Musings


American culture is inundated with the idea that finding our “passion” is key to happiness and success. But is it?

Staying the course only makes sense if you’re headed in a sensible direction.- Mike Rowe

For example, I spent years trying to pinpoint my passion. I thought pursuing my passion was a key to fulfillment.

Then my passions would change. And I’d pursue something else.

A Light Bulb Moment

It was frustrating. Exhausting. Like trying to nail Jell-o to a tree. Then I realized something. Call it a “light bulb” moment a la Mike Rowe.

Like this.

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I’m a tag expert. Get the ball? I’m on it! Fetch the stick! It’s mine! Grab the Frisbee? Oh yeah! So Mom says we’re getting the tail wagging for 2019 with a New Year’s Book Tag.

Ready to play? Aw, come on! It’ll be fun! Let’s jump on it! Ready? Set? Let’s go:

How Many Books Will You Read This Year?

Mom’s Goodreads goal was 365 books for 2018. She finished with 383. Can we get back to you on this year?

What are five books you didn’t get to in 2018 but will make a priority for 2019?

Hmmmm… Maybe Stephanie Garber’s Caraval series and Neal Shusterman’s Scythe series. You?

What genre do you want to read more of?

Creative non-fiction narrative. It’s non-fiction that reads like fiction, with a compelling plot. Mom wants to read more about Czar Nicholas II. I’m holding out for more Rin Tin Tin. Go figure.

Three non-bookish goals for 2019?

  • Mom: Walk 10 – 15 miles a week. Me: Walk 100 miles a week. (We may have to negotiate.)
  • Mom: Learn how to make tiramisu
  • “Teach the dog to let go of the ball” (What’s up with that?)

A book you’ve had forever that you still need to read?

Mom reads fast. I mean, Like. The. Wind. She also has a pretty good handle on what she is and isn’t interested in. So she doesn’t have much to say about this category. Other than she wants to finish the sequels to The Darkest Minds. You?

What word will define your 2019?

Just one? Are you kidding me?! Well, okay. If you insist. How ‘bout squirrel? No? Would you settle for pizza? (I like Hawaiian. Just sayin’.)

Now it’s your turn. Ready to do this? Consider yourself tagged.

“383 books in one year?!” people suck in their breath. “How’d you do it?”

Well. I gotta be honest. It was me.

I mean, ‘cmon. Who do you think took Mom on all those walks to the library to grab the latest truckloadsof unread titles? Who do you think nosed through Mom’s book bag(s) until I settled on something worthy and trotted it out? Who do you think sat in her lap while she turned pages? And pages. And pages.

And. Pages.

You know how modest I am. But, hey. As they say, If you’ve got it, flaunt it. And I definitely Have. It.

Oh, sure. Mom says being a fast reader – somewhere between warp speed and 100 mph with your hair on fire – helps. Ditto audio books. Creative juggling. Prioritizing. Self-discipline.

Also reading and eating. Reading (audio) and driving. Reading and washing dishes, folding laundry, cleaning out the basement, mopping the floor, cooking (audio). Reading and walking (audio). Reading in the check out line. At red lights. In the doctor’s and dentist’s waiting room. Setting aside one day a week to read. Logging off the computer. Turning off the phone. Letting voice mail handle it.

Being a voracious reader and lifelong-bibliophile who’d rather get lost in a good book than eat doesn’t hurt, either.

But. If you really, really want to read 383 books in one year like Mom, here’s the key: Ya gotta have the want to.

It all comes down to commitment. Desire. Drive. Aka: the “want to.”

But we all know the real score here. Mom got all those books read because of me. After all, I’m a World Champion Want-To-er. I’m happiest when I’m with my peeps. Reading. Driving. Walking. At red lights. Waiting. Supervising (“Quiet! Mom’s reading!”). In Mom’s lap while she turns pages.

See? Told you it was me.

I love this job. Wait. Do I smell bacon?

Kimber the Magnificent (and modest, too!)

 

What’s your “gotta have the want to” for 2019?

“Clear the decks!” crows Mom. “It’s Best Books time!”

She may be a bit confused. Ever since my puppy days it’s been “deck the halls” this time of year. Well. You know how moms are. Especially when someone asks, “Which kid is your favorite?”

Okay, okay. So no one put it quite like that. But plenty have asked which books are her favorite. “It’s almost the same thing,” sniffs Mom.

Hah, bumhug! says I.

Arf you may know, Mom met her 2018 reading challenge last week: 365 books in one year. People keep asking which “kids” are her favorite from that long, long list. (For background, see: When They Tell You It’s “Impossible.” Also see: How I Read 100+ books in 90 days.)

I’m kinda curious myself. I gave her the puppy eyes look.

Works every time.

So ‘clear the decks’ for Mom’s Top Reads of 2018.

Warning: “That ‘top 20’ thing’s just not gonna happen,” says Mom.

Indeed, competition for a spot on Mom’s ‘totally subjective, 100% unscientific’ list was fierce. So bow-wow-ish, in fact, that Mom divided the list into four basic categories:

  1. Best Fiction
  2. Best Non-Fiction
  3. Best Series
  4. Favorite Authors.

Also Honorable Mentions.

Each book earned its respective spot based on quality of writing, creativity and poignancy, superior characterizations, outstanding, unique plots and overall excellence. And Just Plain Fun. (Note: No book that brainlessly, repeatedly deploys gratuitous profanity ever makes Mom’s “best” list. She calls that “sloppy-writing-lazy.” Hah, bumhug again.)

365 books in one year. And then some! November 27, 2018.

Anyway, Mom’s Top Books Read in 2018 are,in no particular order:

Best Fiction

  1. Hattie Big Sky – Kirby Larson
  2. Time for Andrew – Mary Downing Hahn
  3. A Dog Called Homeless – Sarah Lean
  4. Run Far, Run Fast – Walt Morey
  5. The Incredible Journey – Sheila Burnford
  6. There Come a Soldier Peggy Mercer
  7. Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin
  8. Anchor in the Storm – Sarah Sundin
  9. The Wood – Chelsea Bobulski
  10. Man O’War – Walter Farley
  11. The Journey Back – Priscilla Cummings
  12. Sarah Bishop, Thunder Rolling in the Mountains – Scott O’Dell
  13. The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary Pearson
  14. Ever the Hunted– Erin Summerill
  15. Hoot – Carl Hiassen
  16. Dividing Eden – Joelle Charbonneau
  17. The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
  18. Unwind – Neal Shusterman

Re-reading a seasonal favorite, “The Christmas Box,” by Richard Paul Evans.

Best Nonfiction

  1. A Prisoner and Yet – Corrie ten Boom
  2. The Kite Runner (historical fiction) – Khaled Hosseini
  3. The Black Dogs Project – Fred Levy
  4. Before Amen – Max Lucado
  5. My Family for the War (historical novel) – Anne Voorhoeve
  6. Great Lodges of the National Parks – Christine Barnes
  7. Hidden Child – Isaac Millman

Best Series

  1. The Misty of Chincoteague series – Marguerite Henry
  2. The Silver Brumby series – Elyne Mitchell
  3. Billy and Blaze books– C.W. Anderson
  4. The Jimmy Vega mystery series – Suzanne Chazin
  5. Black Stallion series– Walter Farley
  6. The Survivors series – Erin Hunter
  7. Fire and Thorns trilogy – Rae Carson

Favorite Authors

Honorable Mentions

Well, woof the deck! Or something. All this reading and book-ing makes me hungry. About that leftover pot roast… You gonna eat that?

 

No one came out and said it in so many words. But it was everywhere implied. The arched eyebrows. Dubious glances thinly camouflaged by polite nods. Watery half-smiles that didn’t quite reach the eyes.

It added up to: Good luck with that one, sis. As in, Nice pipe dream. Better chose a more reasonable, reachable goal. Aim lower. Because that’s impossible.

These were the wordless but emphatic rumblings I got when I occasionally mentioned my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal to select friends, Romans, and fellow countrymen: 250 books in one year, January 1 to December 31.

My internal response to the doubters? Watch me.

The author at age 1 year.

As you may know, I’ve been a voracious reader since early childhood. For me, a little slice of heaven includes settling in to a comfy chair in front of the fireplace with a big mug of hot whatever and a good book. Or even a mediocre one.

I incorporate reading into my daily schedule, setting aside at least an hour a day to read. I rarely turn on the TV. When I can swing it, I also set aside Sundays for reading.

Besides. I’ve never been a big fan of “aim lower.” So when people sort of rolled their eyes at my “250 books in one year” reading goal, I quietly revised my goal upwards. To 365 books in one year.

Well, guess what? I just cleared that benchmark, finishing my 365th book since January 1, 2018. (My 365th book was Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper.)

Don’t believe me? You can check out several prior posts charting my reading progress over the past few months. (Like: Celebrating ~ 200 Books in 6 Months. Or: The Big Summer Stretch: 150+ in 90.; Rockin’ it This Summer With Reading, and Reading Challenge 2.0: Why I’m Going Back to Square One.) I’ve also got the Goodreads Reading Challenge log to prove it. A complete listing of every title I’ve read this year, including:

From November 14, 2018.

Cuz lemme tell ya, friends. There’s nothing that motivates me more than having someone insist or imply I can’t do something. That just revs me up to knuckle under. Dig deeper. Go farther, faster. Throttle up.

Incidentally, the 358th book I finished en route to title number 365 was The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader. By Jason “Red” Redman. (He goes by “Jay.”)

When you think of the word “courage,” multiply that by a factor of about one hundred. You’re still not close to this riveting read about one warrior’s journey to hell and back.

Redman was severely wounded in Iraq in 2007 – hit by machine gun fire at point-blank range. He endured thirty-seven surgeries over four years before retiring in 2013. He is the founder of Wounded Wear, which later evolved into the Combat Wounded Coalition, a non-profit organization which supports combat wounded warriors and families of the fallen. The Trident is his poignant, brutally honest memoir about the meaning of leadership, true grit, and triumph against all odds.

In the Epilogue, Redman writes:

“Tomorrow always will come. It may not be the tomorrow you wanted or hoped for, but it will come. It is up to you to be ready for it, to shape it and make it what it will be. You can’t change the past but you control your future as long as you’re willing to…”

OVERCOME

There is nothing in life that cannot be overcome if you’re genuinely willing to try and never quit.

LIVE GREATLY

Lift up those around you, always give back, climb a mountain, jump from a perfectly good airplane, and never pass up life’s opportunities.

LOVE DEEPLY

In the end the only thing you will have left are the relationships you forged and sustained in life.

STAY HUMBLE

Pride has destroyed more men than all wars combined.

LEAD ALWAYS

True leaders lead at all times regardless of the situation they are in and who’s watching.

Redman summited my favorite mountain, Mount Rainier, in 2010. He closes with: “If you follow these principles (see above-Ed), “when your hour is called, you can go, knowing you had…. NO REGRETS.”

Like finishing 365 books in one year when most everyone thought it was the stuff of pipe dreams. (It required focus, discipline, and prioritizing. I also read fast. That helps.) But the biggest factor in completing this year’s reading challenge? It came down to having the “want to.”

Additionally, the jet fuel that propelled me across the 2018 Reading Challenge finish line I set for myself back in January? It was the dubious looks and raised eyebrows from those who implied or otherwise indicated I couldn’t do it.

365 books in less than one year! And I’m not done yet!

So. Someone telling you your dream, goal, plans or (fill in the blank) are “impossible”? No way. No one can do that. Better chose a more reasonable, reachable goal. Aim lower. The next time you hear “that’s impossible” or someone rolls their eyes at a goal you’ve set for yourself, just smile sweetly and dig in.

You might also want to read Redman’s memoir. Just sayin’.

Meanwhile, know what? I’m not done yet. The clock is still running on 2018. So why stop at 365 books? Here I go… !

It looked like this here yesterday. And like:

So Mom and I decided a soggy Saturday’s a good day to clean out the attic. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.)

Now, you may not know this about me. But I’m a Great Attic Clean-Up Supervisor. I found a comfy rug. Laid down. Watched Mom cart stuff up and down the stairs. Dust. Categorize. Box. Un-box. Re-box.

Supervisin’s a tough job. But somebody’s gotta do it.

Anyway, Mom opened this one box. And sat down. “Oh my!” says she. “Kimmi, look at this!”

What? Did you unearth new doggie treats? A secret stash of gourmet dog food? The neighbor’s cat?

Lemme tell ya. I rolled over and I listened up right quick! Especially since she had The Look. The one Moms get when they’re remembering. All dewy-eyed and nostalgic. Looking all sparkly.

What kind of buried treasure did we just unearth?

Mom starts pulling books out of the box. Title after title. From when my brothers were little. Like:

And:

Some more:

“Does this ever take me back,” murmurs Mom. Twenty years of homeschooling. Preschool storytime at the library every Friday. Summer reading programs. Weekly trips to the library. Reading forts.

Mom was doing that sparkly, shimmery thing again. Maybe because my bros are all grown up now. But Mom says they used to spend hours reading aloud together every day. When my four bros were little. I don’t know why. But if remembering makes her do that dewy-sparkly-shimmery thing, it must be good.

Later, my 19 y.o big bro was looking at some of the books. He pulled one out. “I remember this!” he crows. “I got this for my birthday!” (A milk bone? Naw. Some other treasure.) Here it is:

 

Josiah was four years old. My bro is one amazing dude, eh?

Then Mom said something about good books. How they never get old.

“You never outgrow a good story” says she. “A good book lives forever. Is always waiting for you to come back. Pick up where you left off. A good book can create a lifetime of shared memories. Build bridges linking the past, present, and future. Diving into a book that’s an old favorite? It feels like coming home.”

Who’d a hunk one soggy Saturday could turn out to be so sparkly?

Ya gonna eat that? (Askin’ for a friend.)

Ever been ripped off by someone you trusted? Remember how it felt? How do you respond? What’s next?

I ran into that recently when working on a Friend-Of-A-Friend project. It’s a long story. I’ll spare you the gory details. Nutshell version: the project/client came highly recommended from long-time mutual friends. Let’s call him “Bob.”

FOAF Bob heard I was a freelance writer via mutual friends. “Would you be interested in writing my memoirs?” asked Bob.  “Depends,” I said. “What do you have in mind?” He outlined some ideas, possibilities. I said I’d take a look.

Bob has, shall we say, quite a story. I agreed to take on the project, noting that I might consider offering Bob the FOAF discount off my writing services. But “I don’t work for free” I wrote. As in, I expect to get paid. Kinda like most people who work.

Thought we had that settled. In writing.

Bob lives in another state. So conversations were by email or phone. Following some requisite preliminaries, I dove into the project with both feet. Interviewing. Researching. Basic legwork. Writing. Editing. A few months later, Draft I was born. I emailed the new arrival to Bob. After some corrections and updates, Draft II was en route via cyberspace stork shortly thereafter.

At this point I’d spent about six months on the project. Hadn’t yet seen a dime for my time and effort. So I contacted Bob by email, saying that X amount was due before proceeding to Draft III.

Long story short:

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