Book Club: A Few Thoughts on Hygge

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Here is my friend Jen Locke’s idea of hygge. Enjoy!

“Ooh! I think swimming, hiking/nature, reading, being alone…being around animals (including but not limited to my pets), Jerry (of course… Most of the time, haha) and sleeping. I really can’t tell you how much I love sleeping. 😁😴
It’s my house were cleaner, decorating would bring me joy… 😆

Book Club: My Musings on Poetry

poetry word in mixed vintage metal type printing blocks over grunge wood

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” ― Leonard Cohen

What does poetry mean to you?

When I was a little girl and read the books of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, I thought all poetry had to rhyme. My idea of poetry was quite simplistic.

As I got older, my ideas of poetry advanced. I learned poetry didn’t have to rhyme. In fact, it often didn’t. I also learned of various styles of poetry—sonnets, haiku, limericks—to name a few. So for a while I thought of poetry was a writing format with a lot of rules and regulations and something a wee bit pretentious.

However, a few years ago I covered a slam poetry event for high school students sponsored by Still Waters Collective, an organization that mentors talented young writers and speakers. This event blew me away, and reminded me that poetry could be whatever you wanted it to be and wasn’t pretentious at all.

“To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.” – Robert Frost

Who are your favorite poets and why? Name some of you favorite poems and why?

Well, I mentioned Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, but I also got to give a shout out to three ladies whose appreciate like Maya Angelou, whose classic “Phenomenal Woman” never fails to lift my spirits.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Huffington Post has nine other inspirational poems written by Ms. Angelou I also love.
Then there is Sylvia Plath, Mad Girl’s Love song really speaks to me when it comes to love and desire.

Mad Girl’s Love Song

“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)”

I often wonder what else Ms. Plath could have written if she hadn’t met such a tragic demise.

And then there is my love for Dorothy Parker, the patron saint of all witty women too smart for their own good.

“A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.” ― W.H. Auden

Have you ever written poetry? Why or why not? (You can share your original poetry if you want to)

Back in the 1990s, as I inched my way back into the world of writing, I participated in a local poetry writers group. Though I wasn’t in it for a very long time, it did get the writing juices flowing. I didn’t think of myself as a poet, especially compared to my fellow writers, and I turn my talents to non-fiction writer working as a copywriter, research writer, freelance journalist, publicist and editor professionally, personally and academically.

Interestingly enough, I found some of the poems I wrote while in this group and was pleasantly surprised that a good deal of it wasn’t as cringe worthy as I thought. Sure, some of it was pretty damn good.

And last month I attended a poetry workshop at my friends Nora and Elaine’s Buddhist temple in Chicago. I was at first hesitant to participate because of my lack of experience writing poetry. I thought maybe I could just sit back and observe. No dice. I actually had to write something, which I did and I had so much fun and learned so much, not just from the teacher but from my fellow students, too. Everyone’s poem weaved such eloquent and creative tapestries of words. I felt humbled to be around such rich talent.

Now I don’t envision myself a poet but this class (and the discovery of some of my old poetry), once again challenged me as a writer and inspired me in ways that go beyond the written word.

“There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it.” ― Gustave Flaubert

Anything else you would like to add?

It’s funny; ever since I asked people to give me their thoughts on and experiences with poetry, I am starting to see poetry beyond actual poems. I see poetry in music, words I read in various books, dialogue in both movies and TV shows, various quotes, and just from everyday conversation. I see poetry in visual art and innovative crafts. I see poetry through fashion and style. I also see poetry in my love of food when I read my cookbooks or discover a new recipe or make a meal. I’m finding poetry in the natural world around me, whether it’s the blooms of lilac bushes, Lake Michigan, the twittering of birds when I wake up in the morning, or a glorious sunset as I end my day. I see poetry in the physical world of dance, yoga, and athletics. I find poetry in prayer, meditation and just simple silent contemplation. I guess I just find poetry in living life!

“I think that were beginning to remember that the first poets didn’t come out of a classroom, that poetry began when somebody walked off of a savanna or out of a cave and looked up at the sky with wonder and said, ‘Ahhh.'” That was the first poem. – Lucille Clifton

Writer’s Block

I hope everyone is having a fun March. I know I am. My birthday was on the second, and I spent my day treating myself. Also, my friends Nora and Elaine treated me to a mini-vacay and it couldn’t have been better. I just adore my friends, and I can’t thank them enough for making my birthday extra special.

I’ve also been dealing with some busyness in my off-line life both professionally and personally. And I also have to brag, my film-related blog, Popcorn In My Bra, is doing well, and I’m gaining followers and fans.

But don’t worry, The Book Self, is still close to my heart, so look for more reviews shortly. I just finished the latest book from Caitlin Moran, Moranifesto, and it is a knock-out! You might remember me reviewing her novel How to Build a Girl a while back.

I’m also in the middle of a delicious novel that I can’t wait to review, too. It’s film-related so I’ll also post my review to Popcorn In My Bra.

Just so happy for great books and great writers!!!

Writer’s Block

$T2eC16R,!)!E9s2fCG0GBRZ91IfK3!~~60_35Well, I hope all my readers are enjoying the end of summer. Autumn (my favorite season) is quickly approaching, and like a lot of people, I’ve been quite the busy bee.

First, if all goes according to plan I start a new freelance gig using my writing talents after Labor Day. I just got the good news today. There are a few minor details that need to be addressed, but my recruiter said things are a go.

Tomorrow I have friends coming from out of town and we’re going to spend all day painting Milwaukee several shades of red. And I hope to have lunch with another friend this week-end.

On Sunday afternoon, I have a meeting for my church’s RE programs (I’m a teaching assistant) and I hope to connect with one of my friends. I haven’t seen her in a few weeks, and we have so much to catch up on.

As for this blog, don’t fret. A PR person sent me some PDFs of some books he wants me to review, and I just started reading one of the copies. I hope to have a review of a novel up soon (sometime next week). And I have some book reviews in reserve. I also hope to share with all of your some interesting links.

Looks like autumn will be an interesting time for The Book Self!

Brag Book (Not Just About Me)

dancing leslie knopeJust so you know, I’ve put a couple of book reviews on hold. I was recently approached about writing a couple of articles and will be working on these for a couple of weeks. However, I will dip into my treasure chest and post some old book reviews I wrote a while back at this blog amongst a few other things. I appreciate your patience.

Also, Nora wrote a great review of the U2 concert and posted it at Ticketmaster’s website. Here it is:

“Ok. I’ve been to many U2 shows and they are the best band alive live!!! This show is not as “immediate/viseral” as their other tour shows, but it “lingers” with you. U2 evolves visually with every tour and always brings something new to the table. The wall of lights is amazing and transcends their show into part art gallery, movie, musical theater, and museum worthiness. The walkway is almost “runway” and there are parts that are almost “Oz” like, or if God wanted to speak to people, he would use U2’s wall of lights. Very trippy, digital and spiritual all into one.

U2 shows, afterwards, used to make me want to storm an embassy but this show makes me want to draw, or make videos or something fine artsy. New and interesting feeling coming from the band that I loved for the past 31 years! Always something new to think about with this band!

Favorite moment: Kickass version of Gloria!

Opening act(s): None”

And it’s been years, but I finally got Larry Mullen, Jr in bed!

Larry. Bed. Enough said.

Writer’s Block

Beautiful DayHello everyone. I hope everyone is having a good week, and I hope my fellow Americans had a fun and safe 4th of July.

Due to the holiday, I was fortunate to have a four-day week-end, which I kicked off the week-end by spending both Thursday and Friday in Chicago with my lovely friends Nora and Elaine. But I didn’t just go to Chicago to visit with my friends. Nora, Elaine and I went to see U2 at their final show at the United Center. We’ve been huge U2 fans for years now, and though we joke that U2 are total corporate rock, they are still the most amazing band to see live. I’m still kvelling.

Here is a link to U2 thanking Chicago and their fans. Awww, right back at ya, lads!

Instead of staying with my friends, we camped out at a hotel room. This is what greeted us. My fellow Criminal Minds fans will get the reference.

Rossi

What else? Well, I should have a guest review up tomorrow. I’m about to start writing review for book that is both a memoir and collection of essays. And I’m half-way through reading another book that I’m going to review once I’m done. Ah, yes, a blogger’s work is never done.

Writer’s Block

Little_Miss_Busy

Well, hello everyone. I hope everyone is having a happy May. Once again, I have been very busy. There is a lull at work until we have a major uptick with a new upcoming assignment, so I’m working an abbreviated schedule. Having some time off has encouraged me to tackle some projects at home. I’m currently organizing and cleaning by drawers, cupboards, closets and desk. It’s a huge undertaking, which is going to take several weeks to truly get done, but already I’m feeling a huge sense of accomplishment. Just seeing my book shelf all organized is making me want to do the happy dance.

And I’m also feeling a huge surge of creative adrenaline. I love to make beaded jewelry and in the past couple of weeks I have made over a dozen pairs of earrings, a statement-y necklace, and a bracelet for one of my dearest friends. This friend also commissioned me to make a necklace for her niece.

As for this blog, the publisher who sent me an advanced copy of In the Company of Legends sent me another book to review and read, so look for a blog post on that shortly. Plus, a lovely on-line acquaintance of mine is writing a guest book review that I hope to receive shortly. I met this potential reviewer through an message board devoted to one of our favorite TV shows. She writes wonderful fan fiction based on the characters of this TV show, so I’m really looking forward to her guest review.

And what else? Well, on July 3rd I, along with two great friends of mine, will be at the U2 show at Chicago’s United Center. Can’t wait.

Book Review: The Princess Guide to Life by Rosie Blythe

25071062Just like a lot of people, I often feel a bit out of sorts in our mixed-up world. I can’t seem to get it together personally, professionally and romantically. So in these moments of confusion I make the decision to peruse self-help section of my favorite book store. I hope to find a nugget of wisdom to help me improve my lackluster life. But after a while, I fail to be inspired, and my romp in the self-help section turns to self-hate.

Women are constantly getting the message “Girl, You’re Doing it Wrong.” We fail to “act like a lady and think like a man.” We don’t follow the “rules, girl.” And Dr. Laura is not shy of telling us of the ten stupid things we’re doing to mess up our lives. Interestingly enough, dropping the N-word nearly a dozen times while talking to a black caller is not on the demented doctor’s list.

But I digress…

So after leaving the book shop, throwing my dainty hands in disgust, I shout to the heavens, “Is there a book that will truly help me without me ending up a petite ball of self-hate? Am I destined to be an utter failure as a woman?”

Well, thank goodness for Rosie Blythe and the kindness, decency and gentle “you go, girl” spirit she conveys in her book, The Princess Guide to Life. The Princess Guide is like having your best friend in your corner, and Ms. Blythe’s advice is comforting, not shaming and scolding.

Now at first, I bristled a bit at the Princess in the title. I couldn’t help think of spoiled, entitled and vapid divas-in-training who are obsessed with material items and think success should just be handed to them. Or misguided women who think taking selfies of their bottoms and posting them on Instagram should lead to fame and fortune instead of developing a talent or a skill.

And then I thought of Princess Leia from the iconic film series Star Wars, which shaped so many girls of my generation in positive way.

Fortunately, The Princess Guide to Life is more of the latter…and so much more.
The Princess Guide to Life is divided into several chapters on how to navigate our often befuddling and sometimes cruel world—personally, professionally and romantically. At the root at all of this is compassion; but just as all princesses exude compassion towards others, princesses most also show compassion towards themselves. Self-care, The Princess Guide to Life, reminds us is not selfish. It is anything but selfish.

After a brief introduction, Blythe offers sound, and often fun, advice, on how to Princess-up our lives whether it’s our personal fashion style, decorating our homes, nourishing our bodies or keeping our bodies fit. Blythe tells us Princesses follow their own instincts and preferences when honing our own unique style. Don’t blindly follow trends that don’t suit you. Yellow may be the on-trend color of the year, but if you’re more drawn to emerald green, then buy that emerald green clutch bag if that’s what you want.

A princess’s home is her castle, and we should also bring a unique sense of style to our abodes. Princesses make decorating choices that truly make their house a home, and also make visitors feel welcome.

When making food choices, princesses make smart, healthy and nutritious food choices, but an occasional indulgence is every princess’s right. And when it comes to exercise, princesses eschew the fitness regime du jour and choose workouts that suit their budget and bodies. For instance, if God intended me to run marathons, he’s put a TSE cashmere sweater at the finish line. I hate to run, but I could spend over an hour walking along Lake Michigan (fortunately I live only a few blocks away from the shores of Lake Michigan). I also love to dance, and a few years ago I discovered belly dancing. Belly dancing is truly empowering, and all women are beautiful when they belly dance.

Okay, the princess has taken care of her style, body and home. Now it’s time to craft the persona. Princesses never fail to remember their prestige as woman, being a lady is a good thing, the importance of maintaining a veil of mystery in a time of TMI, and how to network without being an obnoxious pain the arse. Princesses also know that one can be both a feminist and fully feminine. In the slightly altered words of the Helen Reddy classic, “I am woman ; hear me roar…now enjoy these sugar mint cookies I just made.”

In the stereotypical idea of a princess, awaits to be saved by Prince Charming. Well, in Blythe’s book a Princess adores a charming prince (or princess if that’s how she rolls) and saves her own damn self. A princess maintains her independence by honing her education, skills and experience via her career and strives to keep her finances fit as a fiddle.

But being a princess isn’t all work and no play. One of the most fun parts of The Princess Guide to Life is how we can use pop culture to further shape our lives. Blythe offers songs, movies, and books to suit every mood. Of course, Blythe’s picks are merely suggestions; they are not set in stone.

Finally, The Princess Guide to Life tells us of one particular day in the life of a princess and other princess-like ideas, advice, and suggestions to help us be the best we can be.

Not once while reading The Princess Guide did I feel like I was an ugly, stupid, lazy loser like most self-help books make me feel. Blythe’s book is fun, joyful and conveys a genuine sense of warmth and empathy for its reader. My copy is now dog-eared and covered in post-it notes so I can easily refer to Blythe’s comforting words of wisdom.

The Princess Guide to Life is the perfect tome and a very welcome addition to my book shelf. From the shores of Lake Michigan all the way to London, England, I’m sending Rosie Blythe royal wave of approval for writing a truly majestic labor of love.

Writer’s Block

$T2eC16R,!)!E9s2fCG0GBRZ91IfK3!~~60_35Happy Saturday, my fellow book loving nerds. It’s nearly the end of April and cold and rainy/damp outside. I suppose I should do some chores around the house. But why do a load of laundry or wash the dishes when I can type up a blog post and later curl up with a fun book?

Did I mention book? Of course, I did. A lovely reader based in the UK sent me a copy of her book. So far, it’s a delight, and a ray of sunshine during the cruel month of April. I hope to have my review up by next week.

I’ve been busy once again in my off-line life. Last week I had to train a couple of my co-workers on some new procedures and I’m awaiting some major news on a big project that might come up during the summer. We shall see….

What else? My mom, a fellow book fan, just had a birthday. We’re getting together to celebrate, first by meeting up at a local Barnes and Noble, and later a celebratory birthday dinner.

April has also kept me busy with Earth Day activities, church, another friend’s birthday, social outings with my fellow nerd friends. But I also have a list of books to read and review so look for those posts shortly. I’m also up for some time off so I’m going to concentrate on my new Twitter feed a wee bit though I certainly realize maintaining a quality blog is of more importance than social media.

Thanks, and have a great week-end!