Back to the Basics

It’s strange to be typing right now, and not just because I have temporarily lost the use of one of my fingers.

When I was younger, I carried paper with me everywhere. I always had a few extra sheets in my workbooks or binders so I could write at school. When I got a little older, I began to collect journals to keep my stories together. I always wrote a scene down on paper first, and then typed up a second draft. It took longer, but I enjoyed the simple act of pouring over my own written imagination.

By the time I was getting used to my college courses, I couldn’t even pretend that I had the free time to do much writing anymore, and certainly not writing things down twice. Sadly, this means that my journals have held nothing but notes and the occasional scene scribbled down while at doctor’s offices. I don’t even use word process anymore. I usually just type everything in google docs or evernote.

All that changed last week. I don’t know if my brain was particularly slow that day or I was tired of sitting at a desk or it was just long overdue…it was probably a combination of all three…but I found myself stretched out on the floor beside a stack of loose notebook paper and writing with *gasp* a pen. 

The words just flew out of that pen. I spent half that day and then my free time over the next several days on the floor, crossing out one adjective after another, worrying that I’d misspelled everything, writing sentences out past the red lines until all I could see was black scrawlings. By the time I reached a stopping point, I had written 35 pages. I know that’s not much when typed up, but it felt amazing to me.

I have sense typed everything up in evernote and thrown away the papers. I was more afraid I’d lose a page more than anything else. But I think I’ll be returning to my journals very soon. There really is nothing that can compare to gripping a pen in one hand and running the other over paper. It’s kind of like the difference between a nook and a paperback. Both get the job done, but it’s really all about the feeling.

What about y’all? Do you use journals, a laptop, or a combination? Why?

Adventurous Date #2

We went on our second adventurous date…and have now added it to our weekly routine. Here is the card info:

Date Idea: Let’s take the time to go to a swing dance again! We’ll wow them with our moves! *cute picture of stick figures dancing that no one needs to see ;)*

Specifics: Anytime, Fort Worth Swing Dance Syndicate, Thursdays 8-10

Essentials: $ for the lessons,  cute swing dance outfits, dance shoes

 A little back story—My husband and I met while attending a swing dance in Longview, TX. Neither of us was really good, but we could tell right away that we moved well together. The rest is history.

Since getting married and moving away from our dancing friends, we haven’t joined another swing dance society. We’ve been talking about it for months, but we never seemed to have the time. This date idea gave us the push to visit the FWSDS.

We are woefully out of shape and my small talk needs some more work, but I think I speak for both us of when I say it feels good to get back out on the dance floor.

I have been unable to document this adventurous date with pictures. I made that rule for a reason…and I’ll get new pictures of us dancing soon…but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to spend my time glued to a camera like a photography nerd when I needed to make friends. Until then, here are some old dancing photos. (Place cursor over photos for captions.)

This date was definitely a 10! I hope February’s adventures are as fun as January’s!

 

 

Swing dance websites for those interested in a dance date:

Longview Swing Dance Association (LSDS):  http://longviewswingdance.com/

Fort Worth Swing Dance Syndicate (FWSDS):  http://www.fwsds.org/

Invisible Connections of the Heart

First off, I’d like to apologize for my absence. I’ve been a little lax on posting over the last few weeks. I’m working on a new writing project that I hope to share with y’all sometime in the near future.

Now let’s get on to the business at hand. I’d like to talk about the universal connection that all readers feel towards each other. There’s a popular meme that has been circling the internet for years. I got this example off of Pinterest:

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I love this saying. I haven’t met anyone yet who likes exactly the same books that I do. That person doesn’t exist. Every reader is unique. If I can find just one book that I have in common with someone else, then I feel an immediate connection to that person. For instance, my sister and her husband both nerd out (forgive the phrase) over dystopian novels with me. We don’t agree on other genres, but we all enjoy modern YA dystopias. I remember many magical conversations with them about The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Uglies, The Host, and many many more wonderful novels (and movies). That part of our relationship was an integral part of forming the bond that we share today.

I had friends in college who enjoyed reading,  but, again, our tastes didn’t match up exactly. I think that the closest I came to forming a bond over books was with a girl I met at church who loved books about mythology (i.e. Rick Riordan.) She wanted to go back in time to  Ancient Greece and Rome; I wanted to go back in time to Medival times. Magic-wielding demi-gods and dragon-slaying knights…two completely different worlds. And yet we were able to connect with each other over the fictional worlds we loved so much.

Over time, I realized that it didn’t matter so much what my friends read. Fantasy, YA, Romance, Mystery, Non-Fiction. It might have been harder to have conversations about favorite books that only one of us read, but I could lend an attentive ear to any true book lover. All I needed were friends who could expression how much they loved their books. As long as they loved reading and weren’t afraid of silence, we could spend an enjoyable afternoon reading in silence on the same couch…slowly becoming best friends.

If you read books, no matter what you read, then we can be good friends. 

Has anyone else ever noticed the truth behind this statement? That universal brother and sisterhood is what fuels our reading community. We are family.

Adventurous Date #1: Try Something New

This is going to be a non-bookish series of posts.

Some quick background information: I decided last Christmas that I didn’t want to spend every date night eating at Braum’s. I’m not talking about cost-effective dates–two for one burger specials are incredibly cost-effective–but the same date night every week. My husband and I are in a fun stage of life. We haven’t been married for very long so we’re still learning what things we can enjoy together. Some nights it’s just safer to stick with a burger and movie at home. 

Well, my brain started to spin. I wanted to create something that would allow me and my husband to enjoy adventures together–big adventures, little adventures, fun adventures, and adventures that don’t turn out so well in the end. It didn’t matter. So I decided to create some surprise dates that we could enjoy this year that would, maybe, add an extra level of spontaneity and fun to our date nights.

I took 24 note cards and wrote out 24 date ideas – 12 dates that we could do at home or somewhere nearby just some night in the week and 12 dates that involved a little more planning, travel, and/or money. The plan is to have my husband draw two cards out of an envelope every month. We might not be able to do them both, but the suspense of watching him blindly choose a date is so much fun! And he has no idea what’s going on, so that’s hilarious! I’ve created a win-win scenario for date nights.

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We forgot to take a picture of us together at the restaurant…but don’t we look excited about our adventure?

I think I stopped breathing those few seconds that I waited for my husband to pick the first set of cards. We went on our first super adventurous date this weekend. Here was the date idea:

In the spirit of trying new things, let’s try a restaurant that we haven’t tried before. And this one time, the crazier the better.

Specifics: Anytime, Anywhere, $? (nothing too expensive, dear)

Essentials: $, a camera, our appetites

You see, before I met my husband, I had what he calls “the five-year-old diet.” I had never tried sushi before our second date. He also introduced me to Greek food and Thai food, which I now love. It just takes me awhile to get used to new food. Kevin, on the other hand, is quite an adventurous foodie. I didn’t know what to expect, but, surprisingly, he chose something that I didn’t object to at all: Irish food.

He had been to the Trinity Hall pub and restaurant a few years back and enjoyed it. I had never eaten at an authentic Irish restaurant. That made Trinity Hall the perfect choice for our date night!

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The Trinity Hall!

 It was a little sad that I didn’t get to try some authentic desserts–we’re trying to cut back on sugar– but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the lovely selection of potato-based dishes. That’s not a cliche. Almost every dish contained some kind of potato and a side of soda bread (so yummy!).

This restaurant has a really laid back atmosphere and the building itself was so beautiful. It’s a bit of a drive and the service is slow, but the food and music was amazing. We are definitely planning on going back sometime.

If you’re planning on visiting Trinity Hall,  you have to go on the second weekend of the month. Not only is there live traditional music, but there are Irish folk dancers willing to teach you some new moves. We didn’t get there early enough to participate in the lesson, but we sat right by the musicians. Everyone looked like they were having a blast! This would be a perfect date night option for anyone looking to experience something a little different.

Corn beef appetizer on toasted bread with a creamy horseradish sauce, pork chops with potatoes in an apple sauce, and an interesting take on shepherd’s pie with soda bread. Yum!

Here are some more photos that I took at the restaurant. I think I really embarrassed my poor husband. However, one of the rules of adventurous date nights was that we had to document all of them and he knew that! Just FYI, never agree to that clause if you don’t want me glued to my camera phone.

`The point of these dates is to have a fun adventure with my husband. I’m not rating them, but if I was, this date would rank pretty high on the scale. I can’t wait for our next adventure! Maybe one will take us to the library!

Taming the Wild Creature (aka Reading to My Cavy)

I know the saying actually goes “Taming the Savage Beast.” I just can’t bear to call my Gwenie Pig a savage beast.

You see, I’ve been wanting a guinea pig for a couple of years now and my husband decided that a baby cavy would make the perfect Christmas gift. We’ve had her for almost a week now and she’s come a long ways from the shivering little bundle of fur that we brought home. 

I can’t help but think that our Guinevere did not have an easy first six weeks. She was taken from her mother to be sent to a pet store, but along the way she was also separated from the siblings that she was supposed to be quarantined with. We adopted her the day that she got out of quarantine. Confused. Alone. Scared. Never having eaten vegetables or been handled for humans for long periods of time.

I had been researching guinea pigs for two years, so I knew the basic rules:

  1. Give them some time alone to adjust to their new cage.

2. Constantly talk to them in soothing tones, using their name a lot.

3. Try to hand feed them treats so that they associate their love of food with you.

4. Spend as much time as you can handling them, petting them, holding them, and talking to them.

5. Never pick them up with just one hand or handle them harshly.

Gwen still doesn’t like to embark on the long journey from her cage to the couch or the play pen, but she has learned to not run away every time my husband or I reach in to the cage to stroke her or give her a slice of cucumber. She settles down on our laps during cuddle time and allows us to pet her and hand feed he. She roams around her play pen, discovering new hidey areas and treats. More over, she has started coming out of her hidey corner when I come to her cage with food.

She is only six weeks old…well, seven now…so she has a long way to go. She isn’t completely tame yet, but my heart soars every time she popcorns (runs around and randomly hops) after being put back in her cage after floor time or after she discovers a new treat in her food bowl. (Seriously, it is so cute! Look up “guinea pigs popcorning” on YouTube.)

What has been the best method of success?

I’m sure the cuddling sessions in the morning and afternoon are helping her get used to human touch, and showing her that her food doesn’t just appear out of thin air is a big help. The route to a guinea pig’s heart is through their stomach. However, I think reading is a very important tool in my taming arsenal.

Reading?

Hear me out. Baby cavies aren’t used to humans talking. It’s their owners’ responsibility to help them get used to hearing sounds all day long, especially the sound of human voices. For the best results, this is supposed to hear the voices for more than ten minutes at a time. In fact, many guinea pig owners will tell you that, for best results, guinea pigs need to immediately and constantly hear human voices around their cage. The faster they get used to hearing voices, the easier it is to handle them. We tried to take at tip from a useful friend and leave a talk show on Pandora while we were out. It was a good idea…but we didn’t want to leave the TV on and our laptop only plays Pandora for so long before it shuts down. And besides, it wasn’t our voices. We wanted her to get used to our voices and associate them with pleasant things.

As much as I love Gwen, I didn’t want to spend an hour at a time on my knees next to her cage just talking. That’s when I came up with the idea of reading next to her cage. I can read for hours if I have the time. I just place a chair to the side of the cage, just outside of range of Guinevere’s line of sight, and read. That first night, I read to her for over an hour. She hid in her corner at first, but she soon realized that she wasn’t about to be plucked from her cage and she started to move around her cage. The next day, she began to explore her surroundings more. She still hid every time we opened the cage door, but she didn’t seem to mind our voices or our presence outside the cage as much.

I’ve continued to read to her every day. It’s a win win situation. She gets used to my voice and I get reading breaks. A thirty minute reading break after lunch and an hour reading break before bed seems to make everyone happy.

I’m not saying that Gwen’s progress is all do to my reading…but it definitely isn’t hurting matters.

Everybody loves a good book. 😀

Has anyone else read to their pets before? Why? What happened?

P.S. In case you were wondering, Gwen has been reading Anne of Avonlea with me and helping me finish my Old Testament bible study. .

 

A Girly Review

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Picture taken from Pinterest

I’m not “girly.” Not at all. I mean…well, I do enjoy romantic comedies and books where the protagonists have love interests…but I’m not girly.

That being said, I have no explanation for why I enjoyed The Selection series so much. I was a total fangirl of Kiera Cass’ work. I picked up the first book in the series by accident and by the end of it, I was hooked. I basically poked the requisitions librarian where I worked during college to pre-order the other two books and then I hung out in the YA section and giggled over them with the teenage patrons.

It isn’t that Cass’ writing was spectacular. I did occasionally get annoyed at the repetition or the way she chose to describe something. It isn’t that there was a level of suspense in the first three books. Other people say they were on tenterhooks trying to figure out what would happen to the protagonists, but I was fairly confident about America’s fate. (I’m not referring to the country. That is actually the main girl’s name.) The storyline isn’t really all that complex, and yet it captivated me from the first chapter. I really had to wrack my brain for the reason why it was so appealing to me. I really think it was the way that Cass intertwined the selection and the lives of the protagonists with the turmoil that was prevalent in the kingdom. It was the contrast and the connections of these two storylines, causing me to giggle and gasp in turn, that kept me on the edge of my chair.

That’s why my ears immediately pricked up when I heard she was extending the series by another two books, but I didn’t run to the library. It took me over a year to actually check the next book out, but I am soooo glad I did! I almost finished it in one sitting. I’m probably not the only one who was a little hesitant to read the continuing story. Trust me. If you enjoyed the first three books, you need to continue the series.


Summary–no major spoilers

While the fate of the protagonists seemed clear to me in the first three books, Cass really stepped up the suspense in her fourth and fifth book.

The story jumps twenty or so years into the future and centers around America’s daughter and the heir to the throne, Eadlyn Schreave. The country has never had a female heir to the throne before. That coupled with the unrest between the recent removal of a strict social class system, means that the turmoil in the kingdom is still very much alive. In order to release some tension and turn the public eye away from these matters, Eadlyn’s father asks her to hold her own selection. This is a combination between The Bachelor and an arranged marriage where a group of boys from throughout the kingdom are given the chance to vie for the princess’ heart. While Eadlyn enters the selection with her head held high, she has serious doubts that she will find her true love. Her station demands that she finds a suitable husband, but her carefully walled off heart is pulling her in a million different directions? Will she choose her heart or her people, or perhaps both?


I give this series an enthusiastic 8.5 stars. I hesitate to give it more because of the reasons I mentioned earlier, but I feel I can give it no less.

Females of all ages will be able to find something in common with America Eadlyn. I think that Eadlyn’s story was especially compelling. Then again, it’s been awhile since I’ve read the first three books in the series and America’s story was compelling in different ways. In America, we see a girl pulled up from a lower caste and given the chance to see her world in a new light while being the voice of her family to those above her station. In Eadlyn, we see a girl shouldered with the burden of an entire kingdom since birth who has to allow herself to lower her walls to not just to her family or one boy, but to everyone in her life. And behind it all, we see the backdrop of an oppressed people who, even though they escape the clutches of a corrupt monarchy, must learn to grow themselves.

I have heard rumors that Cass’ story might be turned into a short television series for years. I’m still waiting eagerly to hear if this is true. I think her characters would pop off the screen! Love and betrayal, rebellion and death, teenagers and drama – what more could you want out of a YA dystopian romance comedy…series.

If I really like a story or an author, I find it easy to overlook what I would consider bad writing or annoying writing quirks. This is one of those cases. It feels an instinctive need to be “girly” without me actually having to go out and be “girly.” What more could you ask for?

Let me know what you think of The Selection series by Kiera Cass. I highly suggest that you finish this series if you haven’t already. I’m not sure if I’ve found them all yet. I’ll keep searching. In the end, you will be far from disappointed.

P.S.  In addition to the core five books, there are apparently also a handful of short stories that fill in the gaps between the different POVs and timelines. I’m not sure I’ve found them all yet, but I’ll keep looking.

A Trip to the Library

A day that includes a trip to the library is never ordinary…


You check the clock on my car for the 10th time. You still have an hour before the library closes. That should be enough time. Still…

You glare angrily at the red light. As if it feels the sting of my gaze, it flashes green.

Finally.

A few more minutes and you pull into the library’s parking lot. Book bag – check. Library card – check. List of books – check. As you push open the doors, a burst of cool air hits you square in the face. You stop and admire the feeling of being back in my favorite place. The sound of pages turning and keyboards clacking fills the air. A deep breath reveals the smell of old books. You trail my hand appreciatively down book spines as you pass shelf after shelf.

A few books catch your eye and you stop to pick them up, admiring their covers. There’s a glossy new copy of Calculus for Dummies that might help you pass the midterms, and a thick book that’s full of Western short stories, and a book with a red bird on the cover that is, regrettably, written in another language. But they don’t hold your interest, so you place them back on the shelf and walk on.

You amble along in no particular hurry until you finally reach your favorite section in the library. A dozen new books are waiting for you to pick them up from an aisle rack. After careful examination, you choose a promising looking novel by a familiar author.

Three books. You promised yourself that you would only pick up three books this time. That would last you the whole week. As you walk down the aisle, you pull your list out of your back pocket. The first five books have already been checked out. You furrow your brow in frustration and hop up on the ladder. There’s one. You pluck it gently from the top shelf and hop down.

You find another book on the next shelf. That makes three. With a wistful glance back at the shelves you didn’t get a chance to investigate, you take your little pile of books over to an armchair and open the top one. You only meant to read the first few pages, ten minutes tops. T0e next thing you know a library worker is tapping you on the shoulder and telling you that the library is about to close.

You glance up at the wall clock. You’ve been reading for half an hour. Oh no. You’ll be late for dinner.

“Just a minute.”

The library worker humphs as you rush over to the catalog computer. There are a few books that you want to reserve. You’re in such a hurry that you don’t see the message that pops up on the screen. Two books are waiting for you at the front desk. You are genuinely surprised when the librarian at the check-out counter adds them to your pile.

You really should put a few books back. You were only supposed to check out three…But perhaps a couple more books wouldn’t hurt. 

“Thanks!”

You carefully place the books in your bag and rush out the door. The sun is already starting to drop in the sky. You pause as the door closes behind you, blinking heavily against the loss of silence and air conditioning, but you clasp your bag tighter and smile. You’re taking five new worlds home with you.

And you’ll be back next week.

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Image found on Pinterest