Tuesday, January 02, 2024

2023 Reading List


 Time for my annual reading list post.  Exactly the same number as last year - interesting.  Here it goes:

  1. The Risk Pool - Richard Russo
  2. Surviving Death - Leslie Kean
  3. Life Before Life:Children's Memories of Previous Lives - Jim B. Tucker, MD
  4. Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives - Jim B. Tucker, MD
  5. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife - Eben Alexander, MD
  6. After - Bruce Greyson, MD
  7. Infinite Awareness - Marjorie Hines
  8. Mindfulness for Beginners - Jon Kabat-Zinn
  9. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English - Henepola Gunaratana
  10. The Map of Heaven - Eben Alexander, MD

The first book of the year was a novel that I read with my husband.  I enjoy it when we read things together and discuss them.

Everything else on the list was the result of a deep dive into the afterlife and spirituality.  Reading the books on life after death were inspired by a discussion at parent's house about children remembering past lives.  My parents sometimes get information from questionable sources so I wanted to try to find something academic on the subject.  I really wasn't impressed by Leslie Kean, but Dr. Tucker and Dr. Greyson I found very interesting.  Dr. Alexander was a bit of a mixed bag for me.  I read a couple of his books.  There are more, but I don't think I'll read them.  I don't feel like they really say much in the end.

The Jon Kabat-Zinn book I had actually started a few year ago and didn't finish.  I decided to pull it out and start over with it.  This time I read it all the way through with my husband.  It's still not one that I would exactly recommend.

The books by Hines and Gunaratana were interesting because they were coming to mindfulness and awareness from the viewpoint of eastern religions. 

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

2022 Reading List

 Time for my annual reading list post.  A couple more books than last year.  Here it goes:

  1. We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson
  2. Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens
  3. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  4. Persuasion - Jane Austen
  5. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
  6. Totally Pawstruck - Sofie Ryan
  7. The Last Curtain Call - Juliet Blackwell
  8. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
  9. The Secret Agent - Joseph Conrad
  10. Howards End - E.M. Forster

The first two books of the year were real disappointments.  Many people really love both books, but I was not positively impressed.  Neither seemed very believable to me.  I found the whole premise of "Crawdads" unrealistic and the end was bothersome.

All three of the Austen novels were re-reads with my husband.  I enjoy it when we read things together and discuss them.

The Sofie Ryan novel and Juliet Blackwell novel were parts of the only two series that I'm still keeping up with.  They are fun distractions.

The Remains of the Day was definitely my favorite of the new novels I read this year.  I thought it was very well written and insightful.  I would absolutely recommend it.

The last two novels on the list are part of a little mini-course that I asked my husband to make for me on the modern novel.  We have a few more to go in our course before it's done.

There probably would have been an eleventh book on the list, but I decided that I didn't want to finish it.  My husband and I started reading Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut, but I had a very strong emotional reaction to a couple of the chapter in the middle of the book, and I decided that it wasn't worth it to keep reading.  I had enjoyed it up until that point, but I was just put off after that.  I have enjoyed the other Vonnegut novels that I've read, but it was just the wrong time and place on this one, I guess.

Sunday, February 06, 2022

The Little Things

Two months ago today, Dec. 6, our contractor tore out our kitchen - no appliances (except the refrigerator that got moved to the dining room), no cabinets, no countertops, no running water.  We had been told we would be without a kitchen for 3 weeks.  We knew it would take longer, but we weren't expecting it to take over 8 weeks, but it did.  Things still aren't back to normal, but as of Friday the kitchen now functions with cabinets (that still need some work), countertops, a working stove, and running water.  When the countertops went in on Tuesday I actually kinda hugged them and said to my husband, "I never want to be without countertops again."  

When you have to go for an extended period of time without the things that you normally take for granted, you really appreciate them once you get them back.  I know that remodeling is a luxury that many people wish for and don't get to do.  And for that, too, I am thankful.  But living through this whole process (which still isn't finished), has really made me come to appreciate the little things in life.

Monday, January 31, 2022


"Be" is a very simple word, but it's a word I've been thinking a lot about lately.  Hozier has a song by that title with the following repeated lyrics and they keep going through my head:

Be, be, be, be, be
Be as you've always been

And while I don't really want to be as I've always been, since how I've always been seems to be anxious, fearful, and self-doubting, I do think that the idea of just being who you are and how you are is a good idea.  In my case, I interpret that as simply allowing myself to behave in the way that comes naturally to me instead of trying to be like I think others want me to be.  It's harder to do than it sounds.

Another way I've been thinking about the word "be" is being something as opposed to simply "acting" that way.  Today I was looking a list of things to do in order to put other people as ease.  The last item on the list was "be interested."  And it struck me that it is important to actually be interested, not just act interested.  I know people who are willing to act interested in other people and what they have to say because they want to be polite, think it will get them something, or want the other person to like them, but unless you actually are interested, it is just a form of manipulation or deception.  Honesty is important to me, so I feel like it is important to either change your mindset and actually be interested, or just be honest about your lack of interest and move on.  

And this goes for other areas, too.  You may act patient, but really be quite impatient.  You might act easy going, but really be uptight and anxious.  In these cases, you aren't really doing yourself, or anyone else, any favors.  You are just giving a false impression of who you are to the people around you.  You are also denying your own needs and not giving others the opportunity to meet, or at least account for, those needs, because they can't see what they are.

So ultimately I've been trying to remind myself to just take a deep breath and be.  That's all I have to do - just be.  That should be good enough.  But like I said before, it's harder than it sounds.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Growth and Expectations

My two motivational thoughts for today:

Growth is incremental not exponential.

Perfect is not an option - do the best you can as often as you can.

Maybe later I'll add pictures and make them into motivational posters.

Friday, January 28, 2022

On Expectations

I've been thinking today about expectations.  In the YearCompass that I still haven't completed, it says that before you begin filling it out you should let go of your expectations.  Ever since reading those directions I've thought off and on about the role of expectations and what it means to let go of them.  It seems like a really hard thing to do.

For me, I feel like expectations have had the tendency to cause me fear, anxiety, and disappointment.  They have also lead me to give up on things without even trying them, because I just assume that it won't work, won't make any difference, no one will like it, no one will care, etc. etc. and the list goes on.  If I do allow myself to have hopes or higher expectations, that can and often has led to disappointment.  

I've been thinking today that while it is likely impossible to completely rid oneself of expectations, it is probably a good idea to try to minimize them.  To begin to try to re-frame my thinking away from expectations (which I think of as prejudging the outcome of a situation before it actually happens), I need to focus on my goals and my actions and leave the evaluations until afterward.  That seems like a more productive approach.  You don't know how it will be until you've done it, and you really have to focus on experiencing it while it's happening in order to really know how it went anyway.  If you get too caught up in your expectations they can cloud your judgment and affect your experience.

Also, when your expectations are about how other people will act or react, you are really setting yourself for disappointment and frustration.  Yes, sometimes things will go just like you hoped, but often times they don't.  You think that someone will really like something that you do, but they hardly seem to notice.  You think a comment will get a particular response, but it doesn't.  You think a person will laugh at your joke, but it falls flat.  You have to remember that you only control your own action, you can't (and shouldn't try to) control other people's actions.  Make your plans and set your goals based on what you can control, not on what you can't.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

So, what are we?

So the other day I was on Facebook and saw the old Kool-Aid Man meme - is he the liquid or the jar?  I thought about it for a minute, but then moved on without too much mental energy lost - doesn't really matter to me either way.  Then the other night, after my shower, I was noticing all the hair on the floor (and walls) in my bathroom and I started thinking about how our bodies renew themselves. This brought me back to the underlying question attached to the Kool-Aid Man question, are we, as humans, our body, our mind, our spirit?  If we are our bodies, but our bodies renew themselves, what are we really?  Does any part of us remain constant throughout our whole lives?  This took more mental energy.

I did a little (very little actually) looking on the internet, and found out that there are just a few things that we carry with us for our entire lives without them being replaces.  It seems that materially, we are our central nervous system, our tooth enamel, and our eye lenses.  If you happen to be female, you don't get more eggs either.  Even our heart muscle, which was once thought to be permanent actually slowly replaces itself over time. Since a person can live without there teeth or without eggs, and science can now replace the lenses in our eyes, it seems that we are basically our central nervous system.  Maybe that means that we are our minds, after all.  Everything else is like George Washington's axe, we've had to replace the head and the handle a few times.  I find that kinda interesting.  Okay, that's all, carry on.