Quick Lit


It’s that time again when I participate in Quick Lit, a down-and-dirty review of the books I’m reading, for better or worse.  I’m on a binge these days, which is how my reading life seems to go half the time.  During the other half I realize I’m reading nothing longer than an article or, heaven help me, a blog post.  Happily, I have a list going just in time for the link-up.  On my nightstand are

Beyond the First Draft, John Casey.  This is a writing craft book but it reads like a memoir and, well, I loved it.  Some craft books are so technical I feel like I’m inside a Swiss clock when I’m reading them.  Others are so woo-woo I might as well be watching Oprah.  This book is a collection of essays and it’s both beautifully written and informative.  Yes, please.

Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin.  This book is helpful for deciding on and implementing useful daily habits.  Padded out with research and plenty of anecdotes, it’s both a practical and breezy read.  Rubin posits that habits make us who we are and that we can and should develop ones that propel us toward living according to our values.  While the author comes across a little heavy-handed at times, her writing style allows the reader to clearly “hear” her voice.  A good thing.

Woe is I, Patricia O’Conner.  OK, it’s a funny book on brushing up on grammar that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  But I’m a writer and I have to remind myself how to use the tools of the trade.  Did I mention it’s funny?

The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis.  This one’s for my kids and it’s the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia, a beloved series I started reading to them at the end of last school year.  Fast-paced and layered with meaning, it may be my favorite of all the books in the series and seems especially apropos in dark times such as these.

That’s all for now.  Well, not really.  I’m skimming Decoding Your Dog and already feeling guilty about making my dogs kiss me when they’d (apparently, according to the authors) rather not.  But, you know, I’m trying to get better.  And that’s my list for now.  What’s on yours?




Things That Are Saving My Life Right Now

It’s February, the shortest month that lasts forever.  Of course, I kind of like it because my birthday is in February, along with my mom’s.  Still, it’s a gray month if you don’t count all the pink and red from Valentine’s Day.

Though there are plenty of things that seem to suck the life out of us during the cold months, over at Modern Mrs. Darcy people are talking about how they’re surviving, and even enjoying, winter in a series entitled ‘Things That Are Saving My Life Right Now.’  I’m adding my two cents below.

  • Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice Tea and Half-Caf Coffee.  This tea is heavy on cinnamon and is caffeine free.  It’s sweet, too, without any added sugars.  I’ve been drinking it throughout the day, and at night before bed.  As for the half-caf, it’s my weak attempt at ever-so-slowly reducing the amount of caffeine I consume because I read that higher levels of caffeine are linked to anxiety in women (something I battle).  In the end, I just can’t give up coffee right now because the warmth and ritual of drinking it is so powerful–especially in the winter when it seems I never get truly warm for more than a few minutes.  I don’t want to go cold turkey and drink full-on decaf coffee, either, because I’m chicken about the headaches and flulike symptoms of withdrawal.  Half-caf is my solution for now.
  • Music on Pandora Radio.  This is not new for me, but music becomes even more important in the winter when the sun is stingy.  I have a couple of favorite stations I play on the laptop (I work from home) while tidying up the house in the morning.  The good news is that the right music can set the tone–pun intended–for the entire day.  The bad news is certain kinds of music can be depressing earworms that also set the tone, but not one I want.  I try to choose carefully.
  • Reading Aloud to My Teenagers.  I kind of thought we were done with this aspect of our family life since my kids are voracious readers themselves and increasingly seem to have their own agendas for…everything.  It turns out, though, that spending a few minutes a day re-reading a favorite series while my teens loll on my bed and stare at the ceiling has made winter more bearable so far.  I didn’t plan it, i.e. we fell back into reading aloud from sheer weather induced boredom, but we’re all secretly becoming attached to this ritual again (some of us not so secretly).
  • Very Hot Baths with Epsom Salt before Bed.  Again, not something I actually planned because I’m not old yet.  But it happens that old timers have lots of wisdom.  When they say that Epsom salt is the solution for several of life’s little problems, including muscle ache, fatigue, and trouble falling asleep, they’re right.  At least in my case.  I’m taking hot baths for a few minutes before bed, soaking up the magnesium found in Epsom salt through my skin, and heading under the covers soon after.  While I may not fall asleep immediately, at least I’m warm to my bones for a while and feeling relaxed.

Those are a few things that are saving my life this winter.  Of course, prayer, off and on all day, everyday, is my actual lifeline.  And then there’s poetry reading and writing, which feels increasingly like its own kind of prayer.  But these are things I cling to even when the sun is out.

What are some things that are saving your life this winter?

What I’m Reading (Quick Lit)


Over at Modern Mrs. Darcy, people are talking about what they’re reading this month in a lighthearted series called Quick Lit.  I decided to join in the fun since I’m always reading something or other.

This month I happen to be tackling

Crime and Punishment by Fyoder Dostoyevsky.  I’m not far into this book yet but I’m already hooked.  I read The Brothers Karamazov while living in India and I found it to be both deep and morally compelling (if dense to the point of being turgid, sometimes).  This book promises to be a faster read than that one, but no less moving.  What can I say?  I can’t stay away from the Russians.

All the Small Poems and Fourteen More by Valerie Worth.  This collection is utterly delightful.  The poems are meant for children but they aren’t sappy, silly, or stupid, as (forgive me) so many things written for children these days are.  They’re written with insight and beautiful attention to craft.  Ms. Worth must be of the same mind as C.S. Lewis, who said,

“A children’s story that can only

be enjoyed by children is not a

good children’s story in the


Valerie Worth writes poems anyone can enjoy.  I highly recommend it.

Onward:  Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore.  So far, so good.  Beyond the practical advice and the encouragement to look more closely at our cultural assumptions as Christians, Moore offers…wait for it…good writing.  Every fourth sentence hits the reader between her eyes and demands a re-read.  I’m going slowly through this one and feeling both challenged and heartened.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis.  It’s a re-read many times over, but the kids and I return to the Narnia series whenever we need to feel a certain something.  This book is one of our favorites, though, strictly speaking, The Horse and His Boy is number one for me.  Lewis’ writing is clear and straightforward.  He never wastes words, never tries to be clever, never obfuscates while reveling in his own literary talent.  This is saying something, folks, because it’s rare.  Lewis is one of the modern greats for a reason.

I’m interested to know what you’re reading this month.

Things That Are Saving My Life This Winter

Over at Modern Mrs. Darcy folks are writing about the things that are saving them this winter–not necessarily in sweeping, existential ways, but in small, everyday ways.  When winter holidays have come and gone, and summer is still months away, many of us struggle to stay motivated in our daily routines, to stay hopeful, even.  This is not because we’re particularly wimpy (though *cough* some of us are).  Usually it’s because it’s dark outside.  Dark and cold, day after day.  What helps to beat back winter gloom is to think about what’s going right in our days, what’s actually working.  To that end, I jotted down my own list of things that are saving me this winter.

Getting up early.  I’ve mentioned this already but I’ll say it again:  I’ve been waking hours before my kids do for a couple of months now, and the effect the quiet is having on my soul is transforming.  This is not only because I’m able to write consistently (and I am, hallelujah), but because I’m able to read my Bible and pray without feeling rushed.  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to sleeping in.

A nightly cup of chamomile tea.  I splurged and bought an expensive kind so that I’d see it as a treat and actually want to drink it.  It’s working.  I brew a cup about an hour before bed and drink it slowly.  It’s become a signal to my brain and body that it’s time to wind down.  Since I sometimes have trouble falling asleep, I’m especially thankful this ritual helps me feel drowsy.  Then, of course, better sleep equals better days–even if they’re overcast and cold.

Pandora radio.  I’ve spent time cultivating a few stations (by pressing ‘like’ and ‘skip’ on various songs) so that now I mostly hear artists and albums that make me happy.  It’s amazing what listening to good music does for my mood.  I usually have it on while I get ready in the morning, and sometimes in the afternoon when I’m taking a break.  It’s free and better than a cup of coffee for perking me up.

Old-fashioned wall calendars–in the kitchen and in my bedroom.  I may one of the last people in America to write appointments down on actual, paper squares, but I’m fine with that.  It’s soothing for me to be able to see a month at a glance on my walls.  I watch the days fill with activities, and then whizz past me.  Having a visual reminder of the time not only helps me to stay organized, but it also shows me that this season is passing quickly (despite how it feels, sometimes).  While I use calendars all year long, I find them especially helpful in the winter because they offer me perspective during the draggy days.

Those are some things that are saving me this winter.  What about you?  What things are saving your life these days?

How To Work At Home When You Aren’t Getting Paid (Yet)

I’m writing over at Modern Mrs. Darcy today!  Check out my post on working (and being a creative) at home when the money hasn’t come in just yet.

I’ve always been a creative type. Music was the language of my family of origin, but writing was my private joy. I didn’t analyze it or imagine what type of future job I might land if I developed my skills. My love of the written word was just mine, like the fact that I was petite and had dark hair. – See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/#sthash.y6seif4B.dpuf