Category Archives: Real Talk

Small Space Bookcase

This week has been an emotional one. I’m less than 2 weeks away from having my Master’s, I’m applying for jobs (as in like, the real deal), and my hubby and I had a big shift in perspective about our futures.

We have never been… conventional. That’s not to knock conventional! Things usually become the norm for good reason. However, we have been thinking about buying a home for years and something has always held us back. Yes, that “something” has generally been our existing lease, but even when we talked and planned, it felt like we were discussing compromises more than opportunities. I’ll be up front with you all, we’re going to have a humble budget. And as we should! At the end of the day, I’m a teacher and the hubs will eventually get his nursing degree, so we have no delusions of grandeur. I’ve always imagined myself living in a small cottage (with Hannah and a million puppies, but I digress), so when my husband suggested that we guy land and construct a yurt, it was one of those EUREKA (*insert mental image of a light bulb lighting up*) moments.

OF COURSE!! Land and privacy have always trumped square footage for me, plus it would give us the space and opportunity to work with solar panels, composting, and other “off the grid” tools. Needless to say, literally from that moment on, I have functioned in society while dedicating a (sometimes small, other times large) portion of my thoughts to yurt life. I won’t go into detail about all the many things we’ve had to consider since this is a book blog, but you can probably see where this going. Reducing my living space risks book space! I won’t lie to you; this was a huge consideration for me. Although the prospect of getting rid of needless items thrills me, books are not needless. I cannot live in a space that does not afford space for the wellsprings of my life. Thus, an obsession was born: the tiny space bookcase.

One thing you have to plan for with small spaces is that every inch of that space needs to be considered for utility, storage, or both. Things like staircases to the loft should never just be stairs. That’s a perfect space to allow for maximized usage.

Don’t forget about wall space. Now, a yurt will have roof studs for hanging shelving and lattice walls that won’t support much weight. That space still needs to be used, though, so leaning or standing shelves can serve the purpose.

We’ll have a few walls that will separate the bad and bath areas, so there will be precious small room for hanging things. This means bookcases and shelves need to be able to hold books, pictures, and potted plants (I aim for our home to look like Fern Gully always). There are sets like this one that you can buy online, but you only have to be moderately skilled with a screwdriver to buy the materials and do it yourself.

One thing that excites me is that the rolling ladder as seen in Beauty and the Beast is a distinct possibility. A 30′ yurt will allow for a pretty sizable loft space and we want a ladder for accessing it. If we use the wall built for the aforementioned bed/bath, we can create shelving across the whole wall with a rolling ladder so we can access books on the living side and dishes in the kitchen area. It’s not only possible, but practical!

Another consideration for having a tiny space, be it a yurt, a “tiny home” construction, or even a converted storage container, is security. Of course, whatever structure we choose will be secured and monitored, but you can never be too sure that your most valued possessions are safe. I found this idea on Pinterest and it would be a great addition to our small space, or any home!

Is anyone else rocking a small space bookcase? Let’s have a look!

 

 

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L: Review of Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” & a Southerner’s Rant

The news of an upcoming release to Lee’s solitary novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was understandably followed by large amounts of hype, excitement, and eventually ado over the supposed circumstances of the release. I’m not getting into that; form whatever opinion you like about it. My choice to be optimistic and believe that this release was intended as a gift to Lee’s readers, however, was greatly supported by reading Go Set a Watchman, since Lee’s talent, writing style, experiences, opinions, and ultimate message practically jumped out of every single page.

Photo from Goodreads.com

Photo from Goodreads.com

The prequel to To Kill A Mockingbird follows Jean Louise Finch’s, a.k.a Scout’s, return to Maycomb, AL from New York as a 26-year-old adult. Since Lee reportedly wrote Go Set a Watchman prior to Mockingbird, the first portion of the book seems to be focused on setting the stage and introducing readers to Maycomb and its inhabitants, as well as to the Finch family. Since we all are well acquainted by now, I enjoyed this part as simple reminiscing and story-telling before the plot thickens and the moral dilemma presents itself. When it happens, it happens fast, and as expected, deals with the sensitive nature of racial tensions in the South in what I’m assuming is around the 60’s or 70’s. The tensions rise as the issue is dissected and I was closing in on the final twenty pages before the resolution and grand moral lesson decided to make an appearance. I was not disappointed.

Although the main message of racial peace and understanding echo throughout the entire book, the finale is focused more on the personal growth of Jean Louise Finch and her struggle to see her father as anything other than perfect and righteous. As readers, we too grapple with any depiction of Atticus Finch that reflects anything other than the moral compass of justice and peace that we grew to know in Mockingbird. We, too, experience the confusion and disappointment we feel in Jean Louise, and simultaneously reach understanding and realization of reality in Lee’s resolution. To Kill a Mockingbird stands firm as Lee’s moral teacher while Go Set a Watchman establishes itself as a lesson in personal growth and awareness. I thought it was a lovely addition to the story of the Finch’s, but Mockingbird still hold the title as Lee’s best and most influential work. I imagine that anyone who loved Mockingbird, loves the South, or loves moral lessons would adore it and I highly recommend it to any and all.

Fort Gaines, GA right around the time of "Mockingbird"

Fort Gaines, GA right around the time of “Mockingbird”

As a sidebar, this book didn’t only speak to me in terms of morality and justice, but also on a personal level, much akin to my feelings about Mockingbird. The very first line takes me home with its mention of Atlanta and the delight in returning home to the South. I’m from a tiny town in southwest Georgia (population of about 1,000) that borders the very same Chattahoochee River mentioned by Lee; we used to say that Alabama was so close that you could spit on it, so many of the specifics mentioned by Lee are delightfully personal to me. The Creek Indians she mentions in passing as the original inhabitants of what became Maycomb, AL are my honest-to-God ancestors; the displays of regional dialect (a.k.a. “yessum” and “not a-tall”) are daily realities in my home town; coming home to find strangers inhabiting the homes and properties built by ancestors and enjoyed by countless generations is a struggle every time my sister and I return home. Lee has a wonderful way of painting a picture of the reality of small town life that few outsiders understand or attribute to the South.

Viewing Alabama from our balcony

Viewing Alabama from our porch

We are all aware of the reputation we have among other states and countries of being slow-speaking, dim-witted racists. I won’t get into the Civil War, because that can of worms need not be opened, but I must say that Southerners are not delusional, and we fully understand that that was a different time and the way things were then was by no means right or excusable. I won’t deny that the South still has a long way to go before equality is a reality, but so does everywhere else. I’ll be the first to concede to the fact that a lot of racists live in the South, but I refuse to accept the sweeping generalization that Southerners are racists. Just as is the case anywhere else, prejudices are possessed by individuals, not groups; groups may form based on prejudices, but the individuals are the ones possessing and acting upon those prejudices, and the South has just as many moral and unprejudiced members as anywhere else.

My family's museum; photo cred to vanishingsouthgeorgia.com

My family’s museum; photo cred to vanishingsouthgeorgia.com

My parents raised me to see every person as an individual by displaying that courtesy themselves, therefore my prejudices are few and my tolerance for injustice is low. I understand Jean Louise better now, having read Go Set a Watchman, because I would feel the same betrayal and rage if I heard a single utterance of racial prejudice come from my heroes. But I don’t, because my heroes are those who see individuals, not generalizations. I encourage everyone who is unfamiliar with the South to give us some credit; we cannot escape our past, but we are learning from it and fostering a more understanding generation. Uncle Jack Finch said it best:

“That’s the one thing about here, the South, you’ve missed. You’d be amazed if you knew how many people are on your side, if side’s the right word. You’re no special case. The woods are full of people like you, but we need some more of you.”

Rant over. Thank you for your patience. Please go read Go Set a Watchman and let me know what everyone thinks!

Headed to Alabama

Headed to Alabama

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Real Talk: Let’s Not Forget the Parents

When I was a kid, we had a personal library so vast that it even surprises me to this day when surveying it. Maybe it’s because I lived in a town so small that making your own entertainment was the only option. Maybe it’s because I had earned myself the nickname of “Couch-potato Lou” at a very early age and my parents wanted to stimulate my brain further than Ren & Stimpy could alone achieve. Reasons don’t matter, though. “We had a library of children’s books and it was extensive” is quite enough backstory.

Picture from Amazon.com

Oh hey, Gnu, you suck up, proper, know-it-all PUNK!

It has been brought to my attention in my adult years, however, that, extensive though our collection may have been, my sister favored one book, and hard. It was called “Hello Gnu, How Do You Do” by Barbara Shook Hazen and I remember being decidedly unimpressed. My sister, Addie, however, apparently thought it the single most riveting book in history and would not settle for anything less than one reading per night. I think reading any book under a beloved child’s consistent insistence would be maddening; according to my father, though, the true reason he hated this book was because Gnu, reportedly, was a goody-goody, a suck up, a know-it-all, and a royal pain in the ass (direct quote; sorry, Mama). This was one of those “Here’s a fun, sneaky way to teach your child manners” books, so Gnu was supposed to be the mild-tempered, robot-like animal child that every parent dreams of having, and was the suck up teacher’s pet that gets stuffed in lockers for all us average kids. Gnu was clearly all too hatable, but so many children’s books are trying so very hard to teach lessons in about 10 pages of sing-song morals, that any attempt at being charming or tolerable for the parents is suffocated.

Picture from pressroom.trustarts.org

“Yo Rinty! Good dog. How’s the flea problem??”

This is why I applaud the multitude of children’s literature authors who are really trying to make the reading experience enjoyable for parents, too. It isn’t hard! We’re older, yes, but adults are still simple creatures who love a good fart joke. I can still remember the books that my parents loved to read with me; “Martha Speaks” by Susan Meddaugh was about a dog that eats Alphabet soup and starts saying EXACTLY the things I expect my spazzy dog would say.

Picture from mmacbride.blogspot.com

Imma be real wit you right now, and let you know that I do not like dat hat.

“Go Dog. Go!” by P.D. Eastman contained a dog that was very hard to please in terms of lady-dog headwear, which was unexplainably funny. That dog did NOT sugarcoat his distaste for hideous hats. For some reason, that particular story has stuck with me and my parents, and 20+ years later we still quote “I like that party hat” whenever anyone is wearing anything remotely resembling a hat. And of course, The “Where’s Waldo” books never fail to entertain. Go ahead, charge your children with the task of finding Waldo, but in the meantime, enjoy the multitude of people plummeting to their deaths, being stabbed in the butt, ladies tops are being pulled off, someone’s privates are being trampled, etc. Waldo never ceases to be amongst a really varied and eclectic crowd. Waldo is for the kids; Waldo’s freak show surroundings are for the parents.

Picture from fanpop.com

I think this beach needs to hire more lifeguards

No, I’m not a parent, but I do babysit three kids under the age of 6 who love a good book about Ninja Turtles or something all but new to me called the “Mine-o-Saur.” Manners will be called into question on a nightly basis and very strictly righted. Sometimes, they pick crappy books and I suffer through them, but I now can truly appreciate what my parents endured and why they really loved it when I picked a parent-friendly book.

What about you? Are there books you hate to read to your kids/nieces/nephews/neighbors/abductees? Do you remember the books you used to hate? Let us know!

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Stop the St. Valentine’s Sacrifice!

Um, hey, whoa there, “crafters!” Slow your roll with this massive book genocide I’m seeing on Pinterest. I had no idea that St. Valentine’s Day could have such murderous outcomes. I was looking on Pinterest the other day for book-related Valentine’s card ideas and I was just bombarded with craft ideas involving books. Sounds innocent enough, but don’t be fooled; they all included tearing and cutting and folding and gluing your “unused books” into weedle biddy baby hearts that your boyfriend WILL NOT want, I assure you. So many things to say.

Crap. All of it.

Crap. All of it.

1. What makes you think that your boyfriend wants a framed motif of heart-shaped book cutouts containing words that describe him? Or a book that is glued ever-so-carefully so that it opens just enough to show “Iloveyou” cut out of the pages? No. That man wants scotch. Or some sort of ambiguous power tool. Or maybe alpaca socks, for the less Paul Bunyan type. But still! Little hearts glued to string draped from his bedroom doorway? No. Get real.

2. Unused books? Listen, I get that. Sometimes, you find yourself holding a book you can’t really remember ever buying or even wanting; something like “Calming the Stormy Seas of Menopause.” How did this even come into my possession?! Who cares. Donate it. If you don’t want it, give it to someone who does, or give it to a library. Hannah and I know best: libraries welcome the strangest people with the strangest “Can you look something up for me??” requests. No book deserves to die. I’ve said it before, I hated Atonement but I would never send it to the literary gallows. I’ll just keep it, maybe give it another try some day (okay, yeah sure) or at the least to shoot hate brainwaves at it every time I remember it exists. Donate them. Sell them. Whatever. Just don’t punish them by making them involuntary decorations.

3. If you and your lover are well-read and share a love of literary humor, you can get some really amazing St. Valentine’s day cards and no book needs to lose its life. So many books we read, contemporary and classics, have such wide followings of truly clever people that literary Valentines are so great! And this goes back to one of my earlier posts about being in-the-know about these inside jokes. We’re readers! We get the jokes that others think was a typo. So, if you want decoration, fine; go ahead, I guess I can’t stop you. You could easily use newspaper, though. Just a suggestion. But I suggest that we all just put down the crafting scissors and back away from the book. Go online, find a clever card referencing one of your beau’s favorite books, and then carry on with your life. Don’t sacrifice a good book for temporary cheesy garland or some mural that your boyfriend will NOT know where to put and will ultimately think “looks best” here, in this low-traffic area of our home.

Amazing hilarity

Amazing hilarity

If you like that cheesy stuff, sorry to offend. But not sorry enough not to post this right here, right now.

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To Re-Read, or Not to Re-Read?

This is it, people. The time is nigh. Winter is coming and we readers know this to be prime time for our chosen… “sport.” I’m an active individual and I love all things recreational, so in the spring, summer, and fall, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll find me out and about frolicking through the meadows, paddling down a river, or hiking up that mountain right over there. Those seasons are far too pleasant to sit inside and hunker down with a book and a hot drink. But this is why God gave us winter. Winter, generally speaking, is misery. Let’s be real. My car door was frozen shut this morning, which I should’ve taken as sign that my day would be better spent in bed with my book and my main man, Mr. Hot-Toddy (I found the best recipe for these, by the way). But no, I soldiered-on through the frost using the ever-faithful windshield scraper that Mom got for me, grumbling and yelling “HEATER, HOT, HIGH” at my non-responsive dashboard, just the way my dad taught me. Clearly, in most ways, winter is not my friend. But I have learned that the random holidays peppered throughout the season are not nature’s only way of making winter tolerable. Cold weather encourages you to stay inside and find something else, anything else to do with your day besides stepping outside. Therein lies the majesty of being a book person; we have a whole 5-ish months to devour all the books we carried with us to lay unopened beside the pool while we splashed and played. It was 23 degrees outside this morning, so I’d say the reading season is in full-swing.

My challenge this winter is the ever-troublesome issue of “to re-read or not to re-read”.  A couple of years ago I read the first five volumes of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and I have been craving a good, old-fashioned re-read of those lately. However, I have a really difficult time motivating myself to RE-read something when there are so many things I have not read yet. With few exceptions (i.e. anything by Tolkien), I shy away from re-reading things and try to consume as many new-to-me works as I can. I know Hannah has no problem re-reading things; in fact, she just recently read Martin’s series for probably the third time. Many people have no issue with re-reading, but I feel like I’m not giving enough of a chance to the books I’ve been avoiding for so long. I can’t read A Game of Thrones a second time when I haven’t made it all the way through Lolita yet. I know my avoidance of the re-read is irrational, so I’m breaking myself of it, slowly but surely. In order to do this, I couldn’t start with all five of Martin’s 800-ish page books, so I started smaller with Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk.

I read this in high school and I remember thinking it was so strange and interesting, but I didn’t remember much about the story line. Perfect re-read potential, if you ask me. All over again, I loved it. Palahniuk knows exactly how to make the repulsive and offensive character appeal to readers. Last time I talked about Palahniuk, I stated that I would not suggest him to anyone, and I stand by that because it takes a very particular type of person to not be offended by Chuck. However, Invisible Monsters is one of Palahniuk’s milder works and, although I still don’t think the common reader would like it, I also don’t think they would toss the book aside in horror. The characters are pretty bad people; “pretty” being the degree of “badness” (in terms of Palahniuk, they could be so much worse) but they are in fact very pretty people who deal with the 1st world struggles of the beautiful people. Reading about them is like slowing down to look at a horrifying wreck on the interstate; we all want to pass by slowly, take in each and every fascinating detail so that you, in your secure little world, can fully appreciate NOT being that guy on the gurney. His characters are the casualties and their horribly unappealing lives are the wreckage. Like I said, I loved it and I’m glad I re-read it. The verdict is in; re-reads are worth-while. Spread the word far and wide and let us know how you feel about re-reads! We want to hear from you so keep us posted and take time this winter to sit down and get aqainted with an old friend.

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OK, yes, I know; just hear me out…

Remember that post I did a while ago about how difficult it is to be interesting week after week? Well, that pressure got the best of me. I caved, people. I’m an accountant; you shouldn’t hold your breath if you’re waiting for me to spin you some story of my adventures in life. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t possibly enjoy my down-time more than I currently do. But like many, I work 40+ hours a week so said down-time is my own personal rare and precious jewel. Do the math; combine the job, kickboxing (yes, I’m practically a walking weapon), the kind of cutie-pootie boyfriend you want to constantly be seen in public with, and the fact that it’s only Fall for about 3 weeks in Athens. That all equals me not picking up a book for quite some time, now. Technically, Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane has been riding around, half-read, in my car with me for weeks, but I don’t think that counts as “currently reading.”

So, I’m in a literary rut and I’m sorry that you have all had to suffer by association. Shutter Island is good, but it isn’t rocking my world, hence the fact that I’ve been blazing through crossword puzzles instead of that book during my lunch breaks. Brice (the boyfriend/eye candy) was nice enough to send me an article recently about Chuck Palahniuk’s Q&A on some website I don’t think I understand. I think Chuck intended to answer questions about his most recent book release, Doomed, but most of the questions/answers were pointlessly entertaining, not informative. I didn’t get much info about the new book except that it is the sequel to his last book, Damned.  I have not read Damned. In fact, I haven’t read anything by Chuck in a long time but I miss him and in this moment vow to got get Damned so I can (hopefully) rekindle the sort of love I felt for Survivor and Fight Club. HOWEVER, and listen to me here, people, I do NOT recommend that you join me in my Palahniuk endeavor. Most of you are moms or mom-friends; I highly doubt you’d like Chuckie P. He’s racy, he curses, lots of racial/political/sexual content and it is not for the mild-mannered, genteel spirit of my mother and her associates. He’s a freak, y’all. Real talk. Read lots of reviews before you embark on a Palah-journey. In the meantime, I’m of the “jaded youths” generation, so I’m going to go read it and I’ll let you all know how it goes.

Doomed

One last thing: tomorrow I’m taking a big step in my love of literature and I’m super excited. I want to tell you what it is, but I’m not going to do so until the deed is done. Once it is, you’ll be the first to know. Well, not really. Pretty much everyone will already know before I find time to blog about it, but nonetheless, you’ll know eventually. So until then, keep reading anything and everything and be patient with our sporadic blog-efforts.

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Real Talk: High School Ruins Everything

Why do we look back on the books we had to read in high school as methods of cruel and unusual punishment? I remember reading Steinbeck’s The Pearl and contemplating poking myself in the eye so I could stop reading it long enough to go to the nurse or simply because I had made myself blind. Even now, I feel quite sure that The Pearl is a much better book than I remember it to be, and I should probably give it another chance since society seems to want to keep it around. But nope; can’t do it. Don’t want to. The deed is done. There are too many other books that deserve to be given a chance and, perhaps The Pearl has missed the boat.

I’ve heard others talk about The Great Gatsby is such a way and, after I finish them off with laser eye-daggers, I have to assume that the same “high school ruins all things good and pure” stigma can be attached to any forced (excuse me, I meant “assigned”) reading. So why is that? Why are there so many articles and entire books dedicated to getting adults to re-read the classics they wanted to burn in high school? My first thought is that the average high-schooler is not the best audience. They’re all too full of angst and general dislike of everything to be able to absorb and appreciate the intended message of middle-aged classic authors. But considering the fact that forcing kids to read classics in high school is about the only time most people will be exposed to them, I forfeit that argument.

This leaves me with the impression that being forced to read something devalues it. These days I can toss aside a book that I still dislike after about 5 chapters and start something completely new; but I did not have that luxury with The Pearl. Not only did I have to soldier on, but I had to remember the details for quizzes and papers and such. That’ll do it. Unfortunately, this is an unavoidable part of life. Luckily, I had a wonderful British Lit teacher, Mrs. Dalton, who taught Beowulf with great passion that remained with me and helped me choose Early World Lit as my undergrad degree. A great teacher can change everything. But sometimes, a kid’s just gotta hate a classic or two.

As always, I welcome comments. I’d love to know which books you hated in younger years and whether that hatred is still with you. Maybe you’ve given it another chance and found it to be super-duper, or maybe you think it’s just a rotten egg? Let me know what you think and, as always, keep reading!

Check out these reading lists for books you should give another chance: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books, 14 Rereadable Books, The Atlantic Wire article, even NPR says so!!

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