Thursday, January 12, 2012

12 Books

I love reading. I used to read book after book after book, sometimes two or three books at a time. I've been reading since I was old enough to read. (I still remember the excitement and pride I felt when I finished reading my very first 'big' book - Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel, illustrated by Blair Lent, in second grade.) In third grade to probably fifth or sixth grade, I was Babysitters Club daft; I owned and had read every book in the series multiple times and was always on the lookout for the next book in the series to come out in stores.

(And I was actually gutted to learn only a couple of years ago that most of Ann M. Martin's BSC books were ghost-written. Innocence of childhood DESTROYED.)

Then I grew into the Fear Street series and then, in high school, started reading actual literature - often out of force from teachers, but I enjoyed the books anyway.

In University, I was an English major and read even more good literature. By that time, I rarely got the chance to read anything for pleasure, due to the requirements by all the various lit classes I was taking, but I still tried fitting in a sneaky personal pick here and there.

Then I graduated, moved to Scotland, had copious amounts of reading time again and got back into reading for fun. By then I was a classics snob (and still pretty much am), and got to read and re-read all the best classic novels I ever wanted.

Then I had kids and my reading list became the likes of 'The Mommy's Survival Guide' and 'Breastfeeding 101'. Not quite classic, but then, there was no time for anything else.

A couple of years ago, I made a New Year's Resolution to read a book a month for the year, but that went abso-freakin-no-where. I realised the problem; I hadn't made a plan.

So this January, I am making a plan. Below are the books I want to read or re-read this year. I don't have all 12 decided yet - am leaving some room for inspiration - but here are the next few months lined up:

Jan- Beloved by Toni Morrison
Feb- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Mar- Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Apr- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
May- Ada or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov
Jun- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy*

I am a third the way through Beloved. Judging by the placement of the bookmark from the last time I attempted it (second year of University, I think), I hadn't even made it this far, so I'm enjoying it. I think I also 'get it' more than I would've then anyway. I bit o' life experience and a' that. Maybe I'll even use my reading as a writing opportunity. Book reviews, anyone?

Better yet, Book Club, anyone???

*So not happening the month before the baby is born! But there will be a bit of a childminding break, as one of the children will be leaving in June, and if I am ahead on the other books, maybe I can manage the 349168 words (about 23 hours) of this incredible book!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Sock Monkey Fever

I have had a long-standing love affair with sock monkeys. My first sock monkey was 'acquired' when I was very small (read the story here!), and I have loved them ever since.

When Fifi was still just a wish and a prayer, I dreamed of decorating a nursery sock monkey style - curtains, bedding, little sock monkey toys everywhere... but it never happened and that was that.

But being in America over Christmas reignited my sock monkey flame, and the wheels in my head have been turning ever since. I suddenly got the idea to have a sock monkey cake for my birthday party (and if I were only turning 2 I'd get all the sock monkey party supplies available on the web!). Then it hit me - decorate the new baby's room with sock monkeys!

Now really the new baby's room will just be Fifi and Lolly's room, so I'd really just be redecorating their room, but the new baby in and of itself is motivation enough to start dreaming. I found some lovely fabric in which to make a duvet cover, pillow shams and some decorative bunting for the room, and some giant wall stickers for decorating the wall. The carpet in there is already sock monkey brown, so I could paint one wall red, leave the rest off-white, and it would be perfect! I would eventually hang some sock monkey-inspired curtains... collect more sock monkey paraphernalia... ahh the possibilities!

It's a big idea that will not be cheap, but I love it. And I hope it's a theme that they wouldn't grow out of until about pre-teen age. You know, as long as I keep it trendy. Unlike the rainbow-and-cloud wall paper my parents hung in my room that was adorable when I was a toddler, but mortifying when I was in Junior High. I mean, that was the same wall paper that hung in our church's baby room!

And if not, well, at least a red accent wall won't age, and the wall stickers peel right back off.

I threw in this 'vintage' shot of me and Scott back in '05 for funsies. A) Because I am wearing my sock monkey pajamas. B) Because Scott's beard is terrifying.

**Many thanks to Mom, Matt, Charity and Amanda for all the sock monkey stuff they have lavished on me through the years.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Get Up Off the Couch, Lazy Girl

I feel like arriving back in Scotland five days after New Year has screwed up my chances of ever getting organised, New Year's Resolution style. I had these plans - not resolutions, per se, but plans - to get more organised. Like make up school lunches the night before. Lay out uniforms and tomorrow's clothes the night before. Hoover the living room every day. Do one load of laundry and one load of dishes a day. But so far, jet lag and a late arrival into the New Year seems to be prohibiting me from doing these things.

It's not like they are extra hard work. The living room is nearly clean enough for hoovering. Just a few wee things here and there to put away and it's ready. The kitchen isn't in bad shape, in fact, I probably don't even have a full load of dishes to do. I just need to unload the dishwasher to make way for the two or three things lying around. The laundry on the pulley is dry; I just need to take them down, hang the wet stuff, and throw in another load. Lunches? Piece of cake (not literally). Just slap together a few sandwiches and throw in some fruit and yogurt.

So why am I not doing these things?

Because sitting on the couch with my feet up, watching Community on my laptop is ever so much more relaxing. I wish I had some sort of motivation device that rewarded my efforts with ice cream or something. Maybe I need to invent one.

But until I do, I really should hang up those wet clothes before they begin to smell like dead cat.

RSS Graffiti Feed

Just testing to see if this works!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

And... We're Published

Well, that's my one and only Bucket List item marked off.
Ebook has been published via Smashwords. It will be available for purchase within the next one to two weeks for the low, low price of $2.99. So seriously, you have no excuse not to buy it.

My 30th Birthday Party Invitations

Bucket List

I was thinking earlier on about New Year's Resolutions, and how I've only made the simple request of myself to blog more. But I also thought, Hey, this year I turn 30, and I never made one of those bucket lists of things you want to do before 30. If I had made one of those lists, I could easily say I have already marked most of those things off. Like traveling, getting married, having kids, being in a play, being in a band, etc. And now that my birthday is less than three months away, there really isn't time to make a list that could reasonably be accomplished.

So I'm making only one request of myself, only one bucket list item to strive for before I turn 30...

I am finally going to get my book of poems published.

Okay, okay, so the word 'published' sounds awfully fancy and official. And if you know anything about the writers' world, you don't just 'go' get your book published. It could take years before a publisher even nibbles at your work. BUT it does NOT take years to self-publish.

So I am going to finally get to work on my e-book.

In fact, the work is all done. The poems have been written (some of them for over eight years); all I need to do is get them formatted and put into an e-book. Then I just get an ISBN number (I think this comes with e-booking anyway), put my e-book on Amazon and ta da! I even finally have my cover picture, which I have been imagining for months, but finally got the perfect opportunity to take while in Arkansas. Since most of my poems take place in Arkansas, the landscape was just perfect for my photo.

So, I'm thinking three months is enough time to get this all put together. And if I can get enough people (enough of you!) to buy my e-book (which will be under £5), I might even make enough to get some copies printed for sale.

That is my one goal for before I turn 30.

Maybe I'll even have copies to sell at my awesome 30th birthday party blow-out!! Narcissistic? Maybe. But having a massive party all in honour of myself is pretty narcissistic anyway.

Friday, January 06, 2012

40 Questions

40 Annual Questions:

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
Went to the funeral of a friend and her baby son. I've never had an actual friend die before, or a baby I knew. It was horrible. One of the worst things I've ever experienced.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions and will you make more for next year?
Last year I had a long list of resolutions. I sorta halfway kept some of them:
*Eat a healthier diet - later in the year anyway.
*Stop shouting (full stop)/ control anger - in general anyway.

One resolution I did not manage was to read my Bible all the way through. I got to Chronicles and sort of ... couldn't go on any further.

This year, I just want to blog more. Simple as that.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Lots of people, but the two most important were the births of my niece Ava (Matt and Charity's baby) and my nephew Adam (Kate and Faisal's baby).

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Ohh, this is the hardest question on here to face. How do I talk about it? I couldn't blog about it then, and don't know if I can now either. Donna and I weren't super close, but we had been good friends for a while, even if at the end there I didn't see her (or any of the breastfeeding girls) very much at all. In fact, Donna was one of the oldest acquaintances I had in Scotland. I met her when she was only 14 (or 16?), wearing a t-shirt that read 'My boyfriend fancies you'. I loved that t-shirt, and we used to talk about it a lot when we were reunited as breastfeeding mums. She was one of my first baby signing mums with her daughter Hannah. I went to her house when her children had chicken pox to get my own children infected! :) As a group, we spent lots of time with each other. But towards the end, no, I didn't see her or anyone much, and sadly, the last conversation we had - by text - wasn't friendly, and then next thing I knew... I came home on a Wednesday night out with friends at the Spinnaker, and Scott said to me, 'Your friend Donna and her son Noah ... died.' My head began to spin, and I seriously thought he was going to laugh and say just kidding until I realised that isn't something you joke about. Then I broke down. I stayed in a broken down state for about two weeks; for two weeks the fog just couldn't clear, I couldn't focus, I didn't know what was going on. Sometime after the funeral, after there was some sort of closure, I began to work my way out of the fog, but the pain and sadness and regret never left.

But to top it off, for some reason, Donna's death caused a painful split among our group of breastfeeding friends, and to this day, I do not know the reason why suddenly I became one of targets of a pointed maliciousness that I cannot begin to understand. Even though in a sort of way things have started to become worked through and somewhat forgiven, the pain of losing not just Donna which was hard enough, but a group of women I believed were some of my best friends, will never be completely - CAN never be completely - forgotten.

Ugh. I have a headache now.

5. What countries did you visit?
America, where we went for Christmas this year - the first Christmas back home in 8 years. :)

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
A stronger faith in God and better hope in Christ.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory?
Funny (not funny haha) but I can't remember the actual date Donna died. Just as I can't remember the dates that Ava or Adam were born. 'Dates' don't etch themselves in my memory, but the incidences do. Donna and Noah's death, and Ava's birth (we didn't know if she was going to live or not) were two dates this year that I won't forget how they impacted me.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I suppose playing Shelby in Steel Magnolias. I've always wanted to play that part, and this year, I got to do it. And I think I did it well!

I also suppose getting my childminding certificate was a pretty big achievement.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I don't think this year was a year for failures, really. Which is good. :)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No illness or injury that I can recall. Well, I did have to go to A&E twice - once for dropping a 2 litre coke bottle upside down on my foot (I truly thought it was broken) and then for shaking a bottle of hot milk all over my hand and burning it severely!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Tickets to America. And my new carpets!

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
I usually always say Scott, because he is genuinely such a wonderful man. So I'll try to change it up a bit by saying, after Scott, who was compassionate and patient and loving to me during this hard year, I have to give credit to my brother Matt and Charity. When Ava was born, we all expected everything to be normal. It was a shock to us all when she was born with several complications and Down Syndrome. She had a hole in her heart, among other things, and no one knew at first how severe her complications were. Thank God her complications have turned out to be far less severe than we all worried, but Matt and Charity have shown a strength, a patience, an endurance, an understanding and a consuming love for Ava that surpasses comprehension. It sounds cheesy to say, but Ava could not have been blessed with more amazing parents. I am amazed and inspired by them and could not be prouder of the mom and dad they have become.

13. What regrets do you have about the past year?
I don't know how to answer that one. As much as I have loved all the things I've been involved in, I regret that I got involved in too much. I was involved in 8 plays this year, and it was too much. I feel between that and going to the gym, I missed out on a lot of time with the kids and Scott. Sure, rehearsals and exercise were when kids were in bed, but I feel I spent too much time out of the house, and I don't want to over-stretch myself again this year. (I can't anyway, I'm having a baby!)

14. Where did most of your money go?
For once, to fun things! I paid my bills, I put money into savings, and I bought some things I really wanted. It was very pleasant this year. :)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2011?
The Decemberists - The King Is Dead. Particularly these lyrics to Rise to Me:

Hey Henry, can you hear me?
Let me see those eyes
This distance between us
Can seem a mountain size

But boy, you are going to stand your ground
They rise to you, you blow them down
Let me see you stand your ground
If they rise to you, you blow them down

My darling, my sweetheart I am in your sway
To cold climes comes springtime
So let me hear you say

My love, I am going to stand my ground
They rise to me and I'll blow them down

Even though its a love song, some of those words spoke so deeply to me when Donna died, and my friends turned their backs on me. First 'this distance between us can seem a mountain size...' then 'they rise to me and I'll blow them down.' Something about it made me feel like even though at the time it felt like the world was crashing down - losing a friend to death, then losing lots of friends on top of that - I was going to rise again from it. The distance between us all felt so huge, but 'To cold climes comes springtime'... I knew at some point, things would be better.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
happier or sadder? sadder, oh so much sadder. But gonna get happier!
thinner or fatter? thinner, thanks to my diet and BodyPump!
richer or poorer? richer, thanks to my new job childminding!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Tennis, I guess, though there wasn't much time left for that! And just being in the house at night.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
As much as I loved it, I should've gotten involved in less this year.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Ah, I spent it in the wonderful company of my wonderful family in America. True, my family has changed wildly in the last two years. And this year, both Mom and Dad remarried, giving me a step-mom and a step-dad, but I guess to make the best of a bad situation, I have to say at least my parents have both married really nice people and are really happy with their new spouses. I'll always wish they could've just been happy together, but since that isn't the case, I'm at least glad they are happy again now.

I also loved spending time with my brothers and Charity and cousins, and with Pete and Rebekkah and all my nieces.

And I got to see my dear best friend Devon, which was wonderful. I love how when we get together, it is like no time has passed between us. I love that girl.

I only wish I'd gotten to see my other best friend Amanda. But she was only in town for two days, and we just didn't manage it. :(

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
My parents as usual, and probably Heather, by text!

22. What's your best memory from 2011?
One of the nicest memories was me and Scott's anniversary trip to Pitlochry. I truly love my man and loved spending time alone with him. I also enjoyed the sunny summer and days out in the garden. Performing in 'Disco Inferno' was a pretty good laugh too.

23. How have you seen yourself grow as a person this year?
I've not seen much growth this year in myself. I've had a pretty yucky year, with lots of sadness (did I ever mention that at the same time Ava was born with all the worries that brought, my friend's daughter disappeared and couldn't be found for days? She was eventually located in England, thankfully. It was horrible.) I've seen myself spiral into a cynical, hateful person, which is not the kind of person I want to be. My faith in God has taken a terrible tumble this year, but I've not let go completely. I am still struggling to figure out what he is doing with me and why I am going through all the internal things I'm going through, but I guess in one way I have grown a bit; I've at least tried to come to terms with the idea that what happens around me and to me do not need to affect what happens inside me. What happens inside me is up to me (and I guess up to God as well, though I'm struggling with that concept), and towards the end of the year here, I have really tried to rally myself up inside and become that person I used to be and want to be, with some alterations to fit what I have learned over the year.

24. What was your favourite TV programme(s)?
Dexter. Moral ambiguity, anyone?

25. What one special thing would you like to do in 2012 and what other special plans do have for this year??
I have no plans for the upcoming year except to have my new baby, and lavish all the love and breastfeeding on it that he/she deserves! And to include my other two darlings into the equation as best I can.

And I'd like it to be a homebirth. For real this time. It's my last shot.

26. What was the best book(s) you read?
Gosh, did I read anything at all this year? I have a stack of my old favourite books I've brought back from America, maybe I'll get some of them (re-)read this year.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I don't think I got into any new music this year either. Just listened to more of The Decemberists stuff.

28. What did you want and get?
Pregnant! And to go to America for Christmas.

29. What did you want and not get?
There were a few parts in a few of the plays I was in this year that I didn't get, but it wasn't a big deal. After all, I am still very new to all these clubs! And the people who got the parts were all perfect for them anyway.

30. What were your favourite films of this year?
The Lincoln Lawyer, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The King's Speech

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 29, but don't think we did much. Matt and Charity were here just after, so I kind of considered their visit to be my big birthday present and adventure.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Eh... still being able to walk into Claire's Accessories and chat to Donna?

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Haha, I don't know! I did try to look nice for after-show parties and nights out, but in general, it was just the plane-Jane look for me. (And getting into some skinny clothes was fun, until I got pregnant again.)

34. What kept you sane?
Going to BodyPump and weight lifting my frustrations and extra pounds away!

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Dexter, is that crazy?

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Health care.

37. Who did you miss?
Okay, last year's answer to this just makes me sad: "All the mums I used to spend so much time with, but that I stopped seeing when I stopped doing breastfeeding support. I still see the IBfM committee at meetings, but feel very out of the loop now. So I miss those girls."

This year, it would've been my family, especially Matt and Charity.

38. Who was the best new person (people) you met?
I got to know Fifi's best friend's mum this year. Catriona has been good to spend time with, and a good friend to sit with in our Gaelic class!

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
Being discerning and being cynical aren't the same thing, though it can be easy to become cynical if you tend to be discerning. I've learned to go with my gut about people; if there is something about them you can't quite trust or believe, then just don't. But I let myself become too cynical and hard in that way, and that didn't make me happy either. I ended up just writing people off based on my instincts, and found myself becoming hateful and bitter. So finding a balance between accepting people for who they are but keeping them at a distance if you can't shake a feeling of there being something questionable about them has been difficult, and I'm far from figuring it out at the moment. But what I do know is I don't plan on ignoring my instincts anymore, but I certainly don't want to become a person who distrusts and dislikes everyone either.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?
'To cold climes comes spring time, so let me hear you say... my love, I am going to stand my ground.'

Previous years, for fun:

For Funsies

This time, 2004:

I've Been a Bad Blogger

Back From Arkansas

Oh, my time in America was too glorious to describe. Every day we did something interesting, and the weather was GOR-GEOUS. It was killer coming back. At least Scotland greeted us with sunshine, albeit not warm sunshine. Still, in Scotland, you take sunshine in any form. So that was nice.

Now it's back to the grind or the mill or whatever that phrase is. Have already (already!) washed a load of clothes and a load of dishes. HOW does one spend one day at home and already have a load of clothes and dishes to wash? I suppose the only way to keep on top of it is to just do it as soon as it's ready to be done, so spur of the moment New Year's Resolution is to keep on top of housework. Ha! We'll see how long I can last that one out.

I still have to unpack all my suitcases, but I'm putting it off for good (enough) reasons. First, I want to clear out the kids' wardrobe and dresser of outgrown or tatty clothes to make space for their new stuff. I want to do the same for mine and Scott's stuff. And then I need peace and quiet and no kids to do this effectively and calmly, and while, yes, they aren't actually even in the house at the moment, right now is simply not the time. I am enjoying my post-workday freedom and appreciating a mostly clean house with very little getting-on-top-of to be done (aside from the suitcases). And there is chocolate cake waiting for me too, waiting for that homemade pizza I made for dinner to digest.

TGIF, there's another smashing reason to do nothing tonight. And jet-lag. I did only just arrive in yesterday afternoon. And my cold is another good reason.

And I'm pregnant, that's the best reason of all!