Happy Birthday to…

Happy birthday to… ME.

The birthday girl, 21 years ago.

Yes, blogland, today I am 22.

So I thought I would write 22 things I would like to accomplish in my 23rd year.  Some of them are big goals, some of them are simple, all of them are important.  In no particular order:

1. Write a 150 page minimum thesis about Roberto Bolaño. Let’s start big, right?  This is going to have to happen this year, no matter what!

2. Travel to a part of the USA I have never visited before. Going to Spain and talking to folks made me realize just how little of my own country I’ve really seen.

3. Keep reading amazing books.  I’m not too worried about this one.

4. Embrace all the changes in my life instead of being stressed out by them.  Things have already started changing in my life and I can’t let it always stress me out.  Things are always going to change, but I should accept those changes as exciting opportunities, not terrifying moments.

5. Move to a new city.  This is another one that’s probably inevitable this year, but more than just move to a new city, I want to make that new city my own.  I’m going to live it and love it and find all the fabulous things about it.

6. Write more.  Though I haven’t officially started working on my NaNoWriMo project, maybe that will get me going on this one.

7. Keep maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I’m really proud of myself – I have managed to maintain a gym membership and have kept trying hard to eat well.  I’m definitely not going to let that taper off in my 23rd year.

8. Cook more! Always cook extra to freeze.  I love cooking, I just need to plan ahead a little better and find the time to really cook what I love.  I want to buy less frozen food and prepared food and begin cooking naturally.

9. Read more of the books I have on my shelves. They’re getting overwhelming and I need to read more before I acquire more.  I can’t rely so much on my library until these books are read!

10.  Clean more.  I should donate things I don’t use anymore, like all the clothing I have that I do not wear.  Also, anyone who knows me well knows that I’m more than a little bit messy.  I’m going to spend this year trying to change that.  I’ll make my bed every day.  (Maybe.)

11.  Refinish this old dining room chair I have in my room.  My dad gave it to me from his old dining room set and right now it’s pretty ugly and a little bit broken, but I have some grand ideas for it that just might involve crochet and purple paint.

12. Learn how to sew, better. I know the basics of sewing and can sew some very simple things, but I have a sewing machine and I want to learn how to use it to make my own clothes and gifts.

13. Finish my granny square blanket.  I started crocheting a blanket before I left for Spain and I’m determined to finish it this year.

14. Enjoy every minute of my life. Sometimes we all need a reminder to enjoy the life we have.  I am guilty of spending too much time thinking about the future and what’s going to happen that I miss what is happening.

15. Keep up Regular Rumination.  I think I let my blog slip a little this past summer and I’d like to keep it up a little bit better.  I need to figure out what is working and what isn’t.

16. Start a food blog.  Notice I didn’t say maintain or keep up with or successfully start a food blog, but I have always wanted a food blog, even if it is just a way to get me cooking more.

17. Make a photo light box.  I want to have more professional looking photographs for this blog and my potential food blog.

18. Save some money.  It’s time to start building a savings if I can, especially if I’m going to be moving to a new city.

19. Start learning another language.  I ran into people in Europe who spoke at least a little bit of more than 3 languages.  I speak 2 languages, and I have studied 3 (other than English), but two of those languages I can barely say hello in.  I want to have a somewhat working knowledge of third language.  I’m thinking German.

20. Never take my loved ones for granted.  I have an amazing family, amazing friends and an amazing boyfriend.  I need to keep telling them that they are the best thing in my life and that I appreciate them every day.

21. Start collecting furniture.  This one is also related to moving to a new city.  I need to start building a collection of kitchen supplies and furniture.

22. Don’t be afraid.  Sometimes I’m timid, shy or nervous about myself and the decisions I make.  I need to own them.  I need to stand up for myself and not be so afraid of making mistakes.

So what does a book blogger do on her birthday?  Offer a present to her loyal readers!  I will be giving away two books today.  If you leave a comment on this post, you will automatically be entered in the giveaway.  First place winner gets first choice, second place winner gets whatever is left over!  I’ll draw a winner during Sunday Salon! Your book choices are:

  • The Double by José Saramago
  • The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon

Good luck! 🙂


TSS – 25 July 2010

Currently reading:

Am I picking books based solely on their cover colors?  Possibly.  How about setting?  Also possible.  It’s been unbelievably hot and both of these books have quite chilly atmospheres, plus their cool blue covers.  I’m dreaming of cooler times.

Books reviewed this week:

I think I liked this one?  But I really have no idea.  I can’t tell if I have no feelings about it or ambivalent ones.  But other folks have loved it.  Click the photo to read my full review (if you can call that list a review…).

Things posted at At the Bridges this week:

Going somewhere?:

Welcome to Parismina!  We save the turtles.
We conserve nature… it is our future.

I might be going here in October.  I originally thought I would be going to Spain, but I’m beginning to lean toward a volunteer experience in Costa Rica, Peru or the Galapagos Islands!

Happy Sunday!

July 10, 2010

Dear Grandmom,

I didn’t think about you when I woke up this morning.  I would say I’m sorry, but I don’t think you mind.  In fact, I didn’t even think about you until Dad called, like something was on his mind, and I realized what day it was.  It’s been two years.

It hit me pretty hard at first.  I was ice skating – random, right?  Well we went with camp on Wednesday and I had so much fun, I told C I’d take her on Saturday.  I had fun again today.  I only fell once, but it was a hard fall.  C told me she was worried she’d have to figure out how to drag me off the ice.  I got up again though, don’t worry, and we all had a good laugh about it later.  Then I took Z out for dinner for his birthday, 15cent shrimp!  We made blueberry cobbler and watched Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe.   You know, it was pretty wonderful.

I think that’s exactly how you would want me to spend today, not thinking about it.  Today is not the most difficult day of all of this.  It’s every other day.  It’s everything that passes without you in it, not just July 10th, but all the other days in the year.

Everyone gets together to commemorate this day and I just can’t do it.  I just… can’t. I tried last year and it didn’t feel right.  I should not be trying to make this day matter, in fact I should do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t.

That day, two years ago, K the older and I were walking on the beach when we saw a double rainbow.  Before, we’d both been questioning any possibility of the afterlife when someone in our family had told us that she believed rainbows were the way people we loved and lost communicated with us.  K the Older and I thought that a little silly – why rainbows?   But the appearance of those rainbows was too much for either of us.  We both broke into laughter, the first we’d heard in weeks, and now it’s become a running joke.  Every time one of us sees a rainbow, we text the other to let her know that you say hi.  We know it’s not, but we like to pretend.

This picture of you and Grandpop is my absolute favorite of you.  I know you hate pictures of yourself, but you have to admit, you look pretty fabulous in this picture.  You’re so full of life and vibrant here, I can’t even imagine that you’re gone.  It doesn’t seem real.  Look at your smile!  You’re laughing and probably no one will ever remember why, but it doesn’t matter.

I can hardly believe two years have passed.  That June and July in 2008 seems so vivid, like it was yesterday.  I wish I remembered all the years that came before it so well.   Two weeks before that, I remember the last time we spoke on the phone.  You never failed to make me smile, to make me happy.  I was eating Chinese food, I was wearing the red dress I wore two days ago.  We were so excited for our extended vacation together that was only three weeks away.   I remember how much I smiled when we talked on the phone.  I’ll never lose that.

Love you Grandmom.

The great return – two missed tour posts!

I’m going to try and make my great return to blogging!  I hope it sticks because I have seriously missed you guys.  Where have I been you ask?  Well!  First, after school ended, I traveled far and wide.  I spent some serious time just recuperating from the past semester and didn’t do very much reading.  Then I got home and realized I really needed to find a job.  I applied to over 50 jobs and got one… but I wasn’t too excited about it.  Then I went on another trip to a wedding in Rhode Island.  I have never been to Rhode Island and it was GORGEOUS.  Amazingly beautiful, just like the wedding.  I was all excited to return to blogging when the most terrible thing happened – my computer crashed.  By my computer crashed I mean I spilled water all over it and it refused to turn on.  It was tragic and I really felt like there was someone out there who did not want me to continue blogging.  As you can see, however, something must have happened because I am posting!  Well, I did not buy a new computer.  Instead of trashing mine and throwing it out the window and smashing it until it was unrecognizable as a machine a la Office Space, I let it rest.  Let it have its me-time.  And guess what?!  It turned on!

It was a truly magical experience.

In all of this mess, I have two tour stops I missed for TLC Book Tours.  I really apologize!  I hate missing book tours!  It’s something I’ve never done before and I just feel awful.  But here they are, better late than never (I hope!).

The first is Black Water Rising by Attica Locke.  I was so excited to read this one, because it is a thriller, which is something I’ve recently discovered, and it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.  So did it live up to all of my expectations?  Yes and no.

What it did live up to was being an incredibly smart book that took me on an exciting journey.  It was, for the most part, interesting and suspenseful.  The plot follows a young lawyer, Jay, who one night, while out to dinner with his wife on the bayou, gets entangled in a brutal web that goes much deeper into Houston society than he ever thought possible.  Pulled by his natural desire to do what is right, to help people, he gets sucked into this dangerous web out of which there really is no return.  I loved the connections we got with Jay’s Civil Rights past.  I loved how intricate the plot was and I really enjoyed Locke’s writing style.  It’s clear that she has experience in film, because this book read like a movie in the best way possible.

But all of the things I loved about the book, I also in turn disliked.  Often the connections to the past weighed down the plot, when all I was interested in was what was happening in the present.  Similarly, the intricate plot was sometimes too intricate.  When there would be a big reveal, I sometimes wasn’t sure what was supposed to be revealed.  I didn’t always understand the connections that were being made.  There were also times when Locke’s movie-like writing style turned into, “And then this happened.  And then this.”  All of these things worked at one point and then didn’t work at others.

All that says to me that even though I wasn’t Black Water Rising‘s biggest fan, I really enjoyed reading this book and I honestly cannot wait to see what Locke has to offer in the future.  She’s an author to watch and I guarantee you that she has more stories to tell.

The second book I have to tell you about is Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon.  I really wanted to enjoy this book, too, because it has such an interesting premise.  The Compassionate Dismantlers are a group of college friends who have the manifesto, “To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart.”  But their senior year, one of the Dismantlers, Suz, dies.  And the other Dismantlers decide they need to cover it up.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish this book.  I gave it until page 50, but really couldn’t keep it up.

At first I had trouble articulating what I disliked about this book, but once I opened to random pages and read paragraphs I realized what it was.  I think the writing style just isn’t for me.  Let me give you an example:

Henry thinks of the mayhem.  The photos.  The ransom note and chair looped with rope.  Suz’s things.  So many of her things lying around the cabin.  Evidence.  What if it’s still there?  And what happens when the private investigator shows up, starts snooping around and finds the cabin?

Someone’s got to go check it out, clean it up.  He promised Tess that someone would be him.

Henry the brave.  Henry who makes bad things go away. (80)

Okay, there’s nothing really wrong with that passage at all, other than the choppiness.  I just could not get into the prose.  Combine that with main characters that I had trouble sympathizing with and you have the recipe for a book that I simply couldn’t finish.  I rarely post about books I don’t finish (and there are a lot of them), so it was really interesting to sit down and figure out what it was about a book that really made me turn away.  It might be an activity I try here and there, even if I don’t always post about it.

Once again, I’m sorry I didn’t get these posts up when they were scheduled, but I should be back in business!  Thank you to TLC Book Tours for sending me these books to review.