What I’m Reading Right Now

posted in: Books, Reviews, Writing | 2

rainy oklahoma

This week has been a rainy one in Oklahoma.  I love this kind of weather in the spring.  The rain is accompanied by milder temperatures instead of freezing wind and promises greener grass and new blossoms instead of tree limbs broken under the weight of sheets of ice.  Normally the only time I get to read without interruption is late at night.  So, it’s days like this when I reward myself with sitting on the couch with a book in one hand and hot cup of something in the other.  Days like this were made for reading and snuggling with a furry, breathing, curling up thing.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t live in Seattle or I wouldn’t get anything done.

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This is what I’ve currently got on my kindle and bed side table:

The Outlander series.  I have read book 1 before under the pretense of a romance novel.  It didn’t strike me as a romance novel…the characters were more complex and the story line more complicated than your run of the mill romance.  Yes, it has some love scenes but not what I would describe “leave you panting” scenes.  Because I was trying to read it in the romance novel frame of mind, it didn’t stick with me.  Recently a friend of mine who adores the series encouraged me to give it another go and to read it more as a historical fiction with a bit of mystic twist and an intense bond of love between the main characters to boot.  Now I’m hooked.  I literally just downloaded the next book.  I’m also waiting to borrow the first season of the tv series.

I’m on my second reading of For The Love by Jen Hatmaker.  2nd reading?! Yes, in preparation to do a formal review for the book I’m in the process of highlighting every other sentence.  I can’t tell you how much I love Jen’s writing style. This book will appeal to women from all walks of life; new moms, seasoned moms, husbands, on-fire-for-Jesus freaks, turned-off-from-religion cynics.  Jen has all of these people in mind when she wrote this book.  Yes, it is geared toward women but there are several chapters that men would enjoy as well. (pre-order yours now!)

Recently I saw something on FB that blew me away.  It was one of those way too long posts that I normally don’t read but I decided to this time.  Thank goodness I did since I had been in a funk and it was exactly what I needed to hear that day.  The inspiration came from Anne Lamont, author of Bird by Bird; Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Here is a taste of her way too long FB post:

1. All truth is a paradox. Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. It has been a very bad match for those of us who were born extremely sensitive. It is so hard and weird that we wonder if we are being punked. And it filled with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together. 

2. Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

3. There is almost nothing outside of you that will help in any kind of last way, unless you are waiting for an organ. You can’t buy, achieve, or date it. This is the most horrible truth.

4. Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together. They are much more like you than you would believe. So try not to compare your insides to their outsides. Also, you can’t save, fix or rescue any of them, or get any of them sober. But radical self-care is quantum, and radiates out into the atmosphere, like a little fresh air. It is a huge gift to the world. When people respond by saying, “Well, isn’t she full of herself,” smile obliquely, like Mona Lisa, and make both of you a nice cup of tea.

5. Chocolate with 70% cacao is not actually a food. It’s best use is as bait in snake traps.

6. Writing: shitty first drafts. Butt in chair. Just do it. You own everything that happened to you. You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart–your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it’s why you were born

7. Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and sometimes nearly-evil men I have known were all writers who’d had bestsellers. Yet, it is also a miracle to get your work published (see #1.). Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the Swiss cheesey holes. It won’t, it can’t. But writing can. So can singing. 

8. Families; hard, hard, hard, no matter how cherished and astonishing they may also be. (See #1 again.) At family gatherings where you suddenly feel homicidal or suicidal, remember that in half of all cases, it’s a miracle that this annoying person even lived. Earth is Forgiveness School. You might as well start at the dinner table. That way, you can do this work in comfortable pants. When Blake said that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love, he knew that your family would be an intimate part of this, even as you want to run screaming for your cute little life. But that you are up to it. You can do it, Cinderellie. You will be amazed.

9. Food; try to do a little better.

10. Grace: Spiritual WD-40. Water wings. The mystery of grace is that God loves Dick Cheney and me exactly as much as He or She loves your grandchild. Go figure. The movement of grace is what changes us, heals us and our world. To summon grace, say, “Help!” And then buckle up. Grace won’t look like Casper the Friendly Ghost; but the phone will ring, or the mail will come, and then against all odds, you will get your sense of humor about yourself back. Laughter really is carbonated holiness, even if you are sick of me saying it. 

11. God; Goodnesss, Love energy, the Divine, a loving animating intelligence, the Cosmic Muffin. You will worship and serve something, so like St. Bob said, you gotta choose. You can play on our side, or Bill Maher’s and Franklin Graham’s. Emerson said that the happiest person on earth is the one who learns from nature the lessons of worship. So go outside a lot, and look up. My pastor says you can trap bees on the floor of a Mason jar without a lid, because they don’t look up. If they did, they could fly to freedom.

11. Faith: Paul Tillich said the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. If I could say one thing to our little Tea Party friends, it would be this. Fundamentalism, in all its forms, is 90% of the reason the world is so terrifying. 3% is the existence of snakes. The love of our incredible dogs and cats is the closest most of us will come, on this side of eternity, to knowing the direct love of God; although cats can be so bitter, which is not the god part: the crazy Love is. Also, “Figure it out” is not a good slogan.

12. Jesus; Jesus would have even loved horrible, mealy-mouth self-obsessed you, as if you were the only person on earth. But He would hope that you would perhaps pull yourself together just the tiniest, tiniest bit–maybe have a little something to eat, and a nap. 

13. Exercise: If you want to have a good life after you have grown a little less young, you must walk almost every day. There is no way around this. If you are in a wheelchair, you must do chair exercises. Every single doctor on earth will tell you this, so don’t go by what I say.

14. Death; wow. So f-ing hard to bear, when the few people you cannot live without die. You will never get over these losses, and are not supposed to. We Christians like to think death is a major change of address, but in any case, the person will live fully again in your heart, at some point, and make you smile at the MOST inappropriate times. But their absence will also be a lifelong nightmare of homesickness for you. All truth is a paradox. Grief, friends, time and tears will heal you. Tears will bathe and baptize and hydrate you and the ground on which you walk. The first thing God says to Moses is, “Take off your shoes.” We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know.

Apparently Anne Lamont is a popular author among writers and has written books on how to write well.  I’m attending a writers conference in May so I decided that maybe I should see what she has to say about writing.  Since I’ll be bull-shitting my way through the conference, wearing my thick-framed glasses and chunky turquoise jewelry may not be enough to fool the agents and publishers at the conference.  I should probably have a few key phrases to spout off about writing, that’s where Bird by Bird comes in.

Our Heart’s Desire is a memoir style book written from the perspective of both a mom and her children’s Occupational Therapist.  It is the story of their family’s Sensory Processing Disorder journey through childhood, teenage years and finally when her children became adults.  This book does such an amazing job of explaining and describing SPD and the vestibular system that I would recommend this book to any parent whose child is struggling with (or they have a feeling their child may have) Sensory Processing Disorder.

Addison and I are in the middle of book 3 of the Percy Jackson series.  My feelings about it…meh.  The stories, plot lines, writing and characters are no where close to Harry Potter.  But Addison is enjoying it and he still wants me to read to him, so I’ll take what I can get.

What’s on your night stand?

2 Responses

  1. I have been dying to read the Outlander series! What writer’s conference are you going to? Love keeping up with your blog!

    • Stephanie Clinton

      I’m going to the Oklahoma Writers Federation conference. It’s my first time so I have no idea what I’m doing. You should come!
      Thanks for reading!

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