Knockin’ this one out

OK, this thing is getting tedious. I’m just gonna knock it out in one post so I can move on (what, I’m not going to quit with three days left).

Three Films:

  1. “Forrest Gump” – My favorite movie of all time. For one thing, my dad reminds me of a much higher-IQ version of Forrest (but with pretty amazing stories in the same vein). For another thing, I just think it’s a beautiful story that travels through recent history. As a character, Forrest teaches us that sometimes, it’s not about how smart you are or even how successful (though the character certainly was) – what really matters is character and devotion to others. For his empathy, loving nature, and unspoiled optimism, I really love Forrest. I would name my next child Forrest, but Jonathan has ruled this out. Hmph.
  2. “Gone With The Wind” – I am a cliche. Go ahead, make fun of me.
  3. “The Philadelphia Story” – No, not the one where Tom Hanks plays a guy with AIDS (though that is quite a film), this is the one where Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart both are vying for the attention of an engaged-to-be-married Katherine Hepburn. The humor is so clean and yet so gosh darn cute and funny. I really love Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. They had such a quirky chemistry on screen.
Two Songs:
  1. “Ansel and Emily Desader,” Blitzen Trapper. This song is just beautiful and simple and amazing. There’s this sort of waterfall of guitar midway through that only lasts about 15 seconds, and I wish they would just go back and record a separate piece of just little guitar things like that. Other BT songs I love include “Black River Killer” and “Lady on the Water.”
  2. “The Fragile,” Nine Inch Nails. How could I ever pick just ONE song by my favorite band? But I’ll say this one because it was the soundtrack to a few major struggles in my life, and I felt like I sort of closed the chapter on those things back in late ’08/early ’09. So, it’s not “my song” so much anymore – which is a good thing – but whenever I hear it, I’m left really thankful that those things are behind me. Other beautiful and under-appreciated NIN tunes would be “And All That Could’ve Been,” “La Mer,” and “In This Twilight.”
One Picture:
This was taken by one of my best friends, Kristen Johnson. The date was July 4th, 2010 and I was 30 weeks pregnant on this date.

My Thoughts on "Occupy Wall Street"

This is one of those instances in which people really begin to hate me, because I’m a complete “fence-sitter,” politically speaking. When it comes to the Occupy Wall Street movement, I’m pretty middle of the road, common sense, back-to-basics, etc. And I think that really, really deeply pisses some people off – which is FUN!

First of all, I’ve never been so tired of hearing the word “Occupy.” It’s honestly not one of my favorite words, linguistically speaking (along with “squat,” “pleasure,” “moist,” “nipple,” and pretty much anything that ends in “-wurst”). You could say I’m sensitive to harsh combinations of consonants.

I don’t know absolutely everything about Occupy Wall Street’s intricacies as a movement. But I think I know enough at this point. So, here’s what I have to say about it and then I’m gonna be done:

  • People have a right to assemble and protest, at least on a portion of properties (though we know that doesn’t always work out the way it is supposed to). These include people who defecate in public, “christian” groups harassing people in downtown Greenville while handing out pamphlets (not common, but it does happen), and slimebags like the Westboro Baptist Church. I don’t like a lot of these people any more than you might, but the bottom line is that our constitution is written to protect them.
  • If protesters have problems with keeping in accordance with normal anti-littering and environmental health laws that should consistently be enforced, that changes things a little and should be addressed directly. The right to assemble and protest does not nullify other laws for the common good, such as those that would prevent leaving enormous messes, trash, litter, human waste, etc. slewn about haphazardly. Not saying this happens at every single OWS protest site, but it is a well documented occurrence at a significant number of OWS sites.
  • I am unemployed by choice. Let me just get that out there right now. I made a decision to resign from my full-time, very well paying job, so that I could stay home with my son. I realize that this may and likely will affect how easy it is for me to get back into the work force when I am finished having children – it isn’t a fact that I like to think about. But my place, right now, is home with my baby and future babies. That is where my heart is, and you better believe it’s a full-time job. I do contract writing on the side, and I enjoy it, but the money is minimal and that’s okay.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of choice in all of this. Throughout the OWS protests, news outlets have interviewed protesters saying they have degrees in ____, or they work in ____ field. Sometimes you have to get creative, or face the fact that a majority of those with non-specific degrees often end up working in fields other than what they majored in. By “non-specific degrees,” I mean those who have not attended something like medical school, law school, etc. – those not in specific fields with specific concentrations/educational paths. If you have a B.A. in English, a B.S. in Marketing, a B.A. in sociology, etc.: I’m talking to you. If you can’t find a job IN YOUR FIELD, you still need a job don’t you? Sometimes we have to accept that OUR path isn’t going to work right now, and it forces us to make some temporary concessions, or to accept that our will doesn’t direct the path of the entire world. I have a B.A. in English Literature and I wanted to be a newspaper journalist. Guess which industry is currently being snuffed out as I type? You got it. This, friends, is how I got into marketing. It’s called backing up, regrouping, and accepting that the Universe has a different place for you. For the minor percentage of OWS protesters complaining about job scarcity, I agree with you – there aren’t many jobs out there. But there are jobs. If my family’s well being depended on it, you’d better believe I’d swallow my pride and go to work in a restaurant, or picking up trash, or whatever the hell I needed to be doing in order for my kid to not starve. Thank God that’s not a concern at this moment. But if it ever became a concern, you’d better believe I’d do whatever I needed to for a job – even if it wasn’t in my “chosen field.”
  • For those in the OWS movement who are protesting government corruption – a surveyed majority, if CNN is correct – they’re basically right. These people – these “leaders” of ours – are the biggest douchebags I have ever seen. I wish someone would have pulled me aside when I was a teenager, dreaming about adulthood, when “people would be nicer / more mature / have better character” and said “IT’S NOT HAPPENIN’, SISTAH!”  Because seriously, the best thing for this country would be if they all just *happened* to buy some Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe. Just sayin’. But then we’d do nothing differently, because as a country of voters, we are complete and utter morons. You hear me? I said MO-RONS. And this idiocy starts at the primary level. In a primary contest between a financially conservative used condom, a to-the-right-of-Hitler conservative turd sandwich, and a moderately educated, intelligent guy with real world business experience, the very first guy American voters (on EITHER side of the aisle) would weed out is the third guy. You know him, because he’s the one many of you won’t even consider because he’s not 100% ideologically in step with you. Well that guy could potentially save the country. But instead, every four years, we restart the process of electing another friggin’ used condom or turd sandwich. So, yeah. OWS is just stating the obvious on that one: our politicians are nasty, disgusting, corrupt, TERRIBLE people. How do we fix this, you might ask?
    • Term limits
    • No pensions for retired congressmen
    • Politicians who want a retirement plan pay into it just like me, you, Tom, Dick, and Harry all have to – because that’s the real world.
    • Anyone with suspected corruption (i.e. dedication to a corporation’s objectives) is suspended from service pending results of a through investigation, and removed from office if corruption is proven.
  • The OWS thing wouldn’t be such a bigfrigginfuzzy deal if two things would happen: if people outside the movement could glean some of the good points of what these people are saying (like the opposition to government corruption, which is clearly a problem at every level from township to federal), and if people inside the movement would shower, crap in normal places, and stop throwing things at cops. Oh, also…
  • I don’t care if you have the right to legally assemble and protest. If you throw things at police officers who are allowing you to do your thing, you should be tear gassed to hell and back. This is not open for discussion.
God, some people are tedious. Give me the patience. And thank you for making me a moderate.

Day Seven: Four Books

See, this is where the rubber meets the road. I have a B.A. in English Lit, so these better be good. Talk about pressure…

A Tangent (Did you expect anything less from me?): I’m not listing the Bible here. Yes, I am a Christian. Yes, I read the Bible. Yes, it is a central force in my life. But I’m focusing on other books for this particular post.

1. The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson – This isn’t the exact one I read for two of my college English courses, but it’s a good place to start. Ol’ Ralph really, really stuck with me when I first was assigned to read “Self-Reliance” and “The Oversoul” back in ’03/’04 upper level English courses. When I look back, a lot of pretty big things began to change in my view of myself and the world around me after I read his work. He makes these powerful, confident statements, and yet so much of what he says is very simple, organic, and basic. It’s the common sense we forget so easily, in some cases. His work is filled with such obvious things, but things we so easily overlook in the pressures and pace of the world we live in.

2. The Help – I know, I know, it’s so expected and totally unoriginal! But seriously: this is an amazing, amazing book. Definitely one of my favorite things I’ve read in recent memory.

3. Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman – Everybody knows a mean girl (or worse, WAS a mean girl), and everybody has wondered why we do this to one another. This book explains why, or at the very least, makes you think “Well, at least [nasty person you’re dealing with/have dealt with] didn’t do something like THAT!” Either way, I wish I’d read it in 6th or 7th grade. Maybe I wouldn’t have taken everything so personally then?

4. Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories – This is another one that isn’t exactly like my college texbook version, but contains the majority of her best work. Flannery O’Connor just makes Southern Literature richer for having been with us for her short lifetime. She’s so not the typical Southern woman of her era, which I adore about her. The gothic, dark humor, the symbols and parallels pointing toward us Southerners and our beloved religion, etc…good God, she’s just amazing. And Manley Pointer? Come on! That is brilliant.

Since I only have four spots to fill, this is a pretty disjointed list. I just sort of grabbed whatever popped into my head. But other authors/titles I like, in case you care (which, you probably don’t):
“Bossy Pants,” Tina Fey
Anything Carson McCullers
“Pride and Prejudice,” *ONLY the book by Jane Austen or the movie adaptation with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier*
“The Abstinence Teacher,” Tom Perotta (“Little Children” is another good one of his)
Anything David Sedaris

Hmm…there’s a lot more. Probably why I’m drawing a blank.

A small, intimate book burning.

Dear Diary,

You came back to me in a set of two cardboard boxes my parents brought to the house last weekend. They’re hoping to downsize soon, and that means cleaning out the second of two childhood homes I grew up in. I lost your key when I was aged in just the single digits, and for the rest of the time I spent writing regularly, I unlocked it with one of my grandmother’s old pins. Hopefully that pin is somewhere in those boxes, too. But I never got through the rest of the boxes – not once I found you.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to find when I ran upstairs and fished a safety pin out of my jewelry box, struggling to remember exactly how I used to torque the sharp point to pop the lock that mercifully shields the words contained within you. Finally, the pin caught the latch and you popped open. I ignored your cover, adorned in hearts and a “No Peeking” sticker, and I read.

I should have known better.
I want to rip out your pages.
I want to set you on fire.
I may well do both.

Reading you makes me feel like an idiot, even though I haven’t touched pen to your pages since I was 16 years old. I opened you up in 1994 and updated you – sometimes daily, but sometimes silent for months – through the beginning of 2000. I was a new driver. I was a high school sophomore. I was a virgin (yes, for all of you who knew me then and swore otherwise – you read that correctly). You’ve three shades of page – blue, red, and green. I stopped writing just as I reached the green pages, even though I thought I’d have so much to say by then.

But reading you makes me feel like I have nothing to say. It makes me feel like I am still a stupid little girl, hanging her entire self-worth on who likes her, on whether her parents will survive a bout of intense fighting, on whether her period will EVER arrive, on wishing she could be as good at things as her brother is. And calling herself names. Constantly.

You’re fat!
You’re a moron!
Why can’t you do ANYTHING right?!
He’s never going to like you!
Nobody likes you!
Everyone thinks that you are a whore.

I wrote these things. To myself.

Reading you hurts. It makes me sick to my stomach and full of regret and overwhelmed.

I am not one of these impossible people who look back on their childhood personality and think “Oh, how funny. How cute. How innocent.” No. I cannot rationalize you away, Diary, because the words in you came from me. And though I know I was a kid, and I know better now than to look at the world – and morover, at myself – in such a way, I’m still embarrassed by it all. I knew so much about things that meant nothing, and nothing about things that meant so much.

I cannot change who I was, Diary. I was just a kid. And really, I wasn’t that bad. But keeping you, reading you, and knowing that when I’m gone, someone might find you and use a safety pin to unlock all the self-hatred and poison inside you…well, I know what to do.

But I cannot change who I was, Diary. What I can do is find the lighter and some kindle.

And begin saying prayers upon prayers upon prayers that my future daughter will be a bit nicer to herself than her mother once was.


Day Six: Five Foods

Not really sure how to identify a mere five foods that somehow explain who I am, but here’s the immediate, off-the-top-of-my-head run of it:

  1. Banana Pudding. No, not the crappy kind that you find in the Publix Deli. You cannot make Jello Banana flavored pudding, stick some cookies in it, and call it “Ta-Da! Banana Pudding!” No, no, no. You must make the cooked custard-based kind, lest you commit treason against all culinary things Southern and sacred.
  2. Krispy Kreme donuts. Only one – no need to binge here. Must be of the fresh, in-store, “Hot N’ Ready” variety. No compromises on this. I only get one once in a blue moon, but when I do, it is heavenly.
  3. Fresh sliced tomato, salt and black pepper. I’m not sure how this happened, other than pregnancy. Around six months pregnant with Russ, I just woke up one morning and all I could THINK about was tomatoes. Nothing has changed. I’m not sure if this is normal, but I really could (and do, on a regular basis) eat an entire tomato, sliced, with salt and black pepper. 
  4. Mashed potatoes. I put minced garlic and either rosemary or sage (fresh, just whichever I have handy) in the boiling water, so the potatoes themselves get infused with the flavors. Then I take about 3-4 tablespoons of butter and brown it over medium-low heat until it foams up and begins to turn brown (at which point you have to get it off the heat and into whatever you’re cooking or in a cool holding dish, else it’ll burn), whole milk, sea or kosher salt, and mash it in. To finish, I use the electric mixer to whip the potatoes until they’re fairly fluffy. They. Are. Amazeballs. 
  5. (I said amazeballs! Oh, you’ve no clue how long I’ve been waiting to use that phrase.) Last food: Bacon. Not because I love bacon strips, just eating bacon – but because it has been a really great “base” to create sauces, to enhance flavor in whatever I’m cooking, etc. I don’t just throw bacon willy-nilly into everything I make, but if you really want to learn to like spinach, it is an invaluable ingredient. Four things: Fresh baby spinach, 2 slices chopped bacon, 1/2 tsp. minced garlic, sea salt to taste. Saute bacon until brown, add spinach and garlic, let spinach wilt, salt to taste. It is done, it is amazing.

Day Five: Six Places

So, we’re back from our weekend trip, and I’m settled in enough to get back to this blog series. Yesterday was just a bit crazy, so it didn’t happen. Here we go.

Six Places! I’m not sure what they want – is this six places I loathe? Six places I love and can’t decide which one I want to retire to? Six places I want to visit? I’m playing this by ear.

  1. Greenville, South Carolina. Ten years ago, I’d only been through Greenville once for about 2 hours total, and I coudn’t really even remember how we got there. I certainly never foresaw this place becoming my home, but after over five years here, I can say I am in love with this place. It’s just a beautiful area, close to the mountains and with a full four seasons to enjoy (rather than the two seasons we had back on the coast – summer for 3/4 of the year, and then a semi-winter). It became my “home” in so many ways before we welcomed Russ, but now that he’s with us, it is that much more my #1 place. I just don’t know if I’d ever want to live anywhere else full-time. That said, there are some other places that I could spend quite a bit of time…
  2. St. Simons Island, Georgia. We went here, sort of on a lark, for our honeymoon five years ago and just fell in love with the place. It is the most relaxing vacation, and doesn’t cost a lot of money compared to other places we could go. We tend to do the same thing every day that we’re there, which includes a lot of time outside and lots of yummy local specialties at the fabulous restaurants nearby.
  3. Lake Marion, Manning, SC. Manning has quickly replaced Conway as the place where I spend most of my time. In fact, I was born and raised in Conway, South Carolina – up til the 22nd year of my life – but you won’t find it on my list of places. Life is just evolving in that way, and I find that I feel a sense of belonging and comfort in the Lake Marion area that calms my soul and spurs deep thought. It’s definitely my favorite place to write, and of course, to spend time with my loved ones. My family on my father’s side has roots deeply embedded in this area, and I always feel like I’m somehow connecting to that part of my lineage whenever I’m there. It means something to me.
  4. Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. I want to visit here one day. In fact, I’m probably pretty unusual because of all the places I could go in Europe, I want to go here. I need to go here. I want to go there and sit and just be for awhile. My paternal grandfather managed to make his way up the beaches without being stopped in the violent and sad way that so many soldiers were on D-Day, only to succumb to a very sudden and violent heart attack at the age of only 46 – so I never met him, but I hear I’m very much like him. Sometimes I think it’s kind of like the Miranda Lambert song about “The House That Built Me,” that connection she speaks of that is felt through a place. I never got to meet him, but I guess a part of me believes that if I can just get here and sit, somehow I’ll find a greater connection to this lost part of my history. I don’t really care much about shopping in Paris or seeing the Berlin wall, though I’d love to do those things, too. But this is #1 on my future European itinerary.
  5. New York City. I’ve never been! Can you believe that? OK, I’ve been through one time, in 1999 on the way back from my father’s 20th reunion at West Point. He wanted to drive us sort of on the outskirts of the island (if NYC has outskirts to speak of), and we ran out of gas, and I remember being able to see the Twin Towers peering over the edge of shorter buildings nearby. I also remember the transsexual who was pumping gas for us. It was a very strange experience, but I remember being at my most awkward point in life (16 years old) and thinking “Wow, I would be a normal person here!” It was really something. I’d love to go back and actually see the city.
  6. The Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. If you really want to know the essence of me, picture a teenage girl, sitting in the backseat on a long family car trip, headphones blaring Smashing Pumpkins audibly to other passengers, staring out the window at mountains that seemed impossibly tall (even though they’re nothing compared to what you find out West in Colorado, Utah, etc.). I’m still there somewhere, and I think it’s really a fluke that I was born in a Coastal town. I am most definitely a mountain girl.

Day Four: Seven Wants

Ugh, I hate talking about stuff I want. Sometimes. So I’m going to just go super broad with this and pull from a variety of categories. So again…no particular order/importance here. After this post, I’ll take Fri/Sat/Sun off because we’re heading to Tennessee for the weekend. Pick back up Monday to finish it out…

Seven wants:

1. More kiddies! I love them! Not trying to gloat here, just stating my personal experience. I had a really great pregnancy with very minimal discomfort/worries, a pretty easy birth that I highly doubt will repeat itself (seriously, I’m expecting the next one to be a DOOZY), and a little boy that is about as easy as a new parent could ever hope for. Or maybe I just don’t know any better because he’s my only one? Anyhow, I’m not one of these people who’s all “Meh, meh, my baby is such a bother, negative, whahwhahwhah.” So, I definitely look forward to having more children, God willing, when our family is ready (or whenever one of those sneaky swimmers finds an open window – whatever happens first).

2. A big, functional kitchen. I love to cook, and looks are secondary when it comes to my hypothetical future kitchen. I want it to be pretty, yeah, but first and foremost, I want it to be functional. And big. And capable of accommodating a big group of people. And durable. All those things.

3. Good kids. Ya know,  don’t care if they’re rocket scientists. I don’t care if they decide that they want to do yard work or hair or cancer research or theological philosophy, etc. I just want them to be good people. With good souls. That’s really all that matters to me. I know I have my work cut out for me with the world we live in and the people that are sure to find them along their journey (especially in their formative years), but I’m a pretty fierce mama and I’m going to protect them as much as I reasonably can. I just hope Jonathan and I can work together to equip them with the tools they need to do right.

4. To get back to writing like I used to. I was a much better writer when I was miserable, unfortunately. I started a book at the end of 2009, and it was looking like it had potential until I got pregnant and my life officially revolved around what was going on in my uterus. So, I’d really like to relocate some semblance of writing talent in myself and try to make something of it. I’d really like to not hand my kids a printed book of blog posts as my only written life’s work.

5. A fully-restored, baby blue, 1974 Toyota Land Cruiser. Oh, it’s so not “green,” but it’s SO FABULOUS! This is the vehicle my dad had when I was a baby/toddler. We have pictures of me, sitting in the suds bucket while my dad was washing the car (I’m such a helper). If I ever track those pics down, I’ll scan and post one (they’re at my parents’ house for sure). I don’t underestimate the process or expense of tracking one of these things down, so I don’t know if it’ll ever happen. But it is nice to dream.

6. Happiness. Doesn’t that kind of say it all? I just want to be happy – with who I am, where I am, the people in my life, the things I do and the choices I make. And for the most part, I already am – so I’d just like to see that continue.

7. A better world. Oh, don’t laugh at me. If I’m the only one in the world who’s happy, it won’t mean very much, now will it? I would like to see children treated better, educated better. I’d like to see teenagers making better choices. I’d like to see parents keeping things in perspective and dedicating themselves to a reasonable set of priorities. I’d like to see families staying together through thick and thin. All these things and more would make this world better. Are they realistic? Probably not. But I still want them.

Day 3: Eight Fears

And I’m making this one quick, because I have two to catch up on – then I’m pausing the series over the weekend because we’re going to be gone, and because it’s just not *THAT* pressing to do five blog posts at once.

SO! Eight fears…ugh…no particular order:

1. A massive asteroid/comet coming and car-ram-rodding our planet. Yes, I’ve seen all the movies about it. Yes, I know they’re “fictional,” mostly. Yes, I know that tens or even hundreds of Near Earth Asteroids are located each year. Let’s just say I’m not too keen on the fact that we spent more money exploring a planet I do not freaking care about (Mars) than we do working on spotting these bad boys.

2. Nuclear war. Probably not extremely likely in my lifetime, but then again, who knows? Just doesn’t make me very comfortable.

3. Cockroaches. They’re disgusting, and yes, they do bite.

4. Something happening to my son (or any future kids we have). Seriously. If something ever happened to Russ, I really, truly, completely believe I would have nothing left to live for. He. Is. My. World. Every hope, purpose, and effort I have is poured into that little boy. If that makes me short-sighted to some people, then whatever.

5. Something happening to Jonathan. The only reason I would keep going in this instance is because of our child, who would need me more than ever. And I get this thing from my grandmother and mom where we sort of tend to run through worst case scenarios in our heads, whether they’re likely or not. I’ll tell you one thing…I probably wouldn’t ever bother dating again. There’s just no way that something like him could happen twice. So it’s kind of like Keith Urban says in that song – “Without you, I’d survive; But I’d have to have the notion that I could live this life just going through the motions.” That’s what it would be.

6. Cancer. All kinds of cancer, really. And the crappiest thing about this is that there’s a statistically decent chance that it could happen to me or someone I love one day. I just hope when and if that day comes, I’m in the right place at the right time and the right head space and I can feel that something isn’t right – and hopefully catch it early because of all those things that fall into place. But I know a lot of people that didn’t happen for. So it’s all up in the air, or rather, in God’s hands.

7. Financial Collapse. Eh…I really try not to pray about money, because it makes people say, do, and think stupid things. But I’d like for the world to remain at least semi-stable so that my husband doesn’t lose his job, we don’t ever lose our home, my kid doesn’t starve, etc. The big stuff, so to speak. If I can afford the bare necessities, then that’s a blessing.

8. Losing my rights. Now this could become a debate, if not for the fact that this is my soap box and I get to delete any one who doesn’t agree with me (Mwahahaha…you know I wouldn’t do that). I think the Constitution is pretty straightforward in some ways, and open or interpretation in some other ways. What’s odd is that most people use the straightforward parts to play Forensics, while they act like the very gray parts are “So clearly meaning to say ____ (insert their personal interpretation).” Interesting, since people do the very same thing with the Bible. This is probably one of the reasons that America and Christianity both get a bad rap. In any case, I think you should be able to drink what you want, read what you want, and say what you want. I also think there should be consequences when your wants overrun into affecting the lives, livelihood, and well-being of others. Your rights end here. Right where mine begin. What the hell is so confusing about this?

Day Two: A Two-Part Post

Part I: Liebster Award

Now, I’m not sure who this Liebster chap is, but let’s just say I’ll take any excuse to shamelessly promote a few blogs I love. The idea is that if you get a blog nod, you give a nod to five of your favorite blogs in turn. So here they are (in no particular order):

1. Effie’s Recipe Box – Now, Jade over at Effie’s place is actually the one who gave me the nod in the first place, so you might say “What’s with the constant back-patting, guys? Love fest, sheeeeeesh…” But the thing is, Effie’s Recipe Box is just one of the coolest blog premises I’ve ever seen. The idea is that my fantastically gifted, talented friend Jade (who is an amaaaaaazing baker/chef) came across her grandmother’s old recipe box. Now she does the Lord’s work, i.e. handing down these fabulous recipes to all of us. I’m loving the combination of food-porn-meets-family-history. And yes, I just said “food porn.” Check out those goodies and tell me you don’t agree.

2. The Suburban Bohemian – This is my friend Liz Pardue-Schultz’s blog and it’s…well, fantastic. Liz has a way with words unlike anyone I’ve ever known, and she writes honestly about some very un-pretty topics, without an ounce of fear. This woman is definitely one of my biggest inspirations and I love her! Oh, and Liz is working on a novel about mental illness and the journey she has been through – check it out here and donate if you feel compelled to help get this message out!

3. Faith, Fitness, Fun – Awhile back, I met Tina Reale on an online fitness forum. At the time, Tina was expecting her first child, and began blogging to chronicle the whole thing. What eventually came of this evolution of woman, daughter, mother, and writer is this incredibly empowering page. Tina preaches this uplifting brand of body confidence that I think we all need to hear at times, some more than others. She’s just a good person, and I love reading her blog. It always leave me feeling a little “lighter,” if that makes sense.

4. Two Of A Kind, Workin’ On A Full House – This is the family blog of another friend from that fitness forum where I met Tina. The author, Brie Zentil, is a fabulous, ridiculously positive, outrageously strong individual. This girl has been through some stuff, y’all. I don’t know how she does it, but I can promise you that after reading a few posts, you too will be a member of Brie’s quickly expanding cheerleading section. She’s amazing.

5. live.tri.bark. –  This is the blog home of my friend Jen Hall. Jen and I worked together at Fluor for a few years, and since I’ve left, we’ve remained pretty close friends. Jen is a heck of a personality. This is the rundown of her life as a citizen of Corporate America (tons o’ fun, ain’t it, Jen?), a triathlete and runner, and the “mommy” of rescue dogs that she loves to death. Her sarcastic sense of humor will have you giggling for sure.

So that’s the bloggy award thingy! Hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do!

Part II:

My Nine Loves:

1. My Son. Really is there any stronger love that we can experience? He amazes me daily, inspired me hourly, and yanks at my heartstrings every second that I’m with him. He also inspires some of my biggest fears, but I guess we’ll get to that part tomorrow. I just would throw myself in front of a bus for him. No questions asked (‘course, hopefully, that will never be an issue).

2. God. This has been a struggle for me. Why? Well, I’ve always believed in God, felt like God was probably an innately good and kind force/individual/dude. I was raised in a church setting where God was more of a vengeful, difficult-to-please, crabby uncle figure than someone you loved and who loved you. Only in the last 6 or 7 years of being a part of really positive, uplifting church families in Myrtle Beach and Greenvile have I been able to let go of that crap and see God for what He really is. God is love. End of story. And oddly enough, he manages to love me. I think that says something, don’t you?

3. Jonathan (my husband). This guy came into my life when I least expected it and changed every expectation I had about what “love” was. He makes me a better person, but still loves me even when I’m having trouble being that better person. My life would be pretty empty without him.

4. My Family. Sure enough, they drive me insane sometimes (yep, all of you – you heard me!). But the thing I’ve learned in my short lifetime is that love is what happens when you actually have to work at it. And these people are my bedrock.

5. Driving around the country. If I’m ever in a funk of some sort, a country drive pretty much solves it. It’s been like that since I was a newly licensed teenager, taking my mom’s Buick Park Avenue “the long way” home. I used to line up my musical playlists in advance of a long trip, just so I could roll down the windows, blast my music, and sing along. It was total freedom. Now that I have two other people in the car with me AND my CD player is broken (has been since January), I don’t miss the music. Jonathan and I talk the whole time. In fact, most car trips, we don’t even turn on the radio. We just talk.

6. Running. This January will mark 10 years that I’ve been a runner. It never would have happened if not for my friend Jessica, who was the person who decided to change up our usual after-school workout during senior year of high school one day and go for a run (much to my chagrin, at the time). I’ve been all over the map as a runner (from normal person, to crazy half-marathon person who “accidentally runs 15 miles,” back to being normal, to now having a pretty balanced workout approach). But one thing remains constant: running keeps me sane, and there’s just not much that a nice outdoor run can’t at least make better.

7. Nine Inch Nails. This is my favorite band, ever, evaaaar, of all time ever. Trent Reznor is a genius in so many ways, and his lyrics never fail to give me goosebumps. Okay, well…maybe a few songs don’t have that result. But I just skip through those. And the concerts are incredible. I just love the catalog of work and I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking these songs are amazing.

8. The Lake. To be more specific, my family’s lakehouse on Lake Marion near Manning, SC. I guess the technical address is Summerton, which is odd, because everything we do and everything we know relative to this place is in Manning. Manning has darn near replaced Conway as my “hometown,” of sorts. And this place is the best. It’s relaxing, beautiful, quiet, and just a place of respite and relief. We feel so blessed to have it.

9. My Life. Geez, did I ever dream that this is where I’d end up? No, God no. I really am amazed daily at how much I’ve been blessed and how God had this plan put together. It’s one of the reasons I believe in God. The way the timing in my life has worked out, as if by some preset plan, has really stopped me in my tracks a few times. I don’t think it can be coincidental. Compared to many other lives, mine has been relatively good and easy, and my childhood was mostly positive. I don’t take that for granted, and I hope I always remain aware of what a blessed existence I have. Is it perfect? No. There are plenty of things that I *could* whine about. But that would be a smack in the face of those who really have misfortune and pain to deal with. If for no other reason than out of respect for those people, I need to always remember how much I’ve been given. I don’t deserve one bit of it.

10 Day Blog Challenge, Day One: Ten Secrets

I usually don’t do “challenges” because they very often involve sending mass chain e-mails, filled with non-Snopes-checked information, to all your friends – usually against penalty of dying the next day, losing all your money, having terrible luck in love or something like that. Also, I hate assigned topics about as much now as I did in 4th grade (“But Mrs. Geeeeerald, why can’t we just write about anythiiiiiing?”).

But this one sounds fun, and it will give me a nice 10-day respite from coming up with blog topics of my own (though honestly, I think my disorganization lends itself to the truth that I just yank them out of some 4th dimension of irrelevance.) and things to pontificate about in general. So, this is what we’re doing. Hop on board.

TEN SECRETS (Duh-dah-dooooom…and this one’s going to be hard because I’m relatively transparent about stuff, intentionally or otherwise):

1. I have a potty mouth. This isn’t a big secret to all my closest friends and certainly not my long-suffering family, but for my church family, this one may come as a surprise. Or not. I dunno. But yeah, I am really struggling with trying to clean it up for the sake of my son and any other future kiddos. Not saying mama won’t slip up here and there – but it would just be nice if I could get it to where it’s not so second nature for me to just drop nasties here and there. I never claimed to be lady like. Oh, and also: “Ass” and “Hell” are in the Bible, and are therefore not real “cursewords.” And also, words only have the power we give them. Perhaps this is the English major in me coming out, but if I coated it in enough vitriol, I’m pretty sure I could turn “Power Pink Fluffy Puff” into a pretty caustic phrase.

2. I can hold a grudge like nobody’s business. This is not to say that I don’t forgive. What I mean by “grudge” here is that I may forgive someone for something, but it’s really challenging for me to forget and cut away whatever resulting stigma I might attach to them. So maybe that’s not forgiving at all? I feel like I forgive people, genuinely – I really do believe that. But it’s hard for me to not let the memory of some wrongdoing creep up in my pyche and say “Don’t trust him/her.” Which is really pathetic of me, because I know I’m guilty of doing similar things myself and having people hold grudges against me, and I hate it. This is also something I need to work on.

3. I fantasize about being a rock star whenever I work out to music. Pretending to be Cristina Scabbia or Joan Jett or Cherry Currie has gotten me through many a long run or hill workout. I make no apologies for this.

4. I believe in the supernatural. This is not to say I believe in ghosts, and I certainly choose not to believe – out of little more than pure, unadulterated terror –  in whatever that nasty thing in “Paranormal Activity” was. But I do believe that loved ones stick with us, perhaps in some more legitimate and tangible ways than even we realize. All I know is, I have felt the presence of a few lost loved ones in a way that is beyond all explanation, but that I know is real somehow. And if that makes you finally decide that I must be crazy, I don’t know what you were waiting for.

5. I have bipolar tendencies. No, I’ve never been diagnosed. But let’s just say if you look up the top ten common signs of bipolar disorder, I have 5 or 6 of them, one close relative who shall remain nameless has 7 of them, another has 8 of them, and another has all ten of those suckers. And no, I’m not on any medication for them. One thing we (and by “we,” I mean Jonathan and I) figured out about four years ago is that any time I was on hormonal birth control, these tendencies went from just being “tendencies” to being full-on, unholy-batcrap-insane mood swings and temper flares. So we dropped the pills, rings, and other things – despite much protesting on the part of basically every Ob/Gyn I went to. I also figured out that chronic dieting and being on a steady diet of basically 1000 calories less than I actually needed, daily, for years had really not done much to help things. So I dropped that stupid mess, as well. Basically, as long as I don’t let one thing stress me out too much, take care of myself, get out of the house as much as possible, and stay off synthetic hormones, I do fine. I feel fine. I am fine. But there will always be that little mean person inside me that I have to slap around here and there, and that’s fine. I’m not scared of it, and you shouldn’t be either.

6. I am about 85% recovered from middle and high school. Comparatively speaking, was it that bad? Yes. It was the crappiestcrapcrapper ever. Will I be attending my 10 year reunion? Well, yeah, most likely. We’re a one-income family, so it’ll depend on what the cost is to attend (I hear they can get pretty steep). But I’d really like to. I’ve grown up a lot since high school, and so has everyone else. And in retrospect, a) I wouldn’t change anything, and b) it wasn’t really as bad as it could’ve been. Nobody raped me, I had a date for both proms, I only got smacked around a few times, I didn’t develop any drug or alcohol problems, I never got arrested, and I only got unceremoniously dumped or gossiped about maybe 20 or 30 times. Mostly it was just a lot of nasty name-calling and underhanded stuff. But I met someone from pretty much every walk of life along the way, including a first love, a number of talented people I respect so much, and the meanest person I have ever known in my entire life. It was a valid experience.

7. I am recklessly insecure. I’d imagine it’s kind of like deer urine, but on a human scale, which only teenagers and really hateful people can detect. Probably explains the God awful high school experience?

8. I like elevator music. The stuff they play on the adult contemporary stations? The stuff they play in doctor’s office waiting rooms? Love it. Could sleep to it. I like other stuff to balance it out, so I feel like it’s okay.

9. I sometimes wish I could go back and be a chef. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being an English major and writing and all that. I’d still write, no matter what I’d ended up doing career wise. And though I’m not sure I’d cook crazy stuff like Marcel Vigneron from “Top Chef,” (since basically half of every dish was some sort of foam or gastrique or something else like that), I’d love the opportunity to be a good ol’ Southern chef. Like the guys that run Soby’s in Greenville, or Darren Smith from The Bistro in my hometown of Conway. That said, the hours those people pull can get pretty crazy. And we all know I hate working weekends (judge me, I don’t care).

10. I’m out of secrets. Or at least, I’m out of secrets that I’m going to tell you.