Monday, July 11, 2011

So I have been wanting to read this book for a long time...LONG TIME--

Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st CenturyYour Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century

So I bought the audio version of it and listed to it on my way to a friend's house.  And by the time I got there, the book had absolutely shut me down in regards to money and completely made me self-conscious of every purchase I was making.

Now, I know that's the point, the point is based on the idea that Money = Freedom, which I completely agree.  But it says things like, "Once you've bought your sewing machine, that's the last sewing machine you have to buy in your lifetime and you can cross it off your list."

Statements like these make me panic-- dear gawd, if this is my last sewing machine in my life, I better make sure I buy the right one...which shuts me down and I do nothing.  "The right one" - it's a killer in money and art.

Nothing will ever be "the right one" including spouses, sewing machines and poems-- but things can be "good enough."

Your Money or Your Life has you actually figuring out what your ACTUAL hourly wage is, for example, if you make $25 an hour, but to commute to work you spend $5 on gas, $10 on a ferry ride, $500 a month on daycare, etc.... You don't make $25 an hr.

Once all the expenses needed are taken into account for you to be at work, then your dollar-per-hour may only be $15 an hour, or $8.  This formula helps make it easier to figure out if you *really* want to buy something-- now that $8 sandwich costs you an hour of your time, do you really want to get it now, or do you want to wait 30 minutes until you're home and eat the food you know you have in your refrigerator?

Don't get me wrong, this is an awesome book.  It completely can change the your views on money and how much you *really* need and to put your TIME as your top priority.  As a writer, I love this.  As a Capricorn, this book was almost a little too much. I had listened to her talk for my 3 hour drive and when I went into a consignment shop to buy a new summer coat I needed (well, she may argue "needed" but I had just given my old coat to Goodwill, so I believed I needed one!)  I found one for $20 and it was truly hard for me to buy it.  I felt as if I had already failed.

Time has passed since I read the book and money moves more freely from my pocket again (both good and bad), but sometimes I need to feel as if I've found a middle ground-- How to Be a Poet and Live with Freedom Without Being a Stingy Jerk, will be the book that I need to read--or write.

Still, if you really need an overhaul for your money situation, while I still put The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life (as it type this I see it's $3.98 right now at Amazon!) as my top choice for changing your life to YOUR priorities and helping you be less materialistic and swayed by consumerism, but this would be #2.  As hard as it was for me to feel normal after reading it, I learned a lot and I'm glad it freaked it me out a bit.  It's a good reminder of what my goals in life are.

Oh and I heard this from Chris Rock of all people, "Being wealthy is not about having a lot of money, it's about having a lot of options."  Oh, that is so true!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer Reading for 2011

I am feeling thankful today for the writers and artists in the world.  And I'm also thankful for books.  

Here's a list of what I've read, what I'm currently reading and what I plan to read this summer--

TOP PICK for Parents--

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School  Alexandra Robbins  ---  I just started reading this, but am tearing my way through (I have the eBook edition).  

If you have kids, especially tweens-teenagers (5th-12th grade), I highly recommend this.  

It discusses that the qualities that can make a child "unpopular" in middle school and high school are the qualities that make them a successful and strong adult.  (BTW, unpopular kids in school included Bruce Springsteen, Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg -- though all I kept thinking when I read this was how I wished I went to Bruce Springsteen's high school...)

It looks at the different "types" of kids (through real observation of actual kids) exploring The Gamer, The Popular Bitch, The Weird Girl, The Loner, The Geek, The New Kid, and some others.

Anyway, I have a feeling I'll be finished with this in a couple of nights and will do a full review of it.  So far, it's been hard to put down and is a great reminder how important it is to follow your own path & help your kids do the same (despite the high school/middle school push to conform to the beliefs/values/personalities of others).


Great Summer Read (hilarious)--

Bossypants by Tina Fey.  I read the eBook extended version, which had extra photos & even a short audio file (which was kind of cool), but I bet this would have been hilarious in (Audio) because she narrates it.

For the Visionary-Wanna Bes--

Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible by Daniel Burrus - A pretty interesting book on how companies and people make the right choices because they know the difference between a hard trend & a soft trend, as well as other "triggers" that can help you see where the future is going. 

The triggers he offers are smart (if you go to the Amazon page, the first review has a great summary of them).  However, much of the book looks at the internet and towards the end, his own business, which for me, wasn't as interesting as when we were exploring the ways to get FlashForesight.

Also, while I'm a writer, I have also always been stronger in math and business (no fooling), so I do want to say since I know many of you who read this are more artisty, writerly types, there is a lot of talk about business, companies like Crocs, Starbucks, etc, and really, not too much discussion on the arts.  

But I did find the idea of having Flash Foresight interesting in many aspects of our lives.


For those Looking for Calmness--

I'm listening to this book and it's a good listening voice because the author is English--the only weird thing about the audio edition is that every so often, it goes completely silent, there's this sort of stop/start element to it as if the recording studio didn't know how to manage pauses or editing.  It doesn't really change the content of the book, just something I noticed.

The book is lovely though.  I'm not sure someone who is well-versed in Buddhism would like it as much as it goes over the principles of Buddhism and the basics, but for me, it's an interesting account of how a London business man ended up adding Buddhism to his life.  

And as an extra benefit, I've started meditating again.  10 minutes a day.  Not much, but a start.  

For the Poetry Lovers--

Dean Young's Fall Higher  I haven't purchased this, but plan to very soon.  He just had a poem on Poetry Daily you can read here.

Jeannine Hall Gailey's She Returns to the Floating World will be out this month!  You can pre-order.  I have had the pleasure of reading this book pre-release since Jeannine is a good friend of mine, and it was pretty incredible mixing Japanese folklore and myths with modern life.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Melody won the Perugia Press Poetry Prize for her manuscript of poems,  Each Crumbling House.  Perugia Press is one of my favorite presses because they consistently publish books I love (such as Jennifer K. Sweeney's   How to Live on Bread and Music, a book I keep on my desk - my highest compliment), so it didn't surprise me that I also loved Melody's work as well.

Victoria Chang wrote in the blurb for Melody's book that "Melody Gee proves to us through her poetry that first-generation Asian American experiences still matter and will always matter.  But even more so, her quietly unsettling and powerful book speaks to the whole human experience through its exploration of inheritance.  These are haunting poems about culture, nature, and ultimately about love."

And I agree, these poems are about the human experience.  Melody's work is immediate and brings the reader directly into the poem, scene, or moment.  She writes to share an experience not block you from it.  She is accessible, smart and has some of the loveliest openings lines ever.

Here are a few of my favorites--

The field is not us.
We are clover and the field is
not clover.

from "The Field is Not Us"

No one starves here.  The women
do not chew the soles of their shoes
for juice and fibers.

It seems, MaMa, nothing
you told me is true.

from "What You Believed"


The story I tell is a fish
gaping its gills in my hands.
The only place I have
to set it down is prairie.

from "A Fish in Prairie"

The whole book is visually pleasing like that.  From "Rain, California" where "I am eating orange slices dripping/from the sangria pitcher" to "The wind drives a current in my red/wine ocean, and I am bringing/you back to me slowly..."

So many poets are writing from their back corner of their minds these days, full of abstract thoughts, intended confusion, blissful uncaring, but it was refreshing to see that these poems do not come from that place--they come from heart and history.  They come from story and shape where "trees burn with monarchs" and the details of "As a girl, you leashed crickets with ox hairs/and baited bees with sweet tomato flesh."

She is a poet who crafts her poems as doors into this world that moves from China to America through the house of history and self.  We are in the poems too, as witnesses and readers.  We experience "a flock of gulls erupt from the sand, pushed into flight" just as we experience "I have inherited a father/whole language I cannot fold my tongue to."

I lost myself in these poems and found myself in San Francisco 1929, in Li-Hing Lei village 1957, in a wedding in a garden.

I am thankful for this poet for writing a book of poems that so gracefully weaves through history into present time, that shares culture, family, and the art of story so well.  I may be late in saying how much I like this book, but it doesn't take away the gift of this talented poet, one who is definitely carving a path for herself and one who I expect more good things from in the future.

Melody's bio (stolen from her website):

Melody S. Gee's first poetry collection, Each Crumbling House, won the 2010 Perugia Press Book Prize.  (Available here.)  Originally from Cerritos, California, she attended the University of California, Berkeley and the University of New Mexico, and has taught at Purdue University, Ivy Tech College, Saint Louis University, and the University of Missouri - St. Louis.  

Her poems and essays are published or forthcoming in Blackbird, Copper Nickel, Southern California Review, Dogwood, Packingtown Review, Alligator Juniper, The Greensboro Review, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Washington Square Review, and Crab Orchard Review, among others.

A Pushcart Prize nominee, winner of the Robert Watson Literary Prize for poetry, and a 2008 Kundiman Asian American Poetry Retreat fellow, she currently teaches writing at Southwestern Illinois College and lives with her husband, Paul, in St. Louis.

You can visit her website here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Book Review: Heather Cadenhead's Inventory of Sleeping Things

When I first received Heather's chapbook, Inventory of Sleeping Things (Maverick Press, 2010), I almost mistook the Table of Contents for a poem because she has such interesting titles such as “The Cracking of Bones Makes the Same Sound as Falling in Love,” “A Coat on a Love Seat, Translated,” “The Difference in Being Dead and Being Alive is Motion.”  Reading these titles, I knew there would be some expected moments in this chapbook and as I read, I was right.

The first thing I noticed about Heather’s work is her ability to create fresh images out of every day words.  She writes in the first poem of the chapbook,  … but I want a sky that swallows ideas. And guess what? So do I.  Who knew I did, until she wrote that?

This is what I love about finding a new poet, the surprise of how she sees the world.  The next poem, “Idea” has another image that I haven’t been able to remove from my mind:

            I sift through it like my grandma used to sift through
            my candy bucket on Halloween.  GOOD and NOT GOOD:
            chocolate bars lined up like gravestones by the garbage bin.
            Sometimes the best ones get thrown away.

And I love this poem’s meditation on what an idea is, each stanza is a unique image of what an idea may be.  She ends with another favorite couplet:

            Finally, I put it in the closet like a finished sketchbook,
            once useful to me.  But, really, just taking up space.

The whole book is filled with these insightful lines taking our ordinary language and turning it into something extraordinary.

From “Our Share of Plums”:

My hair is a house
for your fingers.

From “Crooked Here” after next-door neighbors have installed a new light on their porch:

…Now they shine
when they move, like actors in a spotlight. Sometimes, I applaud from the window, soundless.

From “The Difference Between Being Dead & Being Alive is Motion”:

With you, the order of living things is broken…
Some mornings, you spend hours underwater.
It is a way of hiding.
You wonder at the fish…


For me, this is what I so enjoyed about this chapbook, how the poet writes to create a new and fresh look at the world and less about wanting to dissect meaning or force the reader to see her perspective.  She allows the poems to exist on their own—through images and moments—and the reader is there as the observer and allowed to establish to her own feelings and ideas. 

There is no pushing by the poet with judgmental language to make you feel one way or another, you are given a poem, a moment, a meditation, a poem spoken to another and as readers, we are there to find the freshness in the moment.  We find the surprise in the relationship and taken to a new place where, as in the poem “Dusk” someone might be in the stars tomorrow or finding out she kept that letter you told her to throw away.

It’s a gift to find a new poet.  This is my first time reading Heather’s poems and if this is just her first chapbook, I can only imagine the good things she has in front of her in the poems she will write. 

Heather Cadenhead resides in Nashville, Tennessee. Her poems have been featured in journals like Ruminate, Relief, Illuminations, and others. In 2009, her poem “The Wedding” received an Editor’s Prize from New Plains Review. In 2010, her poem “Illiterate” was nominated for Best of the Net anthology and she was featured as the June poet for Chantarelle's Notebook. She also works in publicity for Thomas Nelson Publishers. For more information, see

Heather Cadenhead


Monday, November 15, 2010

Uncommon Genius by Denise Shekerjian

Uncommon GeniusUncommon Genius by Denise Shekerjian

I have started rereading this book I purchased a few years back by Denise Shekerjian.  Oddly enough, this book was published in 1991, but I find the information just as useful today.  The book looks at quite a few MacArthur Genius grant winners, their lives, their creativity, and their thoughts.

What I like about this book is how it looks at these artists, writers, inventors, scientists, with an examining eye on creativity and creative impulse.  One of the biggest lessons I think I have received from this book is that these are creative people just living their passions, deeply.  They are not focusing on how this passion can make them 1) wealthy  2) famous  3) _____________ fill in the blank.  They are doing their art, their passion, their desires because they cannot live their lives without doing it.

There are many notes in the back of books the author read before she wrote this and it was truly amazing how much research went into this book.  These are not just basic interviews.  These are well-written accounts with background and details about MacArthur Genius Grant winners and their passions.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mary Karr - LIT : Recommended Reading

by Mary Karr Lit, A Memoir

I'm finally finishing up the memoir by Mary Karr called Lit.  It's about how she lived her life as an alcoholic for many many years.  Mary Karr is probably best known for me book, The Liars' Club: A Memoir, but also a book of poems, Sinners Welcome: PoemsViper Rum (Poets, Penguin), and The Devil's Tour.

I am listening to Lit on audiotape, which I highly recommend because it's read by Mary herself and it has that nice twang of her southern book that make it feel as if the book is being spoken just to the listener.

It's a pretty amazing story, first on how much she could drink and exist (and be productive) in her life and two, how much work it was for her to be an alcoholic.  From the hiding of beer cans and wine bottles, to buying them her alcohol from different liquor stores that no one caught on.  And if they did, no one said anything.

There was a surprising scene (well, to me) where she mentions Thomas Lux and as a writer.  Also I was interested in her process of becoming a writer which you learn throughout the book.  I have about 4 more chapters left, I think.  She's still drinking at this point and I wonder how this book will end.

For those of you who like memoir and if you are in academia or are a writer, you will probably find yourself completely lost in this story of alcoholism, creativity, being a mom, and keeping up appearances.  The behind-the-scenes look at one person's alcoholism was pretty amazing, but again, I was also amazed with how much she could get done while being an alcoholic.  A good observational account of what her life was.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

168 Hours

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam (May 2010)

So, first I need to be honest here, I am a sucker for books like these.  Anything that can help me be more "productive" or allow me to look at how I'm spending my time in life can interest me.  This means, anything from today all the way back to Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  I like books that show us new ways of looking at the world and using our time.

Second, I didn't read this book, but listened to it on audio book while I did house chores.  I must say, I felt as if I was really taking advantage of my time by listening to the book and doing housework.

Here's what I liked in the book -- The idea of "Core Competencies," that there are certain things in your life that only you do well and should focus on - your main priorities in life and your tasks in life should bring you to these goals, whether your goal is spending time with your family and raising a child well or whatever your true dreams are.  To quote her: "there should be almost nothing during your work hours - whatever you choose those to be - that is not advancing you toward your goals for the career and life you want." 

I think when the book is focused on this topic and idea, it's completely on the right path and including most people who are interested in this.  We each need to decide what is most important for us and do the things in our life that help us achieve our most important goals. If you are doing something that isn't moving you toward this, you either drop it or find someone to do it for you.

The one chapter though that really seemed a little out of it, was the chapter on outsourcing.  While I totally agree it's absolutely fine to pay someone else to do something you either dislike to you or a task that eats away at your time so you can use that time for something more important (being with your family, writing, etc.), there's a point where I thought, "Um, this book was not written with me in mind because if I did these things, while I would have X numbers of hours with my family, we'd be eating Ramen every night."  Karen a reviewer on Amazon had that same gripe as she wrote in her review that a better title for the book might be:  168 Hours: How To Buy Yourself Some Free Time On Over $100K A Year.

The other issue is that this book seems to be written to fit a certain type of person-- a female, upper-class, married woman with kids (though that said, I did see some positive reviews from men on Amazon, which was good and went against my assumption.)  A lot of the book is giving women (or men) the okay to allow someone else to do their chores, so if you're someone who feels guilty for asking someone else to do your laundry, this book will allow you to feel okay about that.  Also, if you don't have a supportive partner (or a partner at all), this book doesn't really address that concern.

But I don't just want to point out what some might see as negatives, but there was a lot of good info in this book and I did listen to it twice.  There's the time log, which I think everyone should really do if they want to see exactly where their time is going (though kind of humorously, each person who did their own time log said that "it wasn't really a normal week"), the idea of figuring out your "core competencies" and focusing your time on those (just because you're busy doesn't mean your productive), the reminder that we don't need to do it all and certain things can be done by other people so you can have your time back.

The book has a good flow to it and the author has a good way of sharing information.  I'd love to see her write a book just focusing on our priorities in life without the feeling that one needs to be making X number of dollars to cover all the costs and hiring a home staff.  Her gift is conversational voice and ease of sharing info.  And honestly, she is being true to her lifestyle and what works for her, so it's hard to dismiss her more costly ideas (aka "outsourcing) as they do work for people who have enough money to afford them.

While I can't give this book my highest recommendation, I'd recommend The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life by Cecile Andrews if you really are serious are getting your time back and changing your views on life, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think was an enjoyable listen and I appreciate that she doesn't knock moms who work, but instead suggests that work and motherhood can happen together, you just need to work around the chores of life and keep your goals and priorities in your mind as you make choices for your life.  These are the things I like hearing and remembering as I make choices in my own day and my use of time.

Here's a good article with the author, Laura Vanderkam on Happy Mom.



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