Book Challenge for Non-Readers (BCN) 2016!

HAPPY 2016!

So, I’ve finally settled on the titles for the year. Oh. My. Word! Such a drama over here at Chateau Bean! But I’m happy with the choices. Most of the books on the list are easily available on Amazon (these are affiliate links below) or at the library. I’ll talk about options for each title as they come up.

A couple of the months show 3 choices. The third is the book I really wanted to include but had trouble locating easily available sources. You can choose either of the three on those months.

Consider this a book challenge if you want to read more OR a book challenge if you want to read other genres. I look forward to both sharing my favorite books and discovering new favorites. Let’s go!

January – Banned Books
 

February – Science Fiction

March – Epistolary

April – Humor

May – Non-Fiction

June – Fantasy

July – Memoir

August – Young Adult (YA)

September – Classic Literature

October – Self Help

November – Literary Fiction

December – Graphic Novel

Happy reading!

Me and Billy Joel – Moving Out

IMG_1855A while ago I said I was sitting on an announcement. It’s a big, LIFE-CHANGING thing. One I’m just now facing up to.

I’m moving to Georgia this winter after 38 years in southern California. I don’t know how I will adjust, but I’m trying to maintain a positive attitude. The biggest fear is losing my support network of great friends. While I’m secure that I will make friends in my new state, I’m not completely confident I will make FRIENDS – you know what I mean?

I currently have the very best friends God can grant a person. Friends I can call when men are stupid. Friends who will bring me juice and cough drops when I am sick. Friends who will not hesitate to jump in the car and head to beach to watch the sunset. Friends who will say, “don’t wear that again, okay?” with just the right gentleness and humor that I’m not offended. And we’re all walking through this life together and have been for 20-30 years! They’ve taught me so much and I hope I’ve been at least a quarter supportive as they have been of me. Consequently, I’m not really keen on walking through the awkward friendship stages again to get to something real. Starting over when you’ve already achieved the pinnacle of friendship perfection is nothing to look forward to. Why can’t I just take all my friends with me?!!

Still, I believe the move is for the best and I believe it is what God wants of me. Although today, at 72 or so days away, I’m more than feeling the stress of everything. And I’ve realized, more than ever before, that my response to stress is either exercise, eating or shopping. I am currently not exercising because I’ve injured my back – that’s only for this week, but still I’m feeling antsy. I’m eating stuff that makes me feel like crap (I ate chicken nuggets yesterday! Chicken nuggets!!) and while my “shopping” is so low-key it’s almost negligible, now that I CAN’T buy anything, I WANT to. I mean, I have Amazon Prime, y’all. Buying moving supplies isn’t quite cutting it. So there’s a lot of reading, Netflix-ing and playing of Candy Crush going on to keep me balanced.

Things to look forward to are being close to family again. It’s been 38 years since I’ve been in shouting distance of cousins and aunties – that will probably be the biggest change. I’m also looking forward to exploring a new city, albeit one without decent Mexican food.  Finding my new favorite places will be adventure enough to keep me from missing San Diego for a long while. My social life will probably slow waaay down and that will give me time to write. It will be easier to take weekend trips to other states. Here, I drive 12 hours north and I’m still in California. There, 12 hours in a northerly direction lands me in New York with about 97 states in between. Rain. I’m looking forward to regular rain.

The biggest challenge will be living with someone else – namely my mother. We are such two totally different people that it’s going to be quite an exercise in patience for both of us. I like having my space and my privacy and the option to not talk to anyone if I don’t want to. If I want to watch 6 straight hours of Buffy there is no one around to judge me now. Mom likes to call me to the kitchen to point at the bowl I neglected to soak. It’ll be an adjustment and I’m aiming for a year before I find my own place. Preferably downtown. I’ve always wanted to live in a city (above a shop!) and hopefully this will be my opportunity.

We are taking it one day at a time.

I Just Did It

Okay. So for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a writer. I let someone else steal my thunder and didn’t write for a very long time. I got a break with Expression magazine and realized I have a voice. Since then I’ve been writing and thinking about publishing. But thinking about it and doing it are two very different things. Doing it is scary.

Anyway, I joined a writers group last year and I’ve really gotten positive feedback. Most importantly, I’ve learned that over the years I am now much less sensitive about my writing. It used to be that any criticism of my writing was akin to stabbing me straight through the heart. It looks like somewhere down the road I either developed a thicker skin or the ability to separate good advice from bad. Whatever happened, I’m grateful. I’ve taken the very first step. (And I’ve had one sale not even 24 hours after posting!)

Screen shot 2015-06-14 at 8.28.36 AM

Comaville is an episodic novelette featuring Kara, a sixteen year old girl in a coma. While she can’t seem to wake herself up, she can leave her body and communicate with others. Kara discovers a special ability that provides new perspectives of self-awareness. Hm. I have to work on the description a bit. I will publish and episode every three to four weeks.

The important thing here is that I set a goal for myself of publishing by 6/13 and I did it, despite the fact that the Amazon publishing process left me frustrated. Despite the fact that I don’t have anything beyond episode 4 written. Despite the fact that I didn’t even think of cover art until 2 days ago. It’s up. It’s out there. It’s me.

Good job, girl.

A Minor Update That Reveals Nothing

Pink wagonThis month marks the fourth year of the health spree. I’ve still only managed the 6 pounds. That’s all I’m going to say about that for the time being except that I’m still in for the journey. I’m not giving up. What I’ve come to accept is that life is a journey, yes, but I’m allowed to change the course and speed. I can either enjoy the trip and make the memories, or I can allow stress to take hold, arrive grumpy and die on my back seeing the sky for the very first time.

I’m proud of myself for maintaining the pace with my workouts and eating right in spite of the many changes I’ve been going through.  Life at 50 has taken an interesting turn. At times I feel as though I don’t know myself at all. Other times I feel like a 24 year old kid making extraordinarily bad decisions for what seems like the first time. Still other times I’m just that crazy person on the street who talks to herself and wanders in circles. That’s all well and good, but I never seem to know who is going to show up at any given time. I do try to maintain a veneer of unification for those who are around me, but that’s tenuous at best.

Add to this a whole bunch of major life changes and I’m not sure where I’m going to end up mentally. Some of the things are challenging, but some are just new, strange and difficult for me to navigate well.  There is fear and uncertainty. There is preventable chaos. That’s probably the most frustrating thing – seeing things unravel but the people who have the power to put it back together are choosing to do nothing. And I’m caught in the crosshairs. Awkward, to say the least.

There are other things in the mix I would like to share here, but some I’m not ready to commit to and others are just not mine to share. I’ll toddle along in ambiguity for a bit longer and post vague and cryptic posts here alluding to something big for a while longer. It’ll be fun. Like a mystery.

Depression Dichotomy

I thought about this post in church this morning. Not sure why.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression at 41. I know I had brief episodes of depression from my teens on up, but they never lasted long and I didn’t know enough to know how I was feeling was not normal.  Everyone said it was just a part of growing up. So in my 40s it was kind of a relief to have a diagnosis and a course of treatment. What I chose to do was a combination of anti-depressants (Lexapro) and therapy. I wanted the therapy because I did not intend to take pills forever and I explained that to my therapist.

I went to a Christian therapist because I really felt that was the best for me. I liked that our sessions ended in prayer and I felt she understood me and wasn’t just sitting in a chair nodding and taking notes.  I felt like she was vested in my wholeness.

I shared what I was going through with a group of friends and everyone was really supportive. However, one of the women gave me a book – the title was something like Happiness is a Choice.  While I do believe the general idea – I can choose to be happy, bitter, angry or mean – this is in regards to circumstances.  Depression, however, is a chemical imbalance brought on by circumstances, genetics or health (this is a quick, surface definition). I have all three to contend with. I cannot choose not to be depressed.  What I can do is learn about my diagnosis and make decisions that help me stay on top of my health.  I now make better food choices, take my supplements and exercise regularly. These are the things that keep my levels where they need to be. I have friends to act as my advocates, looking out for me, asking the hard questions.

The common misunderstanding is that the opposite of depression is happy.  For the most part I appeared perfectly happy until the crash point of my depression and then all of a sudden I could not function.  Well, not all of a sudden – I had some seemingly random physical ailments, I was forgetful and often confused, I was dizzy a lot. Most people do not know I am one of the millions being treated for depression because I am optimistic and hopeful, in other words, happy. The presence of happiness does not overcome the presence of clinical depression. I think the opposite of depression is fullness.

When I am in a depression I am emotionally empty and have nothing to give to others. I have very little discretion. I am not reliable. I need to rely on someone else, someone I trust to make some decisions for me because I will isolate myself for days and not get anything done. I no longer have my best interests in mind. Having someone tell me to think positive! Smile! Eat dessert first! is not at all helpful. The fact that I am an optimistic person who always maintains hope, even if it’s the teensiest little shred, is what keeps me from driving my car into a brick wall at 80mph. I’m fairly certain that teeny bit of hope is actually the Holy Spirit – it’s like an inner lantern warming me and reminding me that there’s a light within.  Don’t come at me with blustery cliches to help me “get over it” if you don’t understand how depression works.  Offer love, care, food, prayer, laughter, whatever, but unless you’re that person in the inner circle who I’ve selected as my advocate, keep your advice to yourself. Please.

Remember the Sabbath

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day. Exodus 20:8-11

I worked with a man who was an orthodox Jew. There was an event he was asked to attend that was on a Saturday. He asked me several questions about what he would be required to do because, as orthodox, he was not permitted to work that day. The event was a party, but a direct result of his job. He determined he could attend, but could not make the speech that said what the celebration was for.

At first it seemed overly legalistic. I mean, he could attend, but not help with the preparations. He could have conversation but not make a speech. He couldn’t make the presentation to the award winner. I found his questions tedious and thought it was kind of crazy that handing someone an award as a celebration of their hard work at a party was considered work but attending the party and joining in the celebration for another’s success was okay.

Now, years later, I can see the merit of this practice. The sabbath was so important to him that he went out of his way to make sure he kept it. I treat it cavalierly – like a day made for recovery from Saturday night. An opportunity to sleep in, read books, watch TV, hang out with friends. Not that this is all bad – but I really think God gave us this command to replenish us for the week ahead.

Every living thing needs rest. Plants have a dormant season, some animals hibernate. Cats sleep about 18-20 hours a day. Children, in a growth spurt need more rest than usual. We adults consistently try to perform well with 4-5 hours of sleep. We wear it as a badge of courage, claiming to need only five hours a night to feel fully rested. Question – if you make this claim, I assume that you are only getting this many hours per night and you are still performing well – what would happen if you had eight hours a sleep a night? How well would you perform then? Something to consider.

Anyway, I’m really trying to keep the sabbath. It’s hard because it means it takes some planning. I have to do my laundry on Saturday, and sometimes I’m lazy and just don’t get it done, so I end up having to do it on Sunday. It’s not that I think this a great breech of keeping the Sabbath, but it kind of takes the fun and rest out of it. My goals for Sundays is to keep it simple, keep it light. Go to church, go to lunch, come home, take a nap, do what I want. It makes Sunday one of my favorite days of the week. However, I’m not quite sure what to do to keep it holy.

Mourning

I’ve been away a long while. It was intentional, not neglectful. I lost my very bestest friend to cancer in January and needed to give myself time to be still and mourn. I thought I had already done all my crying, but that’s the thing about losing a friend. It seems there are so many interwoven lifestrings that bound you in friendship over the years, that you realize they are everywhere. You drink out of a glass she gave you, hang the Christmas ornament she made or even wear the underwear she went out and purchased for you because you were a little remiss in your packing that one time you went for a visit.

Families mesh in a different way than friends.  Friendship is deeper and more pure, I think. Your family has to love you if it is decently functional. A friend can always walk away when times get tough.

Anyway, that’s a lot to say that I just needed not to produce for a while. I needed to watch a lot of television (whole seasons of Buffy, Angel, Downton Abbey, Futurama) and eat and enjoy the company of “new” friends while I adjusted to life without my best.

New posts will be sporadic in the holiday season and resume again regularly in the new year. Until then, be good to yourself, okay?