Month: August 2013

21 Aug 2013

currently reading

Sometimes, when I am out of my reading groove, I start reading far too many books at once without finishing any of them right away.

It’s counterproductive. It’s confusing. It’s overcompensation. It’s where I’m at.

Roomies, by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando. I was excited to read this! A dear coworker gave me her ARC from her trip to BEA! The stars were aligned!

But I am still only halfway through. I can’t tell if it’s just my mood or if I am completely over two authors writing alternate viewpoints. I can only think of a few books where I thought this back and forth added to the book in any significant way… not that dual authors necessarily ruin a good story, but I just think it’s probably more fun for the authors than it is for the reader. I might DNF this one. I don’t know.

Speaking of books I have been reading forever…. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. I really adored Daughter of Smoke and Bone (and gushed about it here) but I just don’t know why I can’t make it through the sequel. I did read Smoke and Bone in paper and am trying to listen to this one on audio. Maybe that is a mistake. Maybe I need to read it more slowly so I can keep all the non-human characters with fantasy names straight. Maybe because I keep cheating on this audio book with other audio books, and you know, I just can’t juggle like I can with print books.

I started reading Aria Beth Sloss’s Autobiography of Us a few weeks ago on the pretense that I should just pick up a new book, start reading, and if the story draws me in then I should just read it. To hell with all the other unfinished books in my life. So far, this is one of those stories about two female friends, one of whom is the alpha friend who is kind of a jerk, and the other is the protagonist who can’t decide if she hates her friend or will be forever entranced by her charisma. Oh, and it’s a period piece. I’ve read this kind of story before, but I like this kind of story. I’m not sure I think the protagonist is actually enough of a protagonist for me yet – she’s like a little caricature of a good 1960s coed. Any time she actually makes a decision, it’s strange, like she’s not really allowed to do anything except muse silently about her angsty friendship. But I’m only a hundred pages in or so, so a lot could happen, I suppose.

All of my children’s lit friends read this one at once and I was jealous. So when I wanted to start reading some more current YA Andrew W. Smith’s Winger – a new boarding school book – was my first stop. I will probably pick this one up next, once I finish my other High Priority Books. Unless, of course, new high priority books show up in the meantime. My life.

High Priority Book #1: Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, a book with a hold list a mile long. It’s due on Thursday, so I should finish it up. This is the kind of career book that speaks to my anxious soul – simple advice for professional growth that gets you big results in the long run.¬† You men should read it, too.

Although I am a little skeptical about the chapter I read this morning, about forging an equal partnership with your spouse. The chapter’s thesis: “share the household responsibilities.” The chapter’s suggestion for how to achieve such domestic nirvana: “don’t nag, don’t ask, don’t expect, don’t assume.” Oh, I’m sure it didn’t actually SAY that in the book, but that was the message I got. Give me some better advice, Sandberg! I desperately need to convince a certain somebody that “sweeping” and “toilet scrubbing” are necessary activities that I don’t plan on doing exclusively for the rest of time and eternity.

High Priority Book #2: Vikki Wakefield’s Friday Never Leaving. Sometimes, when you need to review a book, you need to actually finish reading said book. Actually, all the time. All the time you need to finish said book.

This one is a piece of Australian realism about a girl with a dead mother and a curse who moves in with a bunch of homeless teenage grifters. There are supernatural overtones. It’s pretty creepy. I am about 25 pages from the end and just need to get it done with.

Okay, I know. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking I am crazy. Well, yes. Yes, I am. I have no legitimate excuses for this one, except that I was putting the audiobook on my computer so I could share it with the man in my life, and I… just started listening. And that is why I can’t listen to poor Days of Blood and Starlight – because I stopped to listen to all 28 discs of A Game of Thrones, and then I’m just going to listen to them all AGAIN. I am a sick individual.

16 Aug 2013

so you ran out of This American Life, vol. 4

It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been listening to podcasts for the past year and a half. SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED IN THE PAST YEAR AND A HALF. I know, I know. You’re sick of me talking about it. It’s all I’ve been able to talk about for, oh, the past year and a half. But, oh, that past Jessica, that 18 months ago Jessica, she used to work so many jobs and commute all over the city and generally go-go-go-go-go.

And run tiny laps around a tiny track listening to This American Life.

And then, when she ran out of This American Life, some other podcasts. You can read about those here, here, and here.

Recently, a dear friend of mine brought me a present. A dear, podcast-loving-friend with a stockpile of ancient WTF episodes stored on his hard drive. He offered me the gift of Marc Maron interviewing Ira Glass in 2010. It’s a great episode. I listened to it a while ago and it had me thinking about storytelling and how we relate to each other as humans and how one goes from Normal Human to Cultural Superhero (Ira, Marc) while maintaining personal integrity, authenticity. Last weekend, The Boy and I were unpacking and he queued up the episode on our speakers. After the second listen, I just wanted to listen to more This American Life.

So I did. Yes, there are other excellent podcasts being podcasted, but if you are in possession of a smartphone (which Past Jessica was not), then the This American Life app is well worth the three dollars.

Three dollars. THREE DOLLARS! Three dollars will buy you access to every episode that has ever existed, including episodes before the show existed as This American Life. You can skip over all the episodes that bore you, listen to old favorites, or do like me – get completely overwhelmed and just pick 2008 and start listening.

So here is a quick guide to my favorite 2008 episodes, which will be useful only to those who buy the app or time travelers. But really… THREE DOLLARS! Come on, guys.

You can also listen to any episode streaming from the website, so if you have a tedious computer task and want something to listen to, then you can just follow the links.

Maybe I’ve listened to too many comedy podcasts, but is there anything more fun than spying on the inner workings of The Onion? Onion staffers pitch hundreds of headlines a week to each other, hoping that one or two will pass muster. It’s serious. It’s intense. And it’s hundreds of potential Onion headlines, so it’s absurd. Also: guess who was a staffer in 2008? Megan Ganz. And Iiiiiii have a girl-crush on Megan Ganz.

Also, the last act with Malcolm Gladwell was so funny I forced a headphone into my man’s ear so he could listen. Then I made him buy the three dollar app.


I am a sucker for stories about education, especially after living with a teacher for four years. Act One, all about questionable disciplinary and firing practices in the New York Public School System was completely fascinating. And if anyone has had the good fortune to live in a city or neighborhood that is rapidly gentrifying, Act Two will be an eye-opener.


If I am a sucker for educational stories, I am even more a sucker for Geoffrey Canada stories. This one is about baby university. Act Three is also really great, about a mother in prison and the daughter who missed her too much. One of those tear-jerking episodes. You know the ones I’m talking about.


Hey, remember 2008? That whole election thing? It sure is interesting to listen to what people were thinking about our president and the state of government during 2008, five years into said presidency. Start with these three episodes, then move onto…


… some episodes about America’s near financial collapse! I think I actually tried to listen to these when they aired, but I gave up on all that banking jargon. But five years later, I am wiser and more patient and have lived in this economy long enough to understand the terminology. Also, these episodes are just entertaining.


These two are This American Life classics – they get replayed often, so you might have heard them already. If not, then do. This is part of your cultural education! Mike Birbiglia’s story – the inspiration for his movie Sleepwalk With Me – is the highlight of Episode 361, and Episode 360 is fascinating, and will break your heart six ways to Sunday.



11 Aug 2013

seven things about my wedding, before i forget them

Arriving in Michigan four days ahead of the wedding with four days worth of to-dos and be-here-thens, it becomes quickly evident that the priority is not finalizing a seating chart, not writing those vows, not taking deep consideration of the major life event ahead. No. All that can wait because first, we must fix my parents’ new television so we can use HBO Go to watch Game of Thrones. Priorities. My soon-to-be husband proves his manly worth to the household by locating a cord in the basement and applying it quickly and correctly to resolve the issue; he is awarded a Certificate of Excellence for his courageous efforts.

My sister/maid of honor had to take an actuarial exam three days before the wedding. In case you are an English major, I will tell you that an actuarial exam is a test filled with impossible mathematical questions that require the memorization of dozens and dozens of complex formulas made entirely of Greek letters. Everybody fails them. My sister had already failed this particular test once. We were all getting ready for a wedding, and also feeling nervous for our resident actuary. I was in the kitchen making cupcakes when my mother received the text message – she passed! Whooping and hollering was had by all.

These silly ceramic birds that were all over the house.

… and all that milk glass.

We wrote our own vows independently and without revealing them to each other ahead of time. It was quite shocking to read my vows and to then hear The Boy read the same vows back to me, almost point for point.

But then again, we have been hanging out together for a long ass time.

I loved my flowers. Love love loved them.

Beautiful weather, beautiful bridesmaids, the boys looked great in their outfits. My dress was pretty, my hair was great, I thought my table decorations came out well, my cake was just what I wanted. I got to eat all of the food and it was all tasty. I drank all the wine I wanted, but I wasn’t too drunk. My friends and family came from faraway places. My 18-year-old DJ rocked the house and 7-year-old flower girl danced. After the sun started going down and the cake was cut, everyone migrated out to the decks overlooking the vineyard and there was a nice cool breeze and I got to hang out with everyone and I was sorry that eventually the night had to end.

Everything I worried about for months and years and my life, it all came together.

The parts that didn’t, well, they are over and gone.

Everything was lovely. Everything was perfect.

And now we are married. Huzzah.

07 Aug 2013


Yesterday was my one year anniversary as a full time, professional librarian.

Working full time is not what I thought it would be like. But then again, I didn’t think that in between working part time and working full time I would work 17 part time jobs at once while going to grad school.

Working full time at my job is not what I thought it would be like. It’s better. It’s worse. It involves more spreadsheets.

A while ago I read Bren√© Brown’s Dare Greatly and refused to review it here because I could barely even read it without weeping much less write about it. It’s a book that sits under my skin.

There’s a chapter where Brown asks her interviewees what makes them feel most vulnerable – that emotion, that state that we love, we hate, we need – and I still remember the answer that stopped my breath for a second on an airplane in January.

I love it. I do. I mean, sometimes I hate it, but the next day I go back to indifference and then a few days later I take a look at how g.d. lucky I am and I love it again.

I’m a young person in her first professional position. I don’t know if I’ll be here until I’m 30 or 40 or 65. I worry that the timing isn’t right, that public service will kill my spirit, that this city will kill my spirit.

But I also worry that there won’t be another job for me quite like this one. It’s been a real blessing. I’m so glad all this schooling and anxiety and reading and nonsense has led me here. It’s just where I need to be.

05 Aug 2013

to everything

I’ve only read three books since July 1.

This is unusual, unlike me, a signofthestressthatiamundergoingyouguysican’tevenreadabookomgomg.

I’m trying to trick myself back into the reading groove.

I checked out an easy-to-read-nonfiction book that is also a hot-buzz-everyone’s-reading-it title.

I reminded myself that, oh yes, sometimes I get paid to write reviews so I should you know, read those books I need to review.

I ignored my well-wishing and read some more of The Kingdom of Little Wounds because it reminds me a little of GoT.

Okay, fine. I even downloaded Clash of Kings onto my iPhone so I can listen to it before bed. What of it?

None of my self-trickery is working particularly well. The number of things I would rather do than read is unusually vast. Rearrange my bookshelves. Unload my dishwasher. Play Candy Crush (oof). Watch another episode of Orange is the New Black. Shower.

Trying to go easy on myself. My life did just go through a bit of a seismic shift. My attention span is untrained. My energy levels are uneven.

And I just moved. I moved when I was 6, 13, 18, 22, 24, 25, 27 and 28. I know moving. It’s a pain in the butt, it costs a lot of money, unexpected bad things happen. But the whole Packing Up The Physical Manifestation of Your Existence puts you face to face with parts of your life that you’d rather not face. Procrastinator Jessica who hoards crafting supplies for years without using them. Pretentious Jessica who keeps fancy books on the shelf she knows she’ll never read. Clutter-prone Jessica who can’t throw away useless, ugly little trinkets because she’s had them since she moved when she was 6.

Unpacking, I found the physical manifestation of two years of my reading. Two sheets of paper folded into fourths, marking what books I read in what month.

In August 2011, I read 4 books: one was a Sarah Dessen re-read, three were Harry Potter.

In July 2012, I read 6, including New Moon, a graphic novel, and Fifty Shades of Gray.

I’m a slow summer reader with a tendency toward fluff.

Go easy on me.

(… said me, to myself)


03 Aug 2013


Married. Traveled. Moved. Knocking back all these adult achievements, one by one.

My things are almost arranged and organized, my kitchen is almost stocked. Peach’s moving anxiety has almost abated, and so has mine. The move went smoothly enough and oh, you are going to hear about how much I love my new apartment, but there’s something about waking up in a different bedroom, man. It makes my mind messy. I wake up in a different bedroom and then I can’t remember what a person does in the morning. I made breakfast, but forgot the coffee. May I repeat: I forgot the coffee. The rest of the day moves on similarly. I can’t run, I can’t cook, I can’t read. I actually don’t even remember ever doing those things, or how other people do these things.

This is probably more than a new bedroom. This is probably what happens when you spend three weeks living life in the immediate. Three weeks of “Today is the day you [fill in the blank].”

Get your hair cut, go to the vineyard and make cupcakes.

Get married.

Take a plane to Boston.

Take a train to Venice.

Figure out where to buy cheapest and best pizza within walking distance of a certain piazza.

Pack the rest of your crap and vacuum the floor 75 times.



Now my blanks are back to blank. What do I do? What do I do with this one wild and precious life?

Small things feel big. Buying eggs. Making pasta. Reading thirty pages of a book that isn’t Game of Thrones.

And I used to write stuff down, right? On paper?

Some new notebooks for a new apartment.