Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Reading Round-up

Friends, I'm here to tell you that as reading months go, February 2012 was not very good.  I was going to say it was a total bust, but then I remembered the one really, really, I mean really good book that I actually started at the end of January but finished in the beginning of February, and I decided that based on that one book alone, I could raise February up from a total bust to just not very good -- or maybe even not that bad.

But before I tell you about that book (I know, the anticipation is killing you), let me tell you about the books that were SO horribly, horribly, bad that I couldn't even FINISH the darn things.  And I HATE not finishing books. I thought about telling you why each one was so bad, but really?  Why waste the time?  I'll just list 'em for you, and if you have an uncontrollable urge to read one, send me a message and I'll talk you you out of it, okay?

Our Lady of the Forest, The Ghost Rider, Ghost:  A Novel, Angel Time, Alias Grace.    Sucky, sucky books, every one of them.

Now, the category of decent books.  The Diviner's Tale was a mystery about a woman whose family legacy is "divining" water with one of those stick thingys.  I liked it.  The mystery is more about whether a crime actually happened than it is about who did the crime.  It had some surprisingly sad and touching moments.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon was just such a pleasant, entertaining little book -- a small town story with some magical elements thrown in -- and I enjoyed it so much, that I immediately read another book by the same author, Garden Spells.  And I enjoyed it immensely, too.  You wanna know why?  Because they're the SAME DAMN BOOK.  Seriously, such a disappointment, because she's written others, and I was looking forward to reading them.  But not if they're all the same book.

Ready Player One is hard to describe.  Let me just say this:  if you grew up in the 80s, and you played any video games at all, you should probably read it.  You'll like it.  It won't change your life, and I recommend reading it FAST, because otherwise you'll get bored near the end, but go ahead and read it.  Just for fun. (I especially loved the description of how schools are run in the dystopian near-future.)

And finally, if anyone is still reading this oh-so-long post -- the one book that nearly redeems the entire month:  Doc.

Mary Doria Russell, who wrote my veryfavoritestwonderfulbookofalltime, The Sparrow, is the writer I would most like to have dinner with. I'd like to have her for my bestie, my BFF, or whatever the cool kids say these days.  Granted, she also has written some notveryfavoritebooks, but  Doc brings her back up to idol status for me.  It's a novel based on the life of Doc Holliday and the summer he spent with the Earp brothers leading up to the infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral.

I am not a fan of westerns, usually, but you guys, this book was just marvelous.  Russell is so fantastic at characterization -- you will feel like you know Doc Holliday, and if you're into guys, you're going to wish you could have dated him.  And you'll be mad as hell that nobody found a cure for tuberculosis for him.   This book has everything -- humor, historical insight, sadness, exciting moments -- trust me, even if you don't think it sounds like your kind of thing, you need to give it a try. 

I spent at least two full weeks after reading Doc obsessively looking him up on the internet, finding out everything I could about him.  I even watched Tombstone, and I can tell you, Val Kilmer NAILED Doc Holliday.  (In an ACTING way, get your mind out of the gutter.)  And I can tell you that nearly a month after finishing it, I still find myself daydreaming about Doc and the Earps and all their adventures.

The best news?  There's going to be a sequel.

So.  The take-away from February is this:  read Doc.  Even if it's the only book you read in a whole month, it will still be a decent month.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mornings With Ballerinas

I'm trying to get started out on the right foot with this whole job business, to stay on top of things and get my life in order.  I admit that my house is an unholy mess, and there may or may not have been a little snafu with the water bill this week, but that's okay!  Because I've gone to the YMCA to work out EVERY MORNING this week before work.

It works out pretty well for me -- the downtown Louisville Y is right around the corner from my on-ramp, they have excellent water pressure in the locker room showers, and their hair dryers are better than the one I have at home.

There's just one problem:  ballerinas.

The place has a morning ballerina infestation.  As in, actual, real live dancers with the Louisville Ballet.  Coming to MY Y  and clogging up the elliptical machines with their hair in cute little buns, and their perfect posture, and their ballerina gossip.

I have nothing against the ballet, mind you.  I don't even hold a grudge for how mean Baryshnikov was to Carrie on Sex and the City.  But at 7:00 a.m.?  When I'm trudging along on an elliptical?  Looking how I look in sweatpants, no makeup, and slept-on hair?  It's all just a little hard to take.

I have to admit, though, I find them FASCINATING.  Apparently, they report to all day rehearsals of different types, and eat lunch together, and a certain number of them cry every day.  And I don't mean to gossip, but there is a certain male dancer who doesn't have the arm strength to do lifts correctly, and he should really work on his hand position, and holding the girl he is attempting to lift closer to his body so he can use technique to balance out his lack of strength for the lift.  Someone should really tell him before he ruins EVERYTHING.

I don't think they ever eat.

I'm going to tough it out for awhile, but seriously -- if anyone knows how to handle a ballerina infestation, please, for the love of all that is holy, let me know.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Full Circle

Ten years ago (give or take a few months), I started my legal career as a public defender in Louisville, KY.  I was newly divorced, living on my own for the first time, and ready to take on the world.  That first year was the most fun I've ever had at a job -- and also the hardest I've ever worked.

Life moved itself along, both my personal and professional lives, and I left the PD's office, did some other things, then wound up TOTALLY JOBLESS for over a year.  Have I mentioned that before?  Sorry, I know it's dull.  The only thing duller than being unemployed has to be reading about someone being unemployed.

But today we're not talking about dull unemployment, because today, ten years after I started as a public defender, I am starting over . . . as a public defender.

I've moved over to a different county, so it won't be EXACTLY the same.  But it still feels strangely like going home again.  I know how to do this job, and I know I can do it well.  And real life gets to start up again.  I don't have to check job sites, and when someone asks me what I do, I have an actual answer.  And it's an answer I can be proud of.

I'm excited, and not just a little terrified, and happy.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Post in Lieu of Presents

Oh, dear.

It just never occurred to me that we would be "doing" Valentine's Day this year.  Not that we here at the Lewis household aren't crazy in love, but it's just an odd time.  I've started a new job, but haven't gotten paid yet, so funds are, shall we say  . . . lowish.  I'm taking a writing class that meets on Tuesday nights and the big day just happens to fall on Tuesday this year.  And a few years ago, after a particularly not good Valentine's restaurant experience, we have been staying home and cooking a nice dinner instead.

Imagine my surprise when my Valentine announced that he had made as-yet-unrevealed dinner plans for us, and I think there might be a present involved.

I've spent the day wracking my brain, trying to think of a way to come up with a present. I did a lot of handmade stuff for Todd for Christmas, so I'm a bit tapped out of ideas.  And I just can't bear to subject the poor guy to homemade granola bars for Valentine's Day AGAIN.  (Yeah, I may have done that one more than once.)

I was going to crochet a hat, because crocheting is so fast, but a couple of hours into it I realized what I had forgotten -- I suck at crocheting hats.  I don't know what it is, but there's some mental block that I have.  They always turn out looking not quite like hats.  So I abandoned that and moved on to thinking of presents I can pay for without a paycheck.  I thought about getting some nice locally roasted coffee beans and maybe some cool candy bars from Trader Joe's.  OR, maybe a cool new beer, or a magazine subscription to one of those outdoorsy magazines he likes.  So I dash out to the car for a whirlwind shopping trip, and . . . the car won't start.  Like, at all.

Now here I am, grounded for the day, with no Valentine's present for my sweetie.  Not even a card.  And here's the thing:  my sweetie is AWESOME.  He makes me laugh.  He's smarter than anyone I've ever met.  He's my fiercest advocate and my very, very best friend.  He totally deserves a present.

In writing class, I've been working on a poem, and I don't think it's very good.  The trouble with my awesome sweetie is, he's too awesome to put into a poem.  But that's all I have today, just one little substandard poem.

About You

I tried to write a poem about you
But I wrote about the wind and its cooling breeze, its whispers that drift through my hair,
And frigid gusts that nearly knock me over.

I wanted to write about you
But kept thinking of the ocean, the dark depths that frighten me, waves that carry me,
Soft tickles that caress my sandy toes.

I meant to write about you
But the sun was insistent, so I wrote its blinding brightness, its scalding heat,
And its kiss on my summer skin.

I wanted to write you, but I wrote this --
This poem that I wrote when I tried to write a poem about you.

Happy Valentine's Day, Todd.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Namaste, Bitches

Please forgive me if you find this post title offensive; I saw it on a t-shirt, and have been dying for one ever since. I just feel that it sums up my philosphy of, well, everything. 

I may bow to what's honorable in you, but there's no need to get all touchy-feely about it.

In the Great Year of Unemployment, yoga became a big part of my life.  I had been to a few classes before, but it had never really stuck.  This time, thanks to A LOT of free time, a desperate need for some emotional peace, and a fantastic teacher (Hi, Rebecca!), it stuck.  It was very, very sticky.

Let's get the obvious out of the way first:  yoga is great exercise.  It will make you sweat, and make you out of breath, and you'll be sore the next day. (There's really no way make that sentence non-suggestive, so just go with it, 'mkay?)

But what I have fallen in love with is a lot less obvious. 

First of all, yoga completely changed how I feel about my body.  Truthfully, I have spent 38 years hating my body.  Mostly, it sucks.  It's too big, both in height and weight, and it's very slow-moving.  It can't catch or hit anything that is thrown at it. It trips a lot.  It gets tired way before anyone else's does.

But in yoga, I discovered some things to like about it.  It's pretty strong, and it's surprisingly flexible.  When I'm patient with it, it will sometimes do things that I never thought it could (camel pose, I'm looking at you).  When there's nothing to trip over, it's graceful, and it has some great balance when it's allowed to really concentrate.

These don't seem like big things.  But armed with just these few things to like about my body, I started to stand a little straighter and prouder, and feel just a little more at peace with it.  I almost started to apologize to this poor ol' misunderstood body for being so mean to it all these years.

Then there are the spiritual aspects of yoga.  The Southern Baptist Convention can denounce yoga practitioners as heathen she-devils all they want, but yoga brought me closer to God.  It's a discipline that demands patience with yourself, the universe, and God, if you believe in one.  It also stresses acceptance of things as they are, and a practice of living in the moment, being aware and conscious of your present. 

I'm probaby not expressing this very well. But I can tell you, on a spiritual level, yoga helped to fill in a gap in me. It didn't replace my religious beliefs, it just rounded them out, made them more personal.  My time on that yoga mat became my time to be with God, to grieve for lost things, to rejoice for what I have been given, and to listen for what might bring me peace. 

'Cause you know, everybody could use a little more peace.


Friday, February 10, 2012

A Friday Morning Tale of Woe

I have a cold.

Yes, I realize that hardly qualifies as a "tale of woe," but it is a particularly sucky cold, especially since I am now gainfully(ish) employed and do not yet have sick days.  So I am at work(ish), sneezing and sniffling and looking "fried," as one new coworker informed me.  (Thanks for that, by the way, coworker.)

My teeth hurt.

This might seem to you to be unrelated to a cold, but according to Dr. Interwebs, that is a sure sign of a sinus infection.  Did you know that?  I surely did not, but when I realized I was seriously contemplating pulling all the teeth out of my mouth with my own two hands, I looked it up.  And we all know that if Dr. Interwebs says it, it must be true.  Anyway, they really hurt.  Last night I found myself rubbing some kind of sore throat spray on my gums, thinking it would numb them, and all it did was make my lips numb.  Really, really numb.

So last night my inner, crunchy yoga-loving self decided that I should pull out my neti pot and try to fix up my errant sinuses.  For my less crunchy readers, let me just briefly explain:  the neti pot is a little genie's lamp looking thing that you fill with hot saltwater and pour into one side of your nose and let it drain out the other side.

Yeah, right about now you are thinking just how sexy I am, aren't you?  I thought so.

Anyway, I got out the little pot last night and poured it into one nostril (I hate that word. Nostril.  Yuck.), and waited for it to drain out the other side.  And waited.

And waited.

And the water never drained out.  It didn't go anywhere.  My poor, poor little sinuses are so swollen that even WATER can't get past 'em.

This morning I decided to try again.  It just seemed like the crunchy, yoga-loving thing to do.  I got the water really hot, stirred it up with the salty stuff, and poured it into a nostril.  (yucky word again)

And that hot, salty, water promptly backed up and refused to drain out the other side again, sending half of it gooshing out the original nostril (yuck) and the other half going down my throat. 

Dude.  That hurt. 

I totally water-boarded myself.  At 6:00 a.m..  With hot saltwater.

From there, the day can only get better.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sometimes TV Makes You Think

Todd went away for a cross-country skiing weekend last weekend.  (I think he had to go damn near to Canada to find snow.)  I spent the weekend recovering from three whole weeks of being gainfully employed.  Goodness me, was I tired.   So tired that by 10:00 on Friday I was yawning over my girls-night-out beer and had to come home.  Saturday I made it through girls-night-out wine until 8:00.  Yep, all the crazy cool kids are jealous of me and my wild partying ways.

Catching up on important TV is about as wild as I get these days.  Weekday evenings are so busy that I have to watch everything on the weekend, and let me tell you, it takes some serious time management skills to get it all in.  There's Switched at Birth and Glee, then there's Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries.  Not to mention Once Upon a Time, House, and The New Girl.  And I haven't even started the new season of Downton Abbey.

We have to watch Justified during the week because it's just that awesome.

This weekend, since I was already on a couch and TV binge, I watched Tombstone, because I just finished a fan-tucking-fabulous book about Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, and I can't wait until the February Reading Round-up to tell you about it.  Doc Holliday is my new obsession.  Quite a change of pace from my other literary obsessions, like vampires, and demons and ghosts and things that go bump in the night.

Speaking of demons . . . (and no, I'm not going to talk about Republicans again, at least in this post) I discovered a fan-tucking-fabulous British TV show on Netfllix called Apparitions. It was cancelled after six episodes (probably because it was so good and I liked it) but man, were those six episodes something!  It's about a priest who does exorcisms and becomes wrapped up in a war between Satan and God.  If you are a fan of scary possessed characters, you'll love it.

I'm not Catholic -- I'm perfectly happy being Presbyterian, or what my father calls "almost Catholic" -- but I was amazed by the intensity of the ritual and prayer engaged in by the priests and nuns on the show.  It was full of scenes in which one priest would dash in and out of a room, yelling "you stay here and pray!" in the same tone that an action character would say "you stay here and set that bomb!" or whatever action characters say.

It was very exciting.  There was one scene in which a priest PICKED UP an athiest doctor and, I shit you not, THREW her out of the room so he could keep up the praying.  There was praying with rosaries, and crucifixes, and praying that made people's EYES BLEED.  Several times I found myself yelling at the TV, "PRAY HARDER, PRIEST GUY!"

Man, I wish I could pray like that.  It would come in so handy.  If people made me mad I could PRAY at them.  And if some situation needed fixin', I could be all, "hold this while I pray about this right quick."  I could be like a praying superhero.  As things are, my praying is more  . . . um . . . we'll call it subtle.  I've never had to throw anyone out of the room to do it.

Subtle praying is very polite, but maybe it doesn't get the best results.  'S something for this almost-Catholic Presbyterian to think about.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What Goes on in My Head When I Blog

Writing is a strange thing.

I can have millions and millions of ideas hanging out in my head, having a big old kegger of a party, and the minute I sit down to actually write, all those damn ideas have drunk their fill and passed out for the night.  Then sometimes I think I have nothing at all to say, and I pick up a pen, and something comes out.  Not necessarily a good something, but a something.

I decided to take a creative writing class this year to try to even things out a bit -- actually, who am I kidding?  I decided to take a writing class to actually make me sit down and write.  As an angsty teenager/young adult, I wrote ALL THE TIME.  Granted, it was all crap, but I produced mounds of it.  Picture Danielle Steele as an angsty young adult poet, and that's about the volume (and quality) of stuff I could churn out.  The less angsty, adult me is lucky to end up with one poem a year.

Last night was the first night that we actually "workshopped" in class, meaning we sat around and read our stuff and asked for criticism.  I hadn't participated in such a thing since college, and had forgotten how unsatisfying it can be.  When I am told my piece is good, I assume they just don't want to hurt my feelings, and when they criticize it, I assume they want to get smacked. 

Just kidding about the smacking part.  Sort of.  I promise I won't smack anybody in this class.  I mean, there's that one really annoying guy, but he's not in my workshopping group, so I'm pretty sure I can avoid smacking him. I'm almost positive.

Last night I read a poem I am working on -- I keep working on poems to avoid trying to start a novel -- and I kept asking them if it was just too syrupy sweet, and they kept saying no, and I kept thinking maybe they're wrong, and at the end of the night I'm still wondering if it's too syrupy sweet.  I wish I could call my college poetry writing professor and ask her.  She totally made me cry back then with her razor-sharp criticism, and I know she would tell me the truth.

She would also tell me that "razor-sharp criticism" is trite and overused.  And I think she'd be right.  I knew as I was typing "razor-sharp criticism" that it is trite and overused.  Hell, I think I've probably used it before myself.  But I just went right ahead and wrote "razor-sharp criticism" anyway because it's my blog and I don't care what she says.  (If you read over this post, you'll find lots of such word choices.  "Churn out," for instance.  Really, there has got to be a better synonym for "produce" to use in this context, and if you can think of one, please let me know down there in the comments.)

But I honestly do want honest criticism.  (See, now I'm wondering if using two variations of the word "honest" in that one short sentence is a nice, quirky construction or just a plain old annoying redundancy.) I want the kind of honest criticism that results in a big, fat book deal, hordes of adoring readers, and perhaps J.K. Rowling calling me up on occasion just to chat because we are both such popular and lauded writers that regular people just can't relate to us. 

I don't think that's too much to ask, really.  I paid my $99 for the class, so I deserve it. 

Well.  Actually, it was $75, because I got an alumni discount, and I didn't actually pay it, because it was a gift (thanks, Mom!), but still. 

(Sigh) Writing, it sure is strange.