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Summer Reading

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I passed this sign every day on my way to and from work over the summer. About the time this message appeared, I started reading just for me again. Coincidence or subliminal messaging?

It’s not like a didn’t read before I saw this sign. I actually love to read; have ever since I was a kid. One of the first books I remember knowing how to “read” is Just Go to Bed, although that memory also includes being told I wasn’t actually reading it, just reciting a story I’d heard so many times that I’d committed it to memory. Needless to say, I did eventually learn to read that book and anything else I picked up. Growing up, I also spent a lot of time at our local library, picking out books and reading while my mom ran other errands. I still carry my childhood library card in my wallet [well one of them because I tended to lose or leave them places].

Somewhere along the way, reading just for me became more intermittent. Required reading in high school and college cut into time I would have spent reading for pleasure. Fast forward a few years, and even though it’s not in book form, I now do a decent amount of reading at work, proofreading and updating letters, resource material, etc. No matter how much I enjoy reading, my brain can only handle so much in one day.

Many people save their “just because” reading for travel and, for the past few years, I have been no exception.

With a 30-minute commute on the train each way each day, I’ve had more time to devote to travel reading than your average non-city dweller. But books add extra weight to a purse already bursting with shoes for the office, an umbrella in case it rains and just about everything else you could possibly need in a day [the joys of taking public transportation to work], so they often gave way to the disposable daily paper so I could keep up on current events while still fulfilling some of the desire to read. Then I moved and my commute was cut in half – great for adding time back into my day, terrible for my reading on the train regimen.

In addition to my daily commute, I started traveling more for work and to visit my boyfriend. These plane trips created great opportunities for long, uninterrupted reading. Then work hit the slow travel season and my boyfriend moved within driving distance – great for my free time and last minute trips to visit him, terrible for my reading on the plane regimen.

On top of all the travel, there’s actually working, post-work activities, errands, cooking and my often out-of-control DVR. There are only so many hours in a day and mine were quickly claimed by things other than reading.

Then, with shrinking door-to-door travel time, the reclamation of my nights and weekends from constant travel, spring changing into summer, and season finales leading to the taming of my out-of-control DVR, the sign appeared on my daily walk.

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I started turning off the TV in the evenings and on weekend afternoons [especially after my technology-free vacation] and picking up the stack of books I’d purchased but never read [and let’s be honest, I bought more books]. I started reading a chapter or two before bed or in bed with my Sunday morning tea as Weasley snoozed. I read classics like A Farewell to Arms [my boyfriend claims that I’m the only person who’s ever ready Hemingway for fun] and best sellers like The Paris Wife and J.K. Rowling’s very un-Harry Potter-ish novel, The Casual Vacancy. Instead of books on my commute, I carried magazines. I kept up to date on the happenings around town by subscribing to Washingtonian, and on the latest fashion and thought-provoking essays with Vogue [at this point I should probably subscribe to it too]. And since I started spending more time driving in the car to visit my boyfriend, I added audiobooks to my reading repertoire.

And the great thing is that I started this trend back at the beginning of summer, and it’s still going strong now that fall is in full swing. It may not be the days of my youth where I’d spend whole days doing nothing but reading and finishing books in a single afternoon, but it’s something. No matter the medium, it’s a nice to be reading again.

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Now That’s a Holiday I Can Get Behind

I was hoping to make it a little further into blog life before sharing my love (some may call it an obsession) of Harry Potter. I attribute this intense affection to the fact that I literally grew up with Harry Potter. When new movies and books were released, I always seemed to be the same age as Harry, so it made it that much easier to relate and get sucked into the story. Through J.K. Rowling’s beautifully crafted world and character development, I still find myself transported to the wizarding world each time I open the pages.

While most twenty-somethings have read the books and seen the movies, I’ve taken it a bit further. Of course I own all seven books and all eight movies, not to mention the Harry Potter school books and the all-important Tales of Beadle the Bard. Thanks to a few good friends I even have a Spanish version of my favorite book in the series (Prisoner of Azkaban), a Harry Potter themed t-shirt (Keep Calm and Carry a Wand), and an official Sirius Black wand. Every time a new book or movie was released, I would reread the. entire. series. And when a little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel came into my life two years ago, he was christened “Weasley” because of his red hair and freckles, just like the rest of the Weasley family.

Weasley on the day I brought him home

Weasley the day I brought him home 

Like I said, I’d hoped to keep this a secret love for awhile. Alas, I woke up yesterday to find that the world was celebrating International Harry Potter Day, and there was no way I was going to let them celebrate alone! It turns out International Harry Potter Day commemorates the Battle of Hogwarts and the defeat of Voldemort. So what better way to join in the festivities than cuddling on the couch with my own Weasley and watching that historic battle in movie form (while possibly wearing the aforementioned t-shirt)?

I know this may all seem a little juvenile for someone who’s reached the quarter-of-a-century mark, but it’s just that childlike lightheartedness that keeps me coming back. Even though things turn dark (I mean, an epic battle between good and evil to decide the entire future of the wizarding world is pretty dark), it’s magic and children’s fables that lead the way. Not to mention the overwhelming theme of love and how it (and even the lack of it) makes all the difference in the world. Life lessons litter the pages of this series, but there’s one from the end of The Goblet of Fire that has really stuck with me. As the world faces the fact that Voldemort has returned, Dumbledore tells the students that they will have a decision to make: either accept that Voldemort has returned and immediately start resisting the evil he brings, or simply ignore what is happening in the world around you and go on living blindly. He says that there will come a time when we need to make the choice between what is right and what is easy.

I make these kinds of decisions numerous times each day. I consider myself to be a good person, but too often I make the easy choice – avoiding eye contact with the beggar on the street when I could look him in the eye and offer a friendly smile; constantly judging others when they don’t meet my expectations, even if it’s something as simple as the way they’re dressed; taking part in office gossip when I could keep my mouth shut or, heaven forbid, stop it all together. These aren’t life or death decisions, but they can make a difference. The more I make the right choice, the better I feel about myself and the happier I am in general. And that happiness is contagious. If we’re all making the conscious decision to do what’s right, we really can make the world a more pleasant place for everyone.

Harry Potter Then and Now

Whatever lessons you’ve learned from your own love affair with Harry Potter, I hope you put them into practice. Happy [Belated] International Harry Potter Day!