Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Reviews

Neil Gaiman
This lovely little adventure tale introduced me to the mastermind that is Neil Gaiman.  I'm only mildly obsessed with the man. To say he's on of my modern literary idols would be completely accurate (don't get me started). If I could trade lives with anyone for a day, I would trade with Neil Gaiman . . . but that's another post for another time.

Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, a very nice but average sort of fellow living an average sort of life in London.  One night, on his way dinner with his fiance, Richard stumbles upon a homeless girl bleeding to death on the street. From that point on, everything in Richard's life unravels.  He finds himself on a quest in an alternate reality: London Below, a fascinating re-imagining of  London's Underground. The characters are wonderfully rendered in this dark, gritty, Alice-in-Wonderland-esque tale.  This was a story that enchanted and terrified me in its first reading, and did so again when I reread it five years later.  Would I ever want to visit London Below? Hmm . . . I'll have to get back to you on that one. Would I reread the Marquis de Carabas, Hunter, Door, and Richard's adventures  again and again? In a HEARTBEAT. 

If you love dark humor/dark fantasy, check Gaiman out. Don't question, just do it. He's a freakin' master.

There seems to be a recent, massive spark in curiosity about one of America's greatest presidents. I'd like to think it all began with the publication of Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (really fun and educational read, by the way--I HIGHLY recommend it to parody lovers), but, then again, great men are always fascinating.

Killing Lincoln covers the final days of the Civil Wat leading to Lee's surrender, John Wilkes Booth's vengeful obsession, that fateful trip to the theater, and ends with Booth's demise.  All the while, the authors tie together the plans, theories, and conspiracies leading to America's first presidential assassination. The research is very detailed without being too bogged down and doesn't read like a history book.  Is it the most thrilling thing I've ever read? Well, I wasn't exactly sweating, but I found myself wanting to keep reading and, quite frankly, enjoying myself. For anyone who paid attention in third grade American history, we all know how the story goes, but all the details O'Reilly and Dugard have managed to collect and relate in everyday language is really interesting.  If you like history, it's definitely worth picking up.

Til We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
C.S. Lewis  
I would have to put this book down as one of my all time favorites.  When I was a junior in high school, a sophomore lent me the book, saying, "I know how much you love Lewis, and this is my favorite. You HAVE to read it. It's a little slow in the beginning, but it's worth it."
I devoured it.
I mean, really, started reading it in the car after school and didn't stop until I had finished it that evening, much to my best friend's dismay, as our sleepover became a watching-Sarah-read fest. (Yes, it was rude, and, yes, I am sorry, but . . . the book was AMAZING).
When I said earlier that Gaiman is one of my modern literary idols, Lewis tops him, which says A  LOT. You have no idea.

The book is a re-imagining of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche. The story is told by Psyche's older, ugly sister, Orual, who composes the tale as a case against the gods. The girls grow up in harsh, barbaric kingdom that worships the blood-thirsty Ungit, an incarnation of Aphrodite. When famine and disease plague the land, Psyche is sent as a sacrifice to the God of the Mountain, breaking Orual's heart as she loves her little sister more than life itself. It's a beautiful, raw story that studies and reveals the layers of the human heart.

As a lover of Greek mythology, I adored this retelling--it remains true to the original tale while offering a new voice and vision.  It's a story of selfish love vs sacrificial love, identity, and fate. Lewis did a remarkable job writing in  female voice, making Orual a truly believable character as she observes, struggles, and grows from an intelligent, frightened child to noble, warrior queen. Every time I reread it, I walk away with some new revelation.  Is it a fast-paced, action-packed story with tons of romance? Meh, maybe not by most standards, but it's a fabulous story.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Things You Probably Don't Need to Know . . .

First off,  I have a confession: I have found myself on the internet . . . All my awkwardness and insecurities and nerdities displayed in one character: Cyd Sherman aka Codex from The Guild.  Every time she stares into her webcam and stammers a confession of her own social anxieties, I'm like "Oh my GOSH! ME, TOO!!!" Forget that she's a fictional character, Codex gets it. I bet she obsessively rubs her hands together whenever she's nervous, too . . . or maybe that's just me . . .

If someone were to ever make a movie of my life (you know if it suddenly gets thrilling or heartbreaking or something), I would beg Felicia Day to play the part. I mean BEG BEG. Because I adore her. I just do.

More confessions . . . .

  • I love peanut butter like most women love chocolate. Like I can't live without it. I take on chocolate chip cookies, baked into cookies, on bananas, apples, graham crackers, as pie . . . I definitely go through phases where I don't touch it for weeks, but I kind of need it in my larder AT ALL TIMES. Just in case.

I don't know why I'm writing about food . . . I'm not hungry . . . maybe I am? I don't know.

  • Some of my worst nightmares involve my teeth falling out.
  • Willow and Oz from "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer" are one of my all-time FAVORITE TV couples, mostly because of Oz, I think. His dry wit is so . . . just . . . love it. Couldn't resist it if I tried, even if he is short . . . and a werewolf . . . Oh, minor details, am I right?

From this moment, I was hooked.
I don't care how "has-been" Buffy is, I  NEED a Team Oz shirt. Not even kidding. 

  •  I still have my rock collection that I started when I was ten. Trading rocks and sea shells was the only time I was comfortable haggling, and, even then, I felt guilty afterwards because I was pretty sure I'd swindled my friend.
  • I want to learn to crochet mainly because I want to make scarves . . . mostly Harry Potter Hogwarts House-themed scarves . . . Go Ravenclaw! (Alas, my nerdhood abounds . . . )
  • I am HORRIFICALLY near-sighted. Things get blurry if they're six inches away from my nose. I need laser-eye surgery or I'll probably be legally blind by 50.
  • In social situations with strangers, I drink copious amounts of water because I feel like my mouth needs to do something but I'm too nervous to make it speak. I'm best hydrated when anxious, apparently.
  • Despite this, I really enjoy public speaking, performing on stage, meeting new people, and going to parties.
  • I didn't start painting until I was in college because I was afraid I couldn't do it. Up until that point, my only artistic experience was sketching with pencils. When my freshman roommate introduced me to other mediums, I fell in love and became an art minor (I'm not nearly talented enough to be an art MAJOR--I just like to dabble). 
I've only let Chris hang up one of my paintings: this one little experiment called Heaven and Earth that I created right before our wedding. My parents driveway still has paint spots on it . . .
The photographs are of Chris and his best pal, Joe, being all musical and were taken by Joe's sister, Amy
  •   My favorite painting was one I did to piss off my art teacher.  We were supposed to do a painting in values (grays, whites, and blacks) using basic, angular shapes. I didn't understand the assignment, so I did it in my dorm room the night before.  Turns out, it was an in-class project, my painting didn't fit the criteria, and, instead of letting me grab a new canvas (or give me a canvas sheet as he had other students) the man made me paint over it. HE DEMANDED I KILL MY BRAIN CHILD. MURDER!!! So, enraged and heartbroken, I did just that.  The new shades of gray painting featured little dolls with faces like The Scream playing on this giant, box-shaped, toy tiger with gaping jaws. I called it Preyground. I think my teacher thought I was deranged. Apparently, someone liked it because it was stolen from the art room. I've never gotten over that.
    P.S. Can you tell I'm incredibly passive aggressive? Maybe?
  • I'm a night owl in the worst kind of way. I also love owls in the best kind of way. Just adore them. I think that must be why they're kind of the theme of my new living room . . .
  • I've traveled to Nicaragua, Tokyo, China, the Bahamas, and Great Britain. Spending a semester in London was one of the best decisions I ever made. I miss it almost every day.
    There are still so many new places I need to see before I die . . .
  • I have absolutely NO sense of direction. At all. I'm constantly having to check my hands for my wedding rings to remember which way is left.
  • All our pet's names are references to something nerdish--"Navi" is the fairy from the video game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time; "Pipkin" is one of my favorite characters from Watership Down; and "Shasta," along with being Chris's favorite soda, is a character from Chris's favorite Chronicles of Narnia book, The Horse and His Boy.
Have I said too much? Sometimes, I worry that I do . . .  But, anyways, just little random things about me . . . Thanks for reading! You're a champ!

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Sometimes, new things are a little bit scary.

Usually, I'm pretty thrilled with them.  I mean, I like change--I LIKE moving. It's a chance to reinvent yourself, your space, your life.  I wish I had a magic wand to wave away the hassle of packing and unpacking, but, otherwise, I think it's fun. If I had it my way, we'd travel the world or move just every few years to discover new things. Oh, the adventure!

Still, solidity has something to give, too.  I mean, to lay down roots, make friends and deep connections. To really have "home," that's important, too. Once you get settled, really settled, you start thinking about having kids and things.

If we hadn't moved, I'll be honest, we would probably be house shopping or making do in the cottage--with its orange water, swamp bugs, but cozy charm and privacy--and decorating a nursery or something. I'd still be drowning in middle school English papers, but laughing with my students as they gawk at my giant squid mug filled with tea. Chris would still be at the bookshop, working late hours and coming home with stories of nightmarish customers and reasons why his boss is awesome.  I would wonder if I was ever going to escape Florida, the state I was born in and have dreamed of leaving for years. It was always a deep fear of mine that I would be stuck there, rooted, just outside my hometown, teaching at my old school, unchanging. Bound. I hate that word, that feeling.  To be completely trapped.  Sometimes, I'd get upset--I'd mope with the TV on, seeing nothing, and, when Chris would ask what was wrong, I'd tell him, "I'm stuck. I should be overseas, or just in a new state, but I'm stuck. I hate this. I hate it."
He'd tell me about how great it was that we were close to family, and I'd agree wholeheartedly--family is a wonderful, wonderful thing--but something still hurt. Fear still fluttered and clawed at my chest like parasite.  Was this all there was?

I had a moment, once, when I was twenty.  I was home for the summer, and, that night Mom was getting ready for a dinner date with my dad, so I was feeding Ellie, who was barely a year old.  I sat there, spooning food into her mouth, when suddenly I stopped. You know people say when you die how your life flashes before your eyes? It was like that, but forwards instead of backwards.  I saw my future. My mouth fell open, spoon poised in the air, and Ellie leaned forward, little lips opened wide, expectant, and all I could say was, "Oh, gosh!"
Mom came in, straightening something, "What?"
"This is it, isn't it? This is the rest of my life . . . "
Mom rolled her eyes, told me that I was being melodramatic, and then she left. I sat staring at my baby sister, patiently waiting for her next bite, and my heart sank.
I loved Chris. I knew he was the man I would marry . . . but was this the only life we would have? Would there be no more adventure? I know they say that motherhood is one of the greatest adventures, but my heart was sinking. I wouldn't see any more of the world; I would be another generation living the same life in the same place as the past.

Chris says I'm addicted to change. That I have an irrational fear of staying in one place. Maybe he's right. I'm odd like that. I don't like my history--there's nothing really wrong with it. I just don't like it. I feel like I haven't grown up since high school. Sure, I pay bills, have pets, and live with my husband in our own place, but I'm still the same shy, nerdy, awkward kid I was when the cool kids ignored me.  I carry that with me. I shouldn't, but I have the hardest time shaking off that identity: the nerdy nobody.  That's why I like moving: I get to remake me. In college, I was the nerdish, endearing innocent from the fringe group.  My semester in London, I was the sweet one who wasn't girly.  I didn't really change--I just had a clean slate. I don't have that in my hometown. 

So we get this opportunity to move to Cali, and we are thrilled. I mean, out West is where both of us feel we NEED to be. We get here: love the town, love the area, love it love it love it.Still . . . we're both restless . . . is that just new-moving jitters?

Have you ever moved somewhere new? Did you feel restless jitters? Did it go away with time?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


So . . . we survived the six-hour flight here. It was touch-and-go for a bit (word to the wise: please, please, PLEASE don't start a flight by saying, "Sorry about the delay, folks. We were having some problems in the cockpit" . . . Uhhhhh . . . ).

I sat next to a large, pleasant-enough fellow who, when he wasn't sleeping, was eating corn chips and drinking Diet Coke with fervor. I, also, kept dozing off, and it was up to Chris to keep me from falling into the stranger's mushy shoulder. Oh, my knight in shining armor.

I'm a big fan of flying, especially when it's a cloudy day.  You find yourself in this billowing world of white and blue, not a care in the world . . . well, except for the whole being up in the atmosphere and possibly falling to certain death thing.  It's a new place, something entirely foreign.  It's terribly disappointing that clouds do not feel fluffy, that they're just water suspended in air.  What would it be like, skiing down a towering cumulonimbus? Swinging on a cirrus? Then you look down, and the world below is a different place.

 San Francisco at night . . . it looked like a a child had spilled fairy dust--great swirling gobs of it--all over the hills, black except for the vines of twinkling gold. The Golden Gate Bridge gleamed green over the water--tis bright, squiggly line of neon color in the onyx bay.  It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen.  I mean, until I realize that all that black beneath us was water . .  . and we hit turbulence and jolted sideways, and all I could do was wait for the plane to split in half and send us spiraling into a mysterious island inhabited by scientists, polar bears, and unanswered questions . . .

I'm sorry, did I just have a LOST flashback? Forgive me. Too much Netflix with the hubs . . .

We were almost stranded, though . . . After landing, gathering the luggage, finding our courier van, and discovering where the pets were stashed, and driving, driving, driving, it was after midnight. We pull into our reserved hotel, and Chris knocked on the office door.  Nothing. I mean, lights out, no one answered, nothing.  I called the phone number. Yeah, nothing.  It was closed. CLOSED.


Thank the good lord the Hilton in the next town took us in.  Despite the fact that one of our cats YOWLS. It's the sound like shrieking and dry heaving and, oh golly, is it loud.  Walking through the lobby filled with business men,  this cocophonous creature in a cage at my side, I knew how parents tethered to a screaming child feel: MORTIFIED.

Still, we managed to get to the townhouse and get our stuff three days later.  My house, at the moment, looks like a cross between people-moving-in and a frat house on the weekend.  With no pantry and no linen closet, we're getting creative with this storage space . . . or  lack thereof . . . but we like it :]

And um . . .the scenery here? HEAVEN. I keep saying that I've moved to Hobbiton . . . and humming the LOTR theme . . . sometimes, in unison with the hubs . . . because we're soulmates like that. :]

How the pets got used to the stairs in the townhouse . . . I think this is a new favorite :]

Before our stuff arrived, we took a couple days just to drive around . . . This happens to be from our drive down Pacheco Pass. I HIGHLY recommend the drive--GORGEOUS

A little road called Heckler's Pass into Santa Cruz County.  May I add that ti's a death trap? There were acute angles. I mean, teeny TINY turns, one after another, on the edge of a mountain. Chris was laughing way too hard while I sat there, clutching my arm rest, going, "Oh, crap crap CRAP!! CRAPCRAPCRAP!!! YOU JERK!!!"
He was going WAY too fast, people.

After a trip to the Ikea in Palo Alto, Chris decided we should drive to San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge.  One of these days, we're going to actually get out and WALK around the city :] Beautiful.

 We might just turn into Californians, people ;]

Friday, February 8, 2013

Let's Go Fly a Kite . . .

Every time I fly, I think of that song. I don't know why.
Oh, Mary Poppins . . . practically perfect in every way :]

As I type this, I'm sitting next to my husband, watching out the window as our plane to San Fransisco is pulling up to the gate . . .

Which means this is really happening.

The whole week is kind of a blur, but it was a good week. Eventful, stressful, but good. Lots of family visits, lots of fun, lots of goodbyes.  The goodbye hasn't really hit me yet.

At the next gate, there's a small child nearby chanting, "Mama! Papa! Mama! Papa!" incessantly.  We're trying REALLY hard not to laugh.

Chris is sneezing and rearranged  our bags for the upteenth time. You never know how much stuff you have until you try to fit it on a suitcase . . . or three . . . I am proud to announce that I fit a week's worth of clothes for the two of us into a single carry-on.  I'll take my worthy traveler badge, now, thank-you-very-much.

The missing people hasn't fully hit me, yet.  It will soon, I'm sure--I don't know what will happen when it does . . . I don't do tears, well.  The new-place-is-permanent hasn't settled in as reality. This has been a "plan" for so long, you never really think you'll see it, feel it.  But here it is.  Part of me is still kind of in denial . . . the rest of me is bouncy around like a maniac child on a sugar rush, and I'm trying to contain it. Does it seem insensitive that I don't cry? We'll be back for a visit in June . . . and, if this doesn't work out, you know . . . but I'm really, really, REALLY hoping it works out. You have no idea.

Boarding in ten minutes.
This is totally happening.