Friday, August 31, 2007

Labor Day

Everybody's doing something this weekend. Some people mark the end of summer with barbecues and parties. Others travel for one last long summer weekend away, or stay at home to try to complete all those home improvement tasks they never got around to over the summer. I will be in the last category this weekend.
Labor Day is one of the times of year that I check in with how I'm doing on my New Year's resolutions. As the seasons change I like to think about how my year has gone thus far, and what I can do to stay focused on my goals for the rest of the year. Sometimes I do this formally, with journaling, reading, and other reflective activities. This year I will spend most of my time mentally reviewing my year while I go about cleaning, organizing, and decluttering my condo.
Something about creating order in my environment helps me order my thoughts. Maybe that's why I like to have a certain amount of untidiness in my space. It's not enough for things to be clean, the benefit is in the act of cleaning itself. It'd be awful to need to clean something for the benefit of thinking through a problem and find myself with a home so tidy that nothing needed organizing.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

An Aged Top Ten

Some of you are going to think I have no reason to write a list of the top ten things that make me feel old. But I think that only proves my point. If I'm surprised that something makes me feel old, that just goes to show I am not yet old enough to be that old. That probably only made sense if you know me fairly well. Anyway, here's the top ten things that make me feel old.

  1. Someone recently asked me what kind of anti-wrinkle cream I use. I don't. Maybe it was a compliment in that I don't really have wrinkles, but it still sounds fishy.
  2. The discounted matinee price for movies is more than the full price was when I was a kid.
  3. Getting ma'am-ed. Unless I'm visiting the South, or being addressed by someone under the age of ten, I am not at all prepared to be called ma'am.
  4. The fact that I can no longer stay up late. Anything that requires coordination or cognitive functioning requires a full night's sleep.
  5. I recently realized that anything that happened up to 15 years ago still happened in my adult lifetime.
  6. My peers have children entering the 2nd grade.
  7. I've moved up a category in the age bracket demographic.
  8. Instead of getting trendy fashion catalogs, I've started getting catalogs for sensible shoes and clothes that specialize in "coverage and support."
  9. My younger brother is going to be 29. Once he hits 30, I'm going to have to admit that I have too.
  10. Music I grew up with is now being played on classic and oldies radio stations. I thought that was my parents' music that was supposed to be on those stations.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Shelfari Bookshelf

Once again Cris has come to the rescue. Or is that, has come to lead me into temptation? She introduced me to Shelfari, which is a way to keep track of the books you've read, communicate with others about them, and of course, share this info on your blog. I'd been wanting to track all the books I read, but I didn't want to get expensive software to do it, and I'm too lazy to do it without some sort of tool to help me.
If you scroll down a bit, in my sidebar you will see an item called "My Bookshelf." Your computer may tell you that you need to download Flashplayer to see my shelf. Go ahead and do that. You should be able to see the books I'm currently reading. At present, this means the books I've read so far this year.
Earlier, I'd estimated that I read about 25 books in a year. Well, it's August and I'm up to 27, and just about to go get books 28 & 29 at the library. Granted, it's been an unusual year for me. I've been a bit of a compulsive reader. What's even more alarming is that over 2/3 of these books have something to do with someone dying. Seriously.
Anyone got any happy books?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Back to School

I'm not in school anymore, and I don't have kids of my own. Still, this is always a bittersweet time of year for me. My friends and I have all been talking about memories of school. The sights, the sounds, the smells. I love the feel and the smell of those little pink erasers, how perfect they looked before you had to use them for the first time. I love notebooks and filler paper. As sad as it is to say goodbye to summer, the school year is its own promising season filled with potential and possibilities.
My love for school supplies has grown up into a love for office supplies. I keep thinking that if I have enough three-ring binders and index cards, my life will somehow become organized. Of course, I know that's not the solution, but it sure is fun to play with the grown up version of my school supplies. Who knows, maybe I'll even dig around and see if I can find my box of 64 crayons.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gratitude Top Ten

I almost made this top ten about things I feel like whining about today. I think that would have been easier. But I stopped myself and decided to make an effort to get out of my funk by trying to list 10 things I'm grateful for today.

  1. Air conditioning
  2. Chocolate
  3. That 5PM arrived, eventually
  4. The Muppet Show, Season 2 DVD (it's four discs, but I think skipping ahead to the 8th slot would be cheating)
  5. Books
  6. Bubble baths
  7. Impromptu work field trips
  8. Empathy
  9. Nail polish
  10. Thunderstorms

Friday, August 10, 2007

Good Eats in Chicago

I'm finally getting around to responding to Cris' last tag. I think she knows I've been having trouble coming up with things to write and time in which to write them. I'm being a rule breaker here because I just haven't done the networking to know other people to tag.
Anyway, for the record, I live in the Chicago suburbs (IL, in the good old USA). There, I've at least followed a few of the rules.

  1. So as not to disappoint Cris or anyone else, my favorite resturant is Giordano's Pizzeria. Our local joint recently redecorated to fit the chain brand more closely. They were closed for some time and let me tell you, it wasn't pleasant. I'm not sure if I like the outcome either. Our old one was more unique, less contemporary. The stuffed pizza is what they are famous for, but I also love their thin crust. It's not too thin, which I find important. Cold Giordano's thin crust pizza is the best. People have asked me what is so fabulous about it. All I can say is, come to Chicago & I'll take you out for pizza.
  2. Not to be all about junk food, but we have this great hot dog place that I grew up on. Gene & Jude's has the best hot dogs ever. They are literally just a hot dog stand that has been, well, standing since my dad grew up in this area. I'll take you here too, but you have to promise not to ask for ketchup. Gene & Jude's does not serve ketchup with their hot dogs.
  3. I've only been to Reza's in the city a few times, but I love it. They have wonderful Middle Eastern/Mediteranean food. I could eat their hummus all day long.
  4. I've come to the conclusion that at pizza places, the other food options aren't usually that great. And at your basic Italian place, if the general fare is good the pizza might not be all that great. I think this is the case with Leona's, one of my family's favorite Italian places. Wonderful pasta, yummy salmon, and great homemade bread. One of the trademarks of Leona's is that the staff is a little, ummm, rude. They are fairly direct & kind of crass. You still get good service & the lack of formalities & abundance of attitude makes it seem that much more like home.
  5. If you want real rudeness, you need to go to Ed Debevic's. These guys are world class rude. The 50's diner style is entertaining, as are the waitstaff dance performances which often occur on the tables. Their burgers are pretty famous too.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Top 10 Relaxing Activities

Cris went & tagged me again, but she's going to have to wait because it's Tuesday, and that means another Top Ten list.
I'm feeling a little stressed today, so my Top Ten list is of things that I intend to do over the next few days to help me relax. Some of these things might seem like you hear about them all the time. But the question is when is the last time you actually did more than one of them, intentionally, in a week?
  • Read. I recently picked up Girl Meets God & I'm enjoying it quite a bit.
  • Take a bubble bath. Probably more than one.
  • Make a book. I made one the other night in an hour. I self imposed the deadline and it worked. If you have a creative project you've been hedging around at, allow yourself the ability to just rush through it. Then go back & clean it up if you want or need to.
  • Do something spiritual. For me, this means something not already in my routine. I'm not usually a midweek worship service attendee, but I'm going to go tomorrow night.
  • Breathe. Yes, we all do that. Doing it intentionally is different though. Try deep breathing while meditating on the creation of man & the word inspire. Seriously.
  • Get or give yourself a manicure. This is my beauty pampering ritual of choice because as a writer I like making my hands feel good. I also get the most compliments on my hands, so there's that added bonus.
  • Write something. Do you know how often I find myself getting kinda crabby & then realize it's been a while since I journaled?
  • Sleep. Need I say more?
  • Add something healthy to my life. When I'm stressed, I work on adding something like exercise, more water, or some more healthy food to my diet. Even just changing one thing can make a big improvement in my immune system & energy level.
  • Something yummy, preferably chocolate. OK, most of the stuff on this list is good or neutral as far as health. But a little comfort food isn't such a bad thing.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Few Questions

Crystal tagged me a few days ago and I'm just now getting around to answering her questions. Since she's already tagged the other bloggers I know, I don't have anyone else to tag. Sigh. I'm not very good at this sort of thing.

1. What's the one book or writing project you haven't yet written but still hope to?

I’m not much of a fiction writer, so I’d have to say that the one project I want to write is the nonfiction equivalent to The Great American Novel. In my mind, this book is impossibly wide in scope, and equally overwhelming in its depth. I’m not there yet, I’m still collecting ingredients. What I know so far is that it’s part memoir, both inspirational and instructional, has a lot to do with creativity and relationships, and would speak about faith in a way that would attract both believers and nonbelievers.
Of course, this is all subject to change and various forms of reality checks as time progresses.

2. If you had one entire day in which to do nothing but read, what book would you start with?

If you’d asked me this question a couple weeks ago, the answer would have been Harry Potter. Actually, Crystal did ask this question a couple weeks ago, and one of the reasons it took me so long to respond was that I was busy reading Harry Potter.
Now that I’m done with that, and I’ve had a few days to recover (hey, I like to read, but 750+ pages in two days is a lot), I’m mulling over my next options. I’m a very mood dependent reader, but once I start reading a book I’m usually compelled to finish it. So I have to be careful about what books I choose to read and when. If I’m not careful I can end up reading too many depressing books in a row and that’s just not good.
Anything by Tolkien is probably a safe bet. Right now I’m wanting to get my hands on The Children of Hurin. In fact, I think I have a Border’s coupon that expires soon. Now I have to go to Borders and it’s all Crystal’s fault.

3. What was your first writing "instrument" (besides pen and paper)?

Does crayon count?
I don’t remember the name of the brand, but it was a word processor. When I entered college, computers were still too expensive for me to invest in my own. So we went a step above typewriter and got a word processor. The thing used floppy disks of a unique size so you could not transfer files from the word processor to a PC. And it required a complex set of maneuvers to save a document. My roommate found out that these maneuvers seem even more complex at 3AM. That was not fun.

4. What's your best guess as to how many books you read in a month?

Hmmm, good question. I’ve been wanting to keep better track, but I just haven’t gotten around to that. I’d say I read probably a couple books a month. Some months I just read one book. Some months I might read 3-4. I’ve been wanting to try this software that catalogs all the books you read, but that seems rather frivolous at the moment. I think I’d use it, but who knows?

5. What's your most favorite writing "machine" you've ever owned?

I use my PC most often. I like MS Office 2003. I use Publisher for some things, and I like the way Word, Powerpoint, and Publisher work together. But my favorite writing machine is my AlphaSmart. I’ve always liked to journal when I’m away from home. However, some writing is better done, accessed, if you will, through typing. There’s nothing better than being able to sit outside and type on my AlphaSmart, then come in and easily transfer the file to my computer.

6. Think historical fiction: what's your favorite time period in which to read? (And if you don't read historical fiction--shame on you.)

I’d have to say pioneer/turn of the century stuff. It’s a nostalgia thing not only for the time period itself, but for the books I read as a kid. Who wasn’t inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder?

7. What's the one book you remember most clearly from your youth (childhood or teens)?

Definitely The Hobbit. This was the book that made me want to be a writer. What more can I say?