Project Sweet Life

Sunday, February 15, 2015




My friend NJ invited me to participate in a new weekly series on her blog. Check it out! http://www.acookiebeforedinner.com/2015/02/project-sweet-life-nancy-from-the-real-nani/

A Mirror, Almost.

Friday, February 6, 2015




To be quite honest, I'd never heard of Andie Mitchell or her blog until I saw a Facebook post about her memoir, It Was Me All Along but when I read the excerpt, I recognized myself immediately. Never had I read anything describing my struggle with food and eating. I'm not very good at articulating my feelings or verbalizing my introspection. Part of it is self-consciousness. I don't like to focus attention on those aspects of myself that are negative. It feels like self-vicitmization, in a way, which is something I CANNOT stand, either in myself or others!
But in this touching, grounded, earnest memoir, I found the words that describe the emotional roller coaster that is my relationship with food. My childhood was not anything like Andie's but it was marked by periods of turbulence, as all childhoods are.  Andie astutely draws the line between her early memories of growing up in a working class home with an alcoholic father and an overworked mother, and her increasing weight gain caused by overeating and bingeing. She adeptly describes the thought process and flood of emotions that drive the decision to overeat and I was startled to find that I knew EXACTLY what she meant. I had experienced the very same phenomenon many times over, and still do.
I think it takes a special kind of person to put herself out there in the most vulnerable of ways, in a society that finds it embarrassing and shameful to talk about fatness, to be fat, even. I usually read memoirs to explore a perspective that is unknown to me, but this time, I read a memoir to understand myself better.

{I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. This post contains affiliate links.}

#YearOfMaking

Monday, February 2, 2015


Last year, I followed Kim Werker's #YearOfMaking with delight, enjoying her creative process and what she produced.  She was making soap, doodling, crocheting, baking with her son, sewing, all kinds of making going on. I remember thinking: I could totally make one thing a day, no problem. I didn't even need to get as complicated as making soap.
So when she put out her ebook to help readers in their own #YearOfMaking journey, I took up the challenge,  on a whim, really and because I like to support the people I know in their creative endeavors. I bought the ebook and dove right in.

(Speaking of which, my friend Tim is self-publishing his first collection of short stories, We Regret to Inform You. He's a great writer, and a great guy. Check it out, and pre-order your copy!) 

This year, I resolved not to make any resolutions but in a way, the #YearOfMaking is a resolution. It is a resolution to indulge a creative side, to make room in my life for making and creating. It's a resolution I can get behind.

Jeez. I wasn't really anticipating that the #YearOfMaking would require so much effort, considering that I thought I already made a lot. It's not that I thought it would be easy but I thought it would come naturally to pop down to my sewing room or pull out some paper and coloring implements or whatever else I felt like creating. It turns out, I do make something everyday and it's usually food-related! That's not really the stretching I had in mind when I set out to do this. I didn't think I'd require so much energy or that I'd be too tired at the end of the day.

Why am I not carving out time IN my day for #YearOfMaking instead of waiting until the end of the day, when I'm really not at my best? I guess because during the day, I'm either at work or I'm tending to the household and the creatures that live in it.

I freely admit that I'm not disciplined and I never really push myself to a limit. if I can do it, I do it. If I can't, I either do it half-assed or just don't do it at all. The #YearOfMaking, I've come to find, early as it is in the game, is not just about indulging your creative side but it's also about challenging yourself, making a commitment, and following it through. (Definitely sounds like a classic NYE resolution!). It's about taking yourself out of your comfort zone and having the temerity to try your hand at something new. It's also about acknowledging the making you already do, on a daily basis, and not discounting that.

So, I'm still in this and I'm rechristening it 365 Non-Consecutive Days of Making, but I'll still be using the #YearOfMaking hashtag on Instagram.

Leap And The Net Will...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015





Appear? Or maybe not. Anxiety is a funny creature. A small incident gathers more and more strength, and takes on a life of it's own, until it becomes a full-blown anxiety that governs even aspects of your life that seem to have no relationship to the anxiety-inducing situation.

I have weather-related driving anxiety. I've somehow convinced myself that me and my car are ill-equipped to driving in inclement weather. My standard response is to A) not leave the house, B) pray for a snow day and/or C) scope out the situation and have my husband track the weather pattern. Of course, I have never been in a weather-related driving accident! Not only I have not been in such an accident, I've also managed to arrive at a destination safely through inclement weather, just by sheer force of willpower, lots of breathing and white-knuckling my steering wheel. I can only assume that this anxiety comes from overexposure to news stories about 150-car pile-ups. Or not. Who knows?!

But like Will's mother in this month's From Left To Write book,  If I Fall, If I Die, the anxiety started as a small seed, then grew into something larger than life, something that seems irrational even in your own head, and even more so in someone else's head, but somehow, you make yourself believe it is a perfectly reasonably fear or anxiety. My own anxiety has managed to stay under control but what happens when it takes over your life, and renders you incapable of living your life in the most basic of ways; even worse, what happens when it affects those you love the most?

This post was inspired by the novel If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie,about a boy who's never been outside, thanks to his mother's agoraphobia, but ventures outside in order to solve a mystery. Join From Left to Write on January 22nd as we discuss If I Fall, If I Die. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links. 

2015 Word of the Year

Saturday, January 3, 2015





Though I didn't blog much about it, I found it really helpful to have a word of the year. Last year, the word was focus.  Even though I was not always successful, I did frequently call on the word during moments when I felt overwhelmed by all that I was trying to do. I made one big change that helped me in my attempt to unitask. I stopped bringing my devices into the bedroom at bedtime. I left them in another room, so as to avoid getting sucked down the rabbit hole of Facebook and Instagram. Instead, I read books and enjoyed more sleep. And because the world didn't end when I started ignoring my phone/ipad/computer an entire 6 hours, it became easier to be less tied to my devices during the day too which meant that more laundry was done, more dishes were done, more time was enjoyed with the kids, more projects got done. Lovely side effect, I think. (Another side effect is that it has taken me all week to write this blog post! When I finally have time to sit and open my computer, I find myself going to bed with a book instead.)

I've also spent some time this year coming face to face with some personal demons that have kept me company for years. It's time to set those demons free. It started with a book my sister sent me: Taking the Leap, by Pema Chodron.  In this book, I recognized so many of the attributes of human nature that are described and became totally engrossed in the idea that a little mindfulness would go a long way. Pema talks about the concept of shenpa, which is the thing or behavior you are attached to or hooked on to. It is almost like addiction. It can be anything--money, drugs, food, alcohol, anything you have a hard time letting go of because you believe it will relieve an urge or a feeling of uneasiness. You can read more about it here: http://www.lionsroar.com/how-we-get-hooked-shenpa-and-how-we-get-unhooked/

On the other side, you have shenluk, which is turning shenpa upside down, or renouncing attachment.  Pema says you can't ever not have shenpa but you can decide to face your shenpa head-on and just deal with it, recognize it for what it is and move on. She says to sit with it, which I've adopted as a kind of mantra-- sit with it, sit with it, allow yourself to pause so that the urge will pass. And that is my theme for this year, shenluk. To take shenpa and turn it on its head. To stare it down and become stronger than it.

Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Friday, November 28, 2014






Clutter drives me bananas but it seems inevitable when you live in a small space with three small people and one big guy. As a kid, my bedroom was always the neatest. I liked things put away and organized in their places, even if it wasn't done meticulously (think: stuff shoved into drawers...at least, it was away and off the floor...). But I also had a lot of stuff. It was hard to throw things away and it was hard to not want things. Everything was special and important. Eventually, I reached the point where I was able to throw things away without a second thought, if I thought it wasn't necessary or if it just didn't appeal to me anymore. But I still had a lot of paper clutter, and worse, no one place to keep all that paper. There is paper all over my house, and every nook and cranny is storage for something, no matter how important or not important the item being stored.
Last month, my husband read an article in the NY Times about decluttering and mentioned it to me, something to the effect that things should have a place. I hadn't read the article and I was so indignant and offended that he dared to mention this article to me, as if it was news to me, as if it was something that *I* needed to read, when obviously the problem was not me but my messy kids and my messy, packrat husband. AS IF. Really, the nerve...
No. It struck a nerve but not for the right reason. After I calmed down, and stopped yelling at my husband in frustration, I just let it go. A few weeks later, I got an email from Blogging for Books that the book on which that Times article had been based was being offered to members. Oh, that article had been about tidying up? It wasn't about clutter? I made a mental note to myself to go to the source in the future instead of relying on my husband's slim synopsis, (along with the many other mental notes about patience and taking a deep breath and not overreacting and being oversensitive). I jumped on the  book request, convinced that it would change my life. After all, it had to be fortuitous that this book had come into my life two different ways.




The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo makes so much sense. Part self-help, part how-to, this book started changing my life as I read it.

 

So much in this book spoke to me, and even before I finished the book, I was making small changes in the way I behaved in my home. Marie Kondo advises against this, though. She believes everything should be done in one fell swoop. Just get it over and done with, instead of doing it piecemeal over time; Otherwise, it just feels neverending. It just so happens that we are getting ready to move house, which is the perfect opportunity to employ the KonMari method. 



The KonMari method feels like a more realistic approach to zen minimalism, with a bit of "form follows function" thrown in. The book's soothing, earnest tone inspires confidence while the slimness of the volume keeps the reader from feeling overwhelmed. This book is not for everyone but if you feel unsettled and you can't put your finger on why, you might look at the space in which you live and see what small changes you can make that lead to big revelations and a lifting of burden. 

{I recieved a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.}

Review: Dancing on the Head of a Pen

Thursday, November 6, 2014




I love to learn about the craft of writing from other writers. A well-written story can seem like a bit of alchemy at times, a true mystery-- how do these words come together to evoke these feelings? Seeing a writer break down his chosen method inspires confidence, the feeling that "yeah, I can totally do this," without any accompanying delusions that it'll be easy. In fact, no good writer would ever say that writing is easy and that is a relief to me. 


Source: http://www.examiner.com/review/dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pen-the-practice-of-a-writing-life-by-robert-benson

I am slowly but surely building a collection of books about writing by writers. Though I've never read anything by Robert Benson, I felt drawn to this book, which describes the craft of writing in small snapshots, theme by theme. In the same way that good writing emerges over time, the advice in this book unfolds one by one, each building on the one before it. 
I found it very useful in thinking about creating the conditions in our lives that compel us to make time to write. Though I have an ebook copy, I will buy a hard copy, to annotate and  to place on my bookshelf alongside my other About Writing books. 



{I received a copy of this book for free, for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links. }
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