Hobby Club

Link Love the Twelfth

February 27, 2015

Happy Friday! You know what that means: the weekend is almost here. Time to play! If it’s too cold to play outside, or you just feel like playing online instead, here’s a dose of Link Love. Enjoy!

If you don’t have much time to practice your passion, you need to make that practice smarter. Leanne Sowul’s guest post “5 Ways to Practice Smarter When You Don’t Have Much Time to Practice” explains how.  I used several of these principles during my recent 31-Days-of-Sketching experiment

This old (2013) post on Raptitude contains some solid common sense. But like David, I don’t always live what I know. I’m looking at you, number 10. For even more common sense advice, click here

Leo Babauta consistently posts thoughtful and well-written pieces on Zen Habits. Two of my recent favorites: “Getting Lost in Just Doing” and “An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit.”

“Busyness is a lie that will break you.” So much to love about this post.

I already have too many hobbies, but I know people who are looking for something new to try. If you’re one of them, check out Hobby Club.  Every month, you’ll get to try something new, and the cost is only $12 for the entire year!

Meerkat cam

I love this video for one of my favorite songs, Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.”

Casey Pycior

Sledding in Wichita

February 25, 2015

Photo courtesy hotblack

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Kansas is flat and we all know that. So, where does a boy go when he feels like sledding down a hill? Casey Pycior, raised in Kansas, tells us.

Sledding in Wichita

As cars pass, laboring through the slush,
a boy, bundled against the stiff wind
in his snow suit, gloves, and scarf,
leans on his upright toboggan,
waiting his turn atop
the snow-packed overpass—
the highest point in town.
First one car exits, and then another,
each creeping down the icy ramp.
The brown grass pokes through
the two grooves carved in the short hill.
As the second car fishtails to a stop at the bottom,
brake lights glowing on the dirty snow,
the boy’s turn comes.
His trip to the bottom is swift—
only a second or two—
and he bails out just before the curb.
It’s not much, but it’s sledding in Wichita.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Casey Pycior and reprinted by permission of the poet. Introduction copyright 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Reading About Reading

February 23, 2015

A simple pleasure for many book lovers (including me) is reading about 1) What other people are reading, and 2) Why other people read. I’m quite curious (not to say nosy) about others’ books and reading habits. (If I come to your house and you momentarily lose track of me, you’ll find me poking through your bookshelves.) I extend this to reading books about books and reading, not because I need more recommendations for what to read, but because reading fascinates me, and it adds to my enjoyment to share it with like-minded (and sometimes not-so-like-minded) readers.  Judging by the number of books about books and reading, I’m not the only one. I have a small collection of these on my own shelves (which you are welcome to explore) and a several more on my TBR list.

I bring this up now because I just finished reading Nick Hornby’s  The Polysyllabic Spree, a collection of his “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” columns for The Believer. I enjoyed it so much I’m now on the hunt for the three other collections of his columns: Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, Shakespeare Wrote for Money  and More Baths Less Talking all of which I want to read right now.  I’ve put Shakespeare and More Baths on hold with my library, but they don’t have Housekeeping, unfortunately. I loved Hornby’s chatty and personal tone, and though we mostly read very different types of books, he made me laugh out loud, and there were several passages that resonated with me, including this one: “…I suddenly had a little epiphany: all the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal….with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.”

The problem with reading books like this is that I always come away with more books to read—an ongoing problem for me, as you all know. I may have checked this one book off my TBR list, but I’ve added at least three more. Oh, well.

But back to books about books, which, if you remember, is the theme of this ever-lengthening post. If, like me, you love reading about others’ reading habits, I offer this incomplete list of books about reading, beginning with books on the subject that I have already read:

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman. Eighteen essays, and (oh, dear) a recommended reading list. She writes beautifully, and just looking at the table of contents makes me want to reread this book. These pieces are also compiled from a column written for a magazine, and what I want to know is: how do I get a job writing a column about reading? 

Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books, Lynne Sharon Schwartz. I could have written this snippet, so well does it describe what often happens to me:

“In a bookstore, I leaf through the book next to the one I came to buy, and a sentence sets me quivering. I buy that one instead, or as well…. A remark overheard on a bus reminds me of a book I meant to read last month. I hunt it up in the library and glance in passing at the old paperbacks on sale for twenty-five cents. There is the book so talked about in college—it was to have prepared me for life and here I have blundered through decades without it. Snatch it up quickly before it’s too late. And so what we read is as wayward and serendipitous as any taste or desire. Or perhaps randomness is not so random after all. Perhaps at every stage what we read is what we are, or what we are becoming, or desire.”  Oh, and I bought this book for a quarter at my library’s used book store.

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading, Sara Nelson. Another library bookstore purchase, this chronicles a year in Nelson’s life when she determines to read a book a week and record how reading intermingles with life in the “real world.” 

Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason and Book Lust to Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers,Vagabonds, and Dreamers, Nancy Pearl. Pearl is an author, book reviewer and public librarian. Her lists of books, with short descriptions and critiques, are great fun. Read with caution unless you want your TBR list to explode beyond all reason. It’s too late for me. Save yourself.

The following books are on my TBR list:

Reading in Bed: Personal Essays on the Glories of Reading, Steven Gilbar. I haven’t gotten to this one yet, but plan to read it this year as part of my Mt. TBR challenge.

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them, Francine Prose. Another book I haven’t read yet, this one is close to the top of my what-to-read-next list because I want to be both a better reader and writer.

A History of Reading, Alberto Manguel. “Manguel brilliantly covers reading as seduction, as rebellion, and as obsession and goes on to trace the quirky and fascinating history of the reader’s progress from clay tablet to scroll, codex to CD-ROM,” according to Amazon.

The Novel Cure, Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin.   I know I’ll end up with another long list of books I want to read when I get around to this one, but I still want to read it.

My Reading Life, Pat Conroy. 

Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love, Anne Fadiman (editor). Similar to Bound to Last, perhaps, but I want to read this nonetheless.

And, scariest of all to the TBR list, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, Peter Boxall (editor).

I know there are many other books about books—these are just the ones currently on my radar. Dare I ask? What are your favorite books about books?


Eleven Years Rich

February 18, 2015

Our first day together

Today is Tank’s 20th birthday! In just a week and a half, I will have owned him for 11 years—longer than anyone before me. He is truly “mine” and I am the richer for it.

We rode together yesterday, all by ourselves, while the wind shook the trees and rolled a blue beach ball around the jump field, while a neighbor helped our barn owner move some large items with a piece of heavy equipment. Any one of those situations would have been a recipe for spooking and running when I first got Tank. Yesterday, he didn’t even bat an eyelash. I guess we’ve both matured in the past 11 years.

This quote sums up for me the miracle of a relationship with a horse:

“Riding is a partnership. The horse lends you his strength, speed and grace, which are greater than yours. For your part, you give him your guidance, intelligence and understanding, which are greater than his. Together, you can achieve a richness that alone neither can.” –Lucy Rees, “The Horse’s Mind.”

A recent photo

Thank you, Tank, for 11 years of simple pleasures and everyday adventures. Your birthday “cake” is on its way!

Amanda Stuermer

Why You Should Be Inspired Every Day

February 16, 2015

“Sustainable change is driven by inspiration, not shame.
—Jena La Flamme

Have you ever wanted to make a change in your life, or accomplish a significant goal? In what ways did you motivate yourself to do what you needed to do? Did you seek out inspiration and encouragement—or did you use shame and anxiety to prod yourself into action?

In the last two days, I’ve come across two different references to the importance of inspiration versus shame and/or anxiety in making change and accomplishing goals. The first instance is quoted above. How many times do we use shaming tactics to try to effect change? And how has that been workin’ for us? Not well, in my case. Browbeating myself about what I haven’t accomplished saps my will to do pretty much anything except surf Pinterest and eat M & Ms right out of the bag. It gets me nowhere on the road to my big dreams. 

I found the second reference in this piece, written by Amanda Stuermer, on Jennifer Louden’s blog (emphasis hers): “I believe we choose the direction of our days, and that choice begins with our first waking thoughts. If I wake up worrying how I will ever get my to-do list done, I will feel rushed and pressured the whole day through. My words, actions, and habits will reflect that sense of anxiety. If instead, I wake up grateful for the opportunity to pursue my passions, I will feel inspired and my words, actions, and habits will reflect that. I would so much rather that my character and my destiny be guided by inspiration than anxiety.”  

It seems that inspiration can help us both with lasting change and with how we go about our daily tasks. I want to be guided by inspiration, not anxiety or shame, and I’m guessing you do, too. So how do we make this shift? We can start by getting rid of comparisons and blame (of ourselves and others).  Instead of stewing about lost opportunities or mistakes, we can turn to words of inspiration or stories of people who have done the things we want to do. Instead of being frustrated by others’ perceived success (or our own perceived lack thereof), we can choose to be inspired by them, rather than depressed. I know from personal experience that this is not always easy. I can’t control who gets the breaks, but I can at least try to control my emotions if it’s not me.

We can also use the rhythms of the day to infuse inspiration into our lives. Rather than check email or social media (or, even worse, the news), begin the day with something that lifts us up, such as music, inspirational reading, meditation, a walk, or a few yoga poses. When we take a break during the day (and you are taking breaks, right?), use that time for further inspiration—flip through a magazine with beautiful images, get out in nature if possible. Even five minutes away from “to do” will help. At bedtime, we can turn off all our screens and end the day with the practice of writing down good things that have happened or what we are grateful for. Keeping our minds constantly tuned to what inspires us will help us through times of stress, struggle and change.

Inspiration looks different for everyone. Some of my sources of inspiration include the “Acoustic New Age” radio station on Pandora; my Pinterest boards Truth, Beautiful, and Isn’t That Cool?; blogs like Zen Habits , and inspirational speakers like Brendon Burchard.

What inspires you? Compile your own list of people, places, quotes, etc., you can use to inspire yourself every day—and please share in the comments section!

Inspired by paralympian Lauren Barwick


Mistakes Are Opportunities

February 11, 2015

“For those who fear making mistakes (and who doesn’t?) the first step may be to start practicing a more patient and kinder attitude toward the self. Making mistakes is a necessary part of learning, not only in art, but in life. (This can’t be emphasized enough.) They actually lead to new possibilities and new perceptions. We want to nurture a more positive attitude toward whatever occurs on the page beyond our control. If we begin to consider mistakes as opportunities for adventure and invention, then we will discover the value of seeing something in a new way.”
—Barbara Diane Barry, Painting Your Way Out of a Corner


Which Do You Say More Often: "I Can Hardly Wait" or "I Can Hardly Stand It"?

February 09, 2015

Crocus, anticipating spring!
I just came across the following idea in Chellie Campbell’s The Wealthy Spirit: Children have “I can hardly waits” while adults mostly have “I can hardly stand its.” Children are usually looking forward to something—school being out, a birthday, an exciting milestone. While adults, well, we are more often NOT looking forward to something—often those same somethings the kids are looking forward to!

I don’t know about you, but I thought being an adult would be more fun. Instead, I’m having my roof replaced, having the leaky dishwasher fixed and fighting the traffic while the county repaves the road that runs just outside my subdivision.  Fortunately, I’ve just remembered that I am the boss of me—and it’s time to follow Campbell’s advice to those of us with “I can’t stand its”: “Find something to look forward to with joy and focus on that.” 

But what if there’s nothing we especially look forward to? It’s time to schedule something! Maybe plan a summer trip, or buy tickets to a show or sporting event we want to see. If that’s not possible (and even when it is), schedule something smaller in the meantime. Plan to rent a movie and eat popcorn on Friday night with your spouse. Make a lunch date with a friend. Decide that at 8:30 tonight, you’ll curl up in bed with a good book. Just choose something you’ll enjoy and look forward to. Write these anticipated pleasures down in your calendar or on your to-do list.

I’m willing to bet you’re all fine, upstanding, law-abiding, tax-paying individuals. You give to those around you—now give to yourself. Give yourself something to look forward to. Simple pleasures and everyday adventures don’t plan themselves, you know. As for me, I’m looking forward to a visit from my two sisters-in-law, a Field Trip Friday involving a flea market, and a production of Annie at the local performing arts center. 

Now your turn. Fill in the blank: I can hardly wait until _________.

Children's books

The Story of Ferdinand the Bull

February 04, 2015

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Stories read to us as children can stay with us all our lives. Robert McCloskey’s Lentil was especially influential for me, and other books have helped to shape you. Here’s Matt Mason, who lives in Omaha, with a book that many of you will remember.

The Story of Ferdinand the Bull

Dad would come home after too long at work
and I’d sit on his lap to hear
the story of Ferdinand the Bull; every night,
me handing him the red book until I knew
every word, couldn’t read,
just recite along with drawings
of a gentle bull, frustrated matadors,
the all-important bee, and flowers—
flowers in meadows and flowers
thrown by the Spanish ladies.
Its lesson, really,
about not being what you’re born into
but what you’re born to be,
even if that means
not caring about the capes they wave in your face
or the spears they cut into your shoulders.
And Dad, wonderful Dad, came home
after too long at work
and read to me
the same story every night
until I knew every word, couldn’t read,
                                                                                                  just recite.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by Matt Mason from his most recent book of poems, The Baby That Ate Cincinnati, Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of Matt Mason and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Sketching Challenge Completed--Next!

February 02, 2015

Saturday I completed my 31 Days of Sketching challenge—and I’m proud to say I didn’t miss a day! On most days I spent at least 15 minutes sketching and/or painting, and there were only a couple of days that I scraped together a few minutes and a few pencil strokes just so I could say I’d sketched. Winter Interrupted came at a good time and helped me add watercolor sketches to my sketchbook. I posted all my sketches on Flickr. (Belle of Belle, Book, and Candle took up the challenge as well, and you can see her sketches here.)

Watercolor pencil
I wanted to become more comfortable sketching, and to make it more a part of my life instead of just done every now and then. I’m still not as comfortable as I’d like, and I did find that I didn’t experiment as much as I would have if I weren’t posting my sketches publicly.  Of course, I could have chosen not to post, but that felt like cheating. This tells me that I still care too much what others think. I don’t like to share my mistakes or what I think will be perceived as not very good. I will continue sketching, though probably not every day. I have several ideas for more sketchbook pages from Winter Interrupted, as well as (ahem) pages I want to complete from our New England trip a year and a half ago.

My favorite page from Winter Interrupted
The month-long challenge seems to work well for me. It’s both finite and concrete; long enough to see progress, but short enough not to be overwhelming or boring. These challenges keep me focused when my natural tendency is to be easily distracted by new and shiny ideas or projects. So what’s next? I’m leaning towards a horsemanship challenge for the month of February. I’m off to a poor start because I did nothing horse-related yesterday—but I could still pick it up today. Do I need that concrete, I-will-do-this-every-day structure? I suspect yes. I could easily do a horsey thing every day, whether it’s play with Tank, finally watch the horsemanship DVDs gathering dust in my bedroom, or delve into the books, articles and internet research on horse topics that I seldom seem to have time to get into. There is tack to clean, or ground work exercises to try, and, of course, February is a lovely month for riding. I’d love to see my riding and horsemanship skills take a big leap forward.

Right now I’m taking delight in these monthly challenges. Will they continue? I’m not sure. In the meantime, I have some riding boots to clean…