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Judy Blume Revisited! Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret

Judy Blume wisdom…

[I]t’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.

It’s “revisit my childhood” month in July. For the entire month I am reading the classics- Judy Blume’s that is- and finishing with her latest release for adults, In the Unlikely Event.

I’m rereading her books in no particular order and will review them all here. So let’s start with my thoughts on her most “seminal” tale of a girl’s road to womanhood!

Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret

My rating as a kid: 5 stars (excellent)

My rating as an adult: 2-3 stars (so-so to good)

First of all, this book floored me as a kid. I think you have to be about 12 or 13 for the story to really hit home. Every single girl I knew, including myself, was obsessed with three things: boys, boobs, and getting your first period. Judy Blume covers them all.

I probably read this book at least 10 times as an adolescent. And it seemed like such a saga! She’s starting a new school in a new city, she likes a boy who doesn’t like her, she has no boobs to speak of, and all her friends are getting their periods and she’s not. To top it all off she talks to God, even though she’s of no religion. The real stinker is she doesn’t even get to go on the special trip with her Grandma Simon because of her other pesky and hyper-relig maternal grandparents! These are all the things that can consume a kid- and boy, did I relate to her.

I even did a special project inspired by Margaret’s when I was in high school. My family was also of no religious persuasion, and I was curious to find out what religion meant to other people. I had to write a paper on different cultures, but I turned it into my own religious project. I went to a Jehovah’s Witness meeting, a Church sermon, and talked to a person I worked with at the local pizza joint who was Muslim. Just like Margaret, I didn’t find all the answers I was looking for but I was awakened to a new sense of spirituality and what it means to simply ask a higher power for guidance.

As an adult, however, the book doesn’t quite hold the same resonance. I was surprised to discover that Margaret is, pardon my French, kind of a bitch! Must be due to being a hormonal, pre-menstrual kid but I’m still shocked at how almost unlikeable she is. I kept having to put myself in the shoes of a pre-teen girl. Remember when you thought your best friend was a horrible person? Remember when you made of that girl or that boy? Remember what it felt like to be an outcast, or misunderstood, or left out? My having to remind myself that no girl at age 11 or 12 is very likable, and it took me out of the story.

Also, however dated the book is (Pads with belts? Velvet hats? Plaid bedskirt, your mom says “gads”- yuck to all!), this is STILL a revolutionary book for its time and now. Is there another book that really makes it ok to talk about your period with fervor and excitement? Judy Blume is so skilled at capturing that unique age right between childhood and adolescence and all of the things that girls SHOULD be talking about, and questioning. Judy never subscribes her books to the “Young Adult” genre and I agree. It’s like saying this book is only good for a certain age range and not others, but who decides that anyway? Moms should talk to their girls about periods, boobs, and boys at a younger age than we think. Because, as Judy subtly points out, us girls are already talking about it by age 11, which isn’t considered to be under the Young Adult age range.

The God piece in the book felt out of place for me as an adult, but again, I had to remind myself that being a kid is all about figuring things out. A kid’s deep thoughts might seem trite and silly to us grownups, but how else will we learn about ourselves? I used to talk to God too. And I asked him to make my butt smaller. I think I was about 8 or 9.

As Judy says: “I had a very personal relationship with God. I talked to him about all my worries, concerns, and feelings, the way Margaret does. My readers are always asking how I know all their secrets. After reading this book you’ll know some of mine!”

Stray Observations:

  • MAVIS was apparently a sensational name circa 1970.
  • Even though not grading a year-long project is slightly lame and pointless, how cool was that to be trusted with a year long project at age 11?! Are we just less mature now?
  • I wanted to live and play in Nancy’s room: organdy skirted vanity, perfume bottles, and make-up.
  • Every time I eat a pickle, I think of Grandma Simon and say to myself “Mmm, nothing like the real thing!”
  • The size of pads back then were like bricks!
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I will never be a wood worker…. and other musings to close 2014.

Wow… I had this as a draft and never published. What a way to start 2015!

 

 

The other day I listened to a podcast featuring an old interview with Nick Offerman (of Parks and Recreation fame). Turns out Nick is a part-time wood worker. He owns his own wood shop and has crafted furniture and canoes for a long time, often supplementing his acting career before he made it big.

Needless to say, I was inspired. How great is that, I thought? Hey, maybe I can get into woodcarving. Or woodcutting. Or whatever you call it…. Hey, maybe I can intern there?! I can discover a life-long passion for working with wood!

I have never worked with wood. I don’t think it’s even entered into my consciousness before that I would ever want to carve a chair. But somehow, Nick Offerman’s having a unique skill that provided him with a living in the down years spoke to me. I needed that kind of passion.

I looked on his website. He has a whole list of FAQs on what his woodshop is and isn’t. A) He’s not going to give anyone a job B) A really cool hand carved desk costs $4,800 C) You can take woodcutting lessons at Off the Saw in downtown LA.

I went to that website. I looked at the $200 plus wood cutting package (all supplies included) that will teach you the basics of woodcarving/cutting, and at the end you get to walk away with your own hand carved cutting board!

And that’s when I realized I would never, EVER be a wood worker. No matter how inspired I am about someone else’s success and journey, it’s not mine. Nor should it be.

What I mean to say is, I found myself near the end of 2014 grasping at straws.

This hasn’t been the best year of my life, though I’ve got plenty going for me. It’s been a frustrating year, emotionally and professionally. A year of little surprises and big disappointments. I have to admit I spent 2014 mostly confused. I lost myself and the best part of me somewhere during the year.

I’ve got to get her back in 2015.

I do want to share a few people who have rocked my world with some of their postings:

Megan Stroup, “A Semi-Charmed Kind of Life” took an amazing journey this year and her blog gets better and better with each post.

James Altucher has some incredible insight and writes frank and revealing stuff.

I’m really digging Chris Guillebeau‘s mission. He mostly writes for the traveler, but we are all travelers in some fashion aren’t we?

I’m sorry for not posting more blog posts this year, and I’m even more sorry that I wasn’t able to read more blogs written by some very talented people. This is a year where I feel like I let down my friends.

But I am hopeful for 2015. One of the things I can’t fault with this year is my growing relationship with my husband. I love him. I want to love him more.

Chris Guillebeau writes a great Year End Review. Here is my brief submission:

What went well in 2014?:

  • Started my new job. Got a raise! Reached some professional goals and realized a few new strengths.
  • My first year of marriage did not end in tears. Realized that I love being married.
  • I’m about to pay off my student loan. Financially, this was a great year for me.
  • Joined a writers group. I found a bunch of supportive and amazing writers and it feels like home.
  • Broke through some of my acting blocks. Found my voice!
  • Got to spend time with my family. We have a much better relationship now than ever.
  • Went 2 months without any sugar. Lost 3 pounds and slept better.
  • Started working with a trainer and getting in better shape. Actually RAN not walked a 5K.
  • Began to learn German. Abandoned it for now, but I started!
  • Got to work on the Rejane Project again and the show was a success!
  • Read 49 (and possibly 50 before Thursday) out of my projected 45 books for the year!

What didn’t go well in 2014?

  • Fear went haywire this year. I received some negative feedback and I personalized it. It’s haunted me for about 6 months.
  • A lot of past karma came back my way this year… I have to work on my professional relationships.
  • I don’t think I was the best friend I could be this year. I didn’t have the emotional capacity or time to spend with many friends.
  • Our wedding year in 2013 and new job meant less time for travel.
  • My French has suffered greatly. I’m not able to keep up much practice.
  • There are many things I wanted to accomplish by the end of the year: Finish my wedding album, get new headshots, publish a few of my essays, revamp my blog… I didn’t get to them. I feel let down.
  • I didn’t get to participate in as many Buddhist activities with my group as I had wanted to.

Goals for 2015:

  • Looking over my past year, I see that I’ve got quite a bit going on. I need to simplify. Can the headshots wait and perhaps I spend some more time with friends? Maybe I need to stop worrying, let the laundry sit for a while, and spend that time more wisely.
  • I need to work on being a better friend and wife.
  • Have fun. Don’t think I made room for that in 2014.
  • Travel for pleasure.
  • Stop saying “You have to do this or that”. Everything is a choice.
  • Love myself more.
  • Forgive myself  a lot.
  • Stop waiting for permission… just do it already!
  • Love where I am in this moment. I’m on a journey, and I need to stop living like I’ve already parked it somewhere.
  • Write. And write some more. Maybe submit for publication!
  • Get better at goal-setting. (seriously, though, I’ve never been good at goals).
  • “This is the year I…” Every year I’ve said this. 2015 is TBD!

Thanks to everyone who read my posts this year. It’s an honor to have an audience of readers who love books as much as I do. More to come.

Cheers!

Slow Ride? No, Slow READ.

So this is interesting: Apparently we read too fast and e-books and electronics are partly to blame. It’s time to slow down, slow waaayy down and read. For pleasure!

An article in the Wall Street Journal talks about the benefits of slow reading. In fact, slow reading CLUBS (my kind of club!) are popping up all over the world. You turn off your electronics and sit in silence for 30min-1hour and read. That’s it.

I can think of nothing more pleasurable than to just sitting and reading a book. I’ve even pondered the idea that somewhere, somehow reading all day for fun could actually be a career. What about people who read manuscripts all day? I can do that, easily. And yet, I find myself getting distracted when I sit down to read.

Take today, for instance. I purposefully blocked out the whole day to do nothing other than read my book, watch a movie, write my blog- anything except clean or run errands, or any of the other “must dos” that seem to fill up my weekends these days. And sure enough, I found other things to do.

I’m that type of person who can shut down her phone all day and never feel tempted to check it. I’m not a super active Facebooker or Tweeter. I try to never get on the computer at home unless I absolutely have to. What distracts me is the feeling that I have to get through something. I’m not reading my book for pleasure, but I’m actively trying to finish it even as I’m enjoying it. I blame my reading challenges. Reading challenges have taken the fun and pleasure out of reading.

I’ve committed to reading 45 books this year, and I’m well on my at 34 completed. But I’m starting to feel the pressure to finish and that means I have to power through x number of books in 3 months. I know I can do it, but I find I’m speed reading a lot. I’m also choosing books that are only so many pages so I can cover more ground, though there are other longer and more complex books I would like to start now. But those would take up too much time.

Gone are the days when I would brew a large cup of tea and sit for a couple of hours on the couch or outside with my book. I work full-time now and weekends are taken up by other events and errands to run. I miss those days of idle reading. If slow reading and taking the time to really commit to a book is proven to lower stress and increase concentration, then I’ve got some catching up to do.

After all, who really cares if I complete my challenge or not? It’s quality not quantity that counts, right?

The Block: A lovely little lesson from Anne Lamott

So as you might have gathered, I took an unintentional hiatus from my blog in June. I’ve still been reading and loving literature and all things creative, but I myself haven’t been feeling too creative lately. My writing’s gone downhill. Some books became a chore. I’m not finding the rhythm to my creative life and I’ve been wondering why.

And then I read an amazing book on writing and life called “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. This book very well might have gotten me out of my own slump and self-pity party of one, which has pretty much kept me creatively deadlocked for the past few months.

We writers all experience some sort of writers block in our lives. But what I love about Anne Lamott’s book – a funny, poignant, and incredibly insightful and generous read- is that she accurately points me to the root of the problem. I’m not blocked in my writing, but rather my creative well is currently empty. There’s no gas in the tank, so to speak, and no amount of writing is going to get me to the place I need to go if there’s no spark. And it makes perfect sense. How do you fill up your creative gas tank? By living, Anne says, by experiencing life, by getting outside and taking a walk. Without your iPod, I would suppose. The only way we can ignite our creative flame is by living in the moment and paying attention to what’s around us. Be affected by what’s around us.

Ah, I think. So what have I been doing in the last month or so? I go to work, I exercise, I spend time with my husband, I go to acting class, I sleep, I read… but most of this is just routine. I’m not letting myself out nor am I letting anyone in. Honestly, the most present I’ve felt in the last month was during a 5K race in Culver City because I walked the entire thing without listening to music or talking to anyone. I simply took in the scene and let myself observe and be observed. I saw mom and pop shops I’ve never seen before; a gun store with the largest neon sign advertising guns that I’ve ever seen. I watched a little girl with the funniest walk stomp her way through all three miles. I felt charged, believe it or not, because I felt a part of something. And my creative gas meter went up a notch.

Life and experiencing life is our wellspring, and if you aren’t living there is no way in hell you can write with any sort of believability or emotional truth. I get this. Lamott also recommends writing your childhood as a means of escaping from the dreaded block. Focus on your past, get it out on paper, and pay no attention to the content- no one intends to read it. Just get the fuel moving. Go outside and garden for a while, pet your cat, take a hike- get in touch with a part of yourself you haven’t seen in a while. These are all good ways to get out of a rut.

So this is what I’ve started doing to get past my block. I hope to be back to blogging at least 4 times a month very soon. Just gotta get my creative juices flowing again! And if anyone else has tips on pushing through writers block, share here!

I am a writer.

Lover her or hate her  (I happen to secretly love her), I adore the following quote by Elizabeth Gilbert. Rings true to me!

I am a writer

Library Memories

These past couple weeks have found me deep in reverie, looking back fondly on my childhood and time spent inside a library. For whatever reason, I keep conjuring up the library in San Jose where I basically spent the entire summer of my 14th year. There must be meaning in this somewhere…

The library I remember was not particularly inviting by any means. Picture the most institutional cinder-block gray building of the 1960s with harsh overhead lighting and you know what I mean. I even remember the old school 50s style no-frills large clock above the check-out desk. That clock was an ominous sign as to how long I could spend my entire day at the library.

What do I remember about those days? It was hot and steaming, for one. The library’s ancient air-conditioning system couldn’t quite keep up with the blast furnace going on outside. I didn’t care. That was the summer of jean shorts and the tiniest tops I could get away with. What I cared about was sitting in front of the Young-Adult and Horror sections, scouring the shelves for the latest Stephen King or Dean Koontz novel, which were, inexplicably, casually placed in either genre. I must have read two books a week that summer. I couldn’t seem to get enough of books, and I felt incredibly grown up for reading Koontz and graduating from the Judy Blume’s, the R.L. Stine’s, and The Babysitters Club series (although truth be told, I was a much bigger fan of the lesser known  Sleepover Friends series).

Each morning, my dad or step-mom would drive me to the library on his or her way to work and let me out right when the library opened. I stayed all day until about 2 or 3pm when my step-mom picked me up. I can’t ever remember leaving to get food, but the smell of all those books and the feel of the carpet where I set up camp for the day still conjures up fresh memories of pure happiness. Those were “simpler times” to say the least. It was also the first summer I equated books with music. I recall driving home one afternoon and a song came on the radio that completely tied in with one Koontz book I was reading that just so happened to take place during the summer as well.

Do I remember the name of the book or the song? No, but I heard it today I can bet you that I would be thrust right back into the middle of that book and the emotion I felt while reading it.

Books held power for me in that library and nothing was off limits. Having worked my way through all the interesting and new copies in Horror and YA, I wandered over the kids section, probably intending to scoff at was once my “youth”. The entire Dr. Seuss canon was reread that humid summer. I know I tried to read “The Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy in the Fiction section, a once restricted area to me until that year when no parents were around, but even I was just a tad too young to really understand what was happening in that novel. No, horror and mysteries were my bailiwick and I couldn’t seem to get enough of anything.

It was also a lonely summer. I had just moved to San Jose to live with my dad and his wife’s family and I felt out of place a lot in that coming year. Despite my love of books and feelings of safety within that library, my life was slowly changing. I was no longer living with my mother and had been taken out of a life and routine I knew by heart. If that summer represented anything it was that fragile cusp between childhood and adolescence and what happens when you transition against your will from one part of your youth- rather carefree and light- into another, which starts to demand more and more of you whether you are ready for it or not. I don’t think it’s any secret why I crossed back and forth between the children’s and young adult’s sections so easily and freely. I still wasn’t quite sure who I was, and at the time I didn’t realize I was being forever shaped by the books I was reading and how I came to perceive literature as my savior and respite from the harsh realities waiting outside in the “real world”, a concept I didn’t fully understand back then.

Perhaps I’m in a reminiscing mood, or perhaps I’m longing for those days when I could very effortlessly be swayed and pulled into a book, but I can’t get over how much I’ve been thinking about that forlorn library lately. It comes to me at seemingly inopportune moments as well. I’ll be sitting at my desk typing away on some project or another and suddenly I’m right back on that carpet, nose stuck in a book, listening to the buzz and hum of those lights, feeling nothing except the emotions of the characters in the book. And hoping against hope that I’ll hear that song again on the way home that reminds me of a particular scene or a piece of the action in a chapter I read and get the chance to relive every moment.

I’m 50! Well, my blog is.

I can’t believe 50 posts have gone by. First of all, thank you to each and every person who has found this blog. Maybe you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, maybe you felt inspired, or maybe you were just passing through… whatever the reason that made you stop on by, THANK YOU. I’ve been turned on to more inspiring and thoughtful blogs by the readers of mine and believe me when I say there are some truly wonderful writers and thinkers out there.

As I’ve mentioned before, I had no actual theme in mind when I started this blog. Over the last year I’ve dabbled in a few posts about TV watching, some book reviewing, and many posts about reading and writing. I rediscovered my love of reading and literature in the last 12 months, and it really is my true passion and to which I’ve devoted the bulk of my blog and will probably continue to honor as I move forward.

So here’s to the next 50!

Cheers,

Michelle aka Girl with Thoughts, Beware.

It’s February 2014… do you know where your blog is?

I can’t believe it’s February! I am not posting as much as I should. I have a draft post started, and I very excited about it… if only I can find the time to write it.

Why aren’t you writing it now, you ask? Well…

I came across this great article on writing recently, and it sums what I need to be doing every day: finding the time to write.

#1 Make writing a priority

#2 REALLY make writing a priority

“8 Steps to Starting a Writing Habit that Sticks” http://huff.to/1fMLhA6 

I don’t write because it’s a chore, I write because I love it. And I don’t want lose this passion.

Check out the link above, writers. And get writing!!

Why I Read.

I came across the following quote in a Buddhist Day-by-Day calendar, believe it or not, and it best summarizes my complete love and adoration of reading. If I’ve posted this before, forgive me, but I think it still bears repeating:

“Reading is dialogue with oneself, it is self-reflection, which cultivates profound humanity. Reading is therefore essential to our development. It expands and enriches the personality like a seed that germinates after a long time and sends forth many blossom-laden branches.

People who can say of a book ‘this changed my life’ truly understand the meaning of happiness. Reading that sparks inner revolution is desperately needed to escape drowning in the rapidly advancing information society. Reading is more than intellectual ornamentation, it is a battle for the establishment of the self, a ceaseless challenge that keeps us young and vigorous”.

Moved.

My acting teacher once said that what all casting directors really want from auditioners is to be moved. That’s all it takes, really, to get the job. At the end of a long day seeing multiple actors read the same role, you remember who moved you.

And I’ve been wanting to be moved for a very long time. As I plow through my latest book on my reading challenge list, I keep remarking to myself that while it is a good book (though nothing special) something frustrating and nagging lurks at the surface and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I noticed this feeling with the last couple books I’ve read too, and it also creeps up on me as I watch the latest season of Mad Men.

Today, I finally discovered what this feeling is. I need to be moved by something, to feel something deep down in my soul, and I haven’t yet. Until I moved on to another form of entertainment I’ve neglected for way too long: the play.

If you live in Los Angeles, check out Theatre Movement Bazaar’s Hot Cat at Theatre of Note in Hollywood. It’s a movement/dance/cinema/text piece based on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof www.theatreofnote.com At first glance, it’s a kitschy, campy, and clever rendition of an old classic. But during the second half of the play, I found myself deeply and utterly moved almost to tears. The play successfully breaks down all the themes of the play to their simplest form and a small scene between four characters where nothing is said except with the body nearly brought me to feet with appreciate and GRATITUDE. Finally! 

As much as I have been moved at various times in my life by literature  in almost the same way as this play, sometimes you do have to get away from the printed word and the TV screen and connect with fellow human beings. Faith restored!

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