We should read things that make us cry, here’s why

When we read something, often we do so for fun. A lighthearted book can lift us into a better mood, provide entertainment, and frequently serve as a departure from everyday life, if only briefly. But here’s why I advocate for reading things beyond the lighthearted, beyond the fluff. This is why you should read something that makes you cry, feel, makes your breath catch, and makes your heart beat faster.

In the last month or so, I’ve a lot of books about the military. Not so much on military history (as yet), but on the stories of my generation and the generation after me. The compelling stories of the cost of war, what everyday soldiers, marines and people in the very thick of things go through. I have no relatable experience to draw from to understand what a war is like. I only know that for me, 9/11 will be my generations Pearl Harbor. I know exactly where I was (at work) and exactly how that day unfolded (with my boss running from his office to let our small group of 5 know what was happening.)

I started reading personal stories of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because of something I am writing. My character is a former Army soldier. While his past service only plays a small role, understanding what military life would have been like for him, helps to define who my character is now. I am nothing if not thorough in my research. Accuracy is one of the things I try to get right even in the imaginary worlds I create. Details matter.

It was in reading these books about personal sacrifice, that I started to have a deep appreciation for everything that these men and women give. I have always believed in and supported those who fight for our country (my dad was in Vietnam before I was born and saw most of his friends die. That is not something I can ever understand.) Two of my cousins are/were Air Force. One has chosen to make it his career, and as I type that it reminds me he’s not much younger than I am, and is close to hitting his 20 years in already.

We should read these stories to get an understanding of what these people go through. I believe most would shrug off the mantle of hero. They are simply doing their jobs. But to me, as someone who does not risk my life every day, they are heroes and more. They fight for my freedom to say what I think, and live a free life. These heroes should be celebrated and read about. Even if I do not believe in the unending war we cannot seem to get out of, I will also 100% have the back of the person who puts themselves front and center to the danger. That is what every American should do. Find fault with the people behind the war, not those on the front line. I’ve spent 6 years living as an ex-pat in Europe and traveled to 23 countries in the last 14 years. Not everyone enjoys the same freedoms that we do.

Everyone should read a book that makes them think beyond themselves. I have thought of the people in the following books almost daily in the weeks since I read them. I encourage everyone to go to the library or bookstore and pick them up. Take five minutes out of your world to inhabit a little part of theirs.

The Fighters by C.J. Chivers

One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel

The Things They Cannot Say by Kevin Sites

My favorite things

I think I did a favorites list once, and I’m pretty sure it had one thing; chocolate. Since everyone is doing favorites lists, I thought, why not? So here are my favorite things from the last year or so across any category.

Movie: The Martian

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Matt Damon. What else is there to say? Seriously though, this is such a good movie. I could not convince the Husband to go to the theater with me when it came out (and I think it actually came in 2015) but as soon as it was available digitally, we owned it. I watched it countless times since, and last night at the Boy’s request, we watched it again for movie night. There’s just something wonderful about a man being left behind on a planet and trying to survive. Maybe it’s a metaphor for me trying to survive the epically martian land of England? Who knows.

Book: Impossible to just pick one given my love of all things BOOOK! but here are two four I’ve read that I keep revisiting: {if you need more check out my GoodReads page}

Philipa Gregory, I fell in love with Three Sisters, Three Queens (the first of hers I read), and then proceeded to speed through her Cousins War series. I’ve hit a slow down with the Tudor Series, but I think I just needed a break from the pace I was reading them.

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Black Boy by Richard Wright, I have never been able to let this book from my mind. There’s just something sad, and moving, and wonderful in it. It is partly non-fiction and partly fiction (there’s academic debate about it being memoir and embellished). You decide.

Mary, Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser. I am a lover of all tings Scottish because of my family ancestry, and I’ve read a few books on Mary but this was my favorite.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. I loved her take on living for a year in the land of hygge. Especially how she refers to her husband as Lego Man.

The Rival Queens, Nancy Goldstone. This is about the trials of Catherine de Medici and her daughter Marguerite of Valois. Absolutely fascinating, and horrifying what things went on in the 15th century! I became fascinated by Catherine de Medici after watching Reign (yes that soapy not exactly historically correct teen drama), but her real life was very interesting. It also led me to be very interested in this Netflix original:

TV: Medici: Masters of Florence. You will pretty much find almost every character has been on a show you’ve either seen or heard of (Rob Stark from Game of Thrones AND Walter Frey as in laws??) It has a fabulous cast (Dustin Hoffman and et al), and the story is very worthy of binge watching. The drama, the backstabbing (literally), the time period. I can never get enough of these shows from another time. (It also led me to read The Medici by Paul Strathern – Loving It.)

Mini-Series: I couldn’t pick just one, so here are two:

The White Queen from Starz (based on 3 books from Philippa Gregory’s Cousins War series. Really, Really hoping that season two rumors are true, since this originally ran in 2013.)

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Victoria from ITV. It tells the first years of Queen Victoria’s reign from when she was crowned at 18 to the birth of her first child. Highly entertaining and my 10 year old also loves watching it. I believe there will be a season two.

I fell in love with this beauty product so much that the Husband is even schlepping to Nordstrom today while he’s in Seattle for work to get me some more (he’s awesome!). I hate it when products I love aren’t available in the UK:

Kate Sommerville Age Arrest Serum. I’ve gone two months without it since I ran out, and yes, it definitely improves my skin and I love the silky texture and the way my skin feels when I use it. Even though it’s $95….If you know an alternative that is just as good, for cheaper, please tell me!

MV Organics Rose range: everything. The moisturizer, cleanser, and the rose boost oil. (I have the Skin Tonic as well, but the jury’s still out on that one). Let’s just not even talk about the price, please. The cleanser is reasonable comparative to other similar brands but the moisturizer, {heart attack} on the 70ml price –> £77. I finally paid for it after schlepping out repeatedly for the 15 ml size at £25 a jar. Normally, I’d say NUTS to pay that much (even though I’ve bought pricier things…Sunday Riley, Sisley and May Lindstrom spring to mind…) but this is the first product that might actually be toning back the rosacea. And I’ve been consistent in using it every day, twice a day for a few months. I think we might be getting somewhere. I’m sure it’s probably not available in the US because {story of my life}.

Speaking of not available, I have fallen.in.love. with this clothing company – Hackwith Design House. All ethically made, gorgeous things, that are pricey! but with the companies ethics, and sticking to being on sale, I can live with it. They DO ship to London, for $20, and then VAT and duties are paid on top of clothing cost + shipping. So one dress I love, the Desiree (among many others), would be $158 + 20% duties + £8 post office ‘fee’ = way too much money. It makes me VERY sad but that has been the luck. So many ethical outstanding clothing companies {Brass Clothing, Everlane, Jan-N-June, ArmedAngels, Uniform, Zady, Need Supply Co, Gather & See, esby, and on that will/won’t ship/or charge in Euros} but the price of buying something is astronomical by the time I pay to get it out of Duty Jail. 5 more months and The Husband will just have to deal with a little wallet pinching. For a fantastic list (and website in general!) see Anuschka Rees. She also has a book The Curated Closet which I am impatiently waiting to be available to the UK.

Dog items: Wagg Training Treats (there’s even a low-fat version which is hilarious) and Pill Pockets from Greenies. Both of these items have been lifesavers with Mocha for training/rewards, and for the unending medication rotation we seem to be on since we’ve been in London.

Those are some of the things I’ve fallen in love with this year. There are many other things  that I have loved this year, but if I listed all of them it would be more like a book than a list. What have you fallen in love with this year?

Out of the Box: Life, Fish, Books and Random

In recent weeks I could name any number of things that have kept me out of the blog world.  The following is very random but also very much the way my brain is working at present.

*Chick’s fish took a turn for the worst when his fin fell off, thereby giving us the final reason to commit him to Fishy Heaven.  He has since been replaced by Prince and Princess and a pink castle in the fishbowl.

*I’ve watched a million and one episodes of Angelina Ballerina (whom I am starting to loathe) and I feel like I’ve done nothing but dash from one sick child to another and back round again.

*I’ve also been working on adding a new section to the blog about cooking because I am obsessed with cooking and eating these days.

*Over the weekend CP and I pulled out some boxes from the basement in our never ending task to declutter, and I discovered my high school yearbooks.  Egads.  You gotta love the styles of the early 90’s.

In these boxes I also found books, books and more books.  You have to know me to know how much I love books.  My fondest wish is to get trapped inside a bookstore overnight (or for days at a time is fine too).  I love books.  All kinds of books.  Some of my favorites used to be listed in the sidebar, I might have to add them again.  I’m currently reading How To Be Good; The Night Train To Lisbon (which I’ve been reading for upwards of a year, it’s just kind of intense and taking me forever in stops and starts); War and Peace (which I promised myself a year ago I’d read in the span of a year.  I’m on page 5…); Anna Karenina; My Life In France, The House of Mondavi and I just started Gone With The Wind.

Yes, I am reading them all at the same time.  It’s just the way I am.  I once labeled myself as having book adhd and that is obviously still true.

There were also old cd’s (and scarily cassette tapes!!) in the box.  Sunset Boulevard; Ricky Martin; Les Miserables; and Jimmy Buffet.  I guess my music tastes then and now are still eclectic.  (For the record, I got rid of the Ricky Martin.)  I found a disc labeled My Novel which I have yet to take a look at because I can’t even imagine how old this must be.  If there’s one thing I do know it’s that my writing only gets better with age and what’s on that cd could be truly frightening.

But it has spurred to realize I’ve been neglecting writing in general.  All the ideas are sitting up in my brain but I’m just not letting them out.  So I’ve taken to scheduling my days.  A literal blueprint to each day highlighted by hour on my beloved whiteboard.  Thus far, I’ve managed to follow the schedule once out of a week’s worth of trying but that is progress at least.  A step in the right direction.

The other thing I’m looking forward to is Spring.  As in warmer weather and no snow days and ice and dreary cloudy skies.  I think is the real culprit in my lack of desire to actually do anything these days.  It’s too cold, and too depressing outside.  I recently bought a print entitled House of Usher from Kevin of Irish Gumbo and Oncatography fame.  I’m thinking it’s time to put that photo front and center.  It’s an inspiring, lonely and intriguing picture. Inspiration was the reason I wanted to buy the picture in the first place.  I stared at it and thought there was just something about it that made me want to write or create or do.

So I will.

Have you felt overwhelmed by life and the winter blues of late?  Do you have anything that’s inspiring you?


*If you haven’t checked out Oncatography, Go!  Do it! Now!

As I Sit: Random Ramblings

My funk has grown over the last few days.  I just got my first agent rejection on my book (Yippee!  Oh Wonderful!  Keeping humor about it as you can see).  I guess I shouldn’t expect to get picked up the first time I made a query but still, rejection hurts.  They said it wasn’t right for what they represent (what.e.ver) but it was my first (and only) time I submitted my work. So back on the horse I go.  I have plenty more agents on my list.  One down 500 to go.
But I’ve been in a funk these past few days for other reasons too, not unusual for the winter here because it’s cold and rainy or snowy.  It becomes dark at an unreasonable hour and my world just seems to get crabbier.  I wanted to post about how Germany isn’t so bad and yesterday as I drove along, my first random drive in awhile I came up with this post:
Depression?  Melancholy? Self-reflection?  Careful it’s going around.  It seems there is no shortage of any of these things happening in the blogger world these days and there is sometimes little to be happy about.  The economy is a wreck, people are losing jobs in the thousands, bread and milk (the staples of life) are becoming more expensive, packages are shrinking in size but the price isn’t.  The weather has been atrocious with ice and snow storms, fires and disaster all around.  The weather here certainly doesn’t make me all perky these days.  
As I drive home from the city today where I went in search of vacation stuff, where I didn’t even visit Starbucks one of my few American treats I allow myself every time I go to city center, I find myself having driven forty minutes past my exit.  Baby Chick is safely ensconced in her carseat happily untying her shoes and hasn’t made a peep.  The music is good, playing on the iPod a feel good/feel bad mix of Lady Antebellum, Colbie Calliert, Erin McCarley and the car is hugging the close curves of the road as I drive between the river and the mountainside.  The dusty corners of my brain are in need of probing these days.  Inner reflection isn’t likely to become a popular sport while driving, there is the danger factor of paying attention to the road.  But for me, if I’m in a funk, a good drive with loud music usually helps.
In my pre-mom-wife life I drove to Boston from Philadelphia (an 8 hour task) because I liked to drive and a friend was missing her at-the-moment-boyfriend.  I had a car.  I had music.  We were good to go.  I seemed to find and make friends with people who lived no where near me in college (and beyond) simply because I enjoyed driving to North Carolina, New Jersey, Washington DC.  Like I say, I drive to relax and think.
This was my first drive time for the purpose of driving in quite awhile.  Despite what it might seem I am fully aware of the $80 it costs to fill up my small four door sedan.  (No joke as it’s about 1.13 euros a liter x 4 to get a rough per gallon estimate and there you go).  I had some thoughts on this drive.  Are you ready?  Because what I have to say I figured out is going to be entirely shocking.
Germany (might) not be as bad as I always say.
I know.  I was shocked too.  But here was what I was thinking.  I only have 1 year and 19 days left here.  And I haven’t seen anything yet.  Sure we’ve been some places around Germany, not many though.  Have I really explored all that I could explore?  That Benedictine Abbey is still waiting for me to explore it’s beautiful buildings.  And those monks make Siegburger Abtei-Likör, too, kinda cool if you think about it.  A mere twenty to thirty minute drive.  I’ve been saying that I’m going for almost three years now.  Maybe it’s time I did.
There are a lot of things I was reminded of this week by fellow bloggers.  For instance, I have the ability to see so many things because of where I live.  That is very true.  Paris and London are a mere one hour flight away.  I’ve been to each of them.  I also have access to good German beer.  This is very true too.  I do enjoy a good Kolsch now and then (though it’s been awhile, that being more biergarten weather drinking anyway).
As I drove I saw the hills with what I know come summer will be vines of grapes to make the wonderful local wines.  The commercial boats passing by on the Rhine loaded with so many things.  Have you ever sat and watched a boat pass by?  Try it.  It is ultimately relaxing (as a side note, don’t do it while driving please!)  There was something about the look of the hills and the river and the feel of the steering wheel beneath my hands, the purr of the engine, I don’t know but it made me think.  Germany maybe doesn’t suck as much as I think it does.  After all last week there was a tractor parked outside my house and last night while making dinner there were a group of horses going down the street (with riders, we live near a riding school).  All things I doubt I’d have seen back in my old Maryland neighborhood.
Maybe all I really needed was a (mental) smack upside the head to remind myself that this life I have here is pretty gosh darn good.  I’m doing things and seeing things a lot of people would love to be doing.
Of course today it’s raining.  And next week we go on vacation and I’ll have to start the (mental) smack upside the head all over again.  So if I start moaning about Germany can you all smack me upside the head with your shovels?  
viel Dank und mit freundlichen Grüßen

Oh help

OK, I said I wasn’t going to blog but I have to.  I have wads to do for the paid project but that’ll come.  Right now I just completed my homework for day one of my class.  After reading everyone else’s homework (share your five year writing plan goals)  I can safely say I’m depressed now.  Almost all of them have specific publishers to sell to and as far as year three at least of the titles of their books they want to write.  Umm, hello?  I’d like to just finish the third in my series (somewhat titled) and I have one idea (no title) for another.  That’s it so far.  Blech.  
Our instructor hit the USA Today list with book FREAKIN two.  Which is awesome in that she can teach us a ton about getting there someday too.  But geesh, most of the people in the class have at least had rejections, I have yet to actually submit anything (my fault of course).  I am afraid of the big bad query letter and synopsis.  That is so much harder than writing the actual book. 
Write a book? 
No problem.  
Write a query letter to an editor or publisher along with a synopsis?  
Idontwannaidontwanna   Yeah, something like that, helk and all that too.

The Bookshelf Meme

While I wasn’t tagged for this meme I have enjoyed seeing other bookshelves around the blogosphere.  So i thought it only fair to share my own bookshelves as well.

Bookshelf 1 has lots of things.  The bottom two shelves are dedicated to the kids various games and toys.  Chickadee will be more than happy to remove any book I place on the lower shelves so… she gets her own shelf.  The middle shelf has travel books and some photo albums and scrapbooks, the next shelf up contains my beloved collection of Harry Potter books from around the globe, a few of Hubby’s books and a picture of my Boo.  The top shelf has some of my favorite series books, a glass keepsake box that was given to us a wedding gift where I have all Boo’s birthday candles from year one and up and my wooden shoe from our trip to the Netherlands in 06.  And the requisite tape measurer that we haven’t yet done anything with so it goes on the bookshelf.  On the top of the bookshelf (not in the picture) are various photo albums and my Harry Potter chess set.
Bookshelf 2 contains the majority of my books that I tend to read over and over.  At any given time there can be no less than four bookmarks in any of these books (currently 14 bookmarks).  Some books with bookmarks – 
My Life by Bill Clinton  (I started it when it came out am still hardly into it.  It’s interesting, I just haven’t sat down for ten days required to bother finishing it)
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (I’ve read the first section on Italy but when she goes to the Anshram in India, it loses all interest for me.)
The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan (This is my second reading and I stopped just before the last chapter and haven’t gone back to it.)
Currently there are three not on the shelf that I am in various stages of reading.  On the top are family photo’s of friends and my kids.  The two snowmen were a Christmas gift from my parents (should really put them away as it is April!) a red lantern from Ikea that I really liked for adding color, a mini-Eiffel Tower from Paris, the souvenir  piece of the Berlin Wall from our trip last year, a Christmas ornament, a Waterford shamrock paperweight that was a wedding gift (since we got married on St Patrick’s Day) and two small Buddha statues from our trip to Taiwan.
There used to be a third bookshelf that I kept upstairs in the loft but it is now in what I lovingly call the dungeon in the basement.  These are the trash romance type of book along with reference books like Toilet Training for Dummies.  They are still in the moving boxes and except for the potty training book, likely to stay in the box until we move in two years.
My bookshelves are pretty much me and display my diverse taste in all things books.