Friday, January 22, 2016

My Love/Hate Relationship With Snow

Snow day!

Y'all, I LOVE the snow. I love the perfect, untrodden fleece of soft white comforting the ground and the rooftops, the scarves wrapped loosely around tree limbs. I love the serenity of no traffic passing by, no people rushing about, everything halted in time. I love the silence and peace hanging chilly in the air. I love the 6am phone call from the school district announcing the schools are closed and the text from work promising a free day off. I love the excitement of children waking up and seeing the snow outside their frosty windows, the squeals of pure, innocent delight, childhood memories in the making.


But y'all, I HATE the snow.

I hate the cold, wet bite of it. I hate the burning sting of it on my skin. I hate the cold, wet cuffs of trousers and sopping, refrozen gloves. I hate to see the untouched bright blanket blinking in the sun destroyed by boot trails and snowballs. Y'all, I'll admit it, I hate snowmen.

But how do I explain that I still love the snow, nonetheless? I love to watch my kids revel in the joy of snowplay, I love to watch my husband turn into a big kid when the snow falls. I love to observe the snow; I just hate to engage with it.

I am the World's Okayest Mom. While I loathe rolling large balls of snow into sad-looking "men" and throwing and/or being hit by snowballs, I do love making hot chocolate and building log fires and watching movies with my family, all the indoor joys of snow. I'll leave the outdoor frozen activities to the big kid I'm married to.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

5 Goals For the New Year

Cheers to 2016!
It feels a little late in the game, being the 13th of January, but I do have some New Year's Resolutions I feel ought to be written down and solidified somehow to make them real. Already I've broken, like, all of them, but maybe it's because I haven't set them in stone anywhere yet?

Below are 5 things I'd like to accomplish in 2016, including acknowledgement of the barriers to accomplishing them. Writing down the things that make resolutions hard to keep is a good step towards keeping them, or so my friend across the cubicle wrote on our company's blog (25 Tips for Success: New Year's Resolutions). So here I go - plans and goals for the new year.

1. Spend less, save more. I have big plans for saving money this year. I think I do every year, but this time I mean it! There are things I'd like to accomplish that require saving up for. The benefits of saving money are obvious, but the "costs" are harder to quantify. Truth is, I enjoy spending money. When I'm feeling low, I like to buy clothes or books. My goal this year is to resist that urge. The money may be there to spend, but I want to choose not to spend it. I need to find other therapies besides retail therapy.

2. Read the books I have.  Following #1, I want to try not to buy any more books until I've read all the ones I bought last year and haven't read yet. The Reading Challenge last year was so much fun, but it made me go a little crazy buying books. Now I have whole shelves full of books I bought last year but haven't had the chance to read yet. Before I buy more, I want to read these first. There are plenty to last me! If I can just fight my addiction to buying new books and stay out of bookstores... That's my biggest barrier to that one!

3. Lose the Office 15. Like going away to college for the first time, going back to work meant putting on some unwanted extra weight. Going from an extremely active lifestyle of working out multiple times a week to sitting at a desk eight hours a day has cost me my hard-earned waistline. I have a goal of losing 15-20 lbs by my birthday in April. If I can make that goal, I have a birthday treat waiting for me; I'll try out Stitch Fix. I've heard so many good things about it but don't want spend the money on nice things I'll hopefully under-grow. This kind of ties into #1 again, too.  Rather than spending money often on little things, I'd like to get back to my goal weight and then only spend money on a few very nice things. Barriers to losing weight? Keto is boring, and finding time to work out is next to impossible.

4. Exercise more. Tying into losing weight, I want to get back to the gym. The barriers to this are huge: time and interest.  I have only a limited amount of free time anymore and a very limited interest in my new gym. I realize now how spoiled I was with my old gym. The Community Center had fantastic classes with fantastic instructors that I was super excited about. The gym I've joined in my new town, however, lacks everything I loved about my old rec center. So convincing myself to go to it - knowing none of the classes are fun and the only other thing I'll be interested in doing is the treadmill - is tough. But I want to try. Lesson learned though: Don't join a gym that won't let you visit it several times first.

5. Put another book in print. Last year, of course, I published my first book. This year, I'd like to put another book in print - perhaps poetry or short stories. My biggest barrier to that, however, is imposter syndrome. I'm really just a complete farce of a writer. This is a hard feeling to bypass. After publishing my book, I refused to read it again, afraid I'd lose all courage if I did. Well, I got a Kindle for Christmas and decided to read my book in Kindle format. I've lost all confidence, just as I feared. One day, I'll probably release a second edition of The Last Petal Falling, filling in all the details I realized I should have included and bulking up the story in places that lack and fixing phrases I now wish I'd put differently. But until then, I need to keep writing. Push through my complete lack of faith in myself and my certainty that I'm just a big fraud and put something else out there. I can't let the self-doubt win!

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Challenge Accepted! December Books

Sad confession time.  I only got through 1.5 books in December.

And the only reason I have taken so long to blog about them is because I really wanted to at least finish the second book so I could write about two, not just one.

December is a busy, crazy month, so I'm don't feel too bad about failing the 2015 Reading Challenge. I only missed it by three books. I consider that pretty good!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (A book set during Christmas)

Another sad confession. I've never read A Christmas Carol - until now, of course.  I have, however, seen A Muppet's Christmas Carol, and like most people, I knew the story.

What can I say? It's a Christmas classic. I spent the whole time reading seeing Michael Cain, Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Gonzo.  I could not even remotely imagine Bob Cratchit as a human or the Ghost of Christmas Present anything other than a giant puppet. And there was only one Marley... Even so, kudos to the Muppets for following the book almost word-for-word.

I'm not sure if this is a commentary on the book or the movie.

Daniel Martin by John Fowles (A book with more than 500 pages)

Ahhh. Now this is the book I wanted to talk about.

"A masterpiece of symbolically charged realism....Fowles is the only writer in English who has the power, range, knowledge, and wisdom of a Tolstoy or James." (John Gardner, Saturday Review)

First, a little background. I love background.

I took a modern fiction course in college with Ellen Gilchrist. In that class, Prof. Gilchrist introduced us to a wide array of fantastic novels I'd never heard of. Even the ones I didn't love still made a lasting impact on me. In that one class, she introduced me to three books I'll never forget, two of which have become lifetime favorites, and one of which literally changed the way I looked at literature forever.

That last one was 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But Daniel Martin is one of the two that has become a lifetime favorite.

I chose this book as my "book with more than 500 pages", knowing that choosing it would mean not completing my challenge. I was okay with that. This book is no quick and easy read. The plot develops slowly yet steadily, like life. No details are omitted. Deep introspection of the narrator and thorough psychoanalysis of the supporting characters accompanies every small moment. Reading this book is like reading God's diary. How do I even begin to describe this novel?

It is the most intelligent, intellectual, insightful, raw, honest, and challenging book I can think of. 

To give the plot line almost does the book a disservice, because it is so much more than just a story. Daniel Martin is a middle-aged British screenwriter, living in California, coming to terms with his past, present, and future, all of which seem in some way to take the form of the females in his life: his grown daughter, his ex-wife, his young girlfriend, his ex-sister-in-law. The past he has spent his entire present trying to put behind him finally pulls him back when his estranged ex-brother-in-law/best friend requests to see him one last time before he dies of cancer. Daniel must return to England and face all that he has successfully ignored for far too long.

Daniel Martin is a story. It is also politics. It is religion. It is psychology, sociology, anthropology. Throw in the discreet and moving sex scenes, and it's biology. This is my third time to read it, and like the two times before it, I have learned in it new things about humanity and about myself. It took all of December and a week of January to finish, and that's with steady reading. It is so dense, so rich, it can't be taken in all at once.It has to be read in chunks, chewed on, mulled over, considered.

However, if you have the patience and want to read a really great book, I highly recommend it.

Oh, one more thing. You know that song "Nightswimming" by R.E.M.? I like to think Michael Stipe got the idea from this book. It was listening to that song that made me decide Daniel Martin would be my 500 page book. (More like 640.)

So what did I not manage to read in 2015?

Three books:
A classic romance (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)
A book your mom loves (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson)
A book that came out the year you were born (The Color Purple by Alice Walker)

All of which remain on my To-Read List for 2016.

To see what else I have read this year:

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Pajama Fairy

Fifi is screaming, "THE PAJAMA FAIRY WAS HERE!!!!" She's running down the stairs screaming to everyone, "GO CHECK YOUR BED!" Jaguar is wide-eyed, open-mouthed, leaning out of his bedroom door, excitedly telling me, "Majaba Bairy!" Lolly is squealing.

I began telling the story of Penelope the Pajama Fairy for about six years now. I came up with the idea after hearing a radio program about unique family Christmas traditions. One woman said when she was a child, her mother would clean all the sheets and make all the beds and give every child a new pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve, to wake up on Christmas morning with a clean start. My wee girls were super into fairies at the time, and thus the Pajama Fairy was born.

Every year, at some point on Christmas Eve when the kids are out, Penelope, the fallen tooth fairy, stops by with clean sheets (sometimes they are even brand new) and a new pair of pajamas for everyone to wear on Christmas Eve night. She makes the beds and lays the new pjs out for the kids to discover when they get home.

In the McFarlane house, the Pajama Fairy is a big deal. She might even be a bigger deal than Santa.

Fifi has been begging me to write the story down for a couple of years now. So this year, I did. Maybe one day I'll find an illustrator and eventually put the story in print.  It's still in draft form, but for now, enjoy a little McFarlane family tradition and feel free to adopt it and make it your own!

Everyone yell, "PAJAMA FAIRY!"

The Pajama Fairy


Penelope is sad.
She is a sad fairy.
Penelope is a tooth fairy. Or was.
She is sad, because she is not a tooth fairy anymore.

The thing is, she was not very good at being a tooth fairy.
For one, she was always getting lost. 
One time the address on the Tooth Pick-Up List said 201 North Walnut Street.
Penelope got mixed up and went to 201 South Walnut Street.
Instead of collecting Jonah Rodriguez’s bottom front incisor, she returned to Toothtown, Fairyopia with grumpy old Mr Pollock’s false teeth that were soaking in a jar next to his bed. She thought she’d won the jackpot with all those teeth!
Luckily for Jonah, his grandma discovered the tooth still under his pillow the next morning and replaced it with a coin of her own. She was unhappy with the tooth fairy though.
Unluckily for Penelope, the Toothtown’s legal council, Molar, Molar & Smith, had to settle the case in court when Mr Pollock sued over his “stolen” teeth.

Another thing is she was always running late.
Once she was a whole day late. Eden Martin woke up the next morning expecting a coin under her pillow and found her tooth still there. She cried all day and stopped believing in tooth fairies at once.
Penelope got in BIG trouble for that one.

Finally, she is always counting money wrong.
The worst time was when Penelope accidentally gave Elizabeth McDonald two coins and had no money left for Ollie Baker.
She left Ollie an acorn instead with a note explaining the mix up. Ollie decided tooth fairies were not worth the trouble and told his whole kindergarten class to stop leaving  teeth under pillows. That unbalanced the entire National Tooth & Trust’s fiscal year budget.
And this is why the Board of Directors finally fired Penelope.

And this is why Penelope is sad.

You see, the reason Penelope is always getting lost and running late and losing money is because Penelope’s true calling is not collecting teeth.  Penelope’s real talent is fashion design. Pajama fashion, to be exact.

When Penelope should be checking the daily Lost Tooth Alert System  for collection assignments

or studying the maps of neighborhoods (to make sure she stops at the RIGHT houses)

or learning how to count out the correct value of coins per tooth in math class

Penelope is doodling frilly nightgowns or practicing new stitches or calculating how many yards of fabric it takes to make a pajama set.  Despite her mistakes in counting coins, she is very good at counting inches and centimeters.

Penelope was not a good tooth fairy.
But she is good at other things.

It’s also worth noting that Penelope is not sad because she got fired.
Penelope is sad, because she loves the children.  Penelope has a good heart.
When she thinks of Eden and Jonah and Ollie and Elizabeth, a tear slips down her cheek. She will never see them again.

Or will she?

Penelope has an idea!

Penelope quickly starts to sew.
She knows that Eden loves spaceships, and Ollie loves cats.
She knows Jonah’s favorite color is purple, and Elizabeth likes polka dots.
She knows which children like fleece and which ones like satin. 
She knows who prefers nightgowns, and who likes pajamas with feet.

Lovingly, Penelope designs and sews each of the children a very special, unique pair of pajamas.

It takes her all year to get everything just right.

Finally, it is Christmas Eve.  Penelope is ready. She gets special permission from the Fairy Transport Office to view the neighborhood maps again. She wants to make sure she goes to all the right houses.

While Eden is shopping with her mother for last minute gifts, Penelope slips through the window to deliver the spaceship nightgown.

While Jonah is having Christmas Eve lunch with his grandma, Penelope lays a new pair of purple fleece pajamas on his bed. (She even made the bed for him.)

While Ollie is driving around looking at Christmas lights with his family, Penelope drapes the cat footsie pajamas over his desk chair.

While Elizabeth is in the kitchen peeling potatoes with her dad, Penelope folds the polka-dotted satin pajamas on top of the laundry pile.

With each pair of pajamas, Penelope also leaves a note apologizing for all the tooth mistakes of the past.

Penelope flies back to Toothtown, Fairyopia, and waits.

The children are all so surprised! They each read the notes as they put on their new pajamas.
Penelope’s heart beats fast and a smile spreads across her face as

Eden starts believing in fairies again.
Jonah’s grandma forgives the tooth fairy.
Elizabeth placed her extra coin under her pillow with a note that said “RETERN TO SENDER”.
Ollie promises to tell all the kids in his class to trust tooth fairies again AND to start believing in “Pajama Fairies” too.

Now Penelope has children all over the world who believe in her.
She spends all year making pajamas and delivers each pair on Christmas Eve.

Penelope has found her true calling.
Penelope is happy!
She is a happy fairy!
Penelope is not a tooth fairy anymore, but this is okay.
Penelope is now who she was always meant to be.

A pajama fairy!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent Thought For the Day: Christmas Chores

When I think of Christmas and the holiday season, I picture hot chocolate and Christmas movies on the couch, presents beautifully wrapped under a sparkling lit tree, gingerbread men and pies, family and friends.

I forget every year about the Christmas chores that make these things possible.

I forget about having to wrap all those presents, inevitably running out of tape just before I finish, and usually having to unwrap at least one because I forgot to tag it and can't remember who it's for. I forget about moving all the boxes marked XMAS out of the garage and decorating a house that has no room for all these excessive decorations. I forget about 50% of the lights purchased the year before not working, even though they have done nothing but sit in storage for a year. I forget about stringing said lights on the tree. (And for the years I use an artificial tree, I forget how much I hate building the artificial tree.) I forget about the mess of making gingerbread men with kids, refereeing fights over who gets to pour in the muscovado sugar and who gets to stir in the molasses. I forget about addressing 50+ Christmas cards and then balking at how much it costs to send most of them to the United Kingdom (or back in the day, sending them to the US). I forget about finding 24 unique and fun things for those darn elves to do every night. I forget about organizing Christmas get-togethers that accommodate everyone's various extended family schedules and still keep everyone happy. Christmas chores.

Christmas chores don't make me feel Christmasy. They make me feel tired.

But I still love Christmas. So all the Christmas chores in the world are still worth it for this one month of ridiculously gaudy decor everywhere you look, brightly lit houses in every neighborhood, more baked goods than my waistline can afford, and the look on my kids faces every morning when they see the mischief Banoffie Pie got up to overnight.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Advent Thought For the Day: One Word

Whether you celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday with trees, presents, stockings, lights, and Santa, or as a Christian holiday with trees, presents, stockings, lights, Santa, and a nativity, there is still one single word that sums up the entire Christmas season:


Love for family, love for friends, and hopefully love for others.  


Unless you can't stand your family, then Christmas is a bit of a mixed bag.  

But usually, you can sum it up with Love.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Advent Thought For the Day: Happy Holidays

I've been trying all evening to think of something thoughtful to write about the holiday season, but all I can come up with is this:

Don't be an arse.

I mean, it's a wonderful time of year, filled with goodness and cheer. Whether you display a nativity or a festivus pole, a tree or a menorah, just share the love.  Don't dig your heels in over the word "Christmas" and don't judge others for how they celebrate the winter season. (Remember, it's summer in Australia.) Baby Jesus or Santa, Seven Principles or Maccabees or Solstice, let's all just enjoy the holidays together in our own special ways.

Merry Christsmakkuhvuswanzaastice to all and to all a good force be with you.


Wednesday, December 02, 2015

That Awkward Moment When You Blog About Poop

In high school Forensics, we had a moratorium on doing improvs or mimes or any other kind of performance that involved "bathroom humor" - you know, fart jokes, poop jokes, peeing your name in the snow jokes. It's a philosophy I have always carried with me since as I've walked this little road we call Life. I don't usually talk about poop or farts or pee in public. But today, I am.

Today, let's talk about poop.

I have serious anxiety about "doing my business" in public with someone in the next stall. Like, I seriously can't do it. Doing a "Number One" is bad enough, but a Number Two just won't do.

So like, for instance, the other day, I really needed to, ahem, "go", and I waited until the public restroom at my place of employment was empty. And just as I was about to "go", I heard the door open and someone came in! What was I to do? There was no way I could "go" now.  Not with Sally Sassy Shoes a stall away. Not when a couple of days earlier a colleague confessed that she sometimes takes pictures of her toileting neighbor's shoes if she doesn't know who it is and shows it around until she find out who it was. So I did what any normal person would do. I calmly got up, flushed, washed my hands, and left the bathroom. I then quickly rushed to the second floor, where I hoped I'd find an empty ladies' room.  There was a girl washing her hands at the sink. I calculated that if I took my time "preparing" for the loo, she'd be gone in time for me to make a dash at it before anyone else entered the bathroom. But this girl wasn't just washing her hands. She had make-up to do. And hair to fix. And she even talked to herself in the mirror. All the while, I'm stuck in the stall with nowhere to go. I couldn't leave now, she'd know I hadn't gone! But I also couldn't "go" - oh no, not with Fancy Nancy sprucing herself up in the employee bathroom. I had to wait for what felt like days, all the while worried someone else would enter while she took her precious time. As soon as she left and I heard that door shut, I was on the clock. I "went" as fast as humanly possible, and luckily made it out before anyone else wandered in.

This is my normal.

And apparently I'm not alone! A whole book was written for the toilet-anxious employees of the world. I think I need this book.

From the Amazon blurb:

Don't let number 2 stop you from being number 1 on the job.
Face the facts. You poop every day-more or less-but making a misstep when you've got to go at the office could land you in some serious doo-doo. How to Poo at Work is the ultimate guide to handling a range of potentially awkward situations, including what to do when:
  • The boss is in the next stall
  • The toilet gets clogged
  • A colleague follows you into the bathroom
  • There's no toilet paper
    Flush with useful diagrams, this handy book can save your career from going down the toilet.

This book is so going on my reading list.  I wonder if it also has advice for colleagues who might take pictures of your shoes under the stall? "Wear pretty shoes, and don't let your knickers fall all the way to your ankles."

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

DeBloAdMo 2015

It's the first day of December which means:

- The first day of DeBloAdMo
- The first day of our Advent Activity Calendar
- The first day of Banoffee Pie (our Elf on the Shelf)

First -  DeBloAdMo: The challenge to blog every day of Advent (December Blog Advent Month). Considering how poorly I performed in NaBloPoMo, don't expect much out of this. But consider blogging December with me as we count down the days to Christmas! Let's even give it a bloody hashtag: #DeBloAdMo

You may choose to write something thoughtful about the holiday season, the advent of Christ's birth, or just post goofy pictures of your elf. (Hands up.) Whatever you do, it's a great way to keep blogging all month long, taking a little bit of time for yourself for reflection or silliness.

Second - Our Advent Calendar List (feel free to borrow/steal any of these ideas for your family advent calendar!)

1. Send letters to Santa.
2. Call Santa (free hotline: 951-262-3062)
3. Check email for message from Santa. (
4. Stay up late and watch a Christmas movie.
5. Drive to Sherwood Forest to look at Christmas lights.
6. Make gingerbread men for the Christmas tree.
7. Film a Christmas video for Granny and Grampa.
8. Have a picnic in pajamas on the floor.
9. Choose toys to donate to charity. 
10. Hang Christmas lights in bedrooms.
11. Lolly’s Sleepover birthday party!
12. Eat dinner by candlelight.
13. Christmas breakfast with friends.
14. Go out to eat with family for Lolly’s birthday.
15. Wrap presents to put under the tree.
16. Go to Lucie’s Place Grand Opening to show our support.
17. Make a cake for Daddy’s birthday. 
18. Go on a family adventure trip to Fayetteville and see lights on the Square!
19. See new Stars Wars movie.
20. Drink hot chocolate with marshmallows. 
21. Eat Christmas pancakes for dinner.
22. Cut out snowflakes and hang them.
23. Call cousins in Texas and Scotland to say Merry Christmas. 
24. Go to a carol service, then put out snacks and reindeer food for Santa’s sleigh team!!

Third - Banoffee Pie has arrived from the North Pole!

Looks like he took a flight this year instead of driving. He must be feeling flush. We are all very excited to see what shenanigans he gets up to this year. (And by we I mean the kids. Me? I just feel tired.)

Happy Advent!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Challenge Accepted! November Books

I'm almost to the finish line! Five books covered in November; five to go by the end of the year. Can I complete the challenge?!

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks (A book you started but never finished)

In college, I had to satisfy a social science credit by taking either sociology or psychology. Thinking Psych 101 would be interesting (lol, psyche!!!), I registered for 8am MWF Intro to Psychology. My professor was a perception specialist and spent the first three weeks or so talking about nothing but perception. I don't know what he talked about after that because I dropped the class and took sociology instead.

One thing I took away from that experience, aside from never ordering textbooks on eBay in case they don't arrive in time for the first test and you'll have to drop the course to avoid failing, was an interest in this book.  Professor Don't-Remember-His-Name recommended we all ready The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. I ordered the book for my father-in-law several years later, the recommendation to read still lingering in my mind, and read half of it. I don't recall finishing it.

So I ordered another copy last month and read it again, start to finish. It's a fascinating read, balancing out scientific and clinical commentary with unbelievable anecdotes, making it readable for even the least psychologically trained of us. If you're interested in truly bizarre psychological phenomena, you should get a lend of this book. It's much more exciting than Intro to Psyche.

The Gay Teen's Guide to Defeating a Siren: Book 1: The Seeker by Cody Wagner (A book set in high school)

Since the Self-Published Book Fair, I've gone on a big "buy self-published books!" kick. This book was written and self-published by a friend of a friend. I had no idea if it would be any good, but being a self-published author myself, I wanted to support the guy. Plus, I love the gays. I ordered the book on Amazon and read it in two days.

I loved it!

It's a humorous sci-fi-ish/fantasy-ish/not-realistic-ish book about a gay kid who accidentally comes out of the closet and gets sent to a "pray away the gay" camp. Little does he know the danger that awaits him there. The good thing is he has a superpower. He's gay.

Y'all, I freaking loved this book. I won't tell you anymore, lest I give too much away. I just have to say, go support a self-published author and order this book. It's not in any way offensive to religion (he manages to keep religion pretty well out of the book other than the fundamentalist preacher who insists his parents send him away to camp for healing), and it's not a "gay" book. It's just really fun. I can't wait for Book 2!

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story by Dan Harris (A book with a number in the title)

My friend (I think I can call her a friend - she's a woman I know professionally, with whom my company does business, and with whom I've really hit it off, so I think I can call her a friend... It's not like I'm not an over-analyzer or anything...) recommended this book to me. We actually recommend lots of books and movies to one another. She had just finished this one a few weeks ago when we met for lunch (a half business, half pleasure lunch - I think I speak for us both when I say it was half pleasure) and thought I'd really like it.

It's about Buddhist meditation.

And she was right. I ordered the book that evening, and once I started it, I finished it quickly. Dan Harris (of ABC's Nightline and Good Morning America fame) was once a hot-headed, drug-addicted asshole (his words, not mine) of a news reporter. He was given the religion beat by Peter Jennings, which he reluctantly accepted, being a life long agnostic and wholly uninterested in religion. It was on this beat that he discovered meditation first through self-help books and later by Buddhist practitioners. The book tells the story of how he became interested in meditation in spite of himself (and in spite of the raised eyebrows and dismissive comments of his colleagues and family) and eventually came to be a committed (secular) Buddhist yogi.

I have to admit, I was pretty taken in by his arguments. I always believed meditation and "clearing your mind" would be an open door invitation for the demons to step inside and start rearranging the furniture. With the fear of little evil imps no longer haunting my nightmares (and boy did they haunt my nightmares), the concept of mindfulness really struck a chord with me.

When I mentioned to Scott that I was reading a book about Buddhism and meditation, I expected an eye roll, but to my surprise, Scott was very supportive of the idea. He even said he thinks it would be great for me.

I'm thinking about it.

Coming Clean by Seth Haines (A book that scares you)

I wrote an extensive "review" of sorts of this book earlier this month. Click here to read.

The short version: I liked it a lot, even though I don't believe in a god. It is beautifully written, the imagery is sharp and emotive, the story line is at times heartbreaking, and the general experience of suffering is universal.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (A Pulitzer Prize-winning book)

I saw the movie as a Marlon Brando-obsessed teen (swoon), but I'd never read the book - or play, actually - though I've always wanted to. The play won the Pulitzer in 1948, thus checking off a bucket list item and a book challenge category.

As an adult, I definitely saw the play as much more convoluted than I did as a teen. As a teen I:
A) Couldn't understand why Stella stuck with Stanley
B) Hated Stanley (even if he was played by the sexy Brando)
C) Thought Blanche was batshit crazy.

Reading it now, all the nuance revealed itself me. All the complexity of characters - the good/bad/ugly of each. While on the surface, A, B, and C still basically held true, I saw the subdivisions to all. I sympathized with all three main characters, seeing their flaws but also seeing how and why they acted the way they did. I'd love to see this performed on stage some day. I'd also love to watch the movie again. (Mostly for Brando's bare chest but also for the story.)

To see what else I have read this year: