Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Time for a break!

Did you know that multi-tasking isn't really a thing? It's not! At least, I don't think it is. I've noticed that anytime I think I'm doing two things at once, I'm really just doing one thing for a second, and then switching to the other thing for a second, and doing both things poorly. I'm sure some of you may have noticed that I've been slacking a bit on the ol' blog, but the truth is, I haven't been slacking. I've been trying to multi-task, and it hasn't been working well for me. I have so many great plans for this blog, but all these changes I want to make take as much time and attention as a blog post does. I've been trying to refresh and renew and wander into new territory while also trying to maintain the schedule I've set for myself. My work has suffered, and I am not okay with that. So, I have decided to take a tiny hiatus from the blog while I get my stuff together. I swear it will be the teeniest, tiniest hiatus ever! I will be working my buns off the entire time so I can come back strong and solid and fully present, and this blog will be better than ever. I'd tell you more, but it's a big secret! Just know that I am excited, and it is going to be awesome.

So, I will be back around soon, in March. I promise you'll hardly even miss me! Well, I hope you'll miss me just a little. Just a smidge. :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I Heart Books! I Heart Some More than Others!

Remember a couple of weeks ago ago when I said that you can judge a book by its cover, even though you probably shouldn't? I was speaking about Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, a book I admittedly chose because of the cool cover art and not much else. 

Well, after having finished this book, allow me to correct myself: Never, ever, ever judge a book by its cover. Let me explain. This book wasn't bad. There are strange kids with cool powers, time travel, a little bit of history, some cool birds, a few monsters, and some incredible vintage photographs that make the book truly unique. I found it well-written and so entertaining that I flew threw it in just a few days. I liked it just fine, but I did find a couple of problems with it. 

I didn't realize this when I bought the book, but it is the first in a series that hasn't been completed yet. I don't like series. I don't like trilogies, either. I've read the entire Harry Potter series and the whole Hunger Games trilogy, and every few years I indulge in one of Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas books, but other than that, I stay away from them. Series remind me of those great shows on Netflix, the ones that turn you into a TV junkie until your fictional characters finally end up one place or another. My life stops when Netflix has new shows on Orange is the New Black. I don't eat, I don't sleep, I don't even change my underwear: all I do is sit on my butt and watch until there is nothing left to watch. I don't like being chained to anything, but especially not television shows or books, so series are definitely not my thing. Secondly, and I did know this when I bought the book, this is young adult fiction. I don't have any beef with the YA genre, but I have to admit, I am not a young adult, no matter how much I'd like to think I am. This book was not written for me, and I could feel that with every line. It was entertaining, but it was not challenging. It did not stick with me for days or weeks after I finished it. It did not make me look inward or make me think about anything new or profound. It was fun, and that was all. The ending is a big question mark with nothing resolved (you have to read the next book), but I find that I simply don't care enough to continue with it. If you have been thinking about reading it, I say go for it; I don't regret buying this book, and I will happily lend you my copy if you'd like. I have since moved on and am now more than halfway through The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which I am reading for the third time. Some books get one read; others get three or more. It might not seem fair, but hey, I do what I want. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rain Boots!

The sun is shining! The wind is blowing! The snow is melting! Oh, no... The snow is melting! We had record snowfall these past few weeks, and now it's all becoming street soup. It's pretty disgusting, honestly. This is the hardest part of winter for me. We get these short breaks from the extreme cold, but then we're deluged with slush, which is much worse than snow in every way. If you look up, you see happy blue skies, but if you look down, you see dreary brown and grey swirls, like all the worst flavors of ice cream melted all over the sidewalk. My car is more mud than metal at this point, but I refuse to wash it. What's the point? The streets are so gross, it would be muddied up again after ten seconds of driving. I'll probably just leave it until sometime in June, when I can be mostly guaranteed to have dry roads. I know I'm not the only one who does this; every car in this city is the same color right now. Around here, we choose our battles carefully. 

How am I supposed to combat this depressing reality?  I have to wear boots everywhere because no regular shoe can stand up to this slush. My sneakers are waterproofed, but I doubt it does any good when you completely submerge the things. Well, if I'm going to have to wear boots, I suppose I should go all out and WEAR SOME FREAKING BOOTS.  

Now these are some slush-combative boots! Not only are they perfectly waterproof, they are so delightful and bright and cheery that the grey sludge can't possibly stand up to them. I tried to feel grey in these boots, and I just couldn't do it, not even when I added my grey coat and a massive pile of sludgy mud!

These boots have such a profound affect on my mood, they make me want to jump into puddles, like I used to do when I was a kid!

These boots make me feel like the wind isn't even an issue! Who needs a coat? Not this chick!

I must also point out that with my short pixie haircut, I can stand in the wind and not be bothered: I can still see just fine, and my hair does not get dragged into my lipstick. This is the greatest haircut ever!

Wow, that is a majestic pile of muck behind me! I should have made a mud man or a mud angel with that. Maybe next time...

For the curious: My awesome boyfriend Joe Ryan took all of these photos, thus sparing me the awkward experience of setting up a tripod and taking photos of myself on a busy street. He does good work, right? :) My rain boots are Jeffrey Campbell, bought from Zappos.com years and years and years ago. I don't wear them much, but sometimes, they're just the right choice. My chambray shirt dress and my hot air balloon cardigan are both from Target. My green belt is from Kate Spade Saturday, bought online and on clearance, and my necklace is from The Boutique by Studio Montage three years ago. My grey wool coat is Calvin Klein, bought from a consignment shop.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Random Tuesday: My customers are cooler than yours.

I have mentioned before that I really, really love my job. A big reason I love what I do is my amazing customers. Before I started this job, I was afraid that I would have to deal with a lot grumpy, rude people, but I have been pleasantly surprised in this regard. The overwhelming majority of my customers have not just been polite; they have been genuine and kind and fun. They remember my name and speak to me with respect. They are understanding when I make mistakes. They ask me questions about myself and tell my bosses that I do a good job. It's pretty incredible, you guys. 

Sometimes, though, I get customers that blow my mind with their awesomeness. Last Saturday, I was a little overwhelmed by an unexpected rush during my solo shift and found myself sprinting from table to table, bringing hot tea to everyone and their mothers. For some reason, everyone wanted hot tea. EVERYONE. It was so weird. Anyway, I had two big birthday parties, and as I have mentioned before, I love to make a big deal out of the birthdays, even when I'm busy with the grand production that is hot tea. One of the birthday parties was for a beautiful mother, celebrating with her four gorgeous daughters. This group was wonderful! They were so much fun; they joked and they laughed and they sang Happy Birthday in this horrible, off-tune warbled attempt at harmonizing (all intentional) while I did my birthday dance for the mom, and I couldn't stop laughing! It was really great. As they were leaving the restaurant, they let me know that they had left me their "customary tip basket" on the table, and that they hoped I would enjoy it. It turns out that this spectacular group of ladies has an unusual tradition for tipping the waitstaff. When I got to the table, I found the bill fold tucked into little brown bag that was stuffed with all sorts of random crap. Check out my loot!

My manager informed me that this is a grand tradition for this group of ladies; basically, at the end of their meal, they empty the contents of their purses and pool it together and leave it for the waitress. I have to mention that this was in addition to a very generous monetary tip, which made the gift basket even more awesome. So what did they leave me? Coupons, free Redbox rental cards, half a stack of Post-Its, a gift card for a local noodle place, gum, random chocolate and granola bars, an empty bottle of eye drops, travel packs of Alka-Seltzer, one-time-use toothbrushes, unopened packs of tissues, a five dollar bill, a tampon, a pantyliner, and one of the restaurant's salt shakers, which I wasn't allowed to keep. 

I think I might have to start a similar tradition myself; it's just too great not to emulate! Maybe I can start leaving giant inflatable animals or decorate the booth with streamers and confetti, or leave a bottle of bubbles with my tip when I go to restaurants. This little prank made me feel so much better about the stressful day I was having. It made me laugh; it made me feel special. Why not do that for someone else? 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cabin Fever!

Well, it's snowing in Montana. Again. As usual. I'd share a picture with you, but who wants to see that? Just imagine a sheet of white with specks of white. That's what I see when I open my door: pure white. It's not that exciting, but it is super annoying. None of us can drive in this, not even experts like me. Shoveling is a waste of time but also a necessity. Want to wear something cute? Forget about it. We're all wearing pants and clunky snow boots and sweaters, and it's anything but cute or even remotely stylish. This is the hardest part of winter for me: practicality must win over style, because as much as I love a cute outfit, I loathe being cold. Not to mention the fact that the snow makes it physically impossible to wear anything other than snow gear. I've tried to traverse the snow in my adorable ballet flats, and I ended up with snow-packed toes. Not fun.

I'm not the kind of person to just sit around and complain, though! Why can't I dress cute inside my own house? It's warm and snow-free in here! There's no ice, either, so I can totally wear high heels all I want! I'm going to take advantage of this awful weather and use it to experiment with my style! So, why not kick it up a notch while I deal with my cabin fever by doing some housework? My vacuum is an awesome accessory!

Yep, that Kirby is a classic! It doesn't compete with my outfit and it does a great job of sucking up stuff on the carpet; what more is there? How about some mantel dusting to get over my snowy blues?

Whee! Swiffers are a great neutral addition to any outfit! It's super exciting to be able to wear these boots, since they aren't exactly practical for Montana weather. One step on my icy deck in these babies, and I'd be chipping teeth and busting elbows. It's really sad, too, because they're such great looking boots. Oh, well. I guess I'll just banish them to the indoors and enjoy the fire.

It's hard to feel too bad about winter and cold and snow when you have a fireplace. It gives me something to look forward to after all the snow shoveling, and it's hypnotic in a way that makes you forget all about everything. Snow? What snow? All I know is fire!

For the curious: My amazing green wool sweater was knit for me by my little sister, Jennifer. I've had it for years and years, and I'm still in awe of her incredible work. Did you see that cable detail? Unbelievable. It is also the warmest, most comfortable sweater I own, and I find myself putting it on constantly these days. My black skirt is actually a wool dress from Jennifer Lopez's line for Kohl's a few years ago. I seem to have unwittingly chosen a Jennifer-themed outfit. My impractical boots are from Banana Republic, and they were given to me by a very sad friend who received them as a gift but could not wear them. Sometimes, it pays to have bigger feet than your friends.

All of these photos were taken by my boyfriend, Joe, who took time away from his cooking to help me out. Yep, he was cooking food for me to eat, and then he paused to help me with the camera. Lucky, much? He has recently picked up with his own blog again, which you can check out here!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Random Tuesday: 6 Things I Don't Care About

As I get older, I realize more and more that I care less and less about a lot of things. I'm not becoming apathetic, just more selective about where I direct my energy. My teens and twenties were all about creating an image for the people around me and hoping like hell everyone would like me. It killed me when someone didn't like me, and I'd do just about anything to get approval. Being a people-pleaser is an exhausting pursuit, and somewhere around my thirtieth birthday, I started to burn out. I began to drop things (and even some people) from my life and found that the less I cared about, the happier I felt. Now I'm at a very limited level of caring, and I feel amazing! Here's a little list of the things I have stopped giving a crap about:

#1. Having a "ripped" body.

For one, it sounds painful. "My body is totally ripped, man." I can't help but think of the velociraptors from the first Jurassic Park movie whenever I hear this phrase. For two, I spent way too much time in my twenties doing squats and crunches and push-ups, hoping to sculpt my body into something that looked like the women in Maxim magazine. I honestly believed that, as a woman, I was worthless unless I was chiseled and covered in oil and wearing a pair of boy shorts and a bra. I obsessed over the circumference of my waist and felt a sick pride in my thigh gap. I hated wearing a bathing suit and cared an awful lot about the number on the tag on my jeans. Not anymore. I just want to feel good and healthy. I don't do crazy workouts or embark on special diets anymore; I keep myself limber with yoga, I go on walks, and I try to eat more healthy food than unhealthy food. I don't care if I have a six-pack or a rock-hard anything. It has taken years and years of work to get to this point of bodily laissez-faire, but it has been worth it.

#2. Having a bunch of college degrees.

I have a bachelor's degree in English Literature, and I've gone back and forth about getting a graduate degree since the day I walked that stage. In the past, I have felt compelled to earn a master's, not so I can get a better paying job, but simply so I can say, "I have a master's degree, you must respect me." I looked into it quite seriously, having decided to get a master's degree in education or creative writing or library sciences, but it never felt like the right decision for me. I cringed at the idea of taking on tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt (I have never had a student loan, and I'd like to keep it that way) for something that would not guarantee an increase in my income. Not long ago, I made the decision to NOT get a graduate degree, and it felt like losing five thousand pounds.

#3. Driving a cool car, living in a big house, or wearing designer clothes.

I own my 12-year-old car, and that is awesome. I live in a trailer, and it's huge and I have a fireplace, and it doesn't cost a lot of money, and that is awesome. I buy most of my clothes second-hand or on clearance, and my closet is well-stocked, and that is awesome. My lifestyle is pretty modest, and it allows me to keep most of my time for myself and my family rather than working constantly to pay for my lifestyle, and that is awesome. I want for nothing, and that is awesome.

#4. Having an impressive job.

As I have mentioned before, I am a waitress in a high-end restaurant. I love it. No, I don't think you understand: I LOVE MY JOB. I love my customers, I love my coworkers, I love the work that I do and my schedule and the food I get to eat and the short distance I have to drive to get there. This job allows me to earn a living while also allowing me the time to pursue my dreams. I don't plan on being a waitress forever, but right now, it is the perfect job for me, and I refuse to feel bad about it.

#5. Listening to "approved" music.

I like Taylor Swift, and I don't care what you think about that.

#6. Failure.

I'm convinced this isn't even a real thing, even though the very idea of it used to scare me to death. I have adopted the belief that there is no failure where there is effort and action; as long as you do something, you can't truly fail. Sit on your butt being paralyzed by fear of failure, and well, then you really fail. I've gotten into a habit of doing things specifically because they scare me, and I have never regretted the effort, even when it didn't result in anything great. I started this little blog because I was afraid to put my writing and beginner's photography into the world, and now I see that I had nothing to be afraid of; I'm doing just fine! I don't worry about how many views each post gets or what people say about it; I'm happy with my work here, and it's teaching me some great things. I don't care about failure. I just don't. I care more about trying, really trying, working my ass off and reaching my own personal best.

Now, I don't want to be totally negative, so I'd like to mention a few things I do care about. My kids. My relationships. My time and how I spend it. My bunnies. Literature. Critical thinking. Kindness. Compassion. Fashion. Art. Great food. The list could go on and on and on, and for that, I think I'm pretty lucky.

Monday, January 5, 2015

I Heart Books!

Welcome to 2015, everybody! It looks and sounds and feels an awful lot like 2014, but trust me, it's different. There are movies and shows on Netflix that weren't there before! Christmas stuff is way on sale! Insurance deductibles are starting over! There's also this general post-party haze everywhere, which may or may not have to do with hangovers, but probably has more to do with the sparkling new feeling of 2015. We're all still optimistic and doing great on our resolutions and we have little doubt that 2015 is going to be an amazing year! At least, this is how I feel right now, and I will ride this good feeling for months.

I've mentioned before that I love making resolutions. I tend to keep my resolutions simple and realistic, rather than make an unending list of things that need improvement in my life. If I focus on everything that could be better, I become overwhelmed and I start to feel inadequate and I get seriously bummed and apathetic. This year's main resolution is simply to read more fiction. I think I'll also do some re-reading this year; Joe has picked up my copy of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and it makes me want to pick it up myself, even though I've already read it twice before. By the way, I don't think there's anything cooler than the sight of my boyfriend reading a great book. Dare I say that I find this...sexy?

This makes me want to read all my favorites again. I will definitely be diving back into The Poisonwood Bible after Joe is done with it, and I think I'll also have to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I've read it five or six times already), The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. In the meantime, I think I'll jump into something entirely new. My first novel of 2015 will be Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs.

I'm going to admit right away that the cover of this book has influenced my decision to read it. While you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, there's no law saying you can't. Who can resist a somewhat scary, ruffle-wearing, levitating little girl? Not me! This book is young adult, and since I'm a young(ish) adult, it's perfect for me! It's also full of haunting photographs much like the one on the cover, and I do love a book with pictures. It's about a boy named Jacob who discovers a deserted island with an abandoned orphanage and a collection of odd photographs of some peculiar children. He does some exploring and learns that there might have been a nefarious element to this odd little orphanage, and that these children might still be alive today. Ooooooeeeeoooo! It sounds like it could be creepy, and I'm totally okay with creepy books. I will post a review when I'm done reading it, and let you all know if it is, in fact, a creepy book. 

How about you? Do you have any reading resolutions for 2015? What will your first book of 2015 be?