Monday, May 24, 2010

The Homes that Built Me

Those of you who love country music will most likely immediately recognize the Miranda Lambert reference in my title. I heard this song on the radio a week or so ago, and it really got me thinking. Here's a link to the music video via the wonderful youtube: http://

I wish I could pinpoint the exact word or phrase that made this song resound with me. It had such an effect that I actually bought it. I hardly ever buy music. I just watch the videos over and over again on youtube :)

There's something about the concept of going back to the place you grew up and recapturing who you were when you lived there. It inspired me to take a look back at the houses that built me.

The first few houses I lived in I have no true memories of, and therefore they are only houses to me. The only memories I have are created ones; stories my family told me to match the photos in old albums. The first true home I have memories of is also the site of my earliest childhood memories. It's in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. It was a brick house with blue paneling and a blue garage door. A basic 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home with a standard layout. From the outside, it may look like just any other house. But that house taught me a lot.

When the time came to paint the garage door, I learned stopping and smelling the roses was for amateurs. Watching paint dry is a true test of letting time go. There's a famous phrase, something about the boredom of watching paint dry, but I found it quite beautiful. Certain parts dry faster than others, creating patterns. It was beautiful. Sitting on warm concrete, watching the sun and the paint create different shapes and images, making up stories to go along with them. This is one of my fondest memories from that house.

We had a playhouse in the backyard. A little yellow and white one room structure that stood side by side with the dog houses. Rollie Polies congregated there in the spring, and spiders chased me out during the summer. The swing set is where I first began negotiating. Having never been stung, I was terrified of anything that had that capability. While slowing my swinging arc, a bee landed on the clover directly below my swing. I bargained with it: I would try not to hurt it, or any other stinging creatures, if they left me alone. Then I jumped and bolted for the door. I think it worked. To this day, I have yet to be stung. (Knock on wood, of course). We had an above ground pool back there as well. What a journey that was. It seemed to take forever for it to be installed. When it was finally done, my sister and I would sit, clad in swimming suits, in front of the T.V., waiting for the weather report to roll around on the guide (back before Weather on the 8's) to determine if it was warm enough (by Mom's standards, not ours. We would have swam when it was snowing) to get in. As soon as that 82 rolled by, we'd be running for the back door.

Time changes everything. We moved from that house to another, and the pool moved with us. Years later, it was destroyed by roofing material during a small tornado. Hamsters, gerbils and lizards taught us how short life can be, and nothing beat coming home to a mile-a-minute tail wag from our dog.

More home memories coming soon. Miranda Lambert's CD and the "House that Built Me" single is available for purchase.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A List of Books to Read

I've been meaning to do book reviews, but I've been reading faster than I've been posting. So I'm a double failure, but still, here's a list of great books I've read recently, and why you should go get them right now.

"Dog On It" and "Thereby Hangs a Tail", Spencer Quinn: This new series is absolutely hilarious. It's a new mystery series (Dog On It in paperback, Thereby still only in hardcover) narrated by... a dog. And it's a riot. Unlike many authors who assign human qualities to animal narrators, Quinn does a wonderful job of capturing the true character of Chet, our canine narrator. Chet gets distracted by his tail (come on, any dog owner knows that happens!), and although he can't piece together the clues he sees, the reader can. Which makes this series the ultimate whodunit. Not only do you get Chet's detective/person (and by person I mean owner, but not really. Our dogs love us and we love them, and they're not truly own-able) talking things out with Chet, but you also get Chet's solo-view on the matter. Which he often forgets. Chet is a believable narrator because he doesn't truly comprehend what he's experiencing. HIGHLY recommend. Seriously, stop reading and go get this book.

"The Sweetness and the Bottom of the Pie", Alan Bradley: A 70 something man writes in the voice of an 11 year old girl. And pulls it off. It's incredible. The second book in the series, with a ridiculously long title (The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, or close to it) was also phenomenal. The series follows 11 year old Flavia de Luce in 1950's rural England as she solves crimes. She is a chemistry progeny. And a riot. She may be 11 years old, but she's wicked smart. And her "experiments" on her involuntary subjects (her sisters) are a delightful side plot.

"Her Mother's Hope", Francine Rivers: In the 3 years I've been working at a bookstore, Francine Rivers has yet to come out with a completely new novel. Now, finally, she's begun a new series. "Her Mother's Hope" follows two generations of women in the same family (almost 3, but the title-referenced mother's mother has a bit of a story involved too). Of course it's amazing. How could it not be? It begins in Europe, goes through Canada and even ventures into our good ol' USA. To make it even more interesting, Rivers based the book on her mother's and grandmother's letters, and even ventured to her ancestor's hometown in Europe to do research. I'd love to research a book in Hawaii, to any publisher who'd like to send me there (all expenses paid, of course! And I can't forget the hubby ;) ) It's a great mother-daughter book club read, as well as just enjoyable. Though parts of it will make you cry. I cried. Despite that, I'm still looking forward to book 2 coming out-- supposedly this fall?! It's an interesting look at mother-daughter relationships as well.

"The Walk", Richard Paul Evans: I detailed this pretty well in my last post, so think back to that. It's a wonderful book. Be prepared to cry though.

"Bitter is the New Black", Jen Lancaster: If you haven't read her blog, Jennsylvania, you should. It's hilarious, and it will give you a taste of her writing before you venture into spending money territory. She states her mind and her feelings, which is refreshing. She may have been overconfident at one point, but she seems to have an accurate view of where she's at now, and isn't afraid to admit she's made mistakes (quite refreshing!). She's says what you want to say, only don't have the guts to. It's awesome. I admire her gall. And it's laugh-yourself-off-the-couch funny. A wonderful combination of wit and hindsight-wisdom.

"The Scent of Rain and Lightning", Nancy Pickard: Another mystery. Guess what section of the bookstore I've poked my nose recently? I've been loving the mystery section, clearly evidenced by this post (Quinn, Bradley and Pickard can all be found there). This is the new Barnes and Noble Recommends book, and I picked it up more because of the title than anything else. I love the smell of a thunderstorm. This is highly influenced by growing up in Oklahoma, and the fact that the book takes place in Kansas may increase my level of bias. However, it was phenomenally well written. She's won about a gazillion awards at this point (all in the mystery realm, I believe) and I often shy away from award winners because they are too prose-y. I love a good book, but a writer who's too busy trying to sound like a writer than working on a good plot is sadly often the recipient of awards. However, Pickard may encourage me to pick up more award winners. The plot kept me on my toes, trying to figure it all out before she told me. And even though I was a smidgeon close, I was still shocked and surprised at the ending. Yet still satisfied. It's a beautifully written with a compelling story; what's not to love? WARNING: For the faint of heart and scaredy-cats like me, don't read this after dark. I made that mistake once. The book switches time frames, from 1986 to present day. It's clearly distinguishable, but the scary stuff happens in both time frames, so you're not even safe reading one part at night. However, if you're used to murder mysteries, you should have no problem.

So that's what I've been reading (and liking). Now pick at least one and read it so I have someone to talk about it with!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Take a Walk

What is the most important thing in the world to you?

This is probably one of those questions I should ask myself more frequently than I do. I get caught up in day-to-day life. Work, school, paying bills... These things occupy my attention. Laundry needs to be done, the floors always need to be cleaned, something could always be more organized. But are these things important to me? No, not really. Should they be? No. So why do chores and money get the most of my thoughts and attention?

I love organizing, don't get me wrong. There's a very satisfactory feeling I get while organizing as well as after I'm done. And it's not terrible and boring to me; I actually enjoy it. It bothers me when things aren't organized. It grates on me, and I can't get it out of my mind. There's this little nagging voice saying, "Your duvet is going to get dusty if you don't get an airtight bin and put it in there. The closet needs to be organized. Have you seen your pantry in the last month?" These voices get heard, these issues get resolved. But how often does an emotional issue get prioritized like that?

I just picked up Richard Paul Evans' "The Walk" today at Barnes and Noble. I'm already about halfway through. It's one of the books with a wonderful story, but that also really makes you take a look at your life. The premise of the book follows a twenty or thirty-something advertising executive that loses everything important to him, and in a desperate grasp decides to walk from the state of Washington to Key West, Florida. This is not just a physical journey, it is an emotional one. He begins his actual walk midway through novel, and that is where I currently am. And I'm already re-evaluating my priorities.

To take a step back and look at my life through another's eyes is not easy. But when I look at my life and see where my priorities lie, it almost disgusts me. I put so much effort into things that won't really matter in the long run. Instead of focusing on my relationships with those I love, I allow work and housework to get in the way. Those things get my priorities. They shouldn't. And my goal is to alleviate this problem as quickly as I can.

No matter what career path I choose, it will always be a job. It may be rewarding and encouraging, but it will still be a job. From now on, I hope find ways to work on the relationships that mean the most to me. If an outsider looks at my life, I don't want it to look like my priorities aren't with my loved ones.

It's a pretty phenomenal book to make me think this deeply and this much while only being 160 pages in. It doesn't matter how it ends at this point; the journey is truly the most important part.

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. I may not have so far, but from this step on I will finally begin to smell the roses-- and honeysuckle, too.