When I visited Iceland, I fell in love with its geothermal mineral swimming pools. Most towns have at least one public pool, and many Icelanders go daily if possible. They consider it important to their overall health, and now that I’ve participated, I can see why.
On the first night of our trip, my friends and I experienced local swimming pool culture at Laugardalslaug, which was just down the street from our hotel. (Not yet used to the Icelandic language, we immediately renamed it “LaGuardia” for our own reference.)
Read the rest of my ode to Icelandic hot pots over at Girl Lost in the World!
Iceland is a country I’d always wanted to see, but it wasn’t high on my priority list until this summer when a friend told me she was going with her sister. Suddenly, I really wanted to go. I offhandedly mentioned it to Bethany, one of my best and most well-traveled friends. Three days later, she had found and booked a cheap fall fare for herself and her husband, and basically said, “Are you coming or what?” So at the end of October, Bethany, Isaac, and I took off for a week in the land of ice and fire.
This is the first in a series of posts about my trip to Iceland. I’ll be writing again at Kim’s about Iceland’s geothermal hot tubs, and coming back here to talk about what I packed and some of my other favorite memories!
Every November, Hollywood Housewife hosts a linkup called One Day, in which everyone posts the minutiae of their regular day that normally go undocumented. I’ve learned that these are the kinds of things you look back on and see how much in your life has changed (or not). While One Day is meant to happen on Instagram throughout the day, I prefer to post it all here as a photoessay of sorts.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
6:00 am: Alarm goes off. Spend 15 more minutes in bed catching up on social media and having my first cuddle of the day with Rufus.
6:45 am: Most mornings, I do a short toning video from my exercise playlist. Other times I do a few halfhearted arm exercises and then flop onto the floor.
7:00 am: How the sausage is made.
7:20 am: Breakfast today is some granola with Craisins in it. (Spoiler alert: I was starving by 10:30.)
7:40 am: Leave for work. My commute is easy now, for which I thank God every single day. The highlight of my drive is the crossing guard at the Campus School, who smiles and waves at each of us every morning and just exudes joy. He’s the embodiment of doing the task appointed to you with all your heart. I want to note this even though I couldn’t take a picture of him while driving through a school zone.
8:00 am: Arrive at work.
8:05 am: My oasis of calm in the midst of (mild) chaos.
9:00 am: Departmental meeting.
10:30 am: SAD is already starting to hit me after only a week, so I’m firing up the sun lamp. Also trying a new tea!
12:40 pm: I try to have a quiet lunch out with a book at least once a week. Today I’m at Lenny’s with Sarah Bessey’s latest (which is amazing) when some big Grizzlies news breaks:
(WHAT IS HAPPENING with the Grizz?!? Ugh.)
3:00 pm: I guess I should appear in my own day at some point, so here’s an #OOTD!
5:10 pm: Leave work. We have a lot of pine trees around the office, and I always have a strong urge to gather the pine cones I find, like they’re stray animals in need of loving homes. I left this one, though, because the last one I picked up lived pointlessly in my car cup holder for months. Godspeed, little pine cone.
5:30 pm: Home! I made this wreath. It’s my favorite.
6:00 pm: Omelets are my default dinner choice when I’m pressed for time (or energy). I almost never burn them anymore! :D
6:30 pm: I bought this over-the-sink wine rack not long after I moved in, and it proved more complicated than it appeared. My dad installed it for me last weekend. It makes me happy to look at it!
7:00 pm: Weekly yoga class! I’ve been taking yoga from Paula for eight years. She works at multiple locations, so when I moved to Midtown, I just switched to the class nearest to my new place. Paula is a great teacher and friend and I love her. After class, we talked for so long, I helped her lock up.
8:30 pm: Predictably with the cooler nights, my low tire pressure light came on, so I have to air up on the way home. One of the tires is so low, I don’t know how the car is rolling. It ends up taking three rounds of quarters. After that I hit the library drive-through to return Drew Barrymore’s new memoir, Wildflower (loved it). The Bartlett library was great, but I’m really happy to have the main library as my nerd home base.
8:45 pm: Home again. Here’s my little mudroom area. My mom gave me this pretty dish that I use for keys. My friends Kathy and Kelsey talked me into getting this purse right before I went to Iceland, and I’m so glad they did. It’s just what I needed.
8:55 pm: Oh yes I did. Also, I often get Facebook messages like this from my mom, and I’m at a point in life where I actually appreciate them. I’ve stopped taking for granted having a good relationship with my mom who loves me and is around. Besides, I’m a naturally cheesy person.
10:00 pm: Manicure and Mindy! Someday I’ll have an actual chest of drawers in my room that’s wide and low enough to set the TV on properly (and hide the cords).
11:00 pm: That took a little longer than expected. But now, goodnight!
Better late than never?
Mosquitoland by David Arnold (4.5 stars)
An excellently written, sort of trippy novel about Mim, a teenager who flees her new Southern home after discovering her estranged mom is sick back in Cleveland. Her wild Greyhound journey leads her to new people and situations she couldn’t have imagined, as well as truths she hasn’t been ready to hear. There’s a moment at the end of it where I thought it had taken a really crazy twist (if you’ve read it, you may know what I’m talking about), but as cool as the shock value would have been, I’m glad I just misunderstood. This story is raw and stunning enough just the way it is.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (5 stars)
Mindy Kaling is simultaneously inspiring and totally relatable. While her hilarious first book is already one of my favorites, in this one she gets even more personal and real. I loved the more detailed stories from her past, as well as how she’s dealing with fame and success, and her chapters about friends’ weddings and her relationship with BJ Novak almost brought me to tears. PREACH IT.
Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud by Philip Yancey (4.5 stars)
It took me FOREVER to finish this book due to the intensity of the topic. Philip Yancey is great at creating a safe place to wrestle with hard questions about God’s goodness and fairness, while also providing different and helpful perspectives. I’ll probably revisit this one.
Harry, a History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon by Melissa Anelli (4.5 stars)
I’ve been a Potterhead since 2003, but I’d never gotten around to reading this memoir/fandom history by the webmistress of The Leaky Cauldron. I idly picked up my BIL’s copy while visiting him and my sister. Within minutes, I had excused myself from the family card game to read, and ended up taking the book home. While the chapters about shipping wars, wizard rock, etc. are fascinating (really), at its heart this is about Anelli’s journey from unsure, frustrated writer in a dead-end job to successful author, interviewer and friend of J.K. Rowling, and contributor to a phenomenon that’s given joy to millions of people. Melissa, you have inspired me and given me hope.
Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari with Eric Klinenberg (5 stars)
As I mentioned in October’s What I’m Into, Aziz Ansari teamed up with a sociologist to research and write this analysis of dating in our modern digital age and whether we really have it better or worse than those who coupled up before us. I HIGHLY recommend it whether you’re single or not, and would love to discuss it with someone. I found it about 70% encouraging/validating and 30% depressing.
Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles (4.5 stars)
As a huge Sara Bareilles fan, I was thrilled to get approved for her memoir on Netgalley. Each of the eight chapters uses one of her songs as an epigraph and framework for a chapter of her life. I loved learning more about her childhood, progression through the music industry, creative process, and her latest project, Waitress (premiering on Broadway this month). ♥
Orange Jumpsuit: Letters to the God of Freedom by Tara Leigh Cobble (3 stars)
Tara Leigh Cobble is an author, minister, and singer/songwriter who’s fairly well-known in Southern Reformed circles. This memoir revolves around her moving from her beloved New York City to South Carolina, building a life and ministry there, and falling in love with a man who can’t seem to make up his mind about her. It’s well-written and contains some good insights… but personally, I almost couldn’t finish it because it’s so steeped in specific faith culture aspects that now give me serious heebie-jeebies. However, I’m glad I pressed on, because she ends up in a spiritual place that’s not too far from where I am at the moment.
Pointe by Brandy Colbert (3.5 stars)
Despite the title, this gritty, intense novel is only tangentially about ballet. Theo is an up-and-coming ballerina, but the real story here is the unsolved disappearance of her best friend, Donovan, when they were thirteen. When Donovan is found and comes home four years later, Theo discovers that her secret older boyfriend from that time was his kidnapper, and has to decide how much she’s willing to risk revealing. Meanwhile, she’s having another secret relationship with a pianist who has a girlfriend. This isn’t exactly an enjoyable read, but it’s realistic, and I hurt for Theo while also relating to her struggle to believe in her own worth.
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris (4 stars)
In 2004, ABC journalist Dan Harris had a live on-air panic attack while reading the news on Good Morning America. Years as an adrenaline junkie both on- and off-camera were finally taking their toll, and he knew he had to make changes. When he discovered meditation, it made such a deeply positive impact that he felt compelled to write this book about his experiences and progress. Coincidentally, I attended a “mindfulness” seminar for work a few weeks before I read this. We meditated as a group for about ten minutes, and I walked out refreshed and with a lot of thoughts about meditation and how it could relate to my (current lack of) prayer life. So I appreciated learning more about it and its benefits.
Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story by Jewel Kilcher (5 stars)
I’ll admit I’ve never been a passionate fan of Jewel’s music, but after reading her honest, reflective memoir, I greatly admire her as a human being. Many music journalists have covered the bones of her early life: raised in Alaska, then lived in a van until she was discovered in LA. In this book, she fleshes out those stories and so many more, while sharing a lot of hard-earned wisdom, bravery, and encouragement. I highlighted a lot!
Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux by Heather King (4.5 stars)
Another book I didn’t expect to love so much, Shirt of Flame is (as the title implies) an extended reflection on the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. Heather King attempts to apply Therese’s passion, courage, and commitment to the difficulties of her own life. Each of the twelve chapters ends with a prayer, which I liked so much, I might make my own calendar quoting them!
Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan (3 stars)
Josie is a kid genius, skilled at blending in with various social groups, but only truly at home with her family and her two best friends. When her beloved sister Kate gets engaged to a pompous know-it-all, then refuses to listen to her objections, Josie attempts to crack the code of what love is all about. While the love story here is sweet, this is really a book about family and all the ways love changes people for better AND worse, pushing them apart and bringing them back together.
Perfectly Matched by Heather Webber (3 stars)
This fast-paced installment of the Lucy Valentine series revolves around an arsonist terrorizing Boston, and a mysterious man who can communicate with a cat. After so many heavy books on my trip, I needed to read something really light and enjoyable, and this hit the spot. I love how the relationships between all the characters grow stronger and more complex with each book. Yay for good ensemble casts!
September Total: 3
October Total: 10
2015 year to date: 58
I often struggle to write this section, because most everything is covered below. But I WENT TO ICELAND for a week with one of my best friends, Bethany, and her husband. It was one of the best trips ever. How’s that for a highlight?!?
I read nine books this month (thanks to all my flight time)! My three favorites were written by celebs. I knew I’d love Sara Bareilles’ new memoir since I’m a huge fan, but I only picked up Jewel’s on Emily P. Freeman’s recommendation – and now it’s the one I can’t stop talking about. It’s inspiring on multiple levels and she is an amazing human being. Meanwhile, Aziz Ansari teamed up with a sociologist to research and write Modern Romance, an analysis of dating in our modern digital age and whether we really have it better or worse than those who coupled up before us. I HIGHLY recommend it to EVERYONE, single or not. I found it about 70% encouraging/validating and 30% depressing.
I saw Alt-J and San Fermin at Snowden Grove a few weeks ago and LOOOVED the show! I got way too excited about the keyboardist wearing a 901 shirt with a pig on it:
Since we spent much of our Iceland trip in the car with only a few local radio stations, I got familiar with some songs I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. I especially liked one popular Icelandic song, but now that I’m home, I can’t find or identify it (since the only thing I can say in Icelandic is “thank you”). The singer was female, and there was a lot of clarinet… that’s all I’ve got.
Yeah… Iceland!! I’m so thankful I got to go. Expect several detailed posts about the trip whenever I get my shiz together – I haven’t even transferred the pictures from my camera yet. I’m still jet-lagged and trying to go easy on myself. This picture was planned before I ever left America (when I spotted Grindavik on the map), and it makes me very happy. My friend Katharine commented, “Do you just carry that [growl towel] around with you at all times, in case you are overcome by fan joy at random moments?” YES. YES I DO. #MemphisVsErrrbody
At the beginning of October, I went to Dothan for my niece E’s first birthday (including her Star Wars birthday party) and dedication at church! My brother was able to come too, and it was wonderful to have bonus time with the whole family together. Usually, we’re only all together at Christmas and once in the summer.
We Memphians had an epic weekend a couple of weeks ago! My Tigers are now 7-0 and #16. There’s some buzz about us being in the BCS final four. FOR FOOTBALL. The Liberty Bowl is more packed every game, and we even have bandwagon fans. It’s amazing, and completely unprecedented. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.
As mentioned in the post, I went to my first Cooper-Young Beerfest this month, and to Wine on the River with Kelsey and Gwen. I also organized Supper Club at the new branch of Casablanca, a popular Mediterranean restaurant. Maybe this is why I’ve put on a few pounds. :P
I was thrilled to cast my first Midtown vote in the mayoral election! None of my people won, but oh well. I’m waiting expectantly for the winners to pleasantly surprise me. I think there’s too much positive energy in this city right now for things to take a nosedive.
My complexion has been troublesome over the last six months or so. My dermatologist said the only option left is to go on meds of some kind, which I don’t want to do, so I started researching. As a result, I went to Whole Foods for a $4 bar of African Black Soap, and this Indian clay that Mindy Kaling recommended on her Instagram. You combine the clay with apple cider vinegar to make a mask. Let me tell you: THIS MASK IS NOT MESSING AROUND. As it dries, the suction is so strong, it creates an actual temporary facelift. I also started taking Evening Primrose Oil along with my daily boatload of other vitamins and supplements. The combination of all these things is helping!
I published an article about the French Quarter Hotel at Memphis Type History. I worked long and hard on this piece (it was my first idea when I started writing for the website) and consider it my first real journalistic accomplishment. It was even featured in the Choose 901 newsletter!
The same day that article went live, so did a newsletter I wrote and edited at work. It went out to a hundred or so people worldwide and was also well-received. I’d never gotten to do anything like that as part of my job before. It was a good day.
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
On The Blog:
My writing slackage continues, but I have two, possibly three, Real Posts in the hopper. So stay tuned for that. I almost finished one a couple of weeks ago, but lost my nerve. Vulnerability is even tougher when you’re out of the habit… and you know who’s watching.
Posts I Loved:
♥ One of my favorite bloggers, Abby Norman, spent October writing about scarcity (a topic I think about a lot here in my Year of Enough). I appreciated all of her words, but my favorite posts were Being Basic and All the Feels.
♥ Jefferson Bethke at Storyline on how we assess each other’s value: What Makes a Human Life Worth It?
♥ Lindsay Ferrier: Death and Coloring
♥ AMEN and amen to this encouragement from Kate Conner: Life Without Asterisks
♥ Made me smile: Maggie MK Hess at Solo-ish: The 9 best US cities for dating, according to my imagination.
It was a historic day for my beloved alma mater…
Attendance at the Liberty Bowl: 60,241.
WE ARE WINNING.
Final score: 37-24, Tigers. 6-0. 13th straight win. !!! Downtown at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon led a sold-out crowd in the Tiger fight song. I took the celebration over to Cooper-Young Beerfest (as did many other happy fans).
Sunday Celebration: Ranked top 20 in both polls for the first time in history!!
New hat and the best Nextdoor post ever. (Not trying to hate, Ole Miss fans. I’m just excited! Best wishes on the rest of your season.)
I’M SO GLAD I WENT TO THE U OF M.
When my older niece turned one, my sister Debra threw her an adorable Little Miss Sunshine birthday party. She told me they probably wouldn’t have another big-deal birthday until Fifoo turned five. Well, I’m glad that approach went out the window immediately, because it would have been a waste of Debra’s party- and costume-planning talents. After Elmo and Minnie Mouse parties, family Care Bear Halloween costumes involving adult onesies, and a slew of other dress-up events, this month she outdid herself with a Star Wars first birthday party for my younger niece, E!
The Star Wars theme was my BIL Lance’s idea. Debra was resistant at first, but then he suggested Lord of the Rings instead, and Star Wars looked much more reasonable. (Well played, Lance.) Personally, I think it was the coolest first birthday party ever.
The girls were dressed as R2D2 and C3P0 (or, as she calls him, “Three-PEE-o”). E’s shirt is from here, and Fifoo’s was an iron-on to a gold tee. Tutus by Amazon. They’ll repeat the costumes for Halloween, because why not when they’re this cute?
Not pictured: everyone had a name tag with their Star Wars name according to this formula.
Debra saw this cake design on Pinterest and had it done by a friend who works in the Publix bakery. I LOVE IT. The cupcake toppers are Etsy printables.
Simple food with creative labels!
The kids loved popping bubbles with their light sabers. They also threw bean bags at the Death Star and dug Star Wars figurines out from buckets of (uncooked) beans and rice. Debra was planning to make the light sabers from pool noodles, but found these inflatable ones at the dollar store. (My brother’s face here is priceless.)
Like all good nerd children, Fifoo has a “real” light saber at home that lights up and makes noise. All weekend at their house, she took me on monster hunts with her real saber and my inflatable one from the party. I love that her instinct when pretending there’s a monster is not to hide from it, but to go and fight it. PS: Shades of young Boba Fett on the right.
You’re never too old for coloring. And Tiger Blue is totally the unofficial color of the Rebel Forces.
Everyone loved the photo booth with a huge selection of masks.
I think Debra ought to start a small party-planning business. The Force is clearly with her.
The two best highlights of September: Tiger football went 4-0 for the first time since 1961, and I got a new cat!
Two weeks in, Rufus is doing great. He’s already putting on weight (other cats blocked him from the food in his last home) and seems happy! Since he has such a mellow and curious disposition, I ordered a harness and leash for him so I can take him on walks or to friends’ houses. He’s having fun exploring the neighborhood and my patio. I thought I was doing fine without a cat, but having Rufus around makes it clear to me that there was a hole in my life. I didn’t know I felt wrong until things were right again.
Oh and: I ran five miles for the first time! It was a huge deal for me. I am now feeling good after running four-plus miles, which people tell me is a sign that I’ve broken through to the next level. I’ve even gotten endorphins a couple of times. I think I could do a 10K now!
I devoured Mindy Kaling’s latest, Why Not Me?, over about two days. I think it might be better than her first book, though it’s hard to say since I love them both! Mindy and I are the same age, and it comforts me to know she’s going through some of the same struggles, even though she’s successful and famous. I also scored Sara Bareilles’ new memoir on Netgalley, but may not finish it by month end because I can only read it on my computer. Locked e-book formats are so much fun.
I was at Cooper-Young Fest for the live debut of “Give,” my friend Myla Smith‘s new duet with fellow Memphian Alexis Grace. Check it out on October 9!
Sometimes bands sneak up on me – I’m meh about them at first, but over time I realize I like a lot of their songs. That happened this month with Tame Impala. I also liked the new Ben Folds album, which is a total love letter to band/orchestra nerds, and CHVRCHES’ new stuff is my current running soundtrack. (I’m officially a fan, even though V-as-U remains a major pet peeve of mine. Looking at you, BVLGARI.)
My brother was in a commercial. (Ladies, he’s single!)
And here’s the Tigers reverse flea flicker heard ’round the world:
My parents, sister, nieces, and I went to Houston for my cousin Shelby’s wedding. She was a beautiful bride! We weren’t able to do a ton in Houston, but we enjoyed the Downtown Aquarium, and my mom nicely took me to the Rothko Chapel. I’ve liked Rothko’s work since college and had forgotten that his chapel was there. It was a cool experience. Other than that, it was niece time all the time!
My mom and I celebrated 901 Day on September 1st by painting Grizzlies buckets at the Levitt Shell – they’ll be used for charity donations outside the Forum. I went to the last Redbirds game of the season with friends. I thoroughly enjoyed my first Cooper-Young Fest as a near neighbor. Ashley and I ran the 4-Miler on Friday night (my furthest distance race so far!), and I spent all day that Saturday at the fest. I was able to walk over, which still makes me so happy.
Last weekend, my mom and my friend Kathy and I did the Tour de Coop, a bike tour of Midtown chicken coops and gardens sponsored by Grow Memphis and Revolutions Bicycle Co-Op. It was really cool, and I got plenty of ideas to share with my sister and BIL, who have talked about getting chickens! Yes, urban agriculture is my jam. #WhyImStillSingle
I went to a wine tasting at the Botanic Gardens featuring Australian wines… AND A KANGAROO WAS THERE. I got to pet him and everything. It was magical.
When I decided to move to Midtown, I also decided I would have an original painting by my friend Hillary Butler above the mantel in my new home, wherever that turned out to be. Well, I finally brought one home last weekend! It’s already a daily joy and reminder that some dreams do come true. (For reference, this is “Yabbadabbadoo” as a circle.)
I grabbed this Kukui Oil Curl Cream at CVS, because I can’t resist trying new OGX products OR anything with “frizz defying” in the name. I’ve only been using it for about a week, but I’m a fan! It might be more economical long-term than the shea butter cream I’ve been using… you don’t need a lot.
I got to see Emily (one of my BFFs from college) over Labor Day weekend! This fall, she and I and our former roommate Kathy have been friends for half our lives, so this was going to be a triple Half Our Lives Celebration, but some of Kathy’s kids got sick that day and she couldn’t be there. Still, I had fun with Em and Daniel and two of their kids.
Speaking of anniversaries, my church had its fifth-anniversary celebration service at the Shell. I couldn’t attend last year because I was in Hawaii, so I was really excited to go. It was wonderful and inspiring. This church is one of the best things that’s happened to me in a long time.
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
Posts I Loved:
♥ Everything at The Mudroom this month. Seriously, these writers are collectively killing it!
♥ Lisa Gungor at Storyline: Why Changing What You Believe Is Actually A Sign of Strength
♥ My supportive mom sent me this encouraging piece on aunthood and Kim Cattrall: “I am not a biological parent, but I am a parent.”
♥ Jen Clarke in the Flyer: My Choice for Memphis Mayor
♥ Kelle Hampton: Fill the Bookends with Beauty and Carry a Big Sword
♥ Addie Zierman: When Your Faith Is Not a Christian Romance Novel
Other than a few Netgalley reviews, I really slacked off on book tracking and reviewing this summer. So, even though it’s almost the end of September and time for this month’s list, here’s everything I read in July and August. Settle in!
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (5 stars)
I reviewed this here (and got a retweet from Erin Bow herself!). AMAZING.
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (4 stars)
For years, Sydney has lived in the shadow of her older brother, Peyton, a charmer who can’t stay out of trouble. After Peyton goes to prison on a DUI charge, Sydney changes schools to get a fresh start. There she meets quirky, bubbly Layla, her strong-and-silent brother Mac, and their crew of friends, all of whom draw her out and provide the love and acceptance her parents can’t. This book hits all the usual Sarah Dessen sweet spots, and I think it’s one of her best.
Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott (5 stars)
This short, profound book is exactly what it sounds like and has become a guide for my faltering prayer life. Though, along with Glennon Melton, I often add “WTF” to the list.
This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (3 stars)
A Netgalley read I never got around to reviewing officially. While well-written and suspenseful, this chronicle of a fictional school shooting in small-town Alabama is incredibly depressing. In my opinion, there wasn’t enough resolution or redemption to justify the tragedy, and it felt almost exploitative. Not for me.
Has to Be Love by Jolene Perry (3 stars)
Another novel from Netgalley. Clara, an Alaskan high schooler, wants much more than this provincial liiiiife, but worry about her widowed dad and self-consciousness over her scarred face are holding her back from her New York City dreams. She’s also torn between safe long-term boyfriend Elias and sexy “older man” Rhodes. I appreciated various unique aspects of this story that set it a little apart from the YA pack, but overall I just didn’t love it.
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen (3 stars)
When Maya Van Wagenen was thirteen, feeling awkward and unpopular, she discovered a 1950s book about popularity. This memoir is basically her diary from a year spent obeying all of its rules. I give her props for her bravery, spirit, and general precociousness, but I cringed a lot. Probably because she hit on some of my own bad memories. Middle school: you couldn’t pay me a million dollars to go back.
In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin (4.5 stars)
In the final book of the Birthright trilogy, Anya opens a successful nightclub, makes some unexpected strategic decisions, and deals with still more setbacks. I can’t explain why I like these books as much as I do, other than like my experience with Tris in Divergent, I feel really comfortable in Anya’s head and enjoy her thoughts. I was also 100% satisfied with the ending, which I can rarely say about YA trilogies.
Rising Strong by Brené Brown (5 stars)
I reviewed this here.
Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot (4 stars)
As an old Princess Diaries fan, I couldn’t NOT read the first adult novel about Mia, which revolves around her engagement to Michael and the discovery that she has a half-sister. Meg Cabot did a great job writing a mature Mia who’s still her same endearing, well-intentioned self.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (4.5 stars)
My favorite summer read of 2015! Yes, this is thinly veiled Will and Kate fanfic (with Kate recast as an American), but it’s smarter, wittier, and more fun than you think… even if you, like me, aren’t really into the royals. Also, the authors deserve some sort of award for the detailed alternate royal lineage they created.
On These Courts by Wayne B. Drash (3.5 stars)
The true story of Lester Middle School’s road to the first of three basketball state championships, coached by Memphis native and NBA great Penny Hardaway. These events took place just a few miles from where I now live, but I never heard much about it at the time. I believe every Memphian should read this book. When I finished, I wanted to start volunteering with one of Penny’s charity organizations immediately. Still looking into it.
Girl Walks into a Bar…: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle by Rachel Dratch (4.5 stars)
I did not expect, and am just now owning up to, how much I LOVED this memoir. Rachel Dratch is the Everygirl contrast to the holy trinity of Fey, Poehler, and Kaling; the one who succeeds, at best, on her second try. After dating into her 40s and having a surprise baby at 44, she can speak truly and hilariously about the road less traveled by. I felt less alone after reading this. Debbie Downer, you’re the best.
P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han (3.5 stars)
In the sequel to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, the fallout from Lara Jean’s illicitly mailed love letters continues. As she and Peter work on their pretend-turned-real relationship, another love letter recipient, John, comes back into her life. Fun and cute.
Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong (3.5 stars)
Kristen Strong’s reflections on change are authentic and helpful – as an Army wife and mom, she’s an expert on the topic. Over the course of this book, through personal stories and Bible teaching, she encourages readers to embrace change and trust that God is working in and through it. She also tackles important but underdiscussed aspects like changes in friendship. I’m thankful that Girl Meets Change prompted me to think about change and my evolving (better) attitude toward it, and I have some thoughts I’d like to write about myself. I plan to go back to the book in the future and am sure it will help a lot of women. But at this moment in my life, I can’t really rave about anything with an ultimately “all things work together for good” message. IT’S NOT YOU, BOOK, IT’S ME.
Books for July: 7
Books for August: 7
2015 year to date: 45
I’ve been petless since the beginning of June. After losing two cats in under a year, I planned to take a long break. I moved the old cat dishes and toys to the attic and peeled the protective plastic from the back of my couch. I brought fresh flowers into the house. I left food and drinks unattended. I enjoyed an active life free of any guilty worries about a pet alone at home.
I decided it would be foolish to get another cat during this freewheeling time, when I’m traveling and going out a lot (and my pet-averse family agreed). So what if I was increasingly lonely at home and stared longingly at friends’ Instagrams of their cats. I remained in denial as my friend Stacy, a cat mom extraordinaire, continued to notify me of cats she knew who needed homes. I shut her down every time. It just wasn’t a good idea.
A few weeks ago, Stacy told me a couple she knew was looking for a new home for one of her cats, an orange tabby. They found this sweet, friendly cat hanging around their vacation condo in Hot Springs, without a tag or apparent owner. He kept hopping into their car, so they brought him home and called him Orange. Then the other cats in the house started ganging up on him, scratching him, and blocking him from the food bowl, and they decided he needed a new, one-cat home ASAP. The moment Stacy told me this story, I knew I was in trouble. The way I felt the first time I saw my townhouse, attended my church, met people I now love; that’s how I already felt about this cat. On top of that, I’d actually thought several times that I’d specifically like an orange male cat, but hadn’t mentioned it to anyone.
I got in touch with the owner and told her I was interested, but hesitant. She assured me the cat is in great health and would probably welcome some solitude after being pushed around. That weekend, I drove out to their country house to meet him, and he was great. Sociable, energetic in a normal young-cat way, affectionate but not in a pestery way. I was about to go on a long weekend trip, so I told her I’d come back to take him the following week. I told myself I could still change my mind. But the more I pictured having this cat around, the happier I felt. I think I’m just a person who lives better with pets than without them, and in a weird emotional sense it’s been more work for me not to have an animal friend than to have one.
So last Wednesday night (accompanied by my friend Kelsey), I brought home my orange cat, and I gave him a name I chose soon after my cat Peach died: Rufus.
My inspiration started with Rufus Thomas, Memphis bluesman and entertainer. Someone mentioned him on the news, and I made a mental note that this would be a great name for a Memphis cat. Then I thought about Rufus Wainwright, singer/songwriter beloved by hipsters old and new… though (confession) I only know him from his live cover of “Careless Whisper” with Ben Folds, which is one of my favorite covers ever.
In Never Been Kissed, one of my favorite movies, the high schoolers use rufus to mean something great or cool. If you’ve ever heard me say “It’s great. Totally rufus,” it’s from the scene when Josie reports at a staff meeting that that’s how her story is going.
But I think my ultimate reason for being drawn to this name was subconscious. When I was a little girl, I had a record of the Disney movie The Rescuers (with dialogue and songs), and I listened to it all the time. I hadn’t thought about it in years, and didn’t realize until this week that Penny’s cat in the movie is named Rufus.
My Rufus has already made himself at home at my place. He was totally relaxed on the long drive back into the city (my previous cats would have yowled the entire time), received a welcome package from godmother Stacy, and warmed up to me immediately. Having lived on a screened porch for a while, he seems thrilled to have the run of a two-story home. He’s lean, with long, skinny legs that he can’t quite control – he keeps sliding on the hardwood floor and biffing it off the bathroom sink. If he were a person, he’d be a clumsy basketball player. Which makes him the perfect cat for me!
I still have a little irrational anxiety that something will go wrong and prevent me from keeping Rufus. But it feels really right to have him with me. I’ve realized his presence will be healing in the same way I imagine being in a good relationship would be healing. I need to relearn that having a cat doesn’t have to be high-maintenance and emotionally difficult… it can be easy and fun and joyful!
So, my resolve lasted just over three months. I’m okay with it.