Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Books that Made a Difference: Part 2

Not that anyone cares, but I am finally finishing my Books that Made a Difference: Part 1 entry.

Dean Koontz

Yes I know what you're thinking.  Dean Koontz, the fiction writer best known for his horror and mystery stories?  Yes.  To be honest, I am not sure how to describe this book.   It was read aloud to me (and all my classmates) in 8th grade by one of my favorite teachers: Susie McGee.  She believed in reading aloud, and better yet, in being read to, at any age.  Her narration was half the fun, but the fantasy and thrill in the story meant we could not wait for her to read a few more pages.   The book tells the story of toys made in a  magic workshop.  They're designed to be sent out into the world to befriend troubled or mistreated children.  Unfortunately, the magic toymaker has just died and the toys must go across town to tell an unsuspecting woman she's the new toymaker.  To make matters worse, after the original maker died, the evil toys in the sub-basement are able to come to life.   The creatures have one goal: destroying their counterparts and putting their own toymaker in charge to spread sorrow among children.

Kind of creepy, right?   This was written in 1988, long before Toy Story and Buzz and Woody were household names and made grown men cry in theaters with the release of Toy Story 3.  I'm telling you, toys speak to everyone.  We all lounged on the floor in the afternoon on beanbag chairs or pillows or wherever we could listen comfortably, and follow the mystery.   As a middle schooler, it was heaven to just sit and listen and not take notes or be tested.   Sadly, the book is out of print.   I would love a copy... maybe some day.

Life of Pi
Yann Martel

Surprisingly, neither my mother nor my best friend have read this book.  This is strange because they are both voracious readers and rarely do I find and read a book before they do.   What are they waiting for?!   This book was all the rage when it came out in 2003.   I enjoyed it and read it quickly.  Can I just say that the 'twist' at the end - if you want to call it that - floored me.   Which story do you believe?  For the record, I never once thought any of Pi's characters or events to be preposterous.   I went along for the ride and think the Japanese authorities are a bunch of fools.

The Catcher and the Rye
J.D. Salinger

Every time I think of this book the first word that comes to mind, of course, is phonies.  Like Holden, I cannot stand phonies in any situation in my life.  I cannot necessarily relate to a teenage boy in New York dealing with complex problems.  But even when I read this book the summer before 9th grade, I knew what he was talking about as he contrasted the innocence of youth with the phoniness of adulthood.   If you ask me, everyone encounters phonies throughout their lives.  Thanks to this book, I always think of Holden when I come across one.

Harry Potter Series
J.K. Rowling

Cliche?  I don't think so.   I read these books toward the beginning of their popularity, while I was in high school and home for spring break my senior year while my sister was in Paris.  Once I met the trio I was hooked and could have cared less that I was stuck at home in Ohio during a March snowstorm.  By the time book 7 came out I was living with Michael in DC.  We both wanted to read the final installment so badly that we bought 2 copies.  I was not going to stop reading to share with him.  I remember the day it came out was also the day of an eye exam for me.   We went to the exam, bought my glasses, and headed to Borders (RIP) where the copies were in reserve.   The two of us sat together on the couch for hours, stopping only for lunch (canned soup because it was fastest) and whatever we could pull together for dinner.   We both read the book in a day, and as you can imagine, there were many tears.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Spa Day

I did not buy my husband's first anniversary gift until less than a week before the big date.   We talked about the first year being a paper gift, but sort of left it at that.  Then Michael mentioned that he'd ordered my paper gift.   Holy crap.   I had NOTHING and time was ticking away.  I had an idea of what I could do, but I had no time to do it!  YIKES.   Lucky for me I found it and got the gift completed in time.  For the record, he gave me a handmade picture frame with layers of beautiful paper on the frame.  I got him a blank book of sorts, with pre-printed questions all about our relationship.  Some questions were silly, some thoughtful, and some absurd.  I answered each as I saw fit, and it's pretty amusing.

Year 2's gift is cotton.  I was all over it.  Michael needed a new swimsuit and new hang-around weekend t-shirts.  Easy peasy.   I also found some adorable scrabble pillow covers on Etsy to add a bit of whimsy.  He in turn made a big deal of getting me a non-cotton gift.  Do you know what he gave me?

A DAY at the spa with, count em, 4 treatments.
-scalp treatment
-body polish

Have you ever spent a day at the spa?   I had, once, in Lake Placid.  It's glorious.   I had only one treatment scheduled, but I took advantage of each and every inch of the jacuzzi, steam room, showers, relaxation room etc.  Highly recommended.

But y'all.  If you can get 4 TREATMENTS?!   Whoa boy.   Yesterday I had a splendid combination of scheduled treatments and free time to enjoy the amenities.   And today I am still relaxed!  Can't wait to go back.    Now all I have to do is figure out how to make this work with the 3rd anniversary themed gift

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Once Upon A Time

So I think I have a new cult show.   Did you watch Lost?   I did.  Every single episode.  They got inside my head and drove me crazy and sometimes even got into my dreams.   It was very strange.  But I must admit that it was a terrific show with great storytelling.  The character development and layers to the story was such that it almost felt like I was watching a novel.   Do you ever read a book so good that you wish they'd make it into a move so you could watch the characters?    Lost was like that but in reverse.  

And then Lost ended in May 2010.   This was good news not only for my free time, but for my dreams.  Interestingly, my shows are coming to an end lately.   The less-than-good-at-the-end Brothers and Sisters ended last year, Desperate Housewives ends this spring, I am bored with American Idol, etc.   Things were looking good as far as spare time is concerned.

Now, thanks to the creators of Lost, I have a new show to watch religiously.   Once Upon A Time.  It's on Sundays at 8pm on ABC (check local listings!) and if you enjoyed Lost, you should definitely check it out.   Even if you did not enjoy Lost but maybe, I don't know, have read a fairy tale in your life, check it out.

The actors are good (including Jennifer Morrison formerly of House, and Ginnfer Goodwin who apart from being a talented actress, has the cutest hair in the world, and the amazing Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin), the story lines familiar in parts, but deliciously tricky in others.  Flashbacks from the real world to the fairy tales are necessary to understand some of what is going on currently, but they're also a joy to watch, considering the period costumes, and real people behaving true to their fairy tale counterparts.

ABC ran a marathon on New Year's Day which we recorded, so even though I was not on the bandwagon at first, I am officially hooked.  Apple TV has episodes available for purchase, though ABC should have them on their site for free, if you watch a few ads.

January is lousy weather, folks.   You're only 8 episodes behind... get watching!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Books that Made a Difference: Part 1

When your mother is a librarian you are surrounded by books.   Even before this career path became aparant, my mom read to my sister and I.   Constantly.  I was a vociferious reader in elementary school and even middle school.   Summer not only included countless hours in the pool, but trips to the library so we could have new books every week.

Sadly in high school my pleasure reading took a back seat to everything else I was doing to become Suzie High School*   College wasn't much better, with all the required readings and ridiculous reporting assignments bestowed upon me, the broadcast journalism major.

Finding a full-time job in DC meant a job (!) and also a commute.  Consequently, I had chunks of time on public transit in which to read books!   I again became a public library card holder and consistently checked out books so as to be amused on the Metro.  While the number of volumes read has fluctuated greatly since joining the real world in 2005, I have always enjoyed reading a book.   Especially a good one.   The following titles, while not necessarily favorites, have made a difference to me.   (In other words, I have favorite books that had no impact on my life and were simply enjoyable.  See: The Hunger Games)  I have several books to speak about and for the sake of not boring you all to tears, this will be a 2 part post.

Harper Lee

An obvious choice?  Perhaps.  Part of why I love this book so much is that it was my 9th grade English teacher's favorite book of all time, and her love made us enjoy it too.  TKAM was the first book I read in high school.   I believe that because it was so well written, and dealt with topics in such an easy-to-read fashion, it helped me better understand literature throughout school.  At its heart, TKAM teaches readers to stand up for what we know is right, and that deep down, most people are kind 'when you really see them'   I agree completely.

James and the Giant Peach
Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl was introduced to all LRA 3rd graders as part of our reading groups (who remembers reading groups?)  Each group cycled through several books, but James was my first.  At the time it felt like a grown-up book, but its whimsy and fantastical elements made it a perfect choice for over-achieving 9 year olds.  Who could forget when James climbsed inside the giant fruit and rolled away from the crazy aunts?   And with all that magic, I'd want to be friends with Grasshopper, Earthworm, Miss Spider, and Centipede, too.

The Monkey and the Bee
Leland Jacobs

This was the book I used to teach my sister how to read.  You see, I was in kindergarten and reading everything I could get my hands on.  At 5, I was entertained for quite awhile, so long as interesting picture books were nearby.  Any good big sister will tell you that it behooves everyone when the little sister can keep up.  So, I taught Al how to read.  I used several books, including some Care Bear picture books, but this was the old standby and the one that she read all by herself at age 3.  I still take credit for her early admittance to Duke University (kind of).   It appears this book is out of print, and no image was available.   Tragic!

Tim McCarver's Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Other Fans: 
Understanding and Interpreting the Game So You Can Watch It Like a Pro
Tim McCarver and Danny Peary

Auntie introduced me to baseball as an 8 year old, and I have never looked back!  While I believe you learn from watching and attending games, this book, as you might gather from the name, goes a bit more in depth.  Tim McCarver, a former player and current FOX broadcaster, does a fantastic job of explaining the many nuances of a baseball game.  It's not just a bat and a ball and glove, you know.  I am convinced that if you plopped an alien in front of this book he would understand the game.   It's certainly appreciated by uberfans, but also a great starting point for a novice.

*TM Pannie

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reflecting upon 2011

I filled out all these questions in January 2010, and for whatever reason skipped them in early 2011.   Alas.   Here is my summary of 2011, in January 2012.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?
Lots!   Travel related: I took a bus to New York City a mere 48 hours after booking said reservation, went to Colombia, (rode on a horse!) went to Puerto Rico, experienced a damn Ithaca winter.   Went to St. Louis for the first time (!) to surprise my best friend for her birthday.  Highly recommended by the way.   

Random events: Worked from home without combing my hair all day.   Also highly recommended.  Ate at a AAA 5 Diamond restaurant.  Attended a high school reunion (relatedly drank beer on campus!).  Saw NKOTBSB LIVE IN CONCERT complete with a surprise appearance by Boyz II Men
Mundane nonsense: dyed my hair darker than my natural color
2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
No.....I'm not usually the resolutions type... I pretty much set goals every moment of my life, no t just once a year
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes!  Kari (friend since 1988!) had a baby and Alexa (from high school) had baby #2
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes. My kitty cat of 16 years.... Wooie died on 1.4.11
Pets totally count.
5. What countries did you visit?
Colombia!  Within the US and its territories, went to Lake Placid, NY, Buffalo, NY, New York City, Cleveland, OH,  Tarpon Springs, FL, Washington, DC (twice!), Puerto Rico, Beaufort, SC
6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
In 2009 I said I wanted a job and artwork on the walls and the Indians to win the World Series.    Lucky for me, I now have 2 of those 3.   So in 2012 maybe the Tribe will pull through for me? 

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
While this was a good year, I don't have major dates etched in my memory from 2011.   Well, maybe 11.11.11 because Nene and her family went on a cruise to celebrate the magical triple 11s and then came to visit us.  But that wasn't on the 11th...
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Landing a FULL! TIME! JOB! for the first time in a long time.  
9. What was your biggest failure?
Oh this is funny.   I do not fail!   I am a superhero!   Seriously though I'd say there are too many items to list.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Not that I can recall.  No stitches, broken bones, etc.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
My gorgeous yellow coach bag that makes me smile every time I see it and wear it and get compliments on it.  Wooooooo.    Or, you know, maybe tickets to Colombia, which was pretty awesome

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Michael for graduating from Cornell University with a damn high GPA!
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Mostly celebrities... this year Kim Kardashian would probably take the cake.
14. Where did most of your money go?
To our AmEx bill!  Specifically, travel.   I took so many flights in 2011 it's not even funny.   All on separate airlines, for the most part, so I am not cashing in with the frequent flier mile situation.  And as always, to the Osceola County tax collector.

15. What did you get really excited about?
My yellow purse (see #11), my FITBIT which I received for Christmas

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Probably Party Rock Anthem since I heard it approximately 2,011 times each week on the radio.  And also I ran to it a lot.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

- happier or sadder? I am generally a happy person, but since we are back in Florida in our house and not in a cruddy apartment, happier.
- thinner or fatter? Thinner than I was in at the end of 2010 for sure!   Woooo GO ME!
- richer or poorer? Richer -monetarily speaking- because I have a full time job
18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Relaxed and enjoyed the present moment.  Oh look I said that LAST TIME!   I shall take up meditation.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Flitting about from task to task instead of focusing on one thing at a time. Oh again this is applicable.  Shocking.   And maybe done less complaining about my crappy apartment.  Then again..... ;)  Worrying in general
20. How did you spend Christmas?
We were in Ohio, as usual, with our families. The Sertich grandparents were in town, and so was Marissa!  YAY!   My immediate family remains the same, but our crazy Lasky family gathering is growing in size, yet remains a loud, joyful celebration.
21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
I stayed in love!  I don't think I love anyone in 2011 that I did not love the previous year.
22. What was your favorite TV program?
I am so lame I barely watch TV.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Not that I can recall...  Well.   I hate what Jim Tressel DID and the consequences the Buckeyes are facing.  Does that count?
24. What was the best book you read?
This year I would probably say The Hunger Games trilogy because they were captivating and entertaining and I did not want them to end.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Oh this question is always an epic fail.  I do not listen to music.  Well, I do but nothing particular cool.   I guess Adele?   I became more aware of her in 2011 that's for sure.
26. What did you want and get?
Lots of things! The usual mush like health and happiness and success and all that jazz.
27. What did you want and not get?
Again, I don't remember having a list of wants last year, to be honest.  (Boring- sorry)
27a. What did you not want and not get? Lots of things! A nasty hurricane season, to name one

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2 was pretty awesome.   So was The Muppets.  How old am I?  10?
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28 and we went to 5 Guys and I had a burger.   We also had possibly the worst cake on the planet, made by Ithaca bakery.  Good thing the ice cream was tasty.   I received a cozy robe, which was one of Oprah's favorite things.  I find it amazing that I own one of Oprah's favorite things.  Who am I?
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Re-using my answer from 2 years ago (because it's true) I am a glass is half-full person and plead the 5th.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
I work from home so this is rather pathetic....  shorts and tank tops are the majority of my days.   I did, however, accessorize a bit more than in previous years which is impressive to me.
32. What kept you sane?
Many many cups of tea.  Friends and family and the ability to IM with coworkers at any given moment despite living more than 1000 miles from almost all of them.  
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Same as always: Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. and this year I saw NPH at EPCOT and I fancied him for sure.
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Politics drives me bats, in general.  Can't we all get along?
35. Who did you miss?
Family and friends we've met along the way who do not live in Florida and therefore don't see enough.  And all my Ithaca co-workers who I see online each day but it's just not the same
36. Who was the best new person you met?
My new Ithaca remote co-workers who technically I have met only via instant message.  But it totally counts.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
For real?   I have no idea.  How to drive in the snow when they don't plow or salt...  While driving a Mazda 3?  Seriously..... no clue
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
"Turns out not where but who you're with that really matters"  DMB, The Best of What's Around