February 2010


Oh, dear reader, do not assume this joyful event came without struggle; it did not. There were countless unexpected delays, parts that needed to be ordered and then did not arrive when expected, messages that were not relayed as requested, and internet connections that failed to cooperate. All told, there were three trips to and from Birmingham in pursuit of the blessed reunion. All monetary proceeds from eighteen hours of house cleanings went to secure my precious laptop in a repaired condition. Dear reader, it has been a two-and-a-half week-long nightmare, each lonely moment separating me from my beloved computer complete misery.

But I am a survivor. I cut corners by checking only one of my email addresses regularly when I borrowed Hubby’s computer for an hour each day. I declined to visit my favorite industry blogs. I was almost thankful for the Olympics for interrupting regularly scheduled television so I could safely avoid Hulu. I sated my need for TV by watching my half-hour soap opera as frequently as I could.

Instead of my usual computer-driven life, I found other occupations for my time. I wrote blog entries by hand (Oh, the dedication!), I read eleven books (six of which are decidedly children’s books, two were non-fiction – though one of them was less than 100 pages long – and at least one was quite demanding and took several days to read), I cleaned the main living areas in my home four times. I made fourteen lunches for Hubby. I lost six pounds. I washed ten loads of laundry and three loads of dishes. I went grocery shopping four times, two of which were to get items I forgot in preparation for cake baking. It snowed twice. I hand painted (okay, spray painted mostly) my dining room table and chairs (which look awesome, by the way!). I survived life without constant access to Facebook, Outlook, Pandora, AIM and Hulu, as difficult as it seemed at the time.

This afternoon has had a subtle glow about it. I caught up with Nathan, Eric, and Le R (ie, my favorite publishing bloggers). I had surprisingly little television to entertain myself with, but that was okay because I listened to all of the “teen pop” I could possibly handle on Pandora. I chatted on AIM. I stalked on Facebook. I pressed the addictive “send/receive” button in my Outlook about ten thousand times. I sent and responded to emails. I listened to a commencement speech given by J.K. Rowling at Harvard in 2008 (highly recommended). I composed this blog entry without hand writing a single word. I edited my resume and wrote a cover letter (though I admit I did this out of necessity rather than for the enjoyment of it).

Tomorrow, though, I hope to strike a balance. In my two-and-a-half weeks of laptop withdrawal, I’ve come to realize that perhaps I, when left to my own devices, spend rather more time than I should staring at a computer screen. Quite a lot can be accomplished when one’s lap isn’t being constantly occupied by a computer. So tomorrow, when the glow of the reunion has faded, I plan to do things that require moving. Don’t get me wrong, much can be done with the use of my beloved laptop as well, but I’ve become sort of accustomed to a clean house and proper conversations with people. Here’s to the attempt, at least!

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Okay, folks, this is going to take me literally FOREVER to type up in the stolen moments I have on Hubby’s computer (plus the fact that there are at least sixty books on this list), but here goes.

I intend to read the following books to my Six Year Old (note that I’ve split up certain series based on reading/maturity levels):

  • Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and The BFG by Roald Dahl
  • My Side of the Mountain and The Other Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett   OR   Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Magician’s Nephew by C.S.  Lewis

Seven Year Old:

  • A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle
  • Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau
  • The Island of the Blue Dolphins and Zia by Scott O’Dell

Eight Year Old:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  • Hatchet and The River by Gary Paulsen
  • Anne of the Island and Anne of Windy Poplars by Lucy Maud Montgomery   OR   Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Nine Year Old:

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  • The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, and The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
  • Eragon, Eldest, and Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
  • Anne’s House of Dreams and Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery   OR   The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Ten Year Old:

  • Many Waters by Madeline L’Engle
  • The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King by J.R.R Tolkien
  • Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell

At which point I fear my child will be tired of the nightly ritual and will want to read on his/her own. In this case, I’ve made a list of suggestions (ie, “You should read these before you finish middle school, and whatever else you want to read.”), though I feel like some of the themes in these might be slightly mature for middle school aged kids, I suppose it will all depend on how mature I feel like my kids are. Anyway…

Middle School Reading:

  • Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  • “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka {I have a host of other wonderful short stories that I’d like to add, but this is the most important, I think}
  • Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

9th Grade:

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

10th Grade:

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

11th Grade:

  • The Shadow of the Wind and Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

12th Grade:

  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley   OR  The Death of King Arthur by Thomas Mallory
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  • Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
  • The Portrait of Dorain Gray by Oscar Wilde

This felt like an absurdly long list when I wrote it by hand the other day, but it feels more manageable in this form. I am certain I’ve left off some of my favorite books, or books that I should include but forgot about, or books that I really ought to read and consider putting on the list somewhere. I’m always open to recommendations! I do love to read.

I admit this publicly with great hesitation as I do not like the pressure of accountability; nevertheless: I have joined Weight Watchers. I’m not unfamiliar with the system as a former member, but I find that my mental point calculations in the past year or two have grown dramatically out of control. Some of the meals I prided myself upon as being “healthy” were virtual death traps in terms of points values. I have added a few recipes to the counter to see what the points look like per serving and find myself wanting to take to Facebook and my phone book and email address book to share my discoveries.

For instance, I am having company Friday evening and wanted to make a cake. I noticed that there was a distinct lack of tasty looking desserts in the (ancient) Weight Watchers cookbook that I have here at home, so naturally I turned to Southern Living. Good old Southern Living cookbook, a perfect place to find any number of divine looking cakes and treats. I found a recipe that suited my needs and tastes and thought, well, I guess I might as well see how many points I need to save up for this treat, so I plugged in the recipe to find that, if I cut the cake into 12 portions as recommended, I would be consuming 21 points in one slice. This probably means nothing to most of you, but to put it into perspective, that’s 81% of my daily alloted points. Granted, Weight Watchers keeps these occasions in mind and offers a weekly allowance of extra points to use as I please, but when I can eat half of a medium Papa John’s veggie pizza for 20 points, you can begin to see why a slice of cake might not be the best use of said bonus points.

In fact, say I got wild (ie, REALLY depressed and/or bored) and decided I wanted to eat the entire cake, by myself. As the entire thing has 252 points in it, I would technically not be allowed to eat again for the following eight days. That is insanity. One cake has the same value of points as eight days worth of food! I literally cannot wrap my brain around this.

I’m still making the cake (having now scoured the WW website for acceptable alternatives and finding none that look remotely appealing) and I plan to eat a piece, brought into somewhat reasonable points range by adjusting the serving size (up from 12 servings per cake to 20), but I have to say I’m glad I actually prefer pizza to cake. Note to self: send half of cake home with guest and feed the rest to perpetually-losing-weight Hubby, and order a pizza on Saturday!

It’s that time of night* when I’ve usually settled in with my book (currently: re-reading Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood) but I’ve been writing for three hours (by hand, still) and though I’ve tired of the story I was telling, I still have some primal need to keep moving pencil across page.

For some reason I feel compelled to discuss the fact that I’ve created an actual, physical reading list for  my unborn children. I first composed this list at fifteen and  have since added even more fantastic  works of fiction. I wonder now if it’s an oversight to include only fictional works? I can think of maybe  two non-fiction books (outside of text books) I read growing up, and another handful of character building books my Dad assigned me. Maybe I’ll just let my Mom and Dad make a list of  such books and they can attempt to enforce the reading of said books. Fiction is generally much more agreeable.

Not to mention that once my kiddos have read a few of my selections, they’ll come to trust my excellent taste. I’ve  even considered the fact that my son(s) will be opposed on principle to reading The Little Princess so I’ve added (where necessary) some “boy” selections. Only where the ones I’d prefer them to read are just unbearably girly. They’ll grow out of this, of course, so by the time Pride and Prejudice shows up on the list, they don’t get to opt out.

Mostly I’ve included books  I managed to avoid in English classes over the years (can you believe I never had to read Pride and Prejudice as an English major??) but books (or rather plays, in these instances) like Hamlet and Oedipus Rex were quite influential in my education as a person and a writer that they found their way onto the list as well.

I have such strong and vivid memories of being read to as a child, I can’t deny my children the same experience. I’ve included most of the  books that were read to me, like The Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time. I can remember being amazed by these books, completely absorbed in the characters and action, never being satisfied when whichever parent happened to be reading to me at the time got tired and quit for the night. I couldn’t wait until I could read and thought it would be beyond awesome if I could create something equally magical.

Not that I want (or expect) my children to be struck by the writer bug (it’s a poor living, so far), but I do know my life would be so much smaller without  books and I want a big, vivid, book-filled life  for my kids. And because I’ve put so much forethought into it, I know they’ll be reading quality literature instead of Tiger Beat and Harry Potter (JUST KIDDING! All seven volumes feature prominently on the list!).

* Note: This was written around 11:30 pm, not at 3:30 in the afternoon as the time stamp might suggest 🙂

For too long I have let my best and most easily manipulated tools languish unused (at least, unused for good) in my mind. I’ve scoffed (and honestly, still scoff) at books like The Secret  – which tout the power of thinking – as total hocus pocus meant to delude the masses into believing in some magical ability to ‘think’ a desire into being. Absurd. Obviously an evil plot by the author to sell books to gullible people with more money than sense.

As I said, I still scoff, having gotten the impression from the publishing world that The Secret was a farce (and I didn’t have the money to buy a copy just to scoff with more ammunition). But somewhere in the preparation for this book, I’m sure the author read As You Think (originally titled As a Man Thinketh upon its first publication in 1904). And this book, as it is VERY small and was loaned to me by my ever well-meaning father, I have read. In about an hour and a half.

If the book had been mine, I’d have turned down at least five of the 88 pages (about 18% of the book!) for having been struck by the power of James Allen’s words. Even if Mr. Allen is completely BSing, I can still see no harm in turning my thoughts in a more positive direction and being careful to guard them against negativity, much less focusing said positive thoughts on a purpose or goal. If it works, FABULOUS! I’ll be a happier person who has reached the goals I’ve set for myself. If not? Fine. I’ll still probably be more content with my lot and I’ll be spending more time working on something I’m passionate about. Not seeing a down side.

Firstly, in the cleanup of my brain, I’m aware that I complain far too much. While last year was a miserable one, I spent a  good  portion of it bemoaning my disastrous fortunes. Tell me, what’s the point in that? What a waste of  my time and thoughts, that both could  have been put to much better use.

I’m happy to say that I’ve read this  book at a time when I’m already in fairly good spirits. I’m sure I’ll find the “Great Brain Cleanup” to be exceptionally difficult at times, but  like I said, there really is no good reason not to strive for better.

To all my friends, please don’t go out and buy a copy of The Secret. It was far from my intent to suggest that thinking is magical, but DO buy and read As You Think at your  earliest convenience. It’s possibly a result of years of negative thinking, buy I’m sorely tempted to “forget” to return the copy sitting on my night table to Dad. Oops!

I take it back! I take it all back. Well, except the baby parts. I definitely still want the baby. But there is really nothing else that could bring me more joy than being unemployed. Only now, at 5:30 pm, am I feeling a twinge of boredom,and though my computer is currently powerless (stupid cord), my cable package consists of Hulu (ie, I don’t have cable), my iPod (shuffle) ran out of battery weeks ago and I can’t charge it now my computer doesn’t work, I am still managing to avoid a nap or any real sense of boredom. How? I’m writing this blog entry.

With a pen and paper.

Yes, unorthodox, I know, but this was the only way to write for so long that I’m certain the ability is within me, somewhere.

Today has been blissful. Just before 10am,my computer died on me, but not before a quick check of the email and a read through of my favorite industry blogs. I’d just finished composing a lengthy response to a friend – a response I’m glad I now I didn’t put off because my power cord (only three weeks old) stopped transmitting power to my computer. I’m fully convinced the problem is not with the cord but with  my computer. Sucks.

Anyway. At first, I was devastated by the loss of my computer. Truly, everything I have grown accustomed to in my unemployment takes place on  my computer. Television. Web surfing. Reading and writing blogs. Chatting, Facebook stalking, obsessively checking my email, and, oh yeah, job hunting. What would I do  without access to my beloved computer?

I said yesterday that my house was clean. This true, with three exceptions: the two guest bedrooms and the guest bathroom. The larger of the two guest rooms is jammed with samples and crap I am for some reason unable/unwilling to part with.  The  second guest room is attached to the guest bath, where my three cat litterboxes live, and is therefore a large extension of  said litterboxes. Cats are tragically unable to keep their littler inside the box.  Super disgusting.

And so, today I tackled the guest bathroom. Those litterboxes are so clean you could almost  touch them without vomiting. I was aiming for ‘so-clean-I-could-serve-soup-from-them,’ but I think that was a goal that is just beyond reality. After that forty-five minute project, I committed myself to laundry, dishes, vacuuming, sweeping and wiping down countertops, and changing the air filter and hosing down the cat hair laden grate. In my already clean home. So this is how people keep their homes perpetually spotless! They clean something that’s already clean! Genius!

In between these feats, I read about eight chapters of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince while my cats dozed beside me on the sofa. I finished four loads of laundry. In general, I was more productive than I’ve ever been.

Clearly, the real problem in my life is the computer. I’m not going to lie…two days of this computer-free lifestyle may have me so crazy I actually CALL someone, but I’m afraid my computer is unwilling to cooperate until I get it to a repair shop. Very sad news.

So until then, I wait until Hubby gets home with his laptop to type this up and post it, and do a lot of praying that  God gives me the strength to tackle the main guest room tomorrow. Yeah, I know. Unlikely.

In the event that I fail tragically in my attempts at productivity tomorrow, be prepared. I may start ‘bored-dialing’ sometime around noon. Just send me to voicemail.  I’ll  forgive you.

There I was, just waking up from a rather long Sunday afternoon nap and thinking to myself, “Ugh. I feel awful,” when it occurred to me that I ought to feel fabulous and relaxed and grateful for the opportunity to take a long Sunday afternoon nap.

Today will be the first day I’ve been totally obligation free in a long time. My house is clean. My husband spends ten hours a day at the school studying. My cats have been bathed and re-acclimated to human presence in the house. All vestiges of responsibility with my former sales job has passed. I live in a town where nothing happens if you’re over 23 and where my friend prospects all have full-time jobs. I have no inclination to become an obsessive exerciser nor any ambitions to become “homemaker of the year.”

As such, my long Sunday afternoon nap was more of an escape from sheer boredom than a luxurious indulgence during a coveted and special day off. And this, friends, was my first real day off. Even while performing my duties for my former job, I was never very good at distinguishing between work-time and home-time as I was working from my home. Being home all day without any structure at all is sure to be a struggle for me.

So while I was lying in bed, questioning my lack of appreciation for my nap, I came to the realization that I really do need some occupation for my time. Naturally, my thoughts turned to babies. Not only is this a natural place for my thoughts to turn in general, but I also happened to watch two Lifetime movies about teenage mothers this weekend. Besides the fact that I would now be dead had I gotten pregnant in high school (what’s the opposite of matricide? maybe infanticide, only when the infant is actually a pregnant teenager and her mom is so pissed she kills her?), I was really quite jealous of these teenage mothers. They don’t have to worry about the new study that says you only have 12 eggs left by the time you’re thirty. Sure, they have far more to worry about than that, but at least they have a baby.

Anyway, being that I am not a teenager and am therefore incapable of making ill-thought-out decisions regarding procreation, my second thought was that I needed a job. Well, that’s obvious. Money generally only comes to those who work (or else already have a ton of money to begin with), and I am sadly in need of money.

The problem with this solution is, of course, that it takes time to find a job, especially in a tiny college town where all the decent jobs are taken by stupid students…Oh sorry, that was a bit of a rant, but I’m getting bitter about the job market here.

SO, in the meantime, I suppose I’ll be doing more writing. When I was last unemployed, I managed to write a novel. Wonder if I can do it again? It’s either that or begin thinking more like a teenager 🙂