Archive for November, 2009

November 30, 2009

substance abuse

When I was on my epic Thanksgiving Adventure, I had a lot of caffeine. Because I was doing a lot of driving, and driving requires caffeine (or at least from what I remembered, seeing as I don’t drive in Boston). Also, hanging out with my sisters requires caffeine, if for no other reason than to just keep up with their very welcome, albeit constant demands. (“Let’s drive to Manchester!” “My cookie dough is broken! Fix it!”)

I expected some kind of backlash. As you might remember, all I usually drink is 1 can of Diet Something and get on with my life. But I had Rockstars. Canned doubleshots. Multiple cans of Diet Somethings. Felt no worse for the wear.

Once a week or so, I do go to Starbucks here, to get a single shot of something sweet. Mostly to combat a VERY tired morning, or to help with that Thursday, Why Can’t It Be Friday slump.

This morning was one of those VERY tired mornings, and I woke knowing I had a lot on my plate. I was late to my appointment at the Apple Store, had to miss morning class, and have been in the school library ever since pushing out this paper that is SO. EPICALLY. BAD. Then I have a few hours of class to look forward to! And we didn’t get home until 9 last night.

So I ordered a Double Tall Peppermint Mocha with Skim Milk and Whipped Cream. Delicious. My mood was sky high this morning, especially when the Geniuses called me at TEN A.M. to tell my computer was done, and they quoted me 80 bucks less than the other Geniuses. I was talking fast, talking loudly, typing and printing and checking the internet and listening to music! And being so happy about it all! In control.

And now, I’m hazy in the caffeine crash. I’m hot and cold and weird, my stomach feeling crazy, not sure what to do with the food it was so hungry for, and I feel distinctly like I need to detox. Like it was a mistake. Like I want nothing more than to fast forward time until I can sleep and start over again in the morning.

You let me down again, caffeine. You lift me up, then drop me on my ass, and I feel like an idiot. Again.

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November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

I slip easily back into this house, this house where I lived for ten years. The people are the same. Well, they are different, but same enough. Predictable enough. My sisters seem more grown up without me, my dad’s health seems worse, and when I get a glass of water from the kitchen, Jersey doesn’t run over and beg for an ice cube. The furniture has been rearranged. I miss having enough furniture to rearrange. There’s a new kind of snack in the snack drawer, a new car in the driveway, a new person eligible to drive the cars in the driveway. My car is the same, side mirror still duct taped.

I’m probably different too, but in a same enough kind of way. I used to stay up after everyone went to sleep, and now I’m looking for a dark room, any dark room, to lie down in at 11:00 p.m. I’m the first one to bed.

I walked in the door and I don’t even remember my apartment in Boston. This is where I belong. I suddenly hate my apartment, for being too small, too empty, for smelling weird and feeling so cold.

The only thing that draws me back to the East Coast is this schoolwork. Grad school stops for no holiday weekend. There are still books to read (seven), tedious papers to write (two), even more tedious pages of assignments (sixteen).

So I read four,

Nation by Terry Pratchett, which was long and interesting but completely devoid of any inspiration for the paperwriting that must ensue today,

Stay! Keeper’s Story by Lois Lowry, which was probably one of my favorite Lowry books, strangely enough, being as it is a first person narrative of a dog’s life,

Looking Back: A Book of Memories by Lois as well. I found it thoughtful and inspiring and, thankfully, short, and

Gathering Blue. No, it wasn’t as good as The Giver, and the threads that join the two companion books seem tenuous.

 

I’ve also been drinking energy drinks, which is neither as fun nor as painful as I thought it would be. Eating too much. There are some things that should never be in my kitchen. Most of those things fall under the category of Sour Cream and Cheddar. Sitting. Feeling thankful that, even though I hate my apartment, I get out of the house and walk somewhere almost every day. And that, no matter how much this pains me on some days, there is no convenient place for me to buy canned and bottled beverages on my way to my every day activities.

I have been talking to my grandparents, helping my sister make cookies, unloading the dishwasher, going to the bar, waiting in line outside Target at 4:30 in the morning, taking a guided tour of the old prison, allowing Say Yes to the Dress toy with my emotions, using my sister’s laptop, sleeping on the couch, and waking up with a sore neck kind of headache.

Four days is a long time but not long enough.

November 22, 2009

Fifteen by Beverly Cleary

I’m sure my classmates would disagree with me, but I’m really enjoying the sheer variety of books being shoved down our throats we are lucky to have on our syllabus.

We have read a good number of Printz winner, Newbery Awards both old and new. We read books for young children published in 1944 (Nineteen Forty-Four! Books older than our parents!) and books for older teens with late 2009 pub dates (although those are somewhat annoying to find at the library).

I like it. I do, I do. It makes me happy, to be reading all these books that I would never read otherwise, and it’s making me want to read more widely, just because now I know it’s just as much fun as reading narrowly. If that makes sense.

Anywho, this week I spent a few hours reading this gem of a retro-read

This book didn’t win any awards, in 1956 when it was published. It has very few redeeming features, no plot to speak of, and Jane is the precursor to every modern YA narrator whose sole personality trait is “low self esteem.”

That being said, I am happy to read new things, and I was totally into this book. In an ironic kind of way. Like watching Stick It.

It did, however, bring some new perspective to my life.

  • I am glad girls are now allowed to call up boys. Many a chapter of Jane’s teen angst could be solved if she was allowed to do anything more than wait by the phone.
  • I am glad Chinese food has been sufficiently Americanized that I am not de facto afraid of eating it. I’ve never sat and stressed about the precise contents of my moo goo gai pan because it never occurred to me that I should do anything other than eat it and say “mmmmmmm.”
  • I am glad doggy diets do not regularly consist of freshly delivered horse meat.
  • I am glad YA books that use the phrase “horse meat” more than five times in a chapter are a thing of the past.
  • I am glad that I have never felt a compulsion to order coffee when I wanted a chocolate coke float, to dress like the most popular girl in school to impress a boy, or to be anything other than my charming (or not so) self around guys. Maybe this is unusual, but it has saved me a lot of stress over the years.
  • I am glad I get to read crazy books like this one and then go to class and listen to how my classmates will attempt to academicize it for 90 minutes. My life’s entertainment these days.

All that good feeling aside, my MacBook broke this morning. The backlight mechanism has failed. So I can’t see my screen. And the Geniuses say 180 bucks. Which I don’t really have.

What I do have is 1/3 of a novel left to write in 8 days, including 2 days spent entirely in a vehicle, and three more weeks of class.

And a backup desktop, I guess.

And my boyfriend calls me back.

November 19, 2009

five days!

This really hasn’t been my week. I was a little bit sick over the weekend and ever since then my motivation levels have sunk beyond recognition. I wake up and feel sleepy, get dressed and feel sleepy, go to work and feel sleepy. I’m getting my 8 hours (or close to it), which means yes, I am going to bed at 10:30 every night, but it doesn’t seem to help. Resorting to artificial stimulants again. “Being too hard on myself,” I’m reluctant to chalk it up to the ebb and flow of the seasons, or the wear and tear of the semester. I must be doing something wrong, here, there’s something I can fix.

I’ll let you know if I ever figure out what that is.

Anyway, I have some exciting news for you.

News #1: Phillip Hoose takes home the National Book Award!

If you guys missed my earlier post, I’ll let you know that I am taking a course called The Writer’s Achievement, in which we read the entire body of an author’s work, and then have the unique privilege to have that author visit our very small class and chat with us. In this case, Mr. Hoose’s editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Melanie Kroupa, stopped by for a bit as well. Here is what I had to say about the experience.

Hoose’s 2009 book, Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice was nominated for an NBA the week before we were slated to read it for class, about two weeks before Mr. Hoose was slated to visit our class. As a class, we had a collective stake in his success, especially when he talked about the difficulties nonfiction written for youth faces in the critical, award-centered publishing world. We were all rooting for him. And he took the award home last night, accepting alongside Ms. Colvin herself. And he wore the same sweater he wore to class. Little insider info there.

It’s really a unique book, very informative, interesting, and very personal. Both book and author definitely worthy of national praise and attention.

News #2: Jessica and Lance are getting a kitten!

But not until we go home for Christmas.

Because right now, it looks like this:

It’s the orange one!

How we are going to get a kitten from Michigan to Massachusetts is another story. One that either Lance will deal with, in the car, by himself, or one that will cost 69 dollars and require me to sacrifice my carry-on space, and therefore another 15 bucks.

There’s really a kind of long, funny story about how these kittens came to be, but I’m too sleepy to figure out how to translate it into the written word.

Remind me to tell it later.

November 15, 2009

brain food

It feels a little unhealthy to be as obsessed with food as I am. I sometimes envy those who regularly forget to eat, or people who eat so casually and infrequently as if they aren’t eating, just refueling.

But my new best friend, Michael Pollan, assures me that some level of emotional attachment to food is a good thing. It’s probably not okay to kill your existential pain with bowls of ice cream and bags of Cheetos (the crunchy kind, please), but it’s okay to think about food, to think about what particular food you might want to eat, to think about how that kind of food will affect your morning/day/sleep/waistline, et cetera. And it’s okay to think about all that and say “whatever, I want some gd Twinkies.” Every so often.

You’ll have to read In Defense of Food to really logic that one out, but trust me, if Michael Pollan says it, I’m buying it.

Anywho. I have always felt strongly about the healing properties of well-placed snack. I have had a rough weekend. At a time I am usually doing my reading for tomorrow’s classes, I am still writing my paper for tomorrow’s classes. Which means the reading is not done. Which means the NaNo writing isn’t getting done. Which means I am crying.

So I made myself a Magical Get Yourself Together Snack.

Part I:

Photo 235

Cheddar Jack Cheez-Its,

for deliciousness.

Part II:

Photo 236Macintosh apple with PB & Nutella,

for micronutrients,

protein,

and blood sugar.

Part III:

Photo 240

Ice water,

for watery wonderfulness.

Part IV:

Emergen-C,

for health, immunity, and energy.

Although stay far, far away from this flavor.

It is so gross.

I have to plug my nose, tip back my throat

and pretend it’s tequila.

Two hours later, my reading is still untouched, but my paper looks like it will be written by tomorrow. My hope is that it will be finished by 3:30 tomorrow, and won’t be so convoluted she will make me rewrite because it’s not Deconstructionist enough.

That is it.

Maybe I need to invent a Magically Optimistic Wonder Meal next.

November 12, 2009

bork bork bork

Did I tell you how excited I am for Thanksgiving?

I want to see my sisters. Wait. Let me correct that emphasis. I WANT TO SEE MY SISTERS! That’s better. I also want to see my parents and my doggies and my friends and play The Sims 3.

Nevermind I will have my regular homework obligations to fulfill, as well as NaNoWriMo wordcounts.

It’s going to be one heck of a weekend. Good thing I like road trips. I even like two 16 hour road trips in 5 days. We’re leaving on Wednesday, coming back to Boston on Sunday. Back to class and work on Monday.

I also want to eat some torkey. Specifically, leftover torkey. Mmmmm hot browns. If you guys haven’t had hot browns yet, you should probably give up on life. Or make some. I’ll post the recipe sometime.

This entry was brought to you by the powers of procrastination. Deconstruction is hard. And by hard, I mean impossible. And by impossible, I mean, I should probably give up on life. And by that, I mean, I’m going home to eat hot browns and I’m not coming back.

November 11, 2009

puzzling day off

Today is my first holiday from work and school not filled with obligations to either or both of those things.

Although I tried. I tried to go to work today, I really did. Unfortunately, when the school is closed, the school is literally locked and closed and don’t try to get in, even if you left your NaNoWriMo novel on the harddrive of your work computer and really, you just wanted to get it back.

It occurs to me that this is what it would feel like if school were my only priority. I could read 100 pages of Octavian Nothing, write 1,000 words, shower, run to work and back (or something that had a point but would take just as long) and still have time to plan out some dinner, cook it, watch Glee, and knock back some homework.

Gee, wouldn’t that be nice?

Some classmates in my program do just that. Others take two classes and work, and then look at me wide-eyed when they find out I’m taking three. Some are in the same boat as I am.

It’s not a bad boat to be in. Although I see, on my single Day Off of the semester, some of the things I am giving up. Like magazine collages. Napping. Penning visually appealing blog posts about interesting topics. Some kitchen creativity. Compiling all my Read Along At Home Guides from 2006 to 2009 in one gigantic spreadsheet.

I’m curious how other people – especially those in my program – do the work-life balance. It’s really the most compelling problem in my life right now, and has been for a few years.

How can I make it all fit?

November 10, 2009

it’s all downhill from here

Yesterday I got a 3.9 on a Lit Crit paper.

Which will probably be the peak of my semester. Both emotionally and academically.

The winning paper was…

Small Stories and the Greater Whole:

Interpreting Plot in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

So we celebrated.

I went to Athan’s European Bakery and bought a Caramello pastry. It was probably the best thing I’ve ever eaten.

cakie

And Lance got a haircut and pretended to play the saxophone.

DSC01920

And then I went to bed at 10:30 p.m. Just like I do every night.

November 9, 2009

i’ll take it

My weekends are hard to peg.

On one hand, I usually can’t wait until 2 pm on Friday. Two whole days (and an afternoon) to myself! Sleeping in! Wine drinking! Apartment cleaning! Grocery shopping! Lance! Lance! Lance!

These are the kind of things that turn my crank.

I do get to do those things. But when I’m not at the grocery or scrubbing the tiles of my bathroom, I’m probably holed up in my room, trying to read Derrida, trying to write a paper on the oldest book I read all year, trying not to cry because I suddenly have 8 hours to do all the work I thought I could do over the weekend.

Now I have a crazy little thing called NaNoWriMo in the mix. During the week, I dreamily imagine catching up on my wordcount, permitting a little weekday slacking in the name of classes and reading and general brain fatigue.

Saturday was the first day I haven’t met my daily quota. And I missed it by a whopping 900 words.

And didn’t get any schoolwork done save for reading The Hundred Dresses a hundred times and trying not to cry so loud that Lance couldn’t hear himself playing the saxophone.

Sunday, I did the impossible. I did finish my paper. A B minus paper. I gave up on Derrida, but did run my eyes over all the reading. I thought about what a nice dinner I had with Ms. Anné Thompson and her mommy, and how fun it would be if she moved to Boston. I caught up on my missing words. I read some more on that book not on my syllabus and finished the one that was.

And I did acquire two things that my heart has been desiring. Desiring badly badly.

Exhibit #1:

Photo 228

The exact TV stand I was eying from IKEA. I don’t even want to talk to you about The Furniture Wars around this apartment. Let’s just say I’m dying to decorate and Lance is dying to do other things. Like eat food and buy gas and things. Anyway, somebody WHO LIVED TWO BLOCKS AWAY FROM US bought it last weekend, put it together, and decided it was too big. Posted it on Craigslist for 35 bucks.

And now it’s mine.

Exhibit #2:

Three years ago, I bought a pair of jeans. I ripped a hole in the crotch earlier in the summer and had Betsy sew me a patch. I put them on and went to work. They were my favorite jeans – comfy and stretchy and made my butt look nice, and long enough – but they cost me 75 bucks. So I was hoping to squeeze another year or two. Get my money’s worth.

Unfortunately, the other side of the crotch began to shred recently, and since I no longer travel by car, I can’t keep spare pants in my trunk in case of emergencies. So I stopped wearing them. Which meant I needed to wear my other pair of jeans, the ones purchased in 2003 when my butt was a bit smaller than it is now. And before I developed a physical aversion to that phenomenon known as Muffin Top. As in, I would rather go pantsless than have the side of my hips be gouged (or touched, really) by denim.

Enter, Filene’s Basement.

Where I did a silly thing. I bought a pair of jeans a size BIGGER than my favorite jeans, which were actually a size bigger than I would have liked to think I could wear. And they are LOOSE. Which makes me feel skinny, like my jeans are making me look fatter than I am, and like I need to figure out how to induce shrinkage/alter pants.

Photo 232

But they were 25 bucks.

Two problems solved for 60 USD.

Holla!

November 6, 2009

The Book Bucket List

Another rift in my reading schedule. Last time, I decided to read ahead. It was beneficial, but the pages caught up with me again. I have it under control for the upcoming week, mostly due to this little thing called Veteran’s Day. Gee, East Coasters get the *weirdest* holidays… So I could read ahead to a week from Monday, but by the sheer grace of the God of Children’s Literature, I’ve read Locomotion (that Jackie Woodson) and Octavian Nothing (twice!). I don’t feel a need to get a jump (those of you who’ve read Octavian can laugh at that).

I do feel the need for that little rush associated with the opening of a new book.

My boss asked me yesterday if I was sick of children’s lit yet.

Decidedly, no. As long as I can keep opening new books and finding new stories, it doesn’t matter if it’s children’s or adult, classic or contemporary, trashy or weighty. I’ve always been a reader, but this is a quality learned in grad school for certain. I just want more. It’s the impetus that drives me through 6-7 books a week – the thought that if I finish, I can start another.

So I’m going off-canon for the weekend.

But then I’ll be back on. I’m not even sure I’ll be able to finish this bad boy in time to resume my regularly scheduled reading…

so that’s why I invented

The Book Bucket List

  • The ones mentioned in class that I can’t CAN’T remember reading
  • The ones I remember reading but want to read again with new eyes
  • The ones I see in the bookstore and think “Hm. I should read that when I’m not reading 7 books a week”
  • The books that look good but you know you’ll forget if you don’t write them on the last page of your planner

1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

2. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

3. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

4. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

5. The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

6. This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

7. Atlas: Poems by Katrina Vandenberg

8. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

9. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

10. My Life in France by Julia Child

11. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace

12. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

13. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

14. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

15. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

16. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, vol II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson

17. These Is My Words by Nancy Turner

 

So far, the list is manageable. I’m sure it will grow to be unwieldy and useless, but for right now, I’m excited for my Christmas break, in which I will be free to read read read whatever I want (whatever I want!!) and I hope to knock a few off the list.

Says she who has read 100 books in 10 months.

I’m a sick, sick individual.