspects of your life.

As I mentioned in my Thursday post, I spent Father’s Day attempting to clear my parents’ attic of all my things that had accumulated there over the years. I ended up sorting through about 20 boxes and bins, as you can see below, and I didn’t even get halfway done. Not even close. I couldn’t believe things had gotten so bad. Over the years I’ve made attempts at decluttering and donating, and I’ve cleaned out a lot, but I ALWAYS got tired of it and started feeling too sentimental and would end up just piling most things back in bins and boxes and sticking them back in the attic. Why wouldn’t I want that outfit from 7th grade I sorta liked, even though that was one of the most awkward, awful times of my life? Why wouldn’t I keep the poorly constructed clay pots from 5th grade that only brought back bad memories? As I went through all of this stuff again, especially the boxes of stuff from my school days, I realized most of it didn’t even come with good memories. And what’s more, no matter what memory they came with, it’s important to remember the memories aren’t housed in the things themselves, but in our heads. I had so much momentum built up on Sunday to clear out the past, I didn’t even think twice about donating or throwing 90% of what I pulled from the attic. It felt amazing.

I’m going back on Wednesday in an attempt to finish the job, but it’s important to remember that it’s always going to be a process.

Now let’s focus on simplifying your stuff.

 First, pick a method.

1. Purge it all in one go. If you are like me, and find satisfaction in one giant clean out session, employing methods like Kon Mari are a good way to go. Block off a day or two (or a week depending on how much stuff you have) to take everything from the attic, basement, storage unit, and whatever, putt it in a giant pile in the yard or other large space, and go to town. If you have a lot of things, you can further employ the Kon Mari method by doing this in increments by what category your things fall under (furniture, clothes, books, etc.). If you’re like me, though, everything is jumbled together and that doesn’t really work.

However, if one giant purge isn’t possible with your schedule or makes you nauseous just thinking about it, there are other methods you can try.

2. Go Room by Room. One method that could work for some, is just taking it room by room and clearing out what can be donated, thrown, or perhaps moved to a different room. I employ this when I’m trying to maintain the order of my home, but it doesn’t work if your tackling something big like a storage unit or attic.

3. Make it a Game. A lot of games have been created to make decluttering more fun, if you get high off competition and feel like downsizing is too much of a chore. These games typically involve one or more partners, because any lifestyle change usually gets a little easier when you’re not doing it alone. One option from http://www.theminimalists.com is a 30 day challenge where each person gets rid of one thing the first day, two the second, three the third, and on and on. You “win” if you make it to the end. If that seems like a lot of decluttering and you wouldn’t have 30 things to get rid of the last day of the month, then you could augment the game to be just one or two things per day.

4. Utilize boxes for good and not evil. Another method is to employ using labeled boxes in your home marked DONATE, TRASH, MOVE TO OTHER ROOM, etc. The idea is that when you’re going about your daily business you can sort things out as you go along without taking much time to do so. I personally don’t seen much use for anything except the DONATE box, because if it’s trash, just throw it! If it should be moved to another room, just move it! A constant Donation box or bag kept around the house is quite useful. We have one in the corner of our bedroom almost always, and as soon as it gets filled, we take it straight to a donation center without looking back to dig through what we’ve put inside it.

5. Employ the Minimalists’ Packing Party idea. The Minimalists are also known for a method of decluttering known as a “Packing Party” (because throwing “party” at the end of something makes it automatically fun, right?). The idea is to pack everything in your home away, or if it’s a large piece of furniture, throw a sheet over it. EVERYTHING goes away. Then, you unpack or uncover things as you need them. It shows you what you actually use and what you really don’t. Though it certainly gets the job done, and you would already have everything packed in boxes to take to the donation center, it would be an inconvenient way to live for awhile. If you wish to explore it further you can here.

You’ve settled on a method, now what?

When you’re are actually in the process of getting rid of your things, here are ten questions to ask yourself that can help hurry along the process.

  1. Go Kon Mari and ask, Does this bring me joy?
  2. Have I used this in the past 30 (60, 90, whatever) days? Will I use it in the next 30 days?
  3. Would it be easy and cheap to replace?
  4. If I had to suddenly evacuate my home, would this be something I take with me?
  5. Am I only keeping this object out of guilt?
  6. Is it broken or beyond repair?
  7. Does it serve a purpose?
  8. Is it relevant to my lifestyle?
  9. Do I have more than one of these? Do I need more than one?
  10. If this object was stolen or lost in a fire, would I replace it?

All right folks, hopefully that’s enough to get you started! Sunday is a perfect day to start cleansing your unneeded stuff from your life, so get to it! I’ll be back next week with another #PrettySimpleSunday. Time for me to go to work, because for some reason, I work somewhere that’s open seven days a week and I have no idea what a day off is. Toodles! Oh God, where did toodles come from? It was High School Musical, wasn’t it? Oh, gross. If that’s on your DVD shelf right now, take this opportunity to get off your butt and throw it in the donation bin. Look at that, you’re on a roll!

6 Things that Made Me Happy this Week (#ThankfulThursday)

  1. On Father’s Day I thought I’d give my dad a gift he’d actually appreciate (and I had no money or idea what to get him and I even forgot to buy a card) and I started cleaning all of my crap out of my parents’ attic. Now, you can maybe only appreciate the true significance of this if you saw my parent’s attic. An episode of Hoarders is like the cute little kitten to this attic’s bloodthirsty, genetically modified, skyscraper-tall tiger. I will talk more about this experience, among other things, during a new series I’m starting this weekend centered around simplifying your life. I’ve found I really like talking about this stuff, so I’m going to do it more. Here’s some of the piles of stuff I’m donating (and I still have a big chunk of the attic to go through!):

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2. I’ve been listening to The Minimalists’ podcasts during my long drives to work. I love listening to this because it keeps me motivated to move toward the life I want to live. Some of the stuff gets repetitive after a while and if you took a shot every time they said the word “value,” you’d be dead, but it’s still worth a listen.

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3. My #BookTalkTuesday book, which I didn’t get around to writing about, You CAN Buy Happiness (And it’s Cheap) by Tammy Strobel. I’ll just go into a mini book talk here.

Tammy Strobel started simplifying about a decade ago when she realized she wasn’t happy with her “successful” job. She and her husband moved slowly, initially downsizing to a smaller apartment, getting rid of one car, then both cars, moving into a smaller apartment, and eventually living in a tiny house. She started the blog “Rowdy Kittens” and now writes full time. This book was a quick read and another nice little reminder of the life I want for myself. Erik and I will be leaving our current residence soon. We rent from a friend here, and though it’s a duplex, it’s still too big of a house for us. We’re hoping to buy something this Fall quite a bit smaller. And if we can’t find something like that, we’re thinking of buying some land and  building our own little house (though certainly not as little as Tammy’s 128 square foot home).

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4. My clean kitchen. A beautiful rarity. Please disregard the unfinished countertops and the fact that only one of the cabinets has a knob on it. I don’t know the reasoning behind any of this. I just eat (and on a rare occasion clean) there.

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5. My garden has gotten OUT OF CONTROL. You see that Godzilla-like plant in the center, rising above the others and stealing all of their sunlight in an act of complete anarchy? For some reason when I bought the plants, I thought because cherry tomatoes are smaller, the plant would then be a smaller tomato plant. I am so hilariously stupid sometimes. Erik and I have to transplant that sucker before he takes over not only the garden, but probably the whole damn world. I feel like there’s a VeggieTales episode about this somewhere.

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6. I had an interview on Monday for one of the jobs I applied for. I think it went fairly terrible. Interviews are not my skillset, as I mostly just sit there turning red while trying to scramble around for the answers that fell out of my head and ran screaming out of the room the second I walked in the door. I have another interview a week from today for a job I’m even more excited about, and I’m determined to do a lot better at that one. Fingers, toes, eyes, and stars crossed.

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

Okay, it’s way past my bed time (I know, I know, it always is) and I’ve got lake water and Bud Light Limes filling my brain (isn’t that just Summer in a sentence?), so I’ve gotta get this done before I drift off into sweet, splendid slumberland.

Welcome to fiction week on #BookTalkTuesday! Today’s featured title is The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda. I gotta be honest, there’s going to be a trend here. I lean toward non-police-procedural mysteries with a strong female protagonist for my summer leisure reading. I’m definitely going to try to expand my horizons, but for now, that’s what I’ve got.

I highly recommend Megan Miranda for fans of Ruth Ware, who wrote In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. They both have the same kind of vibe to their books and their protagonists don’t drive me totally insane with their idiocy, the number 1 reason I toss aside a mystery without finishing it.

Premise:

The Perfect Stranger focuses on Leah Stevens, a recently ostracized journalist who took too big of a risk in a story, who now finds herself an English teacher in a small Pennsylvania town. She lives in a small cabin in the woods (you see why I picked up this book, now, don’t you?) with her roommate that she knew back in college. At the beginning of the book she happens upon a grisly crime scene of a woman who eerily resembles her and realizes her roommate is missing. What she doesn’t understand is the connection between the two and how it all leads back to her.

Why it’s worth reading:

I didn’t anticipate all of the book’s twists and turns. It kept me guessing and kept me reading. The narrator, though a little naïve (they always seem to be), wasn’t annoying, and I enjoyed following her thoughts and perspective as the mystery developed. The book had a great pace, a nice setting, and was a good, fast read. I mean, it wasn’t the most amazing thing I’ve ever read, but it was a great book to read by the campfire before supper on a Saturday. I’m excited to see what Megan Miranda creates next.

Okay, time for sleepy sleeps. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

10 Things I’m Grateful For Today #ThankfulThursday

 

After my weekly 12 hour workday on Thursday, I could easily just come home, throw myself onto my laundry-covered unmade bed, and call it a night. In fact, that was my routine for about a year straight. I’m happy that even though I’m gone 8:30am-8:30pm, I finally started to make time for things I thought impossible on a Thursday. Here are the things I’m thankful for today:

  1. Getting to my 10,000 step goal! I only hit this about once every couple weeks, which I really need to fix. Seeing that “Highly Active” always makes me giggle a little bit. Obviously this app wasn’t watching me laying in bed watching Canadian TV and pretending the ice cream I was shoving into my mouth was healthy because it’s made from coconut milk.

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2. Having the energy to go for a sunset run with my boyfriend. Hell, just the fact that “run” is in my vocabulary. IMG_2440

3. That I came home to a clean house, because I sucked it up and cleaned earlier this week. Also, this room is about 15 degrees colder than the rest of the house which makes me even happier.IMG_2441

4. That my “office” is organized too. It’s an “office” because instead of actually working there I just go downstairs and gaze at it longingly for a bit before actually doing my writing at 11pm in bed while my boyfriend glares at me. Work hasn’t ever happened here.IMG_2442

5. This beautiful new dishwasher. During the intermittent failures of the previous dishwasher I was forced to hand wash dishes. I’m still having terrifying flashbacks. IMG_2443

6. The Sweet Pea plant my boyfriend got for my birthday is growing about an inch or two a day. It kind of creeps me out because the sprouts look like those weird eels on the ocean floor that chill out under the sand and then pop up and sway like seaweed. IMG_2437

7. Despite my long day I can come home and read a book I’ve been excited to read for a while. IMG_2436

8. And drink a lil bit (another lovely birthday present).IMG_2439

9. Repurposing tired leftovers into a vegetable noodle soup. I’ve never made soup before so we’ll see how this goes. Also it’s 90 degrees outside so why the hell did I make soup? You know what, just be happy that I’m cooking.IMG_2438

10. I submitted another application! Last one for a while, I think. $8 raise plus benefits here I come! Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 10.44.51 PM

 

All right I’m off to a sweltering slumber. If you’re reading this from the Minnesota metro area, be careful and don’t die in the heat this weekend. I’m going to be sleeping in a tent in 98 degree weather, so I might. Not excited.

Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki

Guess what, I’m here! Keeping up my schedule like a boss. I’ve decided to alternate each week with a fiction and nonfiction book, so because the last one was fiction, this week we’re going nonfiction.

I’m still loving that simple, authentic living is on trend, because I’ve always enjoyed reading about it and I fantasize leaving most of my possessions behind and starting fresh in a little cabin in the woods like every other second. And it feels really weird to call minimalist living a “trend,” since it’s a lifestyle, but whatever. Moving on.

Since I tend to snatch up anything I see at the libraries on tiny houses, minimalism, simple living, I saw Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki and figured it would be right up my alley (it was. I scarfed that book down almost in one sitting).

Premise:

Goodbye, Things is about the author’s personal journey with minimalism and also about guidance in becoming a minimalist yourself, whatever that may mean to you. To one person it means getting their possessions down to fit in a backpack, to another it may be to get possessions down to fit in a one bedroom apartment comfortably. All of the pictured examples at the beginning of the book were too extreme for my own life, but that’s okay. I’m never going to be a person who only has a futon and a cooking pot in their home. It’s fine that someone else is, but I personally need a few more things than that to feel comfortable and happy in my home.

The first part of the book asks the question “Why do we accumulate so much in the first place?” and suggests some answers supported by the author’s research. The next section includes 70 tips to “help you say goodbye to your things,” and the last part explains 12 ways that living a more minimal life has affected the author in a positive way.

Everything I Learned from this Book:

I’ve read quite a few books with similar subject matter like Marie Kondo’s The Magical Art of Tidying Up and Francine Jay’s The Joy of Less (If you have also read and enjoyed these, I think you’ll really enjoy Goodbye, Things as well), so I was doubtful this book could tell me something I didn’t already know. And while it’s true that a lot of what Sasaki had to say was just a re-hashing of other advice I’d already read, there were a few points he had that stuck out to me. Also a lot of the book just served as a good reminder of the way I actually want to be living my life.

  1. Reducing your possessions to what actually makes you happy and what you need helps you to no longer suffer from caring what other people think. Sasaki mentions in the book that he used to have a massive collection of CDs and books in his apartment. When he started actually taking a good look at what he owned he realized that almost his entire collection of entertainment were things he bought only to extend a certain image of himself to visitors–that he was intelligent, creative, and interesting. That resonated with me because I used to do the exact same thing. I bought books I thought other people (usually people of the male variety who I had a crush on) would find impressive and listened to music I thought others would like, but I didn’t love any of it. I realized it’s actually rather discourteous to yourself to surround yourself with things you think other people would like, but nothing that you actually love. How could you ever feel happy in that setting?
  2. You seriously won’t regret anything you re-home. I always assume I’m going to instantly start pining for something I donate, but that has never happened. I’ve always been that person who throws the entire contents of my closet into a bin and shove it in my parents’ attic out of sight because I know I’ll of course need it someday. I’ll without a doubt come searching for that old birdhouse I painted and that wrinkled poster of the Jonas Brothers! But I don’t. I go up there a year later and say, “what the hell is all this shit?” and throw or donate it all anyway. So when I ask, “will I regret giving this away,” the answer will be no. Just effing toss the 20 button down shirts that don’t even fit over your boobs, Em. Don’t kid yourself, those honkers are NEVER getting smaller.
  3. Sasaki speaks a lot about the importance of being grateful for what you have, since people tend to get used to things so quickly that it’s not long before they want something new or different. It’s not innovative advice, for sure, but it really is a good reminder to just STOP once in a while and reflect on what you have and what is so amazing in your life. If you do that enough you realize you most likely have everything you need.
  4. One piece of advice that’s different from Marie Kondo’s all-in-one-go philosophy is starting out small to build up your discarding defenses. Say, start by tossing all your underwear with holes and expired food. Eventually you’re going to realize it just feels good to rid yourself of things you don’t need.
  5. Fight the urge to fill EVERY SINGLE EMPTY SPACE. Sometimes, a wall’s just gotta be blank. This is something I’m still trying to learn. Unless it makes you happy to fill a wall with 37 porcelain cat plates. Then go for it, I guess.
  6. Are you keeping a bunch of stuff because you like that reminder of who you used to be? Do you keep that weird crop AE sweatshirt because it reminds you of being 15 and not having a care in the world? Get rid of it, you’ll still remember, I promise. Plus if you’re pining this much for the past, I’m pretty damn sure you’re not doing much in the present.
  7. I like the way Sasaki advises to treat stores like “your personal warehouses.” They house everything you need, and they’ll always be there, so there’s no need to house everything you may ever need in the future in your own home. This kind of goes hand in hand with his advice to think of buying certain things as “renting.” Or actually just renting something when you need it. For a lot of occasions it really makes a hell of a lot more sense.
  8. Never accept ANYTHING just because it’s cheap or free. You’ll regret it and end up getting rid of it anyway.
  9. Apparently they have a lot of advice in Fight Club. I’ve never watched it, but I have a feeling that Sasaki has about 50 times. I get it, if it was my book, I’d fit in a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings quote every chance I got.

If you’re anything like me, about halfway through this book you’re going to get really fired up to do a bit of spring cleaning. FOLLOW THAT INSTINCT. Put the book down and just do it while you have the motivation and energy. Otherwise you’ll make yourself finish the book first, be too tired to clean, and lay in front of the TV and marathon The Flash for 3 hours before passing out. I may be speaking from experience.

I hope eventually I actually have the courage to follow all the advice I love to read and only keep things that actually matter to me. Until then, my parent’s attic (and any of my closets) will forever look like the Room of Requirement via Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hollows before the fire burns it all up.

All right I’m off for a run now (that actually wasn’t a joke so stop laughing). See you all Thursday!

Okay, So it Didn’t Happen This Week, a Belated #ThankfulThursday

Yeah, so #BookTalkTuesday and #ThankfulThursday were a no go this week. On Tuesday I was too busy getting out of my own way to apply for a couple jobs I was terrified of but wanted desperately. Yesterday I was occupied spending my time with some amazing people I don’t get to see nearly often enough. So I’m not sad I missed them; Tuesday and Thursday will come around again.

Anyway, today we’re going to pretend it’s Thursday (shhhh) so I can talk about what I’m thankful for. Despite all the stress and sleepless nights I had, there were some great moments.

So here we go:

1. Finally applying for full time work. We’ll see how it goes. I’m trying not to day dream too much about having my own basement cubicle. I could have a personal item you guys!  I could have a plant to kill! Cross your fingers.

2. Over memorial day weekend Erik and I hit up Frontenac State Park for a camping trip. We forgot about half of what we were supposed to pack with us, but that doesn’t surprise me at all. It was still a much needed weekend away. I loved Frontenac because the St. Croix River Valley is one of my favorite places, plus I’m a sucker for a good overlook:

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There were soooo many winding staircases:IMG_2417

Apparently this is an important rock… I guess it’s a nice rock, as far as rocks go:

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2. We finally bought plants and planted a “garden” (I really use that term loosely). So say hello to our new plants and wish them luck and life as I try not to murder them completely.

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We built our planter from an antique drawer from an old church, some fencing, and parts of old fence posts. It won’t last too long, but it was super easy and it looks cool. Also I got really overzealous and but way too many plants, so they’re a little cramped in there. Whoops.

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I also wanted an indoor plant that reminded me of warmer climates, so I bought this one, not realizing it’s supposed to grow into a full size coconut tree. I seriously hope I don’t kill it and it reaches the ceiling, that’d be so awesome. Also I googled how to take care of one indoors, and the website said you’d have to be an absolute nutter to buy an indoor coconut tree. Woot! I’m excited to see how this plays out.

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3. Spending my Thursday, not in a 12 hour work day, like I usually do, but with some of my favorite people on the planet, hiking toward a sunset:

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That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope everyone had a great week and hopefully you’ll actually be hearing from me on Tuesday!

10 Things I’m Grateful For #ThankfulThursday

Okay, I’m am typing on fumes here and simultaneously drafting up a new resume and creating a portfolio website, but I am going to get this post out when I promised to goddammit! It’s supposed to be everything I’m grateful for this past week, but since I’ve been absent from your browsers for so long, let’s throw it back about a month.

Here’s what I’m thankful for:

  1. I had my 24th anniversary of being a part of this planet. I also got to have a BBQ with family and I got two cakes, which is the most important thing of all.

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2. I went on my second backpacking trek and I lived to tell the tale. I’m also so happy it’s finally camping season! Tomorrow Erik and I will be off camping for three nights (and hopefully we actually remember to pack blankets this time so we don’t spend them in a freezing pile of sadness).

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3. I have the energy and ability to walk by this beautiful lake every morning. And how awesome is it that I live down the road from a lake??? I’ve seriously dreamed of that my whole life. Well, a lake or a funnel cake farm. But lakes actually exist.

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4. I can run to the top of these stairs now without collapsing in a heap of agony at the top and having an ambulance shovel my body off the sidewalk.

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5. The park has a great swing set. I really dig a good swing set.

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6. There’s wildlife here! I see so many deer on my daily walks and it makes me feel like I’m back in the north woods where I grew up. But then I don’t see any bears shoulders deep in my garbage cans when I get home, so I realize I’m in the suburbs again.

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7. TREES. I HAVE MISSED YOUR GREENNESS.

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8. The woods after a fresh rain and seeing the water droplets on all the leaves.

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9. THEY FINALLY TURNED ON THE WATER FOUNTAINS!!!!

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10. My room is sparse and clean and I LOVE IT. And you can almost tell I share it with a boy because I let him put tennis rackets on the wall. But that’s it.

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All right folks, I’m off to bed. Hopefully I’ll be writing again soon. Preferably at a more reasonable hour, this is getting ridiculous. I might oversleep until 8:00am tomorrow! THE HORROR.

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

All right folks, it’s time to shake things up (by being consistent, which I realize does not make much sense. But moving on…). I’m going to try something new where certain days of the week I post about specific things. This way (I’m hoping), I’ll stop slacking off so much and actually post once in a while!

The first weekly change will be #BookTalkTuesdays. Every other second at the library, a patron or coworker will ask me what I like to read or what I’m reading. I hesitate to tell them because a) I’m like 10 years behind everyone else in what they’re reading and b) I have such specialized, weird reading interests like vegetarian cuisine so easy a 4 year old could make it (because that is my cooking ability), building tiny cabins in the middle of the woods, and poetry that probably wasn’t written in this decade and probably features a lot of birds.

This will be a way to not only answer those inquisitions, but hopefully expand my readership to things other normal humans are reading (like things that have actually earned an award or a spot on a bestseller’s list). It would be nice not to have to disappoint a patron for the 500th time when they ask “Have you read this?” and I haven’t because it isn’t Harry Potter.

So today’s featured book is The Last One by Alexandra Oliva.

Premise:

Zoo, the main character, is competing on a reality TV show where the goal is to survive longer in the wild than the rest of the competitors. The book alternates between Zoo’s perspective in the present and a distanced point of view of the production of the show set further back in time, as well as various comment threads on the internet.  Eventually, after witnessing some terrible atrocities (I know that’s vague, but I don’t want to give too much away!), it becomes clear to Zoo that everything isn’t as it seems. Think Survivor meets Outbreak, with a bit of psychological suspense and mystery thrown in.

Why it was worth reading:

This book was fast paced and left enough unknown to keep me reading on, which I always appreciate. I have the terrible habit of reaching an impatience threshold when I’m reading and just flipping to the back to the book to see how it ends, which leads to me  giving up on reading it entirely. I didn’t do that with this book! It also didn’t sacrifice setting and description in order to keep a good pace. I could picture every step along Zoo’s journey (even the rather gruesome moments that I really didn’t want to picture), and that’s why, even two weeks after I’ve finished it, this book is still rooted in my thoughts. Being the nature nerd that I am, I loved the surviving-in-nature aspect of the story. It seriously got me so giddy about spending some miserable nights in the wilderness that it led me to book about half a dozen camping trips this summer. When something I’m reading or watching encapsulates my world so entirely that I start to mimic the fictional aesthetic, I know it’s a good one (or I’m just super weird, whichever).

The End.

All right, it’s my bed time now (I’ve adjusted all my habits so I’m living like my 85 year old Grandpa. Stay tuned while I go in the garage and wax my Cadillac and sneak a slice of Rhubarb dessert out of the fridge despite the doctor’s orders). Stay tuned for Thursday when I’m supposed to have another weekly post up called #ThankfulThursday. We’ll see if I can keep up to my own expectations.

Pocketful of Poetry

It’s been a while since I’ve posted (babbled incoherently for paragraphs on end, because that’s the beauty of the internet), but I’m back! (Obviously). One of the numerous reasons (excuses) I’ve been away is because I’ve been focusing on my poetry. My God, that sounded just as ostentatious as someone telling you they’ve taken time off to “develop their sound,” didn’t it? Well, ostentatious or not, it’s true. I’ve dropped my keyboard in favor of my pen and I haven’t regretted it for a second. Poetic venting amazingly is just as satisfying as blog venting.

Moving on.

In case you didn’t know–and I’m guessing unless you are an avid part of the library or writing scene or your teacher/professor forced you to write a haiku this month, you didn’t know–April is National Poetry Month. For a while, I’ve been hesitant about sharing any of my poetry over my blog for many reasons, but since it’s taken over my life for the last six months or so and in the spirit of National Poetry Month, I’ve decided to share some with you all.

I know poetry isn’t a lot of people’s thing, so if that includes you, feel free to ignore this post! Or if you don’t want to read on for fear my poetry will be so utterly atrocious you won’t be able to look me in the eyes again, so be it! For the rest of you, enjoy!

 

Halloween

I littered the floor with stars as I entered,

my costume trailing glitter and sequins

in my wake. We greeted each other as old friends,

but later, as a girl bobbed her bunny ears

to some nonexistent rhythm, my face leaned

against his, my mask on his mask. We pressed

closer on the couch, not quite fitting

between the cushions and the backrest, my awkward angles

with his. Later, he laid me on the mattress and I noticed

for the first time a window above his bed,

where the stars shone through.

 

I Placed in a Letter

I placed in a letter, five pages, front

and back, scrawled in five different shades

of ink. I filled it with the naivety of a melancholic

seventeen year old who lived

in a different world than you died from.

I watered tears along the satin

lining, and your willow-green chiffon dress.

 

But I couldn’t put in the memory of you

sitting in your hand-painted rocking chair,

sipping coffee out of the clouded porcelain

cup. Or the way you could give a full laugh

with just your eyes. I couldn’t set my love

in beside you, or my heartbreak. I wanted

to take the sunlight that colored my shoulders

through the stained glass and fill the casket

with it, so when the lid closed

you wouldn’t be in darkness.

 

 

My Grandmother’s 83rd Birthday

Even when the candle flames nipped her nose,

she just watched the columns of fire sway

with a blank expression, and bleated

softly like a ewe looking for its mother.

The rest of the evening she stood by

the front door with her purse slung over

her shoulder and a photograph of her

parents in one hand, staring through

the frosted glass. Nobody could figure

out what she wanted when she shook

the picture and pointed outside, but

I think she was waiting for her parents

to show up, walk through the front door

and swing her in circles. To say, “happy

birthday little duckling,” and take her

away to whatever home they dwell in

now—the hills of heaven or just sweet,

faded memory. Wherever it is, I know

it smells of freshly cut hay and a baking

cherry chip birthday cake. I think it sounds

a lot like the wireless rustling out requests

of “unconditional surrender” from Japan,

and feels like a swelling hope that loved

ones will finally find their way back home.

 

 

We Don’t Know the Difference

We don’t know the difference between

cranes, herons, and egrets out there

in the wild riverbanks, the beaks of our

kayaks nudging a split in the surface.

We want to feel a part of chattering grasses

and willows bending down to rinse

their hair in the water. We want to reply

to the calling birds in clear, fluent tongues.

But we don’t even know the difference

between cranes, herons, and egrets.

And they, with their snaking necks

and blackberry eyes, can spot imposters

faster than the silver fish they stalk.

 

Death by Dementia

When you died nobody at the cemetery

seemed to be mourning, even as they clutched

their chests and begged the hard wind

to water their eyes. They all knew those tears

had showered and dried long before, when

you lost every form of life except the gentle struggle

of your heart beating on. Even the dew had dried

already in the morning sun’s comforting presence.

Even the crows wore blue in the reflecting light.

Caught in our grief, like a child holding

their mother’s hand, racing to keep up,

is the resurging peace of mind knowing

we never have to look into your eyes again

and see nothing but our own reflections.

 

 

I Swallowed Those Three Words

I swallowed those three words with the wine—

threw them back with the pill I take every night,

letting them soak and succumb to the sweet acid.

 

I tucked the syllables away deep under the sheets

while you ran your fingers across my back, even though

I knew you had your own caught somewhere

between your lips and my neck. The whole night

I could feel your breaths not clouding into their sounds.

 

I screamed them into the storm when you

were a hundred miles away and I knew you

could not hear. Maybe I hoped you’d still feel the rumble.

 

They are so close to flying, but cannot

strengthen their waxen wings.

 

Words (i) Fail (love) Me (you).

 

 

The Intertwining of Toes

The intertwining of toes is more intimate

than the intertwining of fingers. Feet have

been where hands have not. Naked feet know

the cycling soils of the earth, its fallen

civilizations and ancient secrets. They press

side by side, against new spring grass.

They bear the pain of rusted nails and thawed gravel

left after the shrinking snow. When our heels, arches,

and toes meet, they whisper to each other

their calloused journeys and where

they hope to go from here.

 

 

Holding Words In

Holding words in is like holding

your breath—uncomfortable, it churns

your stomach and burns your lungs.

 

You pull the sheets in tighter

around your body to reign them in.

You pull him closer to soothe their ache.

 

But they long to be released and will

keep fighting until you purge them

 

at half past midnight

under a flickering lamp

with a pencil that is nothing

but a stub.

 

 

Bleak

I thought I saw a raven staring

from the side of the road as I drove

past, his head angled toward me

in deliberate distaste. Instead,

it turned out to be a bush sprung

crooked along the sidewalk. Why

 

then do I still feel his presence, perched

upon the topmost library shelf,

his derisory stare scarred

into my neck as I type? In this season, when

 

it is always dusk, from black

to black, every hour is the same hour.

Here, the must of old knowledge

and clattering of keys do nothing

to distract from the wintry shadow

of his wings.

 

 

Keys to the Past

Two smooth wooden legs hold the Kimball piano

upright, making the instrument not technically

a Grand, but still grand in the eyes of the girl

who gently fingered its keys as a child. Middle C,

chipped in the corner like a child

with a missing tooth. Arched above

the keys is a sheet holder, blooming

with intricately engraved roses, usually hidden

by hymnals and Beethoven’s sonatas. Above

the carved garden rest tokens

of its previous owner; a backyard bird guide,

its pages torn and stained from forty years

of use, sits beside a rectangular magnifying glass—

necessary for reading the italic names of the bird species

and the hymnal lyrics—and a white coffee mug, all

remnants of a morning routine that has faded away.

 

A memory held in place by a distressed

wooden frame depicts the previous owner, a woman with soft

silver hair rocking a newborn in her chair. Behind

them sits the piano in its glory days—no chipped

tooth and its bench the same shining hue as its smallest

Another frame sits beside its twin

and holds a poem brimming with words of affection

and grief, written for the woman as she lay

in her hospital bed, by the baby she cradles.

 

That baby, now 18 years old, sits astride the bench now,

its black leather worn and greyed with age. She runs

her fingers over the splintered edge of the keyboard—

a wound received when moving the piano

to its current home in the small library. Gently,

the girl places pressure on a key, and a long, low,

mournful note rings out. The instrument is long since

out of tune, the only tune the girl ever knew. The strong

structure of maple, wires, peddles, and keys

will always sit as a melodic memory, not

technically a Grand, but a grand inheritance still.

 

 

Ice Fishing in Prior Lake

I could have stayed home sleeping

beneath the white down and refused

to stray where uninvited. Refused

to ride in a rust encrusted pick-up truck

over the low hills and shallow valleys

of snow-covered ice. I could have whispered

to myself, this is where I belong.

Then would the small kitchen, clouded

with its hot steam and cinnamon perfume,

make more sense to me when I awoke?

Would I regret not stepping through the narrow

doorway, into the frigid air of the fish house?

Would it be worth being blind

to the glares, and deaf to aren’t you dressed too fancy

to be fishing addressed toward my father’s red flannel shirt

draping my shoulders and the torn jeans above my boots.

I wondered.

But I went anyway.

Now I crouch in the corner of the red paneled shack,

staring into the murky depths

of brown-green water, the clear thread

of my fishing line indiscernible as it floats

down to the lake floor. Beside me the boys are laughing,

tearing jerky and gummy worms with their teeth,

barely glancing at their lines as they dare

each other to stick their heads in the water hole,

to take their chances in the portal’s

cold, quiet world.

What are you thinking, sleek-scaled sunny,

when you gaze up and see their distorted, wavering

faces through that carved window?

How do they appear through your glossy amber

eyes? Does the golden light

behind their shadowy frames look like a halo?

Do you even have time to wonder

before the sudden tug

wrenches your iridescent body

from silent water and I grasp

your slippery form in my fingers?

Do you see your wide eyes

reflected in my own, before I slip

the hook out, glance at the boys by the livewell,

and toss you back in the water?