Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Write or Die Wednesdays: The Magical World of Books


Welcome to Write or Die Wednesdays: A Writer's Link-Up! We are Vashelle and Mia inviting you to partake in some creative writing with us each week.

                           

If you are new to this link-up and are wondering what Write or Die is all about, check it out here!

And if you love what you see, please feel free to spread the word! Add the button below to your posts, or your blog's sidebar.

Write or Die Wednesdays

The posts from last week were so much fun to read and were so diverse. Some of the topics were: denial, rebellion, growing up, loving yourself, etc. If you missed them, please feel free to click here and check them out and leave our writers some love. :)

This week's prompt is a quote:



We are also super excited to announce the launch of the Write or Die Book Club! It's a quarterly book club focused on books about writing, creativity, inspiration, etc. We hope you join us! Click here.

Happy writing!!!

****

I love this quote, not only because it was said by my favorite author, but because it's also very true. Books are uniquely portable magic. Books are magic because they transcend the boundaries of time, age, race, gender, politics, etc. Books are portable because you can take them with you anywhere - airports, road trips (hopefully not while you are driving), lunch breaks, heck, even bathroom breaks. And books are magic they provide information and knowledge, entertainment, escape. You can travel anywhere, be anyone, experience anything for a time. I don't know anything more wonderful than that.    



I have loved books my whole life. Some of first memories associated with books were when I was a little girl and would go to the library with my dad. We could browse for hours in perfect, contented silence. I remember sitting in the periodicals section of the library, looking at the cute pictures of puppies in Dog Fancy magazine, with my stack of library books next to me on the table. My dad would be there with me reading a car magazine. The sun would be streaming in through the windows. You could just smell the books around us. You know what I mean, right? That distinct, paper-y smell that libraries have, with their rows and shelves of books. Those are some of the best memories of my childhood. 

Books have been a part of me at every stage of my life. As a child when I was looking for "playmates" and escape to other worlds. As a teen looking for those angst-ridden tales. As a twenty-something trying to find my way in the world. As a mom worrying about my babies. Books grow with you, books soothe you, books improve you. 

Reading has inspired in me a profound love of words.
Words can hold so much meaning. They can change the entire tone of a sentence or a story. They can create a world. They can build a consuming love. They can crush you with their sadness. I long to write words that inspire those kinds of feelings in someone else.

Books are legacies that we leave behind for future generations. They create culture and community. They create new trends in literature. Think back to Shakespeare, Dickens, Hemingway, Poe. I don't know that they knew at the time the longevity and, more importantly, the significance their books would have in our history. But we are damn glad they wrote them, aren't we?

Books will always hold a special place in my life and my heart. I think they will stand the test of time, no matter how many gadgets are invented in the future. Because the magic and the love they inspire in readers and writers all over the world guarantee their existence - page by page and cover by cover.

How have books been magical in your life? Please share. Talking about books is one of my biggest passions and I want to hear how they have moved you. And don't forget to join our Write or Die Book Club, if you're so inclined. xo



   

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Read All About It: The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto


I read "The Lake" by Banana Yoshimoto last month for the Dreams, Etc. Book Club (click here to join!). It's a book that is difficult to describe, but I will try my best. 



First, the synopsis from Goodreads:

"It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though ... until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.

They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre religious cult. . . .

With its echoes of the infamous, real-life Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the Tokyo subway system), The Lake unfolds as the most powerful novel Banana Yoshimoto has written. And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the lake in the country- side, it’s also one of her most moving."

For me, "The Lake" was part mystery, part romance (sort of), with a little bit of supernatural thrown in, too. It was very slow at the beginning and it took me a while to figure out where the story was going, but after about 1/3 of the book, it started to pick up and I became fascinated. Japanese culture is already so intriguing to me, so I would like to read more about it. I like when books inspire me to do research on new topics. 

The relationship between Chihiro and Nakajima is a little strange. Not only because of the way they met - locking eyes while looking out their respective windows - but also in the way they interact. It's a very dependent relationship, but yet, distant in a way. Nakajima suffered a traumatic experience when he was young, but cannot discuss it with Chihiro, which leaves her to imagine all sorts of things. 

I really enjoyed the message of hope in the book. Chihiro's relationship with her father improving. Chihiro coming to terms with her mother's death. Chihiro's relationship with Nakajima also improving and moving to a place of trust and closeness. And of course the ending - I won't spoil it, but it ends on a really positive note, which is a striking contrast to the darkness of the rest of the story.

These are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
  • "Recognizing how totally ignorant you are is the only honest way to deal with people who've been through something traumatic."
  • "Everything in life has some good in it. And when something awful happens, the goodness stands out even more - it's sad, but that's the truth."
  • "Why were we so far apart, even when we were together? It was a nice loneliness, like the sensation of washing your face in cold water." 


I really enjoyed it, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Have you read "The Lake" or any of Banana Yoshimoto's other works? Also, check out this review from Crystal from Dreams, Etc. 


P.S. Don't forget to join us on Feb 25th for the next Write or Die Wednesdays writer's link up. The prompt this week is a quote from Stephen King (below). Happy Writing!



Saturday, February 21, 2015

Yes is Easier than No

Linking up with Dean and Courtney


I've always been a "yes" person. Always quick to agree, slow to complain or contradict. I never wanted to hurt anyone's feelings or have that awkwardness that comes when you tell someone "no". Confrontation is something I avoided at ALL costs. 

I've often found myself agreeing to things that I 100% don't want to do. And it always causes me such stress and anxiety. My husband always asks, "Why don't you just tell them no?" and my response is always, "I can't."

I think it's partially the guilt and fear I feel at letting someone down or being labelled as unreliable or a "flake" because I hate when people flake on me. 

"Yes is like credit, No is like cash." - C. J. Langenhoven

But as much as I have conflicted feelings about "yes" - and continuing to work on finding my voice - it's actually the 2nd part of the quote that really bothers me. "Figure it out afterwards." UGH. Never have more frustrating words been spoken. And even more so now that I'm a mom. 

I have to keep in mind a lot of different things - the boys' nap time, meal times, bath time, homework time, errands, meal prep, spin class, cleaning, laundry, etc. Trying to figure out how to juggle all of that and make plans really takes some prior planning and maneuvering. So yes, while spontaneity can be fun and exciting, more often than not, it leaves me scrambling - which is why you'll find me silently fuming when I ask someone to make plans and they refuse to commit to a date/time. And they casually say, "Let's just figure it out later." Aghghghfghghfghflgfg. 

Woo-sah. Don't run for the hills, I promise I'm not this crazy person who has to plan every minute of every day. I'm just more mindful to manage my time wisely and take into account my family's needs and my responsibilities. Especially my kids - they come before everything. Even my "yes" complex. 

I've gotten a little bit better about speaking up when something doesn't work for me, but I still feel that uncomfortable twinge lurking underneath. My eyes get shifty and I start to fidget, like a kid in the principal's office. Hopefully one day I'll learn how to strike that balance with ease. 

What are your tips for saying no with grace? Are you a planner or a figure-it-out-er? 


P.S. Our prompt for Write or Die Wednesdays this week is the quote below. Hope you join us! Happy writing. 




Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Write or Die Wednesdays: State of Denial


Welcome to Write or Die Wednesdays: A Writer's Link-Up! We are Vashelle and Mia inviting you to partake in some creative writing with us each week.

                                

If you are new to this link-up and are wondering what Write or Die is all about, check it out here!

And if you love what you see, please feel free to spread the word! Add the button below to your posts, or your blog's sidebar. Or click on the "Tweet" button below to share with your friends.


Write or Die Wednesdays



Last week's posts inspired by the word "snowfall" proved to be one of our best link-ups yet! From poetry to touching personal stories, we feel so lucky to have you all share your beautiful words with us each week. If you missed it and would like to check out the posts, click here!

This week's prompt is this photo suggested by Lexie at Those Words She Wrote. Thanks, Lexie! Happy writing, everyone.


***

This photo brings to mind the Disney cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland. Specifically, the part where Alice is helping to paint the white roses red because the Queen of Hearts only wants red roses in her garden.

It led me to thinking about denial. [Just go with it, this is how my brain works. :)] About how people, even when faced with facts, can't or won't see the truth of a situation.


Why is that, you may ask? I think it is a coping mechanism. Or sometimes a refusal to deal with a difficult situation and hope it just all works out on its own. I'm not judging at all, because I myself have suffered from denial. For a really long time.

I think denial is sort of like the equivalent of an emotional coma - designed to protect you from facing a hard/hurtful/unwanted truth that you are not yet prepared to handle. You would think that as smart as humans are we would know that we need to face things head on. That you can only sweep so much under the rug before there's no more room left under that rug. But hey - even smart people do dumb things sometimes, right?

How do you overcome denial? For me, it reached a boiling point to where I couldn't take it anymore and finally was able to change my mindset. I realized that facing the truth was the better alternative. For other people, the "answer" may look different. It may come sooner rather than later. It may come in the form of tough love from a friend or family member.

However it happens, I just hope it happens. Because it's no way to live. And so often we're in denial about being in denial. So my advice to anyone who is going through this - break the cycle. It will be hard. It will be painful. You kick and scream and want to go full ostrich mode and bury your head in the sand again. But it's worth it. You'll come out the other side feeling like a new person!

And besides, instead of painting white roses red - isn't it just easier to go buy red roses?




   


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Brave Heart


Courageous. Heroic. Fearless. Strong. These are the words that come to mind when I hear the word "brave." It brings to mind the soldier serving his country. The police officer/firefighter protecting his community. 

It was never a word that I would have used to describe myself or anything that I've done. But then again, I know that bravery can take many forms, not just those who risk their lives for others (although that is pretty fucking important and BRAVE in my book). 

Brave. What does it mean, really? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, brave means: "feeling or showing no fear; not afraid." I'm afraid every single day, so surely, I wouldn't be considered brave, right? But the more I think about it, the more I feel like admitting that you are afraid is brave. Admitting that you are vulnerable is brave.  

I'm sure I've mentioned a few times that I suspected I have depression - that I've had it probably my whole life. Well, I do. And anxiety as well. I finally was diagnosed this past September. It was really hard for me to accept. I didn't want to know for sure, because then I would have to admit that there was something "wrong" with me. There's that stigma associated with invisible diseases. People say, What's wrong with you? Why don't you cheer up? I don't like it when you're like this. Just smile, it will all be OK. What do you have to be sad about? You're such a downer. Call me when you're in a better mood. 

It hurts. It makes you feel like you are less than. That you should always put on a happy face and smile and pretend. But I finally had enough. I reached my breaking point and said, I don't want to feel this way anymore. I need answers and I need a plan.   

And I faced my fear and put myself first. Which is a really hard thing for me to do, because there's always that guilt in the background. That I should be focusing on my family and not on myself. That I should be strong and not let my problems get in the way of taking care of others. But finally admitting that I needed help and that I needed to take care of myself, so that I could be a better wife and mother, was a HUGE step for me. 

Things are better for me now. They aren't perfect; I still have my ups and downs. But they are better. The burden feels lighter. My heart feels more joy. And I am brave in my own way. 

What makes you brave? 


*Linking up with Dean and Courtney for #TWSS. 

P.S. Don't forget to join us on Wednesday, Feb. 18th for Write or Die Wednesdays! The prompt is the photo below. Hope you join us and happy writing! 






Monday, February 16, 2015

Read All About It (The Kids' Corner): This House Needs a Mouse



Synopsis
"This is the high-spirited story of a mouse... disgusted by his caged existence...desperate for a new life. Through a stroke of good timing and some quick thinking, the mouse finds himself free, full of purpose, and exquisitely happy. When his life is turned upside down by an unfortunate chain of events involving traps, rat poison, and one unmotivated cat, this seemingly ordinary mouse must come to grips with his new situation and his true purpose in life."

My thoughts:

My sons thought this was the greatest book ever! I don't know what it is about little boys and rodents, haha, but they loved it and have wanted to read it every night. At 34 pages, it's the perfect length to capture their attention - not too short and not too long. The illustrations are awesome. And I also really loved the paper, which I know is a weird thing to say, but I find that most children's books these days have pages that are very hard for little fingers to turn and they get frustrated. But this book had pages with the perfect texture. #BookNerdAlert

My 6 year old had no problems reading the story, he zipped right through it. I also really loved the repetition in the book, which helped my 4 year old to enjoy the story as he struggles a little bit with reading. 

It's a very cute story about a mouse that I think all kids will enjoy (it is aimed toward 3-8 year olds). My boys giggled through the whole book and loved looking at the illustrations to see what the mouse was up to next. And of course now they want a pet mouse of their own! 

If you have little ones at home and want to read a fun story about a mouse (and don't worry, there aren't any cookies in this one - although there are crumbs!), then definitely check it out. 

This House Needs A Mouse is now available now on the book’s website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Big Tent Books.

*Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Write or Die Wednesdays: Cold Hands, Warm Heart



Welcome to Write or Die Wednesdays: A Writer's Link-Up! We are Vashelle and Mia inviting you to partake in some creative writing with us each week.                

                               

If you are new to this link-up and are wondering what Write or Die is all about, check it out here! And if you love what you see, please feel free to spread the word! Add the button below to your posts, or your blog's sidebar. Or click on the "Tweet" button below to share with your friends.

Write or Die Wednesdays


Last week, the posts ranged from short stories to poems to discussions about secrets, love, Valentine's Day, and feeling "stuck." I hope you'll take a few minutes to check out the posts here. We really love seeing the creativity of our "linker-uppers." :)

This Wednesday's prompt is the word: SNOWFALL. Happy Writing!


P.S. Have an idea for a prompt for #WODW? Feel free to comment below!

***

The word snowfall brings to mind a memory from my childhood. I don't even remember how old I was - maybe 6 years old. It had snowed the day before, about 5 or 6 inches, something like that. I went with my mom to her friend's house for a visit.

When we got there, her friend's three kids were getting ready to go play outside in the snow. They were all bundled up in their snow boots and gloves and big jackets. I really wanted to go, too, but my mom wouldn't let me and told me to stay inside.

I'm sure you can imagine how I felt having to sit there and listen to my mom and her friend talk. It was excruciating. I kept going over to the window and watching the kids play and wanted to join in so desperately. They were running around and throwing snowballs and shrieking with glee.

Her friend's son saw me looking out of the window and gestured for me to go outside and join them. I was a timid child who tried very hard to stay on my mother's good side. There were never any good outcomes when I went against what my mother told me to do. So I hesitated - torn between having fun and worrying about getting in trouble. But clearly my desire to have fun with the other kids outweighed any future consequences in my mind because I put on my coat and quietly crept out the back door. I didn't have a hat or gloves with me, but I didn't think about any of that.

The kids had built a little snow fort in the bushes by their house. We kept crawling under there and playing and calling it our igloo. It was so much fun! After we got tired of the fort, we laid down in the snow and made snow angels. By this time, my fingers were getting numb. But I didn't want to go back inside and face the wrath of my mom, so I stayed outside to enjoy it as much as I could.

Eventually, I started shivering and couldn't stop. My face felt numb. My fingers were like blocks of ice and I could barely move my hands. I finally couldn't stand it anymore and went back inside and howled for my mom. I can't describe it as anything other than a howl. My mom came running with this look of pure terror on her face. She wrapped me in a blanket and brought me a bowl of hot water for my hands.

Once I began to thaw out, and we both had calmed down, she asked me why I went outside when she had specifically told me not to. And I didn't know what to say except the truth: "I just wanted to play, Mommy. Everybody else was playing and having fun and I wanted to do it, too." She just looked at me for a moment. I held my breath for the angry tirade that I knew would follow.

Without a word, she hugged me close. She squeezed really tight, but it wasn't uncomfortable. It was actually the best feeling ever.

Now, I know it might be weird to you, but that is a really happy memory for me. Just being snuggled by my mom, without her yelling at me like she normally did.

And now every time it snows, I think back to that day. With a phantom ache in my fingers and also my heart.


   

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