Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Goal #16 COMPLETE: Top 100 Books

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here.   

Goal #16 COMPLETE: Read ten books off of the BBC’s Top 100 Books list 

Being an avid reader, I'm actually surprised that it took me so long to complete this goal (never mind that I gave birth to twins four months ago and have been a smidge busy since). The lengthy completion could also have something to do with the fact that I spent a lot of time on the library hold list waiting to borrow all these books because I was too cheap frugal to buy them. Also, some of the books weren't quite as thrilling as I had hoped and it took me a while to find the motivation to finish them. While I love a good book and will stay up into the wee hours of the night page turning, I also have a bad habit of finishing books that I don't like. If I've invested three or four chapters worth of time into a fiction novel, chances are I'll finish it even if I think it's horrible. Which is, I'll admit, a little stupid (okay, fine, a lot of stupid).

After reading these literary classics (according to BBC's list) I feel only slightly more classy and cultured myself. Maybe I didn't have a clear picture of the historical significance of these books or perhaps I am not enough of an enlightened intellectual to "get it", but I was super unimpressed, even disturbed by some of the books that fell under the "classic" category. Some were good, a couple were great, most were just okay or just plain blah.

So here is what I read and what I thought:

Jane Erye: I really enjoyed this book. The story dragged in some places (which is normal for books from this era), but overall I was intrigued by the plot and the characters. I loved the story of redemption and renewal that was woven throughout the book - it made the horribly tragic parts so worth it in the end. It was the first of the ten I read and it was a great book to start this goal with!

Animal Farm: While I understand that this book is an interesting, historical allegory about the Russian Revolution, I just thought it was mostly weird. However, I can see why it is read in high schools as I'm sure it is a great tool for demonstrating creative and allegorical writing while teaching about historical events at the same time.

Holes: This book was so fun and is an excellent introduction to irony for young readers. Plus, the content is squeaky-clean, so I would have no problem recommending it to any young person.

Nineteen-Eighty-Four: At first I was completely sucked into and freaked out by the world of 1984 created by Wells. I even lay awake one night with thoughts of, "Holy smokes! What if that actually were to happen?!" However, the more I read the more I was surprised that this book was in the teen section. Sexual expression and promiscuity drive a large part of the plot. Which "makes sense" in the world of the book, but it was still unfortunate that it was included. There are many parts in the book that just sorta left me with a sick knot in my stomach, though not all for crude reasons. In the end, while I have mixed feelings about the book, it was a terrifying and fascinating story with a very Twilight Zone conclusion. 

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Amusing. Strange. Odd. Weird. Definitely different. Pretty much completely pointless (which I think, ironically, was the whole point.) I liked the movie better (which I don't think I have ever said about a book.) And... That's about all I can say. 

The Count of Monte Cristo: This is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I was excited to finally read the book that inspired it. I was not disappointed. An excellent story that even with 900 pages of small type kept me engaged (nearly) the whole time (there were some historical backdrop scenes that dragged on a bit). The only downfall? I had to check it out from the library four times, because even though I'm a fast reader, I couldn't get through those 900 pages in the allotted two-week check-out time. And since I was apparently not the only one checking this book out, my reading was interrupted by one-to-two-weeks on the hold list every time I return it. 
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: This was one of my favorite movies growing up (both Disney's animated version and the super-weird live action version (which my dad somehow tracked down for me for Christmas this year)). However, the book made for a very strange reading experience. And the ending was lame. I hate lame endings. Makes me want to throw books across the room (fortunately for Alice, I was reading on my Kindle).

A Prayer for Owen Meany: This story was pretty tragic. The graphic, final chapters were burned into my mind's eye night after night once I finished it and it was not pretty. There was also this bitter, anti-war, anti- America diatribe that the main character/narrator weaved throughout the story that got really old and boring fast. Also, it was very crude in places and there was a lot of language. I will say however that the symbolism and foreshadowing used in this story was phenomenal - haunting even. 

Wuthering Heights: I have four younger siblings, so I can understand a little sibling rivalry (which is part of the reason I chose this book). I also get that different kids have different talent/styles/interest/etc. But personally, I thought Emily Brontë fell way short of what her sister, Charrolete Brontë, achieved in Jane Erye. Wuthering Heights was very close to the antithesis of Jane Erye. Maybe that was the point, but there was so much darkness in the story and no hope; no redemption; no purpose to the pain and evil caused by the actions of the characters. I really hated it. 

The Great Gatsby: This was the book that my readers most recommended. I'm sorry to say that I was not blown away by it. I did appreciate how poetically it was written, but the story itself didn't do much for me. Despite this, I kinda was to see the new movie version when it comes out in December. I don't know why. Maybe because I really like what I've seen so far from Carrie Mulligan (she'll play Daisy) and want to see her in another film.

So that's that. I think I'm going to stay away from the supposed "classics" for a while and read some things that actually matter and might make a difference in my life (maybe I'll start with Marla's on-line reading group that is going through 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. More details here). Or at the very least I'll read books that offer a relaxing and entertaining diversion. Which means I probably should should stop wasting time finishing books that I hate just because I've already read the first few chapters...

Anyone else reading something good right now? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Goal #92: Staying Home - COMPLETE

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here. 

Goal #92: Work from home full-time - COMPLETE

I wrote before about how having twins, or even one baby, was never part of my Project 101 in 1001 list-of-things-to-do-at-this-point-in-my-life. The "plan" was to do the things on my List in preparation for starting a family, but my plans got turned topsy-turvy when we found out I was pregnant, and with twins!

This new turn of events made it a priority to complete Goal #92 a little sooner than planned and on February 1, 2012, I joyfully celebrated my first day as a stay-at-home mom (who also works a little from home here and there). 

Completing this goal at this time pretty much guarantees that I won't complete some other goals on my List (mainly the travel ones - they cost time and money that we just don't have right now). I'm a little disappointed. But really, in the long run, traveling to New England in the fall (Goal # 94) or staying at a bed and breakfast (Goal #99) pale in comparison with staying home with my little ones (when they are still little) and being able to invest the time into my family that I long to. Something I wouldn't have been able to do if I had stayed at my full-time job. 

I am so grateful to even have this option, because I know a lot of mamas who want to stay home and just can't. I'm grateful for a hard-working husband who encouraged me to stay home with our boys and who has taken over the role as sole provider with such a go-getter, positive attitude. I'm grateful for the frugality and debt-free living that gave us the freedom to make this choice.  And I'm grateful for the peace that comes when I lay my future in God's hands as the Ultimate Provider. I am excited to see what doors He may open and the lessons He may teach us as we take this step of faith.

Becoming a stay-at-home mom and "household manager" full-time will be an adjustment for sure. I know there might be days were I miss being a career women with my own identity, using my skill-set in the workplace. And I know that there will be times when I miss the "more than enough" money that we had at our disposal. To be honest, I'm a little nervous to see how I'll handle the transition. I'm hoping that I will love staying home as much as I think I will, but I'm sure there will be "those days".

My dear friend Ashley gave me some amazing encouragement on this subject which comes to mind every time I have the panicked thought of, "What have I done?! What if I hate being at home and completely loose my marbles????" Which is surprisingly often, even being as confident as I am that this was the right choice for our family. 

Ashley (who is way more level-headed than me) said, "It won't always be easy or fun or feel like the best job in the world, but you will know that you are doing God's will and that is what matters most. You will be pouring your life into the most important people in your life, your husband and children." 

I think about the sometimes daily hourly frustrations I used to face at work and compare that with the frustrations of motherhood/homemaking and I realize that the "sweat and blood" days of staying at home will be worth it in the end, because the end results is that I'm putting my efforts into serving and loving my family. Compare that with the sweat and blood effort of serving "The Man" at a job that in the end, is just a job (and one that I did not love), and the decision to make motherhood my new career becomes easy and even thrilling.

So, here I go! I'm embarking on a dream-come-true (as I have always wanted to be able to stay home with my kids) and though I have very little idea as to what to expect out of this new phase in my life, I am bubbling with joy and anticipation. Wish me luck - prayers appreciated!

My new "employers"

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Goal #26 COMPLETE: Media Fast

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here. 

Goal #26: Do a ten-day “Media Fast” – no TV, movies or non-work-related internet use. COMPLETE 

Um. That was rough. Way harder than it should have been. It definitely offered confirming (condemning??) evidence that I was way too addict to my media outlets (the internet specifically... facebook more accurately).

Ten days without TV - not too bad since we don't even have our television hooked into anything but the DVD player and the only "TV" I watch are two shows online (Up All Night and Grimm in case you were curious). Ten days with out movies - not too bad as I was busy finishing up my last week at work and was exhausted/not up for staying up late for a movie. Ten days without email, google, blogging or ::gulp:: facebook. The facebook fast nearly did me in - I was twitching by the second day and caught myself craning my neck to catch a visual whiff of Devin's page whenever he was on. Pathetic. 

Yes. I am a compulsive facebook checker. It's a problem and I'm dealing with it. 

So, ten-days without media was - while hard, inconvenient and irritating at times - a real eye opener to how much time I completely waste on media (especially online stuff). Without it in my life for ten days, I suddenly had time to read (working on Organized Simplicity and The Simplicity Primer at the moment), talk with Devin, play on the floor with my babies and keep the apartment (semi) tidy. It was actually really great. I also was able to get a little more sleep... which ::grimace:: I am not getting by staying up to write this blog... and to check facebook... and to catch up on emails... I haven't even begun catching up on reading my favorite blogs...

Hmmm... It might be a little counter-productive (or hypocritical perhaps?) to try and smoosh ten-days worth of missed media into tonight. Okay... I am ripping myself from the computer and going bed. Just like a BandAid - quick, painless and immediate... just as soon as I check facebook one last time.

Dang it.