Crossing the Streams: 10 Important Books

I was tagged in this thing on Facebook:

“I’ve been challenged to list 10 books that have stayed with me in some way and tag people to do the same. Rules: Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They don’t have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. Then tag 10 friends including me so I can see your list.”

I decided to tackle the request here instead so I could really get into it, so off we go…

1. Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson)

Bridge to Terabithia broke my heart. I don’t want to talk about it.

But yes you should read it if you have not already done so. And when you do, remember that it was written for children.

Sometimes pain can be cruel and beautiful.

2. Dune (Frank Herbert)

Dune ferret controls the spice

Dune ferret controls the spice.

In the beginning, there was Dune, and it was so stinkin’ good. And a bit talky. And super great. There are about 4 kajillion – give or take – books in the Dune series at this point and I’ve only read 7 or so of them so far, but I’m slowly acquiring them all on paperback so I can eventually read them  all* and admire them on my shelf and whisper sweet nothings to them when no one’s listening.

I actually had a pretty hard time getting into this book when I first tried reading it. I just couldn’t reorient myself into the right head space for it, and found myself re-re-reading the first handful of pages over and over again as I’d put the book down and forget what had happened in my previous failed attempts. But I’d watched the original movie version so many times before I tried reading the book (30 viewings? 40?) that I was committed to indulging in the rest of the story’s details, so I kept plugging away.

It wasn’t until I found the audio book version narrated by Scott Brick that I was finally able to break through that Getting Started barrier. Once he opened up the story to me however, I was hooked. I went on to listen to his narration of other books in the series, which I paired with readings from the hard copies I had immediately run out to acquire as soon as I’d finished the first book.

From the book:

“A world is supported by four things … the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the righteous and the valor of the brave. But all of these are as nothing … without a ruler who knows the art of ruling. Make that the science of your tradition!”
– a recollection of Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam by Paul Atreides

“Be prepared to appreciate what you meet.”
– Fremen proverb

*Even the ones The Nerds frown upon because they’re “not as good as the original.” I will enjoy my escape into this cool universe without you then hahaha!! *raspberries*

3. Earthseed (Pamela Sargent)

My fave version of the cover art for this book.

My fave version of the cover art for this book.

Earthseed is one of those “read it so many times I lost count” books for me, and if you have any way to put me in touch with Pamela Sargent so I can drag my friend Donna K. (who I think would love her work) along and buy her lunch and thank her and fill her up with questions and soak in her answers, let me know post haste!

I first read this book back in… I want to say it was during middle school? late grade school? It was a great “escape” book for me, sure, but it was also a total brain-rerouter. Between this book and Invitation to the Game (#5 on this list), almost everything about the way I daydreamed after reading this was completely flipped on end.

Not only was it set in space – in space! – but it featured young people being trusted with doing Big Things, something I hadn’t encountered much yet at this point. (Not to this degree, anyway.) And in another refreshing change of pace, the story was filled with people of color, and with women who got to be good and bad, who got to be tough, who got to save the day. It shook up everything for me. May I remain shaken.

You can download the first four chapters of the book for Kindle for free. You can also buy me Amazon gift cards so I can download the rest of the books and then come back later and gush about how cool they were.

Just, you know — so you know you have options…

4. House of Leaves (Mark Z. Danielewski)

House of Leaves, 1st ed. cover art

House of Leaves, 1st ed. cover art

My friend Sarah recently reminded me of this exchange between the two of us immediately after I finished House of Leaves:

Sarah: You finished that book somewhere in New Mexico in the back of an RV. I walked back to the “bedroom” to find you laying face down on the bed. I said, “You okay?” and without looking at me you just picked the book up, held it up so I could see the cover, then put it back down. Then I backed away. It was also at that point that I knew I wanted to read it.

Me: I have no memory of that moment. I’m glad you do, though, because… yes. That sounds about right.

Sarah: You were laying in there long enough that our traveling companions began asking if you were all right. I told them you just needed some alone time.

This book will mess you up. So yes, by all means you should read it immediately.

From the book:

“To get a better idea try this: focus on these words, and whatever you do don’t let your eyes wander past the perimeter of this page. Now imagine just beyond your peripheral vision, maybe behind you, maybe to the side of you, maybe even in front of you, but right where you can’t see it, something is quietly closing in on you, so quiet in fact you can only hear it as silence. Find those pockets without sound. That’s where it is. Right at this moment. But don’t look. Keep your eyes here. Now take a deep breath. Go ahead, take an even deeper one. Only this time as you exhale try to imagine how fast it will happen, how hard it’s gonna hit you, how many times it will stab your jugular with its teeth or are they nails?, don’t worry, that particular detail doesn’t matter, because before you have time to process that you should be moving, you should be running, you should at the very least be flinging up your arms-you sure as hell should be getting rid of this book-you won’t have time to even scream.”
– p. 27

5. Invitation to the Game (Monica Hughes)

Invitation to the Game is the one book I’ve undoubtedly read more times than any other. It came into my life at just the right time (right around when I first encountered Earthseed, #3 on this list) and it spoke to all sorts of areas in my brain that were newly reaching out to be understood. I was only 10 or so at the time, but I wanted to be Lisse, the  book’s protagonist. I wanted to move to a warehouse in the city with my friends. I wanted to read every book in the library. I wanted to train my body to be able to run and climb; to be able to fight and to jump over walls. I wanted – wanted so badly – to one day play The Game.

I still do.

6. Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, The (C.S. Lewis)

I don’t recall when I first read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I only know that it’s been a known part of my personal universe since I was 7 or 8. I wish I could read it again for the first time – this book and the rest in the series – but maybe that’s what makes it so special in some ways; it wasn’t accompanied by a discovery experience so much as it was always a known quantity that I could rely on and daydream about.

7. Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Welcome to Super Awesome Nerd Girl Funtime Bookish Prairieland Vacation Mega Hotspot!

Welcome to Super Awesome Nerd Girl Funtime Bookish Prairieland Vacation Mega Hotspot!

My dad read Little House on the Prairie to me when I was 8. I have a picture of him reading it to me on the couch – him in his construction clothes, me sleepy in my pajamas. I wish I could find it. It so perfectly encapsulates my experience with that book, with growing up, with my parents…

Years later I went on a road trip with my mom, during which we visited the Ingalls homestead in DeSmet, SD. It was like the books had been turned into a ride where there’d never be any real speed, but there’d also never be any real long lines to wait in.

I made a rope and a corncob doll there and I was 8 all over again. 8, and every other age I’ve been when reading the entire series through from start to finish. Every time it’s quaint, and every time I love that little girl out on her prairies.

8. Maniac Magee (Jerry Spinelli)

My fourth grade teacher read Maniac Magee to us in class and it really stuck with me. (She also read us James and the Giant Peach, and The BFG, and introduced me to keeping a journal, and to writing stories, and to creating poetry, and to the idea of women having short hair in a cut other than The Mom Cut. Influential? To say the least.)

Maniac Magee marked one of the first times I read (or in this case, had read to me) a story that was centered on a kid, but in which everything wasn’t happiness and light. There was loss, and there was racism. There was pain, and there was death. But there was adventure, too, and friendship. There was learning and growing and exploring — and I loved it. Even though it wasn’t like the other books.

Especially because it wasn’t like the other books.

9. [Unnamed transformative fiction…

…that is among my favorite works of fiction and which was exciting and beautifully written and absolutely scared the crap out of me and should be adapted into a movie but never will be and it’s our collective loss that it won’t happen because wow… *shivers*]


10. Wrinkle In Time, A (Madeleine L’Engle)



I felt a bit as though I was getting away with something when I first read A Wrinkle in Time. I was 8 years old, and there was just so much happening in the story that I was sure it was intended for older readers than myself, and feared that when it was discovered I was “reading outside my age group” I’d get in trouble. Or worse – that the book would be taken away before I had a chance to finish it.

I was also a bit nervous about the cover art getting me in trouble…

I shouldn’t have been so nervous, of course. The Time Quintet is a classic of children’s literature – of literature in general – but I had no idea. I had just moved to a new country where I didn’t speak the language and had only just started making friends. I was cut off, isolated in the worlds of my books. I didn’t know where they stood in society at large, only where they ranked on my personal bookshelf.

This one ranked mighty high.

I went on to read the rest of the books in the series, and to incorporate L’Engle’s mythos into my own fantasy world-building. Tesseracts, kything, girls being heroes – this book had everything!

And now so did I.

Other super formative/influential books I didn’t think of until after I’d thought of the 10 listed above: The BFG, A Game of Thrones, Harry Potter (series), A Grief Observed, Where Is God When It Hurts?, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, A Tale of Time City

Got a list of your own? Consider yourself tagged and leave it in the comments below!

Crash Course: Living Room

So far the most fun part of moving has been setting up my new “living room.” There’s just something about getting a fresh start with organizing my bookshelves that leaves me feeling all giggly and excited!

If we’ve been friends for any significant amount of time you are most likely already familiar with my love of organizing and list-making. If we haven’t known each other long, or we have but you were too distracted by my ferrets to notice, no worries; consider this your crash course.

Living Room, View 1: Desk

Click to embiggen

Colored Boxes

  • Red: Philosophy
  • Pink: Education
  • Orange: Writing
  • Yellow: Crossword Puzzles
  • Green: Journals, notebooks, stationary
  • Dark Blue: Dream dictionaries and theory
  • Light Blue: Dictionaries
  • Dark Purple: Language, style guides
  • Light Purple: Grammar textbooks, poetry/ prose collections/ reviews

White Circles (L to R)

  • A picture of Jenny K. and me after a performance of The Actor’s Nightmare at Carroll University. We played Sarah and Ellen, though Lord knows I can’t remember who was who any more.
  • A ceramic piggy bank I got at an Irish fair with my high school boyfriend; Susan, the talking Aflac duck I got from one of their reps peddling their wares at a former job. I got her for answering a question correctly. When I answered a second question correctly the rep offered me a larger duck. *pfft* As if I could part with Susan!
  • A seashell my friend Sarah M. brought back for me in high school from her family’s vacation to Florida, during which her appendix burst. Whoops!
  • The Orrefors candle holders my great-grandma Ruth brought over with her from Sweden. My parents passed them down to me last Christmas.
  • A picture of the ladies of The Actor’s Nightmare: Jenny K. (Sarah? Ellen?), Mariya G. (director), Kate G. (Meg), me.
  • A flower-covered woven thing I wore on my head for the Ophelia costume I wore to a party at Corey R.’s house in high school.

Living Room, View 2: Bookshelves

Click to embiggen

Colored Boxes

  • Red: Fiction, literature study
  • Pink: Poets and poetry
  • Orange: Sociology, miscellaneous non-fiction, politics
  • Yellow: Gender studies; CDs
  • Dark Green: Remodeling, house styles, interior decorating; a gigantic dictionary
  • Light Green: DVDs
  • Dark Blue: Fiction
  • Light Blue: Arty things
  • Purple: Videos (The rest are inside the cabinet below.)

White Circles (L to R)

  • Votive candle holders I got from my Uncle Steve years ago. He also gave me a decorative bag of scented, orange votives to go with them, which I’ve hesitated to burn since he passed away last December. I know they’re just candles, but it feels strange to think of using up something that cannot be replaced.
  • A baby walrus on its mother’s back. This ceramic beauty has been in my collection for over twenty years now. It set me back a whole buck at the local dollar store on a shopping trip with my Mimi when I was about seven years old. I don’t know what prompted me to buy it, though the interest I would later develop in The Beatles certainly made room for it.
  • A long dead lighting instrument I grabbed (with Scott B.’s permission!) from the upper storage space at Carroll University during a work day. I have two of them, actually. I like to think about all the exciting moments they lit up, all the stories that are never retold the same way twice, all the effort and laughter and tears. I won’t keep them forever, but I’ll keep them for now. They’ve seen so much. More than you or I ever will.
  • A stuffed pig my mom received from a student ten or so years ago. Somehow I ended up with it.
  • My senior year of high school our theatre department attended a theatre workshop at Wisconsin Lutheran College. One of the available sessions dealt with mask-making and masked performance. I hadn’t planned to take that class, so my attendance turned out to be one of those “happy accidents.” I believe Deborah Solomon-Phillips led that session. Every part of the exercise taught me something. I settle the mask onto my face every couple of years to see if it still fits. It does, but only on the outside.
  • A light saber from a friend and former employer, Jennifer C. Yes, everyone at work had one. Yes, we had battles with them when we were done having Koosh wars and playing hide and seek.

Living Room, View 3: Couches

Click to embiggen

Colored Boxes

  • Red: Miscellaneous books
  • Pink: Photo albums
  • Orange: Records

White Circles (L to R)

  • A picture of Jenny K. and I at the Carroll Players’ annual Theatre Banquet her junior and my senior year. She has always been just the cutest stinkin’ thing. Love that girl.
  • Somehow I ended up with two of Jennifer’s light sabers…
  • A wire basket of dried flowers from Donna D. Ah, but from which show, which show…
  • Stitch.
  • A purple Ao Po’i table runner I bought with Christie H. at a shop in Itauguá (though it may’ve been elsewhere; those last few days are a bit of a blur!) during my trip to Paraguay this past January.
  • Joey.
  • A picture of Amanda H., Brent J., and me at the Blood Center  on September 11, 2001. Everyone wanted to do something helpful, something positive, something proactive… but what? The lines at the center were long. We were put on a waiting list and told to come back hours later, which we did. They couldn’t tap my first elbow, so they bandaged it up and moved on to the other one. After drawing a pint of my spaghetti sauce blood they bandaged up that elbow, too, leaving me unable to bend my arms. You can’t see it in this zoomed out image, but in the picture Amanda is holding up my juice for me so I can drink from the straw.
  • A turtle candle Jessica C. gave me for my birthday some time during high school; a Speech Meet trophy for first place in Humorous Interpretation.

Is there anything one can possibly do on a computer that feels more mentally fulfilling than completing a detailed list?! Ahh… Refreshing as an ice-cold lemonade after a summertime lawn mowing!


I, uh– I haven’t ever actually mowed an entire lawn…

The bedroom still looks like it was attacked by sea monsters despondent over their banishment to land. But never fear, Nerdfighters: Further bookshelf pictures will make their way up here as soon as I’m done hanging up all my clothes and sorting my non-fiction!

Of Exercises and Escape Dreams


I was looking for a book at the library. I found it, but the cover art and dust jacket description totally turned me off so I took home the book next to it instead; I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, by Barbara Sher. Don’t feel badly, Other Book; it happens.

I Could Do Anything… description from Amazon:

A life without direction is a life without passion. The dynamic follow-up to the phenomenal best-seller WishcraftI Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was (the New York Times Bestseller) guides you, not to another unsatisfying job, but to a richly rewarding career rooted in your heart’s desire. And in a work of true emancipation, this life-changing sourcebook reveals how you can recapture “long lost” goals, overcome the blocks that inhibit your success, decide what you want to be, and live your dreams forever!

As many of you know I’ve been looking for a new job of late. There is always more than one reason to conduct such a search, and most of the time those reasons are uninteresting unless you’re a) the one experiencing them, or b) the one asking about them in a job interview, so I’ll spare you, Gentle Reader, by leaving them out. You’re welcome.

With my job search in mind I performed a few of the exercises in Sher’s book, then decided to go out on a limb- breaking every goal attainment rule in the process- and share my responses. I’m doing this because goodness knows I process information best when it’s weighed and measured in thoughtful discussion (I’m counting on you, Nerdfighters!), but also because I’m eager to read how youwould answer the following questions and can hardly ask you to share your responses unless I’m willing to share my own first. Right? Right.

Ready? Let’s go!


Chapter 3: Resistance, or What’s Stopping You, Anyway?

© Sam Brown

Exercise #1: Meaningful Work
Here Sher asks readers to write down what the world considers “meaningful work.” She goes on to say “…in the back of your mind is the thought that somehow you have to make a contribution to something, be acknowledged, do something that matters–or you’re just fooling around.” I wrote down what I consider “meaningful work” since, frankly, the idea of pursuing a path simply because the world considers it meaningful sounds exhausting and a little silly.

For work to be meaningful to me

  • It must involve creating something new, which will hopefully be acknowledged by its intended audience as 1) truly different from its alternatives, and 2) helpful.
  • It must involve working with people, either in person or through the written word, to help them understand something better, or appreciate and be enriched by something they hadn’t previously given much thought.

Exercise #2 Part A: The Job from Heaven
Sher instructs readers to include what the job entails, where it would be performed, and who it would be performed with, and not to “limit [themselves] with reality or practicality, because this is Fantasy Time.”


  • Blogging about every day life
  • Travel writing on back road gems, Americana road trip culture, and introducing readers to towns that barely make it to the map
  • Publishing interviews/mini-biographies on “folks” I meet along the way. Not the rich, not the famous, just the folks.
  • Reading to kids at the library, homeschool groups, churches, etc.


  • On my laptop at the table in my ground floor hotel room with the curtains open no matter how drab the parking lot outside
  • In a notepad during walking tours
  • On my laptop at a large, clean desk in a home office. A home office with a door that locks, plenty of natural light, a love seat, a coffee table, an electric tea kettle, and lots of green and wood and overflowing bookshelves and a giant map of the U.S. painted onto one of the walls. A home office outside the big city, on the edge of a small town– maybe even just outside of it– but with easy access to the city, the library, the theatre, and maybe a local museum or two.

With Whom…

  • When writing I need to be alone, but when traveling I prefer the buddy system

I think I may have missed the point ever so slightly because “Fantasy Time” this ain’t. Is it too late to tack on something like “…and spend every other week riding horses in India and make $80 gajillion dollars a year”? Or should I just be glad that my dream job is more realistically attainable than, say Ballerina or Astronaut?

Exercise #2 Part B: The Job from Hell


  • Processing bills. AP, AR, doesn’t matter. If I had my druthers I wouldn’t process payments.
  • Scheduling international travel itineraries
  • Customer service (for past-due payment collection) over the phone
  • Answering a multi-line phone
  • Being the final decision maker on things involving big costs and make-it-or-break-it deadlines
  • Business professional dress code
  • Long hours on weekdays, with lots of weekend shifts and mandatory overtime to top it off
  • Working for a company which creates goods or provides services I care nothing about, or which I actively dislike


  • In a cube farm surrounded by windowless gray or institution-green walls
  • In a large metropolitan area
  • In a building with more than four stories, or with a configuration that necessitates taking an elevator to my floor
  • In a room that’s always extremely loud or always silent
  • More than a half hour commute in bumper to bumper traffic

With Whom…

  • Intense, high pressure coworkers who start the day stressed out
  • Coworkers who are cool and stand-offish and who don’t want to sit with me at lunch or show me the ropes when I’m learning my job
  • Coworkers who are perpetually  dramatic, narcissistic, jealous, who harbor cruel opinions, and who are more mouth than eyes and ears
  • Screaming customers upset about issues I have no power to correct or change
  • So many coworkers I can never hope to know all their names
  • Supervisors who make politics part of the job, with the understanding that agreement is the first step to advancement

Two things struck me about the second part of this activity: 1) I was surprised (and slightly embarrassed!) at how much easier it was to come up with the things I don’t want, and 2) the “professional” skill set I’ve spent the last nine years developing lends itself to the kinds of jobs that fit this bill. Uh-oh…

Chapter 4: The Sure Thing

Exercise #1: What Are Your Escape Dreams?
Per Sher, “…make sure they’re true fantasies, and not practical in any way… Escape dream[s hold] a powerful clue to something you really need. It’s like a photo film negative of your life. Whatever in your life is missing, wherever a blank spot exists, it shows up in this fantasy. …[W]e should do something about what’s missing. Because if you don’t use that information to improve your life, you’re using escape dreams to help you avoid life.

Yeah, I can see that.

  • My escape dream involves having enough money in the bank that my needs are met; enough that I can afford to travel simply on a regular basis (road trips, trips to other countries where I could stay in friends’ homes or mid-range hotels); and enough to give generously to support charities and friends’ projects and dreams; all while being able to help family members in need and to put funds aside into a retirement account and into college funds for my kids.
  • In this dream I write, I read to kids, I act in plays, I road trip, I help community theatres in out-of-the-way towns to organize themselves and reach out to their communities, and travel throughout Latin America.
  • I live with my husband, kids, dogs, ferrets, and home library in a ranch house somewhere out West (not the coastal west; the north/central West) where the outside of my office door is painted to look like the TARDIS, and where we own acres and acres of land that will one day go to the kids. It’s land with hills and woods and open fields and creeks and animals you don’t want to run into at night, and there’s a fenced in area and a barn where I house transient livestock rescues for the local animal shelter, and a special room to house all my ferrets, and a tree which for some reason is always filled with crows.

My constantly recurring themes? Family, Security, and Writing. Okay you three, you’ve made your point.

Chapter 6: I Want Too Many Things; I’m All Over the Map

Exercise #1: Time Management for the Person Who Loves to Do Too Many Things
This exercise is geared toward people Sher refers to as “Scanners.” These are folks who “want to taste everything. … Because our culture values… specialization and determination, we too often think of scanners as people who simply won’t get down to work. This is a foolish cultural oversight. … We’re trained to believe that we only get one choice in our lives. But to scanners, one choice sounds like someone’s saying, ‘You can have a coloring book or you can have crayons, but you can’t have both,’ and they’re onto something. Scanners know that life is not stingy. If anything, life is too generous. The choices are dizzying. But there’s a way to manage the riches.”

Part 1. If you were ten people, what would each of you do with your life?

  1. Writer
  2. Teacher/Instructor/Guide
  3. Traveler
  4. Historian
  5. Actress
  6. Physicist
  7. Documentary Filmmaker
  8. Zoologist
  9. Wife and mother
  10. Something with independent ministry projects, focusing on providing education and technical training for children and young adults

Part 2. Quickly answer each of the following questions with one of your ten lives.

  • Which life can you devote yourself to this coming year?
  • Which life can you do when the first one is completed?
  • Which activities can you do for twenty minutes or less each day?
  • Which ones can you do on a weekend?
  • Which ones can you do once in a while?

Naturally I was able to match up bits and pieces- or sometimes even whole “lives”- to each of those questions. And that’s the trick, isn’t it? Being faced with the fact that if you really want to do something you can probably find- or make- time to pursue it? Given that I don’t have much of a natural inclination toward the sciences, and that some of these pursuits can take years just to get the degrees necessary to engage in them for profit and to create the necessary relationships and contacts to make them fulfilling, it’s clearly unlikely that I could pursue each of the above “lives” to its fullest professional extent. But that’s okay too, because if I achieved some of them on a professional level I’d have to spend a great deal of my time doing *mostly* those things, and that wouldn’t satisfy my inner scanner either!


The book is 322 pages long and I’m only up to page 187, so I can’t speak for the whole thing. What I’ve read so far, though, has provided a thoroughly worthwhile reading experience filled with useful advice and approachable anecdotal support for the author’s opinions. It’s a charming, simple enough read, and I’m looking forward to working my way through a few more of the exercises, particularly those in Chapter 13: A Rage Against the Ordinary, and Chapter 14: The Red Herring, or Trying Hard to Love Something You Don’t Really Want.

I’d love to hear your answers to one, a few, or better still to all of the above exercises. If you’re up to playing along you can leave your responses in the comments, or provide a link in the comments to wherever you’ve answered them elsewhere. I can’t wait to read what you have to say!

Half Price Books Haul

My Half Price Books

Half Price Books‘ Labor Day weekend 20% off sale is my Christmas. Already awesomely priced books available at even lower prices than usual, a cozy shelf-packed shop buzzing with book lovers sharing recommendations with each other over what to read next; it’s like a physical manifestation of Nerdfighteria.

Today’s highly successful haul demands yet another post wherein I brag about my awesome finds. (Scroll to the bottom for a full list of HPB posts.)

Link-clicking fingers ready? Let’s go!

Books | Grand Total: $8.48
Dune Messiah
, by Frank Herbert ($0.80)
God Emperor of Dune, by Frank Herbert ($0.80)
Heretics of Dune, by Frank Herbert($0.80)
The Word for World is Forest, by Ursula K. Le Guin ($0.90)
Something with “mumpsimus” and “hobnail” on the cover and which I can’t name because it’s a present! ($5.18)

Grand, ain’t it?! I’m especially thrilled to be making such good progress on filling my Frank Herbert shelf. So far all I owned were Dune, and the Atreides, Dune, and Harkonnen chapterhouse books after having read the rest of the original novels via the library. In fact– now that I think about it, all I need now is Children of Dune and I’ll have completed my set of Frank’s originals. I just get cooler and cooler…

Also: I wish I’d been trained as a Bene Gesserit (by Donna Kummer).

There. I said it.

The Ditty Bops

CDs | Grand Total: $12.80
On My Way
, by Ben Kweller ($1.60)
A Passage in Time, by Dead Can Dance ($1.60)
To Venus and Back, by Tori Amos ($1.60)
The Hour of Bewilderbeast, by Badly Drawn Boy ($1.60)
Whatever and Ever Amen*, by Ben Folds Five ($1.60)
Seven Swans, by Sufjan Stevens ($1.60)
Moon Over the Freeway, by The Ditty Bops ($1.60)
O Brother, Where Art Thou Soundtrack ($1.60)

*I might already have this. If I do, this one’s all yours, bro.

And after all that I still have $6 left on a gift card I received for “actual” Christmas. I’m fighting the urge to go back tomorrow and put the remainder toward completing my Dune collection. Ah Life and all her accompanying difficult decisions!


Previous Half Price Books mega-haul braggy posts:
See Change
All things on earth point home in old October
Resting Before I Get Tired
“How much do you love me?” and “Who’s in charge?”

Honduras Blog #10: Of Sandals and Bloggers

How am I so behind on blogging?? We leave Honduras in TWO DAYS!! Time to get crack a’lackin.

Squee-worthy sandals from Naranja Virtual.

Tuesday 8/17/10
Last Tuesday Mimi and I went to Arte Giancarlo with Ana and Melissa. It’s this lovely, high-ceilinged store across from the Universidad Católica about 10 minutes away from the mission. Toward the latter part of our trip I’ve gotten pretty bad about not taking as many pictures of the places we visit, which is particularly a shame in the case of this place because it was truly a beautiful shop. 30’+ high ceilings painted a rich blue, sunflower yellow walls, golden orange accent beams in the corners, dark wood shelves to display their wares, and pewter.

Pewter everywhere.

Pewter for purchase, pewter for decor on every flat surface in the shop…

There were also separate sections for painted pottery, wood art, homemade decorative candles, jewelry, and shoes from Naranja Virtual‘s Colección Madera. (I would like to apologize to Becca Rea for not purchasing any of the aforementioned shoes, in spite of their awesomeness. They started around $95…) Bought a few presents there for the fam. Had to cut myself off from shopping any further, though, as Continental Airlines doesn’t consider “it was pretty!” to be an adequate argument for not having to pay extra for overweight luggage.

Next stop: Espresso Americano with the girls for a mocaccino and a chocolate chip cookie. You know how we do.

Later that evening Brenda returned to the mission with her friend Jennifer, and Jennifer’s daughter Megan, in tow. Jennifer and her husband have a farm-based mission out in the country. They’re building a house out there right now, and working with their new neighbors to see what can be done to improve their current farming methods.

A quarter-eaten papaya bigger than my head.

So much of the land here isn’t ideal for agriculture, but when you’ve got to eat you’ve got to eat! Ergo: Corn stalks growing straight out the sides of mountains.

And with all of the additional labor that comes from that type of farming, and given that this is how it’s been done for generations, there’s often not much impetus (or financial freedom) to explore alternative methods. Enter: Folks who can try to help you get ahead.

Or at least catch up.

For now there’s no electricity in their village, nor do they have running water, so bathing is done with a bucket “in front of God and everybody” as Mimi would say, food is eaten or thrown out as there’s no way to preserve it, and if you want to charge anything up (batteries, etc.)– plan on an hour long drive down the mountain into the nearest town.

Dear Lord,
Feel free not to give me that particular kind of strength.

Wednesday 8/18/10

Mimi, Megan, El Capitan, Brenda, Megan

Jennifer and Megan needed to run a few errands in the city before heading back into the mountains, so Mimi and I joined in on the fun with them and Brenda.

By afternoon’s end we’d hit the hardware store, PriceSmart (like Sam’s Club), Mall Multiplaza, and El Patio, where we didn’t even need the 2-4-1 pinchos we’d ordered by the time we finished our appetizer-style first course. Each of our meals came with an order of platanos maduros, beans and cheese with tortilla chips, various salsas, and some kind of pickled cucumber with beets or something, among other things.

Shortly after arriving back at the mission house I got a call from one of my favorite bloggers, Madame Gumbeaux (aka Laurie) over at Honduras Gumbo. Deniss from the mission dropped Mimi and I off at an Espresso Americano (there it is again) just past the airport so we could meet her in person at long last.

That woman is a walking powerhouse. I don’t know how else to describe her. You get the impression there’s nothing she can’t tackle, and that it’d be fun to watch her do so, no matter what the project.

Laurie and me at Mision Caribe

And don’t believe what she says about her Spanish! After reading her blog I was expecting heavily “h”ed “holas” and a few “very gracias”es, but ended up hearing nothing of the sort.

Too bad, too. “Very gracias” is a fun one. ;)

After coffee we hopped into Pepe Burro (her truck) to hit up El Hogar, a bakery a few blocks away, for bread, bottled water, and a bit more chit-chat before the AC there froze us out. We drove back to the mission where I handed off the children’s books I’d purchased for her in the States.

And just like that the day was over. So soon? So soon. But they have to end some time or I’ll never be able to write about them all. Not even the dull ones.

See Change

When I told friends 2010 was going to bring changes into my life I had no idea how true that prediction would turn out to be. Now I kind of wish I’d thrown some specifics into that prediction, like “On May 1st I’ll help a 98 year old lady cross the street and she’ll thank me by making me the sole benefactor of her gazillionty dollar estate.”

Ah well. Next time.

Aaron and me at The Great Milwaukee Race

As it stands, I’m now a couple months in to seeing the fourth fellow down from the top, and am currently jobless after my employer outsourced my department to Missouri. You know what? It happens. I’ve also been attending church every week for several months now, and have begun a slow return to a lost love: reading for pleasure. I haven’t quite reached “Rachel Fox” levels of literary consumption, but I’ve still managed to work my way through a healthy (for me) stack of libros over the past couple of months. Feels good, folks. Real good. The final change so far is that I’ll be spending a few weeks this August in Honduras with Mimi. Don’t know what all we’ll be doing there yet; I’ll update y’all when I know for sure.

See? Change.

Speaking of all that book readin’, I stopped by Half Price Books today to take advantage of their store-wide 20% off Memorial Day sale. As promised, the rundown on my awesome finds:

For me:

  • Night by Elie Wiesel ($2.00): I know only that his work is powerful and that I should read more of it, so I’m reading this.
  • Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin ($3.00): I feel like I keep hearing about this book. Was it you? Were you talking about it to me? Anyway- I found it today for $3 so I picked it up. The guy who wrote it sounds pretty incredible. I’ll let y’all know if it’s as good a read as it seems like it’ll be.

4 books for 12.59. Yay!

Mimi in Honduras

For the Honduras trip:

  • Aprende a Escribir Letras ($0.25 a piece): I picked up 8 copies of this book at $0.25 each, which came to $1.60 with the current 20% discount. Woohoo! They’re 25 pages each on heavy, glossy paper so kids can trace the practice letters with crayon, then wipe the pages clean for re-use. They’re spiral bound, which I love because it keeps the books laying flat on the table while kids are using them. A super find!
  • ¿Dónde está el Jorobado de Notre Dame? ($0.50): This book is basically a Disney version of “Where’s Waldo” where you’re asked to locate various characters from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in the midst of bustling street scenes. I was hoping to find a good picture book to take along, so this is fantastic because what little writing there is here is in Spanish, and it’s good for a broader age range than some of the other things I found.
  • Enciclopedia de Oro: Tomos 1 (Apicultura a Bancos) y 2 (Ábaco a Apéndice) ($0.50 a piece): These short hardcovers are the first two books in an old encyclopedia series. I’m not too thrilled with the dated images (entirely illustrated, no photographs), but I like that the entries are about general stuff (King Arthur, astrolabes, the geography of Australia, etc.) so the information itself doesn’t appear to be dated. Still– I will probably end up leaving these two here.
  • Mi primer diccionario by Betty Root ($6.98): This one’s a hardcover book featuring a wonderful word selection with simple, helpful definitions accompanied by a sentence using the word in question. The accompanying illustrations are bright, cheery. Very nice little book.
  • Mi primer libro de números ($2.98): A paperback– finally! Packed with color color COLOR this book teaches numbers, shapes, colors, comparisons (bigger than, shorter than, etc.) with bright, simple illustrations.

13 children’s books for $11.31! Awesome.

Love, Sweet Potato

It has been– wow. Just such a day. Such a beautiful, beautiful– I am so blessed! So blessed. And I’m glad I’m in a place, in a state of mind, to be able to really soak it up, really enjoy every moment of it.

And today? Today was a Day to absorb through every sleepy, sunny, summery pore. The sun was shining in through all my wide open windows, the birds nesting in the tree outside my balcony were singing, the ferrets were bounding (and pooping) happily around the apartment, I found some great deals at an awesome book sale, then walked a mile and back into downtown Waukesha with Aaron for sandwiches at People’s Park. I am in an incomparably wonderful mood!

And now it’s time for s’mores and an episode of Father Ted before heading home.

See? Improvement. ;)

I kind of hate to see this day end, yet I can’t help but look forward to whatever kind of day tomorrow turns out to be. I figure tomorrow will be whatever tomorrow was always supposed to be, I’m just lucky to have had a day like today to precede it.

And I’m smiling.

The Quintessence of My Superfluity

I live alone in a two bedroom apartment. Both bedrooms have amply sized walk-in closets. The living room isn’t what you’d call “spacious,” but it ain’t small either. Actually– here. How ’bout I just show you around with this old video I made several living-room-rearrangements ago:

(My apologies for the bumpiness of the ride in this video. Lots of swingin’ around. I like to loop-de-loop…)

The thing about my apartment is that it’s packed. Both bedrooms, both closets, every book shelf, every bathroom drawer. There’s about twice as much stuff in it now as there was in that video. You can’t even walk into the guest room anymore there are so many piles of boxes on the floor, table, mattress… And the living room? It’s now minus the black chair and plus two large ferret cages, another book shelf, an elliptical machine, and a folding table. It’s not enough to get me on A&E’s Hoarders, but it’s enough that I’ve rounded the bend from feeling frustrated at the clutter to feeling downright annoyed for having- and continuing to buy and receive- so stinkin’ much STUFF.

After a mental perusal of the contents of my apartment, I can now say with full certainty I have enough of the following items to choke a sleuth of bears:

  • Pajamas. Between the cutesy matched sets and the bulging assortment of over-sized t-shirts I’ve kept far too long, always under the guise of “I can wear this shirt to bed,” I have an entire drawer stuffed to bursting with clothing no one but Alfred ever sees. I do not need any more pajamas. Don’t anybody do me no sleepwear favors. I’m covered.
  • Lipstick. Expanded to include: Lip sticks, lip glosses, lip balms, lip shines, lip stains, lip liners, lip soothers, lip smoothers, lip plumpers, lip exfoliators, and lip healers. I should really count up how many of these things I have. I think the final number would shock me. Probably almost as much as when I counted up the pairs of socks my ferret Brodie stole (95) and I was faced with the reality that I own over 100 pair.
  • Socks. (See Lipstick.)

    Items my ferret Brodie has hidden underneath and behind my furniture: 95 pair of socks, 6 corks, 2 paintbrushes, a hair tie, shower squeegee, used kleenex, computer battery wrapped in bubble wrap, wooden key chain angel, and an Olimpia soccer flag

  • Lotion. I have fruity smelling lotions, medicine-y smelling lotions, lotions that smell like flowers, lotions that smell like seasons, lotions that smell like baked goods, and lotions that profess to smell like nothing at all. At this rate my skin should be so soft I should be able to mold it. Wonder skin powers: Activate! Form of fist-skin molded into the shape of rabid sharks!!
  • Body Spray/Perfume. I have fruity smelling sprays, medicine-y smelling sprays, sprays that smell like flowers, sprays that smell like seasons, sprays that smell like baked goods, and sprays that profess to smell like more expensive sprays from manufacturers whose commercials artfully encourage consumption, but not enough so to get me to shell out the extra cash to ensure it’s their product I’m bringing home. (Thank you, Clique. “Forget your troubles, c’mon get Snappy…”)
  • Purses. The first trouble with my mound of purses (I keep them in a 1′ high, 2′ deep, 3′ wide pile on my closet floor) is that almost every single one has some happy little memory associated with it, making it difficult to justify parting with them. The second trouble is that none of them would qualify as a “nice” purse, symptomatic of my preference for quantity over quality, making it difficult to justify keeping them. The third trouble is they provide hours of entertainment for the boys as they fish out rock-hard Starbursts from pockets I thought I’d emptied the last time I used some of these purses– a few as recently as 2006…– making it difficult to even declare ownership over what has now been re-zoned as Ferretland.
  • Jackets. Parkas, overcoats, spring jackets, winter jackets, raincoats, summer evening sweaters, zip-front hoodies; I got ’em all in spades. Not to mention the accompanying tubs of mismatched scarves (sets, hand-made, black, white, colorful, wool, jersey), gloves (knit, leather, suede), and hats (fashion hats, ski/skater hats, ball caps, berets).

What else, what else…

  • Books. This one’s tricky because I love buying/receiving new books. But let’s face it: With as many books as I currently have it’s going to be a miracle if I can find anyone who loves me enough to help me transport them if I ever move.
  • Nail Polish. I have about 30 bottles. I wear nail polish maybe– MAYBE– three times a year.
  • Kitchen Equipment. If it blends, chops, sorts, tenderizes, juliennes, vaporizes, etc. chances are I don’t need it. Have you seen me in the kitchen? I make sandwiches, people. Sandwiches, and occasionally brownies from box mixes. I think I’ve used my coffee maker twice since moving into my apartment over three years ago. If you ever catch me trying to justify the purchase of a Kitchen Aid mixer just because it’s on a super sale: Drop-kick me.
  • Skirts. Much like my nail polish collection, I probably own upwards of 30+ skirts. I wear one maybe– MAYBE– once every 4 months. The one I wear the most often is a knee length, loose-ish, brownish, grayish, cotton-ish Old Navy (I think) hand-me-down from Beth Werning. Beth: This is my favorite skirt ever. Thank you.

I’m sure there’s more- lots more- I could add to this list, but I’ve reached the point where continuing in this vein would cause me to become:

a) depressed at the sheer volume of useless crap overtaking my apartment
b) motivated to spend the rest of the afternoon cleaning, and I don’t wanna.

How ’bout you? What do you have just way too much of?

“How much do you love me?” And “Who’s in charge?”

Quite the successful trip to Half Price Books today. Allow me a post to gloat over my fantastic- and fantastically priced- finds…


1. Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert: $3

This doesn’t impress me at first glance as the type of book I’d generally get into, but after watching Gilbert’s TED talk I realized I rather enjoy the woman herself and so ought to give her tome a try.

2. Myths, Lies, And Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel – Why Everything You Know Is Wrong” by John Stossel: $3

I always dug Stossel on 20/20, and the more I hear from him as I get older, the more interested I am in what he has to say. That is: As I get progressively more boring, world worn, and crows footed, the more I find merit in his opinions.

3.The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations” by Charles Harrington Elster: $3

calm KAHM. The l is properly silent. Do not say KAHLM or KAWLM.
salmon SAM-un. L is silent, a as in ham. Anything else is beastly — er, fishy.
pianist pee-AN-ist (or PYAN-ist). PEE-uh-nist is chiefly British.

4.The Complete Book of Fitness” by the Editors of Fitness Magazine with Karen Andes: $3

It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was followed by another good idea: A Kona Mocha chocolate shake from Kopp’s. My ideas: they just get better and better and better…


1. Animaniacs by a bunch of insane voice actors: $2

2. Ok Goby Ok Go: $2

3. The Book of Secrets by Loreena McKennitt: $2

4. Dilateby Ani DiFranco: $2

5.Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie by Alanis Morisette: $2

6. Begin to Hope by Regina Spektor: $2

All for a grand total of $25.34, which I put on a gift card. A good feeling, my friends. An exceptionally good feeling on an exceptionally beautiful day. A day which I need to get back outside and enjoy a little more before it’s over…


“I met an old lady once, almost one hundred years old, and she told me, “There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? And Who’s in charge?” Everything else is somehow manageable.”
– “Eat, Pray, Love,” p. 157

Ooooh… Ahhhh….

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I want this oh oh oh!Daenerys Targaryen  Variant

Yes yes yes!

Buy buy buy!

It’s official: my friendship costs $75.

Please remit payments directly to Valyrian Resin.

Sandor Clegane VariantIt would also be terribly kickass if you bought me the variant of the Hound’s sculpture.

I mean- you’re already kicking out $75 bucks, so what’s another $75?

Unless you want to save it for when the Arya sculptures are released, in which case, by all means, only buy me the Daenerys figure this first round.

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“French-type” Films

Did Martin Luther King, Jr. really say “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”??


Marilyn Monroe Sex Tape Sells for $1.5M

… Heavily redacted, declassified FBI documents from the 1960s talk about a “French-type” film starring the late actress …

Uh… “French-type”? Wha-???

Tom Cruise Concerned About Posh Spice’s Influence on Katie Holmes

… During another recent outing to Madeo, Katie and Posh shared a green salad without dressing, one piece of fish and one side of steamed spinach, Life and Style reported. They also ordered one regular Coke and two glasses of ice.

“Katie poured half the soda into each of their glasses, then filled up the rest with bottled water,” a Madeo regular told the magazine.”

What?! *Gah!* If that’s what it takes to be thin– man I’m just not so sure I want it…

100 Best First Lines from Novels

15. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. -Samuel Beckett, Murphy (1938)

46. Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex’s admonition, against Allen’s angry assertion: another African amusement . . . anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa’s antipodal ant annexation.  -Walter Abish, Alphabetical Africa (1974)

47. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. -C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)

78. The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.  -L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1953)


In other news: I’m an idiot.

I’m reading George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (it’s incredible) and I just finished the second book about an hour ago and was all set to dive right into the third book when I realized, much to my horror, that the book sitting on my shelf isn’t the third book but the fourth!

I bought books two and (apparently) four when I was in Dallas in November so that as soon as I finished book one I could move right into the next one. I’d intended to buy two through four at the time, but decided to save a few bucks and some space in my luggage on my return trip to Wisconsin, so I put book (apparently) three back on the shelf.


For some reason I cannot understand myself, I spent ages and ages finishing up book two. Don’t ask me how or why I did it; glutton for punishment perhaps. In the meantime I’ve been ignoring the book on my shelf because it didn’t matter yet, so I had no idea that all this time I’ve been sitting here with a book I can’t read yet!

Well it damn well matters now that I want to read book three and can’t. Doggonit…

I’m picking it up at B&N tomorrow on my way home from work, as well as putting in an order for the “Wait Until Dark” script. *sigh* How am I ever going to memorize that bloomin’ thing…