Nose in a Book: Fall Reading List

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All right. I know it’s not actually fall yet but it’s a rainy dreary day here in Colorado and it sure as heck feels like fall. I tell ya what, we are certainly spoiled by sunshine here in this beautiful state. After only two days of rain, I’m missing my blue skies.

But, we must make do.

So, I’ve been planning a date with my couch, a blanket and good book for later tonight (what else can be done in this weather, right?). I have a stack of library books on my nightstand and a few I hope to check out this fall on my ‘to read’ list. Since I feel that friends frequently ask for book suggestions, I thought I’d share what I’ll be sticking my nose in.

Please share any ‘must reads’ that you love or want to read in the comments.

1. How Should A person Be? by Sheila Heti (I’m actually about half-way through this and so far, meh.)

2. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

4. Once a Runner by John L. Parker

5. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

6. Freakin’ Fabulous by Clinton Kelly

7. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

8. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific by Cheryl Strayed

9. How to Hepburn by Karen Karbo

10. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

Image Source.

Dwell in Possibility …

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When I have free time, I like to wander around Barnes & Noble. Lately, I’ve been hanging out near that end-cap that has all the Barnes & Noble Classic Series books. I keep stock-piling classic books, it’s kind of a strange habit.

My most recent ‘classic series’ purchase, The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, has been my favorite so far. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I’ve been taking in a couple poems each night before bed. It’s super-relaxing and makes me fell all cultured (or something).

The poem above is my favorite one so far, but she has hundreds of famous passages and quotes.

Do you have any favorites? Do you read poetry?

Image Source.

Recent Read: Great With Child

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I’ve recently read the sweetest book. I wished I would have read it while I was expecting … I think it would have really calmed my nerves about the idea of raising a child.

Great With Child by Beth Ann Fennelly is a compilation of letters from one mother to her dear friend and an expecting mom-to-be. The letters are beautifully written and sentimental, yet they offer practical and usable advice for new moms. She touches on so many moments that I’ve experienced in the last year and offers advice I wish I’d known.

If you’re a mom-to-be or have an expecting friend, I’d definitely recommend this book. It’d make a wonderful shower gift!

Image Source.

Thankful Thursday: Firsts

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Doesn’t this book look like fun? This is definitely on my ‘to buy’ list!

The first month of 2013 is already coming to a close. Can you believe it? How have your resolutions been going? Anything to cross off your lists yet?

I’ve been given plenty of opportunities to be grateful and take action …  but I can’t say I’ve exceeded my goal just yet. Good thing we’re not too far into the year!

Reflecting on the first month of the year passing by has me thinking about all sorts of firsts today.

About a million years ago, I gave a speech dedicated to a dear friend and her spouse about firsts. I loved writing the speech; spending time thinking of all the fun ‘firsts’ she and I shared (first day of college, first jobs, first time drinking too much wine …  you get the idea).

Since writing that speech, I haven’t really given much thought to the topic. But today, dwelling on the firsts of my past brought a smile to my lips and, in an effort to be grateful for all the little things, here they are for today’s Thankful Thursday.

I am thankful for:

The first day at a new job (which was over seven years ago for me!).

The first time traveling to another country.

First dates and first kisses.

The first time someone asks to use you as a reference.

Spelling all the words in an email correctly in the first draft.

The first time you meet someone you immediately share a special connection with.

Feeling those first baby kicks inside your tummy.

The first time someone you admire recognizes your work.

Liking your body, for the first time ever.

Buying your first home. (Hoping to experience selling our first home this year!)

Running 26.2 miles for the first time ever. (And definitely NOT the last time.)

The first time you see your baby boy smile.

Letting someone else go first.

And putting yourself first, sometimes.

The first time tasting the bread pudding at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.

The first time you jumped out of an airplane. (And also the last … most likely.)

The first time someone asks your opinion on a topic you’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand.

Slipping on your skinny jeans for the first time post-baby.

The first time you realize that you do appreciate looking younger (now that you’re looking older).

Being the first person your sister calls when she needs to talk.

The first time the little guy sleeps through the night.

That first glorious day of summer.

Being the first kid – forever gaining the respect and admiration of your younger siblings.

The first overnight trip without your little man.

The first time you see your favorite band in concert.

The first time you meet said band back stage.

The first time they remember you from all them times you’ve crashed back stage.

Meeting your first nephew.

Watching your baby experience all his ‘firsts.’

Image Source & Book Recommendation.

The John Lennon Letters

I’ve mentioned once or twice that I’m kind of into the Beatles.

I might sort of believe (at least I’ve often said) that I’m the reincarnated spirit of John Lennon.

Okay, that might be a little extreme but I can honestly say I’ve loved the Beatles since I was a wee one.

Need proof? I sing Yesterday and Hey Jude to the little guy (instead of lullabies). I’ve been as close as I’ll ever be to seeing them in concert. I’ve stood at Strawberry Fields and stared up at the Dakota Building in New York (where John Lennon lived). I’ve read dozens of books on the Fab Four and even wrote a paper or two about them. I actually considered naming our baby Lennon (wouldn’t that be cute!?).

Needless to say, listening to the Beatles always makes me happy and I geek out whenever I get the opportunity to learn about them … which brings me to the point of this post. For Christmas this year, my mom gave me the most unexpected and yet absolutely perfect gift – a copy of The John Lennon Letters.

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Thumbing through, I was giddy to see a compilation of letters that John had written to friends, family, business partners, teachers, and other musicians. Broken into chronological order, the letters date back to his elementary school days and continue all the years of his life. It even includes a couple of notes written on December 8, 1980 (the night he was shot … and the day before my birthday … see why I might be his spirit!?)

The book is full of images, stories, and so much more. I was so touched and excited by receiving it that I started reading it almost immediately. However, I’ve changed my mind on reading it cover to cover. I’ve placed it on my coffee table for now and plan to thumb through it frequently as a source of inspiration.

If you’re a Beatle fan, a Lennon lover or a music aficionado, I’d recommend getting your own copy as quickly as you can get to a book store. You will not be disappointed! Also – there’s an app, too. (Nerd alert!)

63028_434217457841_6552785_n(My mom, sister and I in front of a John Lennon exhibit in NYC.)

Image 1: Source. Image 2: Mine.

Classic Movie Review: Holiday Inn

It’s been awhile since I’ve critiqued a classic film (unless you count this annual post). And since Christmas is a short fourteen days away, it seemed appropriate to revisit this past hobby by telling you about one of my favorite yuletide classics: Holiday Inn.

Whilst perusing the internet for images of Bing & Fred, I stumbled upon this post on the Hairpin which basically said everything I was going to say … only better. But, if you didn’t click the link and are still reading (I love you), I don’t want to disappoint so here it goes.

Setting: Showbiz in the 1940’s. Who: Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby are a dynamic song-and-dance-duo and they’ve got a lovely brunette (Virginia Dale) who plays them up against each other in their act.

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Plot: Well, turns out she’s playing them in real life, too. She breaks Bing’s heart to run off with Fred. I don’t know what she was thinking … I’d take a doe-eyed crooner over a skinny male dancer any day. To each their own.

Bing moves to the countryside and leaves his life in the limelight behind. He decides to turn his country home into an establishment devoted solely to celebrating holidays (read: Holiday Inn). Dancers, singers, waiters, and busboys fill the inn to serve and entertain fancy folks in fabulous gowns. But one of the new staff stands out – a pretty blonde (Marjorie Reynolds). Sure enough, she and Bing are smitten for each other and, much like things were done back then, he proposes on the third date.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, good old Fred shows up with a fresh wound from the lovely brunette. He performs the best drunk dancing ever captured on film and falls in love in his stupor …. with the pretty blonde. Oh no!

So, does she run off with Fred, too?

But, what about Bing? What happens to the Inn?

Is there a fabulous housekeeper named Mamie who speaks in the third-person?

Cliff-hanger blog post!

I’m not going to ruin the ending for you.  If you haven’t seen the good old black and white holiday classic, I recommend you stream it asap. You’ll enjoy the original version of White Christmas as well as Bing Crosby singing to a turkey (you know how I feel about turkeys) and fabulous to-the-elbow gloves. (Who wears gloves like that now!? No one!)

Bonus: you get a sappy-sweet story about holidays, love and enduring (although damaging) friendships. AND you get to watch Bing Crosby sing and Fred Astaire dance …. do you need more reasons to watch?

Pour some egg nog, break out the Christmas cookies, and kick back to enjoy this holiday classic! Happy Holidays…bing bong bing!

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Images source.

Do Good, Feel Good

While perusing Facebook this morning, I managed to find a gem of an article tucked in between political posts and someecards. My eyes lit up and I quickly clicked the link “The Healthy Benefits of Volunteering.

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Healthy benefits? Yup!!

Volunteering isn’t only good for your community or cause, it’s actually good for your health, too!

I’ve been volunteering for, like, forever. It all started when I had to earn some volunteer hours in high school and I decided to be an unpaid swim instructor at the YMCA (I have no idea how I was qualified to do this job).

I quickly gained the necessary hours but then something weird happened….I kept volunteering. It had everything nothing to do with the super-cute lifeguard that I did didn’t have a crush on for most of high school. Nothing at all.

Years later (we won’t discuss just how many years) volunteering is still a big part of my life (although lifeguards are not). I’m frequently asked, why do you sign up for all this stuff? And, how do you have time for all this? Sometimes, I’m at a loss for a reason. Sometimes I ponder these question myself as I’m labeling save-the-dates at 2am (and crying). Sometimes I’m like this lady:

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But it really boils down to one, admittedly selfish, reason. It makes me feel good.

And it turns out that there’s a science behind why it makes me feel so good. “It’s been shown that volunteer work enhances well-being (defined by measurements of happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, sense of control over life, physical health and depression). Since people with a greater sense of well-being give more hours to volunteering, the process actually helps increase volunteer dedication.” Source.

Also, it’s been shown that having extra time really has little to do with the amount one volunteers (younger adults volunteer more than retirees, for example). And, there’s a whole physical activity benefit (depending on what you volunteer for).

Wowza! Right?

So, feeling blue? Feeling a bit…blech? Get involved with a cause you care about! I know a lovely organization in Fort Collins who is always accepting new members and we’d love to have you.

P.S. I’m currently reading Uncharitable by Dan Pallotta and let me tell you….mind blown! What an interesting look at the structures of non-profits and how our ideas about charity actually hinder the efforts of charitable organizations. I definitely recommend it!

Be Yourself, Be Happy

I recently read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and I like it so much that I’m considering buying a copy for all of the people I love the most and encouraging them to read it. (Merry Christmas, friends!)

Rubin’s Happiness Project wasn’t at all what I expected. I had expected the story to be much more like the book/movie Julie & Julia, but this tale of self-discovery was much more methodical.

For one year, Rubin focused on living a happier life. She took such an interesting, tactical approach, that you can now model your own happiness project off of her lists, scoring system, and guides. You’ll have to visit her website or buy the book to get all the details… it’s somewhat involved.

But, I am going to tell you the number one take-away for me.

One of her Secrets of Adulthood is to Be Gretchen. It simply means to be true to herself, her likes, her dislikes, and her needs.

She says something that I’ve said a hundred time, ‘I like the idea of…‘ For example, she talks bout how she likes the idea of exploring New York City and hitting a jazz club on Saturday night, but when she really looks down deep inside of her, she realizes that she’d rather be at home reading a book on the weekend. Or, she was always a little secretive about her love of children’s literature. But, once she embraced this truth about herself, she ended up starting a book club devoted to kid lit and now shares her passion with other enthusiasts.

I can’t think of any other way to truly become happy than to allow yourself to be yourself.

For me, an example is gardening. I’m convinced I enjoy gardening. But I don’t. Gardening = waiting for a snake to attack me. Why do I bother? I like the idea of gardening. I wish I had a beautiful, bountiful garden. But the truth is, I never leave my deck (there might be snakes in the grass) and potted plants are just as pretty.

And music. I’m in a weird place with music right now. I dislike most pop music (but I love some. Or, I love Ke$ha). And I’m not cool enough to know what’s going on in the underground scene (do they still call it that?). To be honest, I’ve actually changed the radio station when I pull up to the Starbucks drive-thru because I don’t want the barista to think I’m lame ’cause occasionally I listen to Christmas music in months other than December (and by occasionally I mean at least once a month). I’ve always felt this strange pressure to like only ‘cool’ or ‘good’ music but I honestly can’t tell you what that is (except RCPM). The result: Half the time I don’t even know what I like! And I suspect, if I just got over the idea of listening to only ‘cool’ music, I’d be much happier when I’m singing Jingle Bells in July.

For some of you, it probably has never occurred to you to change yourself or not do what you truly enjoy. I applaud you. Not me. I am guilty of modifying myself, especially in front of other people, to fit into the mold of a person I think I should be. The ideal version of me. Some mythical Stacey with a green thumb who attends only the coolest concerts.

So going forward, I’m gong to give myself little reminders to Be Stacey. Not some ideal me, just actual me. We’ll see what happens.

Something Scary

I’ve recently finished My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock.

Heard of it? In short: Inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote, “Do something everyday that scares you,” Noelle Hancock set out to live the last year of her twenties facing her fears every day.

Sound familiar? Like a 30 Before 30 list…perhaps?

First, I loved this book and I highly recommend it.

Second, with every page I devoured I thought, “This is the book I was meant to write.” Since my 30 Before 30 list, I’ve wanted to write about that year and the adventures I went on. Not all of my list items were fears, but you can definitely see a similar theme. No?

The thing about my urge to retell my 30 items in book form is that I’ve always felt that I should write a fictional tale. I mean, my actual adventures weren’t interesting enough to keep a reader eagerly turning the pages….were they?

She definitely did more interesting activities than I – instead of deep sea fishing, she went diving with sharks. Instead of running a marathon, she hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro. Instead of joining a volunteer association, she volunteered on the cancer floor of a hospital. She actually sang karaoke solo….. I still have yet to accomplish that item.

Okay, thanks. I’ll take second place.

But wait. Here’s the thing – my biggest takeaway from her story is that she was honest about who she was. And she spent a whole year learning about and accepting herself (did you notice the bold italics….. ).

Hmmm…. Surely a story about belting out an off-key version of We Built This City in front of a rowdy crowd of bar patrons would be more exciting than the fact that I never actually sang karaoke (Item #7). Right?

After reading Hancock’s book, I’m starting to wonder if telling the tale of what actually happened might be just as good.

On the eve of my 30th birthday, mere hours before the clock struck midnight and my twenties became part of my past, my list became the topic of dinner conversation among colleagues. After hearing about taking a self-defense class, planting a tree, going vegan, and which of the three Godfather’s I liked best, my boss asked, “Is there anything you haven’t done?” My answer: solo karaoke.

Thus began a pilgrimage to all the area bars we knew of in search of a karaoke machine. Promising that he (and the entire table of coworkers) would join in the fun, my boss charged into multiple watering holes, yelled, “You got karaoke?” and quickly left when we heard no.

You can imagine my relief disappointment when we finally found a bar that offered karaoke on a Wednesday night….only to discover their DJ was out-of-town that week. Whew.

Defeated, we hunkered down at table and talked about the songs we would have sung. We laughed at each other’s choices and toasted to my 30th year.

Okay, maybe that story isn’t as good as actually singing Starship (and possibly performing a dance I’d choreographed to accompany it) but it’s real. It’s life. It was a fun, silly night and a great way to end the year of my list.

Reading My Year with Eleanor not only fueled me with inspiration to write my own story, but it got me thinking about accepting me for me. Accepting ourselves for who we really are can sometimes seem scary but as Eleanor wisely said, “Do something every day that scares you.” What better place to start that with yourself?

So, tell me, what have you accepted about yourself? Have you faced any fears lately?

Thankful Thursday: Motivation

Happy Thankful Thursday!

Today I am thankful for motivation!!! And I’m finding the inspiration to get motivated in all sorts of places….

First, I’m reading this book, Eat that Frog! It couldn’t be more perfect for me. It’s all about how to stop procrastinating and get things done. And do you know how? With lists!! Glorious lists! Lists of monthly ‘to do’ items, lists of weekly tasks, lists of today’s activities. It talks about prioritizing lists, listing your goals, listing the steps to achieve said goals. Oh, it’s just oozing with list-love.

I love it. My notebooks are full, my pen is out of ink and my fingers are sore, but I’m ready. I’m motivated to get it all done… from buy a teething ring for the baby to writing a book.

Bring it, hopes and dreams. Bring it.

Second, I read all about this race. And then I got three of my besties to commit to doing it with me!

Of course, I can’t be unprepared now can I? So, I’m motivated to work out and run my not-so-little-rear-end off. We’re gonna get in shape and feed the hungry. Let’s DO this!

And last, but never least, let’s not forget this guy:

He, who motivates me to be better person, is on the Thankful list every.single.time. Love that little looker.

Happy Thankful Thursday!!

What motivates you?