Tag Archives: memoir

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels

I found The Pioneer Woman blog sometime in college.  As a dairy farmer’s daughter in a big city, I really enjoyed reading about a city girl moving to the country; it helped with the homesickness.  It also helped that Ree was incredibly funny.

I enjoyed the story of how she met her husband, who is known on the site as Marlboro Man (though Ree is quick to point out he doesn’t smoke), which was told in installments.  Over time, other blogs caught my interest and my visit to PW were less frequent.  But when I saw that she had published her love story as a book, I was excited…and then even more pumped when I saw it on the shelf at my local library!

True to the writing style on her blog, the book is humorous, touching, and relatable.  Ree’s word choices can be over the top sometimes, but it definitely rings true of her voice.

The book includes not only their courtship, it also tells about their wedding, disaster honeymoon (waaaaaaaaaay too much vomiting to be a fun trip!), almost immediate pregnancy, down-on-our-ranching-luck first year, and the birth of their first baby.  Again, it made me nostalgic for home and country living and gave me the itch to get back to farming with the Professor and Pookie.  But we’ll get there someday.  In the meantime, fun summer reads like this one help take the edge off the wait.

 

What have you read this summer?

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World Domination vs. Ordinary Days

I read–and enjoyed–two contrasting books while vacationing last week.

The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau is about how to “set your own rules, live the life you want, and change the world,” touting follow-your-bliss over sticking in a secure-but-boring job and lots of travel.

The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison, about a woman’s yearning for change from her supremely happy (if a bit confined) suburban existence that led to selling her family’s house and being in a sense homeless for three years (three years of having teenage boys, no less) as they sought a new life in a small country town, slowly building their dream house.

Guillebeau’s enthusiasm is contagious; I dropped the book several times to brain dump book and blog ideas.  However, he comes off a bit haughty and my-way-or-the-highway…or maybe my-way-or-a-boring-and-miserable-life.

And I’ve realized I’ve reached the end of my study in another genre: live-your-dream-by-quitting-your-stifling-job how-to books.  Because here’s the thing…I’m living my dream!  I have a husband, a baby, and a novel I’m in the process of publishing!  I cook and clean (well, I try to motivate myself to clean…), I read books with my daughter and watch her play and grow, I read what I want and get more than enough TV time, and I created a schedule that gives me time to pursue my publishing dreams.  My husband and extended family are entirely supportive.  In other words, I have arrived on the live-your-dream scale!  Hooray!

On the flip side of breaking out and conquering the world, Kenison’s book urges the reader to slow down and enjoy everything about life in the here and now because it changes so quickly.  This book reminded me how quickly kids grow and will be gone…it also reminded me how much I love a good memoir.  Maybe I can replace my live-your-dream books with memoirs…

Anyway, here are my favorite takeaways from The Art of Non-Conformity:

“Create a continual metric for your work,” is something that I was doing while drafting my novel but have stopped since hitting my editing phase…I need to figure that out and soon (216).

“You may even need to devote extended periods of time to what I call ‘radical exclusion,’ or shutting out absolutely anything that serves as a distraction from your key priorities…Bill Gates famously did this during his ‘Think Weeks,’ where twice a year he would shut out all distractions and head into a room of reading material for several days at a time.  An aide would bring in grilled cheese sandwiches and diet soda twice a day, and Gates would plot the future of Microsoft’s world domination strategy” (176).  Oh how I wish I could lock myself away and be sent grilled cheese sandwiches and diet soda at my bidding…not likely to happen any time soon in this momma’s life!

I’ll follow up with quotes from Kenison’s book next time; for now, I’m off to catch up on some Netflix and one-on-one time with the Professor after he spent a looooooong week at a microbiology conference.

Happiness Project, Schmappiness Project

I was very intrigued by The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin’s year-long attempt to put more happiness into her life.  She focuses on a different aspect of life each month (work, marriage, etc.), and at the beginning, I was really gleaning some things.

But as the book wore on, I found myself getting less and less out of it, sometimes growing impatient, and it hit me: as a Christian, I don’t need a happiness project. I have the greatest and only source of true joy there is, salvation through Jesus Christ.  It is the sweetest gift, frames my every day, and gives meaning to my life’s work and leisure.

Once I realized that, I read the book more as a memoir of the author’s experience than as a book that would change my life or perspective.  But there were a few things that I took away, month-by-month:

January: Vitality: I need to establish–and follow–a bedtime routine, in the same order, at the same time, every night.  This momma needs more sleep!

February: Marriage: The Professor and I talked about this…our marriage is pretty awesome.  He doesn’t let arguments fester when I would, so things always get resolved.  It was interesting to see into the dynamics of another marriage, and exciting to realize that mine is rock-solid.

March: Work: Inspired me to be more daring in my writing, like trying to freelance and submitting my manuscript sooner rather than later.

April: Parenthood: This was probably the best thing I got out of the book: instead of just saying “no” to a child, acknowledge her feelings. Example: instead of saying, “Don’t touch the stove!” your child is more likely to listen and respond positively to “You want to touch the stove because Mommy does, but it’s very hot and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

May: Leisure: I could relate to the author hiding her love for kidlit: it’s not “adult” enough to be considered a valid reading choice.  She changed that, and I plan to as well, just like C.S. Lewis:

When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so.  Now that I am fifty I read them openly.  When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. –from “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”

June: Friendship: I had no notes.

July: Money:
I had no notes.

August: Eternity: I didn’t even read it; I have that one covered.

September: Books: No notes, but I could relate to the novel-in-a-month experience that the author describes.  I am now certain I will do NaNoWriMo again this year, and I already have an idea!  The idea of making time for passions and taking notes while reading for no apparent reason also resonated with me.

October: Mindfulness: No notes.  Blech.

November: Attitude: Ho hum.

December: Happiness Boot Camp: I think I’ll keep the author’s idea of a resolution chart (like Benjamin Franklin used) in mind when New Year’s rolls around again.

Overall, an interesting look into one woman’s life and pursuit of happiness, but I think the greatest truth I took away from the book is that I never needed it.