Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ode to my Home State

I don't think it's a secret to anyone who knows me that I have always been, and will always be, a Wisconsin girl.  My friends and family are up in Wisconsin (or Minneapolis, but that's pretty much the same thing minus their crappy football team), I am totally a beer, cheese, and football kind of girl, and I can even say I don't mind the winters that much.

When I left the Midwest four years ago to move to Nashville, I really didn't believe I'd ever go back north.  Maybe to the Twin Cities, but certainly not to Wisconsin.  I have always loved my home state but I didn't know if I would ever want to live there again.

I was wrong.

In the last year and a half, I have grown increasingly homesick.  Not in the I can't wait to visit sort of way but more of the I wish I never had to leave way.  My trips back have become more frequent and much longer than in the past.  I've started reconnecting with some of the people I used to be friends with and started keeping an eye out for the right job that could bring me home.

The thing is that I truly love my life in Kentucky.  I love my job most days, have an excellent apartment even if I've only lived there for a few months, have amazing friends even if it took me a while to find them, and almost appreciate horse racing and basketball even if I'll never get into drinking bourbon.  I knew I wouldn't leave for just anything.  Kentucky could easily have become home to me.

For a wide variety of reasons - my family, my best friends, and yes of course my boyfriend even if he wouldn't want to read that - I decided a few months ago to get serious about this whole moving back to Wisconsin thing.

Suddenly the time felt right to get it over with.  To leave this place that I've come to love and to build my life in a place that is so amazingly familiar and supportive and wonderful to me.

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks to say the least because, all of a sudden, everything came together quickly.

Two weeks ago, I still didn't think I'd be leaving for another couple of months at least.  And then, in less than 24 hours, I found a sub-leaser for my apartment.  Once that was done, I decided to give my notice at work because I had a few things in the works up in Wisconsin and figured I could get a serving job to get by until I found something full-time.  And then I was offered an awesome job - in my field, doing something I love, for a company that I think will be amazing to work for.

All of that is to say, I'm moving back.  I will officially be home by Thanksgiving.

Some of you are probably thinking that all came in the wrong order - give up my apartment, quit my job, then get a new one - but honestly, everything about it was perfect.  I simply had to trust that it would work out. I wasn't wrong.

I'm so sad to be leaving my friends here and will miss everyone dreadfully.  At the same time, I am so incredibly excited for what lies ahead.  Wish me luck!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Opportunity Knocking

One of the most memorable things I've ever learned took place in a 2nd grade classroom.

Back then, our grade school hosted a series of career days. At the time, my mom was running a chain of fast food restaurants. To this day, I'm still convinced that the only reason I had friends that year was because my mom brought in french fries for career day.  But I digress.  The lesson learned had nothing to do with feeding your friends so that they like you.  In fact, after the infamous ChocoTaco debacle of 7th grade, I should have learned that lesson is one worth forgetting.

One of my classmates had an older sister who was married to a Green Bay Packer. If you know anything about Green Bay, you know that means he was pretty much related to a god. The day said player (I honestly wish I could remember his name) came in to talk to us, I'm sure we were all excited to hear about the glamorous life of an NFL player, a lecture on how you should play sports, or a chance to throw a football around.

We weren't prepared for this man to walk into our classroom, hold up a $20 bill, and tell us that whoever took it from him first could keep it.

The entire room full of 2nd graders sat there dumbfounded. What do you mean we can just come take it?

I distinctly remember him giving us multiple opportunities to take that $20 bill. No one moved. We were so afraid we'd somehow get in trouble.

More distinctly, I remember him going into a lecture about seizing opportunities. If someone hands you the chance to do something - something that could make your life a little better, a little easier, make you a little bit richer, a little bit happier - with no strings (or at least very minimal strings) attached TAKE IT. Don't question it. Don't think about all of the bad things that might happen. If you spend too much time dwelling on the negative, you might miss out.

Of course, there are plenty of false opportunities presented to us every day. But when something falls into your lap, when you get a chance to do something you probably never dreamed could happen to you, when everything simply feels right, maybe you should see that as an opportunity to act without thinking it to death.

We all missed out on the $20 bill back then. I wonder if any of my classmates would even remember this story. But for me, it was a defining moment. For the first time I think I realized that if we work hard enough things really might just be handed to us as a bit of a reward.

Big things are happening for me right now and I've been remembering that lesson constantly.

Don't ever pass up the opportunity to do what you know in your heart is right.
Seize that opportunity when it knocks.
Trust that you will find a way to make everything fall into place.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Reminder: We Are Limited

I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want & live all the lives I want.  I can never train myself in all the skills I want.  And why do I want?  I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited. - Sylvia Plath


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Unknown Yet Immortal

Anyone who has taken a science course that talked about cell research has probably heard of HeLa.

Most of those people have never heard of Henrietta Lacks.

I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as part of a commitment for work over a year ago and I have not stopped thinking of it since.  This book is mind-boggling to me.

It's the story of a woman who changed modern-day science in immeasurable ways, yet who is virtually unknown....  The story of people who weren't given all of the information... The story of multiple generations of a family who cannot afford healthcare - yet whose ancestor was the root of many of today's medical treatments.

Henrietta could not possibly have known that pieces of a cervical tumor - a tumor that ultimately killed her - were removed from her body in 1951 and would be used for groundbreaking medical research.  She could not have known that because of this caner, her cells would be the first to become immortal - that even though she would die young and poor, her cells would prove to be remarkably resilient and would populate a multi-billion dollar industry.

More amazing is that her family wouldn't know any of this for more than 20 years after her death.  They didn't find out until after scientists continued researching HeLa by doing procedures on her husband and children without their knowledge. 

Rebecca Sloot took the time to sort through the story, follow the clues and cluttered paper trail, and piece together a book that reads like a good mystery novel.  She manages to throw in enough science terminology and medical history to make even an educated person feel a little lost.  And yet, Sloot's book still dwells in sentimentality.  It brings up questions of race relations, healthcare costs, medical consent, personal ownership of your own body, and ethical treatment of research subjects.  It makes us question how much control we have over our body still today and wonder if this could still happen.

I said, I read this book over a year ago and I feel like it was just yesterday.  HeLa is no longer the only thing that is immortal.  Henrietta - as a woman, as a lesson, and as a story - will also go on forever for anyone who has read this book.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Reminder: Delicious Ambiguity

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the member and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity. -Gilda Radner


Thursday, October 18, 2012

10 Things...

I stumbled across an exercise on a blog I used to follow* that shared a 10/10/10 list. The exercise was inspired by this post. And while I'm sure both the blogger I used to follow (who shall remain unnamed since she's a great blogger, just not my thing) and this Cheryl Richardson are wonderful people, I won't be following either of them anytime soon. 

That being said, this is something that I've been off and on doing in my head all week anyway so I figured I might as well give it a shot out loud.  Only I made it a 5-er list because that's what came to me easily and the point wasn't to think about this ALL DAY.

Try it and see what you think.

Five Things To Say Yes To

  • An awesome opportunity to see some of the most important people in your life, even if it stretches the budget and requires time you don't have
  • A glass of wine after work with a girlfriend who you don't get to see very often
  • Another book recommendation
  • An invitation from the cat to stretch out on the bed after work and scratch her between the ears for a while
  • Warming up leftovers for dinner because you're too lazy to cook

Five Things To Say No To

  • A ride home when you walked to work and it might drizzle sometime in the next hour
  • The friend-request from someone who once sat next to you in a random class in high school and told you that you weren't good enough to be their friend or any email, text message, or Facebook request from an ex-boyfriend
  • An invitation to go out on the weekend when you just really don't want to go
  • The "opportunity" to serve on another committee which means next to nothing to you
  • Wearing shoes around the house (or under your desk for that matter)
Five Things That Will Make My Life Better
  • Trying to start over on the exercise plan I developed two weeks ago that I have accomplished exactly once
  • Working harder on my relationships with real and honest friends
  • Figuring out how to organize my closet and drawers to make it easier to find everything I own so that it actually gets worn
  • Getting back into the habit of not biting my nails
  • Feeling confident that I can make the right decision for myself every time
I'm adding one of my own, just as a reminder...

Five Things That Will NEVER Make My Life Better
  • Beating myself up about the fact that I can't fit everything that should get done into every single day
  • Going out of my way to please friends who would never go out of their way to return the favor
  • Another dress / pair of boots / sweater... no matter how cute they are
  • Splurging on another crappy nail polish color that will only get worn once in an effort to motivate myself to stop chewing my nails until they bleed
  • Listening to what everyone in the peanut gallery has to say about how to live my life

So there you have it, friends.  I should add "blogging daily" to my five things to say yes to list but we'll get there again someday.  In the meantime, know that I'm trying all while having lots of long-distance phone conversations, snuggling with my fluffy babies, and trying to keep the clutter at bay in my apartment, all while working, working, working.  

*I have to admit that all of the blog reading I started doing over the summer in order to inspire my own blog got overwhelming and left me even less inspired. Really it just made me feel not good enough, not pretty enough, not rich enough, and way too busy to possible do the things those people were doing. So I spent the last few weeks unsubscribing from blogs. If you're a reader and I unsubscribed from yours, please don't take it personally. I just realized that it isn't doing me any good to following things that don't resonate with me. Blogging is a personal journey and there are plenty of people who I follow who I don't really have much in common with but who still somehow enrich my life, my own writing, etc. There were so many more though that I got nothing from - I don't like their sense of style, find their politics (or grammar for that matter) offensive, whatever. So in an effort to declutter my life and clear my head, I unsubscribed. Sorry. It needed to be done.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

If It Isn't Broken, Don't Fix It

Remember back in July (was it really that long ago?!) when I won a complete set of Tana French's books and I said I would write my review of the new one ASAP?

Apparently "ASAP" is actually an abbreviation for 2.5 months later.  Sheesh.

I decided to re-read her first three books (reviews here and here) which is part of what took me so long.  That and the whole "taking a break from blogging" thing, and the fact that I'm traveling a lot, and am in the midst of some pretty big life things.  It's not even like I read it a long time ago and haven't written about it yet.  I just finished it last weekend.  Finally.  But let me tell you, the first three were just as good the second (third or fourth) time around.

Just like her other books, she follows the familiar formula of focusing on a character that was first introduced in the book before.  In this case, the detective solving the murder in Faithful Place is the lead in Broken Harbor.  I've noticed a trend after reading all four back-to-back that she has been tying the books back into the previous stories less and less, which I miss.  Nonetheless, this novel does not disappoint.

"Scorcher" - the aforementioned detective - stumbles upon a case that at first glance is open-and-shut.  An entire family is murdered, the mother barely hanging on, and a suspect is in custody (well not at first, but whatever... not really a spoiler in a detective novel that there is a suspect in custody at some point.)  But everything about this case is not what it seems.

I can honestly say that I had no freaking clue what had actually happened until just as the catharsis was unfolding.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend who had also read In the Woods who was really upset with the ending because we were never really given all the answers.  But I will say that (again, after reading the books back-to-back) I have to disagree with my friend.  I think the beauty of French's books is that she doesn't give it all away.  You're still left with questions.  It's what makes these mysteries so haunting.  Can anyone disagree that the creepiest horror movies are those where the creature / spirit / evil being aren't actually shown clearly?!  Has anyone seen Signs?!  That movie is ruined when the creature is shown.  These books wouldn't give me chills if French revealed exactly what happened.

In the case of Broken Harbor, I'm left with a few very important questions that will eventually be answered...
1 - When is her next book coming out?
2 - Who will she feature as her next lead character?
3 - Will she begin tying the characters back together?  Because that would make me very happy.
...and a few that probably won't ever be answered...
1 - How much of a psychological mess is Scorcher really?
2 - Should he really have seen was was going on?
3 - (Ok, I can't reveal number three because it would give away the ending)

There you have it.  Another excellent read by Tana French.  Like I said in my post heading - if it isn't broken, don't fix it.  Keep bringing up these mysteries full of intrigue but lacking answers and I can guarantee I'll keep reading.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Blog Under Construction

I decided I needed a new design to get back into the groove of blogging regularly.  Still some tweaking to do, obviously, but it's getting there.  Stay tuned for the finished product!

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