Tidying up for Good

(Entry below is an excerpt of a handwritten entry from 2/18/15)

I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo which has been really enlightening for me. I got rid of, threw away and donated tons of crap: DVDs, books, VHS tapes I never watched, a bag full of clothes, costume jewelry and shoes, clear plastic sleeves holding magazine pages that I saved in a binder but rarely looked at.

I even went through my Ipod and deleted old songs and albums I no longer listen to, and songs that take me back to the past in a negative way,  bringing up memories that I’d rather forget. I consolidated my storage space as well, by following the author’s tips on how she stores handbags inside other handbags (to help maintain their shape) and how she folds t-shirts. I folded a lot of t-shirts and placed them neatly in a drawer, which freed up a lot of closet space instantly.

While reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, I was already considering all the things in my possession that didn’t bring me any joy at all and how much I couldn’t wait to be rid of them. This is a book where you have to stop several times while reading because it’s so convincing that you can’t wait to get started clearing out your old stuff.

I immediately went through my closet and pulled out things for donation that I knew I didn’t love, didn’t wear, and had been meaning to get rid of for so long. I could suddenly recognize them as definite clutter. I could never seem to take the last step berfore, but this book somehow did the trick. The author helps you deal with feelings of guilt for items never used or money wasted or things kept out of a feeling of obligation, like unwanted gifts from others.

The advice is so clear and absorbing that it just ends up making perfect sense. This is one book that truly resonated with me and I am reading it now again for the second time. I also went through and read all the reviews of the book on Amazon.com, just out of curiosity about how others went about their clutter clearing journeys. And how their lives changed as a result.

I think it’s good to clear things out because it creates the space for something new- or a new idea or perspective to come in. I still want to work through my kitchen drawers which tend to collect a good amount of junk. It was a relief to go through my cupboards the other day and throw away a bunch of bottles of vitamins and spices that had expired.

I’m more interested now in the fresh and the new, in what’s to come in the future rather than what has been in the past. If I continue to evolve for the better, so the circumstances and people in my life should follow suit and be better for me than anyone or anything that has come before.  I have so much more space now in my home thanks to Marie Kondo, even though I thought I was already pretty minimalist.

 

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February 20, 2015. Tags: , , , , . books. Leave a comment.

Last Book Read

Prompt: Tell us about the last book you read (Why did you choose it? Would you recommend it?). To go further, write a post based on its subject matter.

My Response:

The last book I read was Girl, Wanted: The Chase for Sarah Pender by Steve Miller. Actually, I read it twice. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by the story of Sarah Pender, a young woman who was charged (with her boyfriend at the time) of murdering her two roommates.

The blame went back and forth between Sarah and her boyfriend for the murders. He even went so far as to have a friend of his forge Sarah’s handwriting and write him a letter confessing to the crimes. The letter was later found not to have Sarah’s fingerprints on it. Sarah had, however, purchased the murder weapon.

Sarah was convicted and sentenced to 110 years in prison for acting as an accomplice to the crimes. After filing several appeals and getting them denied, she broke out of prison (8 years into her sentence) with the help of some friends, ex-cons, and even a security guard at the prison.

She had used and manipulated them all to aid in her escape. She was finally caught a few months later and was returned to jail, and the friends who helped her received prison time for aiding a convicted felon. One ex-con was sentenced to 7 years, and the prison security guard was sentenced to 8 years.

I think I find this story interesting because of Sarah Pender. She was a smart person who had somehow gotten her whole life turned upside down. She maintains she is innocent but no one really knows if she was the mastermind behind the murders.

She wanted the roommates out of her home because they were selling drugs and stealing her money, and causing problems all around. I’ve tried to make up my own mind about whether or not she was behind the killings, but the book doesn’t reveal much in the mystery. It only becomes more mysterious and strange.

Sarah was featured on America’s Most Wanted while she was out on the lam. She was in the top 15 of that list, and the only woman featured on the list. She was able to outsmart the U.S. Marshall, buying phones for one time calls to her friends that could not be traced.

She evaded capture for 136 days. During that time, she met a wealthy businessman who helped her get a job (under the table) and set her up in an apartment and paid for her expenses in exchange for sex.

Before the murder conviction, she was working a serious, Monday through Friday, 8-5 office job and saving money to return to college where she wanted to major in physics. She managed to charm everyone around her.

And some say she made others commit crimes for her by some amazing control she was able to exert over people. One attorney in the book refers to her as ‘the female Charles Manson’ because of the way she was able to seduce, control and use people in order to get them to do what she wanted.

Sarah is now in solitary confinement and will not be released until she is 75 years old. The show Snapped did a feature episode on her, but focused more on the crime details than on her time after escaping prison.

Sarah is a strange character, showing emotion when feeling sorry for herself at the end, but showing no real remorse about the deaths of her roommates (in the interview portion of the Snapped episode).

She writes a letter (mentioned in the book) to someone and states that ‘killing people is no big deal, people die all the time.’ So I have to wonder if she honestly realized what she was writing, or if she really was unstable or evil beneath the surface.

Sarah presents herself as sweet and innocent, but that’s also how she likely lured people into her traps and got them to go along with her plans and do her bidding, even at the risk of themselves and their own freedom.

I think feeling as socially inept as I often do, I find it so interesting that a young woman could have so much control over others, know how to quickly gain love and trust and friendship, and absolute loyalty from people she meets and befriends. I would definitely recommend this book.

I chose to read this book after watching the movie that was based on the Sarah Pender story, called She Made Them Do It. It aired recently on Lifetime. See official page- http://www.mylifetime.com/movies/she-made-them-do-it

March 19, 2014. Tags: , , . books, writing. Leave a comment.

Love List

(Entry below was handwritten on 3/12/14)

Prompt: Make a list of things you love. Keep listing until you feel amazing.
(from the book, The Power by Rhonda Byrne)

My Response:

I love my mother, my niece and nephew, my sister, my dad, my extended family. I love staying in, I love dusk in the summertime. I love the fall season. I love unexpected gifts.

I love days off from work, new pens, a new journal, gray eyeliner and orange lip gloss. I love being warm and cozy in bed, sleeping in late, hot bubble baths, exercising, hot showers, using Wen.

I love buying lottery scratch off tickets, meditation, reading and writing. I love watching movies. I love writing or meditating with a group of people. I love discovering new places I’ve never been to before. I love music, the first few warm days of spring. I love Shirley Manson, Garbage’s music, Blondie’s music.

I love to learn new things, expand my knowledge, do research. I love shopping for new dresses and handbags, and shopping on the charity website- thehungersite.com.

I love getting ‘likes’ after posting an entry on my blog. I love to fantasize, to be quiet and observe. I love weekends, going out to eat Mexican or Chinese food or Italian food.

I love Europe and the effortless style of many Asian women. I love minimalism, not owning so many possessions. I love taking walks, listening to my Ipod or not.

I love comfortable clothing, and wearing things that absolutely suit me and my personality. I love my zumba classes, and dancing as a fun way to exercise and burn calories.

I love being free from debt, remembering my dreams, burning scented candles, going to the library. I love discovering new aspects of myself, and new interests to pursue. I love museums, live musical performances, plays, theater, going to concerts, watching artists draw or paint.

I love wearing jewelry and fancy perfumes. I love my beige, Longchamp handbag, all my furniture, my books, the apartment I live in that’s in a quiet, private home on a quiet street. I love working from home.

What do you love?

March 16, 2014. Tags: , , , , . books, writing. Leave a comment.

Favorite Character

(Entry below is an excerpt from an entry handwritten on 2/1/2014)

I just finished reading The Help the other night, and one of the reading group discussion questions at the back of the novel is: Who was your favorite character? Why? My favorite character was Eugenia Phelan, nicknamed Skeeter. She was my favorite character because she was akward and insecure of herself at first, but by the end, her true character reveals itself.

She felt strongly about a topic, and decided to interview maids and write a book about it. This decision was very brave and very dangerous, (considering the time period in which the book takes place) but Skeeter was determined to complete her project and write her book. She even worked around the clock at the last minute in order to get the manuscript to the publishing house in New York in time for the deadline.

Skeeter lost her friends, her social status and acceptance, and her first boyfriend. All that did not deter her from reaching her goal. She decided to write something extremely controversial, yet important, with the hope that it would open people’s eyes and create change. And the book she wrote succeeded in creating a dialogue between the maids and the families they worked for.

I admire Eugenia for withstanding so much criticism from her mother for not having found a husband, and for everything about her appearance that was criticized as well. And then for later dealing bravely with her mother’s serious illness and failing health. Eugenia is a strong character. She is patient and empathetic, as well as blunt and honest.

Eugenia published her book “Help” anonymously. She didn’t do it for recognition of accolades. She did it because it was an important topic to her, and it was something that no one else had ever written about before.

It’s hard to believe that The Help is the debut novel of Kathryn Stockett because the characters are so alive and the scenes are all so vivid. She has a great imagination and way with words. I was thinking the other day, how awful it would be to get to the end of my life having never written or published anything substantial- without having left behind some sort of creative legacy.

I hope that one day I find my own story, and finally get it written down, committed to paper and published.

February 2, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . books, writing. Leave a comment.

Currently Reading ‘The Help’

Prompt: What was the title of the last book you read?

My Response:

I recently started reading The Help by Kathryin Stockett, and I’m finding it very enjoyable and entertaining. I saw the movie first, but always wanted to read the book because I liked the story and watching movies about writers.

And this is a book/movie of how a writer wanted to write something important. She was more interested in writing than in getting married. Her mother is constantly criticizing her and pushing her to find a husband, while she feels that the more meaningful thing for her to do was to write something that would be read someday by people.

I find the way that Kathryn Stockett writes to be very engrossing, very detailed and realistic. The stories are told with chapters narrated by different characters, so the reader gets a peak into how they live their lives and what they experience. I’ve read chapters so far narrated by the characters: Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. Each of their voices is distinctive, affecting and deeply honest.

Each chapter and point of view is so clearly defined that you feel that you know these characters intimately right away. The story never drags and I find it hard to put the book down.

It’s been challenging to try to read it since I’m also in the midst of moving to a new apartment. But I try to get back to it every night because I just can’t wait to get to the part of the story when Skeeter starts to write the book detailing the experiences of the maids.

I’m only up to chapter six, but I would definitely recommend this book. The writing is crisp, real and humorous and it’s easy to imagine each moment as it is vividly described by the characters. I’m excited to read further on and see how the rest of the book is shaped. It’s already better than the movie.

November 25, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . books, writing. Leave a comment.

Reading List

The following are a list of the next books I want to read, luckily I looked them up and they are all at my library so I will be checking them out soon:

“Chilly Scenes of Winter”
-Ann Beattie

“The Bookshop”
-Penelope Fitzgerald

“Winter’s Tale”
-Mark Helprin

“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”
-Carson McCullers

“Travels with Charley”
-John Steinbeck

“Possession: A Romance”
-A.S. Bryant

September 25, 2013. Tags: . books. Leave a comment.

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for”

I found that quote (title of post) on this website the other day: http://www.astrologyandbeyond.com/ and it really struck me. It was said by Sir John Lubbock. It’s really worth pondering.

I read what is probably the single most inspiring book I have ever gotten my hands on in my life. It’s written mostly for women, but I think anyone can benefit from its message. It has a really dumb title, God on a Harley (please don’t let that fool you) and it’s by Joan Brady. I don’t even remember how I came across this book from researching another book online a long time ago, but the reviews always stayed in my head.

People claimed this book had changed their lives and that they had bought several copies for friends who had thanked them for doing so. It’s a really short and very affordable. I got my copy at Barnes and Nobles for $6.99.

It’s a spiritual book, but not preachy. And it doesn’t cater to any particular religion, just a sense of a higher power than us. I recommend this book very highly to anyone who needs a bit of inspiration in their lives. It gave me this sense of peace inside me like nothing else ever has. Hope you’ll give it a look.

Here is the book description from amazon.com:

At thirty-seven, Christine Moore had a world-class case of burnout: frustrating career, a few dead-end romances, and a less-than-perfect figure. Little did she know her life was about to change completely….

“Come out of the shadows, Christine. You’ve spent far too much time hiding in shadows.” The man who spoke to her was gorgeous — long sable hair, faded T-shirt, black motorcycle jacket — all astride a 1340cc Harley-Davidson, mysteriously parked on a moonlit beach near her home. Christine was inexplicably drawn to this stranger — who seemed to know everything about her — and as a sweet serenity settled over her, she surrendered to his words: “We have a lot of work to do, but it won’t feel like work. It will feel quite wonderful.”

So begins Christine’s journey, a voyage of the spirit that frees her to appreciate each precious moment of life — and reveals to her six wondrous precepts that lead to the deepest peace and fulfillment we can ever know. For every woman whose heart has ever been broken, but who believes in her soul that real happiness can be found, God On A Harley has arrived. Need a lift?

May 30, 2013. Tags: , , . books. Leave a comment.

Review of Inferno by Dan Brown

Some things in this review may be considered spoilers..

Over the rainy weekend, instead of going out, I stayed in and read through Dan Brown’s Inferno in about 2 and a half days. It was a fast-paced, entertaining read and I enjoyed the story much more than the story of his last novel, The Lost Symbol. The plot left me with some questions at the end, but the action was engrossing and entertaining.

Once again, there were a lot of descriptions of artworks, famous historical locales in Venice, Italy and Istanbul, and many chase scenes moving the story forward. The artistic and historical references may not be interesting to all, but I found them to be fascinating because I very much enjoy art history and literature.

The story is essentially a mystery that pulls you in immediately. Robert Langdon and Sienna Brooks (a doctor) are in a race to find a dangerous chemical weapon hidden by an evil scientist who is obsessed with the dangers of overpopulation on earth.

People have hidden agendas, as in previous Dan Brown novels, and not everyone is who they claim to be. Along the way, they encounter the head of the WHO (World Health Organization) and a man name the provost, the head of a secret organization helping the villain in his efforts.

The premise is an intriguing one, and can be a bit scary when the world of the future is compared to hell as depicted in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the first part of The Divine Comedy, in which Dante describes all the levels of hell (as he imagines it) as he descends to the lowest level. He eventually writes about getting to purgatory and then heaven. But hell is the novel’s central theme.

The short chapters make you want to keep reading to get answers and see it all unfold. Some things seemed a bit contrived, like a chase scene through a museum where Robert Langdon just happens to know secret passageways not known to the general public. He had learned about these secret doors/hidden rooms during a ‘secret passageway’ tour he took at another point in time, which I found awfully convenient for his escape from authorities chasing after him.

The thrill of this book is that it’s constantly raising questions. Brown gives you just a hint of information (a small clue to the big mystery) that makes you want to keep reading to see what happens. This method is very effective and show a lot of skill. The novel is very finely tuned. But will leave you with some questions of your own.

For example, why did Dr. Sienna Brooks need to be described as beautiful and attractive, if the only part of her personality that would come into play was her intellect? This is not a romance novel where we need to root for a beautiful heroine and happily ever after.

And this question was really bugging me: why did the evil scientist mastermind (threatening to unleash a plague on the world) wear a plague mask in his ominous video? (When you get to the end and realize what his virus actually does, you will understand this question). Maybe it was just to seem more menacing?

It was not to hide his identity since he removes it at the end of the video. It didn’t make any sense. Maybe I need to reread some parts to see if I missed anything. I could not put the book down and maybe when I was sleepily reading at 2:30am, some of these things were made more clear in the text.

It’s very easy to imagine this story playing out on the screen as a major film. And I would want to see it in live action like The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons, if only to see if the way I imagined it is the way the author intended. And the scenery/art/locations described in the book are just begging for a theatrical depiction.

Dan Brown supposedly said there were talks to make this book into a movie, and hopefully the treatment of it is better than Angels and Demons, where the movie left out the central point to all the action.

dbinferno

May 20, 2013. Tags: , . books. Leave a comment.

Magical Realism at its Best

Aura by Carlos Fuentes

Book description from Amazon:

Felipe Montero is employed in the house of an aged widow to edit her deceased husband’s memoirs. There Felipe meets her beautiful green-eyed niece, Aura. His passion for Aura and his gradual discovery of the true relationship between the young woman and her aunt propel the story to its extraordinary conclusion.

(Review below was wrote this on March 23, 2001 while I was in college)

The novel Aura by Carlos Fuentes is the best book I have read in all four of my college years. I am an English major and I have read many different authors, but this book is my absolute favorite. It is written unexpectedly in second person, putting the reader right into the shoes of the main character. I read this book about two semesters ago and I still remember its imagery vividly.

If you hate to read books, you will still love this novel, or at least be completely engrossed until the end. Its full of striking scenes and imaginative storytelling that will keep you turning pages until the whole thing is read. As soon as I was done, I re-read the book and then lent it to both my parents to read. My copy was printed in Spanish, with the English translation on the opposite page. My parents couldn’t put it down and were immediately hooked and drawn into the story.

You cannot help but be impacted not only by the way the story is told in second person, but also by the palpable environment it creates inside the old woman’s home. It becomes another dimension, separate from the outside world, in which time, space and reality have no meaning. The lines between sleeping and waking are blurred. The reader feels constantly in suspense.

It is a dark, ultimately sad and haunting story, but very satisfying in a strange way. It is excellent and unlike any book you have ever read or will read. It’s an inspiration to writers and book lovers alike. There are a lot of hidden messages that are up to the reader to sort out. The story is filled with passionate restraint and emotional depth.

book-cover-aura

April 5, 2013. Tags: , , , , . books, writing. Leave a comment.

On the Road to Nowhere

This is a review I wrote in college after reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

The characters in On the Road feel they must travel across America having numerous adventures in order to prove to themselves that they are alive. In the midst of confusion, chaos and merriment, Sal and Dean believe they will be enlightened about the meaning of life. Because life is ordinarily so sad, Sal follows Dean everywhere so that he can make the most of it.

Sal wants to know how it feels to have complete and utter freedom. Sal admires people who are excited about life, enthusiastic about everything. Dean is this type of person. Sal knows Dean could get him to enjoy the endless opportunities and mysteries of experiences on the road. Sal likes Dean’s constant mad state of mind and Sal wanted to have it himself. Sal wants life in the extremes of love, joy, fun, and ecstasy. He feels this is the only way to live.

The spirit and pace of the book is fast and exciting. The reader can’t help but get caught up in the roundabout lives of the characters. This sort of lifestyle however, places no value on true friendship, responsibility, maturity or growth.

Dean’s life is all about fun. Kerouac sustains this meaning throughout the book by his descriptions of the muddled events and their consequences, the confusion, jazz music, drugs, drinking, parties and women.

The characters move constantly from one place to another without thinking or really caring about who they’ve left behind. Sal keeps getting the ‘bug’ to go back on the road. In the process, he destroys Dean’s domestic life with his wife, Camille, and their child.

At parties, Sal and all his friends drink heavily and throw women around like playthings. They don’t like it when their women interfere with their escapades. They just want women to be quiet, silly, and beautiful. Life for Sal and his friends seems to always be in a state of frenzy. At one point, Dean becomes mad and delirious. He talks nonstop and becomes fidgety and strange.

My own view of life does not correspond with the views in this book. The views I find reasonable and agree with are those of the characters, Carlo Marx and Galatea. They both call Dean on his irresponsible actions and rootless, meaningless existence. Carlo questions their actions angrily and warns them that this way of life could lead to early death. Dean is much more than a free spirit, he’s a wife-beater and drug abuser.

Galatea also chastises him in a great speech. She says, “You have absolutely no regard for anybody but yourself and your damned kicks. All you think about is what’s hanging between your legs and how much money or fun you can get out of people and then you just throw them aside. It never occurs to you that life is serious and there are people trying to make something decent out of it instead of just goofing all the time.” I agree, vehemently, with this reaction to Dean. This passage sums up my opinion of the entire story.

There is a time for fun, but there is also a time to be serious and responsible. Getting the most out of life is an admirable goal, but not if it means taking advantage of people and abandoning children. Sal and Dean could have had fun together without going to such extremes.

The life they led was dangerous, meaningless and absurd.  They could have had fun, drunk in moderation, lead normal lives and maintained healthy relationships with women. I feel that Dean and Sal, despite all of their adventures, still had much to learn about life.

April 4, 2013. Tags: , , . books, writing. 2 comments.

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