What I Learned from // The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

“Dr. Armonson stitched up her wrist wounds. Within five minutes of the transfusion he declared her out of danger. Chucking her under the chin, he said, “What are you doing here, honey? You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets.”

And it was then Cecilia gave orally what was to be her only form of suicide note, and a useless one at that, because she was going to live: “Obviously, Doctor,” she said, “you’ve never been a thirteen-year-old girl.”

― Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

In his debut novel, The Virgin Suicides Jeffrey Eugenides tells the story of the beautiful, strange, and mysterious Lisbon sisters. The girls Cecilia (13), Lux (14), Bonnie (15), Mary (16), and Therese (17) live in Nowhere, Suburbia—AKA Grosse Pointe, Michigan—in the 70s under the ever watchful eye of their mother and the timid parenting of their father. We watch them through the eyes and memories of the neighborhood boys who have become, and will forever be, obsessed with them.

Through carefully cataloged bits of evidence and eyewitness interviews, the boys present us with what they know. They know a lot, but it turns out it isn’t enough to have saved the sisters and certainly not enough to explain why they did it. Suicide may seem a grim topic for a novel about teenagers and love, but Eugenides gives us enough distance from the trauma to see what his characters cannot.

The book was a dream to read, but it’s taken me a long while to wrap my head around what exactly Eugenides was trying to tell me. The style is unique, written from the perspective of the boys years later, still obsessed with their investigation into the lives of these three young women. Their ordered presentation of evidence and testimony drew me in, and I became just as obsesses with the Lisbon girls as they were, but what I learned is that this story is not about the Lisbon girls.

“We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all.”

― Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides is the story of boys growing into men who know that women aren’t mysteries to solve or beautiful objects to pursue and possess, they are people. They have dreams and needs, and they experience emotional pain. They are complex, cunning, and sexual. They are no more mysterious than any man is too another man. Look at them, at us, as human beings, and you will see.

I suppose most boys have little reason to consider the growth and development of young girls. There is no reason to care whether a girl’s inner world is as rich and lively as their own, but maybe that should change. Maybe it already has, but thinking back on my own experience of teenage boys much more recently than the 70s I find many reasons to doubt that. Some boys loved me, wanted me, and who were very sweet in their efforts to show me that, but I never felt truly seen by them.

These boys also learn that even when you love someone, if you can’t see them as whole human beings you can’t even begin to save them.That kind of love is, at best, useless, and at worst, self-serving and harmful. This is the way men often love women and how parents often love their children. It comes from thinking that your experience of a person is all there is to a person. It comes from never considering that women and children (and gays, and transgender people, and people of color, and elderly people, and disabled people) are more than one-dimensional and that the solutions they seek may be complicated.

The system failed them, the school, the neighborhood, their parents, and ultimately the boys who loved them too but it was all a metaphor for the many people, men, and women, young and old, are failed by the people who love them and the systems mean to save them too. The Virgin Suicides is about our collective aversion to dealing with issues of mental illness and abuse.

“They said nothing and our parents said nothing, so we sensed how ancient they were, how accustomed to trauma, depressions, and wars. We realized that the version of the world they rendered for us was not the world they really believed in, and for all their caretaking and bitching about crabgrass they didn’t give a damn about lawns.”

― Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

We would rather pretend it doesn’t happen and hope it goes away, and when we can’t do that, we resort to empty gestures and shallow, often selfish acknowledgment. When that doesn’t work, we try anger. We shame and blame and force the ugliness away from us so we can pretend again.

And suicide isn’t the only issue we would rather not face. Poverty, sexism, isolation, religion, humans are always finding new ways to avoid what hurts, embarrasses, or confuses. We find more and more mundane and pointless things to focus on to leave as little time left to consider life’s unanswerable questions. We let people who can’t conform slip through the cracks because it’s easier that way but what we can’t see is the devastation under the thin and shining lie.

The truth is we can’t ever escape the ugly parts of ourselves and our lives. I would bet each of us has our own catalog of evidence and eyewitness accounts of every pain we lived through. We carry it with us wherever we go. Maybe it’s time we presented it too and admitted we know nothing at all.

“What lingered after them was not life, which always overcomes natural death, but the most trivial list of mundane facts: a clock ticking on a wall, a room dim at noon, and the outrageousness of a human being thinking only of herself.

― Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides


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Featured photo via Pixabay


What I Learned from // Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf and published in 1925, is the story of just one day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a high society woman living in London in the 1920s as she prepares to host a party at her home that evening.

We also follow the very troubled Septimus Smith, a World War I veteran who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or “shell shock” as it was referred to back then. He comes back from the war paranoid and hallucinating trying to make sense of the loss of his friend Evans and his current feelings and memories of the war and his place in the world now.

“She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very, dangerous to live even one day.”

― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway is a strange book. Written almost entirely from inside the minds of the characters in a “stream of consciousness” style follows their thoughts and observations on the past, present, and future of their lives and loved ones. It took me a long time to finish it despite its small size because that “stream of consciousness” style made it hard to get and keep my bearings. Once I did though I understood why Woolf might have chosen it.

Themes of relationships, time, religion, mental illness, existence, feminism and even sexuality are mulled over by not just Clarissa and Septimus but of all the characters around them. We learn quickly that the inner lives of these people are much richer and more interesting than their outside worlds.

I don’t claim to know what the moral of Mrs. Dalloway is, but what I learned was that your whole life is lived inside of you every day. Your thoughts are where you exist but we are so wrapped up in what’s going on outside us we never even realize it.

You remember things. You think about who you love and who you hate. You think about who you wish you were and who you are now. You wonder about other people and other places. You learn things and teach things. You’re happy, you’re sad, you’re angry. You see yourself as a child and wonder what you might look like when you get old. You wonder when do you will die, and if it will hurt, and who will remember you.

“It is a thousand pities never to say what one feels.”

― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

But these thoughts occur only inside of our own heads and language is a poor medium for expressing them or even describing how they come to us. So, we are isolated and perpetually misunderstood. It is impossible for a person to know another person fully. THis leads to much of our sadness and suffering. To do better, to understand and to be understood, we have to start practicing sharing your thoughts, and even before you can do that, you have to start paying attention to your thoughts, and then you have to make a point of asking people about their own.

I had no idea the novel was created from two short stories titled, “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street” and “The Prime Minister,” the latter of which was unfinished. That might explain the abruptness of the ending, which is my one and only critique of the book. It felt like there was so much left to explain, not of the story, but of what it all meant. Still, I finished the book feeling once again that all the praise received for the book and for the author herself was well deserved.

I highly recommend you read it if you never have. It’s different, but if you went into it with an understanding of the style, you might have a better time of it than I did. When you do, be sure to let me know what you think!

“Well, I’ve had my fun; I’ve had it, he thought, looking up at the swinging baskets of pale geraniums. And it was smashed to atoms—his fun, for it was half made up, as he knew very well; invented, this escapade with the girl; made up, as one makes up the better part of life, he thought—making onself up; making her up; creating an exquisite amusement, and something more. But odd it was, and quite true; all this one could never share—it smashed to atoms.”

― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway


P.S. If you have been a long time follower of Zen and Pi you may remember my older book review posts were titled “Short and Sweet Reviews,” but let’s be honest, most of the books I read have already been reviewed hundreds of times over and my short and sweet opinion won’t mean much to many. 

So, instead, I want to start sharing what I have learned from each, hence, the name change. I read to acquire wisdom and a new way of seeing the world and so, that should be what I share, not my crappy fifth-grade quality “review.” I’m excited about this new direction and look forward to reviewing more books soon, and I hope you will learn something too.


Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Check out my other reviews on my “Am Reading” page or keep up with my progress on Goodreads.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Virginia Woolf on the Path from Reading to Writing

Writing, like any art or discipline, takes daily practice and dedication to learning about the craft from those who have come before you. In learning, I like to teach, so each week I will take a piece of advice from the greats, both living and dead, famous and not, and apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week I have chosen a quote from renowned English writer Virginia Woolf.


Virginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen on January 25th, 1882 in Kensington, London. She was educated by her parents in their literate and well-connected household.

Her parents had each been married previously and been widowed, and, consequently, the household contained the children of three marriages. Her father, Leslie Stephen, was a notable historian, author, critic, and mountaineer. He was a founding editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, a work that would influence Woolf’s later experimental biographies.

The sudden death of her mother in 1895, when Virginia was 13, and that of her half-sister Stella two years later, led to the first of Virginia’s several nervous breakdowns. After her mother and half-sister, she quickly lost her surrogate mother, Stella Duckworth, as well as her cherished brother Thoby, when he was in his mid-20s. She was, however, able to take courses of study (some at degree level) in Ancient Greek, Latin, German and history at the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London between 1897 and 1901. This brought her into contact with some of the early reformers of women’s higher education

Her most famous works include the novels Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and Orlando, and the book-length essay A Room of One’s Own, with its famous dictum, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

Woolf suffered from severe bouts of mental illness throughout her life, thought to have been what is now termed bipolar disorder. She spent three short periods in 1910, 1912 and 1913 at Burley House, which is described as “a private nursing home for women with nervous disorder.” Though this instability often affected her social life, her literary productivity continued with few breaks throughout her life.

Woolf committed suicide by drowning in 1941 at the age of 59.

“For once the disease of reading has laid upon the system it weakens so that it falls an easy prey to that other scourge which dwells in the ink pot and festers in the quill. The wretch takes to writing.”

― Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Every since I can remember I have loved books. I learned to read early and easily, and my comprehension levels were always well advanced for my age. Books felt to me what watching TV must feel like to other people. I was transported right into the action, the emotion, into whole different worlds with different ways of thinking and doing things. I felt most alive, most like I was becoming future myself when I was reading.

During my 6th grade year, I volunteered to work in my school for part of my lunch period. It was so quiet in there, and it smelled like books rather than sweaty kids like the rest of the building. My job was to put the returned books back on the right shelves, but most of the time I just walked the rows and ran my hands over the worn spines. I flipped through the ones with dragons or spaceships on the front and scoffed at the ones about cheerleaders and love.

The ones I took home I could never put down. I read in the dark after my mother insisted we go to be until she grew tired of trying to force me and asked that I only keep to my room and keep quiet.

My father and his father loved reading too, and I often stole books with subject matters much too advanced for me from their collections.

I loved reading so much, and then I became a teenager, and between the depression and trying to be cool, I forgot all about reading. Then I became an adult and life got too busy for books. At first, I was busy falling in love and making a home. Then I was busy fighting for love and always working harder to build a better and better home. And no matter what there never seemed to be enough time for love and home and work and friends and sleep and reading.

Things have changed. Reading has come back to me. I realized that I had let something I loved go and I wasn’t at all happier for it. I realized I wanted something for myself. I remembered how good it felt to learn things and see the world in new ways. I remembered how reading made me feel more like myself all those years ago. So, I went looking for my old friend, my first love, and I found that she had been waiting for me all along to return. We picked up right where we left off, and we’ve been going strong ever since.

I’ve also come back to writing, another old love from my childhood. I’ve come a long way since those old angsty journals, and I want to go further still, and I know that in order to get there I can never take reading or writing for granted again. I have to make them a priority in my life along with love and home and work and friends and sleep. With them, never behind. Not when I can find the time, but when I make the time!

I wish I had learned this lesson a long time ago. If I had spent more time with books than I may be a better writer now, or at least a better person. But I am still grateful for the time I had, without having experienced the magic of words being worked on me I would never have craved such power myself, to wield over other minds and time itself.

I am grateful that books never leave you entirely and that reading is a patient and understanding friend who will let you leave and return as often as you wish. I have come back to my first love and friend, and I found that our passion for one another never really waned. I had only been a stupid human who forgot what life was really about, doing what makes you happy.



If you like this post, check out my weekly-ish newsletter for some existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering + important reads from others, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Biographical information via Wikipedia and Goodreads

See also: Short and Sweet Reviews // Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf

Featured image via George Charles Beresford [Public domain], Wikimedia Commons

Short and Sweet Reviews // Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf

I’m new to Virginia Woolf, but I wish that I had begun reading her work years ago. Like Jane Austin I assumed that her writing was shallow, all romance, and marriage, and manners. I mean, all of that was covered in this book, but there was so much more. I was wrong, so very wrong, but I’m growing and learning like everyone else.

In Orlando: A Biography Woolf tells the story of a nobleman born in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He joins the queen’s court, becomes a favorite, falls in love with a princess, get his heartbroken, and all the while works at becoming a poet, but none of that compares to the adventure of his miraculous transformation. Orlando, at the age of 30 turns from Lord Orlando to Lady Orlando and lives for over 300 years more.

“For here again, we come to a dilemma. Different though the sexes are, they intermix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above.

― Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography

Obviously one of the major themes covered is gender and the ways gender shapes the way we act and the choices we make and the choices that are available to us. Surprisingly Woolf is critical of both men and women and our assumptions about the ways the other thinks. Men do not understand women, and women do not understand men because both refuse to believe that the other has the very same feelings, qualities, wants, and needs.

Another is time and change. Orlando lives a very long time and sees the world change around him and later her. Her inner world goes through many changes too, and he/she struggles to understand who she is and what she wants to be against the backdrop of “the times” which are always changing and seem always to be at odds with people living in them.

“I’m sick to death of this particular self. I want another.”

― Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography

A lot of time is also spent on literature and the life of a writer. In the moments when mass production and critique was the focus of Orlando’s life, I had the feeling that I was reading an inside joke between Woolf and the writers of her time. I got the jest, but I’m hoping through further reading I can gain a deeper understanding of Woolf views on the subject.

Woolf covers all this as well as wealth and privilege, society, individuality, and, of course, love.

But the real interesting bit about this book is the dedication. Orlando has been called “the longest love letter in literature.” The character of Orlando was inspired by Woolf’s close friend and lover, the writer Vita Sackville-West. At the time of its writing, their affair was waning. Vita, the more adventurous and fickle of the two was moving on to other lovers.

In fact, many of the other characters were also pulled from real life as well, and I imagine I will be reading about Woolf’s personal history for a long while to come.

The style was a shock, at first. From the very beginning, it reads like an old fairytale. The language is flowery, complicated and hard to follow, at first. After a few chapters, it becomes beautiful and poetic, interesting and lively. There is a lot of description and not much dialogue, and sudden jumps through time, which can be hard on the brain too, but I promise it is well worth the effort to stick with it. I have never read anything quite like this.

I am afraid my little review here has done the book very little justice, and you’ll just have to read it for yourself to understand how amazing this story is. As for me, I am firmly a Virginia Woolf fan from here on out and have already picked up a copy of Mrs. Dalloway to read next.

“The flower bloomed and faded. The sun rose and sank. The lover loved and went. And what the poets said in rhyme, the young translated into practice.”

― Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography


If you like this post heck out my weekly-ish newsletter for some existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering + some interesting reads from others. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Check out Vita Sackville-West on the necessity of writing and Virginia Woolf on space to spread the mind out in.

Featured image via Book Republic

If We Were Having Coffee // Why Am I Like This?

Hello dear readers and thank you for stopping by for a little conversation and a lot of coffee. I’m glad we meet on Sundays rather than Saturday’s. I wasn’t in the best of moods yesterday. A spring storm hit, nothing bad but just enough snow and cold to keep up indoors and depressed. But! The sun is back out today and the outlook for the coming week looks much improved. I’m already feeling more motivated and optimistic!

The coffee helps.

“Drink your coffee, it clears out the brain in the morning”

― Sergei Lukyanenko, Twilight Watch


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this past week was a pretty good one. I had the easiest schedule at work, nothing at all to do in the mornings, and most of the day, then a few small tasks here and there for the afternoon. I spent most of the time reading and writing, at first, and then I gave in to the temptation to scroll Twitter and Facebook and got nothing much done for a few days too.

I hate that I am so weak.

But it was still a decent writing week around here. Monday I wrote about imagining my last moment on Earth and how that helps me focus on what is important. Then, in anticipation on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale adaptation, I wrote a short and sweet review of the book and found some writing inspiration from Margaret Atwood herself.

I’ve been trying to post a poem once a week ad since Ink in Thirds is no longer hosting Three Line Thursday I’ve taken to using the prompts from The Daily Post. This week’s poem was about finding warmth in a cold place. I ended the week as I usually do, with a tinyletter on finding the “good enough” and a little roundup of work from other people.


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that on the plus side the book I am reading is fantastic! The Mind’s I: Fantasies And Reflections On Self & Soul by Daniel C. Dennett and Douglas R. Hofstadter“a collection of writings by notable thinkers exploring the meaning of self and consciousness through the perspectives of literature, artificial intelligence, psychology, and other disciplines”— is an old favorite that I never finished and I can’t for the life of me fathom why I didn’t

I’ve hardly been able to put the book down! And I have about a million little notes written plus all the marginalia I’ve added to the book itself. I’m so inspired, but I’m not sure what to do with all the information and questions floating around in my head right now. It’s overwhelming!

This week I’ll be getting into the second half of the book, the part I didn’t read al those years ago when I first picked it up, and it’s been a long time since I’ve felt so excited to read something. I guess I’m warning you there will probably be more of a focus on the brain and big questions about why who we think we are and why in the coming weeks.


If we were having coffee, a piece I submitted to Aloe about self-care and mindfulness was finally published last week. It was a bit of a surprise too. I had already decided in my mind that they hated the piece and had rejected it. I had already decided it was bad and I felt embarrassed for having even tried.

But then it was published, and then, people actually liked it and told me so, and now I don’t know what to do. I don’t quite know how to reply to kind words and encouraging feedback.

You see, I’m one of those weird people who is shyer online than in real life. I don’t know why though! In real life, I have no problem interacting with people. Let me rephrase that, I have a ton of anxiety in real life too, but I am able to socialize through it, but when it comes to the internet I just can’t? This is not a new problem either. I have been notoriously bad about replying to comments here and on other pieces I have written, but this one just got a little bigger than any of the others, and I froze.

Why am I like this?


If we were having coffee, I would ask you if you have been watching The Handmaid’s Tale at all? And what you think of it? I love it so far and if you aren’t watching I highly recommend that you do. Even if you have read the book, I have too, it’s still worth checking out because it is a bit different. Offred, the main character, is a little bolder, and the story is being told in a bit of a different order. It’s good, and I’m very interested in where they are going with it.

I would also ask you if you are super freaking excited for the premiere of American Gods tonight on Starz because I most definitely am! I have been waiting so long for this. So long that part of me is afraid to be this excited. I am afraid this story, one of my favorites, will not be done the justice it deserves. I am afraid that what I will see on screen will not measure up to my own imagination. I am afraid the story will be cheapened and dampened.

But I’m also so, so, excited!


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m going to have to cut our visit a little short. I have some big self-care plans today, a new stretch.Yoga routine I want to begin, a long hot shower involving a DIY coffee scrub and a clay mask, and a bit of meditation too. After that, laundry needs washing, dishes need doing, and the pets need cuddling.

I hope you had a good week. I hope you accomplished what you meant to or learned what you needed to. I hope your weekend was relaxing enough and you aren’t exhausted by tomorrow already.

Until next time :)


Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or share a cup of coffee perhaps?

Written for the weekly Weekend Coffee Share link up hosted by Nerd in the Brain

Featured image via Unsplash

If We Were Having Coffee // A Week of Getting Back

“That’s what I do: I make coffee and occasionally succumb to suicidal nihilism. But you shouldn’t worry — poetry is still first.”

― Anne Sexton

Hello, dear readers. Thank you for stopping by for a cup of coffee and a bit of conversation with me. I’ll have a cold brew as usual despite the dreary look outside. The weather reports promise a turn for the warmer soon, and I’d rather not be full of hot and bitter brew when it comes.

I apologize if I’m sluggish. I’m not feeling all that well, but I’m fighting it, with the aforementioned cup of coffee mostly. I slept in much later than I meant to, which seems to be the new theme around here just about every Sunday. The bed felt too comfy, and the house was too cold to get up until well into mid-morning when I found myself well behind in everything I hoped to accomplish, including meeting with you.

I beg your forgiveness but remind you, with a smile, that it is always better to be late than to have never shown at all, right?


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m in a good mood today despite not feeling especially well. I started the day with breakfast in bed because I have the best girlfriend in the world who heard me mention we hadn’t had homemade biscuits in a while yesterday and made sure I had some, with a healthy side of bacon when I woke up.

Still, I’m tired, and these words are coming slowly, but I have a playlist featuring songs from Tarantino movies playing in the background, and I’m keeping busy, running around the house trying to clean what I can before the caffeine leaves me and I’m back snuggled under the covers and sleeping again.


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this past week was not especially eventful, but that was a good thing. I was able to get back down to my quiet tedious work of writing, and reading, and thinking.

I wrote more posts this week than I have in a while, and I worked a bit on some sort of editorial calendar, but I haven’t gotten very far. The problem is as much as I love writing here it never feels exactly like real writing, no matter how much I tell myself is certainly is. I suppose what I mean is it isn’t exactly the kind of writing I want to be doing, or, not the only kind. So, once again I am searching for other places to send some words too, and next week I’m going to start working on a zine of awful things in the world.


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I finally made progress on my 30 book reading challenge this past week. I finished Saga Volume 7, it was amazing and heartbreaking like all the others and made considerable progress on Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf which is turning out to be such a surprising and delightful book. It’s like reading an adult fairytale, so refreshing and different from my usual picks.

I’ve also gotten back to learning a little something every day. One of my favorite birthday gifts this year was The Intellectual Devotional by David S. Kidder. It’s a thinkers version of those books of daily prayer or aspirations, but instead every day I learn something new on history, literature, philosophy, mathematics and science, religion, fine arts, and music.

And, and, I’m working my way through a YouTube playlist of James Baldwin interviews, talks, and debates because, I am ashamed to admit, I have only just recently discovered how truly amazing this man was.


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that staying productive this week is going to be tough because this week is going to be a good one for TV!

The Handmaiden’s Tale premieres on Hulu Wednesday. I just read the book this year, and it was good, weird, but good, and I am very interested in seeing what they do with the show. Dystopian stories have always been my favorites, and this was the first that really made me think about privilege and perspective in the telling of suffering. As a woman, it also scared the shit out of me.

Then, Dear White People is coming to Netflix on Friday. I really enjoyed the movie and, same as above, I’m interested to see where they might take a show. I think stories like this are important. The world is changing and they way people are processing their positions within society are different now too. Some things are getting better, mistakes are being made all the time too, and we ought to be able to have a conversation about it all, and a little entertainment too.

Then, then, on April 30th, the show I have been waiting forever for finally becomes a reality, American Gods! New Gods, technology and media and money, and old Gods like Odin, and Anansi, and even Easter going to war here in America. I cannot wait!


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this little blog of mine hit yet another milestone this week. I have crossed the 3,400 followers mark! I know, that isn’t a real milestone, but it’s felt like forever since 3,300, and I needed a boost before long wait to 3,500.

I hope most of you are real people but either way I am grateful for each and every one of you. It’s not 10,000, sure, but it’s still good for the old ego and keeps me motivated. It feels good to know that so many people stopped by here at one time or another, some of you when I was a worse writer than I am now, and still thought me worthy of following and checking back in on here and there. I hope I can keep getting better and you can keep finding reasons to stick around.

Thank you all again, really, from the bottom of my heart.


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, as much as I’d love to stay and chat all day with you, there is so much more to be done around the house and in preparation for the coming week. I’d like to work on some of that reading I talked about and get a jump on the writing too. It’s early enough too that I might get in a nice long hot shower and a good body scrub and a face mask too.

I hope you had a good week. I hope you accomplished what you set out to do, or you learned a lesson or two for the next. I hope this weekend was a relaxing one and you got to make some time for yourself. You deserve it you know.

Thank again for stopping by.

Until next time :)


Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or share a cup of coffee perhaps?

Written for the weekly Weekend Coffee Share link up hosted by Nerd in the Brain

Featured image via Abi Porter


Short and Sweet Reviews // My Ántonia by Willa Cather

I had never heard of Willa Cather before or any her books set in the harsh and fertile American plains of the 19th century, but I am glad I have now. I came across this one after winning a selection of vintage paperbacks from macrolit’s monthly Tumblr giveaways a few months ago and the journey, both through the book and in learning about who Willa Cather was, has been fascinating.

The cover and synopsis didn’t interest me much, and so I set it aside to read only when I had nothing else. I wish I had given it a better chance from the beginning because it proved to not only be well-written but relevant to our current political and culture climate surrounding immigration.

In My Antonia, considered to be Cather’s masterpiece, we follow Jim Burden through loosely told stories he has pieced together from his past. From a recently orphaned boy shipped from his home in Virginia to live with his grandparents, pioneers in Nebraska. In looking back over his life in the country, he realizes everything he loved about that time and land have one thing in common: Antonia, the eldest daughter in a family of immigrants struggling to adapt to a new land and culture.  Jim and Antonia grow up always near one another, but their lives follow very different paths, separating and converging in often surprising ways.

I didn’t realize until after I had read the book that is was the third installment in the Great Plains Trilogy. I didn’t read the others, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything having skipped them.

Cather has a strong command of descriptive prose, and I really felt pulled into the time period and the place. I felt the harsh winters. I felt the warm summers. I felt the uncertainties for the future and the devotion to a way of life so different from my own. The story is a good one but the description, the way she pulls you in physically and emotionally, was genius.

The book did make me think a little about how the burden of immigration and of “differentness” has often fallen harder on the shoulders of women. In hard times women are expected to be women and to also be men. I would love to have heard the story from Antonia’s perspective, but I suppose this would have been a story with a very different message and focus.

As a woman, and as a person living in a time when there is so much ignorance surrounding immigrants and their lives, I think My Antonia has value today. Americans can never understand how hard it is to become an American, in heart and in culture, not just on paper. We can’t see the rocks and the hard places we put these people between with our judgment and ridicule.

I recommend My Antonia because it will make you think and because it is simply a lovely story. It is inspiring, and heart-wrenching, like all the best stories, are. If nothing else, I recommend it because it is a quick read and a piece of American history.

If We Were Having Coffee // I Feel Great, but It’s Probably Just the Meds

“Isn’t hot coffee a wonderful thing? How did people get along before it was invented?”

— Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Hello, dear readers and thanks for stopping by again for another round of coffee and catching up. It sounds silly but, I’m so glad to be here and be back to some sort of writing schedule. This past week was a strange one, not bad, not good, but things have been strange. Even the weather was crazy. We started off in the 60s and 70s and ended the week with snow and a deep freeze. I hear this week might be more of the same. Sigh.


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am still feeling better. The medicine the doctor put me on has been a godsend for my symptoms. I’m not 100% better, but I’m very close. The only problem, which I suppose isn’t a real problem at all, is the side effect. I’m on Prednisone, a steroid, and last week I was taking 40mgs a morning. At first, I hated it. I couldn’t sit still, and my heart would beat so hard, but then I had so much energy and focus. I was getting so much shit done!

The downside is I can’t stop eating, and my moods have been a little unpredictable. I’m not angry or even sad, I just have things to do, and I can’t be bothered with anyone. I want to be left alone to write and to work. It’s nice to have that kind of focus, but I know it can’t last. I’ve already started to taper off of the medication, but I am trying to hold on to that focus and energy so that I can bring some of it with me when I am off of it.


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that if it isn’t the medicine that is focusing and motivating me, then it has to be this new app I started using. I don’t usually endorse apps or services, but this one is really helping me build habits and keep my mind on what I need to do every day.

It’s called Fabulous, it is beautiful, and it’s free! I think it’s only on Android right now, but it’s on its way to iOS soon. The idea is so simple. You start with suggested tasks, like making a to-do list, doing focused work for 25 minutes, or blocking distraction, every morning, afternoon, and evening. You can add your own tasks too and then you set your alarm times.

For me, every morning at 7 AM my phone reminds me to do things like drink water, take my medicine, and write a to-do list. I can add tasks, reorder tasks, and there are built-in timers. In the afternoon I get another reminder to do things like block out distraction, study something new, do focused work, and take my vitamins. In the evening, I tidy up the house, I drink tea, I write in my journals, and I reset my goals, then I remember to floss and read just before bed.

I can’t tell you I do all of these things every day, but I try and every day it is getting easier. I like being reminded, and I love having built-in timers and chimes to alert me when to start and when to move on. It’s not a radical idea or plan at all, but it’s presented in a nice, easy to use and useful way.


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I have been trying again/still to read Plato’s Republic. I made it half-way through this week, but it was hard. Some days it’s not so bad, but most of the time I hate it. I’ve already devoted a lot of time to it, so I don’t want to quit. I have to see this through, dammit! I have good news, though, I have given myself a little motivation to work a little harder to read the damn thing. I have put a carrot in front of my nose in the form of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and, and Orlando by Virginia Woolf.

I’m hoping I’ll try harder now that I know that after this bit of unpleasantness I can move on to more interesting and exciting things!


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that last night I saw the movie Get Out and it was so, so, good! I’ll write a proper review later, but for now, I will tell you to stop whatever you are doing and go buy tickets to see it. You will not be sorry.

I mean, yes, it looks a little strange and controversial but even if you just love film, especially if you love the horror genre, go see it. All the race stuff aside it is just plain creepy and so well made.

BUT I will also say, if you are a Person of Color, this movie is made for you! The issues we face were shown in a realistic way. Not overly done or “in your face.” It felt real and relatable. Some of your worst fears taken to an extreme. The kind of fears only people who have experienced if you’ve been the only person of color in the room or been caught out at night in a neighborhood, not your own, where no one looks like you, will understand.

Go see it, tell everyone about it, and support it because it really is one of the best horror films and pieces of social commentary I have ever seen.


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, sadly, we have come to that time when I have to go. There is more writing to be done, and the laundry is piled up, and the dishes too, and the dog is begging for a good long walk. Thank you so much for stopping by and please, please, drop a note in the comments and let me know how you are doing. I love hearing from you all, and I like to know you are well.

Until next time :)


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Written for to the Weekend Coffee Share link-up hosted by Nerd in the Brain

Featured image via Aldrin Adira

My 2017 Reading Resolutions

I will read at least 30 books this year. I had the same goal last year, and while I did fall a little short, I am still so proud of myself for reading more than I did the year before. I am going to do everything I can to make sure that 2017 is the year when I finally meet my goals.

I will read even when it is hard. One thing that set me back was that I kept giving up when it got hard. When a book was hard to understand I avoided it but rather than just picking up a different book, I did nothing. This year, if a book is hard and I find myself falling into old habits, I will move on to something else and come back when I feel like trying again.

I will read the Bronte sisters. I’ve been curious about the sisters Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Anne Bronte but I have been afraid to dedicate time to books on romance and domestic affairs. I thought the same about Jane Austen so I could be wrong about these obviously talented and quite mystereous—I hear—ladies.

I will read Jorge Luis Borges. Fantastic realism is a literary trick I would love to get a handle on, why not start reading a man who was famous for employing it in his own work? Not to mention he has a body of work across many forms of writing including short stories, poems, and essays.

I will write in my books. I’ve read that reading should be an interactive process and that the notes we take in the margins, the words we choose to highlight can be considered a sort of art form. I hate writing in books because I want to keep them in pristine condition but I recently got a used book with a ton of writing in is, and I love the book all the more for it.

I will read before bed. We should all be turning off our screens about 30 minutes or so before bed, but what to do instead?

I will write more reviews. I’ve written a few but not nearly as many as I’d hoped. This year I am going to take the reviews in a different direction, I want to share what I learned from the book. How does each book I read become a part of who I am and where I am going? How does the book make me feel and think? This is why I read, and this is what I want to share.

I will have a plan for what to read next. This was another reason I fell short of my 2016 reading goals. I lost days and weeks just trying to figure out what to read next. This year I will have a plan!

I will ask for recommendations. I don’t talk to a lot of people about what I am reading and what I like to read. I don’t ask people about their reading habits much either. I guess it’s because there is so much pressure to react to a book the way other people have. If a book changed someone’s life, and then you read it, and you didn’t really like it can be awkward to say that, but there are so many books that I have never even heard of. I need help.

I will get a library card. Actually, I have a library card. What I mean is, I will pay off my library fees so I can use my library card. When I was young, I lost a ton of library books and never paid for them. I know, I’m awful. I have to fix this though because books are expensive!


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Written in response to The Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday Prompt with a twist inspired by Nut Free Nerd

Many of the items on this list or ideas I’ve gathered from the author and artist Austin Kleon. Check out his posts How to Read More and 33 Thoughts on Reading. And if your phone is too much of a distraction download his Read a Book Instead wallpaper.

Featured image via Unsplash


Short and Sweet Reviews // All My Sons by Arthur Miller

“There are certain men in the world who rather see everybody hung before they’ll take blame.”

― Arthur Miller, All My Sons

At what point do family and by extension money trump human lives? You may say never, we all would, but if given the choice and the assurance you would never be found out, what choice would you really make? What choice do you think society teaches us to make?

In Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons, written in 1947, we meet Joe Keller, a husband, father, and part owner of a machine shop turning out airplane parts for the US Army during WWII. His partner, Herbert Deever is convicted and sent to prison after it is found out that he knowingly sent out defective parts, resulting in the deaths of 21 pilots.

Keller escaped punishment but was he really innocent? Will him, his family, and quite possibly his community, be torn apart by the truth?

“I know you’re no worse than most men but I thought you were better. I never saw you as a man. I saw you as my father.”

― Arthur Miller, All My Sons

All My Sons is actually based on a true story which makes the themes and questions presented seem all the more important. 

I have never been very good at reading plays. The format is hard to follow and the description of stages and props rather that settings are difficult for me to picture. I gave All My Sons a chance because it was so small. I figured even if I had a hard time; it still wouldn’t take a long time to get through. I wasn’t wrong.

All My Sons may be short, but it is potent. There are complex themes of love, family, money, responsibility, and the American Dream covered in just three short acts. They are introduced little by little, and throughout there is doubt everywhere about everyone motives and what the truth is. Miller makes sure not to give anything away too quickly nor too easily. He keeps you hooked to the very end.

I highly recommend it for everyone, but particularly if you are like and looking for a little practice in following and comprehending plays. It is considered a classic, winning the Drama Critics’ Award for Best New Play in 1947, twice been adapted to film, and established Arthur Miller as a leading voice in the American theater, so you know it’s good.

Check it out, let me know what you think, or send me some recommendations for similar books if you have them :)

“I don’t know why it is, but every time I reach out for something I want, I have to pull back because other people will suffer. My whole bloody life, time after time after time.”

― Arthur Miller, All My Sons


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Featured image via Wikimedia Commons