Pockets of downtime

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #122

As I type this, it is Friday morning on my blissful day off. It’s quiet and I don’t need to rush to work. I’ve enjoyed a slow breakfast and a chat, looking over a lovely bouquet of flowers towering in an improvised jug-vase on the kitchen table.  Ahead of me I have a peaceful creative afternoon with a dear friend, and afterwards a low-key weekend to process the past week, read, stare out the window perhaps, do a little writing and generally take the time to relax. I am grateful for pockets of downtime, tranquil moments to recharge in between the busy office days.

Inspiration is everywhere

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #115

January has come and gone, with its short days and a bit of snow sprinkled here and there.  It turned out to be a month for getting more grounded, with indoor activities like making mood boards, journaling, reading and writing.  It feels like ‘maintenance’ on myself to recharge and set a good basis for the months to come.

A recurring theme has been creativity.  I am grateful for Paolo and my friends’ encouragement as I take steps outside my comfort zone.  I’m glad to be stretching myself and trying new things which I believe will help me to grow in unexpected ways.

Lately I’ve noticed how when I give creativity some more attention, it starts to infuse everything. Taking the tram to the office becomes a chance to observe people and become aware of how the city is changing, rather than just a boring commute. Sitting in meetings at work is like watching improv theater, unscripted human interaction in an ecosystem complete with its unwritten rules and often incongruous behaviours. Cleaning the bathroom becomes a quiet time to search for memories hidden deep in my brain as inspiration for my next writing assignment. I can’t wait to see where these creative paths will lead me…

Permission to relax

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Last Friday, on my day off, I gave myself a wonderful gift.  It didn’t cost any money and I didn’t even need to leave the house. It was a grey rainy day outside and I knew I had an intensive weekend ahead, so I spent a large part of the day just lying on the sofa, reading.

I let myself be swept into the characters’ lives and was completely absorbed in another world for hours, while totally ignoring my real-life to-do list and not feeling like I needed to stop reading to do something more important.  It was wonderful and it recharged my batteries much more than ticking off items on my to-do list ever would. I plan to do this again soon. Here’s to giving ourselves permission to relax and recharge in whatever way works for us, regardless of what still needs to be done!

2018 reading statistics

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It’s always interesting to look back at the past year’s books and crunch some numbers to observe if there are any trends and help plan for the year ahead. This year I started tracking which books I read on Goodreads, which is great because it means I have an accurate overview, as it’s easy to forget which books I was reading 12 months ago.

Findings from 2018

In 2018, I read 56 books, corresponding to 16320 pages (!), I doubt I’ve ever read that many books in one year.  I mostly read novels (64%), the rest was a combination of non-fiction/memoirs/self-help books.

Of those books, 59% were written by women (33 books), 39% by men (22 books)  and 2% by a woman/man couple (1 book).  I paid more attention this year to selecting books written by women so I’m glad that is reflected in these numbers and it balances out my 2017 gender gap.

Without particularly trying to diversify, the authors of the books are from 13 different nationalities (Austria, Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Norway, Switserland, USA), however with a high proportion of the books written by authors from the USA. I read mostly in English, and just a few books in French and one in Italian.

The books I read were published between 1946 and 2018, however the large majority  of what I chose to read was written from 2000 onward (84%). Like for movies, I tend to be attracted more by recent books.

Plans for 2019

I would like to make a more conscious effort to support new authors, as well as read more books from different countries. (I’m so inspired by the story of the lady who read a book from every country in the world)

I will continue to strive for gender balance. I plan to source my books from a combination of the public library, independent bookstores, gifts (I received four great books by women authors for Christmas, hooray!) and the little free libraries in the neighbourhood.

I’m curious to hear your reading plans for 2019. Feel free to share in the comments:)

Not-quite-end-of-year book recommendations

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The first snow has made its appearance in Amsterdam this weekend, and it is the perfect weather for cupping a warm cup of tea with two hands with a good book in my lap. It’s not quite time to review the statistics about all this year’s reading, so for now I’ll just share three recommendations from the last months, as inspiration to read during the cosy evenings of the Christmas holidays!

All the birds, singing – Evie Wyld

I came across this book at the library by chance and it kept me in its grip for the few days I spent reading it.  The story telling is well done and you can really feel the heat of the Australian bush as if you were there. It brought back very clear memories of a trip we took with my family over 25 years ago to a farm in Australia where we saw sheep being sheared, it’s amazing how those images remain ingrained in some deep corner of the brain after all those years!

Tattoos on the heart: the power of boundless compassion – Gregory Boyle

I found this book in a little free library, and though it is written by a pastor it is not at all the ‘religious’ as I thought it may be. This book will warm your heart. It is a bundle of anecdotes from Father Gregory’s time working in Los Angeles in a neighbourhood with high gang activity and his amazing project to find concrete solutions.  It’s a powerful mix of down-to-earth, hilarious stories and deep reflection about hope and how to value every single person whatever their situation. It’s inspiring to read about the effects of acknowledging our common humanity and approaching it with unconditional love.

Vox – Christina Dalcher

This is the latest book we are reading in our book club (great suggestion by Paolo!), about a world very similar to ours, except women can only say maximum 100 words a day, after which they receive an electroshock for every extra word.  The frustration and anxiety you feel just reading about such a situation is a serious reminder of how precious our voices are and a powerful call to activism.

*****

Previous book recommendations: books I enjoyed lately, books about creativity, non-fiction books, discovering new voices.

A gift to myself

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This magazine cover with the phrase ‘The rise of eco-feminism’ called out to me while I was browsing in a bookstore on our recent trip to London. After briefly leafing through it’s pages, I treated myself to a copy that I read with great pleasure from cover to cover on the train back to Amsterdam.

The content feels very refreshing and easy-going, like a non-judgemental friend who tells you dreamy stories and knows unexpected fun facts about far flung places.  Visually it is a gorgeous mix of photography and illustrations that support the articles, as well as inspiring quotes.  I enjoyed that part of the content is submitted by readers with varied voices and styles, and that there is no advertising to distract you.  I’m excited that I decided to subscribe for a year in order to support the magazine and have the joy of receiving it in the mailbox every 3 months:)

Summer treats

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #89

I am extremely grateful for the calm summer days where there is enough time to walk aimlessly along a wide empty beach as the tide goes out, to watch clouds moving through the sky and find improbable shapes (do you see the seahorse??!), to spot footprints in the sand that must belong to tiny animals and imagine them running up and down the dunes when no one is watching, to read for a few hours uninterrupted and indulge in blissful naps while the sun is high, to feel the cool breeze as you stroll through a local village at the magic hour…

 

More holidays

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #88

This summer I’ve decided to split my holidays into snippets and take a week off here and there, rather than several weeks all at once like I usually do.  So today Paolo and I are off again, this time heading west to join my family on the Atlantic coast near La Rochelle.

I’m really glad to be able to travel there by train as it’s one of my favorite modes of transport and I don’t feel guilty like when I take the plane. Can’t wait for seaside vacation feeling, family meals and warm hours spent reading in the shade and enjoying ocean swims!

Books I enjoyed lately

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #86

At the beginning of the year, I looked back at the books I had read in 2017 and the statistics about how many of those books were written by men and how many by women. I aimed to read more books by women in 2018 to counterbalance that number.

As we are half-way through the year (already!) I thought I’d check my progress. So far I have read 22 books, of all sorts of genres (novels, crimes, non-fiction, self-help…).  Of those books 12 were written by women, 8 by men and 1 by a woman/man couple (Nicci French). Some books were favorites that I re-read just for the pleasure and others were new discoveries.  I thought I’d recommend the books I preferred for anyone looking for some holiday reading:

Carpentaria – Alexis Wright

A dear Australian friend recommended me Carpentaria when I told her I was looking to read more works written by women and wanted discover some new voices.  Though it took me a little while to get into the book, pretty soon I was captured by the story and characters. It reads like a mix between ‘A hundred years of solitude’ and ‘Life of Pi’, with changes of rhythm as the author portrays the Aboriginal reality of a small town in Northern Queensland. A great read!

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff

I found this book discounted in a local book shop and though I’d never heard it, I was tempted by the cover. It was a flowing read and I love a good peek into people’s lives (even if they are entirely fictional!). I won’t say much more as I don’t want to spoil it for you (something the cashier at the book shop couldn’t help doing when I bought it… luckily I enjoyed it all the same:).

The Monk of Mokha – Dave Eggers

If you like coffee and adventures, this is one for you! It’s the true story of a Yemeni American importing coffee from Yemen, the birthplace of coffee. An incredible and gripping true story of how far following your dreams will take you.

Happy reading!!

An interesting read

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #75

Today let me share this article that I really enjoyed reading this week and basically put words on what I often feel. Every time I have a tough time at work or something is bothering me, I have a tendency to daydream about taking a sabbatical and exploring far away lands imagining that that would solve all my problems;) Of course I love traveling and will continue to do so, however on a day-to-day basis I want to make sure I remember the concept of ‘the box of daily experience’ and improving the way I experience it, since this is much more accessible and rewarding than constant travel.

Writing JOYFUL GRATITUDE has definitely helped my box of daily experience feel fluffier, as I regularly pay more attention to the things that are readily available such as