breaking hearts

Can I geek out for a minute or two or seven?  No?  Fine, this is my blog and I don’t need permission.  I’m going to let my inner-nerd take the keyboard and write whatever she pleases until the moment comes to hit ‘publish.’  

Words are simple magic.  Type and write and scribble and scratch and then, okay, perhaps delete a little because that wasn’t quite right.  Slowly but surely, the white and empty page is transformed into something that didn’t exist just 1 minute ago.  Inspiration took the void and created something that, with any luck, is universal and touching and going to make the world just a bit better. 

Does that sound like a lofty task for literature?  Perhaps, but I’ve read two books back-to-back that have made me swoon and sway and laugh-out-loud and want to hug the author.  Can we make ‘hug the author’ a new rating status on Goodreads?

These descriptions of broken hearts demonstrate the talent required for ‘hug the author’ status:

“Something in her had wanted to call 911, to whisper into the phone, someone’s heart is breaking in apartment 8C.  What a silly thought.  The police could never keep up with it, with all the breaking hearts behind closed doors of New york City apartments.  There were a thousand ways to imagine someone unhappy and so few ways to imagine someone contented.” – Anna Quindlen

“In bed that night I invented a special drain that would be underneath every pillow in New York, and would connect to the reservoir.  Whenever people cried themselves to sleep, the tears would all go to the same place, and in the morning the weatherman could report if the water level of the Reservoir of tears had gone up or down.” – Jonathan Safran Foer

I don’t always feel this way about writers– I’m a picky reader and refuse to finish anything that doesn’t impress or inspire after 50 pages.  I wondered how normal it was to toss a book you’re not loving, and I found this graphic on GoodReads:
Do you finish what you start, or are you all-too-happy to toss something you’re not enjoying?  Image
I nibbled some delicious (4-ingredient) PB&J cookies from SkinnyTaste as I read. Cookies and books is a pretty dynamite combination, right?

so fresh, so clean

Is there anything happier than snowfall on a sunny day?  Snowflakes shimmer in the sunlight and the world feels overwhelmingly clean and fresh.   The only trouble is deciding whether to walk through the white landscape or watch the snowflakes fall from the warmth of the couch (preferably while bundled in blankets and sipping cider).

Today, a little bit of problem solving let me have the best of both worlds: I spent the morning walking the lakes with Kinzie, and then we bundled up to observe the snow from inside the apartment.

To be honest, walking in the morning and bundling in the afternoon is becoming a bit of a pattern for me.  I’m eager to enjoy the last walkable days of the season, and a steady stream of inspiring novels keeps me pinned to the couch (with the phone on silent.)
I rate my afternoon books by my ability to make plans while reading the novel.  The rating system works like this: if I’m too absorbed by the story to meet you for dinner, 5 stars, and if I forget to read for a week, 2 stars.

All that said, I didn’t answer calls or go out to dinner while reading The Rosie Project:
I met all sorts of friends for brunch and shopping while I worked my way through Orange is the New Black:
I feigned sickness to finish Tell the Wolves I’m Home as quickly as possible:

show them some goodness

ImageTake a close look at my face and tell me, dear reader, would you trust me if you met me in the streets? What about if I tried to do something kind for you? Would you accept the act of kindness, or would you start considering my ulterior motives?

Committing random acts of happiness is not an activity for the faint of heart.  I’ve had a few people inquire about getting involved, and so it’s time for a full disclosure: it’s difficult to get people to accept something for nothing.  It’s hard to overturn the timeless adage that ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

I tried to show some goodness today by giving strangers ‘something for nothing.’  I placed my favorite books of summer on bench at the beach, and I left a short note asking strangers to enjoy the books.ImageImageImageI did the candy for a stranger experiment with Justina Louise, and she commented that about 10% of people thought I was trying to harm them, 20% were too busy to be bothered, and 70% thought I was kind of awesome.

A study by Fetchenhaurer and Dunning (2010) put logic behind the various reactions that I received from my encounters that day.  The scientists created an economic game that required people to accurately judge the trustworthiness of strangers in order to win.  The study found that people consider 52% of strangers trustworthy, even though a whopping 80% of strangers are actually deserving of trust.

The good news here is that the chances of encountering a trustworthy person are much greater than the chances of meeting someone that wishes you harm.  If you’re extremely cynical or risk-averse, you might say that you’d rather practice caution than encounter someone with ill intentions.  That’s fine, dear reader, but if you don’t take the risk then you’ll never meet the 80% of strangers that are awesome.

“Your beloved and your friends were once strangers. Somehow at a particular time, they came from the distance toward your life. Their arrival seemed so accidental and contingent. Now your life is unimaginable without them.”
– John O’Donoghue

 If that’s not enough reason for you to reach out, consider this: the study by Fetchenhaurer and Dunning also confirmed that the root of cynicism is lack of experience with strangers.  What does that mean, exactly? Well, we established that approximately 80% of people are trustworthy.  But, if your first few encounters with strangers involved the 20% of people with harmful intentions, then you’re probably not interesting in forging friendships with mysterious people.  On the other hand, if you continuously encounter strangers from the trustworthy 80%, then ever stranger probably seems like a potential new friend.

The odds are in your favor.  If you’ve had negative experiences with strangers, try reaching out and increasing your sample size – you’re due for an encounter with someone in the 80% of trustworthy people.

I’ve tried to create a compelling case for reaching out to strangers based on mathematical odds.  But, dear reader, my final plea comes from the heart: I ask you to be the type of person that shows others how kind strangers can be.  If someone is cynical of you, perhaps they only have experience with the 20% of untrustworthy people.  Why not break that cycle and show them some goodness?ImageAfter the rah rah rah, I went to enjoy my own read, Fin&Lady, on the lakeshore.  After a couple of minutes, Chuck Love wandered over and asked if he could serenade me.  Talk about getting lucky with strangers, right?

When I left the beach, I snapped some pictures of the people that might find and enjoy the novels I left on the bench:

good books and the people that read them

Imagei like good books and the people that read them. i enjoy the lyrical quality of words playing together, and when i find someone that enjoys books as much as i do, i know i’ve found a friend. today my random act of happiness went a little, well, not-so-random in an effort to make my fellow readers smile.

i made simple bookmarks out of construction paper, crayons and pins, and then i hid them in novels throughout my favorite minneapolis bookshop.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage