February Book Thoughts

Frightful’s Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Up until a few years ago, I was very unaware that my favorite book, My Side of the Mountain, was part of a trilogy. I decided that since the library had the trilogy as a whole, I would read it. I can see how the three books function together. Book one focuses on him separating and living on his own. Book two focuses on he and his sister combating urban sprawl and poachers. Book three is almost entirely from the falcon’s point of view and what we do to animals. I see the function together. What I loved about book one doesn’t exist in books two or three, therefore it’s not really fair for me to review them.

So let me give you my slightly edited book thoughts on this final book of the trilogy. Considering it was written in the middle parts of the 1980’s, it is definitely before its time. It gives a semi-thought provoking look into an endangered species head, but she just can’t seem to shake her own opinions to give it an accurate voice. She does the book justice by never giving Frightful’s mates voice… the truly wild peregrine falcons. I can respect that. Part of me thinks My Side of the Mountain should be a separate entity from the environmentalist agenda of the later two books. But that’s just my personal opinion.

Good Omen by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

After I had read The Stupidest Angel and literally laughed my butt off the whole way through it, I decided to give Goodreads the benefit of the doubt and try out some of their opinion of “hilarious” books. Perhaps I just didn’t get it. I see where the humor COULD be, but again… I miss it. This book has a very British humor to it. As the back of the book states several times, if you enjoyed Hitchhiker’s Guide, you’ll love it. I loved H2G2, but failed to see any of its wit or humor present in Good Omen. Boo on you, Goodreads.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Simplistic style. Not as eloquently simple as Hemingway but roughly simple. Manly simple. It fits the story exquisitely. From a writer’s point of view, I don’t think the material could have been covered any more perfectly. The landscape is barren, desolate. The voice is rough, tinged with pain. The speech has only one purpose: not to knock you down with long sweeping paragraphs of description of dialogue. It simply tells the story. You get no more, you get no less.

On the other hand, the story becomes somewhat predictable. We know almost from the beginning two things: (1) Man is coughing blood and (2) Boy is lucky. By the time this information was disseminated, I knew the ending. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful journey.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I try to keep up with what’s “hot” in Young Adult literature, simply because it is my passion to get back into a classroom… and frankly, YA literature is something you have to keep up with in order to be an encouraging facilitator of reading habits. This book has received WIDESPREAD recognition for being an amazing book. Original. Revolutionary.

Its Shirley Jackson’s masterpiece “The Lottery” mixed with an unhealthy obsession with Survivor. This is not original. This is not revolutionary. People, this is not good. I thought the book was absolute crap. The characters were unbelievable. The world was revolting at best. The ending was predictable. The writing was subpar. It was like reading the National Enquirer and calling it news. It might be news to someone but it shouldn’t be.

Sideways Stores from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

This was a frivolous read. Someone on Goodreads had reminded me of my sixth grade teacher reading this to us on Fridays and I just had to become reacquainted with my old friends. I read this in an hour. Such a great book.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

This was a selection from my list. After a while, it just doesn’t feel dirty any more. You just feel sorry for him. Or at least I did.

I found the whole situation to be quite humorous after a while. The man, H.H., was obsessed with his little Lolita. If you’ve read it, take a second and forget that our dear love interest is a child. Think of it like a guy and a girl dating. Would an adult woman even stick around for his obsession? There is such a thing as a kept man/kept woman… and Lolita was definitely a kept woman… but there’s only so much that’s tolerable.

Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris

These are the short stories that are somewhat necessary to piece together the entire Sookie drama. I had found one or two in other anthologies while reading through. Its nice to have them all in one place and ready to go for the release of the next book. I had forgotten how… cheap of a read… the Sookie novels are. I remember tearing through a book a day or a book every two days. I remember why now that I’ve read the short stories. There’s really nothing to them.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I loved being in Enzo’s head. I think my dog loved me being in Enzo’s head too… he got loved on constantly. I don’t remember why I had given it four stars. There was something that detracted from the story for me. I like seeing something completed from this point of view. As a writer, I’ve tried several times to do a story from the doggie viewpoint… but never got to a completed story. It always got too abstract for me. It was a beautiful story though.

Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters and Seymour, an Introduction by J.D. Salinger

I opted to read this first instead of Catcher in the Rye simply because it had more sentimental value to me. It is hard for me to give an accurate thought on this book since I’ve come to view it as two books smashed together: one I love and one I hate.

Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters took me a while to get into. Once I did, I realized what a beautiful storytelling method Salinger adopted for this novel. After ten pages, I was flying through the rest of the novella. He gives such a wonderful, believable account of a brother going to his older brother’s wedding. I can easily see why this is one of the favorites of JD Salinger’s works.

Seymour could have gone on unpublished. It read much like a 15 year old’s journal about Edward Cullen, if in fact that 15 year old were a boy and somehow related to Edward Cullen. This novel actually made me feel more dirty than Lolita. He seemed like he was in love with his dead brother, dedicating pages to describing his nose. It was like a tabloid look into the life of a fictional character. All-in-all, I think I would have rather read a textbook.

What is that?  That would be a Ruprict from Moe’s.  The single thing in this world that I slowed down enough to enjoy chip by chip.  I’ve been searching the shelves of my local HEB for a good tomatillo salsa that can compare to the perfection in those plastic cups.  After over a year, I am still utterly disappointed and contemplating relocating to locales closer to a Moe’s.

So why am I posting a random picture of food?  Honestly, its because it was at that moment I realized that I need to slow down.  I say that in almost every post.  I know this.  I’ll probably say it another thirty times before I actually figure out HOW to slow down.  At this point in my twelve-step process of regaining control of my life and progress… I am at step one:  admit you have a problem.

And for putting up with my rant, you get a shot of my chest.  This happened AFTER the Moe’s lunch.  I got to sit in with Sweet Laraine.  I gave her an idea, she went with it.  My chest is now almost perfect.  I haven’t taken the “after” pictures yet.  For those of you who are not familiar with tattoo procedures, this is basically a carbon copy of a picture that is temporarily placed before a tattoo artist starts the actual tattoo. Its probably my favorite part of the whole process.

In other news and worlds, things have been progressing along slowly.  I went to some Blackboard training two hours away to try to secure a different job for myself.  I’m still stuck playing the part of the recruiter for a little while longer. As I always think from the outside, the job seems like a perfect match.  I’m aching to return to education (I had dreams I was a college history professor last night… me… the person who can’t tell you for sure what the difference is between WWI and WWII besides Hitler) and I love computer based learning.  Prior to this, I have even applied to go to Texas State for a Masters in Educational Technology.  I’m tentative.  It seems so perfect… what could I possibly be missing?

I spent most of my day off today watching snow fall in large fluffy chunks.  And avoiding a warrant for my arrest.  The month of February has slipped by a bit faster than I had anticipated.  The first part of the month was spent rallying and organizing.  Valentine’s Day slipped by as things got hectic, and now we are in our last week of the month and I haven’t done my Defensive Driving course for my ticket.  Unfortunately, if I fail to receive my certificate quickly (i.e. within the next four or five days) I will be a wanted fugitive of the law.  Its funny how that works.

On a brighter note, my dog has no idea what a snowman is.  In his doggie perception, it was a small, abnormally white child with murderous intentions that could be subdued by a steady stream of urine on it’s lower abdomen.  He crouched, he barked, he shyly walked around it until he thought the small errant child couldn’t see him, then he sniffed and carefully lifted his leg.  Some poor human child had made a snowman and went inside for a cup of cocoa leaving their precious winter creation to the devices of ignorant canines and bah humbug twenty-somethings.

And in the wild ruckus of the day, my one thought was “I should have put out a bowl so I could have some snow with chocolate syrup.”  I guess in my own special way, I’m mentally living back in Pittsburgh as a carefree eight year old.

And now I’m off to finish my Salinger novella (are we going to have a novella discussion again?), start the second part of the book, and watch some good old Firefly.  Enjoy your evening!

RoMo 1-3: Ambience of Technology (10thDotM)

It started with little emails.  We compared notes on the best hideaways on the Outer Banks, best low country broil recipes, best fishing spots.  We compared notes on shipwrecks we dove for.  We talked about trying to become an unlisted extra on Dawson’s Creek down in Wilmington.

When we shifted to personal email, we talked about where we thought we’d be right now.  I lamented how I had never dreamed I would spend Valentine’s Day between two bloodthirsty couples.  He joked about spooning with a private.  I gave him my best eating-from-a-can-while-camping recipes.  He lauded popcorn with Tabasco sauce and cold baked beans.

Months slipped by as they do when you hit a rhythm.  I would wake up and immediately go running.  My return would send me straight to a shower.  Once breakfast was cooked, I allowed myself to check my email.  I would read whatever he had sent to me, which was usually and email and some funny news clippings or pictures.  During work, I would take breaks and work on his letter while he slept.  It was fun to chronicle the wiles and ways of the erratic group of people I shared office walls with.

He was spending his R&R two hours away, surveying the damage of his belongings.  She had decided waiting until he was home again wasn’t soon enough to be rid of his essence in her presence.  She had apparently mailed him the key to his storage unit with a “Dear John” letter.  He talked about how he got off “easy” and the horror stories of wives and girlfriends clearing out apartments and leaving treasure maps to find car keys.  Or worse:  No car, no apartment, no furniture at all.

We had agreed we’d meet up for dinner one night when he wasn’t busy.  Dating had never been my forte.  Some women seem to move seamlessly from one date to another, kicking expensive heels of of perfectly manicured feet.  Their wardrobe goes from office savvy to sexy with the mere addition of some bangles and earrings.  My transition seemed about as smooth as riding a bicycle up a ladder.

We had decided on a Friday as not to interfere with any other plans that boys generally make for Saturdays and Sundays.  It just so happens we were going out to dinner at the halfway point, my hometown.  My mind was only beginning to wrap around what wonderful things could possibly happen in my home town when I’m in the company of a man.

The movie theater was empty except for a couple a few rows behind us.  It wasn’t until I heard the hushed whispers and a woman’s cackling that I found a way to sneak a glance at them.  I immediately recognized the pair.  More people poured in and I could pinpoint their voices amid the cacophony of the crowd.

Part way through the absurd cereal commercials that have taken place of the trailers at the beginning of the movies, our hushed voices have brought us close enough that I can feel the heat of his arm through the sleeve of my dress.  I was midway through telling about how we used to lick gummy bears and chuck them at the screen when a cold rush runs over my neck and shoulder.  The feeling is accentuated by the soft fall of a cup into a pool in my lap.  Mouth wide open, I stand up and turn around to face my assailant.

She’s trying hard to hide a smile.  She shrugs offhandedly, and continues a few seats down and sits.  I walk into the restroom and blot off my dress and skin.  My anger has heated my face to a deep crimson color.  I think of the girls laughing behind me, triumphant in their childish display of superiority.

I push the bathroom door hard and nearly hit him with the door.  He is talking on the phone, flipping his keys on his hand, and holding my purse on his shoulder.  He grabs my hand and leads me outside.

Instead of a night out on the town, we pick up dinner as take-out and head back to my townhouse.  While I’m showering the thick syrup of soda out, he is carefully arranging dinner on plates and taking it into my living room to start the movie.  As the movie frolics on my TV screen, we share food, stories, and revenge ideas.

**Author’s note:  ugh… I hate this one.

RoMo 1-2: Fear of Writing (10thDotM)

He was another Army guy.  His profile picture didn’t give much away.  He leaned confidently on a guard rail with a range of mountains extending behind him, jagged, rocky, and an ugly shade of tan.  His eyes were covered by dark glass.  His relationship status was set to “It’s Complicated.”  How complicated can it be?  Either you’re dedicated or you’re not.

The message he sent was short.  Not really implying that he hoped for long conversations, just a simple question.  Answering it would just instigate another response from him.  Do I even want a response?  Shouldn’t “It’s Complicated” be more concerned with making things uncomplicated than browsing women in social networks?

I push “reply.”  Dear “It’s Complicated”, What’s complicated?  The fact that you can’t commit?  The fact that you would rather surf the internet for a replacement than try to fix what’s wrong in your own relationship?  Breathe.  Don’t yell at the man because of his status.  He just asked if the picture was taken on the Outer Banks, not if you wanted dinner tomorrow night.

The red “x” is glowing in the upper right-hand corner.  His question is outlined in black and white, his picture is a small version of itself where his name would normally be.  My picture is below it with a huge empty box and blinking cursor.  One click and I don’t have to worry about it.  Just one click and I don’t have to think about whoever is making it complicated.  I can make a choice not to do to what was done to me.

A few days later I receive another email.  He’s deployed and homesick.  He made an offer of conversation.  I look over his profile again.  No suggestive comments, no pictures cuddled up to random girls.  Just a boy, his friends, and their toys.  I go back to his email and hit “reply.” 

My picture is in the Outer Banks.  I drove myself there the day he told me he wanted a divorce.  For every bad thing that happens in my life, I always find myself next to the sea sorting out my next step.  I did it when my first love found his first love.  I did it when my parents died.  I did it when my husband found his second wife. 

My response was short.  There isn’t much you can say without making yourself sound crazy.  I laugh as I go through the potential opening lines in my head.  Fancy meeting you here.  What are you in for? 

I hit send before I have a chance to think about what I said and the sanity of it.  But why was I so nervous?

RoMo 1-1: Random Memory (10thDotM)

It is always something that keeps them around.  Most of the time, it’s the sex.  I think he put up with everything for the food, honestly.  In the end of it all, there really wasn’t any sex.  He was always tired or drunk and I was always mad.  He never missed a meal at my table though.

Cooking for one isn’t as hard as everyone says it is.  All it takes is a large Tupperware set and a love of leftovers.  I really don’t have either.  When food molds over and starts turning the colors of his old uniforms, I get nostalgic and chuck them into the garbage can with conviction.  Maybe if I throw enough of him away, I can forget.

The microwave buzzes, its darkened window suddenly going dark.  The clear plastic’s contents steaming with renewed warmth.  Freezing food always seems to take the beauty out of it.  The flavors never quite survive being separated, compartmentalized, and frozen in place. 

He hated leftovers.  I don’t blame him, I was never really a big fan of them either.  Luckily, the two of us easy to cook for and there were hardly ever any leftovers to stores.  Mashed potatoes were the only thing we stored.

His unit was released early from PT.  He came home to shower and get breakfast.  I awoke to a tray of potato pancakes and the smell of his deodorant.  We sat and ate.  He had always been generous with affection and I can remember him sneaking touches between bites.  He joked about keeping me at home to raise children.  It was one of our better mornings.

The ravioli burns the roof of my mouth and I race to spit it out.  The problem with freezing leftovers is what I like to call Hot Pocket Syndrome.  When microwaved, the outside parts are extraordinarily hot.  The inside is almost always still frozen.  I drink water to cool my scorched mouth and dump the rest of my dinner in the trash.  Take that.  You can’t burn me.

I always find myself somewhat resistant to change.  It takes me a few days to adjust when Facebook does one of their infamous homepage updates.  Taking on something new and exciting always seems like a great idea until the moment I have to commit to it.  That’s when all of the “what if”‘s start creeping in.

Those are the thoughts that kill me.  I had a chance at a pretty big opportunity today that I’m very excited about.  It will be a career move up in a field that I where I have a lot of skills and actually would be rather good at.  It fits with my “I’m not changing jobs again unless…” list perfectly.  And, if I play my cards right, it might even mean that I can continue my Master’s degree for a drastically reduced cost at a school that has an unblemished reputation.

But yesterday, after the giddyness subsided and I was left to do the mental planning and taking stock of experiences for the interview, I found myself thinking about staying where I am.  There’s only a few things I’ve found I’m not good at.  One happens to be designing trusses and the other happens to be recruiting.  I sit at a desk and try to think of ways I can get out of actively recruiting.  That takes me almost ten hours, which is my entire day.  I go home and complain about having to go to bed to wake up and do the whole thing again.  So why in the world would I want to stick with it?

On the same note, I’m more than ready to get out of the position I’m in and move on to something else.  I’m sitting on a time bomb of sorts.  You can only come to work with a novel in hand and read all day so many times before someone gets jealous.  I have a feeling my time is coming very quickly.  Maybe what I did today will come to fruition.  Maybe they’ll see that I’d be good at it… or maybe they’ll smell my desperation and think it goes well with dusty tomes and intelligent dribbling.

February has already been more kind of me than most of the past year and we’re only about 5 days in.  Western Carolina has accepted me  in to receive my add-on Gifted licensure from them.  They’re also “encouraging” me to apply to get my Master’s degree through them.  Part of me thinks, “Hey!  Why not!”  Maybe if all else fails, I’ll move back to NC and live in the mountains like I’ve kept swearing I was going to do.  All-in-all, its nice to know some affordable, nice school out there thinks I’m worth it.

So now it’s late Friday afternoon and I’m debating what to do with myself… coming down off of a high from making a blubbering idiot of myself in an interview and finding out about an exciting opportunity to attend a college I love.  Why does my good month have to be the shortest one of the year?

Weekly Kicker – What is your superpower?

We grow up thinking that superpowers give us the ability to fly and have superhuman strength (Superman) or turn into a puddle (Alex Mack).  Maybe you found this awesome ring that gives you these powers (Green Lantern) or used your overactive imagination and incredibly large bank account to create a suit (Ironman).  Or, perhaps you were just a lowly box turtle who got mixed in with some radioactive goo (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).  However the superpowers come about, most normal humans (me) never get them.

I believe I came equipped with the power of education.  Almost all of my jobs have rotated around “Wow!  You do that well!  Teach me!” or “Teach them!” or “Make a manual!”  I loved it.  When I worked for my first truss manufacturer, we implemented a new computer program.  I travelled around our district teaching people how to use it.  They sent me out to a plant that already used it to learn more and then come back and teach everyone.  My retail positions always had me training new people.  And, of course, the most obvious position… as a high school English teacher.  There is something about mastering something to the point where you can help someone else.  I’m drawn to it and I’m really good.

Except in math.  But that’s another story for another time.