books and libraries

Books have been on my mind the past few weeks. I have a small bookcase loaded with books.  Too many books.  Which ones do I keep?  Which ones do I donate?

And then a few weeks back I looked at what I was spending on Kindle books, and I was surprised to add it up and see that I was spending a minimum of $50 on books each month.   (I do read a lot of books.)   It was so easy – press “buy” and the book magically appeared on my Kindle.  There was no visual of seeing the money actually leave my checking account.  It’s as if the transaction truly happened up in a cloud when it was all actually happening in my checking account.

So I did a little research and found out that because I live in a suburb of Dallas, I can borrow books for FREE from the Dallas Public Library. And not just books, but also eBooks and audiobooks.  How did I forget about my love of the library?  Library Day in elementary school was my favorite day, right next to Scholastic Book Club order day.  Right now I have three eBooks loaded on my tablet, six more on hold.  And I have several books with waiting lists requested at the library, and I get a nice email when each one becomes available.  FREE.

I was telling my dad about my new re-discovery, and he told me when he was 12 years old and living in Oak Cliff, he would ride the bus to the downtown Dallas library and spend all day there. Yeah, I got that gene.  And I’m so glad.

Here’s another post about books and libraries I found this week that I really enjoyed.  And yes, I put her book on my library request list too.

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favorite post of the week

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From one of my favorite bloggers, Leo Babauta.  For me, contentment comes from  a true feeling of “All you need, you already have.”  This is easy to believe when life is sailing along smoothly, but it gets harder to remember and trust in this when life gets difficult.  I am always looking for ways to keep this feeling in my heart and mind all the time.  Thanks, Leo!

keeping it simple

I think sometimes we make things more difficult. Here’s an example:  I was in the mood for a new planner – midyear no less.  This frequently happens to me.  This time, it was my wanting to start off my mornings with some intentions and maybe a little side dish of gratitude.  Not a 30-minute process … but just a couple of minutes to be grateful for waking up and having another day to enjoy life, and also to set 2-3 intentions for the day ahead (because I’m addicted to the feeling of accomplishment, and I’m not ashamed to admit it).  So I began doing my online surfing for such a planner and found all sorts of fun and functional daily/weekly/monthly choices.  Each daily page was filled with a box for gratitude, a box for intentions, a box for goals, a box for tasks that need to be done, a box for this, and a box for that.  And I felt myself get caught up in a planner fever that has happened so many times to me over and over for many years.  In the past I would buy a very expensive planner and think, This is what I need to round out my life.  But this time was different because I caught myself, and I went back to my original plan.  Just want a little space to jot a few notes each morning.  For example, today’s would look like this:

Intentions:
Take car in for oil change
Check with resale shop
Do some walking tonight

Gratitude:
Car repair shop
Beautiful sunshiny day
My job

So I stepped back from the online cart, took a deep breath, and reminded myself not to fall into the usual marketing vortex and buy more than I need or want and pay much more than I needed to. Being mindful felt good, and I felt strong.

i blame this book

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You might know Chris Guillebeau for his extremely popular book, The $100 Startup, but to be honest, I haven’t read that one. I did just finish his book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, and loved it.  Not only does he tell about his own quest to visit every country on the planet (wow!), but he writes about others’ quests that range from a mom in Oklahoma whose quest is to cook a meal for her family from every country on the planet to the woman who set the record for the most bird sightings.  He writes about the challenges, the motivations, and the logistics of the many quests that appear in his book.  I can’t remember what prompted me read this book, because to be honest, I usually steer clear of these kinds of books because they make me so dang jealous.  Truth:  People fulfilling their life dreams, whether it’s travels or service to a cause, can bring on a very depressing feeling of inadequacy.  But something got me interested in this book enough to get over my envy, and I’m so glad.  Chris did a really good job of describing quests that would take years and significant amounts of money but also writing about quests that would not take so many years and gobs of money.  Lots of ideas and directions.  And he offers a lot of useful advice about completing a quest and the importance of documenting the journey.  Good stuff.

So pretty much from the beginning of the book, I was wondering what I could take on as my quest.  As Chris writes, a true quest requires such things as a clear goal, some kind of sacrifice, and the quest needs to be challenging.  (His book contains a complete list of the qualities that make a quest.)  In the past few years I’ve started camping a lot with Rosie.  I guess you could say I’ve found a long lost love in nature.  I honestly don’t know who enjoys the camping and hiking more – me or Rosie.  We have an 9-day camping trip in October that starts here in Texas, winds through Arkansas, and finishes with a couple of nights in Oklahoma.  It will be camping heaven.  As I was reading Chris’ book, I thought the natural thing to do would be to incorporate all the camping and hiking in my quest.  Visiting all the national parks would be pretty tough for me as I do work a very traditional 8-5 job with limited vacation time.  However, visiting all the state parks in my home state, Texas, would be challenging but still very do-able.

So our quest began last weekend when Rosie and I visited Bonham State Park which is conveniently located about an hour and a half away from home.  We took a little road trip and actually got a couple of errands done on the way.  It was a very good day, and we’re off to a good start.  Of course, it’s just my luck to live in Texas, the second largest state next to Alaska (which is mostly inhabitable so I don’t think it should count).  Texas has almost 100 legitimate state parks.  Yikes! . There are a few State Historical Sites and State Natural Areas, and we will definitely make every effort to visit those as we travel along on our quest, but the principal goal will be to visit every Texas State Park.  We will be camping in as many state parks as possible, taking lots of photos along the way, and journaling about our adventures.  I am envisioning a beautiful book full of photos of Rosie and me with all of our state park stories.

Soon I’ll share my spreadsheet where I list all the state parks by location and proximity to home so that I could figure out which state parks would be a day trip, weekend trip, or would require a week-long vacation.  Because I definitely got the planning genes.

If you read Chris’ book and decide to take on your own quest, I’d love to hear about it and cheer you on!

 

 

a kinda-sorta minimalist

 

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photo by me

I’m a “kinda sorta” minimalist.  In the past five years, I’ve pared down along the way as I’ve moved from a 3300 square foot house, to a 1400 square foot house and my current 750 square foot apartment.  By the way, let me just say that I love apartment living.  The stresses of repair and maintenance expenses, lawn maintenance, and housecleaning did not work for me.  I enjoyed home ownership for a very short time.

But  I’m ready to take my minimalism groove up a couple of notches.  I’ve started with my closet because this space felt the most cluttered.  It’s not a huge closet; it’s not tiny either.  It could be a perfect sized closet, but there is way too much stuff hiding in there that is totally unnecessary.  I was reading Courtney Carver’s blog about how limiting your wardrobe options reduces stress (taking away the hassle of “what do I wear today”) and saves money.  If I only have five or six outfits for work and I love all of them, then there doesn’t need to be any of that standing around in my closet looking for what goes with what.  I’m not quite ready for that stage of having a very limited number of outfits, but I’m making definite progess towards it.

I’m in love with the idea of having only the things I truly LOVE in my life which, to me, is a major tenet of  minimalism.  Why do I keep a dress I’m only “eh” about.  As long as “the thing” that I’m ambivalent about is hanging out in my living space, I will feel the pressure of using/wearing it more often.  Ahem … sewing machine.

My goal is to have my closet cleaned out by the end of this month.  Thunderstorms rolled in last night and are expected all weekend long, so it seems I have no excuse not to do at least a little this weekend.  I actually got a really good start a couple of weeks ago; here’s a list of what I purged and donated to Operation Kindness:

2 pairs of sneakers
3 pairs of black dress slacks
1 pair of jeans
3 pairs of black boots
1 pair of brown boots
4 towels
11 t-shirts
12 blouses
9 bras
2 cardigans
2 skirts
1 nightgown
2 dresses

Not closet-related but got scooped up in the frenzy:
Microwave rice cooker
Set of journaling cards
Nightlight
2 Water bottles
Small organizing bin
Handheld GPS
Digital voice recorder*
2 calculators*
GPS for car
MP3 player
3 blankets
1 yoga bag

*School supplies that I no longer need because I graduated!

As I’m boxing and bagging all these items up, the one thing that keeps running through my head is:  Look at all this STUFF I buy and spend money on, and look where it all ends – in the back of the closet never to be seen or used again. I really need to be more aware of impulsive spending.  I don’t need any more electronic gadgets.  I don’t need any more clothes.  What I need is more space.  What I want is to help more – children in Syria, homeless dogs, military veterans … This is where it starts.