Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Emily Reads a Book" A Story in Pictures

When I was a kid, probably 5 or 6 years old, my dad drew mazes for me. He'd fill a sheet of typing paper with overlapping roadways and dead ends and dangerous detours. For example, in one upper corner, he might draw me at the starting point. In the opposite corner below, he'd draw a lost cat, or a group of my friends, or a church (all obvious destinations of choice). Then he'd connect the two with a labyrinth of passageways. When he finished he'd give it to me, and then I'd draw my way from point A to point B, avoiding as many pitfalls as I could.

The best part was the creative distractions he'd draw, waiting for me at each wrong turn: bullies with frowny faces, bottles with skull and crossbones on their labels (either poison or, heaven forbid, alcohol), a cache of weapons (guns with smoking barrels, knives, etc.) and cigarettes (or as Dad taught us to call them, "stinky butts," incidentally the only context in which we were allowed to say "butt"). He cleverly incorporated life lessons into these homemade activities, and I subconsciously learned to make wise choices all while having fun. Teaching moments weren't wasted in our household.

I remembered these drawings last night. I was wondering how to reach a specific goal, and the things that keep me from getting there. This format of Dad's came to mind, so I made a maze of my own. I couldn't fit it all into one JPEG in Microsoft's Paint program, so I'll just show the individual "paintings" I made.

We'll call it "Emily reads a book from start to finish."

(Drawings inspired by Hyperbole and a Half).

Starting point: Me!

End point: reading all the way to the end.

The road from A to B is twisted and winding, filled with pits and potholes and lurking danger.

But mostly just distractions.

Will I make it?


It could take several days to reach my destination.

Do I have what it takes to resist temptation and press on for the greater good?  

The finish line is waiting for me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Faithful Place

An Amazon pre-order I placed months ago arrived last week: Tana French strikes again.

In the Woods You may recall my dramatic and unfortunate experience with her first book, In the Woods. I just re-read my post from a year ago. I thought I remembered throwing the book across the room in anger when I reached the last page, but maybe that was just an embellishment I've added in retelling the story since blogging about it.

Editor's note: Commenter David, thank you for your input. I appreciate your endorsement of the author. I took it to heart, as you'll see.

The brother that I tricked into reading In the Woods (since misery loves company) found Tana French's second novel, The Likeness, and gave it to me for my birthday last month. I had already read it and loved it, so I think he was a little disappointed when I accepted the gift as a generous gesture, rather than retaliation.

The Likeness: A Novel
The Likeness was just as gripping, vivid, engaging, and lively as the first novel, but the ending was far more satisfying. I'm generally not a fan of mystery as a genre, particularly murder mysteries (primarily because I get freaked out so easily and can't handle the spook-factor). Tana French pushed me out of my comfort zone in this area, but the dialogue and sense of setting were so engrossing that I was able to cope. I hung in there out of loyalty to the characters because I loved each of them. The story is set in Ireland so the dialogue and vocabulary had a delightful nuance to it and I could hear every word ring. DANG, I wish I could write like that.

Faithful Place: A Novel
So here I am with novel number three, Faithful Place. The author has zeroed in on a character from the previous book, and readers learn all kinds of "background" information as this story unfolds. Each book stands alone, which I really appreciate, but she cleverly overlaps the lives of her characters in each.

Not a word is wasted and every sentence is genius. Instead of slowly accelerating the events of the story before reaching cruise-control, Ms French goes headlong into her plot from page 1. I feel like I've tripped and fallen into the story rather than slowly coaxed into reading until the last page, like I usually am with novels. None of that "I love it, but it took me a while to get into it" sentiment applies. And yet... I'm writing about it here instead of reading. Stay tuned for the final book report. Gotta go.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Crushed - Lavender Bites the Dust

This morning I made a shocking discovery. I left the house at 6:40 for a walk, and saw that someone had driven through my garden. At least one small section of it. But it was an important section. They ran over one of my lavender plants. I'll just let that sink in for a minute.

I love my sweet scraggly garden, and it made me mad to know someone had parked on the sidewalk and carelessly pulled away from curb through my little patch of dirt. I realize these photos don't convey the lovely color and lush greenery outside my front door (I'll fix that with photos in a future post), but let me recreate the scene of the crime for you:

Tragic, right? I was angry my whole walk. I think the poor little lavender plant is going to make it, but still. The NERVE!

Sheesh, I need some mulch or beauty bark or something. That soil looks horrible.

Maybe I could construct a little rock wall. It would help hold in the top soil (the garden is on the slope of our driveway, and it's hard to keep the water from flowing over the top instead of seeping in to the ground). Plus, it would protect my plants from marauders.

I'll keep brainstorming.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Curly Girl

I'm making progress in the hair department. A friend told me last night she sees a noticeable difference and I can't tell you how happy that made me. I'm almost ready to schedule my follow-up appointment with Samantha and proudly show her my progress. I've pulled very little in the last 2 months and it shows.

Pearls: Meditations on recovery from hair pulling and skin picking

I recently ordered a copy of Pearls ("Meditations on Recovery from Hair Pulling"). It's written by Christina Pearson, a woman I discovered online, who has made her life's work to help people with trichotillomania. Here's a sample of her blog. Very encouraging.

Speaking of inspiring books: for any other curly heads out there, you've got to read this one: Curly Girl. I've owned a copy for almost 10 years, and I review it every once in a while to remind myself what's great about curly hair.

When I was seeing a counselor last year, I made several scrap book pages about my love/hate relationship with my hair. I'd like to share it here because of all the pictures I found at various stages of denial, acceptance, and eventually, good hair days. Remind me if I forget.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Letter to my future self

More and more friends are having kids. I expected that being around moms my age without kids of my own would make me feel left out. I thought it would feel like being single and watching friends get married. But I don't feel the same self-pity about not having babies. At least not yet. Hubbins and I agreed we wanted to be married for five years before kids. That seemed like a lifetime when we were engaged, but here we are, three years in already. I'm not in any hurry. In fact, I'm loving every minute of it.

But I'm thinking of other milestones in my life and just how much my whole outlook changed in the process: pre-drivers' license and post-drivers' license. College student and college grad. Hopeful home-body and exhausted world-traveler. Single and married.

Once the transition happened, it was hard to remember exactly what life was like before the change. I take all the "after" scenarios for granted now. Driving doesn't seem like the privilege or adventure it did at age 16. Commuting to and from school, studying for mid-terms and finals, attending classes five days a week all seems unimaginable now. I can still picture what I thought Africa would be like before I'd been there but the images that stand out are of the things I experienced while there: the view from Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town, eating Tilapia from Lake Victoria, seeing fireflies for the first time on a moonlit night in Uganda. No amount of conversation or study could have prepared me for the complexity and joy of being married, and I know we're still at the tip of the ice burg of understanding and appreciating each other. In each case, my perspective changed everything.

So I wrote a letter to my future self, Emily-when-she-is-a-parent, capturing this frame of mind in real time. I remember as a kid asking Mom and Dad what life was like before I was born. I don't know if they were just protecting me from fond reminiscing, or if they couldn't remember life before parenting, but those pre-kids years sounded boring. They were formative years for my parents' relationship and every one of the 33 years since then. But I've always thought of that brief span of time as a bland prologue. Just in case the same thing happens when we start a family, I want to remember what life was like from this side: happy and full.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The other half of my weekend

While crafting up a storm, here's what I didn't do on Saturday:

1) Laundry.

2) Shower (I took a walk/jog instead and got a sunburn).

3) Win at darts. 

When I was finally presentable, we went out to our favorite pub for a pint and a game of darts. This is me giving extra helpful advice to Hubbins, who was using my phone to take a picture of the pitiful scoreboard.

Side note: I'm a sore loser. Sometimes I get so mad I just make temper-tantrum shots and throw as hard as I possibly can. It got me a bulls eye ONE time. 

This shot made me laugh really hard. Check this out:

Please note that the dart is stuck into the adjoining wall. It bounced off the dart board at a funny angle and this was the result.

More helpful advice and a speech on the unfairness of the world:

"Take me home to my sewing machine!"

My creative weekend

Over the weekend, I had a surge of inspiration and decided our living room needed some perking up. I re-covered the throw pillows and brightened the room considerably.

I even had help.

Once I got going, I just couldn't stop! I gathered every pillow in the house and sewed like a crazy person. Patchwork ideas just kept coming to me.

Pretty soon there was no more room to sit. It looked like an old person's couch.

I maay have gotten carried away.

If I start posting photos of doilies on the arm rests
or a collection of beanie babies in the back window of my car,
send help.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I joined the YMCA at the end of March and have been using their equipment (the elliptical, mostly) 2-3 nights per week after work. I've noticed a big increase in energy and I've lost about 10 lbs. Booyah!

To keep myself motivated and avoid boredom, I enrolled in Zumba. I knew nothing about it except that it was an aerobics class offered one night a week which appealed to me for a couple reasons: 1) You can only glide in place on the elliptical so long without going crazy, 2) camaraderie is a good thing, especially for weight loss and 3) paying a class fee is motivation to attend each of the sessions (six weeks total, I think).

I Google-image-searched "Zumba" and wondered what the heck I'd gotten myself into (notice the chronology there? Enroll first, research later. That's how I roll).


I've attended two classes so far. For the record, it's nothing like the pictures I found online. The official website calls it a "program that fuses hypnotic Latin rhythms and easy-to-follow moves to create a one-of-a-kind fitness program that will blow you away." I call it a low-budget music video featuring bad drunk dancing. The instructor stands at the front of the room and the students (20 or so women) follow her lead. We dance to a specific play list and each song is choreographed for maximum calorie burnage.

I am proud of myself for going, especially because I didn't know what to expect and didn't know a soul. It's actually fun. Music definitely energizes me, so choreography as aerobics is genius. I just hate how awkward it feels while I'm learning. Instead of teaching individual steps and then putting them together sequentially, the instructor dances and we follow along. I want a lesson plan. Preferably with hand-outs. I'd like to study and practice and master this thing. Then I'll feel comfortable standing in front of a wall of mirrors with a crowd. But no, that's not how it works. You follow along the best you can, and learn by doing.

Week 1 goals: 1) don't fall flat on my asset and 2) do not, under any circumstances, make eye contact with myself in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors.

Week 2 goals: 1) do not pout during the fourth or fifth song when I start feeling sluggish and especially uncoordinated and 2) have fun and keep moving, even if my dance moves aren't perfect.

I like the instructor a LOT. She has normal body parts with curves but she is not afraid to SHAKE that booty! She told us in the first session that she exercises for energy, not for weight loss. She has fibromyalgia and the medication she takes prevents her from losing weight, but she stays active in order to function. She has the biggest smile I have ever seen and she obviously enjoys dancing. I'd like to be her friend. She's one of those people that presents herself to the world like she's giving hugs: taking it all in, making the most of life, enjoying the ride. Her personality alone is energizing.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Drew, this one's for you.

Read this post from my friend's blog to discover why I took pictures of a paper towel dispenser. With my phone. In a public restroom.

If a restaurant posts absurd instructions for hand drying, does it mean they like me? Or do they just assume I'm an idiot?