Thursday, November 5, 2009

52 in 52

Books, that is. In weeks.

I'm blushing that I haven't posted something in two months. This is more a function of my "not-with-it-ness" than that I've been too busy. Busy, yes. But too busy? Um . . . no. Afraid not. Jim has been gone for much of that time, and I've gotten to experience single motherhood (sort of--it's not like I have to earn all the money too), but let's face it, I still found time to watch Dancing with the Stars, Castle, Heroes, Survivor, and The Amazing Race. Several episodes of each, in fact. For the truly committed, each episode could have represented a blog post or several hundred words in my novel.

But beyond single-motherhood (sort of) and television--which I sneak on my laptop via the internet since we've been "tv-free" since February--I have been busy with another activity.

And I love it.

So much.

I have challenged myself to read 52 books in 52 weeks. My goal coincides with the start of the school year, so this particular blog post should have come out some time in early September. Oh well. Perfection is for the next life.

The real point here, though, is that I have come back to something I love. For the first time in a long time I feel like I am actually being me.

Perhaps you know what I mean. Perhaps you have a kindred tale. Here's a brief glimpse of mine.

For the past 15 years I have been someone's mom--to one, then two, then three wonderful children. And let me be the first to exclaim there is nothing better than that. There is no title I hold dearer to my heart. There is nothing that gives greater joy and there is nothing that gives a greater challenge. But sometimes because of that joy and that challenge and all the other pieces that come together to form motherhood, it is easy to lose track of who you are as a person. When you scrape away all the other parts of your life and it's just you--not your kids, not your spouse. Who are you?

And what parts of yourself have you left behind along the way?

When I answered these questions I realized there were many items on the list.

And in reality, it is not fair for me to blame the loss of all of them on my being a mother and a spouse. Surely time management comes into the equation somewhere. And effort. Determination. Diligence.

As I look back on my life and the sacrifices I've made for my children and my husband there is not one sacrifice I would have changed if I could. In fact, the only thing I would change now if I could would be my own actions in response to a given sacrifice. What did I do with all the dead space in my life? What could I have accomplished if I had been a better steward of that time?

Perhaps the reason I feel so happy now is that I have taken a step towards filling the dead space of my life with beauty. Accomplishment. Intelligence.

So here is my goal.

1. Read 52 books in 52 weeks. By my estimation I will actually read more than this.

2. Read only books I have never read before. I can't go back to my favorites.

3. Read at least 30 books from authors I have never read.

4. Read at least 30 books that are considered classics.

5. Read at least one book recommended by each of my children.

6. Read at least one book with each of my children.

7. Read at least one book from each of the following genres: romance, young adult, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, historical fiction, children's fiction, British literary classic, French literary classic, American literary classic, Russian literary classic, Chinese/Japanese/Asian literary classic, memoir, self-improvement, poetry, biography, and general non-fiction.

8. Write about what I read.

Here is my first entry that should've been put into my blog.

September 3, 2009

52 books in 52 Weeks

Last night I was awakened by Annie at 3:38 A.M. It was an "emergency," she said. Lately I've had trouble getting her to stay in her own room all night long. I'm sure this has something to do with Jim being gone again. She has been coming in with grievances or concerns, both real and imaginary, more nights than not, so by way of encouragement I have "bribed" her with earning stars for staying all night long in her room--at least until the sun has been up for awhile. After she reaches a certain number of stars she gets a trip to Build-a-Bear. She's a sucker for all things cuddly.

Turns out it WAS an emergency. Her night light had burnt out. I took her back to bed and turned on the hall light for her.

But then I was up.

I knew what this meant. Still, I tried to deny it. I closed my eyes valiantly for nearly an hour trying to turn my brain off so I could go back to sleep, but it was no use. My brain had decided 4 hours of sleep was enough, and I needed to be up and feeding it or exercising it. Feeding it would have been reading. Exercising it would have been writing. Those are always my choices. As it was so early, and I was still a bit resentful that I wasn't able to return to dreamland, I decided on feeding. I had a smattering of books on my nightstand, all ones I snatch a chapter out of every now and then, but I grabbed the one I had gone to sleep with. It was a recommendation from Mae, which I had started reading so I could go to the movie with her when it comes out in winter 2010. It also happened to be the one I was racing her to finish. She was reading the second in the series while I read the first. I felt somewhat mischievous for reading our race book during the "forbidden" hours of the night. Hours in which I'd never let her read. It gave me a great advantage. But there should be some advantages to being a mom, right?

So there I lay reading for three-undisturbed hours. At one point I had hoped I would get sleepy enough to fall asleep again, but soon the pure joy of having so much time to myself was exactly what I wanted. Sleep. Shmeep!

I reluctantly returned to responsibility at 7:30 and went for a run--one of my goals this school year is to lose 10 pounds. The air was moist and filled with fog. It was refreshing, beautiful, the perfect atmosphere for my imagination, which had just been fed most heartily. The forest was like a snapshot from all the childhood fairytales I had read, and it proved as fertile to my imagination as its soil was to the trees and plants that surrounded me. I thought about my writing projects and my goals as I ran. I thought about the people who had inspired me over the summer with their greatness and goodness. I thought about the close call we had just had with H's health and how grateful I was that everything was okay. It felt like I had been given a second chance at life. I had prepared myself for one journey and had been magically handed another with beautiful and exciting possibilities. All of the sudden, it seemed, I could PLAN.

And plan I did.

Inspired by my sister-in-law's blogs, as well as a summer where "being all you can be" and "bloom where you're planted" and "there's no reason to put off doing what needs to be done" was repeatedly reinforced (thank you Uncle Ben and Aunt Lori), I made my plan.

This day had started with my acting like I hadn't acted in ages--like a girl with no worries for the next day. It would end with a plan to keep doing the same. I couldn't remember the last time I had read the night away. As a teenager it was quite common for me to read 1 to 2 books per week, but as an adult (when I wasn't in school and required to read) I was lucky if I plowed through one book a month. Chalk it up to responsibilities, I guess. Or too much TV. Or just plain laziness. But the truth is, I was living a lie. I wasn't being the person I was meant to be, the person I wanted to be. I was just letting life pass me by, throwing in a little effort from time to time when the inclination (or guilt) hit me, but more than anything, I was not reaching for any greatness within.

I've learned to take my inspiration when it comes, wherever it comes. Sometimes it's in the quiet moments at night when the kids are asleep and I am filling up the last moments before sleep. Sometimes it is in the car, driving from errand to errand. Sometimes it is when I'm busy about performing the duties of motherhood. This last is how my 52 books in 52 weeks idea came about. I had once accomplished this naturally while at school at BYU getting my English Literature degree. As I had recently put off my opportunity to finish my master’s degree due to family and financial needs, I was struck with the thrill of being the master of my own learning.
So, here goes . . .


  1. Wow, I feel so inspired by you! Thank you for writing. I saw that you have read A tale of desperaux. What did you think? I read it just recently and did not like it at all, but I want to hear your view :).

  2. I liked it okay, but I thought it was a bit dark and explicitly written for a children's book. I liked Kate DiCamillo's writing as a whole, but after awhile I got tired of some of it. The "reader" references started out charming, but she overused the phrase to the point of irritation.

  3. wow! exactly what I thought, but more eloquently said. see my review on goodreads to see what i mean;)

  4. Jenny, you are divine! I am only sort of amazed that you have been feeling exactly how I have been feeling about being the person we are meant to be. I know we've talked about this before. Thanks for being an inspiration to me in all aspects of life! Keep blogging!