Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Tuesday list

1. Today's to-do list has pretty much gone the way of just making it through everyday tasks like keeping up with dishes and hungry kiddos. I did finish sorting through the girl-munchkin's current and next-size clothes to make sure we were ready for the cool weather that we will eventually be getting. But you know...I'm okay with that. Newborn rule number 1: lower your expectations and every day is a win.

2. Coffee. Mmmm....coffee. I'd been taking a break since the boy-munchkin was born, not wanting to challenge his brand new (and seriously gassy) digestive system with caffeine just yet. But this week I've had to take a nursing break due to an antibiotic, so I've been enjoying a little time each day with my old friend.

3. So You Think You Can Dance. Just when I'd gotten a little burnt out on this show I love, they mixed it up this summer just enough to bring me back. I got behind the past few weeks, but have spent yesterday and today catching up. It's been a fun season! I enjoyed the new stage vs. street format, and enjoyed the new judges (we ALL needed a break from the Hot Tamale Train, am I right?) Next fun and fluffy reality competition show on my radar: the return of The Voice.

4. Road trip, part 2. A couple of weeks ago we went to Austin and back for nieces' birthday party. The kiddos did as good as we could have asked on the trip. Three hours there, three hours back (including our stops). Our next adventure will be in a few days when we head over the river and through the woods to grandmother's (Nana's and Grandpapa's) house. Four hours with no stops, so I'm hopeful we can make it in five. We'll see!

5. And because we can't walk away from each other without talking books for a minute: I've got the third Throne of Glass book on loan from the library and will start that hopefully today, I just finished Anne of Windy Poplars in my long-overdue Anne Shirley re-read, and will start Anne's House of Dreams next (one of my favorites!) And I'm savoring my way through Felicia Day's memoir You're Never Weird On the Internet (Almost) (so far, as funny and charming as I expected). And for audio, I've got Summer Night, by Jim Butcher (a Dresden Files book -- as an aside, I've never read a print version of this series because when they're all read by Spike from Buffy, why would I?)

5.2 For anyone who wonders "how is she finding time to read with a new baby and a toddler???" let me just say that boy munchkin likes to eat a lot, and as I'm not yet adept at nursing and walking around, I spend a lot of time sitting. Sometimes I'm chatting or reading to the girl-munchkin, but even if you just count the after-bedtime and middle of the night feedings, that's a good 1-2 hours of potential reading right there.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto

One of the reasons I journal, and one of the reasons I blog is that it helps get the running commentary out of my head when my head just gets too crowded. Basically, it's an alternative to talking to imaginary friends. And when you're currently spending hours a day feeding a newborn, you end up with a lot of thoughts running through your head...of course you also end up with not a lot of energy/hours in the day to write, but we do what we can.

So, yes, newborn. Baby boy, name: Matrim (short "a", like Mat). Not a common name, you're right, but you might recognize it from the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. We're a book loving family. He's quite a cutie, mostly cheeks and lips and wrinkled forehead. Definitely a keeper.

Bringing a new baby home has reminded me that there's only so much preparation one can do for a huge life change. I know that having a newborn and 17 month old will be a challenge and completely change our routine. But there's only so much I can do to prepare for that. I can what-if myself all day long, but at the end of the day anything involving another human being (no matter how tiny) involves a lot of wait-and-see-then-adapt-and-adjust. Some days that's easier than others.

I read an excerpt from Jen Hatmaker's new book For the Love (which...note to self: buy soon) in which she talks about the freedom of 40. And one of the things she has found about turning 40 is less need to justify or excuse one's choices. That really spoke to me, especially as I daily wonder if I'm doing "enough." Women around the world know the struggle to stay out of the comparison game. To feel like every other woman is judging your choices, or judging how competent/not-competent you are. It's definitely a mom thing, but not exclusively -- I felt the need for validation long before I became a mama. One of my life goals is to live free and confident and comfortable with myself. I don't want to wait until I'm 40.

One thing I've learned since the first baby, is how much better I felt the first time I did something that felt normal or routine or part of life that's beyond diapers and milk. So I've been quicker to get dressed in the morning, and we went to church last week, and if I have 30 magical minutes when both kids are napping I might spend 10 of them reading a chapter in a book and 20 of them taking a power nap. Of course, doing normal every-day things is pretty much a necessity this time around with a toddler running around needing to be fed and changed and loved on too. But it's helped mentally and emotionally.

And speaking of reading chapters in books, I felt like a comfort read lately, and am filling that need with some Anne Shirley and Avonlea. I made my way through Anne of Green Gables pre-delivery, and am currently enjoying Anne of Avonlea. It's almost making up for the current lack of coffee in my life. (almost)

So here we are. New reality that changes daily. Beautiful moments and really, really hard moments. Plenty of laughter and cuddles and plenty of tears (not always from the babies either...let's be real). But we press on, grateful for God's grace, family, friends, and always remembering the sage words of Anne Shirley: each day is new, with no mistakes in it yet.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Reading...The Program

The Program (The Program, #1) The modern world is faced with a new epidemic: teen suicides. One in three teenagers in the world of The Program commit suicide. It's treated as an infectious disease, and scientists and doctors around the world scramble to come up with a cure. A few states -- including Oregon, where the story is set -- have implemented the Program, an in-patient treatment where the patients' infected memories are removed and they are returned to society calm, happy, and well-adjusted. At least, that's the theory. And it certainly seems to be working. The Program carefully monitors and watches teenagers for any signs of depression and "infection." Parents are encouraged to turn their children in if need be. But not everyone wants to have some of their memories erased. Not everyone sees these alterations as a good thing. Sloane and James are trying to be careful. Despite the infection of close friends and the suicide of Sloane's brother and James' best friend, the two try to keep each other grounded and stable...long enough to turn 18 in less than a year, when they can be free from the Program's reach. But their grief and the stress of trying to keep it hidden and put on a happy face eventually get to them, and eventually the Program gets to them as well. 
I'm pretty picky when it comes to dystopian novels these days, but this is a pretty good one. It's a little heavy on the teen angst, but I think appropriately and realistically so. I mean, you're talking about a book about teen suicide, grief, the idea of true love, and all the intense, passionate emotions that just come as part of being 17. And I think the book does a good job of highlighting the importance of validating and working through strong and tough emotions, of getting REAL help when needed -- not just forcing people to put on a happy face and say everything is ok. 
I also think the author did a great job of creating a truly disturbing and terrifying atmosphere. I spent a good chunk of this book stressed. out. Worried for our main characters. Creeped out by the Program handler who is clearly smarmy and gross (and yes...proves to be just that). Distrustful of people who aren't as they seem, and horrified by the forced medication and manipulation of the patients. 
Oh, and it's not a stand-alone novel. A few things are resolved at the end, but it's definitely not a fully satisfying ending.  
Bottom line: if you're in the mood for a dystopian novel, this one won't disappoint. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reading...The Slow Regard of Silent Things

The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2.5) The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss is a unique novella that is less story and more character study. It's a snapshot in the life of Auri, a minor (if you simply go by page count) character in Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles. It's not a book for everyone -- if you like plot and action then you may not like it. But if you like really getting to know a character then it's pretty great. If you appreciate words and beautiful writing, it's pretty great. I will say, that it doesn't really stand alone. It's best read if you've read the other books in Rothfuss' trilogy. So...maybe the shortest and least helpful book "review" in history, but it's what I've been up to!

Friday, July 31, 2015

A little creative writing

So, for two days I worked on a blog post relating to a rewatch of Gilmore Girls that I'm in the middle of. And then I realized I kind of hated it. So instead, I'm going to post a little snippet of a potential romance that I wrote when I needed a break from the novel I'm perpetually working on. It should be noted that this is a rough first draft so...it's not perfect, by any means. Enjoy!

Not allowed

Liam O’Donnell lay in his bed across town, doing his own avoidance routine. He listened to the sounds of his roommate Trevyn getting ready for work, and wondered what the odds were that Trevyn would say anything about last night if Liam were to emerge from his hole.

Last night. It seemed like a good idea at the time. A text blast: hey, Beta Radio’s playing downtown tonight, who’s in? It was a week night, but only a few bowed out due to early morning work commitments. Liam had gotten to the bar early, grabbed a drink and sat in the back with his laptop, finishing up some freelance work that was due in a couple of days. A couple of hours later, he glanced up from the screen as he saved his progress and saw Holly walk in the door. Her long, burnished gold hair hung loose around her shoulders. Liam thought she must have come straight from work, since she was wearing a soft orange sweater, tailored gray skirt, and heels, rather than her usual jeans and flip flops. Of course, she looked amazing, whatever she was wearing.

He watched as she stood in the back for a moment, glancing around the bar. A column and the back of the booth blocked Liam from her view, and he debated standing up and waving to her. Things between them since the breakup were usually fine, but definitely more fine in a group of people. Plus, if she couldn’t see him, he could watch her unguarded.

A big table close to the stage opened up, and Holly made her way there to snag it. Just as she was draping her jacket over the back of a chair, the bar door opened again and Trevyn and Elaine walked in, laughing loudly. They waved at Holly and made their way to her, Trevyn gesturing grandly, Elaine still giggling. Trevyn did tell the best stories. Liam stayed put, watching as a few more friends arrived. He watched Holly laughing and hugging everyone, watched as they all ordered drinks and a few ordered food, most having come from work since the show was pretty early. He saw Holly continually glancing around, and Liam told himself that maybe she was looking for him. But he knew, as her gaze occasionally paused on a good looking guy here and there, that she was looking for someone new. Fresh. Different. Holly was a dater – she liked having fun, and she liked to do it with new people. She went on a lot of first dates. Liam and Holly had dated for two months, and it was the longest she’d ever been with the same person.

Eventually, Liam packed away his laptop, slung his bag across his chest, and walked toward his friends. He was greeted with the usual hellos and hugs and backslaps.

“I thought you were getting off early,” Trevyn said, mouth full of chicken nachos. “Where’ve you been?”

Liam patted his bag. “Had some freelance work to finish. Deadline.”

“Well, there are no more nachos for you. You’re out of luck.”

“I’ll survive,” Liam said drily. Trevyn was a bit of a health nut. He played basketball in a weekly game with work buddies, and was in a flag football league. Six-pack abs, rock hard arms…the works. He had a kind of young Idris Elba thing going on, and he joked that he had to eat healthy to keep up appearances. But he had a weakness for nachos. Well, nachos and Britt’s donuts, but at least you could only get those nine months out of the year.

Liam hung his bag over the back of his chair and asked the waitress who’d just arrived for another pint. He leaned back in his chair and looked around the round six-top, at which eight of his friends were crowded around. Trevyn, Elaine, and Mike sat closest to the table, Trevyn and Mike polishing off their nachos while Elaine ate a burger and fries. Then there was Chris, Trina, Hannah, Hannah’s friend Brent, and of course Holly. All of them except Brent had been friends since their freshman year at UNCW. All Yankees lured South by the promise of beautiful beaches and warm weather. Trevyn and Liam had been friends since junior high, and neighbors in a small town in Wisconsin. They'd met Mike and Chris on move-in day. Mike came from Indiana, and Chris from Ohio. They’d all bonded over a love of Mountain Dew and Pepsi (an enigma in North Carolina’s Coke and Sun Drop crowd), and braved the freshman waters together. Trevyn met Elaine and Hannah in his biology class their first semester, and when the six of them started hanging out, they’d brought along Trina and Holly, fellow Midwestern buddies from their orientation group.

After the initial – it’s so nice to have met people with the same taste in music/movies/books/food – there was a brief period of awkwardness where nearly everyone fumbled through some almost hookups, before deciding that they were all better off as a group of friends. Of course, Holly and Liam broke that unspoken code, but that was many years later so the breakup didn’t have quite the same effect it could have in college.

And then they’d all stayed, gotten jobs, moved in. The beach town had delivered on its promises, and no one had wanted to shovel feet of snow every winter or give up year-round access to the beach. It was a pretty common occurrence in Wilmington – come for a degree, stay forever. Bugged the locals, but it helped keep the economy going.

“Hey, gorgeous.” Liam caught a whiff of gardenia perfume as Holly slid into the chair next to me and gave me a hug.

“Hey there,” Liam replied. “How was work today?”

She made a face. “Let’s not talk about that. The newest professor is completely full of himself.” 

Holly had an art history fellowship through UNC Chapel Hill that allowed her to work at UNCW as a adjunct while doing research on her dissertation. She’d been afraid that she’d have to move after she’d been accepted, but the committee had agreed to let her work under one of the professors in Wilmington and just drive to Chapel Hill once a week for meetings and lectures.

Liam raised an eyebrow. “More so than the rest of them?”

Holly smacked his arm. “Yes! Don’t be mean. How about you?” she asked. “How was your day?”

“Long,” he replied. “Mostly client meetings. Dave likes to schedule them all in one day, because he hates himself and the rest of us.”

Holly laughed. “Poor thing. Well, what are you working on right now?”

Liam told her about his projects, noticing as he did that while Holly was certainly listening – commenting and asking questions – her eyes kept up their constant scan of the bar. It was the first thing that started coming between them when they were dating: Liam getting hurt at her seeming innatention. He remembered several fights during evenings out. It still bugged him a little, but he knew he had no right to ask her to stop. Instead, he just cut his work commentary short.

Before too long, everyone was talking with everyone else, but Liam felt like he could only half concentrate on the conversation because the other half of him was acutely aware that Holly’s chair had migrated closer and closer to his. That her left side was pressed against his right side as she leaned into the group’s conversation, gesturing to make a point. She laughed at something Brent said – Liam hadn’t heard the joke – leaning even more into Liam, her left arm now resting across his back. He wondered if he could shrug her off without making a scene, maybe get up and go to the bathroom. But as he was wondering this, the band took the stage, and the low bar lights got a bit lower. Liam felt stuck. He didn’t want to get up now, he didn’t want to make a scene – and extracting himself from Holly would do that, he knew from experience – but his nerve endings were lit up, and he wasn’t allowed to feel that way anymore.

The band was fantastic, as usual, and Liam tried to concentrate on the music. Not on the smell of gardenias, or the silk of Holly’s hair against his jaw as she rested her head on his shoulder. Not on the feel of her skin as she wrapped her arm around his. He caught a few of his friends eyeing him, Trevyn giving him a pointed look that said buddy, just pull out, you’re embarrassing yourself. As if it was that easy. It should have been that easy. And no, when the music was over and everyone stood up to head home – work night after all – he should have followed Trevyn out the door. Not said “Okay” when Holly said “I’m wired! Let’s go walk along the water.” Not let her wrap her arm around his waist as they walked out the door and along the boardwalk. It’s not that he didn’t enjoy her company as they walked mostly silent along the moonlit river. It’s that he enjoyed it too much. That when he walked her to her car and said goodnight, all he wanted to do was wrap her in his arms and kiss her senseless. And that wasn’t allowed anymore.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Reading...One Plus One

One Plus One
Why hello there, internet. Long time no see. Apologies for my absence....I was busy being sick...and then getting ready for camp. And probably just kind of being lazy a few days in there too. It's hard to get back in the groove when you've gotten out of it. 

Anyway...while camping in the sweltering heat with a bunch of teenagers for a week may not sound like everyone's idea of a vacation (it was awesome, by the way!), I did do one traditionally vacation-y thing last week: I read a book! A whole book, start to finish. 

You may remember how much I loved Me Before You. After I finished it, I just wanted more Jojo Moyes, so I immediately placed One Plus One on hold at the library, and it conveniently became available just before camp. I'd say it's not as technically well-written as Me Before You, but it's every bit as enjoyable. Jess is a single mom struggling to make ends meet and care for her doesn't-fit-into-this-small-town-slightly-goth-but-very-sweet stepson and her quirky and maths-crazy daughter (who perhaps has a touch of Asperger's? It's never really gone into in the book, but could be a possibility). Ed is a wealthy programmer and tech geek who is getting ready to go to trial for insider trading. He's laying low per lawyer's instructions and Jess is trying to get her daughter to a Maths Olympiad in Scotland. Jess and her friend -- who work as house cleaners -- have been cleaning Ed's coastal house for quite a while, but their first in-person encounter doesn't leave much of a favorable impression. When Ed happens to come along when Jess's plans get derailed, he offers to give her, the kids, and their huge dog Norman a ride to Scotland. 

One Plus One is a love story, a family story, a story about finding your tribe, about optimism and disappointment. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A (very random) Tuesday List

1. I've been thinking about running today. There are several things I miss about running -- remind me that I miss running when I'm getting back into it and complaining every step of the way -- but today what I miss is is that whole-body-tired-muscles-wrung-out-but-in-a-good-way feeling.

2. Have I mentioned how much I love iced coffee in the summertime? Mmmm...hits the spot.

3. I'm waiting for some holds to come in at the library, so in the meantime I've been in the mood for a reread. Specifically Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Have you read it? Fantastic.

4. Some lovely friends from church told me the other night that they want to play with Christina for an afternoon to give me a break. What a treat! I can't decide if I want to take a long nap, putter around the house alone, or go out and get a pedicure and maybe do a little solo shopping. I'm leaning toward the latter -- it's really hard to reach my feet these days.

5. Less than two weeks until Sooner Youth Camp! For one week I won't be the only one in the room sweating! (everything they say about pregnancy in the summertime is true)