Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January Reading Round-up

I read a lot.

No, really -- I don't think you understand.  I read A LOT.  If books were methamphetamine, all my teeth would have fallen out and I would on the Walgreens hit list for buying too much Sudaphed. 

I read so much that it has recently occurred to me that I have probably completely forgotten about alot of what I've read.  I wish I had been keeping a log or something about the stacks and stacks of books that I go through, like my best friend from college who has multiple binders logging all her reading experiences.  But since I haven't done that, I have decided to do monthly review posts of what I've been reading.  So here we go!

I started the month with  book that has been getting alot of good press and decent reviews, The Last Werewolf It had all the things I usually like -- a supernatural aspect, nice long length, decent writing, etc. And, well, it sucked.  It sucked so bad that I didn't even finish it, which is odd for me.  Man, was that one boring werewolf.  I gave up about a third of the way in because I was just tired of long monologues about how difficult it is to be a werewolf, and be the only one left.  Sheesh, Werewolf, just grow a pair and get on with life, okay?

After that, I raced through a bunch of sort of atmospheric mysteries.  The Strange Return of Sherlock Holmes, Don't Breathe a Word, The Cloud of Unknowing, In Search of the Rose Notes, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter -- all decent, dark mysteries.  I enjoyed them all, and would recommend any of them, but doubt I'll remember much about them in a few months.

One mystery that stood out, though, was Before I Go To Sleep.  It was awesome. The main character is a woman who, after an accident, cannot form new memories.  She starts keeping a journal of her daily life, and through the journal she starts to realize that things are not what they seem.  Granted, it's not a totally original idea; the Guy Pierce movie Memento did it better, and Fifty First Dates did it funnier.  Nevertheless, this book grabbed me and I couldn't wait to keep reading it and see what happened.  You can't ask for much more from a book than that.

We can put The Kingdom of Childhood in the category of Not At All What I Was Expecting.  An odd little book about a female teacher having an affair with a young male student.  For some reason I was expecting the writer to want me to be sympathetic with the teacher, and it took me awhile to realize she didn't.  In fact, I hated that teacher.  But the portrayal of the student was wonderful.  Overall, I liked it quite a bit, and as I write this, I'm realizing that there was a lot in it to ponder.  And I like pondering.

The White Devil was a book I had been looking forward to.  Justin Evans wrote one of my all-time favorites, A Good and Happy Child, and I had great expectations for his new one. I think my expectations were a little TOO great, because even though it was good, and spooky, and nicely written, I was kind of disappointed.  I wanted it to make me think, like Good and Happy Child,  and it just didn't.  It was a nice, haunted boarding school story, but I'm not dying to tell people about it like I did with Good and Happy Child (that one's a great read around Halloween, by the way).

I finally got around to reading another book that's getting attention from literary types, The Night Circus, and for once, I thought the literary types were spot on.  This book was fanTASTic.  I was terribly sorry to see it end. The basics:  two magicians stage a contest between their students, but don't tell them (or the reader) what the contest really IS.  They have to figure out the rules as they go along, and as you read the book, you have to figure out what the HECK is happening. It's hard to describe, but wonderful to read. It was one of those rare books that made me truly irritated that such places and people don't exist in the real world.  Trust me, you should read this book

It was hard to find a follow-up to The Night Circus. I tried to keep up the circus theme with The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb:  A Novel. It was a nice book, and it sent me straight to Wikipedia to find out everything I could about Tom Thumb, P.T. Barnum, and the title character, Lavinia Bump. There's not much to find out, actually, hence the title inclusion of "A Novel."  The author chooses to focus on the relationship between Lavinia and Barnum, so ends the book long before Lavinia's death.  I'm actually hoping she writes a sequel, her treatment of Lavinia as a character was so engaging. 

If you've stuck with me through all this wordiness, let me sum it up for you:  do NOT read The Last Werewolf.  DO read The Night Circus -- heck, you could even read it twice. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Exciting 2012 Thing #1

A post or so ago, I mentioned that there is some fun business going on in these parts, and today I'm here to tell you about one of them.

This funness starts out with some not-so-much-funness.  As you may or may not know, for the past year I've been playing violin with the local Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Orchestra.  (I play a very sketchy second violin, only because there is no part for third or fourth violin.)  I've been having tons of fun doing so, despite being neither Baptist, or a seminary student-- I suppose I am Southern, so that counts for something, right?

Well, evidently it doesn't count for much, and most of the other orchestra members were in the same boat, because a few weeks after our last concert back in November, we got dumped.

As in, kicked to the curb.

As in, don't let the music stands hit you on the way out.

It was a sad situation; many of the members had been playing together for years and years, and the orchestra itself has been in existence since, oh, sometime in the early 1980s, I think.  Add to this personal sad situation the general community sadness of losing our professional orchestra this year as well. 

But!  This story does not remain sad, oh, no it doesn't!  Because this group of saucy musicians (and me) -- those Formerly Known As The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Orchestra -- decided to stand up and FIGHT! for our RIGHT! to PAAAAR . . TY! (Thank you Beastie Boys, for that inspirational tune.)

We have reformed, in an as-yet unnamed, entirely musician-run community orchestra. (Trust me, a snazzy new name is on its way.)  It's terribly exciting.  Never again will we be at the mercy of another organization to tell us when, where, or what to play.  We will be entirely independent, which is more rare than you might think.  Professional orchestras, as well as most amateur orchestras, are funded, and therefore controlled, by other, non-musician entities.  We're going to be way cooler than that.

The exciting-est part for me is that I get to make up for my lack of stellar musical skills with my legal skills by being a part of the Interim board. I'm so proud to be part of this endeavor, and will be sharing upcoming concert dates with you, the loyal readers of Around the Subject. Be looking for a performance in the month of May!

(Maybe we'll just do that Beastie Boys tune.  Hmmm . . . . )

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Musings -- on Politics and Prejudice

One day last week,  I said something really stupid.  (Well, I probably said several stupid things, but one sticks out and that's the one I'm going to tell you about.)  In training at my new job, I spend every single minute of every single day sitting with the only other trainee.  We aren't having in-depth conversations, but we've gotten friendlier as the training has progressed, and have laughed and made casual conversation pretty easily.  A couple of times current events have been mentioned in passing, and we've very superficially talked about some of the recent Repubican debates.

During one such conversation, I said, sort of offhand, "I assume you're a Democrat, right?"

He looked SUPER puzzled, and said, "No.  Why?"

Oops.  Foot.  In.  Mouth.

Now, I will say that there were some legitimate reasons for me to assume his political leanings were similar to mine.  For instance, he had mentioned that his father is in an appointed governmental position, and our state government is, at least technically, Democrat-run.

But the honest truth is, I assumed he was a Democrat because I like him, and found him to be friendly and easy to get along with.  That's about it.  It didn't occur to me that he could be those things, and also be a Republican.

In my awesome Sunday School class, we are reading and discussing a great book by Carlton Pearson, called The Gospel of Inclusion.  In it, he discusses why he doesn't believe in Hell, and why he does believe that everyone -- every single person -- is already "saved."  I love that while reading this book, I can spend a lot of time nodding and agreeing with his ideas.  Does God love people of all religions?  Yep!  All races?  Yep!  All sexual orientations? Yep!  All political affiliations?  Ye -- wait, what?

I guess for all my protestations that I am super inclusive and accepting, I have my own areas in which I'm not very accepting at all.  And there's not really a good excuse for that.  It's something I know I need to work on.  Truthfully, I need to work on WANTING to work on it.

So that's my Sunday confession.

Geez.  I feel like I need to go hug a Republican or something.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


You should all feel sorry for my poor little blog, abandoned here for over a WEEK while I jaunt off to a shiny new job.

The job, well . . . I'm not sure how shiny it really is.  It's hard to wrap my mind around a position in which I am hired for a maximum of nine months and not a minute more.  It feels not much like a real job.  Sort of "job-ish," if you will.   So the job search continues, because I don't know about you, but I hope to live a lot longer than nine more months.

I was terribly worried about adjusting again to the working life, but I think I'm doing ok.  In fact, it occurred to me earlier this evening that I have WAY more energy than when I was at home all day.  And more energy is a good thing, because boy howdy, have things picked up around here.  I shall be filling you in on some exciting new things in the next few days.

In the meantime, have a gander at a moment from my first days of work at My New Job-ish Activity.

Co-worker:  So, how many kids do you have?

Me:   None.

CoW:   None?!?

Me: No, not yet -- maybe eventually, but I'm getting kind of old, I guess.  (me, chuckling at my own attempt at a little self-deprecating humor)

CoW:   Why, how old are you?

Me:   38.

CoW:   Oh.  Yeah, you are getting kind of old.


Well, awesome-ish.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The End of the Lost Year

Tomorrow I will report to a job for the first time in 13 months.

When I lost my job last year, I never dreamed that it would take me over a year to find a job, and that when I found one, it would be a temporary (9 months, to be exact) position with no benefits and a substantially lower salary than the one I lost.
No doubt about it, the career path I was on is over.  That's not to say my CAREER is over, but that particular path?  Yeah, it's pretty much sunk.  And much of the past year has been consumed, at least mentally, with coming to grips with that.  

I could give you a long examination of how I've dealt with it and how it has felt, etc., etc., and in fact, I've written such a thing here and deleted it three times already.  Maybe eventually I'll figure out a non-boring way to write that.  

But today, I'm just as nervous as that first day of school.  I'm nervous about sleeping through my alarm, about finding my way to the right building, about what to wear, about whether I should take my lunch, who I'll sit next to, who I'll make friends with, and a whole list of things I can't even articulate.  

Good grief.  I think I'll go lay out my clothes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Crunchy Times at the Lewis House

I never thought, in  million years, that I would ever desribe myself as "crunchy."  You know, like one of those granola, run your car on discarded french-fry oil types?  I always thought I leaned more toward the high-maintenance end of the spectrum, what with pedicures, and a healthy Sephora addiction.

But lately . . . well, I'm starting to at least sway over to crunchy.  I guess it started with wanting to make something for Todd, something homemade, for Valentine's Day last year, and finding recipes for homemade granola and energy bars.  Those were highly successful around here, and are in regular recipe rotation.

Then one day I ran out of my favorite Bath and Body Works sugar scrub, and knew I was too cheap to replace it, so I started looking into how to make it myself, and realized it was totally cheap and easy -- and makes a fantastic Christmas gift, too!

THEN, I read about this method of facial cleansing with a mixture of grocery store oils, and tried that, and it is awesome, and along with the homemade facial oil I made, makes my skin all soft and pretty.

From there, I was sold.  I now spend a lot of time gathering recipes for homemade bath and body products.  So far, I've made the facial cleansing oil, facial moisturizing oil, sugar scrub, aftershave, shaving nick salve, mouthwash, lotion, and body oil.  All completely natural, and custom-scented with essential oils.  And I don't know if this is too much info for you about my personal hygiene, but I'm TOTALLY considering making my own deodorant.  

The more I read about essential oils and natural herbs and remedies and such, the more interesting it is.  As a lifetime migraine sufferer, I'm really starting to think about all the junk that I put in my body -- both through foods and prescription drugs -- along with all the junk I slather ON my body.  I mean, I love a good fancy-smelling lotion as much as the next person, but I can't even pronounce half of what's in the ingredients list.  And I just don't think that all those chemicals can be good for me.  I'd really like to see what my poor little brain would do if it is given a chance to be prescription-drug-free.  People survived for many generations without all the fanciness that we get from the pharmacy these days.

And, yeah, I'm tired of giving half my money to the insurance company and the other half to doctors and pharmacist.  

So now, I'm giving a lot of thought to learning as much as I can about all this to see just how healthy and homemade the Lewis House can become.  It's way too late for me to go to medical school, but I'm still plenty young enough to become a certified herbalist, and just HOW cool would that be?

Pretty cool, I think.  (Although I'm still not planning to give up on that Sephora addiction any time soon.)  

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Perils of Being a Trial Widow

So, at the risk of opening myself up to home invasion burglers and such, I'm going to report that Todd has jaunted off to the wilds of Hardin County for a trial which is expected to take three weeks to complete, leaving me all alone -- and lonely -- to hold down the for.  It's a bit worrying, because the last time he left home for a trial, which was just a couple of months ago, all the proverbial hell broke loose around here.

See, before I came along, Todd had a cat, Tom.  And Tom survived the arrival of not one, but two dogs to the household.  But he was really always Todd's cat.  After living with me for eight or nine years, he started to let me pet him, but only if I were lying down.  Standing up, I scared him.

Todd had been gone in trial for about a week when Tom found his way out of the basement door.  I wasn't terribly worried at first, because he was kind of indoor/outdoor cat, but he stayed gone for a long time.  For days and days I left the basement door open, hoping he would come home.

On one of those days, I made plans to meet my mother in Richmond for lunch, and becaue it was supposed to rain, I left my spoiled dogs, Penny and Sam, in the house.  I got halfway to Richmond, and got a phone call from the electric company that he was there to fix the water line (which had conveniently sprung a leak the minute Todd left town, resulting in a no-water house for several days) but wasn't going to get out of his truck with "that dog" in the yard barking at him.

"Wait, what?  There's a dog in my yard?"

"Yes, a big black dog, and he looks like he's going to bite me."

Unfortunately, I couldn't really reassure the guy that if it was, indeed, my dog, he didn't have to worry, because yes, if it was Sam, he would most definitely bite some random LG&E guy.  (Beware, prospective home invasion burglers.)  So I turned all the way around and came home, where Sam had let himself BACK in the house through the open basement and looked me in the eye and flat-out LIED about being outside in the first place.

The next night, after scouring our block yelling for Tom with no luck, I went to bed, Sam and Penny tucked into their beds next to me, and we all went to sleep.  Then, I woke up around 3 a.m. to the sound of a barking dog.  One that sounded strangely familiar.  I turned on the light to see Penny blinking at me, but no Sam.  So I ran outside -- in my NIGHTIE -- to find Sam barking his fool head off, running up and down the street.

I think he was looking for Tom.  And I think at some point, he decided that Todd was also AWOL, because he was just crazy until Todd came home, escaping the house left and right, running away from me, and generally actin' a fool.   It was a mess.

Finally, Todd finished the stinkin' trial and came home, and Sam calmed down to his normal self (allowing Penny to go back to being the "bad" dog of the house).  But, sadly, Tom never came home.  Ever.  And it's still very sad and I still feel guilty somehow -- I'm pretty convinced that Tom decided Todd was never coming home and living with me was just too horrendous to contemplate, so he ran away.

You can't really blame me for being kind of nervous now with Todd being gone.  If he comes home this time to a missing pet . . . well, it's going to be tough to explain.  If you happen to see any loose animals in your neighborhood, CALL ME.  It might be one of mine, missing their Dad.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Out in the World Without Training Wheels

This past year, for my birthday Todd gave me a fancy new road bike. It's awsomely fancy. Like, in a totally girly way. It's white, with black flowers -- yes, FLOWERS -- painted on it, with some red accents. Awesome. I was very excited that the salesman talked us into an actual "girl" bike. I mean, yeah, I'm tall enough to ride a men's bike, but I'm totally a girly girl at heart.

 So, now that I have a real road bike, Todd was determined that I learn to ride in clips. (For the non-bikers, this means your shoes are clipped in to be attached to your pedals.)

 Now. Let's just get it out there. I often fall down. I trip over things. Recently, I fell off an ottoman -- for no apparent reason. I have -- no joke -- wrecked a STATIONARY bike. So, this clip thing is no small deal.

 What ensued was a series of what we now fondly call "low-speed crashes." These are the ones where you glide slowly to a stop, realize you can't get your foot loose, and have time to analyze exactly where on your body you are going to hit the ground, the curb, or whatever happens to be nearby. Low-speed they might be, but they hurt like the dickens, and leave some impressive bruises. They sometimes result in persons-who-are-definitely-not-me sitting on the same curb and having a good cry.

 But, to my surprise, I learned. And learned to actually like the clips. And now I even go on solo rides in the neighborhood. As in, by MYSELF. Up HILLS. It's shocking. And a little scary. Sometimes cars like to go by really fast, and sometimes TARC buses like to share a lane that really isn't big enough to share. I'm generally a very meek and accomodating bike rider; I like to just stay out of everyone's way and try not to be noticed.  I leave the road rage to Todd, he's WAY better at it.

 Today, though, I went for a ride just as all the parents were lining up their cars for pick-up at the elementary school near my house. I was cruising along, enjoying the brisk air, feeling proud for riding my bike all alone, when some dadblamed mom whipped her car out of the line, directly in front of me, causing me to swerve, yell, "HEY!" and frantically reach for my nonexistent horn to beep at her. I finally managed to unclip and come to a screeching stop, and I opened my mouth to yell some of my best ex-public defender curses at her, when I realized there was a whole school's worth of elementary school students staring at me. So I contented myself with an inward fist shake, and blurted out, "Thanks a LOT!"  As I rode away, I half-yelled, "SOME people need to watch where they're GOING!"

She never even turned around to see my first ever biker's road rage. And I guess as rages go, it was pretty lame.  But when I finally stopped fuming, it occurred to me -- Todd's going to be so proud.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Well, hello, 2012!

Well . . . so . . . here I am!

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's been an age since I've posted on here. Like, multiple ages. Like, I tried to erase the date of the last post in the hopes that I could convince you that it hadn't really been that long.

Things are really different than when I posted last. Mostly, I'm different. After suddenly losing my job on December 15, 2010, (more on that at a later date), I've spent the past year unemployed. It's a position I never thought I would find myself in, and it's been an experience that has taught me a tremendous amount about myself and my life (more on that, later, too).

I've been telling myself for the past few months that as soon as I got a new job, everything would not only change back to the life I had before, but that it would change into something even better. And when that happened, I thought I would start writing this blog again. But here's the thing that I've decided is true: life is what it is, in spite of all the things we wish it might be, and if we don't just go ahead and live it -- well, we'll be missing out on the only life w e get.

So, if last year is to be fondly known in my history as "The Lost Year 2011," 2012 is going to be "The Year of Living 2012."

And, yeah, I'm a-gonna blog about it.