Monthly Archives: December 2014

Book of the Week: Dear Committee Members

Book of the Week for December 28-Janaury 3

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

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Why it’s interesting:

I’ll admit it, I put this book on my too read list based simply on the fact that i live in the same town as the author, not so much because I was actually intrigued by the subject manner. Schumacher is a teaching at the University of Minnesota, in the Creative Writing program, which was the first program I tried to get in to (I only applied once, and was rejected, along with more than 99% of the other applicants. And I was NOT ready the year I applied.) But anyway, her affiliation with the program also made me want to read the book.
It starts out a little slow, but the style— recommendation letters— are so short that it’s easy to press through. And then all of a sudden you’re hooked and want to know what’s going to happen to this guy (the writer of said letters) and his students, friends, and colleagues. It was a quick and addicting read. I hope you enjoy it.

The blurb:

Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can’t catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work Accountant in a Bordello, based on Melville’s Bartleby. In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies. We recommend Dear Committee Members to you in the strongest possible terms.

If you like this, you might also like:

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The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. I had a really hard time coming up with a book to pair this with, and the Amazon recommendations didn’t really help until I got to this one on the fourth page. But it does seem like a good option. I read it about the same time last year and had a lot of the same feelings about it as Dear Committee Members.



Why I’m quitting Facebook

Full disclosure: I’m typing this in the car somewhere in Central Illinois, and I haven’t had full internet access for over a week. So I haven’t actually figured out how to deactivate my account yet. But I’m doing it on December 31.
My family got in the car on December 16 for a trip from our home in Minnesota to Orlando to visit DisneyWorld (our first time!) and then to Kentucky to spend time with my husband’s family around Christmas. By the time we get home, we will have spent 52 hours driving, so I’ve had a lot of time to think. And be bored. And use our data plan to check Facebook.
Last fall I put a limiter on my computer and phone so I couldn’t access Facebook more than 15 minutes a day. Then a friend died and I took the limiter off so I could follow the plans for her funeral and memorials. I took the FB app off my phone to try to reduce the number of times I brainlessly clicked the thumbnail and launched the program. It didn’t work, I just logged in through the web browser. It did, however, make looking through the newsfeed more cumbersome, so I generally just check my notifications and get back out. So I decided it was okay.
Then I realized I was compulsively checking my notifications, so I took a Facebook hiatus (except to update my author feed) this summer. Like when I took the shopping hiatus in 2012, I had a really hard time for the first few days…which really shone a light on how ridiculous my Facebook addiction had become. After two weeks, I felt like I had it more under control.
Before we left for this trip, I started to notice that I was checking Facebook a lot at night, mostly before I was getting into bed or while watching TV— while I was tired. It wasn’t necessarily time I would have been doing anything else super productive anyway, but it didn’t leave me with a good feeling. But because of my author page, I thought I needed to keep it.
This trip, though, after excessively checking Facebook out of sheer boredom, I’ve come to the following decision: I’m done with it, at least for now. The overwhelming majority of what I see in my feed (and, I think, what a lot of people see) is negative, and usually political or religious. I don’t feel good after using it, and I don’t feel like I’m able to keep up with my friends and family.
As far as my author page goes: there is no way to keep it active if I deactivate my own account, even if I create a separate, fake account, and make that account an admin. Trust me. I’ve researched it a lot. And unless something major changed that I don’t know about, it’s forever tied to the fate of my personal account.
I could create a new author account and ask everyone to go like that page, but I’m not going to. Facebook is instituting some major policy changes in the next month that will make my posts, which already get pretty pathetic delivery rates, basically invisible unless I pay for advertising. And I just don’t want to. I did for Spiraling Forward Jewelry and received zero return on my investment. And I don’t think my target readers are spending massive amounts of time on Facebook (although I was, so you never know). So, I’m going to let it get deactivated too, and try to get better at Twitter.
I hope you’ll continue to keep up with me here. You can grab my RSS feed for your reader, or sign up for my email list. I’m going to start doing a monthly wrap up with links to my posts and general information about my life. You can also follow me on twitter, or see what I’m reading on GoodReads. I sincerely want to continue to keep in touch, but on my own terms, not on Facebook’s. So email me, tweet me, call or text me (email me if you need my info). Just don’t Facebook me because I won’t be there.

333 Wardrobe

I heard about the 333 wardrobe a while back on the Tranquility du Jour podcast. My initial thought was— “Great thought, not for me. I want choices.”
I’m ready to try it now, though.
To explain why, let me back up for a minute. I used to have a problem with shopping. As in, I did it too much, compulsively, without really thinking about whether or not I needed what I was buying. I had discovered the clearance section at The Gap and Target (website and store) where i could get very cute clothes at deep deep discounts. Then I got a Gap Card, and signed up for their email list, and felt like I needed to take advantage everytime they had a big sale on things like jeans that I wear all the time, or professional clothes for work.
I got to the point where I had 27 pairs of jeans. Plus 15 pairs of dress pants. And I was buying a clearance dress literally every time I walked into Target (I never paid more than $15. They were so cute!)
Here’s the thing, though— it wasn’t “that” kind of problem. I wasn’t racking up debt, the bills were paid in full every month. But my wardrobe had outgrown my section of the closet, and an inordinate amount of our budget was going to clothing. So I decided to go cold turkey. For the month of December, 2012, I made a vow not to buy any more clothes. At all. It was hard, but I stuck to it, and started to realize how reflexive clicking the button in the email, and clicking the buy button on webpages, had become. I actually worried about all the sales I was missing (Last Minute Christmas Gifts! Day After Christmas! Prepare for the New Year!) But, I made it through the month and realized I still hadn’t gotten anywhere near most of the clothes in my closet.
I didn’t continue the actual moratorium, but I also didn’t shop until the spring. Just that breaking of the habit changed my perspective on it.
In the fall of 2013, I did a major clean out of my closet based on the inspiration of an episode of After the Jump and a NYT article about decision fatigue. It was also necessary as the closet in our new house is less than a quarter of the size of our old closet and there was just no place to keep the extra clothes.
It’s been another year, and I feel like I can confidently say that I no longer have a shopping problem. The few times I go into the clothing section of a store I have a clear mission in mind, and have gotten to the point where I don’t buy it if I don’t love it. But I still have more clothes than I need, and more than comfortably fit in our space.
I use 90% of the tiny closet,2014-12-27 20.52.17
this whole dresser and four drawers in Chris’s dresser.
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So I’m going to try the 333 Wardrobe.

Here’s the details from the website:

The Basics

  • When: Every three months (It’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)
  • What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
  • What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)
  • How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.
  • What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.
Here’s how I’ve decided to translate it:

My 33 items will include

  • tops: all short and long sleeved t-shirts, hoodies, sweaters, even layering pieces, except the camisole tank tops I wear underneath most clothes
  • bottoms: jeans and skirts, but not tights (I don’t have that many anyway)
  • dresses
  • “Leisure” clothes. I know the website says it’s not required, but I want to.

Items still to be determined:

  • Pajamas: I’m drastically reducing my pajama options anyway, because I found some amazingly comfortable pjs at The Gap (I know, I know) this fall and used coupons to buy five sets for a total of $45. While I’m typing this, I can only think of a few other sets I feel like I need to keep
  • Workout clothing: I used to be a Pilates Instructor six days a week, and have a large collection of really nice (thanks for the discount, Lululemon!) workout clothes. Plus, I work out five to seven days a week. So if I wear clean clothes each time I work out, that eats up half my clothing budget. (And these aren’t “required” be included, anyway). However, like the pajamas, I have a bunch of stuff I either don’t wear, or don’t need to be wearing, so I need to do a serious clean out.

What won’t be included:

  • Accessoreies: I make jewelry. I’m not limiting my options there. I don’t wear many scarves or anything anyway, and only have a couple of belts.
  • Bras & Underwear: Again, mostly because I don’t have that many. I’m including tights and camis in this category.
The plan is to clean out the closet and box up the extra clothes between now and when the kids go back to school the second week in January. I’ll keep you posted.

Book of the Week: The Son

Book of the Week for December 8-December 14

The Son by Philipp Meyer

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Why it’s interesting:

This book has gotten so much critical acclaim it’s hardly even worth noting at this point. I will admit, I bought the audio version mostly because I knew I “should” read it, but I didn’t think I was necessarily going to like it. Plus, it’s LOOOOONG. (577 pages. It’s approximately the size of a phone book. I’m a mom. And a writer. And I have a job. 577 pages takes a long time to read!) The reason I didn’t think I was going to like it, but bought it anyway, was because a few years ago Richard Ford’s Canada received a similar amount of acclaim in the writing and book world, and I did not like it. I can appreciate it from a educational perspective, and I expected to feel similarly about this book.

I started it on the end of a three-hour drive up north. I’ve been listening to it whenever I can (the audio file is 18 hours long). Picasso has been getting extra-long walks so I can listen more. The other day in the van, I put the radio on the kids’ favorite pop station, turned the speakers in the front off, and listened to it through my phone’s speaker. I’m completely wrapped up in it.

It’s three (at the end, four) different narratives, told simultaneously: Eli’s, his son Peter’s, and his granddaughter Jeanne’s. The time frame spans the 1800s (Eli’s) up to the last few years (Jeanne’s). (Telling you the fourth would give too much away. Sorry.) The thing that I really love about it is this: each story could stand on it’s own. And it’s weaved in a way that gives the reader insight that the characters don’t have, without it feeling gimmicky or overdone. And there is no point when you go: Oh! That action caused this and this and this and now we’re here in present time and it really started 200 years ago. It’s real. So real, it’s hard to remember it’s fiction.

Also, in a lot of ways, it’s a western. Not at all my thing, but so beautifully written that I am completely able to overlook the genre.

 

The blurb:

Philipp Meyer, the acclaimed author of American Rust, returns with The Son: an epic of the American West and a multigenerational saga of power, blood, land, and oil that follows the rise of one unforgettable Texas family, from the Comanche raids of the 1800s to the to the oil booms of the 20th century.

Harrowing, panoramic, and deeply evocative, The Son is a fully realized masterwork in the greatest tradition of the American canon—an unforgettable novel that combines the narrative prowess of Larry McMurtry with the knife-edge sharpness of Cormac McCarthy.

If you like this, you might also like:

The Invention of Wings. Also historical fiction that doesn’t feel like fiction. I read it in September. I’ll need to do a Book of the Week on it sometime soon, it was one of the best books I read this year.

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Finding the Ruby Slippers is live!

Finding-the-Ruby-Slippers-ePub-Cover

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you know that Wednesday was my birthday and that, for my birthday, I published the second (and final) book in the Ruby Slippers series! After an unusually slow response from Amazon (it usually takes less than a day, for whatever reason, this time it took three) the book is now available in all formats from all the major retailers. You can still buy autographed paperbacks and digital files (obviously not autographed, although I could email you an autograph) directly from me here, otherwise, the rest of the links are below. I hope you love the book as much as I do!

 

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Book of the Week: Kind of

I don’t have a single book of the week to give you this week, and I might not for the rest of the year. We’ll see.

Here’s my reasons:

  1. The book I just finished was not very good and I don’t recommend it. It has good reviews, but I didn’t think the writing was very compelling, the interesting parts of the plot were underdeveloped, the twist was obvious, and there was a lot of repeated introspection with very little action. Plus, I have a problem with the husband having multiple affairs over the course of the marriage but the wife had one ten-week tryst and him finding out about it seven years later is what brought down the marriage.
  2. There are so many best books of the year lists. They’re fun.
  3. Beyond her reading, I love Rae’s blog, and I think you should check it out.

So…instead of Book of the Week, I present…Say It Ain’t So: Rae’s quest to read 100 books in 2014. (Spoiler alert, she’s going to make it!)

Click over to her blog (this link will take you to all the posts tagged for the 100 books goal). She’s read some great ones (and a few duds). I’ve read many of the same books (although no where near 100 books this year) and generally agree with her reviews. Plus, she’s funny. And if you like antiques or vintage at all you’re going to love her blog.