Tag Archives: Kindle

I Have A Problem.

I’m turning into my mother. THAT is not the problem. The problem is that I’ve inherited her book addiction. I truly think book-addiction is a genetic condition. And it affects millions. And no one talks about it.

As kids, my sister and I would just be waaaalking down the street with our mom…and we would come across a bookstore…and we knew we wouldn’t be going home (or to the Gap) for a loooooong time. Time to settle in on the floor, or if we were lucky, in a chair (once Border’s started making it okay to stay in a bookstore for more than 10 minutes).

We got wise and would scout out bookstores along our chosen path. As we approached the store, we would start talking and walking faster, gently pushing our mother along the sidewalk, hoping she wouldn’t see the books in the window. That worked, sometimes.

Our mom even got a job at a bookstore one time – at Brentano’s – which is always funny to think about the “this book has been flagged” episode of Seinfeld….but it didn’t last too long. She was more interested in reading the books than stocking the shelves, and I’m pretty sure all of her paycheck and more went back into keeping Brentano’s afloat a few months longer than it otherwise would have.

I used to be the kind of person that would read one book through at a time. I HAD to finish one book before starting another, and only once did I ever give up in the middle of a book and not finish (Wuthering Heights: wanted to like it, but so boring; maybe I should try it again).

Somehow over time I started adding an extra book here and there – one on my Kindle, one on the bedside table (fyi the same one’s been there for like 4 years….I WILL finish it: The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCollough), one next to a recliner in the living room.

Now I have at least 4 books going on the Kindle alone, not to mention all the physical books in the shelves that I haven’t yet read. My 12 year old self would have felt very overwhelmed by all this. And yet…I keep buying more books. Memoirs, essays, novels, histories, cookbooks. I’ve even somehow agreed to borrow two books from a complete stranger I met at a bar…I mean, we did talk for hours…but still.

Anyway, it makes me happy, so what. Different days call for different types of books. Sometimes within the span of the hour before bed, I’ve read one chapter in each of three different books. Sometimes I open The Greater Journey when I need to fall asleep quickly (jk it’s not that boring. but it does make me fall asleep).

Okay, here’s an abbreviated rundown.

The Valley of Amazement – Amy Tan

Bad Feminist: Essays – Roxanne Gay

Get in Trouble: Stories – Kelly Link

Think Like a Chef – Tom Colicchio

My Drunk Kitchen – Hannah Hart

Hidden History of Detroit – Amy Elliott Bragg

Also my Kindle Wish List is super full and I watch it almost everyday. If a book price drops, well then I just have to buy it, right?

Suggestions welcome.

This American (Unemployed) Life

Do you ever think a book finds its way into your life at just the right moment, when it seems  it was written for you?  Or maybe it’s that you’re able to pick out relevant themes from any book you happen to be reading?

This is how it was for me in reading Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating.   I had seen Ann Mah’s blog recommended on the French Word-A-Day email I receive, and upon further investigation, it turned out that Ann was getting ready to publish a non-fiction on French cuisine.  Well, loving all things French (some of my favorites outlined in this prior blog post), and especially a good memoir of an American abroad in Paris, I downloaded her book to my Kindle as soon as I could.

I was expecting a lot of food descriptions, recipes, textural images of the Provence terrain and Parisian location-spotting.  And I got all that.  But what I also got was a story.  The story of why Ann moved to Paris in the first place, and how she coped being there alone much of the time.

She moved to Paris for her husband’s diplomatic career.  Sounds enchanting enough.  She quit her publishing job to become the “trailing spouse,” something I didn’t know was an actual identifiable person/job/thing.  But this idea spoke to me.  (Her matters were further complicated when her husband was soon sent to the Middle East on a solo assignment, leaving her alone in Paris for their first year there.)

She writes about leaving her job to “leap into nothing.”  I never thought of myself as someone whose identity is wrapped up in their work, but nevertheless I felt disconnected, disoriented and out of the loop after leaving my job and home to follow my fiance to Ann Arbor for his career.  I felt a little worthless and unidentifiable.

I didn’t realize that “trailing spousehood,” where one person follows the movements of the other’s career path, is common, and reading about someone else’s experience trying to sort out their life somehow legitimized my choice.  Perhaps it’s the unusual few where both partners have the corporate-ladder-climbing careers in the same place at the same time.  I haven’t done any research whatsoever except for reading and talking with other trailing spouses, so this is all just my observation and in no way rooted in evidence, but it seems to me that oftentimes the trailing spouse either already has, or develops, a creative, entrepreneurial, individual, freelance, secondary or family-oriented life’s work for themselves.  Even if it’s the kind of profession that is easily transferrable from place to place (teaching, banking, etc.), career progression may still be halted/stalled/regressed by moving.

This is what Ann did.  She parlayed her publishing background into a journalism career that she could do from anywhere.  Even though she had writing experience with articles in numerous publications, she still struggled to find the freelance writing jobs she wanted in Paris, agreeing to chronicle orchid care, instead of expounding on her preference: food.

Right after the move, I felt like, “What am I doing with myself?” in that heavy way your ribcage gets when a bit depressed, but I knew in my head that this was the perfect opportunity to explore all sorts of other activities and relax a bit, which, for months, was really difficult because I felt like I should be doing some sort of work.  There may have been a mid-dinner break down or two in the early days.

I know they say children are happiest with routine.  That’s certainly the case for me too.  Pulling myself together, I made written schedules.  Even if it just said, “Wake Up, Read at Starbucks, Grocery Shopping, Laundry” that got me moving with tasks to accomplish and a purpose to my days.

Now that I’m finally stationed in Ann Arbor for a while, after traveling to and fro over the past few months, I’ve got a few different routines depending on the day and am genuinely happy with my existence as it is.  Everyday I practice the art of doing what I want to do and not doing what I don’t.  It’s hard not to obligate myself to tasks and activities that I think I ought to be doing, but each day I start over in striving to do what makes me happy that day.

My ideal day is filled with things that I enjoy doing (and a few things that are necessary but not necessarily enjoyable): I wake up, make a cup of coffee and check emails.  Then I might choose one room or chore to tackle right away; I find that I have the most energy right when I wake up and can usually clean the whole bathroom quickly, or at least make it presentable.  Then I might go back to any follow up emails concerning the wedding or sorority volunteer work.  I might take some time to work on this blog (which takes a surprising amount of time for me to finish), or run some errands.  I’ve gotten in the habit of going to Barnes and Noble for a Starbucks holiday beverage (fyi, if you are a B&N member, you also get a discount at the store’s Starbucks cafe!!) and to work on the blog or comb through wedding magazines (so much fun but so expensive….better to just read them, take notes and put them back, only purchasing if there are a lot of good pictures that need to be ripped out).  In the afternoon, I go back home and either do another round of follow up emails if necessary or make a snack, put in a load of laundry, and catch up on some DVRed or Netflix shows.  Right now I’m marathoning through “Gossip Girl” and “Scandal” and “The West Wing” complete box set is on deck.  Maybe I’ll start to feel bored when there aren’t any more addicting shows to watch!

Since Mark gets home relatively early, I usually start dinner on the early side, and I love watching “The Chew” on DVR while cooking.  For those that don’t know “The Chew” is a talk show slash cooking show on ABC with Daphne Oz (Dr. Oz’s daughter), Carla Hall (“Top Chef”), Clinton Kelly (“What Not To Wear”), and chefs Michael Symon and Mario Batali.  The hosts are kooky and silly, and it’s just a fun show with good recipes, cocktails and crafts.  It’s the kind of show I would like to be on if I could host a daytime talk show!  Also, if you fast forward through the commercials (and cooking segments that involve items I would never eat in a million years), an hour-long show is really only 30 minutes – perfect timing for prepping dinner.  Sometimes I think I can’t get a real job because I don’t want to be stuck at work until 6pm while Mark is home hanging out at 4:30!

I’m also excited to continue exploring Ann Arbor – the restaurants, the museums, and the surrounding towns  (I’ll write more about what we’ve already done in another post).

On the other hand, the seemingly continuous grey sky, cold temps, and perma-snow-coating make me feel not in the least bit obligated to go outside everyday.  Lounging (hibernating) on the couch with tea and a good book sounds like a great way to spend the winter months to me.  I just downloaded Ann Mah’s first book, a novel entitled Kitchen Chinese and am also in the middle of Taste by Anthony Terlato (on wine) and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald (using this downtime to catch up some classics).

I think I’ve come around to this idea of trailing spouse, and I’m looking forward to going with the flow and finding happiness everyday in life’s little treats like craft projects, chopping vegetables, glossy magazines and pumpkin spice lattes.