Posted in Listening to Music, Living Life, Watching Movies

Why Do We Mourn Celebrity Deaths?

This week we all had the unfortunate task of saying goodbye to two celebrated and beloved icons, David Bowie and Alan Rickman. With Bowie’s eccentric style and music and Rickman’s dry humor and villainess ways, they were two extremely different performers, but loved so much that the world is mourning their loss with heavy hearts. 
Celebrity deaths happen often, as it’s a natural part of life. And while the majority of us don’t know any of these celebrities personally, we still shed tears over the loss. Why is that? Why do we mourn the death of these celebrities like they’re a close friend or family member?

The answer is simple – when we’re a fan of a public figure, they become a part of our lives. Not a physical part like friends and family, but an accessory. They become something that means something special to us, and when that something is gone, it’s almost as if a part of us is gone, too. We mourn out of nostalgia rather than personal grief.

When someone like Alan Rickman dies, we’re sad because Rickman played characters that we treasure. Suddenly our Severus Snape really IS gone, and it makes us sad. We know from the people that were close to him that he really was one of the most loving, generous, loyal, and nice people around, which is great, but it’s not something that we know first-hand. Yet here we are, reading tributes to him on the internet, and crying.

I can think of a handful of celebrity deaths that made me cry – Heath Ledger, Robin Williams, River Phoenix, Cory Monteith, James Horner, Christopher Lee, Michael Jackson…people I never knew and never would know, yet people who had an impact on me at some point of my life. And because of that, I felt that loss.


Of course it’s a different kind of mourning we go through than when someone we personally know dies. When friends and family pass, the mourning seeps into your whole body, it becomes something physical that you can’t really shake. Sometimes it’s hard to cry because the sadness is too much…because it’s too real. And it’s something that stays with you for the rest of your life.

It’s not like that when a celebrity dies. Not to say that crying over a celebrity is something superficial or fake, because it’s not. But there’s that distance we can put between the death that makes it seem, well, not so bad. Yes, we were all sad when Robin Williams died. Many of us cried. We thought of those moments when he became a part of your life, like when you saw “Aladdin” for the first time, or when “Good Will Hunting” was your favorite movie for a few years. But that sadness wasn’t the same sadness his family and friends felt when he was suddenly gone from their lives.


I know lots of people who think it’s silly to mourn a celebrity’s death. “It’s not like you actually knew them”, they’ll say. And that’s fine if they want to think that way. But don’t let that stop you from mourning. And don’t let it stop you from celebrating what that celebrity brought to your life. Because when it comes down to it, that’s what we’re doing. Today, although we’re sad, we’re celebrating the joy that Alan Rickman brought us when he played the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham. We’re celebrating the life of David Bowie by listening to his music.

And that’s the silver lining in all of this: film, music, print…all the things that celebrities did are here forever. Sure, we can miss these people because they won’t be making more movies or performing music or writing books, but we’ll always have access to the stuff that made us love them. So in a way they’ll always be a part of us whether they’re alive or not.


And that’s a comforting thought.

Posted in Living Life

Social Network Anxiety

So 2014 was a really interesting year when it came to social networking, at least for me. It began with a switch from Facebook to Google+, then back to Facebook because I missed seeing what my friends were up to, and missed showing them what I was up to (which I came to realize was a need for validation – more about that later). I sort of swapped between the two of them for the first half of the year, and then once summer came I felt the need to drop both of those and focus strictly on Twitter.

I posted a ton on Twitter this summer, gained a bunch of followers, and had an overall okay time. Not completely fulfilling, but whatever. It wasn’t Facebook, and that was important.

Let’s not forget about Instagram, which I felt was the cool thing to be on, but really is just another thing that everyone else is on, posting pics of food and cats.

Oh, and did I mention Tumblr? Yeah, we were friends for a few weeks, too, mainly because I enjoyed watching funny GIFs of One Direction. But that was merely a distraction.

Then suddenly once fall came around and school for my daughter started up again, I was like, “Why do I need to be on Twitter with all these people I don’t know? It’s time to get real and focus on the real people in my life, like the ones on Facebook!”

So back to Facebook I went.

But I still wasn’t happy.

Did I miss the fun of looking at Harry Styles on Tumblr? Did I miss the occasional interaction with someone “famous” (AKA an author of a YA book, most likely) on Twitter? Did I really need to use Instagram when all I was using it for was to take pictures of whatever book I was reading at the moment?

Well, no. I thought I did miss those things, but after a few days I realized that I didn’t miss them. What all this was causing was simply SOCIAL OVERLOAD. I wasn’t happy on Facebook, but having too many outlets wasn’t making me happy, either.

I even tried to go at it one at a time. I started with Twitter. “I’m ONLY going to use Twitter from now on,” I said. But not only is Twitter a lonely place if you’re not famous, it can be a very negative place. In between rants about GamerGate and Ebola and feminism and anti-feminism, I found no fun left in Twitterland.

So then I said, “I’m only going to use Tumblr from now on!” And you know what? It was pretty fun for a couple days. Not only did I get my One Direction fix, but most of the artists I followed on Instagram were on Tumblr as well, so I could still see what they were all up to. But you know what? Tumblr is even a more lonelier place than Twitter. You want quality interaction? Good luck trying to find it amongst all those GIFs and reblogs.

During this time, I was always sort of using Google+ in the background. I use G+ as my photo backup, so it was never really not being used. But again, no one else was using it, even if they had accounts. So, again, LONELY.
At this point I decided to give Facebook another try. These people were real people in my life – friends, family, people who I actually cared about! And yes, so I sort of hated Facebook as a social network, but I figured I could just deal with it and stick it out.

Well, I did. For a while. But I just didn’t feel good about it.

What Facebook has so expertly done these past ten years is give people a “If it’s not on Facebook, it didn’t happen” kind of attitude, which ultimately led people to develop “FOMO” – Fear of Missing Out. We share SO MUCH these days, whether it’s what we made for breakfast or how much our kid has thrown up that day or how much we hate bad drivers and politics. And studies have shown that Facebook actually makes people feel depressed and convinced that other people are living better lives and are happier.

It’s amazing, actually, how easily Facebook can control your mood. I get angry and annoyed when I read posts from people who are angry and annoyed. And you would think that I should feel happy when other people are, right? Well, sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. Most of the time I just think, “Wow, my life is kind of boring!”

And no matter how hard I try, I can’t get past how much I hate the Facebook news feed. I need my things in chronological order. I don’t want to see the same stuff people have liked appearing at the top of my news feed every hour. Stop telling me to friend complete strangers. Stop inviting me to play games. And their whole thing about only posting things that are popular? If no one will see my post, how will it get popular so people can start seeing it?

To sum it up: I don’t like who I am when I’m on Facebook.

So this is when the transition to Google+ began. I knew that I loved both their desktop and mobile app. It’s clean and not cluttered with ads (no ads, actually), and it’s laid out well in chronological order, and it was easy to use. But could I stick with it even if I was all alone on it?

But then I discovered one of its best features, Google+ Communities, which are like chatrooms based on people’s interests. You like to bake? There are a bunch of baking communities to share your thoughts and ideas. You like Doctor Who? Why not talk to other people who love it as well (as opposed to the two friends I have on FB who watch it while no one else would understand). I currently belong to four communities: Soundtracks, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, and Lord of the Rings. And I’ve had great interactions within all those communities, much more than I could have gathered from Facebook.

And while people still sit and complain about Facebook’s weird privacy policies that keep changing, I love the fact that Google’s is easy to understand and much more straight-forward and just plain BETTER than anyone else’s. By using the “Circles” you’ve created, you control who sees what. For instance, I currently have four circles: Family, Friends, Acquaintances, and Following. I can either share my things publicly (where anyone who has me in their circle can see it), or I can share it to just my family circle, my friend circle…you get the picture. And sometimes I don’t share it with anyone – only I can see it, which sort of makes G+ like a personal journal. Which I LOVE. I don’t ever have to worry about who saw something or who didn’t – something I always seem to think about when I was on FB.

There are so many awesome features of G+ that I would get into now, but this would turn into a much longer post and, well, maybe I’ll let you discover those features yourself!

But don’t worry, I’m not here to try to convince everyone to make the switch to Google+, because I know that will never happen. People expect Google+ to be like Facebook or Twitter, and when they realize that it’s not, they give up. I don’t expect anyone to switch over, and that’s fine. I’m completely satisfied with what I’m getting out of Google+ just how it is. Even if they’re not on G+, I know who my friends are and I can email them to stay in contact. I’m going on three weeks now and I don’t feel the need to check Facebook at all. And now that I know I can be happy with just one social media platform, it’s such a great feeling. Less noise, less stress, more living. I can do that all with Google+.

Posted in Living Life

Summertime Summertime Sum-Sum Summertime

WELL. As you may have noticed, it has been QUITE a while since I last posted anything. Seriously, the last time I blogged it there was snow on the ground and the temp was probably 80 degrees colder than it is now (and yes, I know that this is Minnesota and that probably could have been last month, but no, it was March).

So yes, it’s been a long time, but honestly I feel like I’ve had nothing interesting to say. I haven’t really done anything exciting during the past six months because it’s just work and taking the kiddo to school and eating dinner and watching cartoons and reading – A WHOLE TON OF READING.

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Yes, reading is pretty much all I’ve been doing this first half of the year. In fact, I’m only about 20 books away from my Goodreads reading goal of 120 books. AND IT’S ONLY JULY. I’ve been a crazy book-a-day reader…who’s suddenly realized she needs to take a break.

I’m still reading, obviously, but ever since summer began I’ve slowed down quite a bit. Which is totally fine. I deserve a nice break to watch TV and movies and play on my iPhone and stalk people on Twitter. I’ve read 95 books in six months. I DESERVE THIS.

So what have I been doing since then?  Well, I’ve been very active on Twitter the past few weeks, conversing with authors and artists, which pretty much the only types of people I follow on Twitter, with the exclusion of a tiny handful of my real friends (who, save one, are never on it anyway). But what I love about Twitter is that I can tweet something to an author or an illustrator or animator and 9 times out of 10 they’ll tweet back. Of course if you were to follow really “famous” people who have millions of followers, that’s not likely to happen. But if you follow realistic, attainable, and interesting people like I do, it’s a great opportunity to have that interaction. I know a lot of people who don’t like Twitter because it can be a lonely place (i.e. “none of my friends are on Twitter!”), but you just have to know the right people to interact with, I guess.

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In other news, our annual trip to California is coming up in a couple of weeks, which I’m very much looking forward to. It’s going to a little different this year – because of the crazy new San Diego Comic Con registration process, we’re only able to go to SDCC for ONE DAY, which is Sunday. So we’ll actually be in San Diego on that Saturday and attending the annual SDCC Nerdist Podcast that night, and then hitting the exhibition floor at SDCC on Sunday. Depending on what panels are happening that day (that are NOT Hall H or Ballroom 20), we may try to go to a couple small panels in between exhibition floor time. But there are so many artists I want to see on the floor that it will most likely be a pretty full day.

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Also, BEFORE we go to San Diego, we’ll be in San Francisco for three days. I’ve never been to San Francisco and I’M SO EXCITED! And what I’m most excited about is the fact that we’re planning on making a stop at the Walt Disney Family Museum to see the Mary Blair Exhibition, which is currently on display through September. I am a HUGE Mary Blair fan and this is such a great opportunity to see her art and animation work on display.

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We also plan on stopping by Lucasfilm, which is just down the road from the Disney museum, and even though we won’t be able to go inside (apparently we’re not important enough), we can still get our picture taken next to the giant Yoda statue outside of it. And honestly, I just want to be able to check-in to Lucasfilm on Four Square just to prove that I was there.

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It’ll be a quick, jam-packed week, and when we get back it’ll be time to binge-watch whatever show we want to on Netflix because the kiddo will be staying with Grandma in CA for an additional three weeks. The first year we did this we watched “Supernatural”, and last year it was “Teen Wolf”. What will it be this year? Or maybe I’ll binge-watch a bunch of movies I haven’t seen yet? Or will I end up just watching old reruns of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (which I found myself doing the other night)? ONLY TIME WILL TELL.

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By the time the kiddo gets back from CA, school will be starting in two weeks. And summer will be over. Seriously, remember how when you were a kid and summer seemed to go on forever? And now that I’m grown and have “responsibilities”, it whips by so freaking fast. I guess that’s why you just have to enjoy it while it’s here.

So, there’s still not really any interesting going on in my life, but I felt like I had to at least get SOMETHING down, even if it’s just a lame update. Topics are sparse these days, but I hope to get inspired again while in California. And who knows…maybe I’ll blog again before the year ends! J

Posted in Living Life

Separation Anxiety

There comes a time in your life you simply have to throw your arms up and exclaim, “Enough is Enough!”  Seriously.  All clichés aside, that “enough is enough” time has come.  I’ve finally reached the point (admittedly not for the first time, but hopefully the last) where I have to separate myself from social networking.  More specifically, Facebook.

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I’ve written about this before, during a time when I was annoyed with Facebook and wished that my FB friends were on other social networking sites like Google+ and Path and Twitter.  Well, I still sort of wish that – but at the same time I don’t wish it.  Because then there really wouldn’t be any sort of separation from the addiction of social networking.

And addicted to Facebook I was.  I’m not saying I was posting something every ten minutes (that’s a whole other kind of addiction).  But what I was doing was checking the damn thing every ten minutes.  A “Hmm, let’s see what people are up to right now” type of thing, when in fact no one was really up to anything except for maybe posting an inspirational quote or a link or sharing another site’s picture.

Because in all honesty, that’s what Facebook has become.  Link link share share link share link share cats link share politics link share link share religion link.  I continued to check FB to see if maybe a friend was actually doing something interesting, but usually nothing was happening.

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I don’t think that’s why we all joined Facebook six or so years ago, is it?  To see postings about why you’re a right-wing conservative?  Or to trick people into thinking they’re bad people just because they won’t share a picture about a person dying of cancer?  No, we joined Facebook to connect to the people we care about.  And it has strayed soooo far from that in 2014.

There was an article published yesterday about how it’s a proven fact that Facebook can cause depression simply based on comparing yourself to other people on FB.  You start feeling bad because their dinner (because of course they took a picture of it) looks way better than your leftovers.  You feel bad because they’re posting pictures of their vacation in Florida while you’ve just finished shoveling for the 27th time this winter.  I’m sure “Facebook Depression” doesn’t happen to everyone, but it’s easy to see why it does.

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We’ve become a society of people who’ve developed a knee-jerk reaction to post every single thing that happens to them, whether it’s bad or good.  We look forward to seeing how many “likes” we get from that cute picture of our kid or that snarky remark we made on FB earlier.  And if we don’t get the likes we imaged we would, we start to feel bad about ourselves.

Of course not everyone feels this way.  But I’m guilty of falling into that trap.  Which is silly, because why should how many “likes” I get on something define who I am?  Why should I feel bad when my friends are posting about going out on Friday and Saturday nights when I’m perfectly happy staying at home in my pajamas (especially when I PREFER to stay at home!!)?  Seriously.  Ridiculous, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not shunning all social media out there.  I’m sticking with Google+, which I love, and mainly use for myself.  I use it almost as a journal, posting pictures and thoughts and links that I don’t feel the need to share with anyone but can pull up at any time.  I have people in my Google “circles”, but no one uses G+ except for my mother-in-law, with whom I share pictures of my daughter instead of using email.

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I’m still on Twitter, but rarely post anything.  In fact, in the past few weeks I’ve managed to cut down the number of people I follow from almost 600 (I KNOW) to under 200.  Keeping up with 600 people was quite the daunting task, and I realized that I could still be in the know by only following the people I find interesting.  So I’m now down to 193 people, which include some authors, artists, and a handful of Hollywood-type people.  I knew I couldn’t escape Twitter for good because let’s face it:  Twitter is the most up-to-date news ticker out there, and it’s pretty essential in today’s world.  You just don’t have to follow 600 people to stay on it.

I’m even cutting down my time on Goodreads, the site where you read and review books.  It’s a very helpful site when finding new things to read, but I found myself focusing way too much on people’s reviews that it was keeping me from forming my own opinions.  I started four books and didn’t finish any of them because I kept thinking “So-and-so didn’t like this book” or “Is this why so-and-so gave it only three stars?”  I was judging books by the number of stars they got, and that, my friends, is totally wrong.

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So now I’m forgoing the reviews and just reading books that sound interesting to me.  Now it’s completely up to me whether I like a book or not, which is a completely freeing thought.  No more stressing about whether to read a book or not just because it got under four stars.  Whoohoo!!

Today is my first “official” day off of Facebook, and let me tell you it was totally weird to NOT check FB when I woke up this morning.  I took the app off of my iPad and iPhone, which is helpful, but the hard part is going to be not going to the App Store and putting it right back.  Or going to the website when I’m on my laptop.  Because even though I’m not “on Facebook” anymore, my account still exists because I don’t want to completely lose contact with people.  In fact, I put Facebook Messenger on my phone because it still lets me send messages to my FB friends.  Which, if you think of it, was the sole purpose of FB to begin with.  Communicating with your friends!

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on in my head over the past month.  My struggle and hopefully my release from Facebook.  I foresee slight separation anxiety, of course, at least at the beginning, but I also foresee less frustration and stress when it comes what I was actually seeing on my FB newsfeed.  And that is a good thing.

Posted in Living Life

Fallin’ for Fall

Ah, fall in the Midwest.  Is there anything else that even comes close to that awesomeness?  Well, a lot of things, I’m sure.  But right now let’s just focus on the season of Fall and why qualifies as the Best Season of All.  Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Why, yes, I do love to quote The Princess Bride.  Wait till I get going!  In fact, let’s see how many times I can quote the movie in this post alone.  Just a side challenge for me on this otherwise boring day.

Fall Clothes

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Let’s face it:  Summer clothes are hella boring.  Shorts?  Yuck.  T-shirts?  Yawn.  Flip-flops?  Over it.  Fall is all about layers.  Scarves, jackets, sweaters, hoodies, boots…and not the winter kind.  No, we don’t want the winter kind yet.  We want the necessary-but-still-stylish kind that looks cute as we take walks in the woods while looking at all the pretty fall leaves.  And cute beanies!  They’re terribly comfortable.  I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.  And we want to wear colors that actually match the changing leaves:  oranges and greens and reds and cranberries and golds.  And speaking of the changing leaves…

Leaves

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One of the big reasons why people love fall so much, especially in areas that actually get this season (sorry, SoCal…it does put a damper on our relationship), is because the leaves look so purdy.  We’ve been stuck with boring green ever since May, and we want to see some change, dammit!  Enter Fall in all its colorful glory.  The tress are actually quite lovely.  Leaf perfection.  And even better?  Raking the crap out of those leaves.  What better way to spend a crisp Saturday afternoon than raking piles of leaves in your backyard and then jumping in the pile just to mess it all up again?  FUN.  All it can do is delay it for a while.

Hot Tea

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After you’ve spent the last two hours raking your yard, a nice way to warm up is with a hot cup of tea.  Obviously I have a bit of a thing for tea, but fall is a great time to get into it if you haven’t already.  The air is chillier, and you don’t have that need of quenching your thirst like you did during the horrid summer months.  Instead you just want to hold something warm in your hands and sip on a steaming mug of deliciousness.  Some great teas this time of year are anything with chai, cinnamon, apple, vanilla, and chamomile.  It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadlier poisons known to man.  Ha!  I’m kidding.  Chamomile is great.  And you can never go wrong with straight green or black, which is awesome and healthy all year round.  And if you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.

Apples

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It seems that once September hits, people start to go apple crazy.  Like as soon as they flip their calendar from August to September, they’re like, “I MUST GET ALL THE APPLES.”  Why?  Well, because apples are a classic symbol of fall and most sane people are super anxious to get fall going once August ends.  You could not ask for a more noble cause than that.  Also, September is apples month to shine.  Apple orchards (in the Midwest, at least) start packing the people in from the middle to end of the month and throughout much of October until apple-picking season is over.  And then pretty much all you consume during that time is apple pie and apple cider.  Which is totally okay.  That is all you ever need know.

Movies

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There are certain movies that I love to watch during this time of the year.  The Nightmare Before Christmas is an obvious choice because it involves two holidays that people start to anticipate.  You’ve Got Mail is also a good one because it takes place during fall in New York, which people are obsessed with, and it also leads up to Christmas, which people start thinking about around this time.  One movie I always try to watch during fall is Return to Oz because a) there are pumpkins in it, and b) it’s kind of horrifying.  And fall is a great time to watch scary movies (except for the Friday the 13th movies, which are only fun to watch in the summer).

Music

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For some reason I start getting the urge to listen to Christmas music in October.  Which is totally horrible, I know.  Inconceivable!  And which is why I will not allow myself to listen to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving.  I’m actually really strict about that rule.  But some other music that seems super fallish to me is jazz music  – jazz music of any kind, really, but the gloomy, mellow stuff is great to listen to on a cold and rainy fall day.  Harry Connick, Jr. and Michael Buble also sound great during this time of year.  I’m not really sure why that is…I wonder if more people feel that way.  And lastly, I love to put on “Autumn” and “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” at really loud decibels while I’m driving amongst all the autumny goodness.  Seriously, try it.  You will lose yourself in the music, the moment.  Eminem.  Word.

Books

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Finally, there are certain books that make perfect companions during fall.  I love reading ghost stories on stormy fall nights, like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, or a Nancy Drew book, or couple of old Fear Street books.  Basically any book that seems kinda scary is a good fall read.  Fall is also the time of year when I tend to turn toward comfort reading, because when I was your age television was called books.  Those include the Harry Potter series, Laura Ingalls Wilder series, and the Betsy-Tacy series.  Is that a kissing book?  Nay!  Those are perfect books to cozy up with next to a fire with a mug of hot tea in your hand.  While wearing a cute scarf.  And eating some apple pie.  With some soft jazz music playing in the background.  After you’ve raked a bunch of leaves.

You’ve made your decision then?  It’s obvious.  FALL IS AWESOME.

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, Living Life, Reading Books

Where Have I Been???

Instead of making up excuses as to why I haven’t written a blog post in OVER A MONTH, let’s just jump right into the middle of September and talk about things that I’ve actually accomplished over the past five weeks!

And yes, I get that in doing that is also kind of giving excuses as to why I haven’t blogged in so long.  But hey, it’s not like I’ve just been sitting on my ass looking at Adventure Time Tumblr GIFS.*

marcelinelol_zps89f93ecfOkay, so maybe I have.  A little.  Maybe a lot.

Writing!

So just because I haven’t blogged in a millennia doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing.  No, siree.  I’ve actually dug up a couple of good ol’ stories I’ve started in the past and have never been able to finish.  And guess what?  I still haven’t finished them.  But that’s okay!  I managed to completely change the plot of both of them and delete a bunch of stuff and write a bunch more that I probably will end of deleting as well.  But all that takes time, yo.

tumblr_ls7095kkiU1qhqibno1_500I’ve also been pretty committed to my other blog, which I have to do every day or else I get behind and then the whole thing is screwed up.  But it’s so much fun to write, and embarrassing and scary and hilarious to read these old journal entries from twenty years ago, especially when all of it is still so vivid in my mind.  So go read it!

Reading!

Oh my goodness, I’ve read books!  And despite the two week period where I barely read a thing (writing, people!), I’ve done a very decent amount of reading since the beginning of September.  Eight books in two and a half weeks, actually.  Feel free to be impressed.  And what’s even better?  Most of those are probably some of the best books I’ve read so far this year.  Seriously, I’ve been on a good streak when it comes to young adult fiction these days.

Le Highlights:

Shadow and Bone / Siege and Storm (Books 1&2 from the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo)

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The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

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Unravel Me (Book 2 in the Shatter Me series by Tarereh Mafi)

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All of these books got 5 stars on my Goodreads page, a rating I usually only reserve for JK Rowling books and Betsy-Tacy books.  And the occasional young adult contemporary that managed to knock me onto my ass.*

I’m referring, of course, to Gayle Forman’s Just One Day which is so incredibly divine that I want to have it for dessert every night.

Watching!

I told myself this year that when my daughter was spending four weeks at Camp Grandma, I would find a new TV show to get into and WATCH ALL THE EPISODES.  Last year it was Supernatural, and it was well worth the time.

My-baby-s-supernatural-15201351-1152-864DUUUUUH.

To be honest, I didn’t think it was going to happen this year.  My husband and I found ourselves obsessively watching every episode of The Amazing Race on Hulu (seriously, there are 20 seasons streaming on it right now), which does not qualify as a new show in my world.

Finding a new show didn’t happen until the weekend my husband flew to CA to pick up our daughter and I had the place – and the TV – to myself.  I decided to watch the first episode of Teen Wolf – a show I had been mildly against since its inception – and…WHOOPS I ACCIDENTLY WATCHED THE ENTIRE FIRST SEASON IN ONE NIGHT.

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So yeah, I ended up kind of liking it.  Loving it.  Oh,hell.  LURVING IT.  It’s easily comparable to The Vampire Diaries, but you know what?  I like it better.  Even if you try to shove Damon and Stefan in my face, with all their prettiness and sexiness and whatnot, THEY ARE NOT STILES STILINKSI.

Dylan-OBrien-teen-wolfMarry me.

Seriously.  I watch Teen Wolf for Stiles.  And maybe a little bit for Derek’s chest.  Okay, and for Jackson’s freckled nose.  Fine…and Alison’s clothes.  Whatever.  I just really enjoy the show.

I’m also a teeny bit pissed I didn’t stick around for the Teen Wolf panel at Comic Con this year.

Because Stiles.

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Listening!

Okay, so near the end of August I somehow developed this weird, kind of obsessive “thing” for One Direction.  I know, I KNOW…sounds totally weird.  But seriously, I COULD NOT stop listening to their music, it was so addictive.  And Harry Styles?  HOLY MARY I thought he was the end-all be-all of my world.  Gorgeous, funny, and a sexy, gravely voice to boot!  Never mind the fact that he’s, erm, 15 years younger than me.  I dare – nay, CHALLENGE you to find a woman my age who wouldn’t admit that, yeah, okay, she MIGHT want to do things to him.

Harry-styles-2013-one-direction-34365165-1193-1600Um.

I even went and saw the ID movie in 3D.  By myself.  AND IT WAS FUN.  So what.

Luckily (for me and my poor husband who had to endure this two week obsession of mine) the obsession has faded a bit.  I’m listening to all things on my iPod now instead of just the 31 One Direction songs that currently reside there.  I’m not checking Harry Styles’ twitter feed every hour to see if he’s said something quirky.  And I’m not watching ID videos on You Tube with my daughter every night.  Things are back to normal.

one-direction-introIt’s alllll good.

I’m still kinda excited for their new album coming out in November, though.  Suck it.

Parenting!

In between all this nonsense, I am still first and foremost a parent.  Yes, really!  I spent the last part of August getting said child ready for Kindergarten, which has proved to be both stressful and weird and fun and stuff.  I don’t remember bringing home this much paperwork when I was  five years old – seriously, all I brought home from kindergarten when I was a kid was sticky glue fingers – but I guess that’s just what’s up with kindergarten these days.  Paperwork and pseudo homework.

But it’s all good.  My daughter gets out of the house for a full day, which makes everyone happy.  And that’s another thing I don’t get.  These moms who cry and get all depressed because their kid is leaving the house for a few hours.  Like, really?  How can this be a sad thing?  Don’t they remember how annoying summer is when your kid complains about how bored they are and both of you get annoyed with each other because it’s just you and her and she wants to go play somewhere and you want to stay home and read in silence but you can’t because you have this thing in your face begging you to take her to the park even though it’s 100 degrees outside with 99% humidity??

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Sorry.  I love my daughter, I really do.  But she needs time away from us, just like we need time away from her.  I shed no tears when she has to leave for school.  Because school is awesome.

STAY IN SCHOOL, KIDS.  Your parents want you there.

So that’s about all that’s been going on in my world.  A lot, but not a whole lot.  I promise to try keep up again with this blog and give you all the odds and thens from the pop culture world via MY BRAIN.

So get ready, world.

Posted in Learning Things, Living Life

My Thoughts About the Weather

As I type this, thousands of Minnesotans are complaining about the weather.  I guess they have every right to do so – I mean, it’s May 3 and it’s SNOWING outside.  Granted it’s a wet snow that is melting as soon as it hits the ground, but it’s still snow, and it’s still May.  It shouldn’t be snowing in May.

The sun should be shining and the flowers should be blooming, rain should be falling and thunder should be booming.

I just totally wrote that poem myself.  Jealous?  Of course you are.

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Anyway, I should let you know right now that I’m a total weather geek.  Seriously, I GEEK OUT when it comes to anything involving atmospheric activity.  When I was a kid and everyone else wanted to be ballerinas and veterinarians, I wanted to study the weather.  I used to read books about tornados and hurricanes and snow and thought they were the most interesting books ever.  I loved winter because it because it brought us snow – sometimes lots of it – and I loved summer because it brought us thunderstorms – sometimes crazy ones.  And of course I thought fall and spring were perfect because they were both gorgeous and amazing in their own ways.

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Then after college I moved to California and all that disappeared.  When I told people that I had moved to CA, one of the first things they would always say was “Oh, you must have great weather all the time.”  And you know what?  It’s true.  I had great weather pretty much all of the time.  But you know what “all the time” also means?  It means it becomes BORING.

Now, some people may disagree with me.  I know people who are happy with 300 days of sunshine a year and get upset when it’s cloudy the other 65 days.  And that’s fine.  But for me, having good weather all the time gets so old and boring that I tend to develop the opposite of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and get depressing when there’s no change in the weather.

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Oh sure, at first it was great having 80 degree days in December and January.  It was nice to know that I could plan outdoor activities without having to worry about whether it would rain or not.  But believe me, that got old really quickly.  Suddenly the holidays felt weird because there wasn’t any snow on the ground and the coldest it got was 50 degrees.  I started to forget what it was like when the leaves start to change and when the grass grows back.  I found myself longing for a loup clap of thunder on a warm summer night, or hell, even a snow day or two.

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I MISSED WHAT REAL WEATHER WAS.

What I love so much about the change in seasons is that it always gives you something to look forward to.  After those long winter months, just when you’ve “had it up to here with winter”, spring arrives.  And after you can barely stand one more hot summer day, fall suddenly arrives and cools everything down.  It really is a constant cycle that always keeps you on your toes, always keeps you looking ahead.

You can’t do that in California, at least not really.  What they call “winter” is still mostly sunny days (depending on where you live), sprinkled every now and then with “STORM WATCH”, which happens when a couple of raindrops fall from the sky.  Seriously, the most excited I ever got about “weather” is when I lived near the ocean and the heavy fog would roll in.  That was pretty much as close to interesting atmospheric phenomena that I got.  And despite what people tell you, there’s no such thing as “earthquake weather”.  And wildfires, while triggered by hot Santa Winds, don’t count as weather, at least not in my book.  Wildfires are FIRE and they suck.

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Luckily I after eleven long years I was reunited with the good ol’ Midwest weather system, which meant I got to enjoy stifling hot, humid summer nights and cool, crisp autumn afternoons and cold, snowy winter days…and hopefully soon I’ll see spring once again pop up underneath all this weird May snow we’re getting today.

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So even though the weather does kind of suck right now, you won’t hear me complaining too much.  Do I want to slip on a t-shirt and shorts and go for a walk outside while I sip on cold iced tea?  Of course I do.  And I know I will be able to do that soon.  But I’d rather wait for it to come at the right time rather than do it on Christmas morning with the sun beating down on me.

So bring it on, Mother Nature.  You know I don’t mind.  Just, you know, get it out of the way quickly before it’s suddenly November again and we all missed out on summer completely.

Posted in Geeking Out, Living Life

Facebook’s Inevitable Backlash

As I write this, most of you will have probably already checked your Facebook page at least five times today.  I know I have – hell, I’ve probably checked in five times in the past hour.  And I’ll probably check it many, many more times before this day is over.

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It’s funny when you think back five years when Facebook just started showing its face (haha, PUNS) it was something that a lot of us weren’t on, let alone something we had even heard of.  Some of us were just starting to wean ourselves off of MySpace, some of us were still sending actual emails to our friends and family.  One thing for sure is that we probably didn’t expect Facebook to become as big a part of our lives as it has become today.

Of course there are the few people in our lives who aren’t on Facebook, but for most of us it’s just part of our daily routine:  wake up, grab iPad, check Facebook, eat breakfast, get ready for work, check Facebook one more time, go to work.  That’s pretty much my Monday-Friday.  Hell, probably my weekends, too, minus the “go to work” part.  Yet as I go through the motions of my day, checking FB whenever I get the chance, there’s something nagging at the back of my “I-made-it-29-years-without-FB” mind.  Why am I so dependent on it????

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I have tried more than once to break up with Facebook.  I tell myself that it’s a waste of time, that I don’t really care about what so-and-so had for dinner, or how often so-and-so goes to the gym, or that so-and-so is suddenly in a relationship with “It’s complicated”.  And I tell myself that most people don’t care about the random movie quotes that float around in my head, or the funny quip my daughter spouted out, or that I’m once again checking into Starbucks.

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And lately I feel that Facebook is getting loaded down with ads, links, and shares that don’t hold any interest to me.  Yes, I understand that you think that meme is hilarious and that you want to share it with the world, but that’s what Pinterest is for (don’t worry, I’m totally guilty of that, too).  I understand that you think this article about why the government is secretly trying to destroy the world is interesting, but a lot of people don’t.  Remember when Facebook was just status updates?  Yeah, they may have been boring, but at least they didn’t make our entire news feed look like spam.  Or a farm.

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Lately I’ve come across lots of articles about people starting to leave Facebook because it was taking over their lives, and I’ve noticed some FB friends of mine appear less and less in my news feed, making me think that maybe they’ve died, but of course they’re just out having an actual life.  But it just goes to show you that although FB may rule the world, it’s starting to prove that it shouldn’t rule our lives.

I think all these things on a regular basis, and yet I also remind myself why I actually like Facebook at the end of the day.  I’m a total introvert, which means I’m not someone who’s just going to pick up the phone and call someone to talk.  I’m not one who loves to go out with big groups of people and get my social on.  I’m a writer for a reason – I communicate best through writing.  I feel more comfortable when I can write to someone rather than meet them face to face, save most of my small group of friends.

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So in a way, Facebook is a bit of a god-send for me.  I’m able to talk to people I normally wouldn’t whenever I want.  I can post something on someone’s wall without feeling like I’m going to have a total anxiety attack.  And not a day goes by when I’m not thankful for this.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a love/hate relationship with social networking in general.  We’re dependent on it because it keeps us connected to pretty much everything:  friends, family, celebrities, news, etc, yet it can alienate us from the things we used to enjoy back before “social networking” became an actual term.

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So where do you stand on all this?  Are there ways to cut down on social network without completely losing touch on reality?  And can an introvert socially survive on just emails?

Posted in Catching TV, Living Life, Writing Stuff Down

Get the Funk Out

Reader, I’m in a funk.  You know that feeling where you want to do stuff but you just don’t want to?  Yeah, that’s kind of what I’m going through right now.  Granted things have been a little more stressful than normal, between my daughter’s kindergarten screenings (she’s a supershy introvert, so you can imagine how well those are going) and just everyday life, but I haven’t found the inspiration to do anything that I feel like I need to do, like blogging and reading.

lazy2This is more like it.

I’m currently reading L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon, which I chose because it falls under the “I’m slightly stressed and need comfort reading” books.  But I’m not getting very far into it – not because it’s not good, but because my mind keeps saying things like, “You should check Pinterest” or “Go see if your Ruzzle opponent has taken their turn yet” or “I wonder if Nathan Fillion has tweeted any words of wisdom lately.”  Distracted by useless technology?  You betcha.

212091463671018158_jiANUQiO_fHappens to the best of us.

I tell myself that I’m going to read that list of YA books I’ve been wanting to get to, but let me tell you, those Betsy-Tacy, Harry Potter, and Laura Ingalls Wilder books have been looking awfully tempting lately.  Comfort reading at its finest.

And you know how I’m trying to watch at least five new movies a month?  Well, it’s March 22 and I have yet to watch a new movie this month.  However, my reason isn’t as lame as you think it might be.  I’ve actually been cruising through a bunch of TV I’ve been wanting to watch, mainly because I haven’t wanted to commit myself to a two-hour movie.

Of course I have no problem with watching six straight hours of Downton Abbey, but whatever.

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In addition to catching up on season two of Downton Abbey (although I’m still a season behind), I caught up on Supernatural, Glee, Doctor Who and watched the first two seasons of Sherlock.

Side note:  I fracking love Sherlock.  Seriously.  Probably my favorite show of the year.  And I’m including the rest of the year in that statement, because I know I won’t see anything better (save maybe Doctor Who).  I have a “thing” for Benedict Cumberbatch, and when I say “thing” I mean HE JUST MAY BE THE BEST THING EVER.  And I just want to hug Martin Freeman and never let go.

b018ttwsI am _ _ _ _ locked.

Downton Abbey was my go-to when I was feeling super stressed out.  Why?  Maybe because it’s so far removed from my life that I was able to escape with no problem.  Or maybe it was just because I love hating Mary Crawley.  Seriously, when does that chick NOT have a stick up her skinny English bum?  She’s awesome in such a horrible way.  I must find a way to watch season 3 even though it’s no longer available on PBS.  Any suggestions?

downton-abbey-maryAll I do is sigh.

And even though things are starting to fall back into place life-wise, I still don’t have an urge to watch a movie.  Maybe it’s because our TV is broken (my lovely daughter innocently cracked the screen with a necklace, and now it’s dead) and watching a movie on the laptop isn’t the same.  Or maybe it’s because it’s been so long that I’ve been caught up on my TV watching that I’ve come to realize that I can start a brand new show, which is just as exciting as starting a new relationship.  So many shows to pick from!  Do I choose Mad MenRoswellAmerican Horror Story?

Well, since I’m not sure I want to commit myself to a show that already has five or more seasons under their belt, last night I started watching Twin Peaks, a show I’ve been wanting to watch for about 15 years now but never got around to it.  But since it’s on Netflix and only has two seasons, it’s the perfect show to get into.

David-Lynch-is-Said-to-Have-Met-With-NBC-to-Discuss-Reviving-‘Twin-Peaks’-01The Douglas Firs smell amazing.

And guess what?  After just two episodes, I’m kind of addicted.  Actually I was addicted after about two minutes, but whatever.  It’s one of those shows that would never work in this day of television.  The premise would, but the style of filming is so different and odd and slow that people wouldn’t be able to wrap their brain around it.  Oh, and it’s David Lynch.  Lots of people are afraid of David Lynch.  Which is why it’s such an awesome show.  Can’t wait to go home and watch the rest.

twin_peaksMainly because of Kyle MacLachlan

As for my writing funk, well, I’m writing now, so I consider that to be an improvement.  I look for inspiration in everything, and it seems that whenever I go on the site Hello Giggles, I get inspired to blog my ass off.  Not only do I want to be one of their contributers – because let’s be honest, I WOULD FIT RIGHT IN – but I want to start my own site that’s just like theirs.

Unfortunately I’m not best friends with Zooey Deschanel, so it might be a tad bit more difficult for that to happen.

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Another place I find inspiration is Felicia Day’s The Flog (Felicia + blog = FLOG), which is her five minute (give or take) long YouTube show.  It’s basically just her talking about her top five random things.  Whenever I watch it I always think, “Now, that’s something I could totally do.  I want my own Flog.”  Of course I wouldn’t call it my Flog, and I wouldn’t even try to combine my name with the word “blog” (dlog?).  But I could come up with something loosely based on her model.

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So last week I came up with a concept for a YouTube show called “Odds and Thens” which would focus on 80s and 90s nostalgia.  Find something relevant to a random year, like Rainbow Brite, or the banana clip, and introduce it to a brand new generation.  Each show would be a different topic:  movies, music, TV, toys, etc.  And then I thought I could do special section where I read random passages from my middle school and high school journals.  Because that’s some funny shiz.

Of course this is all just in the brainstorming phase, and of course I’m terrified to actually be on camera (do I have to do my hair?  Make-up?  Do I have to wear cute clothes?), so who knows if it’s actually going to happen.  I like to think that someday it will.

In the meantime, though, I’ll continue to find inspiration whether it’s from Hello Giggles, Pinterest, Twitter, WordPress, Instagram and on the rare occasion, Facebook, though I’ve been feeling quite uninspired from the ‘book as of late.  To be honest, peeps, the future of social networking is on the Path app, but since everyone I know is on FB, I pretty much just talk to myself the whole time.  Which is sometimes okay.

unnamedStill a better social network than FB.

By the way, another thing that really helps is a good support network of real people, not just the ones on the interwebs.  Bottom line?  I have some pretty awesome friends.  You peeps know who you are.

How do you get through your funks?  What inspires you to keep calm and carry on?

Posted in Living Life

In Which I Try to Clear My Mind

I’ve come to realize lately that my mind is never at rest.  Sometimes that’s a good thing.  It prevents me from being bored (except on Friday afternoons when there’s only one hour left of work and I can’t bring myself to do a single thing) because I’m constantly thinking of things to think about.  But it can also be the crappiest thing in the world.

Seriously.  All I want to do is relax, and I feel like I can’t.  It’s not because I have a super busy schedule, because I totally don’t.  I go to work for eight hours, pick up my daughter from school, maybe go to the library, and we’re done for the whole day.  From the moment we get home, I should be able to shut off my mind and just enjoy the freedom of not having a single thing to do.

My daughter has no problem doing that.

But no.  My mind, unfortunately, doesn’t operate that way.  I’m constantly thinking of all the things I need to get done.  And the sad thing is that they’re not even important things.  Seriously – they’re the most pointless things in the world for someone to worry about, and yet here I am…constantly thinking about them!

Example:  I’m currently re-reading the Harry Potter series for the kajiillionth time, but I’ve got the YA lit bug again and have found a ton of books I want to read.  But I can’t just stop reading Harry Potter, so I’m trying to jam through the serious as fast as possible.  Which is fine, of course, because I love the series, and normally jam through the series fairly quickly anyway.  But it’s hard when I’m also trying to listen to music…

Example:  Because of fall taking full effect here in the upper Midwest, bringing us cold weather and the occasional snow flurry, I find myself wanting to listen to Christmas music.  I do, however, have a rule in which I don’t listen to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving.  Which is fine.  But right now I’m doing this thing where I’m listening to all the albums on my iPod in alphabetical order.  I’m currently on the “P” albums, which is about 63% of the way through 13,614 songs.  My goal, of course, is to finish all these songs by the day after Thanksgiving – November 23 – so I can then add all my Christmas music to my iPod and enjoy the holiday music season.  So when I’m not trying to finish reading Harry Potter, I’m telling myself I should be listening to my iPod to try get through all these songs.  But then I start thinking about TV…

Example:  After sitting through the Supernatural panel at Comic-Con this past summer, I realized that I wanted to start watching the show since I had never seen it before.  I knew I had seven seasons to catch up on, but I thought for sure I’d be all caught up by the start of season eight.  But of course I’m not, and I’m still trying to get through the series.  Season eight started at the beginning of October, and on Hulu the episodes are available for about five weeks.  Which means that by next week, the first episode of the season will be gone.  Which means that if I don’t finish watching season seven (I have twelve episodes to go) by next week, I’m not going to see episode one of season eight.

Okay, I know this all sounds completely insane, and by far the most ridiculous first-world problems anyone has ever had.  Why is it such a big deal if I finish re-reading the Harry Potter series or not?  I can easily just stop, read a couple of YA books, and then go back to Harry.  And who cares if I don’t finish listening to all those songs on my iPod?  And why should I force myself to wait until November 23 to listen to Christmas music?  And is it really a huge deal if I miss one or two episodes of Supernatural when they’ll be on again in a few months in reruns?

Of course not.  Which brings me to my next topic:  Meditation.  I’ve heard through the interwebs that mediation helps with calming your mind and relieving you of your anxieties, which is definitely something that I need.  In addition to those three ridiculous things I that are on my mind lately, I’m constantly feeling anxious about little things like, “Oh, I have to go to Target to pick up this” or “I have to schedule a dentist appointment” or “I hope traffic doesn’t suck” or “I haven’t blogged all week” or “Rent is due in three days” or “I shouldn’t have this second can of Diet Coke or I’ll get cancer” or “I hope the bank I have to go to doesn’t get robbed” or “I hope no one hits me on the freeway”…and it just goes on and on from there.  And let me tell you:

IT SUCKS.

So if Gwyneth Paltrow is right in all her Kabbalah teachings of meditation, it seems like there may be a non-medicated cure for me.  Just a few minutes to clear my head are all I need to realize that all these things I think about are rather ridiculous and somewhat irrational.  Just a few minutes to build my internal energy, to find my chi, and to gain a sense of well-being are – hopefully – all I need.

This, of course, will take some hard work and dedication on my part, but I’m determined to break through this wall of crazy thought and breathe a little.  Which happens to be one of the most important parts of meditation:  breathing.  So let’s all take a deep breath together, push aside all thoughts of what you must do by that certain date, and just BE.

(I can only breathe for a few minutes, though, because I have to go finish reading books, listening to music, and watching shows.)

*Exhales

Posted in Living Life, Reading Books

Bookshelves

As I mentioned earlier this week, I can no longer “steal” pictures from the interwebs that don’t belong to me.  This doesn’t necessarily take much away from my blog – it just means I have to be a little more creative in providing visual content.

So while I spent the day cleaning my apartment, I decided to take some pictures for a blog post about bookshelves.  More specifically, my bookshelves.

I have five bookshelves in my apartment, all filled with books.  I probably have too many – shelves and books – but it’s just one of the things I like to collect.  I love checking out books from the library, but there’s nothing like the look of bookshelves lining your walls.

Like the weirdo geek I am, I try to keep each bookshelf categorized, though I admit they’re not as organized as I’d like them to be.   This one above contains mostly fiction books, the top shelf lined with my Laura Ingalls and Harry Potter collection, and The Series of Unfortunate Events right below them.  All of my Roald Dahl hardcovers are also located on this bookshelf.

The bottom shelf contains my husband’s Time Life Books collection of Mysteries of the Unknown (27 books total).  They’re seriously awesome yet seriously creepy books that you can spend hours looking at if you’re not afraid to open your mind a little bit.

On the opposite wall we have another bookshelf filled with mostly random fiction, if you exclude the top shelf that contains Blu-Rays and DVDs.

There’s absolutely no organization to this shelf.  This is usually where the random “just picked up from the used book sale” book ends up.  Plus, there’s also these:

If you love history, Scotland, romance, and time travel, then you’ll probably love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.  If you have the means, I highly recommend picking them up.  They’re so choice.*

*Copyright Ferris Bueller

Like the previous bookshelf, the bottom shelf also contains a large, heavy, and old set of encyclopedias – though they’re way more fun than your average ‘pedia…

Best encyclopedia ever, right?  And even though they’re way outdated, they’re tons of fun to look at.  Twenty books in all, they’re a great way to spend a rainy afternoon with the kids.  Or alone.  With wine.  Whatever.

I apologize for this next bookshelf.  It’s quite messy and probably the least-visited bookshelf in the place.

The top three shelves are full of non-fiction books:  cookbooks, movie books, dictionaries, etc.  The bottom two shelves contain old photo albums, DVD wallets, and board games.  Sometimes I call this bookshelf “The Husband’s Shelf” because he tends to throw his stuff there.  There is, however, a seriously cool book on this shelf.

Not much I can say about this other than “Star Wars Porn”.  Seriously.  The mother-load.  Right there.

After this we head in to my bedroom (well, it’s my husbands, too, but mostly mine) where I have my very own bookshelf devoted strictly to young adult books.  I’m sure my husband thought he was being nice by letting me do this, but I know it’s because he was slightly embarrassed about my obscene collection of young adult reading.

Here you will find books such as The Princess Diaries series, the Twilight saga, and other random teen books about paranormal romance and quirky characters.  For some reason this bookshelf makes me smile whenever I enter the room, like, “Wow, all these awesome books are mine!  I have my own teen section of a pretend library!”

And even though these aren’t considered “teen” books, it does contain this wonderful, enchanting series:

What is Moomintroll?  Where is Moominvalley?  Who is Moominpappa?  Well, you’ll just have to read them to find out.  If you like intellectual, heartfelt creatures and Finland, then you’ll fall in love with the world of Moomins.

The last bookshelf in the house is located in my daughter’s room.  She’s four years old and has lots of books about princesses and, well, princesses.  But she has more than just Golden Books and Easy Readers.  She’s also got some pretties that I tend to look at more then she does.

Jealous.  Yeah, I kind of am, too.

So that’s our little library in our little apartment, which I consider to be the heart of the place.  I look at these bookshelves and I see me and my little family and everything that we love.  They’re what make our home our home.  I’ve heard people say, “Oh, you have too many books!”  Or “Have you even read all of these?”  “Ever heard of a library?”  And I say to them…

“They’re books.  Does it matter?”

Happy reading!

Posted in Learning Things, Living Life, Traveling to Places

The American Anglophile

England was the center of attention this weekend when The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee and sixty years on the throne.  The royalty, the boats, the fanfare, the people!  And just like the wedding of William and Kate, people went nuts over this.

I don’t blame them.

It’s not that I’m only obsessed with royalty, I’m obsessed with everything British.  I’m a total Anglophile.  If it’s British, I love it.  The weather, the accents / dialects, the pubs, the countryside, the slang, the history, and even the food!  Spotted dick?  Hilarious.  (It’s pudding with dried fruit, in case you’re wondering).

Um…does not look appealing.

My love for the British is just another one of the many things I’m blaming on Christian Bale.  When I was 13 and learned that this handsome boy came from a place called Bournemouth in southern England, I decided that England was the best place in the world.  From there I discovered that England is much more than cute boys (though there are many of those as well).

My husband and I traveled to London nine years ago, back before we were married.  It was our first big trip together, so it was a pretty big deal.  We went during the week of Valentine’s Day, because where else would I want to go to celebrate the man and the country that I loved?

The weather was frightfully cold and rainy, but we didn’t care.  We were in London.  We walked everywhere and saw everything there is to see in London.  The London Eye, the Millennium Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Harrods, Kings Cross Station, Portobello Road (where I ran into Minnie Driver, like, literally – the woman nearly plowed me down), the West End, Kensington Gardens, Buckingham Palace, and Whitechapel.  We paid for our tea with British currency.  We drank British beer.  We bought British editions of books we already owned.  We stayed at a hostel with a bunch of crazy Germans.  And we also spent Valentine’s Day itself at the Tower of London, which is like the most romantic place on earth.  Seriously.

Love is in the air.

And since at the time I was going through my Lord of the Rings / Orlando Bloom phase, I made sure we stopped by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which is where he attended school, and where his sister was currently attending.  We went inside and walked around, and then when I was looking at one of the bulletin boards I noticed a class list that had the name “Samantha Bloom” (his sister) on it.

So I stole it.

I also accidentally left my gloves in the girls’ bathroom.  *karma*

We also spent one of our days in Oxford, which is another awesome place to hang out, especially if you’re a Tolkien fan like us.  It was freezing that day, but we found refuge in an 800-year-old Pizza Express, which turned out to be our favorite restaurant chain while we were there (we went to three different ones).

After our trip, I was fully in love with England, even though I had only been to two cities.  It suddenly seemed that all my favorite actors were British…Orlando Bloom, Christian Bale, Keira Knightley, Christian Coulson, Jude Law, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet…I could name about a hundred of them.  I started watching a lot of British TV shows like Doctor Who, Footballer’s Wives, Mile High, Eastenders, The Catherine Tate Show, Coupling, and Top Gear, which of course made me love British cars.

Aston Martin…you know, the kind that James Bond prefers.

I also decided that British football was much better than American football and frequently stole my husband’s Manchester United David Beckham jersey.  This was before David Beckham was David Beckham.  He was super popular in the UK, but not too many people knew who he was on this side of the pond.

Oh, and British music?  I have two words for you.  The Beatles.  That is all.

I can’t write about being an Anglophile without mentioning Harry Potter.  Part of the reason why I love those books so much is because they’re so British.  I love that J.K. Rowling didn’t try to Americanize them too much (though I’m still kind of annoyed that they changed Philosopher’s Stone to Sorcerer’s Stone for us silly Americans).  Whenever I feel like I’m homesick for England, I’ll most likely read a Harry Potter book.

Or watch Love Actually and Bend It Like Beckham.

And speaking of literature, just think of all the literature that has come from England.  You have Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia and everything Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and The Brontes ever wrote, not to mention England’s famous mythologies of Robin Hood and King Arthur?  And who doesn’t love a juicy Arthur/Lancelot/Guinevere story?

Although I consider myself to be “a very unpublished writer”, I began writing a story that took place in London about a girl who grew up in Carlisle, which is located in northern England near the Scotland border.  This story required me to do a TON of research.  I had to learn everything about this northern city located in the Lake District.  I had other characters from places like Cardiff, Wales; Manchester, UK; Birmingham, UK; and Cambridge, UK, and I had to research those places as well.  I spent hours and hours doing research, and I know I wouldn’t have put that much effort into it had I not been absolutely in love with the country.

I got so good at recognizing regional dialects of England that I could tell where a person was from just by listening to them talk.  A customer came into work one day and I could immediately tell that she was from somewhere around Newcastle, and when I asked her this I think she was a little frightened that some girl living in southern California knew something like this.  I didn’t want to explain the whole “I’m writing a story and I’m doing research” thing, so I just lied and said that I have a friend who lived in Carlisle.  I guess it was kind of true, right?

I love learning about British history, whether we’re talking about the early Druids or the Roman invasion or World War II or even as recent as the 1980s riots.  Hadrian’s Wall and Stonehenge are fascinating to me.  And of course I love learning about British royalty.  You can’t call yourself an Anglophile without a little bit of Royal Love.

I loved Princess Diana growing up because we kind of had the same name, and she was pretty.  When I was 13 I also decided that I liked her son William, even though he was younger than me.  I think I knew that he was going to be kind of gorgeous when he got older.  And like much of the world, I was devastated when Diana died.

Shortly after his mom died, William became sort of a heartthrob (duh) and his brother became a rebel (duh) and his dad married the woman he was cheating with while still married to Diana.  But luckily William has a good head on his shoulders and 14 years after his mom died he married his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton, who is lovely.  I was one of the many millions of Anglophiles who stayed up until the early hours of the morning when William and Kate got married, because no way in hell was I going to miss that.

Since we were only in England for a week, I definitely want to get back to my other home away from home (I am, however, excluding New Zealand from this because it runs a very close second, and I’ll explain why in a separate blog post).  There are many, many more places I want to see in England that we didn’t get to:  Windsor Castle, Cambridge, Hampstead, Carlisle (I feel like I know so much about it that I kind of have to go), Newcastle (my favorite beer), Stonehenge, Wales, and many many many other places.

In just a couple of months, the Summer Olympics will be taking place and you can bet that every Anglophile out there will watch every minute of it, just because it’ll be The British Games.  I’ll be cheering for the American athletes, of course, but deep down I’ll be cheering the most for my favorite country.

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” – Samuel Johnson

Posted in Living Life

The True Confessions of a Former Retail Slave

If you were to Google the phrase “working in retail”, the first five websites that come up are these:  Seven Lessons Learned from Retail, 12 Tips for Working in Retail Without Killing Everyone Around You, Is Working in Retail Close to Slavery?, Retail-Sucks, and Why Working in Retail Sucks.

This is not news to me.  I spent five years of my life working in that business as an assistant manager of a mid-level women’s apparel company.  Let’s call this company J. Taylor Creek.  Their main demographic is career women in their 30s and 40s, though over the past couple of years they seemed to have tried to lower that age and target the career-minded college student.  But what college student do you know can afford $140 pants?  Especially when they’ll probably end up working at Starbucks after graduation?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Or maybe they’ll have to settle for a part-time job making $8 an hour at J. Taylor Creek.

After spending three years working in the mortgage business as a loan processor (which I actually enjoyed), I got out just before the housing bubble burst.  We were moving, I knew the company at which I worked was going to close down (it was only a matter of time), and my sister informed me of a new outdoor “Lifestyle Center” that was opening in the new city where we were moving.  They were having a job fair in search of qualified people to work at all the fun stores that were going to open.

Now, working retail was not necessarily new to me.  I was a part-time manager at Claire’s for one year during college.  However I highly DO NOT recommend working at Claire’s.  Oh yeah, they have cute accessories – jewelry, bags, hats, etc – but if you work there, you have to pierce people’s ears.

GAG.

I could go into all the stories of ear-piercing I have locked away in my brain, but that would make this post extremely long.  Let me just say this: never pierce a screaming baby’s ears no matter what the mother says, and never take a job where smelling salts are involved.

That being said, I figured I had enough retail experience to go into the job fair and come out with a well-paying, full-time management position.  And I did!  I interviewed with many companies that day, but the one who snagged me – and also the one I loved the most – was J. Taylor Creek.  After talking to the woman who was going to be the new store manager, I felt like I belonged at this company.  I liked what they stood for, and best of all, I liked their clothes.

I started out as an MIT, which stood for Manager-In-Training.  It’s basically the lowest level of a full-time manager at J. Taylor Creek, and that was fine with me.  I wanted responsibility and authority, but not too much, if you know what I mean.

Since the new store wasn’t due to open for another two months, I had to train at other J. Taylor Creek stores.  This was all fine and dandy, though I quickly learned one thing about myself.   I hate picking out clothes for people who don’t know what they want.  I told myself that I would eventually get used to it, that I would learn to feel comfortable selling clothes to people, but it ended up haunting me for as long as I worked in retail.

Trust me, this will look horrible on you.

Once my home store opened, things got a little better.  I loved the girls I worked with, and they were the ones who got me through the long 8-hour shifts.  In fact, it would be my co-workers who got me through the FIVE YEARS of retail in which I worked.  But more about that later.

Being an MIT had its perks, but it definitely had its downfall, that downfall being acting as “the middle man” most of the time.  The assistant manager and senior assistant manager (managers #3 and #2) did not get along.  They bickered like children, and would come to me complaining about the other one because apparently someone lower than them is easier to complain to than the store manager above them.  I sat and listened like I always do, never really agreeing with them, just nodding and saying things like, “Wow, really?”

Luckily after about six months at this location, my district manager at the time told me about an opening for an assistant manager at another location a little bit further away.  This would mean higher status and higher pay, and even though I was hesitant (my current store was literally five minutes from my apartment), I agreed to meet with the store manager.

We clicked right away, and I knew after about 15 minutes that I wanted to transfer.  The store was in a better lifestyle center, too – there was nowhere to eat at my current mall, and this one had tons of restaurants and tons of stores and a Borders and a candy store…

So I was transferred, and I had to quickly get accustomed to a higher volume store.  My old store was pretty quiet, not too many visits, even on the weekends.  But this new place was a madhouse.  Constantly running around, not even having time to pee or think about anything but “Does she have a room?” “Do you have any clients right now?”  “Have you taken your break?”  blah blah blah.

The good thing was that my days FLEW by.  Well, most days.  Even busy days have their crappy “oh my God, it’s only 2:00?” moments.

And here’s another crappy thing I started to really hate about retail.  The hours.  When I first thought about working in retail, I thought a change of hours and schedule would be interesting.  I was bored with the whole 9-5 thing.  My husband was a chef, which meant that his hours were all over the place, too, so it wasn’t like I exactly needed those weekends off.

But working nights and weekends and getting random Tuesdays and Thursdays off and working until 11:00 at night quickly lost its flair.  Having to work on days like Black Friday and the day after Christmas and every other holiday that everyone else gets off was depressing.  It didn’t take long for The Chip began to form on my shoulder.

I started dreading going to work, especially on days when I would close.  I wouldn’t go into work until 2:00 in the afternoon (if it was a weekend), and I couldn’t enjoy the first half of my day knowing that I still had to go into work for nine hours.  I couldn’t even enjoy my days off because I usually only got one day off (two days in a row is a rarity in the retail world), and I would spend most of that day dreading the next day.

And then I got pregnant.

Having to work at any job is probably difficult when you’re pregnant, what with all the morning sickness and moodiness and the getting fat business.  But working retail is extra hard when you’re pregnant.  First of all, you’re on your feet for eight hours and only get to sit down during your lunch break.  Second of all, you have to deal with customers.

And customers suck.

This is probably the main reason why I started to hate retail so much.  As I mentioned before, I quickly realized that I hated helping people find clothes to wear.  I know that sounds ridiculous, since that’s all that retail is, basically, but I figured that since I was management, I knew that my job was to make sure my associates were helping customers, not me.

And that was slightly true.  But that didn’t mean I was totally off the hook.  And it seemed that the more pregnant I got, the worse the customers became (the whole economy going to shiz may have had something to do with it as well, but whatever).  Constantly arguing about a return, the price of something, a coupon they couldn’t combine with a promo…you name it.

Courtesy of Customers Suck

And you’d be surprised at how many awful, evil people there are in this world (or at least in California).  I’ve had women call me a bitch, I’ve had women throw clothes at me, I’ve had women threaten me…all because I was trying to do my freaking job.

And the crappy part?  I couldn’t do a thing about it.  I couldn’t yell back, I couldn’t throw clothes at them, and I certainly couldn’t call them a bitch or else I would get written up or fired.  That’s one of the rules of retail.

You just have to stand there and take it.

There was one time I got a little “testy” with a client.  I was eight months pregnant, it was 11:15 on a Friday night – we had been closed for 15 minutes – and there was a woman arguing with me about wanting to return an item that wasn’t even from our store.  At J. Taylor Creek there are different divisions of stores, kind of like how Banana Republic, Gap, and Old Navy are all run by the same company, but they’re totally different stores.  This woman was basically trying to return an item from Banana Republic to Gap.  Which you can’t do.

She didn’t understand this, and no matter how much I tried to explain it, she refused.  I was getting PISSED.  And when she said, “Well, they let me do this at Macy’s”, I responded with, “Well, this isn’t Macy’s.”

That shut her up, but she filed a complaint against me and I got a written warning.

You’d be surprised at the stuff customers will do while in your store, stuff that should be on an episode of Dirty Jobs.  Makeup smeared on blouses?  Happens all the time.  Blood in the crotch of white pants?  I’ve seen it.  Clothes stuffed in the tank of a toilet?  Yep.  Sex in the fitting rooms?  Thankfully not at my store, but at another one in the district.

Good times.

I went on maternity leave a whole month before my due date simply because I could not handle working in retail anymore without totally going postal on someone.  And about halfway into my leave after my daughter was born, I realized that I wasn’t going to go back to retail.  My daughter was way too important, and I didn’t want her to suffer the effects of a mom who hated her job.

That lasted for a year.

We moved back to the previous city we lived in to be close to in-laws, and since we were paying more for our apartment, I decided I would get a part-time job.  And since I knew that I could easily get a job at J. Taylor Creek, I went to the Lifestyle Center in our area, talked to the manager, and the next day was the new part-time sales lead.

I was at a different division as my previous store – now I was high-end.  But it was basically the same stuff I did before, just a slightly different client, and since I was now only working 4-hour shifts instead of 8-hour shifts, I thought it was going to be great.

How quickly and easily one forgets.

A lot had changed over a year, however, with the economy and with the company as well.  They were suddenly more, how should I put this, anal about things.  Business at the entire company wasn’t very great, and when that happens people begin to panic.  People at the top lose jobs.  Management changes, turnover happens, and it starts to snowball into a big ol’ mess.

But it turns out that one year off does not change the suckiness of customers.  I thought that since I was now working in a very affluent part of Los Angeles, the women wouldn’t be so concerned about price and deals and discounts.  But you know what?

They’re even worse.

I guess that’s why they’re so rich…they’re super tight with their money and want to pay the least they possibly can for a top that’s on final clearance for $9.88.  And when they can’t get their way, they get MAD.

I think the customers at this particular location and particular point in time were worse than before.  I had at least one woman a day argue with me – mostly dealing with our return policy, which is 60 days WITH THE RECEIPT – and since J. Taylor Creek was so obsessed with not losing clients in this already sucky retail economy, we had to let them win.  You want to return that without a receipt?  You want to return that even though you bought it over a year ago?  Well, since I’ll get written up if I get a complaint against me, I’ll let you return it.  No problem.  *fake smile*

Retail is all about fake smiles.  I had a fake smile plastered on my face for five years.  And you know what?  It got really tiring.  It got tiring pretending that I cared about the business when in reality all I cared about was when my next day off was.  I know that sounds horrible – I was promoted to assistant manager at this J. Taylor Creek, and my job was to inspire my team to achieve our goals, and while I get that, it was really hard to be inspirational when Corporate is only focusing on the negative.  You didn’t make this goal, you didn’t open this credit card (holy eff, do NOT get me started on trying to force people to open the J. Taylor Creek credit card), your folds are messy, you didn’t wear something current…

You begin to only focus on the negative as well, and that causes stress and disgruntled employees.  J. Taylor Creek tried to be all about “engaged associates” and “empowered women”, but at the end of the day all they care about is money.  And they will be the first to tell you that.

Retail is difficult enough without having to deal with crap from Corporate.  In addition to making sure our associates are “doing their job”, we’re also sending hourly “reads” – how much money the store currently has in – to our district manager, doing “store set” at least twice a month (basically changing the entire store around), setting up window displays, changing the clothes on mannequins, ordering supplies, completing store operational audits, changing interior signage for promos that change every couple of days, cleaning out fitting rooms (which means picking up all the clothes bunched up into the corner and turning them right side out and putting them back where they belong), making sure our folds are military-grade acceptable, sweep the floors, clean the windows, take out the trash, receive new product twice a week and make sure it’s all steamed and put out within 24 hours, take never-ending conference calls, send out “action plan” emails when we’re unable to make our goal, make sure that we’re not over or under in hours, which means usually cutting or calling people in at the last minute, planning store events that no one ever turns up for anyway, soliciting clients on the phone…

…and all this must be done while we’re supposed to be 100% focused on the client walking through the door.

I was at this J. Taylor Creek location for about 2 ½ years.  As before, I loved my co-workers.  I had a great boss and still consider her and the other women to be great friends that I’ll always keep in contact with (thank you, Facebook).  But I knew my time in retail had to come to an end.  My daughter was getting older, and I knew she needed a mom who had a fixed work schedule.  And a mom who didn’t come home stressed out and pissed off every day.

When we moved back to Minnesota I was all set to transfer to a J. Taylor Creek store at the Mall of America.  There were no full-time positions available, so I was starting back at part-time sales lead.  I wasn’t excited for this job, and felt myself dreading it before I even started it.

I was there for a week.

It was one of those “right place at the right time” moments where there was an opening at the company where my dad worked, and because it was Monday-Friday in an office at a desk where there weren’t any clothes or customers around, it took me about ½ second to agree to interview.

I got the job on the spot and started the following week, and since then I’m amazed at how happy I am at work.  My job isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but when I think of all that blood, sweat and tears (oh yes, there were tears) I put into retail, I am so thankful.  I love going into work at 7:00 am and going home at 3:30 pm.  I love going home on a Friday afternoon knowing that I have the whole weekend off.  TWO DAYS IN A ROW!  I actually have an active social life now that I have the same days off as the rest of the world!

However, I don’t regret the five years I put into retail.  I learned a lot about people and being a manager and how the corporate world works.  I learned a lot about myself, and I’ve learned to accept the fact that there are some things I just wasn’t meant to do.  Going to work every day made me feel guilty because I knew I didn’t like it and I knew I wasn’t “putting my best self forward” (another J. Taylor Creek mantra).  I didn’t want to live my life like that, doing something half-assed that made me miserable.  I didn’t want my daughter to grow up knowing that because I don’t want her to do the same thing.

I’m not here to tell you that retail is a crappy industry.  It’s challenging, but if you’re good at it – and I know a lot of people who are really good at it and passionate about it, and that’s awesome – then it can be a truly rewarding career.  Just make sure you’re true to yourself and that’s what you really want to do, because if it’s not, you’re not the only one who suffers.

*The help of a lot of people went into the writing of this super long and probably unnecessary blog post, so let me just send a quick shout out to Natalie, Nikki, Amy, KC, Melissa, Sharon, Adahlia, Masuda, Kristen, Stephanie, Michelle, Rechelle, Kristine, Heather, Ana, Leah, Linda, Melanie, Jamy, Susan, Marlen, Laura, Ani, Lisa, Ashley, Shari, Aryana, Sepali, Tulsi, Daniel, Jennie, Larry, Carrie, Charlsey, Desiree, Erin, Kal, Chalisa, and Olivia.  You guys are all awesome…thanks for keeping me sane.*

*most of the time.

Posted in Learning Things, Living Life, Watching Movies

Itsy-Bitsy Evilness

I know this is going to sound like a total cliché, but I hate spiders.  Like, seriously HATE them.  I’m not a killing person, but if I see a spider, I WILL MURDER IT.

I don’t care how cute it may appear.

Spiders, or arachnids (meaning eight-legged monster) are the one thing that will cause me physical paralysis.  I’m serious, when I see a spider – doesn’t matter what size – I will not be able to move.  For the first few moments of contact, all I can do is pray that it will suddenly disappear before my eyes.

They never do.

When I’m finally able to move, I look for the nearest thing to me with which I can throw at the spider.  It has to be within reach, because if I take my eyes off of the spider for even one second, that sucker will be off and running, and for all I know it’s jumped onto my face and is ready to kill me.

ATTACK!

As soon as I find something to kill it with, I will do whatever it takes to make sure the job gets done.  If that means breaking a window because of the shoe I have to throw at it (true story), then so be it.  Because if you expect me to go to bed with a rogue spider loose in the house, you’d be WRONG.

And even worse is the phenomenon I like to call Zombie Spider, where after you’re 100% sure you’d killed that spider to the point where it doesn’t even closely resemble a spider anymore, it’s suddenly gone.  Like, the thing freaking GOT UP AND WALKED AWAY even though it doesn’t have any legs anymore.

Thought you killed me, eh?

I don’t know where this fear of spiders stems from – it’s not like I’ve had a horrifying, life-altering incident with a spider in my lifetime.  But I know that millions of other people share this same phobia, so I know I’m not alone.

So, why am I suddenly writing about spiders?  Well, I was planning on doing a post about some of the scariest movies I’ve seen, and then realized that only one movie causes paralyzing fear in me.  I’m not saying other movies haven’t – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre , for example, remains to this day as the only movie that has ever made me scream out loud.  The Blair Witch Project still makes me check every corner of the house.  And The Strangers actually made me somewhat sick to my stomach because it was so uncomfortably horrifying.

But the movie that combines all those fears into one 90-minute terror fest contains just one word:

Arachnophobia.

HORROR.

First off, let me just state that when this movie came out in 1990, it was marketed as a comedy.  A COMEDY!!!!  Like deadly spiders who bite your hand while you’re eating popcorn is something to laugh about???  I hope they got hate mail from people who couldn’t sleep at night anymore because they thought they were seeing a FREAKING COMEDY.

The premise of the movie is simple:  a new family moves to town, and the dad (Ross) becomes the small town’s new doctor.  Then suddenly all these people start dying, and while the townspeople don’t know what’s causing the deaths, we as an audience know because the film actually makes us watch these spiders attack these poor victims.  We know these spiders are deadly because we saw them kill at the beginning of the movie down in the Amazon forest, and then saw one of the spiders get shipped off to America, thus procreating an entire army of deadly spiders.

All because of this idiot.

Of course all the people dying just happened to be patients of Ross, so everyone thinks he’s some kind of witch doctor.  He starts to think these people were killed by spider bites, and then we find out that he’s more scared of spiders than anyone else in the world.

Of all the towns in the world to become a doctor…

The final battle of the movie comes down to Ross and the Spider Queen, who’s a little pissed off that he’s trying to kill all her kids.  But she has to realize that her kids have taken over the ENTIRE HOUSE, thus making escape impossible for Ross’s family.  This scene is horrifying for any arachnophobe to watch, because the spiders are EVERYWHERE.  They’re coming out of the walls, they’re covering the floor, they’re piling out of the bathroom sink, and as an audience we’re just sitting there because a) we can’t move due to extreme terror and b) we’re afraid we’ve peed our pants and don’t want the whole world to know.

And then just as we think the world itself has ended and spiders now rule the earth, Ross – with some help from John Goodman, who plays a bad-ass exterminator – destroys the Queen and her disgusting egg sack and everything burns, and the spiders are gone forever.

Ross and his family move back to San Francisco because it took a deadly spider attack to make them realize that they like city life way better, and they’d much rather die in an earthquake then be covered by 5000 spiders.  And I don’t blame them one bit.

What do you say we get out of this s***hole?

This movie seriously scares the crap out of me.  I can’t even write this post without getting chills up and down my body, imagining some spider hiding behind the computer, just waiting to make his move.

Because they can jump, you know.

RIGHT ON YOUR FACE.

Happy watching (out for spiders)!

Posted in Living Life, Reading Books

Excuses, Excuses

Forgive me, readers, for I have neglected you.  It’s been six days since my last blog, and, well, I do have some really good excuses to throw at you.  In an ideal world, I would have infinite amounts of time to where I could do every single thing I want all in one day, but, alas, that world only exists in my head.  And maybe in Spain.

It’s the siesta, people.

For starters, I began a new job.  That’s right, peeps…after six years working in retail management, six years of having crazy and mostly crappy hours, six years of being on my feet all day with little or no breaks, six years of dealing with the public with a fake smile plastered to my face, I’m finally FREE.  I don’t have the world’s most exciting job, but let me tell you how nice it is to have set hours – normal hours – after so many years.  I have my nights and weekends free again, which means I can feel like a normal person again…a normal person who likes to stay up late on Friday nights and wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons in my pajamas.

You know, like Biskitts.

So since I’ve had my nights free (I’m done at 4:00!!!!), you would think I’ve had tons of time to blog at night.  Well, this week has been a particularly busy reading week.  I finished two books:  The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which is a pretty sweet book, like a combination of The Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; and Crescendo, which is the sequel to the book Hush, Hush.  I read the latter last year, and finally found the sequel at the library last weekend.  I read it uber quickly because, well, it’s just a good story.  The author Becca Fitzgerald has a way of keeping my rapt attention to the point where I don’t want to put it down.

For my fellow Paranormal YA book lovers.

I started a new book last night, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  I had heard lots about this book, and even though it’s not in my normal genre I like to read (i.e. cheesy), I decided to pick it up.  Well, ever since I picked it up, I can’t put it down.  Okay, well, obviously I had to put it down to go to bed last night and to go to work today.  And I’m not holding it now.  But seriously, this book is good.  The subject matter is dark – WWII, Nazis, The Holocaust – and we all know how all that ended.  But the story and the characters will draw you in, and you find yourself living in their world, as depressing as it might be.  This is a must read for all people, not just teens.  I’m serious – this book listed twenty rave reviews from really good reviewers (not like Jessica, age 14, from Michigan.  Real reviewers like Publisher’s Weekly).  And it won thirteen big awards in the world of literature.  SO READ IT.

Read it.  It’s good for your health.

And finally I’ve been spending the rest of my time dreaming about having our own place again.  It’s nice to have free housing provided by the parentals, but the three of us in this basement is starting to wear on us.  Let me rephrase that:  The three of us are about to open a can of whoop-ass on each other.  We need our own space again.  So I’ve been looking on Craigslist for condos and townhouses, and even driving by a few of them.  Of course none of that can happen until the husband finds himself a job, so…looks like basement living for a little while longer.  Le sigh.

Anyway, I promise I will try not to let six days go by again without blogging.  Now that I have two days off, aka A WEEKEND!!!!, I should have some more time.  If I’m not watching cartoons in my pajamas all day.

Quite possibly the best cartoon of the decade.

Happy living!

Posted in Drinking Tea, Learning Things, Living Life

Getting Adjusted

It’s been almost three weeks since I made the move from Los Angeles to Minneapolis, and let me tell you…it hasn’t been easy.  I made a similar move ten years ago when I moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles right after graduating from college, and that was cake.  Seriously, all I took with me was a large suitcase full of clothes and a handful of books, and then whatever would fit in my 1993 Pontiac Grand Prix that my parents so willingly drove across the country for me while I took a plane.  I don’t remember feeling that much stress, except for the “oh-my-God-I’m-moving-to-California” stress that was to be expected.  Other than that…easy.

Since meeting my husband, we have moved five times, all within the Los Angeles area.  All moves were pretty easy, even the fifth one from Corona to Torrance when our daughter was just 10 months old.  So when we finally made the decision to move 2000 miles, I thought, “Well, we’ve done this so much, it’s gonna be easy!”

Way wrong.  This move – for lack of a better word – sucked.  For one thing we have way too much stuff ( I, however, have just the right amount of books), and it took forever to pack up all our stuff.  We also only had one 16 ft POD in which to pack our belongings, and that made for a tight squeeze, even after selling a lot of our stuff, and packing that thing was like the ultimate game of TETRIS.

Minus the cool creepy Nutcracker music.

Don’t forget that our daughter is now 3 and a half, and fully aware that we were packing up her precious toys.  I won’t go into detail about how much that sucked.  Just use your imagination.

But after all that (and a lot of money spent), we eventually made it here to Minnesota.  And while I thought getting the move over and done with would bring relief, it hasn’t.  At least the relief that I wanted.  We’re in completely different state, surrounded by completely different people, and even though I was born here and lived in this state for 18 years (and Wisconsin for four), things are just…different.  Let me explain.

1.  The Weather

Ah, yes…the one thing most of the people commented on when we told them we were moving.  “But it’s so cold there!”  Yes, people, it’s cold in Minnesota.  I’ve lived here, so I know how cold it can get.  And yes, it was a bit of a shock when I got off the plane.  But it’s just something you get used to.  It’s only 10 degrees outside?  You dress for it.  Add another layer, throw on a scarf, stick a hat on your head.  Wear some fuzzy socks and some ugly boots.  You just deal with it.  On the upside, however, it has been unseasonably warm this January, and yesterday it even got above 40 degrees, making me want to break out the spring jackets.  Of course had I been in LA and it got down to 40 degrees, I probably wouldn’t have even stepped outside.  Because it just becomes all relative.

Wait…is that supposed to be below the zero?

2.  The People

There’s this thing people talk about called “Minnesota Nice”, which refers to niceness of the natives of this state.  Growing up I never really noticed it, probably because not everyone is nice in middle and high school.  But living ten years in Los Angeles made me appreciate the whole “Minnesota Nice” phenomenon, because you know what?  People are really nice here!  I’m not saying that there aren’t nice people in LA, because there are.  But working in retail for the past six years made me realize that there are a lot of NOT nice people there.  Even just walking down the street people looked either upset or pissed off or just plain mean.  And while I’m sure there are some not nice people in Minnesota, my experiences with the public have been very pleasant.  Where else would a complete stranger at IKEA offer give us some rope from his truck and help us strap a mattress to the top of our car?

3.  The Freeways

I’m not going to talk about the obvious difference in traffic between Los Angeles and Minneapolis.  We all know the difference.  What I’m talking about here are the actual Twin Cities freeways themselves, and how I don’t understand them one bit.  Freeway driving in Los Angeles, despite all the traffic, is actually really easy.  They all pretty much go East/West and North/South, and you always have the mountains and the ocean as a directional guide.  Going north?  Ocean’s on your left.  Going West?  Mountains are on your right.  You know that, and you can’t get lost.  But here?  Seriously, I feel like I’m driving in circles.  All the time.  If it wasn’t for my GPS, I’d probably be in South Dakota right now.

Um…huh?

4.  The Coffeehouse

Living in LA, I was used to finding a Starbucks on pretty much every corner I turned.  Getting my Venti Unsweetened Black Iced Tea became a thing of routine, something I had to get everyday – plus a free refill – or else my day would be total crap (I’m serious – I did a study on it).  So when I came here I thought, “Well, since there are more Starbucks than people in LA, I’m sure to find a few in my neighborhood here!”  HA.  Not so.  Minnesota-grown Caribou Coffee seems to have the “one-on-every-corner” market taken here in the Twin Cities, and while the iced tea there isn’t bad, it just isn’t the same.  It’s not like we don’t have Starbucks here – most of them being inside of Super Targets – but out of convenience I’ve had to resort to the ‘Bou just about everyday.  It’s just something I’m going to have to get used to, I guess.  Le sigh.

It’s a slow process – especially for my daughter – but I know things are going to get better.  My husband and I may be unemployed and living in my parents’ basement (PARTY!), but as of the writing of this blog we both have interviews lined up, so I’m actually typing with my fingers crossed.  Seriously, try it sometime.  It’s not easy.  But it can be done.

It can be done.

Happy living!