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the good in my day: july

July 31, 2014

the guy hardy shirts i found at academy; my older brother would've loved them, so i bought two. the abbey of our lady of the holy trinity monastery in huntsville, utah. my cousin thomas has lost a lot of weight and looks very happy; he didn't look half as good the last time i saw him. my cousin timothy. playing hearts with the family. the server i met at the radisson hotel in salt lake city; he was so kind and sweet, and i was so much in need of that kindness and sweetness in that moment. pappadeaux's blueberry lemonade. ice packs. rainbow rowell's landline. i'm caught up with laundry; that hardly ever happens. i got to go to bed very early; sometimes that's just the thing. the star wars preschool workbooks we recently stocked at pbk. the post oak tree outside my window. chatting with jesse. time with asia and gabe. the rain. conversations with stephanie. time with dianne and her family and friends. dinner with my parents (and landry's stuffed flounder). i really enjoyed work today. the feedback an agent gave in a rejection letter. pictures of the wonder twins. flowers. i found a neat blog. east shore. ken burns' film for pbs about mark twain. marble slab's swiss chocolate and birthday cake ice cream with fruity pebbles. my father's laughter. playing thirteen cards with my mother. the trailers for the films if i stay, this is where i leave you, and the disappearance of eleanor rigby. the star wars cupcake decorating set i got at work.

songs that start with the letter u: a not-so-random sample

July 22, 2014

because it's not a good day and i just wanna sit here and listen to music,
yall get another playlist. yay!

one. ultraviolet (light my way). u2. achtung baby.
two. unbelievable. emf. coyote ugly soundtrack.
three. under the milky way. the church. starfish.
four. undercover. pete yorn. nightcrawler.
five.  underneath your clothes. shakira. laundry service.
six. underwater march. klaus badelt. pirates of the caribbean: the curse of the black pearl.
seven. undone. lifehouse's self-titled album.
eight. ungodly hour. the fray's self-tilted album.
nine. under my skin. rachael yamagata. happenstance.
ten. uninvited. alanis morissette. city of angels: music from the motion picture.
eleven. union of the snake. duran duran. seven and the ragged tiger.
twelve. universe and u. kt tunstall. eye to the telescope.
thirteen. unsung psalm. tracy chapman. telling stories.
fourteen. until it sleeps. metallica. load.
fifteen. until the end of the world. u2. achtung baby.
sixteen. untitled. collective soul's self-titled album.
seventeen. untitled. fuel. sunburn.
eighteen. untitled. interpol. turn on the bright lights.
nineteen. untitled. smashing pumpkins. rotten apples: greatest hits.
twenty. untitled one. keane. hopes and fears.
twenty-one. unwell. matchbox twenty. more than you think you are.
twenty-two. up all night. unwritten law. elva.
twenty-three. upside down. tori amos. silent all these years (single).
twenty-four. us. regina spektor. soviet kitsch.
twenty-five. useless. depeche mode. ultra.

twenty-five favored chick flicks

July 14, 2014

i felt inspired to make (yet) a(nother) list of my own.

about time
catch and release
chocolat
crazy stupid love
the cutting edge
dedication
dirty dancing
eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
fever pitch
five hundred days of summer
for love of the game
hitch
life as a house
life or something like it
love actually
memoirs of a geisha
the mirror has two faces
no reservations
the notebook
one fine day
the painted veil
the proposal
she's all that 
steel magnolias
that awkward moment

the twelfth of october

July 12, 2014

i attended a writing workshop in houston this morning. for one of the exercises, we were to grab an object from a ziploc bag and write something about it. we weren't supposed to be too choosy. so i reached into the bag, turned my head so that i couldn't focus on the contents at all, and pulled out the first thing my fingers found.

a slip of paper. a ticket stub from a film festival. dated october twelfth. 

my older brother's birthday.

for the previous assignment we were to choose from a handful of photos and write about the person pictured. for this assignment, we could use that same person or make up someone new. i'd arrived late, so i used the same person. and we were supposed to place the object on or inside a nightstand. 

on the back of the picture i'd selected was a name (chandra), a date (10-31-86), and a number (16). so i subtracted sixteen from eighty-six and wrote the following:

she was twenty-seven then.

chandra slowly pulled out the drawer of her nightstand and withdrew a ticket stub. since the only other thing in the drawer was a ring, she didn't need to search for the ticket--a memento of the best day.

of the worst.

she missed him. especially on a day like this when they should've been together to see their daughter off. the daughter who looked like her father. who had his dark eyes and hair. his smile. his dimple in her left cheek.

there was a small bit of extra paper that had clung to the edge when the usher had torn it. chandra fingered it with her right hand, tempted to tear it so that the perforation was even, the edge clean, but she resisted.

the thirty-third chicago international film festival. the ice storm.

in october. on the twelfth.

his birthday.

his death day.

she ran a hand over the ticket and set it back in the drawer.

sixteen years ago.

"mama!"

she shoved the drawer shut. "coming."

landline

July 9, 2014

why i wanted to read it: i wasn't as excited about reading this as i was for her other books. fangirl didn't do anything for me at all. and while i liked beth and jennifer in attachments, lincoln didn't impress me that much. and this one? about a fifteen-year-old marriage in trouble, its complications corrected through conversations held via magic phone calls? i was wary. i wasn't going to buy it. i'm glad i did.

what i liked: neal trimmed the trees. neal kept tulip bulbs in the refrigerator and sketched garden plans on the back of whole foods receipts. he'd pore over seed catalogs in bed and make georgie choose which plants she liked best.

"purple eggplant or white eggplant?" he'd asked her last summer.

"how can you have a white eggplant? that's like... purple green beans."

"there are purple green beans. and yellow oranges."

"stop. you're blowing my mind."

"oh, i'll blow your mind. girlie."

"are you flirting with me?"

he'd turned to her then, pen cap in his mouth, and cocked his head. "yeah, i think so."

georgie looked down at her old sweatshirt. at her threadbare yoga pants. "this is what does it for you?"

neal smiled most of a smile, and the cap fell out of his mouth. "so far."

neal...

she'd call him tomorrow morning. she'd get through to him this time... time zones weren't on their side. 

and he was pissed with her.

she'd make it better... morning glories, georgie thought to herself just before she fell asleep (pp. 43-44).

but that's the thing, georgie--he isn't friendly. he growls at people, literally, if they get too close."

"he doesn't growl at me," she said.

"well, he wouldn't."

"why wouldn't he?"

"because you're a pretty girl. you're probably the only pretty girl who's ever talked to him. he's too stunned to growl" (pp. 76-77).

"he was mad when he left, but--i think he'd tell me if he was leaving me. don't you think he'd tell me?" she was asking it seriously.

heather made a face. "god, georgie, i don't know. neal's not much of a talker. i didn't even know you were having problems."

georgie rubbed her eyes. "we're always having problems."

"well, it doesn't ever look like it. every time i talk to you, neal is bringing you breakfast in bed, or making you a pop-up birthday card."

"yeah." georgie didn't want to tell heather that it wasn't that simple. that neal made her breakfast even when he was pissed; sometimes he did it because he was pissed. as a way to act like he was present in their relationship, even when he was chilled through and barely talking to her (p. 106).

christmas 1998. they fought. neal went home. he came back. he proposed. they lived not-exactly-happily ever after. wait, was that what she was supposed to fix? the not-exactly-happy part?

how was she supposed to fix something like that, over the phone, when she wasn't even sure it was fixable?

christmas 1998. a week without neal. the worst week of her life. the week he decided to marry her.

was georgie supposed to make sure that he didn't? (p. 113).

"you could do this for a living," georgie said one night at the spoon, before they even started dating. 

"entertain you?" neal said. "sounds good. how are the benefits?" (p. 117).

georgie had gotten that far into her imagining--to neal spooning with his more-suitable-than-georgie wife--when she imagined neal's second-chance kids in this second-chance world. then she slammed the door shut on all his hypothetical happiness.

if the universe thought georgie was going to erase her kids from the timeline, it had another fucking thing coming (p. 122).

"i don't want to go out with jell-o instant pudding," georgie said.

"i would marry jell-o instant pudding."

georgie rolled her eyes. "i want to go out with mikey."

"i thought you wanted to go out with jay anselmo."

"jay anselmo is mikey," georgie explained. "he's the guy in the life cereal commercial who hates everything. if mikey likes you, you know you're good. if mikey likes you, it means something" (p. 136).

neal would stir in his sleep and reach for her hips, pulling her back onto the bed. "what are you looking for?"

"paper," she'd say, leaning off the bed again. "i have an idea i don't want to forget."

she'd feel his mouth at the base of her spine. "tell me. i'll remember."

"you're asleep, too."

he'd bite her. "tell me."

"it's a dance," she'd say. "there's a dance. and chloe, the main character, will end up with one of her mom's old prom dresses. and she'll try to fix it to make it look cool, like in pretty in pink, but it won't be cool; it'll be awful. and something embarrassing will happen at the dance to 'try a little tenderness.'"

"got it." then neal would pull her back into bed, into him, holding her in place. "dance. dress. 'try a little tenderness.' now go back to sleep."

and then he'd push up georgie's pajama shirt, biting her back until neither of them could go to sleep.

and then, eventually, she'd drift off with his hand on her hip and his forehead pressed into her shoulder.

she'd get out of the shower the next morning, and it would be written in the steam on the mirror: 

dance. dress. try a little tenderness (p. 140).

"i've wanted a crayola caddy since 1981," georgie said. "it's all i asked santa claus for, three years in a row."

"why didn't your parents just buy it for you?"

she rolled her eyes. "my mom thought it was stupid. she bought me crayons and paint instead."

"well--" he lowered his eyebrows thoughtfully--"you could probably have mine."

georgie punched his chest with their clasped hands. "shut. up." she knew it was stupid, but she was genuinely thrilled about this. "neal grafton, you have just made my oldest dream come true."

neal held her hand to his heart. his face was neutral, but his eyes were dancing (p. 148).

and it won't be the same if you have kids with some other, better girl, because they won't be alice and noomie, and even if i'm not your perfect match, they are.

god, the three of you. the three of you.

when i wake up on sunday mornings--late, you always let me sleep in--i come looking for you, and you're in the backyard with dirt on your knees and two little girls spinning around you in perfect orbit... and they look like me because they're round and golden, but they glow for you (p. 164).

when georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems (p. 201).

neal always held her hand during take off and turbulence... sometimes he didn't even look up from his crossword, just reached out for her when the plane started to shake (p. 275).

but these are the little things. there's pages and pages of goodness... things that are too good to put here. things i want you to read for yourselves. you're gonna love neal. he's a pretty cool dude.

what sucked: i'm not so much a fan of georgie's name. one of my friends, when i read her some excerpts, she said she liked neal, but not so much georgie. that her name ruined it for her. and yeah... i sure wish ms. rowell had chosen something else to call her, but... what makes me like georgie is that she was smart enough to recognize all the good in neal when so many others could overlook him.

having said all that: i loved this book. probably more than eleanor and park. and i LOVE that one, so...

the monastery's guest house grounds: photos from a five-year-old's vantage

July 8, 2014

at the top of the drive, just outside the back porch.

 the upstairs kitchen.

just outside the back porch, on the other side of the house.

 the upstairs kitchen again.

the redwood picnic table my great uncle built at my grandmother's request.

 the top of the box elder tree near the house.

and this one here... on the other side of the brush at the base of the tree... that's where my younger brother, at ten, tripped me, at fourteen, and fractured my collar bone.

i would've given yall better pictures, but the children used up all my battery.

wonder

July 7, 2014

why i read it: i saw it on the wall of bestsellers near the information desk at barnes & noble's. the cover caught my eye.

and the first page: i know i'm not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. i mean, sure i do ordinary things. i eat ice cream. i ride my bike. i play ball. and i feel ordinary. inside. but i know ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds... 

if i found a magic lamp and i could have one wish, i would wish that i had a normal face that one one ever noticed at all...

i know how to pretend i don't see the faces people make...

my name is augustus, by the way. i won't describe what i look like. whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

what i liked: "who is your favorite character?" julian asked. i started thinking maybe he wasn't so bad. 

"jango fett."

"what about darth sidious?" he said. "do you like him?" ...

maybe no one got the darth sidious thing, and maybe julian didn't mean anything at all. but in star wars episode iii--revenge of the sith, darth sidious's face gets burned by sith lightning and becomes totally deformed. his skin gets all shriveled up and his whole face just kind of melts.

i peeked at julian and he was looking at me. yeah, he knew what he was saying (p. 44).

"we sat together at lunch," i said.

i had started kicking a rock between my feet like it was a soccer ball, chasing it back and forth across the sidewalk.

"she seems very nice."

"yeah, she is."

"she's very pretty," mom said.

"yeah, i know," i answered. "we're kind of like beauty and the beast."

i didn't wait to see mom's reaction. i just started running down the sidewalk after the rock, which i had kicked as hard as i could in front of me (p. 56).

mom put the book down and wrapped her arms around me. she didn't seem surprised that i was crying. "it's okay," she whispered in my ear. "it'll be okay."

"i'm sorry," i said between sniffles.

"shh," she said, wiping my tears with the back of her hand. "you have nothing to be sorry about."

"why do i have to be so ugly, mommy?" i whispered.

"no, baby, you're not..."

"i know i am."

she kissed me all over my face. she kissed my eyes that came down too far. she kissed my cheeks that looked punched in. she kissed my tortoise mouth.

she said soft words that i know were meant to help me, but words can't change my face (p. 60).

for me, halloween is the best holiday in the world. it even beats christmas. i get to dress up in a costume. i get to wear a mask. i get to go around like every other kid with a mask and nobody thinks i look weird. nobody takes a second look. nobody notices me. nobody knows me.

i wish every day could be halloween. we could all wear masks all the time. then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we look like under the masks (p. 73).

i knew it wasn't a bleeding scream they were looking for. it was a boba fett.

i was going to go and sit at my usual desk, but for some reason, i don't know why, i found myself walking over to a desk near them, and i could hear them talking...

one of the mummies would say: "it really does look like him."

"like this part... " answered julian's voice. he put his fingers on the cheeks and eyes of his darth sidious mask... "if i looked like that," said the julian voice, kind of laughing, "i swear to god, i'd put a hood over my face every day."

"i've thought about this a lot," said the second mummy, sounding serious, "and i really think... if i looked like him, seriously, i think that i'd kill myself... i can't imagine looking in the mirror every day and seeing myself like that. it would be too awful. and getting stared at all the time..." the mummy shrugged. i knew the shrug, of course. i knew the voice. i knew i wanted to run out of the class right then and there. but i stood where i was and listened (p. 77).

i know the names they call me. i've been in enough playgrounds to know kids can be mean. i know, i know, i know. 

i ended up in the second-floor bathroom. no one was there because first period had started and everyone was in class. i locked the door to my stall and took off my mask and just cried for i don't know how long. then i went to the nurse's office and i told her i had a stomach ache, which was true, because i felt like i'd been kicked in the gut (p. 79).

anyway, it's not that i care that people react to me. like i said a gazillion times: i'm used to that by now. i don't let it bother me. it's like when you go outside and it's drizzling a little. you don't put on boots for a drizzle. you don't even open your umbrella. you walk through it and barely notice your hair getting wet. 

but when it's a huge gym full of parents, the drizzle becomes like this total hurricane. everyone's eyes hit you like a wall of water (page 207).

i read a good chunk of this on the flight to utah. i had to pause every so often because the tragedy of this boy's life broke my heart.

i also liked that the point of view shifts from august to his sister to his friends and back again. i liked that the story was told by so many.

what sucked: the last fifty pages or so. what was an incredibly touching tale became a really cheesy, preachy one. i was kind of disgusted by the conclusion. way too schmaltzy. it sort of wrecked it for me.

having said all that: it's rare that a book affects me so. and maybe it did this because my childhood resembled august's in some ways. maybe i'm overly sensitive and far too compassionate. but even though the ending annoyed me, i'm glad i read this story. because i like august. he's a good kid.