Books, Poems, Essays

Vacuums

From the desk of: Erin

It turns out that my brain must need a specific quantity of goop to mull over. Now that my super huge work project is done and I have have outsourced a percentage of my childcare, I have a continuous stream of thoughts about experiments and projects that immediately filled the void and took residence in my brain.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to writing about or exploring the rest of the year:

1. Essential oils- beneficial or bogus?
2. 30-day “ab challenge” – Will I keep up with it? Will I see results? Are 30-day challenges really a good idea?
3. How possible would it be to truly cut out processed foods? Explorations in cheese, bread, and pasta making…
4. I started working on my 7 “art” projects requested by others. This is also turning out to be a way of reading/ re-reading classic books.
5. Poetry – reading various genres/ authors, responding, contemplating…
6. Anything else that excites me along the way.

What new or old projects are you excited about? If you ever feel like sharing, join us in writing or just comment below!

Damn! That’s Seven.

by Erin

  • Explore
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect
  • Get selfishly creative (4 of 12)

Capture

 

 

Okay, so I haven’t really been consistently writing my six word stories since I proposed the project last month. It is always in the back of my mind, but it is harder than I thought. Six words is nothing. Nothing. I have come up with some great haikus while contemplating my six word stories. Of course, I’m never anywhere where I can write those down. That would help me fulfill my poetry resolution that is still pending. Ah, well.

Anyway, here is the last month of six word stories.

          She no longer rejects opened doors.

          She doesn’t mind being the pacifier.

          His laugh was hesitant but genuine.

          Three-year-old games are point-less.

          Work meeting: more ughs than ahas.

Perhaps if I had others joining me, I would be more inspired to write more frequently.  Just saying.

Just Six Words

by Erin

I was driving home from the library and listening to NPR. They were talking about the Zimmerman case (who isn’t?) and The Race Card Project. The project asked people to write about race using just six words. This is not the first time that I have encountered the “six-word” essay/story concept this year. My first exposure was through the The Baltimore Museum .  Looking into it, it seems there are a whole lot of “six words” projects and journals out there…just search and you will find.

As I am always looking for inspiration to fulfill my “be selfishly creative” resolution and as this six-word phenomenon keeps finding me, this seems like a good idea for a project. How can I create a combination of words, the right words, to express a moment in time?

So over the next few weeks, I will be attempting to write a six-word story about daily observations. As this is an easy and quick activity, anyone who would like to join me in the project (publically or privately) is welcome. You make your own rules about topic and frequency of writing, the only rule you have to follow is that it must be six words. Here are ways you can join in:

  • Keep your own journal of six word stories for you and you alone to enjoy
  • Tweet your stories and mark it with #sixwordstories
  • Update your Facebook status using only six words
  • Share your thread of stories here on the blog (if you are not already an author and would like to just participate in this project, comment on this post and I can set you up)

And where did this whole “six word” idea begin? There is a legend that someone bet Ernest Hemingway that he could not write a story using just six words. To which he replied, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” And now that you’re in the know, here’s an article about that legend.

Efforts and Intentions

by Erin

After a little over six weeks, I’m semi-back in the land of the living. (It’s a boy, by the way.) I have not abandoned my resolutions entirely, nor have I really taken a break. Some of my resolutions are in progress and may not really have an end. So here is what I am working on and I will update once there has been further progress…

In the “creative” category:

  • I have learned and practiced purling. Combined with my old skill of knitting, I am about four inches high into a bright red knit hat.
  • I have been reading about and rekindling my interest in poetry. Once I feel due diligence has been put in to the “how-to” I will begin writing with intention. I’m interested to see if the process feels different with instruction versus just writing from the gut.

In the “reconnect” category:

  • I have been going out of my way to find little ways to spend extra time with Kid 1 now that baby brother is in the world. I’ll report back with some of our excursions/activities.
  • Oh, yeah and husband and wife time has been a little neglected lately, too. We’re having “date night” in (almost) every Friday. That means media-free and household chores-free. That may still mean time with baby, but at least it gets us face time together.

 

 

Can Did It

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic (book 3 of 4)
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect
  • Get selfishly creative

 

Candide

Classic #3 was Candide by Voltaire.

Here is the trouble with reading a classic on your own – sometimes you just don’t get it. I’m not afraid to say it. I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. Despite the constant action and the short chapters, it was repetitive and  tiresome. I have a feeling this is for two reasons: 1) I had no historical context, nothing to inform my reading and help me appreciate the satire, and 2) I had no one to discuss the book with, and therefore no one to make me slow down and reflect on my reading. (Already my appreciation is growing for the book as I write this post. Reflection is a big part of that.)

Published in 1759, Candide is a satirical look at philosophy, politics, and religion. It follows the misfortunes of Candide and companions around the world and demonstrates his transition from a young man full of optimism – accepting all as “for the best” – to an experienced man who honors the act of “cultivating your garden,” or (in my interpretation) actively taking control of your world. This, I imagine, is what I will ultimately take away from the reading experience.  Not a bad philosophy, really.

If you’re curious about the story yourself and want some familiarity with it, I found Leonard Bernstein’s operetta version (split into 12 separate videos) much more entertaining. As with all adaptations, the operetta is full of changes and exclusions, but it will give you the jist…and a few laughs.

 

 

 

Goodbye February, Hello March

by Erin

It is the end of another month. I would still say that I am pretty pleased with what I have accomplished. In addition, I feel like I have already learned a lot in just these two months.

Explore a new place:

No progress yet, but I am thinking strongly about the possibilities. Does this mean something in my hometown? Does this mean some sort of trip? Or is this spiritual? And what does “explore” mean?  Does it mean simply encounter for the first time, or does it mean to really dig in?

Be inspired by two great people:

I am holding off on this one, too. As above, I’m thinking about what this could mean.

Read four classics:

Two down, two to go. What have I gained from this resolution so far?

1. From The Great Gatsby: Surrounding yourself with people does not mean you have friends. You have to truly connect to others. (Thank goodness for resolution #5!)

2.  From The Jungle: Though the book was written over 100 years ago there are still so many people hanging by a thread in our nation.  I believe that the book has renewed values in me that may have been quieted for a little while.

3. Also from The Jungle:  I am thankful for my vegetarianism. I do not advocate that everyone should be a vegetarian, but I do feel that we need to continue to look at our meat industry and decide what we are willing to accept as high quality practice and standards. Possibly to the detriment of our family grocery budget, I want to be even more vigilant when buying meat for the omnivores in our family.  There is so much more to learn. Do I sense another resolution?

4.  I have been inspired to read more classics beyond my goal. With this resolution I find that people keep giving me books. There is no reason I can’t knock off a few more from my “to read” list now.

Try six new recipes:

I found quickly this had to be tweaked. I guess I try out new recipes much more often than I anticipated.  So now it is recipe themes or “cooking adventures”. Where it stands so far:  I have made two of the three 15-minute meal recipes again and they will probably surface many times this year; I am on a citrus hiatus for a little while; I am still happy with my homemade cleaners. Where I am headed: I’m thinking about making my own cheeses. I also want to try a few recipes from the “Real Snacks” recipe book that I got for Christmas. This has led me to the purchase of those “strange” flours I keep seeing on the grocery shelves. The sixth theme/adventure idea has yet to surface and I will welcome suggestions.

flour

(Re)connect about once a month:

So far it has been a “first date” with another woman that I had only previously spent time with as members of our family units. We just made plans again, so this was worth the anxiety of trying the one-on-one for the first time. Then it was the family trip to meet friends for a weekend getaway. It was a nice reminder that creating a family does not  end your social life, though it does change it in profound ways. Currently, I have four envelopes addressed and sitting on my desk. My intention is to connect by means of those old fashioned letter things…now for the writing part of it. There are many more plans in progress so I feel good about my future prospects with this resolution.

Get selfishly “creative” about once a month:

I crave the process of creation. Beyond what I have shared here, I often take opportunities to make something new, something beautiful, something useful. The key word here is “selfish”. In this case, it is not doing it for others, but for myself, just because. With Big Box of Citrus and my upcoming 318 project, so far it has been about creating photos. As there are many more ways to create, there are many more ideas in progress. I’m just waiting for the right time. I am finding I am shy of a few ideas, though. Some of them also depend on timing as well as finances. I am sure that I will get close to fulfilling this resolution, but I may need more inspiration to come my way. Any ideas?

The (Thoroughly Depressing) Jungle

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic (book 2 of 4)
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect
  • Get selfishly creative

TheJungleSinclair

Book #2: The Jungle

Again, I am not going to go into long summaries and critiques. I will say I had a confusing relationship with the book. I enjoyed reading it…looked forward to it…but reading the actual, dismal words on the page never left me with a  sense of joy and hope. I suppose that was exactly what Sinclair was going for.

There were exactly three points in the book in which there may have been a glimmer of excitement/hope/thrill that lasts longer than the end of a chapter.

1. The introduction – Reading about the history of The Jungle and how it came to be published, censored, and viewed as a vehicle for change really built momentum for me and made me want to dive in.

2. The first chapter – It all begins with a wedding: feasting, dancing, merriment, love. I did struggle a little getting into the first chapter (which seems to be pretty standard with me lately), but when you start off on such a happy note, it’s easy to move to the next chapter.

3. Somewhere in the last third of the book – A change of fortune! But by this time you have already become as cynical as the characters so you know it won’t last.

With all that said, I would recommend The Jungle if you are looking to read a piece of classic American literature. As far as writing goes, it is not all that unpleasant to read. And if you like to think about the state of the world/society/your country, this book will open up plenty of opportunities to do so while you are reading it and beyond.

If, as it turns out, you would rather have a quick summary, I have included actual quotes below (in chronological order) to give you a sense of the book. Don’t read on if you ever think you may actually read the book. I am not taking any care to keep spoilers at bay.

  • Chapter 1: “With laughter, and shouts, and endless badinage and merriment, the (wedding) guests took their places.” (Oh, the joys of a wedding!)
  • Chapter 2: “They began to notice a strange pungent odor…you could literally taste it…it was an elemental odor, raw and crude… The new emigrants were still tasting it when suddenly the car came to a halt, the door flung open, and a voice shouted – “Stockyards!” (And so the tale truly begins…)
  • Chapter 5: “So from the top to bottom the (meat-packing plant) is simply a seething cauldron of jealousies and hatreds; there is no loyalty or decency anywhere about it, there is no place in it where a man counted for anything against a dollar.”
  • Chapter 6: “The details came gradually… (The house) was not new at all… They used the flimsiest  and cheapest materials… They were sold with the idea that the people who bought them would not be able to pay for them.” (Especially when the family has to start paying for repairs…sometimes I feel this way about our house. Spoiler: The family eventually loses the house.)
  • Chapter 10: “When you have a  job in Packingtown you hang on to it… even if they kick you and beat you, you hang on as long as you can drag yourself there. Sometimes they come when they are dying and fall dead at their work.” (Spoiler: One of the family dies at work.)
  • Chapter 11: “Jurgis would begin to forget (about the horrors of his work life) and be happy, because he was in a world where there was no thing so beautiful as the smile of little (baby) Antanas (his son).” (Spoiler: This sweet boy drowns in the street two years later.)
  • Chapter 12: “In the beginning (Jurgis) had been fresh and strong…but now he was second hand and they did not want him…and yet it was in their service he had been damaged!”
  • Chapter 13: “The Almighty cannot have intended the science of healing to apply to human beings who have unventilated and filthy homes to live in, and dangerous and exhausting work to do, and insufficient food and clothing – who in other words are not human beings at all, but simply parts of a machine for producing wealth.”
  • Chapter 14: “Every spring they cleaned the (meat-waste barrels) and in the barrels would be dirt, and rust, and old nails, and stale water – and filth that cannot be named. The meat would be moldy and white, stinking and full of maggots; and still, cartload after cartload, it would be taken and dumped into the hoppers with fresh meat and sent out to the dear public’s breakfast.”
  • Chapter 14: “And from all the unending horror of this there was a respite – he could drink! He could forget the pain, he could slip off the burden… His dead self would stir in him…he would be man again.”
  • Chapter 20: “But a big man cannot stay drunk on three dollars. Monday night Jurgis came home, sober and sick, realizing that he had spent every cent the family owned, and had not bought a single instant’s forgetfulness with it.” (Spoiler: What was he trying to forget? The death of his wife…who died in childbirth…carrying the child of her boss…who made her sleep with him to keep her job and allow her family to keep theirs.)
  • Chapter 29: “Jurgis had come into conflict with one of the creatures of the jungle whose power was greater than his own;and he had been worsted in combat, beaten down and trampled upon, and left crippled and wounded, to drag himself away.”
  • Chapters 32-37: “Comrades… open your eyes…Socialism…is…the only real remedy for such evils… We shall organize (the workingmen), we shall  drill them, we shall marshal them for the victory!” (Yes, I took some liberties with the ellipses, but really, the last quarter of the book is about making the case for Socialism.)

What else should I read? I have two more classics to read this year. How about something a little more uplifting, eh?

My Valentine

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect
  • Get selfishly creative

My husband? Not a huge fan of social media. The fact that he even knows that I am doing this blog at all is a surprise. The fact that he actually read anything on the blog and turned it into a Valentine’s Day gift: heart-melting.

bokos

Though two polls are still open for voting, I’m pretty sure he picked at least one of the winning books. Even if none of them end up winning, I come out ahead in the end!

Great Gatsby Goodness

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic (book 1 of 4)
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect
  • Get selfishly creative

He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

My first classic book reading of the year was as enjoyable as anticipated. I had started reading The Great Gatsby when I was twelve? thirteen? and didn’t make it much past the first chapter. I understand why, having read the first chapter again. But with maturity comes persistence and learning. I knew that often first chapters (at least, for me) can be slow. It marks the transition from one book to another. It’s a change of writing style, a change of fictional friends, a new adventure. This time I transitioned from teen fiction (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green) to The Great Gatsby. Talk about a shift.

As I persisted, I finally found myself becoming invested in the characters and their goings-on by the third or fourth chapter. I was hooked on Fitzgerald’s flair for description and curious about this Gatsby character. From then on, I took up the book at a normal pace until the end. I won’t go into a full on critique or review. There are so many out there to choose from and I am WAY out of practice since I left college. I’ll leave it with: thoroughly enjoyable. I still think about the story and I am still working on my opinion of Gatsby himself. Like him, or not? I guess that’s one of the goals of the book.

Have you read The Great Gatsby? What are your thoughts on the man? On the book?

And now a little “fun” for you:

  • I hate to be one who reads books because movies based on the books are coming out, but I’ll admit this was the impetus for choosing GG from my list of choices. The film is directed by Baz Luhrmann and I’m kind of a fan. I knew I would see it, so I wanted to make sure I read the book first. Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it yet.
  • Want to test your GG knowledge? Take this quiz.
  • My goal is four classics by the end of the year. I am currently working on The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Help me choose the remaining two by voting here.

 

 

*BLAM*: Poetry

I tend to get ideas that hit like *BLAM* out of nowhere. I don’t get inklings and then stew on them and grow them up over time. And once I get an idea in my head it dominates my thoughts day and night until I do something about it. That’s kind of what happened with this blog. I was laying there all quietlike in bed at a decent hour then *BLAM*. I was up until one in the morning writing and planning and making lists.

So here’s another *BLAM* that I am doing something about immediately. I want more poetry in my life. I can feel poetry and I can react to it but I want to be more thoughtful about reading poetry. This is kind of what this blog is for. When inspiration hits to change something in your life, this is the forum to talk about your plans and progress. No matter what time of year.

But, in case you haven’t noticed, I have six other “resolutions” that I am plowing into. So this is my place holder. Either for 2014 or when I no longer have a resolution list. In the meantime…who are your favorite poets/poems? I have my list, but one always needs to expand. Also, for those of you literary folk out there…any suggestions on ways to approach poetry or essays/books that may give my an idea on how to approach poetry more cerebrally and less from the gut? Not that I want to lose the gut reaction, it is just that I want to add a little more oomph to my reading.