Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Travel Mercies: Weight Loss, Organization, and Writing that Novel

Like most people, I set New Year’s Resolutions and then am (not) surprised when mid-year comes and I have not stuck to them. This year, I decided to phrase my resolutions as goals, even including step-by-step objectives for some of them. I have actually reached a couple of the goals I set.

I believe that part of my problem is accountability. If I hadn’t shared with you that I wasn’t moving forward, nobody (except for myself) would be the wiser. Since I really do want to accomplish my goals, and procrastination has always been a factor, I am going to use my blog as an incentive. I will report progress or lack of progress to you. You may wish to join me on my journey; you may have the same areas of your life that are challenges. If so, I welcome your comments and suggestions. I will note, before telling you about the areas that challenge me, that some may suggest that working on three at once may be too difficult, that my journey should have only one destination. My feeling is that the areas that challenge my life are interrelated and that I can journey in more than one, as long as they don’t lead me in different directions.

Weight Loss

I have been struggling with my weight for 40 years. After the birth of my first child, I retained about five pounds; with four children, I was 20 pounds overweight. That 20 pounds was not obvious, but the extra weight kept creeping up in the years that followed until I was 30 pounds overweight. My divorce gave me an incentive to lose, which I did; a happy marriage eventually led to more weight gain. I lost again by going on fen-phen (and was fortunate to not have any permanent heart damage); then gained and lost again on Weight Watchers (twice) and Nutrisystem. Sporatic attempts led to small weight losses, but a broken foot five years ago was a good excuse to cease the little exercise I was doing, and soothe myself by over-eating. So here I am, post-retirement, with a lot of weight to lose if I want to continue my life in good health. My plan is to watch calories, but emphasize eating foods that contribute to my well-being. I know, too, that it is time to build back the muscle I’ve lost and to pay attention to my body’s need for exercise. That is what I will report to you – my progress, challenges, and my (certain to happen) slip-ups.


I’ve recently had an opportunity to revisit my organization goal. An air-conditioning problem led to the carpet in our office being soaked. We had to remove all contents of the office (including emptying drawers, cabinets and bookshelves) and the office closet. I’m now replacing everything and am using the process as a weeding time as well – a jump-started decluttering. It is leading me to reconsider many of the things I am keeping. I have recently read the book Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, and recognize myself in some pages. I am not a “hoarder” in the most extreme sense, but feel their pain when sorting through old photographs, school papers, and a lifetime of memorabilia. I will share some of my adventure in decluttering with you; maybe we can encourage each other as we pitch some of the photographs with decapitated subjects and decades-old coursages.

Writing My Novel

I have begun several novels and haven’t finished any. I want to try again. I don’t know what else to say about that except that I have finished short stories, essays, columns, editorials, book reviews, blog posts – you get the picture. It’s easy to say that you’re working on a novel (as I have, many times); there aren’t very many people who will corner you and ask how it’s going. (I do have a few sadistic friends and relatives who do that.) Maybe going on record here will help. Maybe you have the same problem and we can prod each other.

So that’s it – my public goal list. I’ll revisited it soon (and often) to let you know how it’s going.

Annie Joy

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Music Contributes to the Fabric of our Lives

You may have seen the television commercial about cotton -- the touch, the feel, the fabric of our lives.  I would like to add that, for me at least, music is a great contributor to that fabric.  We all have favorite musical selections, whether they be popular music, classical, jazz, opera, etc., that we choose to hear again and again.  In addition to those favorites, there's another category of music that may have an even deeper connection to our memories and our life story.  You might consider this "background music", but I believe that it is very powerful, almost like our sense of smell; it can transport us back to a time and place in the same way.

I'll give you some examples from my own life:

My parents' record collection included two selections that take me back to my childhood.  The first is Till Then by the Mills Brothers.  I will always connect that song to my dad's service during World War II and his being apart from my mother.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYQ2yc9g51c

The second is from a record that I asked my mother to play over and over.  I loved the rhythm and would even (try to) dance to it.  It's Blue Flame by the Woody Herman Orchestra.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3BfSTc0vc8

I am transported back to my childhood breakfast table by gospel songs played on Old Camp Meeting Time, such as On the Wings of a Dove http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLfGCs_sV1A and I'll Fly Away http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wr_3TVucft0&feature=related

When I was a teenager during the 60's, popular music accompanied almost every event.  A few songs take me back to specific friends and events.  When I hear Twist and Shout http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVlr4g5-r18  I am driving my Buick convertible with my friend, Judy, and we're singing along.  If it didn't happen to be playing on the radio, we sang our own version, without accompaniment. (Twist and Shout can also take me to Albuquerque in the 1980's, when my new husband, his children and mine had our own version taped in an amusement park.)  If I should hear Gene Chandler's Duke of Earl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9PoUsRibtE, I am again in my convertible, singing with my friend Beverly, as we drive the country highways of southeast Missouri.

My mother was hospitalized in Memphis when I was a junior in high school and a couple of songs will always remind me of riding in the car with my dad, on the way to visit my mother.  I remember these songs especially because he mentioned that he liked them and because they spoke of his love for her.  They were Let It Be Me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWWXJObowsI&feature=related and We'll Sing in the Sunshine http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxZI0Cxaq20

Now I find that, more and more, music reminds me of my children and my grandchildren, often to school and church performances and concerts.  Lean on Me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPoTGyWT0Cg&feature=related   by Bill Withers takes me to the Great Lakes Naval Base when my son graduated from basic training; he was soloist for a select choir performance of the song.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LBmUwi6mEo will always be connected to Christmas lights in my memory.  Our blended family drove to the city to see the displays shortly after Tom and I married and we entertained ourselves by singing "a wimoweh a wimoweh" over and over.

There are many more examples of the "background music" that have given my own life and memories texture and detail.  I'm sure that you have your own and would love to hear about them.



Related Posts with Thumbnails

Recently Read Fiction Favorites

  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  • Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
  • Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
  • Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
  • Confessions of a Former Rock Queen by Kirk Bjornsgaard
  • Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
  • Faithful Place by Tana French
  • Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  • Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
  • Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow
  • Innocent by Scott Turow
  • My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
  • Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • Private Life by Jane Smiley
  • Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
  • Roses by Leila Meacham
  • Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
  • So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
  • South of Broad by Pat Conroy
  • That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
  • The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
  • The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
  • The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
  • The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg
  • The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
  • The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  • The Sky Took Him by Donis Casey
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  • The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
  • The Wind Comes Sweeping by Marcia Preston
  • Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
  • Wolf Hall by Hillary Mandel
  • World Without End by Ken Follett
  • Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

Favorite Nonfiction and Memoir

  • All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
  • Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason by Nancy Pearl
  • Getting Over Getting Older by Lettie Cottin Pogrebin
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Sharing the Journey: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages by Katherine Ball Ross
  • Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
  • The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin
  • The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl by Timothy Egan