Wednesday, May 20, 2020

My 2020 Corona Summer Bucket List

Every year, for the last several years, our family has created a Summer Bucket List. It usually has your typical things on it like "Go to the Drive-in" (which for some reason we never do) and "Hit up the pool like a boss" (which is one goal we regularly achieve). Here's an example of my Summer Bucket List from 2015. (This list is also a good example of how I make a list and then generally achieve about 2/3 of it. Sigh).

This summer, however, your calendar probably looks a lot like mine. Big GIANT Xs through all of the fun stuff you had planned to do. Well, if I'm being honest, it was all of the fun stuff my kids were supposed to do with me tagging along, but I enjoy that stuff nonetheless.

So, my goal for this weekend is to write the Summer Bucket List for 2020, with input from the kids. I know that some of my goals will be to work on remodeling the upstairs bath, finish cleaning out and arranging the garage, paint the porch railings, and paint the windowsills that need to be addressed. But that sounds like one big sad Bucket List of CHORES.

I need help adding some fun stuff to do during this Corona Summer (a therapist I was in a session with about two years ago asked me the poignant question "What do you do for fun? Do you schedule in fun?" which seemed like a wildly wacky idea until I thought about it - because I did not). Give me your ideas, friends!! J

Friday, May 8, 2020

These are a few of my favorite books (Book 1: Pet Sematary)...

Favorite books
Should I be concerned that my cat looks an awful lot like this one?
A few weeks back, I was asked to join a Quarantine Book Club that meets on Thursday nights. There are usually about 5-6 of us in on the conversations, and this weekly meeting has been a very welcome addition to my life - one that I hope will continue when all of this is over. Not only do I get to see (via Zoom) people who do not live in my actual house (I love you, family, but there is such a thing as too much together time), but I also get to talk with a small group of people roughly my age who truly love books and love talking about them. Yes, I talk with my students about books all the time as part of my job as a college prof, and I love that experience. But there's just something different about the Book Club ... probably the fact that I'm not charged every session with leading the discussion.

(I'd love to invite all of you to join the Book Club. But I can't. I'm sorry lol).

Last night, in our discussion of the Kelly Link short story titled "The Wrong Grave," the book Pet Sematary came up a few times. (If you've never heard of this book, especially if you are a child of the 80s when the first movie came out, I can't even with you.) During the conversation, one of the Book Club members noted that, for her, this was Stephen King's scariest book. I've been thinking about whether or not I agree, and I've come to the conclusion that I do. Here's why.

In one of his introductions to the book, King notes that his inspiration for the story came from a real moment in his life. He and his family, when his children were very young, lived along a busy road that was heavily traveled by commercial trucks. On one occasion, his toddler son took off running toward the road and King (he can't remember which) either caught him or his son tripped. Regardless, as he describes it, "part of my mind never escaped from that gruesome what if: Suppose I hadn't caught him? Or suppose he had fallen in the middle of the road instead of on the edge of it?" (xiii). Most of King's story begin from this kind of what if? moment. What if a family decides to move into the mountains and isolate themselves for a winter to escape their problems, for example (spoiler alert: nothing good).

I think this book was a truly frightening, and deeply harrowing/human experience for me because it forced me to think about the lengths one would go to if something happened to one of their children. I'm a mother of two girls. I don't like to imagine those kinds of scenarios. But King does a deft job of forcing me to consider grief and loss and madness at the hands of fate.

Long story short, I highly recommend this book. I could not put it down. While you're at it, since we're locked in our houses, why not also try The Shining? It's also on my best books list - a slow cooker that is perfect for the long haul we all seem to be in for.

Until next time, Jess 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

8 Stones

This morning, on my way to work, I was listening to the Happier podcast, which is hosted by Gretchen Rubin and her sister, Liz Craft. I always listen to this podcast on Wednesdays as I head into work; I find it uplifting and full of practical advice designed to help us make our lives ones better lived.

On this week's podcast, Gretchen and Liz featured an actress who was discussing advice that Richard Avedon had given to another creative he was working with. His theory was that you should always keep eight stones on your desk. Underneath each of these stones should be a slip of paper signifying a different project that you know you want to tackle and complete. When each project is completed, you remove it from under its stone and replace it with a new one.

While I don't have enough room on my desk for 8 stones (it's not all that large - and it's cluttered), I loved this idea. So, I decided to make my 8 stones post-its and place them on my work window; this way they'll be in my sight line when I open the door to my office each morning (I can also see them from my desk).

8 post-its
Please excuse the dirty window exterior. I'm 7 floors up LOL. 
What I love about this idea is that it suggests that we should strive to be people with multiple interests. My projects are not all work related (for example, one is to complete 365 days of yoga, while another is to re-read all of Sylvia Plath's poems and catalog all of her references to Gothic horror tropes). Some can be knocked out in a month or a day, while others will likely take all year. But when I get tired of one, I can turn my attentions to another, and I won't become so bogged down in finishing one thing that nothing else gets done.

On the podcast, they did discuss why Avedon selected the number 8, instead of 7 (which is often referred to as the "number of completion" - 7 sacraments, 7 horcruxes, 7 deadly sins, 7 days of the week, etc.). Liz suggested it was perhaps related to the infinity symbol (since as you finish one project, a new one takes its place); Gretchen noted that it felt like a symmetrical, whole number that gave the projects heft.

Regardless, I'm giving it a whirl and wanted to share in case it was something you were interested in trying too. I also highly recommend the "Happier" podcast, which you can find on any podcast platform that you use. I made the dreaded mistake of buying a Samsung this go round, so I am currently using Castbox.

I hope you have a great day and a great rest of the week! Let me know if you also give the theory of the 8 stones a try.

Friday, January 29, 2016

10 things I want my girls to know ...

  1. Learn to drive a stick shift. Who knows if you will ever find yourself in a situation where you will need to hop in an old Bronco and put the pedal to the metal. How will you do that if you only know how to drive an automatic?
  2. Never allow a boy (or a man) to dictate your sense of self worth. If he says mean things, plays you against another girl, tries to tell you how to dress, act, etc., or demeans you in any other way, he doesn't value you. Tell that guy to move along.
  3. Success comes with sacrifice and hard work. Luck strikes only a few times. Do the work so you are ready to seize the opportune moment. Like Jack in Pirates of the Carribean.
  4. Don't choose a profession you will despise just because you think/are told you'll make more money doing it. I almost made that mistake. You'll spend much of your adult life at work. You need to love what you do or it will quickly become a drag. 
  5. Don't wear high heels if you actually like/need to do this little thing called "WALKING."
  6. Try to have integrity. Try not to say things behind someone's back that you wouldn't say to his or her face. This is hard. Gossip is seductive.
  7. Be friends as well as sisters. One day, your dad and I won't be here. I know, this completely sucks. I'm not happy about it either. But one day you will need one another to lean on. 
  8. If you fall down, get back up. You can stay down for a little while and cry it out. But you can't stay on the ground forever. Never stop fighting for yourself and what you want. 
  9. Choose sensible underwear. Uncomfortable underwear will always ruin your entire day. 
  10. Sometimes, it's an admirable thing to put others' needs, wants, etc. before your own. Throughout your life, you'll have to come second here and there. However, don't let it become a pattern. Sometimes ... often, you should come first. 
I lied. One more. There is such a thing as "too many selfies." Love, Mom  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Confession: I Hated Confessions of a Shopaholic (Especially the Movie)

Yes, yes. I know I am way behind the times on this one. But I picked up Confessions of a Shopaholic at my personal library (otherwise known as the local Goodwill) about a month ago and finally gave in to reading it.

I wanted to like it. Really, I did. I'm one of those people who argues regularly for the value of mind candy, fun reading that has no purpose other than for one's own personal enjoyment.

I didn't like it at all. I did like The Devil Wears Prada. The Nanny Diaries. But the main character in this one, Becca, was so frustratingly silly that I found it hard to take her seriously when the time finally came to do so. I could barely bear to read all of the long-winded descriptions about giving in to conspicuous consumption (and I LOVE clothes!!), but I'm also one of those people who believes that we should finish what we start.

I thought the film could not possibly be any worse, but it was. The movie starring Isla Fisher, an obvious rip-off of Sex and the City, complete with jumpy camera work, effervescent pop soundtrack, and whacky Patricia Field wardrobe, took what was already a book that pandered to the worst of female stereotypes and made the protagonist even more ridiculous, because she is left with very little agency. At least in Kinsella's book, Becca toughens up, supposedly wakes up to her bad habits (I hear she actually doesn't in the sequels), and lands herself a pretty sweet job ... all by her own doing. In the movie, things just happen to her. God forbid that the main female character in a rom-com actually make her own way in the world, without a man's help. Actually, by bringing a smug man to task (come to think of it, I kind of liked that part).   

And that's my feminist two-cents for the day. Oh, and I'm currently wearing sweatpants. I love the first real taste of Fall. A/J

Friday, August 7, 2015

Dinner with My Four-Year-Old

Every evening, getting my four-year-old to settle down and eat actual food that does not consist of confetti waffles, peanut butter in a flour tortilla, pop tarts, or "monkey drinks" (yogurt smoothies) is a battle of epic proportions.

Dinner with kids refuse to eat

Here's how it usually goes:

1. She approaches the dinner table warily, like a cat stalking some kind of unappetizing prey. When she gets close enough to see what is actually on her plate, she asks, "WHAT is THAT?"
2. Before she deals with the food again, she looks reprovingly at the rest of us sitting around the table, and says, in her best Church Lady voice, "Grace!" She then proceeds to give us a reggae-style version of thanksgiving prayer ("Thank you for this food; thank you for this da-aa-ay. A-a-a-aaaaamen") complete with hand gestures that look like a cross between a flopping fish and a third-base coach desperately trying to give signals to a batter.
3. After grace, she again looks at her food, pokes it with her finger (if she deigns to touch it), and declares, "That. Is. Disgusting." This is typically followed by the statement "I am NOT eating any salad."
4. Throughout the rest of dinner, she treats her chair like it is about 350 degrees in temperature, bouncing up and down, doing leg stretches inappropriate to anything but a gymnastics class.
5. After I tell her that she has to try what's on her plate (at least two bites), she proceeds to bring the food toward her mouth while wearing an expression like Stephen King's screaming Carrie.

Then, finally ..... she says .... "This is actually good." And goes on to eat most of it.


So, last night at dinner, I told my husband, "What would it be like if we acted like four-year-olds at dinner?" I then proceeded to play out the scenario complete with inappropriate leg stretches and laying down in my chair. Picture it.

I mean, what else do you do during a nightly situation that borders on the ridiculous except roll with the punches? Until Monday all:). A/J

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Long time, no see ...

Hello out there. It's been so long since I've written anything here, the wheels feel a bit creaky. I don't know what happened, honestly. My three jobs started to take up a ton of time, the kids had a ton of stuff going on, I started to feel like I didn't have much to say that could compete in this new atmosphere of perfect blog confections, filled with white space, hand-drawn arrows, and delicious pictures.

I like clutter. Knick knacks. Stuff.

Anyway, I want to start writing here again. It'll probably still be the same random assortment of stuff, without rhyme or reason or branding potential. But I'm ok with that. Because it will reflect the various, incongruous things that make me ... me.

So, until tomorrow. A/J

I have been letting a lot of sunshine into my soul. One good thing about some time off.