Thursday, November 15, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

So many things I could have written down in the passing of a restless night...Some of those were worth keeping...There are things which you should never write...

"Everything's Gonna Be Undone" - Band of Horses

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

October Reading Recap

1.  The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
All three of you who actually read my book reviews have probably noticed that I love a good mystery.  I mean, I love them.  I also love anything (anything) set in the turn of the 20th century in England.  So a novel about a mystery involving Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, set in the early 1900's and in England?  Yeah.  I'm gonna be all over that.  This story bounces back and forth between a mystery concerning Doyle and into the present day and a member of the illustrious Baker Street Irregulars (sort of the literary version of Trekkies) who is trying to solve a mystery about what happened to Doyle's long-lost diary.  Based on actual events, this book hit all the right spots.  Murder, intrigue, deduction -- just great.  I was actually sorry for it to end.

2.  Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte & Sherri Browning Erwin
I've always been a little more Team Bronte than Team Austen (I know- gasp!, right?).  As much as I love Elizabeth Bennett, I think I prefer Jane Eyre.  She's just a little darker, a little edgier.  I've always thought that Jane Eyre was a spooky story on its own, and this version, which adds vampires, zombies, and werewolves into the mix, is a fun diversion.  I love that Erwin stuck to the original story and just added some hilarious plot twists -- like Helen Burns coming back as a zombie, Bertha not only being nutzo, but also a werewolf, etc.  My only small gripe is that sometimes the language doesn't quite fit in with the original writing.  Bronte didn't use a bunch of contractions, and when it's the "new" story, Erwin uses too many of them.  But all in all, this made me laugh out loud several times at the witty storyline changes.  Fun reading.

3.  The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
My dad told me this was an amazing book a few years ago, and it's been sitting in my "to read" pile until this month.  I was fascinated throughout the book by Lee Strobel's exhaustive journey towards literally proving beyond a shadow of a doubt (in my opinion, anyway) Christ's existence and deity.  Strobel came to Christ in 1981, after years of atheism.  He was a celebrated Chicago editor and journalist (Yale educated to boot), who had a hard time just accepting that Christ really was the Messiah, so he set out to prove that He wasn't. In the course of his investigation, he proved the exact opposite.  This book is perfect for "thinkers" -- for both skeptics of Christianity and Christians who are struggling with doubt.

4.  All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn
Mary Downing Hahn was my favorite ghost story writer when I was a kid, and since October is the month of all things spooky, Amazon was selling her books for $1.99 apiece.  I racked up.  This book (about a haunted bed and breakfast) is definitely, without a doubt, for kids, but I still loved it.  It transported me back to around 1989, when I would devour her books in the back of our motor home.  And then, of course, I'd be afraid to go to sleep at night.  In the best way.

5.  What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
This was my first Laura Lippman book, and it won't be the last.  She writes a great, taut mystery.  This story, about two young girls who went missing in the 70's only for one to resurface almost 30 years later, is completely gripping.  Lippman does a wonderful job fleshing out each character's storyline without boring the reader with unnecessary details.  By the end of the book, I actually cared about what happened to each person.  There was also a great twist that surprised me, and I love when that happens.

6.  The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
I read a bunch of Agatha Christie in high school, but a few of them escaped me.  This mystery, which introduces the amateur sleuths Tommy and Tuppence, was just utterly charming.  I found myself thinking I'd figured it all out about ten times, only to doubt myself again and again.  And of course, I turned out to be wrong.  Christie is famous for her red herring writing, and she usually gets me.  I've heard that Agatha Christie herself was a pretty fascinating person, so I'm looking forward to reading more about her, too.

7.  Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
This was my first Hahn book, and it scared the junk out of me.  Seriously.  It really is the first book I can remember reading and needing to sleep with the light on afterwards.  Even as an adult, there are some chilling moments (when Helen tries to drag Heather into the pond with her, promising her that "there are mermaids down here" - shudder), and I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading the book.  I did sleep without the lamp this time, though.

8.  The Final Reckoning by Sam Bourne
When I bought this book, I didn't realize it was about the Holocaust.  I tend to shy away from books on that subject, mainly because they're so sad.  This one was no exception, but at least this one was about some Jewish people who kicked major butt and got big, satisfying revenge on some awful Nazis.  The story begins with an old man from London being mistaken for a terrorist at the United Nations, and subsequently being killed.  A former UN lawyer is hired to go and "make nice" with the man's daughter, but then realizes that maybe the old man wasn't as innocent as everyone originally thought.  And of course, the lawyer falls hard for the daughter (which is my only gripe with the story -- the love story seemed a bit forced).  But the ending left me feeling triumphant, and I'll check out some more of Bourne's work.

9.  The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
This is the first time readers were introduced to the little Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and I have to say - he gives Sherlock Holmes a run for his money.  In fact, Poirot and Holmes are almost polar opposites in personality - Poirot is boisterous and highly emotional, while Holmes is removed and analytical - but their methods are really pretty much the same, down to the bumbling Watson-esque sidekicks.  And again, I didn't figure out who the murderer was until Christie revealed it in the last chapter.  Thwarted again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 you wanna know a secret?

photo found here

Yesterday, Dane, a seven-year-old piano student, got up to leave at the end of his lesson, suddenly turned to me and whispered (even though we were the only ones in the room) "Wanna hear about the grossest thing I've ever seen?"

I didn't, but he didn't wait to hear my answer.  He got even closer to me and, in a hushed voice, said directly into my ear:

"Once, my dad lost his balance and fell right...into...a big pile...of dog poop."

He was very serious.  No smiling.  I looked back at him with as straight a face as I could manage and said "That is gross."

He walked slowly to the door, turned back to me, and said "You cannot tell my mother.  She will freak.  Out."  

I sort of felt like there was an unspoken threat somewhere in that last bit.

And I'm really, really glad that's the grossest thing he's ever seen.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Time Traveling Amanda, Pt. 2: Middle School Years

Middle School Years: 1991-1993

Ok.  Get ready, because I think middle school, for everyone, is possibly the most miserable and confusing time in life.  Seriously.  Your body is changing, your skin turns on you, cliques are forming, and popularity is suddenly the most important thing in the world.

My middle school years were honestly torture.  I don't think I spent one comfortable moment in my own skin from the ages of 11 to 13.  I was homeschooled up until 6th grade, and to say I was unprepared for real life adolescence is a major understatement.

I was the definition of nerd.  I can say that with no embarrassment almost 20 years later, but at the time -agggh.  It was the worst.  I used to go home and fill up diary pages with plans to reinvent myself via new clothes, shoes, better haircuts - you name it.  I would give myself a stern talking to in the mirror every morning, telling myself not to use big words, not to talk about books or music too much, and to get better at volleyball (focus!).


So here's what I would change:

1.  Sixth grade, 1991: Friends
I can still remember walking into Ms. Pettyjohn's science class with my heart in my throat, and watching everyone turn as Ms. Pettyjohn introduced me.  Some kids were friendly, but some...were not.  Unfortunately, I was so eager to make friends that I just attached myself to whoever was nice to me in those first few weeks.  This was a bad decision, because I made "friends" with some of the meanest girls in the world.  They put the characters in "Mean Girls" to shame.  Less than a year later, two of those girls wrote me a letter informing me that I wasn't cool enough to be their friend.  Aaaand self esteem goes into the toilet.
Time traveling Amanda would smile politely at these girls on the first day and then go and sit with the people who turned out to be my actual friends all through high school and into adulthood.

2.  Sixth grade - Eighth Grade, 1991-1993: Volleyball
I am, without a doubt, the least athletic person I know.  The only "sport" I'm somewhat good at is ping pong.  Which, unless you're Forrest Gump, so does not count.  The first rainy day of sixth grade, the entire P.E. class was corralled into the gym and divided into teams for volleyball.  I was utterly confused.  I grew up in a motor home.  I had never seen a volleyball game, much less played it.  Everyone else seemed to know all the rules, and I was way too embarrassed to ask, so I went ahead and lined up with everyone else behind the net.  Of course, the first volley came right at me.  I had no idea what I was supposed to do, but the logical thing seemed to be to catch it.  So...I did.  I have a very vivid memory of a girl named Cassidy wheeling around, giving me a look of pure hatred, and hissing "Oh, my GOD!  Are you a retard or something?!"  Half of my class laughed, and half (mostly my team) started yelling at me.  From that moment on, I was horrified by the thought of my having to play any organized sport.  In high school, I even made a deal with our P.E. coach: if he would excuse me from playing basketball, volleyball, etc., I would write him a short story based on P.E. every day.  And I did.  That's how much I hated it.
Time traveling Amanda would learn how to play volleyball (duh), but would also dismiss girls like Cassidy.  In fact, time traveling Amanda would just launch the volleyball at her head and say "Is that what I'm supposed to do?"  I literally, to this day, have no idea if I could have been ok at a sport of some kind.  If I could go back, I would at least try to find out.

3.  Seventh grade, 1992: Shaving
My mom wouldn't let me shave my legs until 8th grade, so I partially blame her for this one.  I wasn't a yeti, but by 7th grade, I was a little...furry.  I was starting to notice, and unfortunately, so were some of my classmates.  This did not help improve my popularity.  One day in band, a guy named Scott passed my chair, pointed to my leg, and yelled "Amanda's legs are hairier than my dad's!"  Cue shame.  I went home and asked if I could please shave, but my mom wouldn't budge.  The next week, my parents went out of town, and I decided that if I couldn't shave, I would fake it.  I decided to wear floral overall shorts (remember those?  Eek.)...with pantyhose.  I figured that not only would it make me look tan, but it would hide my hairy legs.  Our babysitter was a family friend, and he was a guy.  He didn't seem to notice that my legs were a full four shades darker than my arms and face, and he let me go to school.  My friend Bett (who I now know was trying to be helpful) asked me "Um...Amanda?  Are you really...tan?  On...just your legs?"  I was all cheerful. "YES! I so am!"  Sigh.  And of course, the pantyhose totally didn't hide my hairy legs.  It just mashed it up into disgusting patches.  My mom came to pick me up from school that day, took one look at me, and laughed.
Time traveling Amanda would sneak a razor from her mom's bathroom and shave.  Yes.  Justifiable rebellion.  And she would burn those floral overall shorts.

4.  Eighth grade, 1993: Shoes
My mom bought our shoes from wherever she thought was a good buy.  I didn't have a brand name pair of tennis shoes until 8th grade, because I honestly just didn't care.  Payless was ok with me.  But then two of the Triplet Mean Girls - Tiffany, Julie, and Elaine - felt it was their duty to point out that I didn't have cool tennis shoes.  Tiffany commented dryly that "your shoes look like they come from KMart.  My shoes cost $75."  And then they made a comment about it every day for weeks.  It was the first time I had even noticed that my shoes didn't have a name running along the side.  And of course, it became my new obsession.  I went home and begged my mom for a pair of Asics or Nikes.  I got some for Christmas that year, but my insecurity had been pretty much cemented by then.
Time traveling Amanda would say "Good for you!" to Tiffany, and completely ignore the rest of them.  When you're 13, it's so hard to realize that it won't matter in ten years, but I would definitely try to figure that out a bit earlier if I could go back.  Maybe I would have given them some shoes from KMart for Christmas, and tell them I bought them for them since they seemed so obsessed with mine...

5.  Eighth grade, 1993: Talent show
I sang "Swinging on a Star," as made famous by Frank Sinatra.  Of course, with lyrics like "...or would you rather be a pig?," this didn't really win me any cool points.  My friend Amos would go on  to bring up this talent show every time I did something embarrassing, all the way into college.  He would say "At least you're not singing about people being pigs!"  Touche, Amos.  Touche.
Time traveling Amanda would sing something else.  Like "Loser" by Beck.  Much more appropriate.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

I've been on a French music kick lately.  It makes me feel like I should wear floaty dresses and red lipstick while doing crossword puzzles in a little cafe.  Le sigh.

"Je Cherche Un Homme" - Eartha Kitt

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Self Realization #11

I think I've been 20 pounds away from complete happiness my entire life.

Give or take.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Time Traveling Amanda, Pt. 1: Elementary School Years

I follow Richard Marx on Twitter.

Yes.  That Richard Marx.  Mainly because I loved him as a kid (um, hello?  "Right Here Waiting," anyone?), but also because he's dang funny, too.

On Daylight Savings day, he tweeted that he'd love to set his clock back to 1989.  I don't know why, but it made me start thinking about how cool - or horrifying - that might be.  And then, because I relate everything to how I might be able to come up with some writing project/book, etc. with whatever idea I might have, I wondered, if I did go back, knowing everything I know now, what would I specifically change about my upcoming "future"?

Trouble is, I can't just go back to one specific moment and think "Oh, I would definitely have done that one differently."  There are just too many pivotal moments in my past.  I've done one about high school before (and for the record - I haven't watched "Glee" since it got unbelievably stupid about a year ago), but that was just high school.  I was already set in a lot of my ways by that point.

So here's what I think I'm going to do.  I'm going to do a couple of posts about different periods of my life where I would (if I could) go back and fix some stuff that might make me a better/more interesting/less neurotic person today.

And listen up - I totally get the whole "our mistakes make us who we are today" stuff.  I do.  And I agree.  But this is just for fun (and maybe just for me).

Here goes.

Elementary School Years: 1986-1990

1.  First Grade, 1986: Johnny
I met my first boyfriend, Johnny, in first grade.  He may have set the tone for me when it comes to guys.  He was a great boyfriend for the whole week we were "dating."  We held hands.  He shared his Twinkie with me at lunch.  He let me wear his super cool leather jacket at recess so I could pretend to be Cyndi Lauper.  Then he introduced me to his other girlfriend, Shauna.  That was the end of Johnny. Although, I just sort of watched them walk away to the swings and went home and cried.  I didn't listen to Cyndi Lauper much after that, either.
Time traveling Amanda would keep Johnny's leather jacket and maybe punch him in his freckled little face.  And then I'd vow to not let that kind of jerk get the best of me ever again.  And then I'd go home and listen to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" on repeat.  Well, it was 1986, so more like I would go home and listen to the song, then rewind it on my cassette player and listen again.  Then rewind it...

2.  First grade - Fifth Grade, 1986-1990: Nap times
I would have listened to my parents and gladly - joyfully - taken a nap every.  Single.  Day.  I would not complain.  I would not lay in bed just counting the minutes until I could safely get up.  I would sleep.  I would sleep hard, with no guilt.

3.  Third grade, 1988: Memorabilia
I would have never let my mom sell my "Star Wars" and "The Dark Crystal" lunchboxes at a yard sale.  Or my "Star Wars" play figurines.  I would have convinced her that yes, they would totally be worth a whole lot someday.

4.  Third grade - Fifth grade, 1988-1990: Hair
I would have said no to the perm.  Enough said.

5.  Fourth grade, 1989: Barbies
My little sister, Holly Jo, loved to play Barbies. She's three years younger than I am, and I was totally over Barbies by fourth grade. I thought they were completely babyish, and every time she'd beg me to play with her, I'd refuse.  Sometimes my mom would force me to play with her, but I was pretty jerky about it.  Lots of eye rolling and trying to kill myself off (this was usually easy because Holly Jo loved to have a good death in our Barbie sessions.  She always left behind an orphan son or bereaved husband/boyfriend) so I could go read or something.
Time traveling Amanda would play with Holly Jo every time she asked, because she loved it so much.  I would definitely be a sweeter big sister.*

6.  Fifth grade, 1990: Swimsuits
There's a picture in one of my parents' photo albums of Holly Jo and me in our swimsuits, in front of a pool.  I think we were in Oregon or something.  Holly Jo is grinning in her butterfly one-piece, her arms out, totally and completely happy. I'm sort of shrinking behind her in my orange and black swimsuit.  You can tell that the body insecurity was already starting for me.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that's the last picture of me in a swimsuit in existence.
Yes, I was a chubby kid, and I've been "chubby" -- nice word for it -- for the better part of my life.  But if I could go back, I would tell myself to relax.  I was ten, for Pete's sake.  There's no reason I should have stopped enjoying swimming or felt like I needed to hide because I thought my stomach was too poochy.  I would go back and fill up entire albums with swimsuit pictures.

7.  Fifth grade, 1990: "MMC"
Every year, "MMC" (the re-vamped Mickey Mouse Club) held auditions in Florida for the new Mouseketeers.  I was convinced I could make it if my parents would let me try out.  But I never really pushed for it.  I just watched the show every day after school, crushed on Tony Lucca, and thought "what if...?"
Time traveling Amanda would convince her parents to let her try out.  Of course, I would make it.  I would beat out annoying Britney.  And then I would have dated Justin Timberlake (we would have had a disastrous and tear-filled ending, natch).  Keri Russell and I would still be hang-out friends, and I would have had a few guest spots on "Felicity," where I would have mastered my meaningful-looks-set-to-slow-music skills. And by now, I would so be married to Tony Lucca.  You know I would.

*Holly Jo - anytime you want to play Barbies, I'm down with it.