Saturday, February 27, 2010

How Many Books Are You Reading 2010? February Update

Time! I wish I had more of it.

Being a full-time student, a part-time cleaning lady, a mother, a wife, a writer, and a runner, I have to steal five minutes here and there to get a chance to read. Or multi-task: cook and read, eat and read.

I didn't always enjoy reading, especially fiction. The first few novels took some effort getting through, but in the last five years or so, reading fiction has increasingly turned into a daily activity. It has become something I crave, a drug of which I need a small daily dose.

My reading goal for 2010 is 15 books. So far, I've only been able to finish one. I read half of book number two. You can read my January Update (link below) about how much it dragged. But now I am really close to finishing book number three: "White Fang" by Jack London.

Since I started reading "White Fang", it has climbed higher and higher on my personal list of favorite books. What makes it such a good read is the depth of the characters and the plot. The story comes alive by creative metaphors, vivid descriptions, and Jack London's ability to display human and animal behavior in shades, blends and layers that jump off the pages. But best of all, I have enjoyed the balance between all the elements is the story. It is romantic, sensitive, heartbreaking, and raw-naturalistic story telling with an undertone of irony and humor.

It was hard to pick a favorite passage, but here is one that I think exemplifies Jack London's superior way of describing characters:

"Backward, from the apex, his head slanted down to his neck; and forward, it slanted uncompromisingly to meet a low and remarkably wide forehead. Beginning here, as though regretting her parsimony, Nature had spread his features with a lavish hand. His eyes were large, and between them was the distance of two eyes. His face, in relation to the rest of him, was prodigious. In order to discover the necessary area, Nature had given him an enormous jaw. It was wide and heavy, and protruded outward and down until it seemed to rest on his chest. Possibly this appearance was due to weariness of the slender neck, unable properly to support so great a burden.
This jaw gave the impression of ferocious determination. But something lacked. Perhaps it was from excess. Perhaps the jaw was too large. At any rate, it was a lie. Beauty Smith was known far and wide as the weakest of weak-kneed and snivelling cowards. To complete his description, his teeth were large and yellow, while the eye-teeth, larger than their fellows, showed under his lean lips like fangs. His eyes were yellow and muddy, as though Nature had run short on pigments and squeezed together the dregs of all her tubes. It was the same with his hair, sparse and irregular of growth, muddy-yellow and dirty-yellow, rising on his head and sprouting out of his face in unexpected tufts and bunches, in appearances like clumped and wind-blown grain."

Previous posts:
How Many Books Are You Reading 2010?
How Many Books Are You Reading 2010? January Update

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Science Of Love

I signed up for the February blog chain at the Absolute Write Water Cooler (a forum I visit often).This month's subject is LOVE!

As I am a bit of a nerd, and since I enjoy reading non-fiction, my post will explore the scientific side of love, or more specifically, falling in love.

A researcher named Dr Helen Fisher has researched what happens in our brain when we fall in love. She has found that our reward center, a "feel good center", in our brain gets stimulated by chemicals when we eat, drink, sleep, and have sex.

Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, Dr Fisher has discovered that this reward center is involved when we fall in love. As there is an area in the brain that deals with our emotions (feelings), this would be a logical place for love --but initially this emotional area is patiently waiting for a later stage in the process. When our love has matured beyond this first stage known as LUST.

What Dr Fisher concludes from her research is that first stage of love (lust) is nothing different than an ordinary physiological reward --like eating a piece of chocolate.

If you like to read more on The Science Of Love

Upsidedowngrl is next on the list to write a love post -

Here are the previous writers on the AW February blog chain:

Previous post: Guilty Pleasures!

Friday, February 19, 2010

I Avoid Going To The Dentist

I went to the dentist today. It's been seven years since my last appointment. Yeah, I know. But it's not like I am neglecting my teeth, I brush and floss everyday. And it's expensive to see a dentist. High cost is a reasonable excuse, but it's not why I don't go. My number one reason is fear.

Growing up, I had horrible looking teeth. My baby teeth were shades of beige, brown and black. According to my mother, they got this way because of sugary cough syrup. I was sick a lot with flues and colds as a toddler.

When I was five, I had to have a tooth pulled. One of my baby molars had a giant black crater right down to its nerve. And below it, in the gum line, there was a red, swollen bulb of pus. My mouth radiated with tooth ache.

My poor mother was instructed to give me sedatives to make the extraction possible. As the story has been told to me (a few times), I was too drugged to walk, but once I got into the dentist chair, I fought to keep my mouth shut. But with my mom's tight hold around my body, a shoot of novacaine was pressed into my jaw, and the tooth was easily plucked with a little wiggle, and a small tug.

My muscles tense up when I think back to my childhood dental visits.

Just walking towards the building with the dental office made me want to run and hid. The smell in the elevator gave me stomach cramps. The anxiety filled waiting room. I got so nervous. I couldn't pay attention to the books and comics my mother read.

I can't remember my dentist's name. But I have a clear picture of what she looked like. Her gray hair was cut into a geometrical-shaped bob (sharp lines) that gave her face a firm expression. There were rarely any smiles. I don't think she liked kids. Or maybe she just didn't like difficult ones.

If my terror was moderate-to-bad in the waiting room, it climaxed as I watched my dentist perform her predictable ritual in the exam room: wash her hands, dry her hands, sit down on the roll-stool, tie the paper mouth-guard, adjusted the light on my face. I knew all the steps. When she reached for the metal hook tool, and the little mirror-stick, my heart jumped inside my chest, and my mouth locked shut. Tears rolled down my cheeks.

Today I am thirty-seven, but I still feel like a little kid when I get into a dental chair. I fear it's going to stick with me until I die. Few innovations have been introduced to make dental procedures less uncomfortable for patients.

The smell is the same. And "gentle dental" still means sedatives.

Previous post: Elvis --My Most Memorable Birthday Gift

Sunday, February 14, 2010

How Long Does It Take To Form A Lasting Running Habit?

Forming habits. Some habits seem to form themselves with minimal effort on my part. Things like eating breakfast, sleeping in on the weekends, sitting down at the computer and checking my e-mail, snacking on junk I shouldn't eat, and buying crap I don't need.

And then other habits takes maximum effort to establish. They seem completely impossible to program into a routine. Things like planning dinners before I go grocery shopping, making the bed every morning, and cleaning the house once a week.

Forming running habits takes maximum effort. I've been working hard at it for nearly four months, and it's not until now that I feel like running is slowly becoming a regular part of my weekly routine. When it's time to put on my shorts and shoes, I don't have to motivate myself as much anymore --unless it's raining of course!

If I am going to believe John Tesh's "intelligence for your life" radio show, it takes six months to successfully form a lasting habit. He was referring to eating healthy foods, but maybe it crosses over to exercising? This means I have two more months to go. And I am hopeful. I feel like it could happen. For the past month, I've been running three miles four times a week, and today I increased my distance with another half a mile. Making progress is an awesome motivator!

Previous posts:
Why I Run
Want To Run Comfortably?
Don't Fall For The Temptation And Buy An El Cheapo Running Shoe

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Trucker": My First Attempt At A Novel

Something new, I am going to start posting snippets from my first novel: "Trucker".

It's a half-finished story, a project I began last August, three months before I even knew anything about NaNoWriMo. Since then, it has been resting and maturing in a computer file, and now I am ready to dust it off and tinker with it again, and share it with you.

This being said, I am preparing you for amateur fiction. I am a beginner. My fiction is highly juvenile. So smile, shake your head and have fun, but be gentle on the criticism.

Now then, what is "Trucker" about? In this post I will start this fiction series by giving you a small synopsis of the story.

Jake is 40. His life follows the same old patterns, and he likes it that way. It's safe and predictable. He drives his truck, chats with Rob on his cell, and spends holidays and vacations at his mom's house in Florida.

The only thing missing in his life is a girlfriend. He daydreams about meeting a pretty, but trustworthy, brunette with low expectations. A girl who isn't needy, and who likes truckers.

One early October morning, as Jake heads south on interstate 57 towards St Louis, he crashes and totals his truck. He is a survivor, but no longer in control. He is dependent on friends and hospital staff to recover and adjust to a new life. A life that is full of difficult lessons, hard work, and surprises.

Jake meets Sara. She is perfect, but belongs to someone else.

Previous posts: National Novel Writing Month 2009

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Walmart Shoppers Are Going Green

I care a lot about what I eat, and lately I've been converting more and more to organic products. But I'm not shopping at those crazy-expensive health food stores. I shop at Walmart and Publix.

In the last couple of years, I have observed with great enthusiasm how the number of reasonably priced organic alternatives have increased. They are slowly but surely finding their way into every section of the big, chain, grocery stores. Publix is doing a better job than Walmart --but Walmart is not far behind.

Most of the environmental news I read about in the media is depressing. So I feel that this new influx of organic products in stores like Walmart is a positive trend worth pointing out. It gives me hope for the future.

Just think about it for a moment. Walmart hasn't changed. They don't care about the environment. They care about profit and sell what people buy. So what has happened? The change that has taken place is in the way their customers are shopping.

Every time you purchase a product, you "vote" for that product to be reordered and restocked on the shelf. This means that enough Walmart shoppers have decided to "vote" organic. It's really that simple.

Many times I think we forget that I, the consumer, have all the power, not the rich corporate executives. I shop; I vote! So next time you ask yourself: "What can I do about the environment? I am just one person." Buy an organic apple!

Previous posts: Foods I No Longer Eat

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Elvis --My Most Memorable Birthday Gift!

Little, adorable Elvis, only eight weeks old, he was a German Shepherd puppy. Back in February of 1996, I bought him for $500.

Elvis is my most memorable birthday gift. Notice that I am using the word memorable and not the word best.

As I am turning 37 this week, my daughter brought up the topic of favorite birthday gifts. Did I have one? It was a difficult question. I couldn't think of many, but then Elvis popped into my head. He was a gift to myself when I turned 23.

Elvis was what you call a spontaneous purchase. He wasn't planned. I saw an ad in the paper: "For Sale. 3 male German Shepherd puppies. No papers. $500." It sounded cheap, so I decided to go and take a look.

(You never just go and LOOK at puppies!) My mom, being older and wiser, asked if it was a wise idea. She reminded me that I had just started school full-time.

Did I listen? Of course not!

I was just going to look. But of course, I brought money with me, just in case. Yeah well, "just in case" went out the window (along with my come and sense) as soon as I saw the puppies. In that moment, holding Elvis in my arms, he was so soft and so cute --almost like a little wolf cub; I knew that I wasn't leaving without him. So I gave the breeder my money, and put Elvis in the car.

When I got home I had to dash to the pet supply store to buy dog food, bowls, a leash and toys. I was completely unprepared to care for a dog. In more ways than one, I would soon discover.

As I had no experience with raising a German
Shepherd puppy, things didn't go so well for Elvis and I. I treated him like he was my little baby. This was before Cesar, the Dog-Whisperer. Cesar would have told me to be the Alfa-leader. Consequently, Elvis though I was a dog, and since I wasn't Alfa material --he decided to lead.

His leadership meant I couldn't leave my apartment. When I left, to go to class, he barked, howled, and chewed and destroyed furniture, mail, kitchen cabinets, wallpaper, just about anything. And when I took him out, he nearly pulled my arm off. I wore leather gloves to keep my skin intact.

After six months of dog-owner Hell, I called the breeder and begged her to take him back. Lucky for me, she did. Though, she had moved half across the country--so the return trip became a real goodbye-to-Elvis-adventure.