Archive for January, 2009

January 30, 2009

January Playlist

January Playlist

New music for a new year.

Well, last year’s music I never listened to  for a new year.

Lifted from WXPN’s top 100 songs of 2008.

Favorites include: 4, 5, 6, 9 and 13


1. The Ting Tings – That’s Not My Name

2. MGMT – Time To Pretend

3. Duffy – Mercy

4. David Byrne & Brian Eno – Strange Overtones

5. Vampire Weekend – Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

6. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal

7. Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire

8. The Hold Steady – Sequestered In Memphis

9. Elbow – Grounds For Divorce

10. Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You

11. The Felice Brothers – Frankie’s Gun!

12. My Morning Jacket – Highly Suspicious

13. Kate Nash – Foundations

14. Death Cab For Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart


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January 29, 2009

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

This is one of those books that’s been staring at me from one of my many New Books displays for quite some time now. It was published in May, which means it probably sat, unread, for at least three months.

I am so dramatic. People do check out books – even GOOD books – all the time! In fact, a quick check proves this book was checked out three times before I got my hot little hands on it.

Anyway, I digress. This book was published awhile ago, and the buzz has been buzzing ever since. Someone told my mother it was “The Best Book I’ve Ever Read In All Of My Life.” Now I don’t know if I will go that far, but about two chapters in, I was already nodding along with the insanely glowing blurbs on the back cover. And that’s saying a lot! Look at this!

“Rarely do I come across a book that makes me catch my breath, that reminds me why I wanted to be a writer — to make of life something beautiful, something enduring. The Underneath is a book of ancient themes — love and loss and betrayal and redemption — woven together in language both timeless and spellbinding. A classic.”– Alison McGhee, author of the New York Times bestselling Someday

It did make me catch my breath. It reminded me of the beauty of words and the beauty of nature. And classic? Well, yes. It has all the qualities of a Charlotte’s Web, a James and the Giant Peach.

The Underneath is the story of a calico cat, abandoned on a lonesome strip of road in the bayous of Western Louisiana. She finds shelter in The Underneath – the area under the porch of an isolated home. A chained up hunting dog, Ranger, lives there too, because his owner – a grizzled, ruthless loner named Gar-Face – accidentally shot him in the leg and wants nothing else to do with him. When the calico cat gives birth to twin kittens – a boy and a girl – they are a family of four, safe in The Underneath, not leavin except in the night to hunt for sustenance. And they are happy – Ranger happy for the company, and the little kittens happy to roll around and play-hunt and be with their mother. But when Gar-Face notices he has unwanted tenants under his porch, he sets of a chain of tragic happenings that separate the family and leave one member stranded in the threatening, eerie grounds of the swampy bayou.

It’s pretty easy to see the charm in this story – animals with families and friends, some suspense, a villian, et cetera. But where this book really shines, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t read like a picture book. Instead, Kathi Appelt weaves into her story folktale-like themes that tie the characters feelings to the greater feelings and energies in the world around them. She gives every creature in the bayou motivations, memories, and meaning – even the trees take a central role in the plot! And along with the story of the animals under the porch, there is an incredible story that took place thousands of years ago on the same land – a 100 foot long alligator, still living and preying, and a giant snake Grandmother who is trapped in jar buried deep beneath the earth. These semi-mythic creatures make the setting more vibrant and deepen the impact of the story. These characters have their stories as well, stories that recreate the stories told by native people on all parts of the globe.

I’m not one to be swayed by talking animals – hell, I whine that no one checked it out but I didn’t check it out either! – but this story is not cheesy in the least. I’d think this would be the perfect bedtime story book for a third or fourth grader – animals, a little suspense (but nothing *too* scary), and the writing is beautiful enough for any parent to enjoy. The National Book Award folks AND the Newbery committee would probably agree with me 🙂

Kathi’s Website | Booklist’s Story Behind The Story

January 27, 2009

Early Worm Gets The Worm

I’m trying to become an early riser, a goal I’ve had ever since I chanced upon this Zen Habits article. Have I mentioned my deep love for Zen Habits? It’s an excellent place to find smart, simple advice about 99% of life’s problems. I have turned to many articles during a time of great personal need. They are great for snapping oneself out of a mini-breakdown/existential funk.

Anyway, for me, getting up earlier has been hit or miss. It doesn’t help that I have about 7 different kind of mornings each week – Monday and Wednesday mornings are a lot different than Thursday and Friday, and none of those can compare to the all-day-sleep-fests that occur Saturday and Sunday morning…

From the Zen Habits article, this piece of advice stuck to me:

Have a good reason. Set something to do early in the morning that’s important. This reason will motivate you to get up. I like to write in the morning, so that’s my reason. Also, when I’m done with that, I like to read all of your comments!

So what are my good reasons for getting up early, at least on Tuesdays?

  • My delicious, sepia toned ritual

Tall glass of ice water

Big bowl of Kashi Go-Lean Crunch w/ soy milk

8 oz. of Bolthouse Farms green juice (yes, obsessed)

The Indulgent Thing I Don’t Otherwise Have Time For In My Day – The Sims 2

And The Writing Activity That Helps Empty My Head and Get Me In A More Thoughtful Mood For the Day – My Morning Pages


  • I like how an early morning seems to bring me more adventure. Waking up early is SO outside my daily routine. Everything I do before 9 a.m. is quite novel.

I’ve found myself reaching for my camera in these early hours. Especially when I wake up and see this:

Or, fighting off that early morning body fatigue, I take Adventures in Latte Making.

  • When I have enough time to do ALL THIS SWEET STUFF, and STILL have time to get ready for work at my slow-paced leisure?

It’s divine.

January 26, 2009

Pratt Institute

Applying for graduate schools is somewhat tedious, somewhat challenging, somewhat bank account draining…

But now that all the nonsense is (90%) over, I am left to mull over my choices. Of course, I can’t assume I’m going to be accepted by all these fine institutions, and Practical Jessica might prevail and go where the money leads her (especially in these sorry economic times), but for now it is all delightfully hypothetical. I spend a lot of time thinking about where I will be in the fall, and what kind of life I might lead, et cetera et cetera.

Today, the mail brought me a graduate bulletin from the Pratt Institute.

Of course the bulletin was beautiful. It’s a school of art and design, you know. That just happens to have a Library Science program.

+ It’s in Manhattan. I’ve always felt like living in New York City is just one of those things an American must do at some point in their life. Why not now!

+ It seems like a very romantic place to live, full of all sorts of fun. But maybe I’ve been reading too much Cup of Jo, too much Rockstar Diaries.

+Living in this city would surely gird my tender sensibilities for any city I might henceforth encounter.

– Even though it is quite scary to imagine living there.

– And I’ve heard it’s EXPENSIVO.

– So would be my education.

+ But it has a pretty cool looking program, focusing on some of my favorite things Literacy, Education, and Outreach (okay, I don’t like Outreach so much, but that’s just because I’m an introvert.) But it involves a lot of hands on library experience, working with real kids, real teens, and I *think* will prepare for either school or public librarianship. Fun stuff.

+ And working in a city that has its own society of cool librarians? The career connections I could make would be valuable.

+ Also, my friends would certainly be attracted to my coveted living locale, and would therefore be more likely to visit me!!

+ Public transportation is my friend.

+ And so is pretending I’m on Sex and the City.

+ And Pam went to school there, too!

The fictional people have spoken – NYC = the place to be.

Or one of the other four schools I applied to…

January 23, 2009

Books for Friday

Well, friends, I’m off for the weekend to the Land of Limited Internet Access.

The boy and I will be spending some Quality Time together – exchanging gifts (yes, I picked something), blowing through LOST Season 3 and the like. Oh, and dining with every member of his extended family, I’ve heard.

So I will be back on Sunday night, and until then, here are some good books:

Just Finished…

1. The Underneath by Kathi Appelt cutest book of life. review pending.

2. 1776 by David McCullough FINALLY!

3. What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell review here

4. French Milk by Lucy Knisly does the phrase “Adult Graphic Novel” make anyone else nervous?

Still Working On…

5. What Is The What by Dave Eggers working so-so-so hard on this one!

6. Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier

7. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates totally loving it.

8. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz

Looking forward to…

9. Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose

10. The Spectacular Now by Tom Tharp read the first few pages of this one, and I…uh… want to read it NOW

11. The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli christmas book! yay!

12 American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

P.S. Anyone else looking forward to the ALA book awards going out on Monday? Just me? Wait, nobody else is following the live feed on Twitter? Oh boy.

January 22, 2009

Love Letter 2009

Dear Lance,

It’s that Day of the Year again! You know which one I’m talking about. January 22nd. A very important day in history.

  • In 1927, the first live radio commentary of a football game hit the air.
  • In 1968, it was the day Apollo 5 was launched, the first lunar module, which would later carry men to the moon!
  • In 1973, Roe v. Wade was decided. Yay!
  • In 1985, your dearest mumsy brought you into this world, tiny and ready for a few weeks in an incubator, but otherwise healthy and ALIVE.

Oh, and in 2004, as she was piling herself under as many blankets she could find in order to regain feeling in her extremities after a late night pancake jaunt to Li’l Chef and back in the snow, you uttered those words so dear to an 18-year-old girl’s ears – “Would you be my girlfriend?”

It is also the day which I like to write you a love letter online. For the whole world to read. Because I’m just so cool like that.

But unlike last year, where I was brimming with wise words and reflections, this year, I am struggling. You probably could have figured that, being that most of our phone conversations of late include me struggling with something, usually something mundane, manageable, and dare-I-say, RETARDED. I am just in a struggling kind of place right now. I have been at various times during the past year, and let me give you a personal round of applause for handling me so well.

I am not always pleasant.

I am sorry for that.

But I am so happy that it hasn’t seemed to change your opinion of me. You still think I’m pretty cool. Right?

So 2008… I can safely look back upon this year I’ve spent with you, Lance, and say We Had A Mighty Good Time.

  • You treated me to an elaborate Valentine’s Day extravaganza, which included flowers, a present, Greek food and a Michigan beer sampler @ The Tuba Museum Restaurant, and my third (fourth?) viewing of Juno in the theater. And ice cream!
  • You played me happy birthday on your trumpet, in front of all your friends.
  • We visited Louisville, Atlanta , New Orleans, Galveston Island, and San Antonio together.
  • One night, we slept in my car together.
  • We watched two seasons of LOST.
  • We ate a lot of Qdoba and Grill of India, and drank a lot of red wine.
  • You finally read some books that I recommended. And I even read one that you recommended to me! 🙂
  • We took the prerequisite adventures to Lansing, Ann Arbor and Flint, plus some visits to the greater Detroit area.
  • I spent many a weekend holed up in your delightfully stress-free domicile.

I had a good time this year, Lance, but I can’t help but think about all the partings we’ve had to make, the goodbyes where I’m in tears and you’re at arms and we are kind of arguing because

Me (the pessimist) says: We always have to say goodbye. This is so annoying. And I hate it. And I’m tired of having to drive 2+ hours away from you just so I can go to sleep and the gym and to all my stuff. It sucks! It sucks so much, I just want to cry.

and then

He (the optimist) says: Don’t cry! We had so much fun this weekend! Why are you crying about the good time you had? We’ll see each other soon!

I know we are both right. It’s an argument that will never be won. But I struggle with it, believe me. We are apart for good reason. You are still finishing school, and have a loving mommy who puts you up and helps you out with gas money while you take X amount of credits/work in the wee morning making donuts for minimum wage/student teach. I am only working part time, and have equally loving parents who let me live rent free while I get ready for grad school and save my pennies.

It’s not an ideal situation. But it’s practical. Neither of us plan on growing roots in either of our hometowns, so why bother throwing money away in rent?

And this is the struggle, for me. We’ve talked about this before, but what is the difference between

and any number of other, non-celebrity, non-Scientologist couples

Couple X,

the impractical pair who meet, fall in love, and within a year, or even a month, have moved in together, become engaged, or even ran off and got married.

and

Couple Us,

who have been through a hell of a lot, have basically grown into adults together, have put in our time, and paid our dues, but still live miles and miles apart.

Why does something that is so easy for everyone else (read: friends, acquaintances, half of the human race it seems) take us five years? Why, after two years and four months, are we still so far apart, if we love each other so much?

How can I have so much fun with you, and then feel such pain when we have to leave? Does that make this a good year? A bad year?

A draw?

Your cell phone is broken, useless. You are student teaching every day. I am still working, commuting, and just reclaimed my own phone. The lines of communication seem somewhat severed now that I can’t call you during my lunch break, and you can’t email until after I’m home from work. When we do talk, I’m tired. Or you’re tired.

mosaic645216

this is what i look like when i talk to you on the phone. for real.

My comforts?

1. My parents spent a year apart. They didn’t have cell phones. They didn’t even have long distance. They had letters. And they’ve been married for over 30 years.

2. 2008 was swell. But 2009? This is when it all comes together for us, Lance. I can feel it.

3. It’s you that I am whiny about, you that I cry about, you that I just can’t get enough of. You that I get to talk to on the phone every day, you who lets me wake you up too early. You who encourages me to do the things I just talk about doing, you who listens to all my bad music. You who raps for my little sisters’ entertainment. You who actually enjoys spending hours upon hours in Barnes and Noble. You who tells me to look at the moon because it’s huge and therefore likely to crash toward the earth at any moment. You who comes to work with me, so you can sit in a library and wait for me to get out. You who lets me take photobooth pics of you to my heart’s content.

You have my history, my entire last five years, and I hope at least five more.

At the end of the day, whether we are apart for months, years, or living in the same walk-in closet, it’s you, you you.

You kinda make it worth all the hassle.

Love,

Jessica

P.S. I still don’t know what to get you. Darn you birthday & anniversary on the same day, less than a month past Christmas!!

January 20, 2009

The Most Worthy of News

In an unusual feat of advanced preparation, I took my time getting ready for work this morning and found a few spare moments to throw an episode of The Office and put on my makeup.

Bonus points if you know which episode I watched!

By about 11:45 a.m., my efforts at facial beautification had been spoiled.

Crying. In my car. Mascara smears. Listening to NPR.

Of course, my father’s voice (often the voice of my most self-defeating natures, sadly enough), began to rain on my parade.

I mean, last night he uttered the phrase “Lord Obama.” At the dinner table. There are plenty of Americans who don’t want me to be happy about today. I get it. I don’t remember anything about Bush’s inauguration day because it didn’t register as something worth my time. I get it, I really do.

But there’s a lot to be excited about.

  • This is my first inauguration where the person I voted for actually WON (save for the 04 congress seats)
  • This is the end of eight long years of Bush. Any change would be noteworthy.
  • This is the end of eight long years of Republican Reign. Enough to bring this Democrat to tears.
  • This is our first African-American President (not including the half dozen who have purported African-American roots lol)
  • This is also the first inauguration since I took a course on the Civil Rights Movement.
  • This is the first inauguration in twelve years where it was wrapped up neatly in a bow – the people spoke decisively.

Excitement does not equal worship, okay Daddy Dearest?

In other, far less epic news – I have been tagged! By Kiddlebug, owner of a delicious etsy shop… one of those places that makes me yearn for small children of my own to dress up. You know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, I love being tagged for silly little memes. Because mostly, I am a silly little girl. So if you are ever hunting for someone to tag, Tag Me! I’ll be delighted. That being said, I don’t like tagging other people much. I feel like I’m imposing. So feel free to repost this meme on your own – You Are All Tagged! Or just leave me a comment and say, HEY I LOVE BEING TAGGED, and I will henceforth Tag You For All Things.

7 Random Facts About Miss Shortskirt

1. My car is constantly a wreck. We’re talking soda cans, spills, wrappers etc. It’s sick. I try my bestest to keep old food out, but especially during the October-April months, it’s hard to find motivation to brave the cold and clean her out.

2. I am a mostly indiscriminate movie watcher. I will enjoy (almost) everything.

3. That being said, I own copies of both Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants movies, A Cinderella Story, License to Wed, and New York Minute. And I saw The Happening twice.

4. In high school, I was in Fame, The Wizard of Oz, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Music Man and Li’l Abner. I played a Music Student, a Singing Flower, Gad’s Wife, Ethel Toffelmeier and a Wife. Obviously destined for stardom.

5. I took eight years of piano lessons, with four different instructors.

6. I took three years of vocal lessons, with two different instructors.

7. I have only had two lesson teachers that didn’t make me cry at some point. Obviously cut out for a career in the unforgiving field of music.

January 18, 2009

Resolutions Revisited

It is January 18th, almost three weeks into 2009.

The Year of My Fabulous Writing Career.

I’ve been thinking about exactly what that entails for me, my New Year’s Resolutions. I’m loving my New Year’s To-Do List because it’s easy to see what I’ve been doing to work toward my goals.

My new planner is turning into a doodly art journal of sorts, which could be a great solution for This Girl who occasionally lacks creative energy – #2

Oscar Noms aren’t out yet, but I’m working on the EW long-list: Dark Knight, Benjamin Button, and Frost/Nixon down, and The Visitor in my DVD player – #4

I set my alarm for 7:20 a.m. every weekday this week. And while I don’t think I got up at 7:20 any of those days, it’s getting a little easier to hear that alarm go off – #5

In my room, I have a bag of batting, yards and yards and yards of fabric, and a piece of flannel so large you could mummify yourself with it. I have a pattern. The fabric is washed, but not yet ironed – #6

I just finished my 6th book of 2009 – #7

3 young adult, 1 adult historical nonfiction, 1 adult graphic novel, and 1 juvenile fiction – #8

And even though my checking account is smaller than my credit card bill, I’m still socking away 70 dollars ever paycheck – #10

But I’m not writing.

I’m not planning any writing (unless ordering MelCat books on obscure topics that I’ll probably never read and just end up sending back overdue counts), not revising, not scheming…

It feels like I’m already failing.

Urgh.

What I have done:

1) Studied an entire book (a feat for me)

2) Thought of a good way to store/utilize said study material

3) Brainstormed a new project, including some written plot musings

4) Written my three, handwritten morning pages each day this week (except for Friday because I was doing manual labor at work and, apparently, getting sick)

5) Revisited Book #2, and decided a revision/rewrite is in order.

What I haven’t done:

1) Written anything

I’m kind of okay with this, but kind of not. As in, on a day to day basis, I’m satisfied with my life and what I’ve been spending my time on. It’s only when I look back at this goal and when I read that I get the urges and then begin to kick myself for not having a writing project on the burner…

The remedy? A plan.

Two weeks of January were for getting up to speed, easing back into the Writing State of Mind, thinking, ruminating, and getting to feeling good about it.

Third week of January will be the physical readiness for writing. The printing of appropriate drafts. The assembling of notebooks, plans, and organizing of ideas. The cleaning of the writing space.

Fourth week of January is for The Reading of The Draft, The Crafting of the Outline, The Gearing Up.

And February? We Revise.

January 16, 2009

What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell

Finished this little number while ellipticalling at the gym last night. I was looking greatly forward to reading it – it won the National Book Award, and, at the time,I was squarely in a retrolicious, Mad Men State of Mind. Still am, actually, especially since I finally started listening to Revolutionary Road. And what a cover! A little noir-y, with a girl who looks just a little too young for that lipstick…

Evie is just a little too young for lipstick, too young for that dress, and too young to fall in love, or so says her mother. That stuff is for grown-ups, like her mother and Joe, Evie’s stepfather who has just returned from the war. They are in love for sure, and when Joe suggests they get away from Brooklyn for a week, Evie and her mother pack their bags and hop in the car. But Palm Beach isn’t the oasis Evie imagined. It’s off-season, the city is basically deserted, and the only people staying in the hotel are busy with those grown up activities that Evie just isn’t allowed to do. It’s boring. Until Peter checks in.

Peter is a grown-up too, but Evie doesn’t care. Taking cues from the women in her life – her gorgeous mother and the kind guest, Mrs. Grayson – Evie sets out to draw him to her. But she’s too caught up in her schoolgirl romance to notice the grown-ups are up to something too. And that something could be very, very dangerous.

Compared to past National Book Award winners, this book definitely flew under the radar. I’m not sure it lives up to its predecessors – the you’ll-laugh-you’ll-cry charm of The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian, or the completely epic The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. And I’m pretty sure Frankie Landau-Banks got robbed. But What I Saw and How I Lied deserved to be a contender, for sure. I really enjoyed this story.

Evie is caught between childhood (a world that doesn’t tug on her heartstrings or anything) and a womanhood she’s not equipped to handle, and this book is her coming of age tale. Her voice really captures her specific point of view – she’s fascinated by details of adult life, excited to be away from the neighborhood where everyone knows everyone, but she occasionally falls back into the cliches and expectations of her childhood. It lends itself for a mix of apt descriptions and moments of introspection. And the relationships between Evie and her mother and stepfather are so layered and authentic, I wanted to eat them up, I swear. I wanted a whole book about her mother, what she was like as a child, and what Joe did while he was in the war. And the love interest, Peter, is certainly worthy of Evie’s admiration. And of course, the plot. There are twists. There are turns. The story gets more and more noir-ish as the pages turn, and nearing the end I was flipping pages faster than I could read them.

I liked it. I really did. In fact, if you’ve read something like this book, let me know, cause I’m gonna run out and read that one too.

January 15, 2009

A Great Day!

Thursday! What a great day!

For Sister Three and Sister Four, it’s a Snow Day! (Well, a cold day. -20 windchill day)

I woke up feeling cold-coldy-cold, my feet hanging off the edge of my bed because I built a wall of pillows against the window…

but it was a Not Too Awful To Wake Up Day!

And then I looked at the date and realized it was JEANS DAY!

Purple shirt and jeans day!

Transcript from earlier this A.M.:

Me: Psst. Caroline. Wake up.

Caroline: [growls from under covers]

Me: Where is that shirt of mine that is kind of blueish purple that you’ve been wearing all week?

Caroline: [throws back covers]

Me: Oh. You’re sleeping in it.

Caroline: [waves me away so she can get naked in peace]

Jeans day also means Don’t-Have-To-Worry-About-Snow-In-My-Shoes-Cause-I’m-Wearing-My-Boots Day!

YAY FOR JEANS DAY!

And today, I got to see the Summer Reading T-Shirts. Very stylish.

It was also a Day of a Free Starbucks Caramel Macchiato On The Way To Work, since Lance’s grammy gave me a giftcard for Christmas 😀

Annnnnd it will also be The Day I Finally Finish Listening to 1776 on audio, (Spoiler Alert: The Continental Army WINS) and move on to Revolutionary Road.

AND THE DAY THE OFFICE RETURNS!

Oh what a great day.

How about you? What kind of day are you having?

This could very well  become The Day I Fall Asleep At My Desk At 3:30 Because My Caffeine High Can Only Last So Long day. But that is certainly something to worry about later.