Browsing articles in "Stories"
Aug 17, 2011

I Did It Myself

Photo from coldpants' flicker stream.

It’s not my fault.

Not really.

I had plenty of time this week to figure out where to lay the blame. I traced back to my grandma, who converted her cozy lake house in to a three-story, four-sitting-room retirement dreamhouse. I’ve considered my mother, who knew, just knew, when my dad had finished framing and installing the French doors, that they would work so much better if he just moved them six inches to the right.

Surely there must be something in my genes that inspired all this.

I considered my dear friend Kate. Kate made slipcovers for her couches out of canvas drop cloths. Kate made herself Christmas stocking out of thrift-store sweaters. Kate reupholstered a wingback chair. You can read about it on her blog.

Her blog.

That’s it.

Katy dear, she’s the one who introduced me to all those do-it-yourself blogs. It’s those blogs that are to blame.

Those blogs with their shiny custom blog layouts. With their perfectly candid family photos and the wide array of tools. They have everything they need, really. Power sanders, paint brushes (the expensive ones), and the kind of can-do attitude that can only come when you’ve hand-crafted your own bootstraps out of upcycled trunk handles. (Cute idea, right?)

Their homes are perfect. Oh, they write, apologetically, welcome to our work-in-progress. This ol’ thing? they say, displaying a photo of the chandelier they constructed out of bicycle tires and fishnet stockings. I just whipped this up between re-tiling the bathroom and weaving a rug on our homemade loom!

These people, these bloggers, they’re forever productive. They find some ugly old chair, say, caked with mud and upholstered with palm-tree-embroidered velour, and they haul it away to their backyard. This thing’s got great bones, they’ll explain. You just wait.

And I do. I wait. I tap my phone, refreshing my RSS reader until I see that little number pop up telling me I have one new post to read. I shake my phone, cursing my wireless company for the slowness of my 3G connection. Finally, the photos load. I scroll past the clever title and post teaser. This isn’t the time for your words, blog lady. Tell me what happened to that chair.

I’m never disappointed. They were right. The chair did have great bones. In about 20 minutes, that bony chair when from a trash-pile relic to a magazine-shoot ready, Eames-inspired, Martha-Stewart-can-only-dream, room-making Chair!

I never would have put those colors together, but it so works for them.

It only takes a few weeks of feverish blog-reading before I realize that I can do this. I can Do It Myself. What do these people got that I don’t got? A table saw? Bah! I don’t need a table saw! I held the flashlight for my dad for 20 years! I know how to do stuff! I bet when those bloggers started, they didn’t know a Phillips from a flat-head screwdriver. I’m already ahead.

I start small. Spray paint some picture frames. So I never actually hang them. It’s experience, right? Next I make some pillows. Well. I watch my mom make some pillows. I’m getting very good at threading needles. I decide to learn how to embroider. Just think what cute curtains I can watch my mom make after I’ve embroidered Shakespeare’s sonnets around the border.

Hang on. Embroidery’s really boring.

What Would Younghouselove Do?

I head to the thrift store. I find it: my Next Project. I’ll refinish that cabinet. It’ll take a day, probably. Maybe a weekend. A little paint stripper, a little elbow grease, I’ll have a vintage-nouveau cabinet to hold my hand-me-down lamps.

The cabinet’s in the kitchen now, drying. It took me three days just to get the original paint off, and I don’t want to talk about what I found underneath. (Hint: not wood.) I smashed my finger in one of the doors during an intense sanding session. I’ve spent every spare moment of the last five days on this thing, and I have an alarm set for 6am so I can put a third coat on before work.

I chose an olive green paint. I thought it would be a good color-used-as-a-neutral. The first coat went on like…well…it sort of reminded me of what happens when you feed a baby too much pureed spinach. I still have high hopes, though. They say paint always dries less poopy.

I’m going to finish this project, even if it means I have to prime sand it down and prime it all over again. I’m going to stain the cabinet legs to match my side chairs. Someday I’ll just happen upon grimy-but-just-right brass hardware that I’ll polish and screw on.

I know I’m going to start a new project in a few weeks, once my finger heals and the paint fumes clear out of my apartment. I also know I can’t really blame genetics or even those DIY blogs.

I did this myself.

Jul 25, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Borders

My spot.I’m trying to find the words to explain how important Borders was to me as a Midwestern, suburban kid with no indie bookstore and an uncooperative library.

Before Borders, my books came from one of a few different sources. They were gifts, they were treasures found at antique malls, or they were chosen from one of the two or three shelves–shelves, not cases, since I hit literary adolescence before YA became the darling genre of readers everywhere–that were allotted to intermediate readers in the back of the cramped Walden Books at the mall.

My book choices were limited.

When I walked in to Borders for the first time, it was like I was being allowed in to the Beast’s library. I knew that there must be that many books in the world, but I had never seen them all together. I felt the weight of those millions words and thousands of books and felt a small sense of panic that I would never be able to read them all.

I had work to do.

I found my way to the YA section, which was now a full book case, front and back. There were almost too many choices. There was a spinning rack of Penguin Classics, and I spent a year or two picking my way through that. I couldn’t believe my luck. My family would go after dinner and stay until close, and I could buy a hot chocolate and spend hours browsing. Borders saw all the money I made babysitting, and all of my birthday presents came in the form of Borders gift cards.

On special occasions, on my birthday or when my family would visit Chicago to see the Christmas lights, we would visit the big Borders on Michigan Avenue. There were four floors of books. Let me say this again. There were four stories of books. You needed to take a series of escalator rides in order to see all the books. Do you understand how many books there were? Do you understand the impression this made on my young mind? That store was my idea of heaven. A mecca I planned birthdays around.

Sometime in early high school, I promoted myself from YA to Literature. It was around that time I found my spot. Since the books are all alphabetical by author, I found a place towards the end of the alphabet so I could work my way through the As and Bs and so on, looking for something to take home. It was directly across from the literary anthologies and short stories, so I could flip through those if it was going to be a short visit. The books that served as my backrest were always changing, but Nicholas Sparks was always on the shelf to my right. I thought it was important to keep him close so I could make faces at him when I felt the need. (I developed good taste at a young age.) I would find a book and settle in to my corner until the five-minutes-to-close warning.

When I spent a year at home between high school and college, Borders was the place I could go that would make me feel like I wasn’t in a rut. When I graduated from college and moved back home, I went right back to my old Borders. I wrote my first blog post there. I built this little website there. I made friends with some of the other cafe regulars, and flirted enough free coffee out of the baristas to explain the store’s financial crisis. When I got my job and moved away, I visited my new Borders when I needed someplace that felt like home.

I went home to say goodbye to my Borders this weekend. I was hoping to get there before the liquidators did, but I was too late. The cafe was closed and all the tables were piled in the corner. The Paperchase section was picked over and there was a line to the cash register that stretched to the back of the store and around the empty music section. I was overwhelmed. I was a little bit angry that people seemed to be enjoying themselves. I wasn’t really sure what an appropriate goodbye would be, so I just did the same thing I always do: I took a quick walk through the Literature section, nodded at the anthologies, pulled out a book, and read until it was time to go home.

Thank you Borders, and I’ll miss you.

Jul 20, 2011

Happy Two Year Twitterversary to Me

Moments Later...Two years ago today, I was a fresh-faced college graduate with a dumbphone and an interview for a job as a social media marketing intern. I figured I should get to know this Twitter thing if I was going to be doing it full time, so I signed up. I followed a few of the suggested users and friends, and tweeted cryptic references to my ware-abouts.

About six months later, I was frustrated that I still didn’t have a job in my field. I loved the people I worked with as social media intern, but I didn’t go to school to market mortgages. I decided that if I could make social media work for the nicheiest niche market in the whole world, I could make it work for me.

That’s when I decided to take Twitter seriously. No more tweets about my sandwich, no siree.

I made a list of all the Christian publishing houses I could find on Twitter, and I watched their feeds, looking for any way I could make a personal connection. One day, @TyndaleHouse said something along the lines of: “I’m out for the weekend, but you can follow me at my personal account, @ChristyWong”. From that moment, I became Christy’s Twitter-stalker. (Hi Christy. I’m not sure you know this. So, um, glad we’re friends. 🙂 ) Christy gave me a list of Tyndale tweeters, and a few weeks later, I found @AdamSab, who’s also in the marketing department at Tyndale. He and I started trading Twitter strategies, and when a job opened up in his department, he suggested I apply.

That’s the story of how Twitter got me a job.

But I would have loved it anyway.

Since then, I’ve been through two smart phones (really the only way to make Twitter a major part of your life), I’ve gained a couple hundred followers, and I’ve carved out a place in the Twitterverse.

Twitter changed the way I use the Internet. It’s become how I communicate with friends, and it’s how I learn…everything. If I were to make a list of my favorite things in this world, Twitter would fall somewhere below my cat and somewhere above peanut butter cupcakes. This is serious.

So Twitter, by way of a thank you, here are a few of my favorite things about you:

1. Twitter has made me a better writer.

I delete about a half a dozen tweets a day. Why? Because these last two years on Twitter have taught me that if I write something totally inane, like what I’m eating for lunch, or about how my feet hurt, than no one cares. No one will react. I’ll get no retweets or faves or anything. Twitter’s all about positive reinforcement. I’ve found that if I make a story about of the bland occurrances  in my life, I can get a reaction. It sort of reminds me of that time in junior high when I figured out that if I told funny one-liners, I’d get attention.

Twitter’s also helped me trim the junk from my writing. You may have noticed a bunch of sos and howevers andanywayses on this blog-o-mine. There’s no room for that in a tweet. There’s no room for any excess baggage, so every word in every tweet must be important.

2. Twitter tells the best stories

I said before that Twitter made me a better writer. Now let me apply that generally: Twitter makes better writers. I follow around 500 people, and almost all of them are capable of producing 140-character-or-less gold. I am absolutely delighted by tweets every day. It’s amazing the power that these people are able to put in to such a small space. Check my list of favorites for a few recent good ones.

3. Twitter made it OK to talk to strangers

(inspired by @brokeandbookish)

I’m not the sort of person to rush out and tap a stranger on the shoulder, throwing a compliment or question their way, but on Twitter, I do that every day. In fact, only a handful of the people I talk to every day are people I’ve ever met in real life. There’s a depth and richness to my feed that I wouldn’t get if I limited it to the people I’ve actually met.

On Twitter, a professional anything is within reach at all times. The very fact that they have a public profile means that they want to talk to you. I get expert opinions on grammar, translation, ebooks, gardening, technology, nerdery, anything, and they’re always given in a spirit of good will.

4. Twitter brings out the best (and worst) in people

(inspired by @pulptone)

The people I follow in Twitter are smart, funny, and interested in everything. And, since they’re so smart and funny, they make everything interesting. In these last two years, I’ve learned more information faster than in the whole rest of my life.

I have had very few bad experiences on Twitter. Very few of those false notes in communication that make me wish I could start the day over again. (I contrast this with Facebook, where I have a false-note experience almost daily.) Now, this isn’t to say that everyone on Twitter is on their best behavior all the time. I have a strict policy of Jerk Unfollowing. If you persist in being mean or petty on Twitter, I unfollow you. This keeps my stream bright and shiny and full of useful information. I recommended it.

5. Twitter makes me feel like part of a community

I’ve always had semi-obscure interests. Ok, maybe they’re not that obscure, but for a kid in the suburbs in the midwest in the 90s, there wasn’t much talk of any kind of literature that wasn’t PowerRanger-related. I just got used to it.

It got a little better in high school, and a little better still in college, but for the first time in my life, I can throw out a tweet saying “Betsy Tacy?” and get three or four responses of “Don’t forget Tib!” There is always someone to talk to, and they’re ready to talk about whatever subject you can think of. These funny little conversations turn into friendships, and all of a sudden, you have a cozy little corner of the Internet to call home.

6. Twitter makes me feel omniscient

This happens every twenty minutes or so:

“Hey, Jess, did you hear…”

“About the thing? Yeah. Like, yesterday. It was on Twitter.”

Nothing happens without the Internet knowing about it, and nothing happens on the Internet without Twitter knowing about it. As long as you choose carefully who you follow, you’ll never miss a headline. I’ve followed natural disasters, concerts, conferences, cooking, tech announcements, and even sporting events. (Ok, I don’t follow sporting events so much as I can’t avoid them, but I’m really glad that the women’s soccer team had fun on Sunday. Or whatever.)

But really, I meant it when Twitter changed the way  I use the Internet. I used to spend a certain amount of time every day visiting the same websites. I had a little ritual that I’d follow: get a cup of coffee, scroll down my favorites, check for new content, read, refresh, close laptop. It was nice, but it was very closed. Twitter opened up a whole world of information. I get a much more balanced view because I’m not just reading one news site for opinions. I’m reading opinions curated by people I respect, so I’m not just getting more information, I’m getting better information.



So there’s my little love letter to Twitter. I’ve tried to keep it short. I tend to gush when Twitter comes up.

Happy Twitterversary to me. I do accept gifts.

What’s your favorite thing about Twitter?






Jun 23, 2011

What I Believe

I don’t talk about my faith very much on the Internet. I think it’s because I have this idea that I want you to see me, not my beliefs, but I’m starting to learn (even if I’m, oh, 25 years late on this one) that my beliefs are me. I act this way because of what I believe. I react to you that way because of what I believe.

I don’t list my religion on Facebook because I can’t find a term that seems to fit. “Christian” is too generic. “Evangelical” seems politically charged. I don’t have a distinct denominational affiliation, so that won’t work either.  I don’t want to look like I’m waving my little bit of knowledge around by listing my favorite doctrine or theological term. Listing myself as “slave to the Most High Creator of The Whole Universe  i am but a lowly worm” looks a bit overkill. Besides, I wasn’t a pastoral major. (Moody joke. Rimshot.)

I don’t list my faith in my Twitter profile. I only have 160 characters there, so I had to get the important things in. You know, the part where I say I like food.

I think I was going for something like “win them without a tweet”.

Everything was just fine, until I had a rude awakening the other night. I tweeted about my little sister, who is braver than I am, and who can’t help but talk about her Jesus. Some Guy saw the tweet, clicked her profile, and read this: Student at Moody Bible Institute// Lover of Youth Ministry// Follower of the only God// General havoc wreaker

Now, my tweet concerned the most amazing robot earrings in the whole world which my little sister had just given me, not anyone’s beliefs. But Some Guy didn’t comment on the earrings. He responded to my tweet with “Follower of the only God? #lololololololololol #readasciencebook”.

When I saw that, my first reaction was to try to kill the guy. How dare he pick on my little sister? But I knew yelling wouldn’t get me anywhere. So I told him that Twitter was for being nice, and he should try that. I also said that he didn’t have to follow me if he didn’t like my beliefs, he didn’t have to follow me. That’s when he said it.

He said “Oh, sorry. I didn’t know they were your beliefs too.”

Ok. First of all, let’s set aside the fact that he thought I’d be all for him making fun of my little sister’s beliefs that I didn’t share. That he thought he and I could have a little hashtag heckle-fest at my little sister’s expense. Nod knowingly at her ignorance. My little sister. Maybe he’s an only child. Maybe he doesn’t get the whole sister thing. Maybe. Anyway.

The point is, he had no idea that I am a Christian.

I don’t know how long Some Guy has been following me. Maybe it’s only been a few days. But whatever. I’m not really leaking the love of Christ like I thought I was. Nobody’s getting saved by osmosis here.

Worse, no one even knows. I have all these Twitter friends, and they can only make a half-hearted guess at the most important thing in my life. But hey, they know my position on oxford commas and falafel. (Yes and yes.)

So, in case you were wondering, here it is. This is what I believe.

I believe that we were created for fellowship with God, and we broke that fellowship.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who lived a perfect life as fully man and fully God. He died because he loves us, and because his sacrifice was the only way to repair the relationship that we broke.

I believe that the Bible is the true, inerrant word of God.

I believe in the one true God, maker of Heaven and Earth.

That’s the brunt of it. There’s more, really. Lots more. But these are the four things that I’m not going to fudge on, and I’m not going to argue about.

Honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to change my behavior on the Internet. I’m not a theology blogger, and I’m not a Christian-living blogger, and I don’t tweet C.S. Lewis quotes all day long. I don’t plan to be or do any of those things. I usually avoid any real depth of feeling at all. I assume you’d rather read funny little stories about my conversation with the Falafel Man then hear about the depths of my soul. That bit’s private. I’m not sure what I want the balance to be. I’m not sure what it should be. Maybe I’m using this post as a cop-out because I’m scared of what would happen if I did tweet C.S. Lewis quotes all day. Or lived 100% authentically on all fronts.

Anyway, something’s got to give. I’m afraid of being mistaken for someone I’m not.

Jun 15, 2011

This is Why I Don’t Blog

Id: I’m hungry.

Ego: Just remember, you have to blog over lunch. You put it off yesterday and the day before that.

Id: But I want to run around and yell!

Ego: Jesse, be a grown up.

Id: Blogging isn’t grown-up. Babies blog. I want to run around and yell!

Ego: Jesse. Seriously. You’re not allowed to go to lunch if you don’t blog.

Id: You’re not the boss of me. I know where you put my lunch.

Ego: OK, if you can think of a realllllly good reason not to blog, then you can have your lunch. But you can’t run around and yell.

Id: Twitter!

Super-ego: I LOVE TWITTER!

And then we go eat lunch and we don’t blog, we run around and yell and look at Twitter.

Mar 1, 2011

Marching On

Taken from Monika Thorpe's Flickr stream. As everyone knows, March is the best time of the entire calendar year. You may think I’m a little biased since my birthday falls in the middle of March, and you may be right. But before you dismiss me entirely, allow me to explain.

In semi-chronological order:

The Top Nine Reasons Why March is the Best Time of the Year

1. Shamrock Shakes

Shamrock Shakes are an American institution. They’re one of the great holiday traditions, like stockings at Christmas or black nail polish on Valentine’s Day. My sisters tried to go our for Shamrock Shakes in February, but I refused. That would be like drinking eggnog on Halloween. In other words, an abomination.

2. National Grammar Day

March 4th is National Grammar Day. What could possibly be better than an entire day spent cuddling punctuation marks and eating cookies frosted with parts of speech? I reccomend a reading of John McIntyre’s third annual grammar noir story. (This year’s is :The Wages of Syntax“.)  Or, if you’re short on time, check out some grammar poems. I plan to wear my ampersand earrings and split infinitives with impunity.

3. Spring Break

For most of the last 10 years, at least one Doogan sister has had her two-week spring break in the middle of March, over my birthday. This has made birthday celebrations much easier. It’s also made celebrating with classmates difficult, but that’s ok because I had two weeks off of school. This year, Spring Break will only be celebrated by one sister.

4. The Ides of March

My birthday is on March 15, also known as the Ides of March. Caesar was betrayed and murdered, and Shakespeare wrote a play about it. I win as far as most excellent days to be born. I can say things like “beware the ides of me”. Also, “eu tu birthday?”

5. My Birthday

Birthdays are treated as only slightly more important than national holidays in the Doogan household. They usually last for three days minimum. They start with the traditional Photo at Midnight, where we take a picture of the Birthday Girl (or Birthday Dad) turning their new age. (There are also the two traditional questions, one at about 11:59pm: “How old are you?” and one at 12:01am: “How old are you now?”. This late night leads into the early morning Birthday breakfast, where we eat off Nana’s china and Mom’s crystal and put candles in anything that will hold them. The rest of the day (or days) are spent according to the whims of the Birthdayee.

6. Chicago River Dyeing

Every year, they dye the Chicago River green for my birthday. I’ve never understood why they chose green, since my favorite color has been either purple, pink or mustard yellow. I imagine, though, that Chicago knows what it’s doing. My favorite color may end up green. Maybe Chicago is psychic. You never know.

7. St. Patrick’s Day

A national celebration of the Irish. I love the Irish. I’m technically a quarter Irish, but I’m from the south side of Chicago, so that adds at least three more quarters, depending on the time of year. However, I will not be wearing green this St. Patty’s Day. I’m Irish, but I’m a Protestant. I’ll be in orange, thankyouverymuch. Suggested activities: shepherd’s-pie eating, Darby-O’Gill watching, not-afraid-of-banshees being.

8. The First Day of Spring

Winter officially ends. I love winter, but even I get sick of it by the time my birthday rolls around. Time for spring, I say!

9. Tulips

By the time March ends, the tulips start to come up around Chicago. I love the tulips in Chicago. They’re one of my favorite things about the city.

10. First Iced Latte of Spring

In my younger, foolisher days, I had an official first warm latte of the year, and an official first iced latte of the year. It wasn’t an exact date or anything, but it was usually the first day I could go out without a coat, and the first day it started to smell like everything was waking up. Now I’m a little more liberal in my iced latte habits and drink them all year round, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my first iced latte of the year.

I’ve always thought these arguments compelling, but some say I’m biased.  So, help me out here. What’s your favorite part of March?

Feb 25, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom

How adorable is tiny mom?I’m at a place in my life where I just can’t stop thinking about how blessed I am. I keep going over what it took to get me here. I go back through the different jobs I’ve had and what I’ve learned at each of them. I think about my time at Moody, and how that shaped my character and proved to me that I really did want to work in publishing. I go back through high school, and think about my different English teachers and about the hours I spent on the literary magazine. I go back just a bit further, and think about the hundred and hundreds of books I read in grade school, and how so many of my favorite friends were actually fictional.

I go back so far that I reach the very beginning of my relationship with the written word. It was the summer after Kindergarten. Mom and I were sitting on the floor in the living room with her sewing basket between us as a table.  Mom was going over phonics flashcards with me. It was so. Boring. Did I seriously need to learn all of these letters before I could get to words? Couldn’t we just read stories already? But Mom kept telling me to be patient and keep working. If I wanted to be a good reader, I was going to have to get past the boring part.

That’s when I realize: she’s been doing the same thing my whole life. In grade school, she was the one taking me to bookstores and antique malls to find the best books. She let me read for hours and hours and hours on end. She was the one who told me when it was time to switch to “grown up” books. (Her main argument there was that I was reading the kids books too quickly, and I was getting expensive.)

She was the one who proof-read all my high school English papers and who picked me up from my literary magazine meetings. When I graduated and still didn’t know what to do with my life, she (with my dad) was the one to remind me of how much I liked putting books together. She was the one who suggested publishing in the first place. She was the one who listened to me go on ad infinitum about my college yearbook and made sure the staff always had a full candy jar. When I lost focus, she corrected me.

She encouraged me when I left college and didn’t think I’d ever find a job. When I was interviewing at Tyndale, she prayed harder than I think anyone ever has.

I don’t want to minimize God’s hand on my life, or the part that my dad’s played in all of this. But I do want to thank my mom for everything she’s done. She raised my sisters and I to love words, and to love books, and to love each other, and to love the Lord. It sounds trite to say I wouldn’t be where I am without her, but it’s true.  I’ve always been told that I’m just like my mother, so I’ve got a lot to live up to.

Jan 3, 2011

Morning by morning, new resolutions I make

I’ve sworn off New Years Resolutions.

It’s not because I don’t make resolutions, no, it’s because I make too many resolutions. I’m more into New Monday Resolutions, or New Afternoon Resolutions. Every couple of hours, I decide exactly how I’m going to be different. Most of these resolutions have to do with my attitude towards mornings. (Last night’s was “Wake Up Early Enough to Eat Breakfast”. I’d have kept this one if I hadn’t dropped my Pop-Tart under the seat of my car. Poor little toaster pastry.)

Since I’m still trying to get the basics down, I thought I’d give myself some very general guidelines for this year. I thought about doing 11 for 11, like Heather Cadenhead, but that gives me anxiety.

Read a greater variety of books. “Read more” is always on my list of to-dos, and that’s the point of this blog anyway. But in the last few months, I’ve picked up books from a few different genres, and it’s been refreshing. (Which I’ve said before.) For a while, I would only read tried-and-true classics, but I think I’ve missed out on some great new books, and the conversations to go along with them. (Besides, I work in publishing. Shouldn’t I be know what’s going on outside the Gothic South?) So, this year I’ll read: fiction and non-fiction, genre fiction and highfalutin lit, old and new.

Have more adventures. For the last six months or so, I haven’t done much that isn’t job-related. If I wasn’t applying, I was interviewing; if I wasn’t interviewing, I was working; if I wasn’t working, I was driving; if I wasn’t driving, I was moving. The new goal is: if I’m moving, I’m adventuring. I’m almost-sorta moved in (it’s been a long process…and a long story), so now I’m about out of excuses. It was easy to have adventures when I worked in the city, mostly because every commute was fraught with peril. Now my greatest challenge is leaving my cute little home. Time to limit my Old Lady Crochet and Audiobook Time and get out of my apartment.

And that’s it. Those are my general guidelines for this year. I’ll take the exercise-more and the wake-up-in-the-morning and the don’t-eat-that-pound-of-macadamia-nut-turtles-in-one-sitting resolutions on a day-by-day basis.

So, suggestions? Any Chicago-based adventures you recommend? What book to do I need to read this year?

Jun 2, 2010

Chapter One: In Which I Begin Blogging

I used to read everything: little books, big books, fat books that bruised the table when I dropped them, thin, floppy books, chapter books, picture books, books that sing when I pressed a button, books that left me quiet for hours after. I read books that came in series, and books that stood alone. I read short stories, long stories, magazines, and shampoo bottles in the shower.

When I was really desperate, I resorted to reading instruction manuals. These were always handy—every glove compartment comes equipped with one—but they were a bit dry. Really, what ten-year-old little girl needs to know the correct air poundage for a set of tires?

The problem with the instruction manuals, aside from not being terribly applicable, was that I never learned anything lasting. None of the information ever really stuck. There wasn’t a reason for it. But, I wanted to read, and it was sometimes useful to know what that button was under the steering wheel, so, when there was nothing else, I read manuals.

After a while, I began to see that reading everything wasn’t necessarily beneficial. I started to see that different books carried different merit, different weights. I started to dig deeper into the stacks, trying to find the books that were true. I wanted to find books that told the truth and told it in a way that I could, first, understand it, and second, remember it. I wanted to become other people in other places. I wanted to travel. I wanted to see mistakes and consequences. I wanted to find and hide treasures.

As I started digging for new stories, I found more and more, better and better books. I sorted them into piles in my head: the ones about sensible, talking animals; the ones about growing up quietly; the ones about extraordinary adventures. These are the books that did more than keep me turning pages, but prompted me to pick up another book when that one was finished.

As I grew up, my tastes matured a bit, but I have never outgrown the best books from my childhood. They’ve followed me everywhere I go, whispering into my ear whenever I walk into an old house, or see an animal peeking around a corner, or walk down a crowded street. Better, though, is when they offer nudges when I really need them.

They gave me experiences that equipped me for my semi-adult life.

But, I still need a good lot of equipping, so part of the purpose of this blog is to make me read more, and part of it is to make me process through what I read. Mostly, though, it’s because I love books, and want to have more opportunities to talk about them.

No one should ever be without something valuable to read, and I’d like to offer my opinion on some of the books available. Maybe I can help to save you from instruction manuals.