Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Last One At the Lunch Table

Image credit here.

I had a dream that things were like they used to be.

J was in the kitchen making us pancakes, and M was there, except he wasn't married. I'm sure C was somewhere with the blanket, the one he used to keep in the back of his car for bonfire nights, and would eventually fall asleep in.

I was there.

Five years ago I posted something to this blog when I was feeling the kind of nostalgic that is premature, nostalgia for the present moment, before you've even left it. I wrote about my boys, the ones who I grew up with, loved, fought with, sang beside, prayed for. I told myself (and the seven people who read this blog lolol) that I would keep them in my life always, that I would watch them all get married, as if I was trying to will it into being.

It never happened.

I didn’t see any of my boys on their wedding days, not one. I still think about it sometimes, how despite everything that held us together, it didn’t end up happening that way. A has yet to get married, though, so maybe there’s still a chance.

I found out recently that one of my boys goes to the church my husband and I have been visiting. I thought that I recognized him from a distance, all these years removed, but I wasn't sure. It's weird when someone whose birthday I never forgot and middle name I know has become sort of a stranger standing across the room, both of us too shy to say hi.

Lately, I've been wondering if I found my people prematurely.

That I met my kindreds against all odds, but we grew up, and it had to end. We had a good run, but I peaked early, and those were the only kindreds I was ever going to get. I don’t actually think this is true, I’m being dramatic. I’ve met a handful of souls since that make me believe there are still, to quote Perks of Being a Wallflower, cool people left to meet.

I remember this freshman at my high school who I knew of peripherally. He made friends with a group of close-knit seniors. He would sit with them at lunch, and they were all best friends. I always wondered what happened to him after they graduated and he was left behind. What do you do when you’re the last one at the lunch table?

I look back and see a moment in time. That era and our shared history has a certain warm glow in my memory, though what I remember now as being beautiful and fantastic was actually riddled with a lot of growing pains. I will never forget sitting in a Starbucks parking lot as my sister cried about one of our boys, inconsolable. Or the night that C took us both to get Boston Crème donuts when I came home from college, heartbroken. We blasted country music and 60s soul in his car like it was a lifeline.

It seems childish now, but that’s what we were, in some ways. We hadn’t quite become our full selves yet. The stakes were high, and the emotions were real. We drew on our Converse and sat on roof tops. We made pretentious comments and huddled on the beach at night and ate our bodyweight in half-price appetizers.

C had a church key (actually, almost everyone did), which meant access to the church 24/7, where we played games of Masterpiece, listened to “Walking in Memphis,” and broke each other’s hearts. Sometimes we would lay in the pews while J improvised on piano, with Z on drums bringing down the house. One winter, we rode around in someone’s truck, picking up old Christmas trees and burning them to a crisp in the fire pit. Our collective consciousness was rooted there on the church grounds.

I'm not sure how to get back.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Care Package 003 | January 2022

Considering that the last Care Package post I wrote was in *gulp* March 2020 (plus another in July that never made it out of the drafts), I figured it was time to revisit this series. But not without first mentioning that my husband surprised me this weekend with the most epic date idea: Dinosaur World!

If you've never been to Dinosaur World and are wondering, it's basically a beautiful park filled with hundreds of (possibly to scale?) model dinosaurs. There's also a gift shop for all your dinosaur (and dinosaur-adjacent) needs. I think I was more excited than most of the five year olds in the park. Ya done good, husband, ya done good.

I mean...

...can you blame us?!

Care Package 003

And now, onto the non-dinosaur portion of the post.

To Read

Image credit to Girls' Night In.
* Girls' Night In: If you're not already subscribed to this newsletter of cozy glory, I would highly recommend it! They send out new emails every Friday (with the occasional email on other days of the week). Their last email was a list of the best blankets money could buy. A newsletter after my own heart.

* Want book recommendations? Yes, this is a shameless plug to read my last blog post if you didn't catch it. There were books that I didn't get to talk about that I loved (i.e. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, which both share a vaguely ominous vibe). I was obsessed with reading in 2021, and I'm already adding to my 2022 reading list! It's going to be a good book year.

To Listen

* For my folk friends: I am probably way behind the times on this one, but I heard "Harder to Forgive" by Brandie Carlile while perusing novels in a Barnes & Noble, and almost had myself a nice weep. This one pairs nicely with a new song from the always-heartbreaking Josiah & the Bonnevilles (one of my favorite singer-songwriters) entitled "A Conversation." It, too, almost made me cry. #majorweeper

* If you want to rock out for 2 minutes and 5 seconds: One morning I woke up and had Pinegrove's "Alaska" in my head FOR THE ENTIRE DAY. I went to bed with the song still in my head. It's a foot stomper and a massive earworm.

* For the indie darlings: Clearly I am not the only one obsessed with songs slowed down and reverbed, because these edited versions of songs pop up on YouTube all the time (hey-oooo). But I have to give props to Ricky Montgomery, whose song "This December" was already a jam before he released an official slowed-down version of it! It slaps.

To Do

Image credit to Spry Fox.
* Play Cozy Grove: I realize that most everything in this post has been cozy in some way, and I am very proud of that. Cozy Grove is no different. It's a video game similar to Animal Crossing (at least I hear), and has you play as a Spirit Scout, traipsing around an ever-growing island running errands for ghost bears who need to make peace before entering the afterlife. If that sounds spooky, it's not. Mostly I just run around digging up turnips and buying funky glasses in this game to dress my character. It's relaxing and in no way strenuous, and I'm addicted.

* Drink green tea: As a certified Anxious Lady, I have found out firsthand that coffee + me = Crazy Eyes McGee. So this year I'm trying to switch to green tea in the mornings, as much as I'll miss the delightful sugar rush that is Starbucks' Brown Butter Caramel bottled iced coffee (yum). I've noticed so far that green tea has saved me money (because making tea at home is cheaper by far), lessened my anxiety, and made me feel more hydrated. GO TEA GO!

Image credit to Target.
* Check out the Magnolia Hearth & Hand line at Target: I feel like this is a good time to mention that this post is not sponsored whatsoever, but I'm out here doing the Lord's work by hyping up the Magnolia collection for free. As someone who is newly married and figuring out for the first time what home decor is, this line of literally all things snuggly has been a lifesaver. I'm also obsessed with their Salt fragrance, which I've been compulsively sniffing every time I put on my hand lotion. Give it a browse, my people. 

* Go to the library: I know I don't have to plug the library to anyone reading this, because y'all are natural readers, but I just have to shout it out anyway. The library, man. What a concept. What a blessing. I just love the freaking library. Especially because I've been reading up a storm lately and don't have the money to buy every single book I read, going to the library on a Friday night to get a stack of literary fiction feels like a miracle. *standing ovation*

* Make pasta: Shout out to the dinner I can smell cooking on the stove!!

Well, that's it for now. As always, if you have any recommendations of your own, please send them my way! I would love to know what you all are obsessed with as of late. ♥

I can't wait to eat that pasta,

Friday, December 31, 2021

Books I Devoured in 2021

Image credit here.

2021 has been a crazy year. Normally around this time I look back on all of the albums I couldn't get enough of, but to be honest, I wasn't overly impressed with music this year. (Or maybe I've just been reading too much, oops.) Here are some of the books that stuck with me this year (titles not necessarily published in 2021). And, if you're curious, my comprehensive 2021 reading list can be found here.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

I first got a taste for Sally Rooney's fiction when I brought Normal People on a family trip to Michigan some years back. (I mention this only because I feel like I will forever associate the book with that trip and the plane ride. 💖) To me, Normal People and Rooney's debut, Conversation with Friends, have a similar style and subject matter, but Beautiful World, Where Are You feels like a departure. To me, it seemed a bit lighter, less tortured, though there's some definite navel-gazing and requisite existentialism going on. The book follows the lives of two friends and the emails they send to each other, with Rooney eventually weaving the stories into one in the later chapters. You can definitely feel the author grappling with her own literary success through her character, Alice. It was an interesting read, and I liked the epistolary device used throughout.

The vibe: A little contemplative, a little world-weary, but also focused more on the complexity of jealousy and joy in friendships and relationships in your twenties 

Read if: You've enjoyed Rooney's previous works, or if you are looking for a character-driven novel that also asks big questions about society and success

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

I positively devoured this book! The story explores the lives of Emira, a babysitter, and Alix, the mother of the child Emira babysits. The main plot point is an altercation that takes place at a grocery store when another shopper assumes Emira (who is black) kidnapped the child she babysits (who is white). Although I imagined the novel to be a little more high-stakes/action-y or political than it actually was, something kept me turning the pages. Like Beautiful World, Where Are You, this story explores the perspectives of both of its leading ladies. Maybe I just really like that back-and-forth dynamic? The writing in this one is less dense than Rooney's, making for a quick read. And that cover! To be honest I think the cover is what caught my eye initially. Such a fun age? Such a fun cover! (You can lob tomatoes at me now.)

The vibe: Easy, breezy, beautiful, CoverGirl reading, with an interesting contrast between Alix, the "girl boss" mommy blogger-type, and Emira, a twentysomething who is guarded, growing, and finding herself

Read if: You've ever been a babysitter or nanny, or you want a quick read that touches on the dynamics between employee and employer 

Open Book by Jessica Simpson

I have to admit, I'm not a Jessica Simpson fan. Or at least, I wasn't before I read this book. It's not that I was a Jessica Simpson hater, she just wasn't really on my radar. But I had heard good things about Open Book, and I enjoy a celebrity memoir every now and then, so why not? Well, folks, this one did not disappoint! I don't know what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised. I really admired Simpson's candor, and she shed light on experiences that can be difficult to discuss (addiction, divorce, body image). There were also passages about her faith and family relationships, which were just as interesting. I think anyone who has the guts to write something as revealing (and, at times, heartbreaking) as this deserves props, even if I can't relate to all of her experiences.

The vibe: A refreshingly honest recollection of a life spent in and out of the limelight

Read if: You like Jessica Simpson or, like me, have a vague but growing interest in celebrity memoirs

Severance by Ling Ma

By now, it's embarrasingly obvious to me that a lot of my interest in reading a book is based on how gorgeous/intriguingly designed its cover is. (And also, horrifyingly, what kind of typeface is used for the copy? If the font bothers me, I seriously will put down the book. Fun!) So I'd be lying if I said the millennial pink memo vibes here didn't play a factor. Regardless, Severance was such a unique read. At times it felt academic, and at others, claustrophobic. The book was written before the pandemic, but its focus on a fever that ushers in an apocalypse was a little...too prescient? And yet, so intriguing. This book is simultaneously a creepy dystopian and commentary on capitalism. (I know, just go with it.) Definitely a very specific read, but not one I regret.

The vibe: The Walking Dead, if the zombies were more mundane, and not at all bloodthirsty, mixed economics class?

Read if: You want a heaping helping of race, class, and society with your dystopian thriller

I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

Creepy, creepy, creepy. I can say with ease that this is the creepiest book I've ever read. It's only this year that I've started venturing into reading thriller-type books at all, having previously preferred witty and gentle YA works, reading nothing more upsetting than The Fault in Our Stars. Who is she? WHO EVEN KNOWS. All I have to say is: Thanks, Kaylie, for recommending this one, because it scarred me for life. It was a great, fast, can't-put-it-down read, but so! Scary! As in, I started feeling paranoid in my own house. And that ending....*deep sigh*. Do not read this if you're faint of heart. Do not read this if you like happy books. Do not read this if you thought Courage the Cowardly Dog was scary (which, wow, it really was). There is no way I will be watching the Netflix adaptation of this book. I'm simply here to say: Creepy, creepy, creepy!!

The vibe: U T T E R  D E S P A I R

Read if: You like fast-paced, psychological thrillers that keep you guessing

Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke

And finally, folks, we have this dandy. Several People Are Typing is a book I flirted with buying several times whilst on trips to Barnes & Noble, but couldn't quite pull the trigger. It's written entirely in the format of Slack messages (look up the workspace app Slack if you're not familiar), and focuses on Gerald, an employee who has accidentally found himself stuck in the Slack interface. As in, his consciousness has been uploaded into Slack. Y'all, the dude is trapped in the app. And it's pretty dang hilarious. I borrowed this from the library and finished it in two days. It's a witty, lightning-fast read and made me snort-laugh many, many times.

The vibe: Workplace humor coupled with a bit of romance and existential dread

Read if: You've got a weird sense of humor and also can relate to the specific dynamics of working in an office

And that's all, folks!

I hope you enjoyed this post, because I had a ton of fun writing it. I may do more book recommendation posts in the future, seeing as I am reading myself out of house and home.

If you have any recommendations for what I should read next, please feel free to leave me a comment! I am always looking for new books to enjoy. That's it, that's the post. I hope to have more to say on this blog in 2022, lol.

Happy New Year,