In my last post I forgot to mention that I’ve been using dry shampoo to help keep my hair from looking oily.  And it does seem to work for the most part.  My hair is still feeling pretty waxy, I’m hoping that will disappear soon.  Because I have dark hair, I did use the cornstarch and cocoa powder recipe found in this post.  And it does seem like my hair looks less oily in the mornings (I shower at night).  I’m continuing to use water-only every other day or so.  All the hair at my scalp has the waxy feeling, but the rest of my hair looks great.  So there’s that.

I used up all the lip chap that I had put in the old lip chap dispenser, so I melted down the rest of what I made and added about a tablespoon of beeswax.  And now it’s not as melty as it was before but still just as moisturizing.

I also tried a new lotion, this one is less greasy, though it still does start out that way when first applied.  After a few minutes it doesn’t seem greasy at all.  I like how smooth it is and it was really easy to make.  It was like magic when I was blending it and it turned white and creamy.  And she said that she uses a combination grapeseed, safflower, and sunflower oils.  I just used a third of a cup of each since she didn’t specify.  The other day I offered this to a friend and she did not like the greasiness and almost immediately washed it off.  Gonna be honest, that hurt my feelings.  So next time I’m going with another recipe.  But unlike the other stuff I made that stayed greasy for a very long time, I will be using this until it’s gone.

I finally made this oil face wash.  I was skeptical since it is oil, but it worked!  I don’t love the sunflower smell so I think next time I’ll use olive oil.  Other than that, I love it.  Sooooo easy to make, two ingredients, and we’re in business.

I also made this hand sanitizer.  I used peppermint extract and found it smells a little too strong to me, but I do like it and would make it again, either leaving out the essential oil or using another scent.

I still need to find a satisfactory body wash and I want to try these ideas for air freshener.  Along those same lines, I just found this post of homemade perfumes.  I’d also like to try this facial moisturizer, since the one above is not for the face.   Very soon I plan on making this foaming hand soap, since my other hand soaps were such failures.  We’re getting closer, people.  I’ve cut out almost everything cleaning and toiletry-wise that had potentially toxic chemicals.  I’m very happy about it. :)

just some stuff

I haven’t done much more since my last post, but I thought I’d do a brief update.

On the hair front I’m doing okay.  I still not seeing the results I want, but it’s not been as oily and gross as before.  Turns out you’re supposed to leave the “secret ingredient” in for at least two minutes.  This was not mentioned in the PDF and so I was just washing it out almost right away.  I know that I shouldn’t have assumed just having it touch my hair would be enough, but it wasn’t until I was over a week into this stuff and feeling discouraged that I discovered this tip in the comments section.  So that’s definitely helped, but I’ve decided to go to an even greater extreme.  Water Only washing.

Jason kinda laughs at me for getting on the “hippy” wagon, but I think it’s important to take care of myself in as natural a way as possible and also be good to the earth.  So sue me if that means I’m becoming a hippy.  Anyway, the idea is that you literally wash your hair with water.  I’m thankful to have already done some of the transition away from the toxic hair products and I’m hoping that moving to this won’t be as difficult a transition.  I still have a bit of my homemade shampoo left, but I think it’ll only last me one more wash.  I’ve been trying to wash my hair every other day or so, which cuts down on the water as use as I’m not having to rinse out my hair.  I take about a 3 minute shower now when I don’t need to wash my hair.  I’m going to slowly move from this every other day to only doing it once a week.  Think of all the water and time I’ll be saving.  I’m excited.

A lot of what I read about using natural products (or water only) to wash hair is that the hardness of your water can really affect the results.  I used this test to determine if my water was soft or hard.  It appears to be soft, which is good.  I also bought a boar bristle brush, but I have yet to clean it so I haven’t been using it every day.  Anyway, I am so ready for my hair to also get on board with this plan, hopefully soon.

I also made this body wash.  I did use it all, but it made my nauseous every time I used it.  Maybe it was the honey I was using.  I think the combination of honey and oil was not a pleasant smell.  On the plus side, it did leave my skin feeling very soft afterwards.  I just can’t justify the sick-to-my-stomach feeling I got with each use.   I still need to find another recipe.

Lastly, I made this moisturizer.  Another fail.  It was too greasy for my taste.  Unfortunately I now have all this moisturizer that I don’t want to throw away but also don’t want to use.  Oh well.  Next time I’m going to try this recipe.

Something else I’m looking into is living mostly Zero Waste.  This is an awesome movement where nothing is sent to the landfill but everything has another use.  It’s not just recycling, in fact recycling is not part of it at all.  I’ve managed to cut down a lot on things that were before single use by using hand towels instead.  It feels good.  My next challenge is kitty litter.  I’m doing some research on it and will share what I’ve found in my next post.  I’m not sure I want to go super hard core with this, but if I can even reduce the waste our household produces, I’ll be happy.

back to basics

This last weekend I made a few more products that I will review and link here.  As with before, I’ve had some mixed results.

Firstly, I want to review this hand soap.  I tried it after the utter fail of the first one.  This one was just as watery, though it is prettier.  I think I might move to foaming soap and will try this next.  I don’t love bar soap as it feels really unsanitary to me.  The slime seriously grosses me out.

I mentioned in the last post that I hadn’t yet tried the dryer sheets.  Well, the next time I did laundry I took the container out.  As soon as I opened it, I was hit with the intense vinegar smell and decided then and there that I wouldn’t be using it.  I’ll just stick to the felted balls, thank you.  This means that I can now use my Snapware for something else, so win win.

This weekend I made my own lip balm using this recipe.  I used the ratios in the original recipe but I think next time I’ll use more beeswax since this iteration is very melty.  It has a tendency of drying quickly so I find myself applying a lot more frequently than the the store bought stuff.  I do love it though and before it dries, it makes my lips very shiny.

I also tried this toothpaste.  I’m really glad I didn’t add the salt as it’s extremely salty already.  It does leave my mouth feeling really fresh (after I’ve completely washed the salty taste out).  I find that I brush more vigorously than normal, probably because it doesn’t foam up like I’m used to.  This has made my gums bleed, but I’m trying to remember to be more gentle and am also hoping my gums will just toughen up.

Shampoo and conditioner were the two I was most worried about.  The recipes are not difficult and have just a few ingredients.  However, I was not concerned about that as much as what my hair would do.  As this article says, the toxic stuff strips hair of its natural oils, which means your hair is working harder to maintain that balance and producing more oil.  When switching to a more natural product, hair tends to go through a detox period.  The shampoo recipe also has a secret ingredient (you’ll need to sign up to receive the PDF) that is supposed to help reduce the detox.  This recipe is also supposed to restore the pH levels of your hair.

So.  I’ve been using the shampoo, the secret ingredient, and the conditioner (the recipe for the conditioner is in the PDF).  The results?  My hair has still been oily.  Unfortunately I forgot to bring the shampoo into the tub when I was taking my shower one night and so I ended up using the toxic stuff.  I’m hoping that doesn’t set me back too much.  I’m also hoping it won’t take the 7 weeks (of the typically 2-7 weeks) I read that it can take for hair to detox.  We’ll see.  I’ve also found this conditioner recipe that I might want to try too.  In some of my research I read that it’s not good to use coconut oil in hair products as it solidifies at room temperature and could clog the drains.  I’m hoping that the coconut milk will not have the same problem.

I also made this toilet bowl cleaner.  Unfortunately the glass spray bottle I put it in had a defective spray head so I had to use a plastic bottle.  It seemed to work as well as the other stuff and was easy to make, so I will continue to use it.

I wanted to end with some stuff I found about using essential oils around cats.  We have two furry children of our own and love them dearly.  To think that something I’m putting in these products could harm my precious babies is horrifying to me.  I had remembered reading something about lavender and citrus and how it’s not good for cats and they don’t like them; but the possible serious health problems was news to me.  So before I started freaking out too hard, I thought I’d look into it.  Everything I read seemed to suggest that as long as high quality essential oils are used, and used correctly, then it should be okay.  The problem is that if the oil is synthetic or not high quality, then those ingredients can be harmful to our feline friends.  I still haven’t looked into which brands should be used, but I definitely plan on doing that before adding more essential oils to anything.  I’m not going to worry too much about the things I’ve already made.  I will be monitoring our cats to see if they seem to have changes in behavior or health, but so far so good.

Here’s what I’ve been reading about essential oils and cats:

http://essentialoilworld.com/essentialoilreviews/pet-health/essential-oil-safety-with-cats (the comments section is really great)

http://www.animaleo.info/cats.html

http://www.thelavendercat.com/images/PDF-TheLavenderCat_temp_use.pdf

Cats and essential oil safety

http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2012/05/14/dr-shelton-on-pets-essential-oils.aspx

naturally

I’ve decided that I want to try and replace all cleaning and toiletry/beauty products with natural, homemade ones.  In my journey so far, I’ve found that not all-natural recipes are made equal.  I like the idea of simple, two or three ingredient, and easy to make recipes.  However, that laziness on my part is not always the best.  I’m going to share some of the recipes I’ve found and used so far.  Some of them I’ve made but not had a chance to test out.  I might update this post once I have, or just write another one when I’ve made more things.

This deodorant is amazing.  I LOVE it.  Jason happened to be almost done with one of his store bought deodorants and I just tossed about a inch of what was left from mine.  With 6 ingredients it can add up in cost, especially when getting the Shea Butter, but that can be used for other things so it’s not too bad.  It does leave my pits a little oily feeling, but it does dry pretty quickly (especially if you do the thing I do and just swing your arms forward and back to create some friction in there).  Knowing that I made it, and can customize the scent with different essential oils, it’s all worth it.

Next up is this hand soap, made from three ingredients.  Perhaps I should have given it more of a chance, but this did not thicken the way I was expecting.  Also, I made the mistake of using an ugly green bar of soap, which resulted in it being very vomit-like in color.  I had bought a really cute globe glass soap dispenser and was so excited to use it.  Upon pouring the soap in and testing it out, I couldn’t handle it and threw it out.  Next I’m going to try this recipe, hopefully it’ll be more viscous.  I would also like to try this homemade foaming soap, though probably not for a while since that also means I have to get a special dispenser.

I found that quite a few recipes referenced washing soda and was relieved when I found this recipe to turn normal baking soda into washing soda.  Many of our local grocery stores have great bulk bins so I have a lot of bulk baking soda on hand.  It does take some time (45 minutes in the oven), but it’s really easy.  I went ahead and doubled it since I knew I was going to need it for a few recipes.

As with the hand soap, this liquid laundry detergent was pretty watery.  I do really like the smell (I used lavender essential oil) and am not opposed to using it again.  I’ve done one load of laundry using it and didn’t notice a smell to our laundry at all.  I guess no smell is better than a bad one, right?  It was extremely easy to make and it would be more viscous the less water you added at the end.

Speaking of doing the laundry, I also made this reusable dryer sheet solution.  Of course, the day after I made it my Mighty Nest monthly subscription came and it was the felted laundry balls (LOVE them! and have added a few drops of lavender essential oil (are you seeing a theme yet?) to them. . .mmmmm).  As a result, I haven’t tried them but I probably will with the next load.  I did end up cutting a few of our hand towels (we just get a pack from Costco so it’s no great loss).

To add to the laundry list (haha), I made this laundry booster.  Two ingredients and you’re good to go.  The washing soda and hydrogen peroxide started smoking when I was mixing them together.  It was really alarming at first, and I could feel the heat radiating from the jar as I combined them.  I did use this in the last load of laundry, but honestly can’t say if it made a difference or not.  I figure it doesn’t hurt though.

I love my kitties, but unfortunately boy kitty has a tendency to pee everywhere but the litter box (we’re pretty sure girl kitty has frightened him out of using it. boo. ).  I tried another recipe but found that it left the carpet soaking and damp for several weeks (and smelling strongly of vinegar, which isn’t much better than pee imo), which can cause another terrible problem, mold and mildew.  So I was thrilled to find this solution, one that leaves the place smelling better than before (in more ways than one ;).  I leave it soaking for 24 at least and then vacuum it up.  The next time I do this, I will also leave our dehumidifier close to the area to help it dry up, as I’ve found that even this one seems to leave the carpet feeling damp for a long time (honestly, we live in a pretty damp area so it’s not really a surprise).

The very first thing that I tried was this window cleaner.  I need to add more lavender essential oil as it still has a very strong vinegar smell.  I do really like using it.  I bought these glass spray bottles and need to buy more (I just looked them up and they are currently out of stock.  no!!!).   Another easy recipe and one that works well.

I don’t traditionally wash my fruits and vegetables when I bring them home (I know, I know) but with this spray, it takes no time at all.  And it didn’t leave the vegetables tasting or smelling like vinegar.

All in all, I’m very happy with this journey I’m just now embarking on.  I look forward to sharing more recipes with you!

spice of life

I am obsessed with glass jars; whenever we buy salsa or jam or anything in a glass jar and it comes time to clean and toss that puppy out, I just can’t bring myself to do it.  It’s resulted in a lot of weirdly shaped containers for things.  Pairing that up with the awesome bulk bins at one of our grocery stores means that I have a great use for the jars.  We live in an old house and the drawers are not constructed in a way that makes sense.  If we pull the drawers out too far, they tip down and I’m always afraid they’ll fall out.  One of those drawers has held a lot of the glass jars filled with dried goods.  It’s a very heavy drawer and I was having a difficult time getting it open and closed.  I decided I needed a shelf to store them.  However, living in earthquake country means that I have to be careful.

I knew the internet would have ideas and I was right.  I didn’t get the idea from just one source, but a few.  I will try and source everything that I’ve found.  We already have a shelf in our dining room, but when I tried to put the jars in the shelf, I discovered it was actually too deep, and it would be difficult to reach the back jars.  I decided to go with a narrower shelf and happened to find just the right one at Target for about $17.  It also happens to be the same brand as the current shelf I have, so they match.  Winning!

I went to our local lumber yard and had them cut me some thin board, all of which cost me less than $2.  They ended up being a bit too long but I was able to use my jigsaw to cut them to the right size.  I sanded and then painted the boards using chalkboard paint (inspiration taken from here).  Using my electric drill I made pilot holes in the shelf and then hammered the boards in (yeah, I could have used screws, they just intimidate me a little).  I used three books to prop the boards up and make sure they were all evenly spaced.  I wanted them to be high enough to keep the jars from tipping over, but low enough to still catch the shorter jars.  I think I found a happy medium.  There’s a lot of open space above the jars to allow me to reach to the back row and get the jars out.

In the above inspiration post I saw a lot of comments about keeping the jars from knocking into each other, as that would also break them.  I didn’t really see any ideas that seemed economic or useful.  Then it struck me, thick rubber bands.  They would be stretchy enough to fit all the weird shapes, and also thick enough to create a band to write on.  One of the issues with my jar system is that I could write on them but then inevitably I would grab the jar in the place where the writing was, effectively wiping off the writing.  Some things are obvious, others are not.  Now I could protect the jars while also labeling them.  Yay!  And I found some rubber bands at Staples for about $3.  Two bags were more than enough for all my jars.  Some of the jars needed more than one rubber band as they had protrusions that were still striking the other jars.  Even still, those two bags have been enough.

Lastly, I will need to secure the shelf to the wall.  It doesn’t to me a lot of good if the shelf can tip over.  I know I need to find the studs in the walls and I have the worst time trying to find them using the knocking method.  And so to the internet I went.  Here’s what I found.  Magnets?  Genius.  And it worked.  And to secure it to the wall?  How about this video?  I haven’t actually done this part, but it seems pretty straight forward.  I might even have all the supplies needed, but if not, it’ll be pretty easy to acquire the wire (haha) and take care of this step.

So here’s the (almost) finished product.  Whoo hoo.

Haven’t gotten around to labeling it yet, but I will.  Also, excuse the poor quality picture, this was taken with my phone.  I might update with a better quality photo.

It’s nice when projects actually turn out the way I want.

diy, belinda, and me

Whoa.  It’s been a loooong time since I’ve stepped foot here, so to speak.  Part of that is because I’ve been journaling for real, like with a pen and paper.  I started the first of the year and have faithfully done it before bed every night.  I started that kind of journaling when I was in first grade and have treasured it, but neglected it for a long time.  I decided to go “off grid” so that I could be more open and honest about my feelings.  Most of the time it’s just about what happened in my day, nothing super exciting.  But I enjoy the way it helps me reflect on some of the things that happened or how I was feeling.  Nice to put it down in writing.

So life is really good right now.  We’re in an awesome season and rhythm of our lives.  I’m really happy.  We recently had a few serious discussion about finances and it encouraged me.  We don’t fight about money because we’ve been doing a budget for about 5 years now.  It’s worked very well for us, even if we don’t stick to it 100%.  We decided to make a few needed changes and I am so happy that we’re on the same page with this stuff.  So many couples fight about money but we don’t have that problem.  He keeps me in line if I want to get something I shouldn’t, and I do the same for him.  It’s nice to not feel stress or anger about that very important part of our lives.

We did Whole30 last year and I discovered that I’m mostly lactose intolerant.  This saddens me a little because I really like cheese.  However, I have been vegetarian for a while now and I have been thinking about going more or less vegan.  This kind of forced my hand.  I still have milk with my cereal (which is weird because that’s almost the only way I have any milk, I’ve never enjoyed just having a cup of milk; also it’s weird because you’d think the lactose in milk would bother me.  oh well) but I can’t really do ice cream and I definitely cannot do cheese.  This has forced me to try cheese alternatives.  But I probably would have done that anyway because that’s how I am.

My parents got us a Vitamix (who I’ve christened Belinda the Blenda) for our anniversary last year and making vegan cheeses and nut milks has really put Belinda to work.  I found this great article and have been working through the recipes in the list.  Some of the links are broken, but most are not.  I’ve tried  quite a few and most of them have been quite tasty.  Conveniently so far, all the cheese I’d make again are the easier ones.  I have actually made some of them more than once at this point.  It makes me happy to find things that I can make that will replace my cheese love.

Also, I made some things that I want to share here, in separate posts.  I’m excited to share them and more excited to be back.  I do still plan on posting more for the Bible and Cream Puffery.  And that’s another big reason I haven’t written, because I felt like I couldn’t until I wrote that first.  I’ve finally come to be okay with delaying that until it’s ready, but still writing here about other things.  I’m doing some more reading and reflecting for those posts, but they’re not ready yet.

new york – 8/22/15

Homeward bound today. :(  Our flight wasn’t until 1pm so we left the cottage around 11am.  Uncle Ben, Shana, Kyle, and Tevan were also on the same flight, so once again Sherrie gave us a ride.  Because the airport is so tiny, even an hour was more than enough time.  Jason and I checked our bag and then went to the restroom.  I got out before him and decided I wanted to get something to eat before the flight.  There was only one staff member and several of the customers before me ordered sandwiches.  Uncle Ben was right before me and he got the only banana they had so I decided not to get anything.  Before I got out of line I had realized that Jason had no idea we had gone inside the restaurant and so Tevan went out to check on him.  He discovered that Jason had already gone through security so Shana offered to go through and hang out with him.  Not long after this I stepped out of line and also went through security.  There was only one other person in front of me and we both got through in a matter of minutes.

The flight itself was only an hour long and it was all too soon before we had to part ways to get to our terminals.  We got pizza for lunch and waited at our gate to board.  The four hour flight was uneventful, though I did waste $6 on the movie The Madding Crowd.  I found the protagonist anything but independent or admirable; she played with her suitors’ hearts and was extremely selfish and thoughtless.  Dumb.  But I had paid $6 so I felt that I had to finish.

Our flight got in about half an hour early.  Soon we had our checked bag and were being picked up by Mom and Dad.  And with that, our trip was over.

I’m so thankful we could make this trip, spend time with family, make new friends, and see a different part of the country.  These are memories I will always cherish.  And Sherrie was right, by the end of the trip, I couldn’t help but love the cottage.

heaven on earth

new york – 8/21/15

Nancy, Sherrie and Shana’s mom, Steven, Bruce, and Laura had a flight at 11:50 so had to leave about 9:30.  Though I could have slept a little more, I woke up to see them off.

Most of the group decided to go to Cooperstown, the baseball hall of fame. Jason and I didn’t join them since we’re not really into baseball. Instead, we went with Sherrie, Shana, and Kyle (and all three dogs, of course) on a walk around the lake. Because we weren’t walking on pavement, my feet didn’t hurt as much add they had in the city. It was a gorgeous walk, full of green and trees. It had rained a lot the night before so some of the roads were really muddy. One road was especially bad, little rivulets running throughout, caused by the tire tracks. We had to be careful and make sure we stayed on the raised portions to keep dry. On the last road before the driveway, we passed a field that the dogs ran through. The grass was high so the dogs were hopping around, making them look like deer. The dogs disturbed a cluster of butterflies, which ended up following us down the road, I felt like we were in a Disney movie. We also collected wild flowers for a bouquet, and I’m really pleased with the end result.

shhh.


cemetary in the day

cemetery in the day




there's about to be a bunch of photos of this

there’s about to be a bunch of photos of this

When we got home Micah and I played a little badminton without the net and then a game of horseshoes. It was pretty even for a while but eventually Micah won with a leaner.  Afterwards we went to the meadow where Micah showed me how to swing a golf club. He really loves the game of golf and has been playing for a while. As with anything, there’s a lot to keep in mind; keep your left leg and arm steady since they are your anchors; move your hips, do not sway from side to side; don’t lift your head until after you’ve made your shot; keep the club perpendicular to the ball and your feet parallel to the club. And I’m sure there’s more that I’ve forgotten. I made a few solid hits, which felt really good. Because I had to grip the club pretty tight my hands were feeling it by the end.  But it was fun to see Micah do something he loves so much, and get to experience it with him.

pretty Aubrie

When we got back everyone had come back from Cooperstown. Kelly got more souvenirs for her family and everyone had a bag of the things they had bought. I sat with Jason and Nina around the ever-burning fire and we shared pictures of our cats. Nina kindly took a picture of Micah, Kelly, Jason, and me, the only one I think we have.

thank you, Nina

thank you, Nina

I wanted to take a group picture before it got too dark but not everyone was ready so while we waited, Uncle Ben showed Kelly and I how to play “Screw Your Neighbor,” a fun card game that I vaguely remember playing long ago.  We got our group pictures and headed back to our game. Tevan and Jason joined in but we didn’t get very far before Shana came in and asked if we wanted to eat at “The Outpost,” a local biker bar. They have a burger called The Homer, which is a pound of meat after it’s cooked. Jason, Kyle, and Tevan all got the burger and they all finished , which impressed everyone. Tevan finished first, but Shana commended Jason’s technique; he cut the very thick patty in half, crosswise, and then cut that into more manageable pieces. He finished second.

15.08.21.899

I was in the bathroom when everyone else was paying and forgot to tell Jason to pay. When I got out and discovered our tab hadn’t been paid, I walked to the bar to flag down our waitress. I took my camera off my shoulder and set it on the bar, not realizing that it was gone until we got back to the cottage. Sherrie drove me back and they had put it behind the bar. Whew.

Almost everyone was going to play Catch Phrase, but I wanted to make sure I got pictures from Robbie so I used Micah’s computer as the conduit for the transfer. It was a tedious process, and when I was done Uncle Ben, Jason, and I went back to our card game. Nina joined us this time and I ended up winning. We started another game but Nina couldn’t finish since she got a call from her granddaughter. Uncle Ben wanted to go to bed, so Micah took over. He won by two points and I came in second.

Jason and I decided to pack so we wouldn’t have to waste time on it in the morning.  Not long after, we went to bed.

new york – 8/20/15

We got to “sleep in” today.  By that I mean that we had the option to sleep more, even after the construction crew started work for the day.  Apparently they got to the site at 6am and stared work around 7.  And their site was literally feet away from where we were parked.  I was able to doze despite the noise, but finally got out of bed around 8:30.  We all slowly got up, made sure all our stuff was sort of packed, put the dining table back to its normal state, put the leveling blocks away, and then went to the on site dump station.  Micah and Kelly kindly did that dirty work while Jason and I sat upwind.

We checked out and then headed back to the cafe we had visited before for breakfast.  We got lost a few times trying to get out of town but were finally on our way back.  We were going to meet a friend from back home, who just moved to Syracuse last week.  The drive was long and cramped and it rained for a good portion.

We picked up Charlie and went to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, a place he hadn’t been to yet, but it came highly recommended.  It was a cool place with all kinds of random paraphernalia on the walls and a lot of signatures clearly written with Sharpie.  The bathrooms continued in that theme, the stalls were all carved into or painted on, lots of “so and so loves so and so.”  We had a great time catching up and Charlie made plans to come to the cottage on Saturday.  That’s the day we fly out so we’ll probably miss him. :(

We started the hour and a half drive back to the cottage from Syracuse, the rain pouring for most of the drive.  Again, we got lost, but not until we were a few miles away.  We finally found the right road and made it to the cottage.  Everyone wanted to know how it was and there was a flurry of activity and conversation.  A group decided to go to a local bar but Jason and I chose to stick around.  I caught up with Uncle Ben and Bruce; Bruce was especially interested in the screen that was used in the play, trying to figure out how it worked.  We both pondered over it for a while before I decided to take a shower.  After walking out in the rain to get our stuff, I was happy for a hot shower.  And after a long day of driving, it was time for bed.

another sign for Dad's collection

another sign for Dad’s collection

new york – 8/19/15

We left at about 9:30 to get breakfast at a local cafe.  They were having a “pre-opening” and were giving away free coffee.  We got our pastries and Kelly got free coffee, and we were on our way.  We decided we wanted to go to the middle, west side of Central Park to start, and then we would make our way down to the Theatre District, where our show would start at 2pm.  We saw The Reservoir, The Great Lawn,  and the Turtle Pond.  Unfortunately we couldn’t see more because we had to get to the Theatre District, which was about 45 blocks away.  We didn’t want to take the subway and so walked the whole way.  We walked to the eastern edge of the park, 5th Ave., and made our way down to 45th St.  The whole length of the park was in the shade of the trees, so there was some relief there.  Once we got to the end of the park, we made our way west, towards 7th Ave.  We had to walk through Times Square to get to the theatre and we saw why everyone warned us about the amount of people in New York City.  We had felt that before this it wasn’t living up to the hype of what we’d been told about the crowds of people.  Granted, we were visiting in the middle of the week.  After slogging our way through the Times Square crowd, we made it to the theatre.  We scoped it out and then walked across the street to get lunch right before the show.

creepy subway

creepy subway

photo credit: Micah

photo credit: Micah

The Reservoir

The Reservoir

Turtle Pond

Turtle Pond

so sauve

so sauve

photo credit: Micah

photo credit: Micah

beautiful synagogue

beautiful synagogue

i did not intentionally place Jason right in the middle

i did not intentionally place Jason right in the middle of this shot

We made it into the theatre about 10 minutes before the show was to start and quickly found our seats.  Kelly and I needed to go to the restroom and the attendant kindly (this is not sarcastic) let us know beforehand that we would need our tickets to return to our seats.  We rushed upstairs and made it  back about two minutes before the lights dimmed.  The attendant has also told us that if we weren’t back in our seats when the show started, we would have to wait the first 15 minutes of the show before we could return to our seats.

The theatre was quite small, but the sets were amazing.  They had a screen behind the actors that would show the scenery pertaining to the scene.  And yes, I know that a lot of plays have this; I’m talking about a screen like a t.v. screen, where the scenery is actually moving and seemed to be projected on the screen, though it clearly wasn’t being projected from the front, and it didn’t seem like it was being projected from the back.  For example, the very first scene is on a ship and the screen was actually in front of the actors.  There were waves crashing on the screen, overlaid on the actors who were rowing a boat behind the screen.  This created a very believable stormy ocean scene.  In the scene where Jean Valjean is carrying Marius through the sewers, the screen showed a moving tunnel, making it look like they are walking through.  And of course the acting and singing was amazing.  This was the first play I’d seen where all the lines were sung, some were more obvious than others, but the cadence was definitely that of a song.  We were all happy to have seen the play and now I can cross “see show on Broadway” off my list (though now I want to see more Broadway shows, not just the traveling shows).

photo credit: Kelly

photo credit: Kelly

Kelly had two friends to meet up with, the first one was John, one of the photographers for her and Micah’s wedding.  He brought his girlfriend Andrea along and we walked to Organic Avenue since Kelly hadn’t been hungry when we ate before the play and now she was.  Kelly talked to John about a candy store he had taken her brother to once, so we walked to the giant M&M store in Times Square.  Andrea had to go but John got on the subway with us.  Our station came up first so we said our goodbyes and made our way up top.

The second friend we were meeting with was a bridesmaid in Kelly’s brother’s wedding a few months ago.  She works for a casting company and lives in NYC.  She had suggested a rooftop bar called “230 Fifth” and so we met her out in front.  We all went up to the 20th floor and were quickly seated, having arrived close to when they opened.  We enjoyed a close up view of the Empire State building, seated right in front of it.  The walls of the bar were a little high, but for those buildings tall enough, we had a spectacular view.  We enjoyed talking, Micah and Kelly caught Courtney up on their journey, she talked about her experiences living in NYC being from Vermont originally, and we enjoyed the view, the food and beverages, and the company.

photo credit: Micah

photo credit: Micah

Courtney had to leave at 8:30 but we stuck around a little to take more pictures.  I walked around the other sides of the bar and was bummed that the trees blocked the view from the other side.  When I was done up top, I went to go use the restroom and the attendant told me that there were more bathrooms downstairs.  I went in, the bathroom was empty, and there was an open window that gave me a clear view of the very thing I was trying to shoot just minutes before.  Yay!  Upon exiting the bathroom, I found the rest of the group right outside where they had been taking pictures of the interesting seating that filled the indoor bar.

bathroom shot

bathroom shot

another bathroom shot

another bathroom shot

photo credit: Micah

photo credit: Micah

photo credit: Micah

photo credit: Micah

The night was still young so we made our way back to Central Park.  We decided to take the subway since we had already walked a ton.  Once we got there we discovered that, while there were lights, they were not effective in illuminating the park.  We were on the south-western corner of the park and found a giant rock not too far in.  We could see many of the skyscrapers and so Micah and I walked around, taking shots from different angles.  After we were done, we decided to head back, wanting to get to bed a little earlier if possible.  We just missed our connection to New Jersey and so had to wait about 10 minutes for the next train.  Kelly struck up a conversation with someone while we waited and they ended up sitting next to each other on the car.  She was getting off at our stop so we all made friendly small talk during the mad rush to the street.

the crowned prince of fire hydrants

the crowned prince of fire hydrants

from Central Park

from Central Park

photo credit: Micah

photo credit: Micah

By the time we were done with our showers and ready for bed, it was about 11:30 or 12.  Time for sleepy time.

new york – 8/18/15

NYC day!  Despite a late night and not being able to sleep well, we got up at 6:30 so we could load everything up and get to the RV park by check in time.  We had a little bit of a late start, because everything always takes longer than you expect, but we made it out and were on our way before too long.  I was sitting on a folded blanket and had both a normal and neck pillow to lean against, so I was pretty comfortable, all things considered.  Poor Jason was not so, I think we’ll need to figure something else out when we head back.

goodbye to the lake for a few days

The drive was full of lush scenes, everything in sight was green.  Farmlands with picturesque red barns and silos seemed to be everywhere.  We encountered little traffic as it was a Tuesday, and made it to the RV park before noon.  We checked in and then parked and ate some leftover pizza from the day before.  Locking up the RV and checking our subway route, we were on our way.

It did not take long to be miserable in the humidity and flee to the lee of the building to escape at least the blinding sun.  We weren’t sure where the station that I had looked up was and my phone was dying so Micah found another route and we were soon at the station.  We could see Manhattan just across the river and went underground to the subway station.

first view of The City

first view of The City

Our subway dropped us off at the World Trade Center station, which is almost entirely white marble, making it cool and clean.  At the entrance of the station were two Marines, all decked out with guns strapped to their legs.  Outside of the station was a fountain with what looked like a giant, shiny red balloon.  People and cars milled about and once we found our bearings we were on our way again, joining the crowd.  A few city blocks away was our next station, which would take us to Brooklyn.  We wanted to get our tickets to a Broadway Matinee show, at a place called tkts, where they sell tickets for up to 50%.  After getting lost a few times, we finally found it and didn’t have to wait long before it was our turn.  We had decided we’d probably see Les Misérables unless something else was considerably cheaper.  I had checked out the app for tkts on our way to the city and based on that, it would be the cheapest of the ones we wanted to see.  It wasn’t as cheap as the app said it would be, but it was still was 50% off.  We would go to the show for tomorrow at 2pm at the Imperial theatre.

15.08.18.337

15.08.18.339

uuuh

Micah, Kelly, and I went and got smoothies at Cafe Metro, in the square nearby.  Jason had never gone to Five Guys and had heard a lot about it, so we stopped in there for his lunch.  He decided that In ‘n Out is better.

After lunch we hopped on the subway to get back to Manhattan.  We returned to the World Trade Center area to see the memorial.  I didn’t expect it, but as soon as I walked up to the memorial, I teared up.  To see all those names engraved in the stone, some of which had flowers or flags propped inside, I almost lost it right there.  They had a museum, but we had just spent a few pretty pennies on our tickets, and the lines to get inside were quite long.  We decided that since we were in the area, we would head down to the Staten Island ferry, passing Wall Street on the way.  Kelly stopped at a street vendor and got some souvenirs for her brother and sister.

this is going to be a subway station

beautiful memorial

Freedom Tower

Trinity Church on Broadway

the Wall Street Bull

the Wall Street Bull

We stopped in the National Museum of the American Indian and walked around the different exhibits.  I mostly wanted to sit in a cool place, as my feet were killing me at that point.  I’m pretty sure that my feet are more sensitive than most people’s.  Maybe all those years wearing nothing but converse and flip flops wasn’t the best plan.

We were waylaid at Battery Park when I was talked into getting a charcoal portrait done.  I was told it would only be 5-10 minutes, and it was more like 45.  While I was sitting, Micah and Kelly agreed to have theirs done too, both on the same piece of paper, but for the price of two.  There were two artists available; I got the main artist and Micah and Kelly got theirs done by the “apprentice.”

photo credit: Micah

photo credit: Micah

There is something so intimate about getting a portrait; I kept eye-contact the whole time, which was awkward, but humbling in a way.  I tried to keep my face neutral, though the breeze kept blowing hair in my face so I had to reach up and adjust it a lot.  I also have a very difficult time sitting still in the best of circumstances, so this was almost impossible.  There were so many people walking by and a few would stop to compare what she was drawing to who she was drawing.  One man stayed for a few minutes, leaning close to her to look over her shoulder.  He kept telling the woman he was with that the artist was doing a great job, that it looked just like me.  Eventually she whipped the pad of paper around to show me the end result.  It did look a lot like me, though it was odd to see an artist’s perspective on my appearance.  Kelly’s portrait was still be done when my finished, so I joined Jason and Micah along the fence they had been sitting at.  Jason and I decided to check out the Staten Island ferry info so walked the short distance there.  It turns out they have the ferry 24/7 and it’s free.

Jason and I meandered back to where Micah and Kelly were, and saw the Statue of Liberty from afar.  Battery Park is a good size, right next to the water and surrounded by skyscrapers on the other side.  Over by the water was a memorial to veterans and a water park/fountain that a lot of kids were playing in.  I was very much considering joining them, after all the walking we had done in such a hot and humid place.

the Statue of Liberty from afar

the Statue of Liberty from afar

the view from Battery Park

the view from Battery Park

Once Micah and Kelly were done with their portraits, we bought the pictures and frames for each and went to the ferry station to have dinner.  I had a delicious strawberry and brie grilled cheese sandwich, which I ended up taking on the boat so we wouldn’t have to wait for the next one.  We got pretty close to the Statue of Liberty and had a great view of the city.  Of course we took lots of pictures and the light was great, the sun making its way ever closer to the horizon.  We went outside and a young boy about 10 years old started talking to me. He, his mom, and another woman were visiting for a week from Texas.  We chatted about the crazy humidity.  They were staying on Staten Island and were going to head back home tomorrow.

photo credit: Micah

photo credit: Micah

We decided to check out the scene on the island, though we ended up not even really leaving the station.  We went up to the lookout on the second story and took more night time city pictures.  The sun had set by this time and so Micah and I were messing with the settings of our cameras to get the optimal lighting.  We found desirable settings and were able to set the cameras between the railing, using it to stabilize since the shutter was open for more then a millisecond.

Once we decided we’d taken enough pictures, we went back inside and got some good ol’ Dairy Queen.  We just missed the next ferry, so went outside again when we discovered that the air conditioning made the waiting area too cold.  The ferry back gave another opportunity to take more night time shots of the Statue of Liberty and skyline.

We decided that before heading back we would get closer to the Brooklyn Bridge, so we walked along the water until we were at a good vantage point.  From there we walked back to the World Trade Center and got to see the Freedom Tower (which is the new World Trade Center building) up close and marveled at the beautiful architecture.  The station we needed to get back to New Jersey was right around the corner.  We got on when the train car was pretty empty and were able to sit down.  It started filling up and we were there for a while before it made its way out of the station.

epic

artsy fartsy

artsy fartsy

Our stop was second to last and from there it was about 5 or 6 blocks to the RV park.  We gratefully got our shower stuff when we made it back to the trailer.  Unfortunately the girls’ bathroom doesn’t have a window so all the hot air from previous showers made it like a sauna.  Right after I turned off the cold water, I started sweating.  I told Kelly it reminded me of all the Mexico mission trips I’d been on in high school, where we had to go into town to take our showers in individual stalls.  I always had to take a completely cold shower so that I wouldn’t start sweating immediately after I got out to dress.  Ah, memories.

The trailer has a normal queen size bed, which extends out over the cab of the truck, and is of course where Micah and Kelly sleep.  Their dining table folds down and the cushions move to create another bed, where Jason and I slept.  Except for it being a little warm in the camper, it was a very comfortable bed.   Quiet time at the RV park is 10pm-7am so we weren’t able to turn on the generator to run the air conditioner.  Plus, it would have been pretty wasteful to have it running all night.  And so, we slept.

new york – 8/17/15

Another late starting day, getting up at 10am.  This time I didn’t go to bed until 2am, so sleeping in was even more important.  After breakfast I decided to join Jason in tossing throwing knives.  The first one hit the tree and bounced off, the next one just barely missed the tree, and the third one missed by a few inches.  We found the first two easily, in fact, the second one was stuck in the dirt.  But we could not find the third one.  Jason and I spent about 20 minutes scanning and then kicking the ground, trying to unearth it.  Micah and Kelly joined us, then Tevan, Sherrie, Uncle Ben, and even one of the dogs.  We started using a rake, figuring that it would clang when it hit the knife, or at least catch it.  After employing the rake for a while with no success, I decided to test out our theory and took one of the knives we did have and threw it onto the area that Jason was raking up.  It quickly got covered by the dried grass and leaves and Jason said he couldn’t discern it from the grass.  So then I started carefully going through the piles we had accumulated.  No luck.  After more than an hour of searching, where we had up to 7 people and one dog involved, it was still nowhere to be found.  Ugh.

here they are, back when they were a full set. :(

here they are, back when they were a full set. :(

Micah and Kelly needed to go to town to work so Jason and I joined them.  It was also a dry run for our drive to NYC.  Their truck cab has jumper seats, sideways facing, and when we go to the city tomorrow we’ll be riding in them.  I’m glad we tested it out with a shorter drive.  I decided that some more cushions would be necessary on the four hour drive.

We went back to Norwich, where Sherrie had taken us for grocery shopping.  After grabbing some gas and getting a little lost trying to find a coffee shop, we finally parked and they decided to just work outside on a bench next to the courthouse.  Jason and I started walking around while I took pictures.  We found that the library was not far from where Micah and Kelly were working and it was open until 8:30, so we let them know and helped them relocate.  Jason and I headed back out into the humidity and I took some cool shots of the Methodist church, which had caught my eye on our way into town.  We walked the short main strip of street, stopping in two stores, which both happened to be places we could have easily found back home (which is a compliment to them).  Having exhausted the main street of Norwich, we headed back to the cool air of the library, where Micah and Kelly were hard at work.  We ended up staying until closing, Kelly taking a break with us to go and bring back dinner from Nina’s.  We sat outside the library doors and I actually enjoyed the warmer air, deciding that the constant cool air in the library was a bit too cold.

this one’s for my dad, who collects funny pictures

the main street of Norwich

the main street of Norwich

After the library closed, we went grocery shopping at Tops.  We got a little lost on our way back since it was now dark, but did make it back in one piece, and with the groceries intact.  Almost everyone at the cottage had gone on a night swim, so the cottage was quiet.  Jason and I started laundry and  Rob and Sher told us about the places we had to go in the city.  Sherrie gave us a great itinerary, telling us where we could go and easily walk to, so we wouldn’t need to get a week Metro pass.  Micah played some of his original songs while Marc, who is releasing an album in December, offered to buy his songs.  Admittedly, Marc was a little tipsy, but he had nothing but high praise for Micah’s songs.

Unfortunately, the dryer died before completely drying all our clothes.  Fortunately, the room we’re staying in had a lot of hangers and places to hang them. We hung the damp items with the plan that anything that wasn’t dry in the morning would be hung up in the trailer.  And with that, we slept.

new york – 8/16/15

Day dawned late for us.  Having gone to bed after 1am, we slept in until about 10am.  After showering, I partook of the pancakes and wondered outside.  There’s a natural spring not too far from the cottage and Robbie, Sherrie, Micah, Kelly, Tevan, Jason, and I made our way to it, dipping our water bottles into the clear, cool water.  We also picked a few tiny apples, and some very ripe blackberries and raspberries.  Yum.  Rob and Sher showed us two trees they had twisted together in 2006 that have now graphed together and invited us to do the same.  Rob pointed out some good candidates and while Jason struggled to push the branches of one tree around the other, I just held them steady.  Micah and Kelly found a pair just a few feet away and had an easier time of it as their trees weren’t as mature.  When we got back to the cottage they showed us Mike and Nina’s tree that was much more graphed together.

green everywhere

srsly. everywhere.

srsly. everywhere.

our trees

look, i'm helpful!

look, i’m helpful! photo credit: Robbie

photo credit: Robbie

the spring; such cool and clear water. yum!

the spring; such cool and clear water. yum!

love Queen Anne's Lace

love Queen Anne’s Lace

Aubrie and Jason

Aubrie and Jason

teeny tiny frog

teeny tiny frog

toadstools!

toadstools!

Mike and Nina’s tree, isn’t that so cool?

Lunch was fend for yourself and after shooting the breeze for a bit, we went into the water.  They have a floating dock and a giant inflatable raft, which Robbie towed to another part of the lake, closer to the rope swing and an open meadow.  Jason, Kelly, and I got there before the rest of the group, taking a dip and climbing onto the raft.  It was so relaxing to lay there in the water as it gently rocked us.  I easily could have taken a nap.  When everyone else arrived, we played a bit of Spikeball and got quite warm when the sun came out.  Sherrie and Shana rowed out to the raft and I joined them as Micah and Kelly used the rope swing.  I decided not do the rope swing as my piercing is still tender and I was afraid of what the impact of the water might do.

you can just see mine and Jason's legs. photo credit: Robbie

you can just see mine and Jason’s legs. photo credit: Robbie

photo credit: Robbie

photo credit: Robbie

Once the sun moved behind the clouds, Kelly, Micah, and I decided to head back to the cottage.  They took the boat back and I decided to swim.  It wasn’t very far and I wanted to exercise a little.  When I got tired, I just rolled onto my back and floated.  Floating is one of my favorite things about being in the water, the way the water fills my ears and everything else just fades away; I can hear each of my breaths echoing in my ears; I feel like the world just falls away as I’m laying there, eyes closed, and letting the water carry me.  I was a little freaked out by the grass that would sometimes entangle my feet, and tended to flail whenever I encountered it.  Eventually I was close enough to shore to just walk the rest of the way.

When I got to the cottage Micah and Kelly were sitting next to the ever burning fire (to keep the bugs away) talking to Mike and Nina.  I tried to squeeze the water out of my board shorts and dry out as much as possible since I had left my towel in the meadow (plus, whenever I swim I tend to air dry).  Eventually I went inside and changed back into normal clothes.

I had offered to go into town with Sherrie the next time she was going to the store.  Jason ended up coming with us, to see if there was anything he might want to pick up.  We went to Norwich and the drive was breathtaking.  We talked about what it would be like to live in such a rural area.  It’s nice to experience such remote living while on vacation, but I can’t imagine doing it long term.  While we don’t live in a sprawling city, I do appreciate that several grocery stores are only a few minutes away.

elephants!

elephants!

There are have two hammocks at the cottage, one rope and one made of fabric.  I hadn’t tried the fabric one and so Jason helped me get in.  I ended up dozing a little and when I woke up it was very quite.  Everyone had gone inside (except for Bruce, who was trying to fish).  Just about everyone was around the table and the food was almost ready.  Everyone else had linguine with clams while Sherrie had kindly prepared normal pasta sauce for me.  Everything was delicious and just as before, everyone was well satisfied.

We had gotten supplies at the store to make chocolate chip cookies.  Jason and I worked out those while most everyone else sat around outside.  Micah stayed in for a while, just messing around on the guitar.  He played a few songs that we could sing to and it was nice to blend our voices together while we prepared the dough.  It’s one of my favorite things to do with my brother.

Because we had doubled the batch, we didn’t finish cooking all the dough, but had plenty for pizzookies and ice cream sandwiches.  We put the rest in the fridge and joined most everyone outside for a game of Gesstures.  It was girls vs. boys and the girls won, even though we had less people.  I love charade type games and this one was no different.

Even though it was midnight, a group of us decided to go “deer hunting” and visit the nearby cemetery.  Deer hunting involves a big spotlight and open fields.  Sherrie drove, I sat in the passenger seat, Jason and Marc took turns with the spotlight, and Shana and Kyle shared the back.  We only saw a few deer but enjoyed the night drive and made it to the cemetery where I took a few shots as we drove by.  In some of the shots “orbs” of light appear.  To those who believe in them, the orbs are ghosts.  We decided not to get out of the car, but made our way back to the cottage, ready for bed.

new york – 8/15/15

I’m baaaaack.  Jason and I are in Upstate New York with family and I wanted to document our time here.  Unlike the cruise we went on a few years ago, I didn’t want to try and remember everything two years later, so I’ll be writing at the end of each day to ensure I remember as much as possible.  Pictures will also be included.

A little about where we’re staying.  Sherrie’s grandparents, Mike and Nina are the owners and the property has been in the family for at least 70 years.  The house used to be a church, then a dance hall and there is still a door in the living room that hangs from the ceiling, parallel to the floor, that was used when carriages drove through.

The room we’re staying in used to be where Mike and Nina would stay and it also happens to be the room with the waterheater.  Also, there’s a thick PVC pipe coming down from the ceiling and going back up.  Whenever anyone flushes the toilet it sounds like a stream is right next to the bed.

There are trash cans for burnables, things like paper plates and napkins, compostable, and metals, all in the kitchen/dining room area.  At the end of the day the burnables will be thrown into the ever burning fire, which is kept going to keep bugs away from the area, not far outside the front door.   It has a lot of character, but we were warned by Sherrie before we arrived that is a place that “you will start out hating and grow to love by the end.”

——————————–

Our plane was delayed, though we made it to our connecting flight in Detroit just fine. Our Detroit flight just happened to be the same as the one my uncle and a few others were taking.  We made it to Binghamton a little early, before 10:30am.  Our cousin Sherrie came and picked us all up and we made the drive through rural upstate New York to their cottage.  I’d seen pictures of the cottage from Sherrie’s facebook, but of course seeing something in person is so much different than off a computer screen.

this will, naturally, not keep /me/ from sharing pictures of my own

this will, naturally, not keep /me/ from sharing pictures of my own

Given the lack of sleep because of the redeye flight, Jason and I took a nap while most everyone else explored or went out on the lake.  A few hours later I got up, deciding I shouldn’t sleep the day away and mess up my sleeping schedule.  I took a walk around some of the extensive property, and captured a few shots.  It was a little warm in the sunshine, but perfect in the shade.

driveway into the property

After the walkabout I sat and chatted with Mike; before long Jason had joined us.  When we were done talking, Jason wanted to walk around too, so we made our way to the lake (where I, of course, took more pictures) and then around more of the forested area.  We marveled at all the greenery and I added to my photographic collection.

When we got back to the cottage, the boys: my cousin Robbie, and his friends Tevan, Marc, and Kyle, were trying to chop down a dead tree.  We each took turns with the axe, and we got a good chunk of it, though it’ll take some more chopping to bring it down.  They were starting to hit some knots and the axe just bounced back after each hit.

Marc

Shana

Robbie, our cousin

We set about making dinner, eggplant parmesan (like lasagna, sans noodles), and waited for Micah and Kelly to arrive from Philadelphia.  Once they did, they spent some time trying to find a level place to prop up their camper, which sits in the bed of their truck.  It had rained last night so the ground was pretty soggy.  Kelly and I watched as Micah almost got stuck in the mud.  Micah and Kelly worked together to guide the truck to a better spot and propped it up on blocks to make it more level.  They have become experts in their time on the road.

excuse the tree

excuse the tree; you can see the orange levelers underneath both tires

Micah and Kelly's home for the last few months

Micah and Kelly’s home for the last few months

As the sun sank lower, the light reflecting off the water was mesmerizing and Jason and I took advantage, sitting on the edge of the water attempting to capture some of its beauty.  We each took our fair share of pictures and then headed closer to home to play a quick game of horseshoes with Micah and Kelly while it was still a little light.  It didn’t take long for the hunger and lack of light to drive us inside, where others were setting up the table for 14 of us.  Dinner was lively and delicious and we were all very satisfied.  Paper plates and plastic silverware made for easy clean up. (Plus a leaky sink delayed the dish cleaning crew a bit).  We played games, sat and chatted, and spent some time around the campfire while Marc and Micah played guitar and Marc serenaded us.  A nice end to a wonderful first day.

one of the cottage rules is to pick a bouquet of wildflowers; i like this rule

Nancy tries Uncle Ben’s cigar

job: what’s the point?

Throughout this study of Job I’ve asked myself a few times, “Why did I choose this book?”  There’s so much to it (not even considering its 42 chapters) and not really any answers at the end except that God is divine.  So this will not be much of an exposé as much as a word vomit of my thoughts throughout the study.  I will list all the resources at the end and thank my “cream puff” friends for joining me in this adventure.

It is not really known when Job was written or who the author is.  A lot of what I read placed Job’s life in the time of the patriarchs, roughly 1950-1500 BC.   He sacrificed for his family, rather than having a priest do it; the structure of the family fit the time of the patriarchs; the type of money mentioned was used in that time period.  There is speculation that Job, Solomon, or even Moses wrote the book.  Whoever it was had complex knowledge of embryos, gems, agriculture, and mining.

Before starting this study, I wondered if Job even existed or if his story was more like an allegory, or a platform from which to discuss suffering of the righteous.  I am more or less convinced that he did exist, though his story might be an amalgamation and likely refined over the years.  Ultimately, the story being told is important, whether or not Job actually existed.  Questions of suffering and sin come up a lot in discussions of faith and those of us who have grown up in a religious home very likely have grappled with them.  Even though there aren’t clear answers, or really any, I think it’s important that the Bible does not shy away from discussing those questions.  I do want clear cut answers, but pain is complicated and in a way, I’m also thankful that there aren’t any answers in Job.  My faith is a constant journey, one where I hope to always be seeking and learning, and I think if I had all the answers, I wouldn’t experience the myriad of emotions that go along with pain that help me process and move through it.  (Since I’m not currently suffering, it is extremely easy for me to say this.  However, I have had moments of suffering and I think going through it has made me stronger.  So cliché, I know.  Also, I think we have “moments” of suffering, and while some moments might last longer than others, they are just moments, which are temporary.)

While reading some of what Job’s friends had to say, I would find myself nodding and agreeing (notice the emphasis on “some”).  But I realized a few nuggets of truth doesn’t make everything they said true.  Someone who is unintelligent can still say wise things; it does not make them wise.  And that was part of the struggle for me.  Their logic seemed to make sense: bad things happen to bad people, and good things happen to good people.  Therefore, Job must be a bad person because bad things are happening to him.  And on the one hand, thank God this is not true.  But on the other, it makes life so unfair.  And your perspective on this all depends on whether you’re thanking God for your good life, or cursing Him for the unfairness.

And that’s just it, life is not fair and perfectly balanced, as much as we want or hope for it to be.  Those “evil” people who are living a life of sin might be getting it really good right now and those on the outside are just waiting for their comeuppance, which might never come in their lifetime, or at least might not be totally obvious.  I know I’m always striving for balance in my life, not to be too focused on one thing while ignoring other aspects of my life.  And I want for my whole environment to be fair and balanced, where good = good and bad = bad.  There.  Now everything’s clean and tidy.  And Job flips all that on its head.  It says more than once that he is righteous and blameless before God so that when his friends are saying, “You must have done something to bring this on,” the readers know without a doubt that they are wrong.  It’s because of his righteousness that all this is happening to him.  Satan wants to prove that Job is righteous only because of his blessings and God knows the one is not contingent on the other.  God knows that Satan will be proven wrong and allows Satan to wreak havoc.

And then I want to tear my hair out.  Because this doesn’t. Make. Any. Sense.  And I so want it to.  I want to put it inside this tidy box and be able to just tell people, “God will bless you if you live a ‘good’ life and follow Him always.  You should become a Christ follower because look at how rich your life will be.  Just look at Job.”  But really, it will be rich, just not in the way my narrow mind works.  I have had such a rich life, full of many great and beautiful things.  And there has and will be some ugliness, but that variety is precisely what makes my life wonderful.  Some scholars think the ending of Job was tacked on to make for a clean, tidy close.  Like, “Look, God allowed Satan to destroy his life but then God blessed him twice as much because he remained righteous at his lowest point.”  And I’m not sure how I feel about this ending.  I feel like it is too clean, like a fairytale ending.  If it’s true, then great, but I really hope that it wasn’t added on to make the reader feel better.  Because I think the beauty of Job is in the ashes and suffering and adding on a false ending just tarnishes that.

In Christopher Ash’s book, “Job: The Wisdom of the Cross,” Ash talks about how Job is a foreshadowing to Jesus; Job and Jesus are righteous and still they suffer.  Ash also talks about Satan’s role in God’s plan, that “Satan has a ministry; it is the ministry of opposition, the ministry of insisting that the genuineness of the believer be tested and proved genuine.  It is a hostile and malicious ministry, but a necessary ministry for the glory of God” (p. 45).  When Job laments God’s silence in his suffering, Elihu reminds Job that God is speaking to him in his suffering.  The readers know that it was because of Satan and God’s discussion that his situation is what it is but of course Job does not have this insight.  I still have to sort out what this means for me, this speaking in suffering.  I know that God is ever-present, even when I feel He’s far away, but now I might start wondering if all suffering comes from a discussion between God and Satan where my faith is being tested.  I’m being somewhat facetious, but I’m also being totally serious.  And I hope that no matter what, my attitude toward suffering won’t change; I want to dig deeper in my faith and see it as a learning opportunity and a chance to grow.

It has been interesting to see the variety of opinions on the subject of Job.  I’ve always seen it as the suffering of the righteous but in this study I’ve also seen true worship, humility, foreshadowing of Jesus, God’s divinity, worship of God, and just God in general.  Before I started this study I saw Job as an “easy” book.  Not easy in the subject matter, but easy in that it seemed pretty flat, one-dimensional, and something I thought I would grasp easily and move on from.  As I researched and discussed with my “cream puff” friends, we discovered a depth to Job we hadn’t realized.  And that’s one of many things I think is so beautiful about the Bible, it has a lot of depth.  As someone who grew up in the church, it’s really easy for me to hear or read the words, but not really hear or read the words, you know?  That’s why I wanted to do this study, so I can experience this depth for myself.  I feel like reading the Bible had become so rote for me that any passion I might have once had for it had long since faded.  And already I’m seeing the positive affect this study has had on me.  I’m excited to read the Bible and do my own studying.  I’m so thankful for the freedom that I have to do this and am even more thankful that I have a wonderful group of friends to share this journey with.  Our next book is 1 Corinthians and I’m ready to go.

***************

See, word vomit.

 

Resources:

The Voice: Biblical and Theological Resources for Growing Christians

The Bible.Org

Shmoop

My Jewish Learning

The Scroll Eaters

“Job: The Wisdom of the Cross” by Christopher Ash

“The Book of Job (New International Commentary on the Old Testament” by John E. Hartley

“Biblical Studies Press, LLC,” book of Job New English Translation

get your head out of the box

I was reminded again today why generalizations are so dangerous.  It’s something we all do because, I think to some degree, it’s necessary to keep ourselves from going crazy.  There are too many details in this world and if we tried to keep them in mind all the time, nothing would get done.  But life is all about balance and so I think generalizing too much can have detrimental affects and can be so harmful to society.  I try to ignore them when I see them, but I can’t help but react to them, at least a little.

I saw this while scrolling on FB and just had to shake my head.  I work with the welfare population and while there are people who take advantage of the system, there are many more who are utilizing it to improve their lives and get out of a tough spot.  We’re seeing more and more people who have BAs and even MAs come in for aid.  The economy is tough, I don’t think people disagree about that.  What I find unfortunate is ignorant people speaking about issues they know nothing about like they do.  There are a lot of catchy posters and sayings out there, but I think ones that talk about welfare are generally wrong and continue to shame those who need the extra help.  And the amount they receive is laughably small (partially to keep them from relying solely on it).  I’m all for people being independent and not having to rely on taxpayers, but the reality is that not all people have equal access to opportunity.  I was blessed to be born into a family that was supportive and loving; we always had food on the table, and a roof over our heads.  I never had to go without and my parents instilled the importance of education, which got me the jobs that have supported my own family.  I was born into this positive cycle that will hopefully continue on.  Not everyone has that.  Many come from broken homes and/or got pregnant at a young age.  Some haven’t finished high school.  There are too many individual stories to generalize them all into one catchy phrase.  So please stop.

the Bible and cream puffery

As you probably know if you’ve been reading my blog, I do yearly projects.  They started in 2011 and the inspiration comes from a friend who decided that New Year’s resolutions should be things we enjoy, to encourage us to actually follow through.  And I’ve had a lot of fun with the projects over the years.

This year I’ve decided to do an academic study of the Bible.  I’ve been a Christian all my life, but I feel like I’ve been spoon-fed for most of it.  Over the last few years, my faith has morphed and I’m finding a yearning for more.  I want to have Truth for myself and to do my own research and study for a better understanding.  I think the Bible’s a good place to start and I thought that if I could dig deeper into it, then maybe I can have a more solid foundation to build from.  I want to look at historical and cultural context, the original language, and among other things, find out how it affects me today.

As always, I will be blogging about my project.  The 12 books I’ve decided to study are: Job, James, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, Philippians, Galatians, Jeremiah, Isaiah, John, Acts, and Revelation.  I might not get to all of them this year, but as faith and it’s deepening should be a life-long journey, I will certainly continue beyond 2015.  I just want to be more intentional about it for this year at least.

Because this is such a broad and vague idea, I’m going to see how it goes as time goes by and make adjustments as needed.  I do plan on studying until I feel like I’m “done” with a book, then I’ll move on to the next.  I hope you’ll take this journey with me and please share any insights you may have.

project read review

I had a blast with this project.  As a kid I read a lot, often staying up through the wee hours of the morning to finish a book.  Since I started college, I didn’t read for pleasure and it took me a long time to get back to my childhood love.  That’s why I decided to focus on reading this year.  It certainly has re-ignited my love for it and I already have a list of books that I would like to read next year (it’ll be nice to not have to write a review after I finish each one).  I thought I would share a few stats from this year’s project.  Thanks to everyone who gave me suggestions and made this so enjoyable.  Your input enriched my year and I appreciate you all!

books read: 104 (average of 2/week)

pages read: 38,783

longest read: The Count of Monte Cristo (at 1,276 pages)

5 stars: 65

4.5 stars: 18

4 stars: 14

3.75 stars: 1

3.5 stars: 1

3 stars: 2

2 stars: 2

1 star: 1

favorite book: World War Z by Max Brooks

What a great year!

neverwhere

title: Neverwhere

author: Neil Gaiman

genre: Fiction, London, Doors, rat-speakers, Floating Market

suggested by: Phil S.

dates read: December 26th – December 28th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Richard Mayhew lives in London, has an okay job, a beautiful fiancée, and is generally happy with life.  Until he saves a wounded girl who seems to appear on the sidewalk through a brick wall.  Her name is Door and she is an “opener,” she can open doors that are locked and create doors where there aren’t any.  Her family has been brutally murdered and she’s on a quest to find out who’s behind it.  But she’s also being chased by Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, who enjoy torturing and killing their prey.  And Richard is unintentionally pulled into the adventure.

personal thoughts: Another unique story by Mr. Gaiman.  I was quickly sucked in and cared very much for Richard and Door.  I was a little unsure of Hunter and the marquis de Carabas but did enjoy the flavor they brought to the story.  The different people they encountered and the nonchalance with which Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar disposed of others furthered the compelling nature of the story.  Another win by Gaiman.

favorite quotes:
“He continued, slowly, by a process of osmosis and white knowledge (which is like white noise, only more useful), to comprehend the city.” p. 9

“Richard had noticed that events were cowards: they didn’t occur singly, but instead they would run in packs and leap out at him all at once.” p. 12

“He had gone beyond the world of metaphor and simile into the place of things that are, and it was changing him.” p. 277

the book of unknown americans

title: The Book of Unknown Americans: A Novel

author: Cristina Henríquez

genre: Fiction, immigration, foreign language, first love

suggested by: Michalle T.

dates read: December 24th – December 25th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Arturo, Alma, and Maribel Rivera have left Mexico to immigrate to America, after Maribel is in an accident that causes brain damage.  Told by her doctors that she has a better chance of recovery in the States, they wait a year to get the papers together and finally make their way to Delaware, where Arturo was able to find an employer that will sponsor their visas.  The building they move into is full of other immigrants, all with different stories of when and why the came to the States, all of them trying to get by and achieve their American Dream.

personal thoughts: I loved the writing style; Henríquez introduces each character in their own voice and then the story progresses through different eyes, sometimes going back a little so the same scene is played from a different perspective.  The difficulty of trying to find their place in a foreign country is (I think) well conveyed in the confusion of learning a new culture, language, and all that comes with uprooting ones family to live somewhere totally new.  The heartbreak of finding that maybe the dream they are all reaching for is further than they think, and the community that is built from their common experience, all brought a richness to the story being told.  I laughed and cried, and once again appreciated the struggle I didn’t have to go through to become a citizen of this crazy, wonderful, awful, beautiful country.

favorite quotes:
“We had all of our dreams pinned on this place, but the pin was thin and delicate and it was too soon to tell whether it was stronger than it looked or whether, in the end, it wasn’t going to hold much of anything at all.” p. 32

“That first day, the words were merely sounds in the air, broken shards of glass, beautiful from a certain angle and jagged from another.” p. 58

“I wasn’t allowed to claim the thing I felt and I didn’t feel the thing I was supposed to claim.” p. 78

“‘Finding is for things that are lost.  You don’t need to find me, Mayor.'” p. 263

“When someone dies, it doesn’t leave a hole, and that’s the agony.” p. 275

zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

title: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
An Inquiry into Values

author: Robert M. Pirsig

genre: Sort of non-fiction, road trip, philosophical thoughts, Quality, Truth

suggested by: Dad

dates read: December 21st – December 24th

review: 4.5 out of 5 stars

summary: Robert Pirsig is on a roadtrip with his young son.  They are on his motorcycle during summer break.  Throughout their trip, Pirsig shares some of his thoughts on Quality, Truth, and Phaedrus.  In a former life, Pirsig was a English teacher who had a break down and was admitted to a hospital where he underwent shock therapy.  He refers to himself in his former life as “Phaedrus.”  As the narrative progresses, he shares his history and some of the thoughts Phaedrus had, which he still has fragments of.

personal thoughts: Wow.  This was so interesting and intense.  Some of the ideas went right over my head.  But when I got it, I was very intrigued and impressed by his unique perspective.  I’m always pondering things, but when I read things like this, I’m often impressed by the depth of thought and the “out of boxness” that I see.  This will be a book I’ll need to think on and come back to again.

favorite quotes:
“You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other.  In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV.  You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.” p. 12

“where once it was used to get away from it all, the escape has been so successful that now it is the ‘it all’ that the romantics are trying to escape.” p. 76

“The real purpose of scientific method is to make sure Nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you don’t actually know.” p. 108

“posing as piety was an example of the very materialism the church opposed.” p. 149

“What’s wrong with technology is that it’s not connected in any real way with matters of the spirit and of the heart. And so it does blind, ugly things quite by accident and gets hated for that.” p. 168

“To live for some future goal is shallow.  It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top.” p. 204

“The first place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.” p. 297

“Religion isn’t invented by man.  Men are invented by religion.” p. 351

“We always condemn most in others. . .that which we most fear in ourselves.” p. 378

sniper on the eastern front

title: Sniper on the Eastern Front: The Memoirs of Sepp Allerberger, Knights Cross

author: Albrecht Wacker

genre: Non-fiction, WWIII, German sniper

suggested by: Tiril P.

dates read: December 20th – December 21st

review: 4 out of 5 stars

summary: Josef ‘Sepp’ Allerberger was an Austrian with German nationality who became one of the best German snipers in WWII.  Joining before he was even 20 years old, he became indispensable, taking down 257 Russians, and countless more that weren’t recorded.  Coming back home from the war with few physical scars, the affects on his psyche were much more severe.

personal thoughts: The very subject of this book was difficult for me.  Reading about the notches in his gun to keep track of his kills, and the calculated way he took down his enemies (though, to be fair, it was either them or him and he was a sniper, who do need to be calculating in their kills), made it tough to keep going sometimes.  It makes me think of first-person shooter video games, some of the scenes he describes.  The depravity of humanity is highlighted in many of the stories, and I wish again, still, that we lived in a world without war.  The horrors that those in combat face are unfathomable.

favorite quotes:
“Fear, blood, death were the ingredients in the alchemy that intoxicated and drugged its participant; it marked the end of my personal innocence and swept away all visions and dreams of ‘my future’; swept away my life.” Chapter 1

“War is a merciless system of Killing and Being Killed.  In action, sympathy for the enemy is ultimately suicide, for every opponent whom you do not kill can turn the tables and kill you.  Your chances of survival are measured by the yardstick of how you compare in skill and objectivity as against your opponent.” Chapter 2

“A soldier’s chances of survival depend in no small degree on his feeling for what is possible.” Chapter 11

dragon and phoenix

title: Dragon and Phoenix

author: Joanne Bertin

genre: Fiction, dragonlords, truedragons, captivity and freedom

suggested by: Jason S.

dates read: December 14th – December 19th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Maurynna, Linden, Lleld, and Jekkanadar are all dragonlords, humans with the ability to transform into dragons. Well, all of them are able to expect for Maurynna, who was able to once when Linden, her soultwin, was in peril.  Now she seems to have lost the ability and as a result is forbidden from leaving the Dragonskeep as it is too dangerous.  But the reunion of a childhood friend brings with it news that a truedragon is being held in captivity by those in power and the group cannot, and will not, let that stand.

personal thoughts: This is actually the second book in the series so I wonder what I’m missing by not having read the first.  I suspect that some of the memories mentioned in this are what occurred in the first book.  Anyhow, I still really enjoyed this and was able to get into the story and the lives of the characters.  There were some slow parts and characters I didn’t care much for, even outside of the “bad guys.”  Within chapters the perspective would flip between many of the characters and I could easily see this being made into a movie or miniseries.  I did read some of the reviews on “Goodreads” that said the writing wasn’t as good, or they didn’t care about the story or characters as much as the first.  I’m glad that I don’t have that tainting my experience of the book, though I am a little curious to go back and read it.  I would like to see where the story goes next and will have to add it to my books to read next year.

favorite quotes:
“There was no greater tyrant than a faithful servant.” p. 206

“‘don’t get all into a snit that she didn’t follow the story you’d written – not when you didn’t tell her the tale.'” p. 247

“‘An honest enemy. . .is truer than a false friend.'” p. 350

“Like a wayward boat that wouldn’t answer to the helm, her mind continuously drifted back to thoughts of Linden no matter how hard she tried not to think about him.” p. 514

“she felt as though she walked along some border in the dream world where the weight of a sigh would tilt the scales between nightmare and enchantment.” p. 544, 545

thane

title: Thane

author: Travis Daniel Bow

genre: Fiction, betrayal, brothers, espionage

suggested by: Mom

dates read: December 12th – December 14th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Timothy and Robert are not brothers by blood, but they might as well be.  Raised together by their “mother,” unsure which is actually her son, they end up being kidnapped by the Huctans to be part of their army.  They are rescued by Selena, who is part of a rebel group whose goal is fighting the Huctans and saving their country Botan.  Timothy is drawn to the group and immediately joins them, while Robert resists.  As both boys become familiar with the group, it becomes clear that there’s a traitor in their midst.

personal thoughts: Another author I kind of know (he and his wife are friends of my parents)!  So cool.  Anyway, this is the first book in the Everknot Series and I definitely want to continue with the story when the next book (or books) comes out.  I liked how the perspective sometimes changed between the different characters so I got an idea of what is going on elsewhere, or from the perspective of someone else.  Also, I thought the prologue really set up the story nicely, gave it a more back story without getting bogged down in the details.  The training scenes were well done, and I liked the dynamics between the characters.  All in all, an engaging story with likable characters and a series I’m looking forward to continuing.

favorite quotes:
“Pulling the wool over someone’s eyes is a fine art. . .but sometimes all it takes is plain, sheep-headed stubbornness to keep the wool off.” p. 84

“Jesher, whose passion and love for Botan exceeded everyone else’s the way the trees exceeded the grass.” p. 169

the book thief

title: The Book Thief

author: Markus Zusak

genre: Fiction, WWII, Germany, orphan

suggested by: Mom

dates read: December 7th – December 11th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Liesel Meminger’s brother passes away as her small family is on their way to Molching, to the family who will foster them, since their mother is unable to.  One of the gravediggers loses a book, which Liesel picks up and hides away at her foster family’s house.  Rosa and Hans Humbermann are not rich, but they have hearts full of love for Liesel.  Plagued by nightmares every night, Hans and Liesel start a tradition of staying up together in the wee hours of the morning.  Liesel can’t read and Hans left school in fourth grade, so together they use this scared time to learn or improve their reading.  This sparks a love of books for Liesel and begins her career as a book thief.

personal thoughts: I loved Zusak’s interesting use of pronouns.  Nothing happened in the normal way.  There was a beauty to his language that really engaged and moved me.  Of course, any story set in this time period is going to have its tragedies, but the narrator death, was a new twist.  I loved the feisty and innocent nature that Liesel still had, despite her life tragedies.  She and Rudy’s friendship was beautiful and I loved that pairing.  I had seen the movie with my parents and thought it a beautiful story; it did the book justice, I think.

favorite quotes:
“The day was gray, the color of Europe.” p. 27

“Papa’s bread and jam would be half eaten on his plate, curled into the shape of bite marks, and the music would look Liesel in the face.  I know it sounds strange, but that’s who it felt to her.” p. 38

“He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world.
She was the book thief without the words.” p. 80

“is there cowardice in the acknowledgement of fear?  Is there cowardice in being glad you lived?” p. 107

“Rudy put on the extra coat, barely able to contain a grin.  It ran across his face like a skid.” p. 162

“Those who remained were firing into the blank pages in front of them.  Three languages interwove.  The Russian, the bullets, the German.” p. 469

“one thing I envy.  Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.” p. 491

out of the silent planet

title: Out of the Silent Planet

author: C. S. Lewis

genre: Fiction, sci-fi, space travel

suggested by: Sam B.

date read: December 7th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Dr. Elwin Ransom, trying to help a young man return home, finds himself drugged and kidnapped, waking up on a spaceship headed for a distant planet (which turns out to be Mars).  His two captors, Dr. Weston and Dick Devine have been to the planet before and Ransom overhears a conversation which leads him to believe that he is going to be a sacrifice to the beings that inhabit the planet.  After they land, he finds a way to escape and wonders into the wilderness, where he is found by one of the species that live there.  This encounter opens up a while new world for Ransom.

personal thoughts: Sci-fi is always a little sketchy for me, which I think I’ve mentioned in other reviews.  However, I thought this was an interesting story and like Dr. Ransom and the compassion he had for the planet’s inhabitants.  I already love C. S. Lewis and it was cool to read something different by him.  I’m always amazed by people’s imaginations.  I have a vivid imagination, but it’s more grounded in things that could actually happen, rather than coming up with new worlds and species.  It’s especially cool when I can get a clear picture of what is being described, which I felt happened a lot while I was reading this.

favorite quotes:
“you cannot see things till you know roughly what they are.” p. 26

“‘the best pictures are made in the hardest stone.'” p. 75

the things they carried

title: The Things They Carried

author: Tim O’Brien

genre: Fiction, Vietnam war, the power of stories

date read: December 7th

review: 3 out of 5 stars

summary: A collection of stories about a platoon of soldiers in the Vietnam war.  While not a memoir, O’Brien does write about the character Tim O’Brien.  The men struggle with death, missing their loved ones, and the sanctity of life.  The importance of story telling is a major theme of the book, coming back again and again as O’Brien recounts the lives of these men.

personal thoughts: I did not enjoy this.  The “meta-ness” of the book was really distracting and the disjointed stories were confusing.  He retold some of the stories several times and I didn’t care for most of his characters.  Honestly, I really hate it when stories that try to pass themselves off as real but not.  This is the problem I had with Life of Pi (I realize this was actually fiction, but the whole premise is that the character is telling a story that might be real, or it might not be, which made me feel like I just wasted so much time reading the book) and Shantaram.  I know we draw inspiration from life, but at least give your character a different name than your own.  This is obviously a personal pet peeve, so you might love this book.  I just can’t get past this, apparently.

favorite quotes:
“They used a hard vocabulary to contain the terrible softness.  Greased they’d say.  Offed, lit up, zapped while zipping.  It wasn’t cruelty, just stage presence.  They were actors.” p. 19

“Stories are for joining the past to the future.  Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are.  Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.” p. 36

“Courage was not always a matter of yes or now.  Sometimes it came in degrees, like the cold; sometimes you were very brave up to a point and then beyond that point you were not so brave.” p. 141

ready player one

title: Ready Player One

author: Ernest Cline

genre: Fiction, virtual reality, competition, year 2044

suggested by: Phil S.

dates read: December 5th – December 7th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Wade Owen Watts is an orphan in 2044 using the “globally networked virtual reality” OASIS to escape the reality of his life.  Living in the “stacks,” a neighborhood of trailers stacked at least 15 units high, with his aunt and 13 other people, Wade’s life seems pretty bleak.  James Halliday, the videogame designer of OASIS and billionaire passed away at the age of 67, leaving behind no heirs to his mass fortune.  Instead, he created a complex game within OASIS and whoever finishes it first, will inherit his company and fortune.  Wade is one of those competitors and the first to pass the first level of the game.  With that one “small” accomplishment, Wade’s avatar is now globally known and Wade’s life changes forever.

personal thoughts: This really reminded me of Gamer with Gerard Butler, which is a movie I really love, even though it shows the depravity of humanity.  This was not quite as depraved, though it did show the greed humans are capable of.  I might not be as massive a nerd as some who have read this, but I still appreciated all the references that I did understand, from Firefly to Star Trek to Monty Python to PAC-MAN to D&D.  So clever and engaging.  Wade also developed a lot as a character, which added another element to the story.  Well told, and a nice tribute to all things nerdy.

favorite quote:
“I decided whoever Art3mis really was, I was in love with her.  I could feel it, deep in the soft, chewy caramel center of my being.” p. 179