Monday, July 20, 2009

The 48-hour Reading Challenge!

...or, well, not exactly 48 hours...more like...I dunno, eight to twelve? A bit more?

So I'm going to do this thing over. With rules this time.

I went into it sort of half-assedly. I read the page with the announcement and guidelines, and talked to Elise about her experience doing the same thing on her own, and stocked up with Smart Ones, Lean Cuisines, and 100-calorie packs so I wouldn't have to cook at all during the weekend. I selected ten or so way overdue library books (bad me. BAD LIBRARIAN!)--perhaps a little optimistic, but I wanted backups in case I didn't like the one I was reading, and I didn't want to waste time rifling through my collection deciding on another, because I would most likely take gobs of time doing that...and I wanted to spend my time reading, goldurnit! (Almanzo Wilder said that in Farmer Boy, and he was so ashamed of himself. *sigh*...I need a Little House reading weekend...and a Judy Blume...and a Beverly Cleary...and an L.M. Montgomery...and a Maeve Binchy...)

So I had my little stack, and my foodstuffs, and Neil was all kinds of supportive of it. I was planning on starting Friday night after dinner, maybe 8:00 or so.

This was my first mistake. Next time, I am STARTING AT A CONCRETE HOUR. None of this "whenever I get settled in" crap.

Because, you see, my sister came over to work with Neil on her website. And I thought I could just go in our bedroom, lay on my tummy on the bed, put a pillow at the foot to rest my arms in and put the book in front of the pillow (I have a definite system for reading in bed) while she was there. But did I retreat? Oh, no. Lily is much too fun! I stayed up with her and Neil until we were all yawning and fighting sleep...we chatted and looked through catalogs and laughed at recent familial hilarity and so on. And it was a great Friday night! I regret none of it.

But, it didn't start my 48-Hour Weekend Reading Challenge off well. I tried to read a bit after she left, though I was dog-tired...but instead I fell asleep on the couch for two hours. I stumbled into the bedroom (teeth unbrushed and unflossed), contacts clinging to my eyeballs voraciously, and set the alarm for 7:30.

Saturday included a necessary errand--taking my car into All-Star Automotive for alignment and to get a re-issue of my inspection, which had failed miserably last Saturday due to the huge crack in the windshield that was TOTALLY STARTED when I bought the car but I didn't notice because it was right on the windshield-wiper line, and when I called Toyota a month later, they refused to believe me so I had to pay out of pocket for the whole replacement. But I'm not at all bitter or ANYTHING. Anyway...we dropped off the car, then stopped in Barnes & Noble where I accidentally purchased the last issue of Simple Scrapbooks (it is a Collector's Item, people! how could I not?) and a British scrapbooking magazine encased in plastic which was apparently enough to warrant its $11.95 price tag. I know from experience that the Brits SUCK at scrapbooking, but when I see everyday British magazines on sale at B&N I often cannot help myself. Because despite not having the very, very best of times there, I do miss an awful lot about England. (And NOT just Harry Potter's wang, I swear. I also miss living on the same street that Rent was playing.)

Okay, so we go back home, and putter around a bit, and I shriek "I am going to start reading at 10! If I don't make a time, I'll *never start*!" I set up my station in the bedroom, all windows open to let in the RIDICULOUS 73-degree July air, and cracked open Alphabet Weekends.

I like books with multiple perspectives, a la Maeve Binchy, and this promised to be such a book.

And I was liking it all right. But not loving it, you know? And I wanted to love something, especially if I was committing to this read-all-day thing. I hadn't had that in awhile. I was also reading Inkheart at work, a chapter a day during lunch because it mostly sucks but I want to give it a chance, listening to The Host on audiobook in the car on the way to work, and was about seventy pages into Then We Came to the End (cool cover, look!)

...but I hadn't been as happy with it as I thought I would. I'm not giving up on it, yet, but it's just not a super-fun read.

So I put aside Alphabet Weekends for the time being, and took up an epistolary....because I loooooooove epistolaries!! This one, Which Brings Me to You, was the ticket:

Couldn't put this sucka down. Billed as "a novel in confessions," it tells what amounts to a backwards love story. But instead of flashbacks, the hero & heroine tell their backstories to each other through letters, just after they've met for the first time--both hoping to meet again. Almond and Baggott are co-authors, and [I assume] Almond wrote the guy's letters, and Baggott the gal's. I read this through the rest of Saturday, finishing right before 2:00 Sunday morning.

Okay, but it wasn't like I read solidly through Saturday, as I'd wanted to. No, there were plenty of Bejeweled breaks, WordTwist pauses, Guitar Hero moments, Google Reader, e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter checks (yes, I rejoined...I'm probably following you if you're on there, so follow me back so we can dish!)...I think I watched some TV, and I *know* the Golden Girls made an appearance for an hour or so. Or an hour and a half, or perhaps two. (Between Blanche's sass and Sophia's constant need for independence despite the handicap of old age, I really can't control them.)

Sunday was much like Saturday, except I was reading a different book: Pretty Little Mistakes.

I was kind of wary about it, but mostly excited. A "do-over novel," with "one beginning, 150 endings: the choice is yours." And, at 504 pages, this isn't one of those dog-eared slim Bantam books of yore:
(Not that this is, either...I just liked the photoshopped cover.)

What I soon discovered was that this adult version of the old Choose Your Own Adventure-style books was depressing. Each of the 150 endings (well, I'm assuming "each" since I'm not done yet--I'm probably halfway through but I have NO IDEA how many pages I've read and this is EXACTLY why the kid versions drove me crazy because my neurotic self MUST read EVERY SINGLE page, every option, before I can consider the book "done") tells how you die, and while some are, I guess, *meant* to be nice (i.e. You live to the very old age of 102, surrounded by family and friends, and heaven is a opalescent meadow filled with all the loved ones who preceded you in death), some are terrible, like being randomly stabbed in the street by a schizophrenic. No matter how pleasant the book makes death sound, I still hate hate hate reading about it. Someone just died in The Host, and after sobbing through pretty much most of the last half of HP7 in the car, I am SO DONE with sad or depressing things in books. DONE. (Of course, I cry All The Time while reading L.M. Montgomery, but somehow it's different.)

And? The crap you get yourself into (yeah, it's second person...another mark against it, as far as I'm concerned) is insane. In-SANE. Bordering on ridiculous, in many cases (practicing voodoo in Iceland? Running across a football field at halftime nude with meat strapped to your chest?). I soooo almost put this book down, several times. It's to the point now where I'm interested enough to keep reading, far enough along where I might as well just finish off the damned thing already, and somehow, begrudgingly, liking it.

Okay, so final tally from the weekend: About one and a half books. Not terrible, but definitely not what I'd hoped from it. So I've decided, I'm doing this again...because I really didn't make it a challenge at all. I stopped often to pursue other leisure activities, and it ended up just being a weekend where I read a lot.

Next time: No internet. No TV. No video games. No phone (not that I'm a phone talker...but it's the principle of the thing, people). Start at a pre-arranged time Friday night, and don't deviate. And maybe put some shorter, YA-level books in the mix, like the copy of I Love You, Beth Cooper that just arrived from PaperbackSwap, or really do have a whole weekend dedicated to a single author. Log hours more thoroughly, as well as pages read.

Maybe in the next few weeks, I'll be able to. The report is forthcoming...and let's hope it encompasses more than a book and a half.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ideas are rampant...

...but free time is not. I have a list in my planner (I am SORT OF REGULARLY keeping up with a planner, you guys!! Can you believe it? It's only taken 32 years!) of 'things I want to blog about,' (y'all, I still need to recap our NKOTB concert! I started it, but life got in the way) but until I choose to make time to cover those topics, it'll be more of this:

Ten things about the last 24 hours that didn't suck

1. Kicked some ACE last night drumming, with Neil on guitar, on Guitar Hero World Tour. I love that it's a game about collaborating to get through the level, rather than competing against each other! (And I'm totally competitive, so this is a coup for me.)

2. Made a delicious, filling, and VERY WW-friendly dinner last night: soft tacos with seasoned ground turkey, fat-free refried beans (with chiles & lime), reduced fat sour cream, WW shredded cheese, taco sauce, and fresh salsa. I should make this a staple--I love it every time. And I have no desire for *anything else* all evening when I make it!

3. Neil got up with me this morning, which is always so darling. I love having his impossibly smiley face around before I leave for work!

4. I found Chris Harrison's Twitterfeed, Jillian's blog, and Chris' EW blog this morning. Yay for juicy Bachelorette inside scoops! (Sorry to see Reid go, but at least the Men Tell All is next week!)

5. I've been slogging away at this miserable cart of materials at work...a cart that I thought would take me maybe half a day, escalated into almost a full week. Ugh ugh ugh. But this morning, I finished it with a flourish, and strolled it over for processing.

6. Another work-related pleasantry: I'd been putting off my boss' suggestion to e-mail this cataloging list-serv for advice on a quandary we're having on Dewey numbers, because I was afraid I'd get back negative or condescending responses from some of the more pompous catalogers. I finally bit the bullet and posted this morning, and within half an hour, received five very nice and helpful pieces of advice (and only one slightly douchey e-mail). I forwarded the best idea to my boss, she loved it, and something I was dreading for weeks has suddenly been resolved.

7. I fully and completely updated my planner today. I mentioned above I only *sorta* keep up with it, so when I get my act together and update everything, it feels good.

8. Fake WW is going awesome--I'm not hungry, I'm not yearning for anything horrible for me, and I've made a resolution to stick with this every day until our StL/Chicago trip next month, when I'll take a couple days off (there ain't nothing at Portillo's you can get and stay within points allowance).

9. It's Bastille Day, which always reminds me of the Place de la Bastille, where my hostel was in Paris. Which was actually a shitty, rainy little trip, but it did have its moments. Pere Lachaise was my favorite.

10. My car needs its plates renewed at the end of this month, which has turned into a big dumb hassle since there's a big crack in my windshield, and during the inspection, the people reported that my alignment was all off--which I could totally feel on the highway every day. Because of this, my tire treads were rubbed slick, 20,000 miles before they were really supposed to be replaced. SO, this month we'll need to have all four tires replaced, my alignment fixed, my windshield replaced, the car inspected, and the plates renewed. I made an appointment today for the windshield replacement, and everything else is almost ready to be taken into the this source of irritation is *almost* over.

*bonus* 11. Facilities finally visited my cubicle area to check on the vent, and indeed, it was 'up a little high.' So maybe I won't get so warm each afternoon, yay! desk is pretty dusty. Time to get out the can of air! (LOVE those things!)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I've skipped June entirely!

....but it was SO crazy. So it's okay.

A virtual (and perhaps soon, IRL) friend, Mel, posts a weekly "Randoms" entry on her blog...which is basically what I do ALL the time, but I like that she makes it a habit. So even though *this* entry is a tiny bit linear, I want to make the "Randoms" entries more of a feature, instead of just saying "Um....I don't really have a point here, so here's a bunch of stuff on my mind/what's been going on."

1. June 2-4 was spent in a GORGEOUS, three-room hotel suite at Tan-Tar-A in Osage Beach. Our room was three flights up (no elevator!) but the view, and the swank, was totally worth it. oh, and it was free, so that was DOUBLE worth it. :) The conference was absolutely wonderful, the weather mild, and the outlet mall pleasing. The first night, Brandy and I went out after the keynote speaker (he completely rocked), buying a box of wine (i.e., a box containing 6 bottles of wine, not a boxed wine) from Hy-Vee. We used their cold water wine-cooler thing, and it was way nifty! I chose my favorite white wine from Summit Lake Winery, plus a cute pink polka-dot-bottle Riesling, and, to keep things classy, a $4 metal bottle of Beaujolais with a dot that changes color when it gets cold. That's right--like Coors. We drove through some decidedly unhealthy places to bring dinner back, met Neil in the lobby, and ate in front of the glass walls, amazed at the utter deluge of rain that suddenly came upon the region. Then we trooped up to Brandy's room in the maze that was her hotel wing, Cindy joining us, to partake of the wine.

The next day was the full conference day--normally the kind of thing where I'd be plagued with social anxiety and wondering who I'd sit with and afraid I'd have to eat lunch alone and feeling out of place wandering about alone. But with all of my FABULOUS co-workers joining us for the entire day, I needn't have worried! I've never been surrounded by so many folks who make me feel so comfortable in a work environment. We hung out all day, various folks splitting off into their sessions, reuniting for lunch and breaks, and generally having a great time. The sessions themselves were surprisingly informative, but I'm not sure how much you want to hear about how much I learned about Authority Control or What's New In Cataloging.

That evening, everyone took off, but I was staying one more day for post-conference training. Neil and I visited the outlet mall, grabbed some snacks from Wal-Mart, and ate some nasty, congealed hotel-Sbarro's pizza for dinner.

2. The next event was the day after we returned to Columbia--my 32nd birthday! We had a leisurely morning, then set off for StL at around 2:30 for the weekend. We grabbed Taco Bell for an early dinner and took it in with us at the hotel--a $67-a-night Marriott in Westport Plaza--what a deal! After a little while (and a nap!), we got dressed and headed to the Fox for a night I'd been looking forward to for a YEAR. I was so, so, so excited! Just seeing the familiar weird pyramid-ish structure of junk metal and bicycle tires and mannequin heads onstage was enough to make my heart beat faster. Neil had never seen Rent, and I was so hoping he'd like it...I've *never* taken anyone who hasn't. It was the signed performance, which could have been really interesting....except my eyes were only for Adam and Anthony. This was the Broadway Tour, which meant the cast was pretty much the same cast as the one that had closed the show on Broadway last fall (except Mark and Roger, of course) other words--AMAZING. By far, the best cast I'd ever seen together. Angel was astoundingly energetic, and added in little things here and there I'd never seen before. Andy Senor, London's Angel, returned here for a lesser chorale role. No one can compare to Jesse L. Martin or Taye Diggs, but Collins and Benny weren't at all bad. (Oh, and I learned something--I overheard someone saying weekend matinees were when understudies usually step in for shows like this. Duly noted, stranger-girl behind me in the bathroom line!)

...Whoa, sorry for geeking out there. It was a great, great night.

The next day, we went first to Panera for breakfast (egg and cheese souffle, whoo), and then stopped at a Trader Joe's. Then was the Galleria, after which Neil dropped me off at Emily's for some girl-and-Noah time. He spent a few hours in Vintage Vinyl at the Delmar Loop, while I enjoyed myself catching up with the Southerlands and taking a sun-dappled walk over to The Cupcakery for Indulgence Time (also, I could watch Noah play in the fountain for HOURS). And they had the cookies. Oh, Frosted Sugar Cookies, why must you be so perfect? I refrained from eating anything then, because our next plans required an empty stomach--meeting Neil at the Loop for dinner at Fitz's. Fried pickle slices...fresh grape soda...and the Chili Frito Burger. You can't even eat that thing with your hands. For real. And forget eating any of the fries. The only way your tummy can have room for those is if you sample them first. And you know me, I'm a one-thing-at-a-time eater.

Next, Neil and I said our goodbyes and headed to Star Clipper for a short stop to get us some Kasoogi Uglydolls, and were glad to lurch into our hotel room shortly thereafter to recover from the day.

Sunday was another gorgeous day (the weather is always perfect on my birthday, without fail), and we slept in a bit, then packed up, checked out, and spent a little while at our favorite side-by-side stores: R.E.I. for Neil, The Container Store for me. One last stop at the Galleria for California Pizza Kitchen (we both got pepperoni--you may say that's against the rules, but I'm telling you, their pepperoni is AWESOME), and we headed home to Columbia.

3. The next five days were spent working and preparing--for the big trip, a week in Oak Island, North Carolina with the Dazets. We left Saturday morning, traveling to Knoxville the first night and the rest of the way on Sunday.

Actually, you know what? I'm saving this one. Because I actually have pictures for it.

So, to be continued...hopefully sometime during the upcoming awesome 3-day weekend! And STEVE is gonna be here! Yay for brothers!