Off My Bookshelf: Random Edition

I collect books.  I love to read, but I must admit that I have only read 25% of what sits on my shelves.  If I walk into a Half-Price Books or browse the bargain section of any other bookstore I will be sure to randomly pick items that peak my interest.  After all – they average about $5 a piece!  How could I go wrong?!  One day my free time will outweigh my other time and I will be lucky enough to have shelves and shelves of interesting material at my disposal, right?  That’s my theory at least.

That being said – here’s a couple of my favorites from my latest bargain round-up at Books-a-Million.  Pretty much completely unrealted, aside from the fact that I’ve only been able to crack a few pages of each so far.

bookshelf0404_random
Devil’s Knot:  The True Story of the West Memphis Three

As the back cover reads, “In 2011, one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American legal history was set right when Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley were released after eighteen years in prison. Award-winning journalist Mara Leveritt’s The Devil’s Knot remains the most comprehensive, insightful reporting ever done on the investigation, trials, and convictions of three teenage boys who became known as the West Memphis Three.”  I’ve heard of this story many times over, a number of my favorite bands have songs in reference or tribute to these three, and while I understand the basics I’m enticed to read the details.  I’m not good at true crime stuff – I’m intrigued by serial killers but can never make it through more than a few chapters before I have to put it away.  I, stupidly, tried to read Helter Skelter once and caused myself nighttime stress for months.  Hopefully this won’t have quite the same impact.  Time will tell.
Night of the Living Dead:  Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever

As a huge fan of classic horror movies (monster movies, more so) anything on the topic catches my eye.  I love the “behind-the-scene” kind of stuff.  It all goes back to when I first picked up “Nightmare of Ecstasy:  The Life and Art of Ed Wood” off  a shelf in the back room of the comic book store I was working at (I was probably 14 tops).  That book solidified my love for B-movies, classic monsters and almost anything shot in black and white.  So far I’ve read through the introduction of this book, a written walk-through of the film, and it recreated everything I love about the film.  I’ll see how the rest holds up but it will be a good addition to the collection nonetheless.

Hyperbole and a Half

I had no idea what this was when I picked it up other than it seemed witty and there were comic strips and cartoons mixed with written stories.  I didn’t realize until I just looked it up on Amazon that the author, Allie Brosh, has a blog by the same name.  Here are the author’s words from the back cover:

“This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative—like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it—but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:

Pictures
Words
Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
Stories about dogs
The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!”

This one I can definitely digest in bite-size chunks.  Perfect for my schedule and just right to counteract the fact that when I can finally sit down and read (usually at night) I usually fall asleep after about 15 minutes.

What’s happening to our girls?! (aka. social media can really suck)

seventeen_80s

Seventeen Magazine – 80s/90s

seventeen_2014

Seventeen Magazine – 2014

 

I am an avid Pinterest user.  I could spend hours scrolling through my feed repinning recipes, project ideas, clothes, and everything DIY under the sun.  I love visual reference – which is probably why I can’t buy a cookbook that doesn’t have pictures.  I’m addicted to the volume of inspiration and ideas that I have at my fingertips.  I introduced my 11-year-old stepdaughter to it as a way to help her explore and capture her own ideas hoping that she would begin to develop her own style and interests.  And I must say – THAT is certainly what has happened.  Looking at her pinterest boards, though, is like staring into a little microcosm of the major impact the internet and social media is having on our kids, especially our girls, today.

I know we’ve been hearing it for years.  I know I experienced the impact that ever more “racy” TV was having on kids first hand when my 9 year old son wondered why he couldn’t watch Family Guy or South Park like all of his friends.  We see it all the time in how our kids interact (or really don’t interact) with each other on a daily basis now.  My husband and I feel it every time we walk into a video game store and try to buy a co-op game that we can actually play together, in the same room.  But looking at the evolution of this little girl’s feed recently made it even more obvious, and more scary.

I remember the really stupid things I did between the ages of 13 and 21.  They varied in theme across those years, and some were much, much more stupid than others.  If I back up to my pre-teen years, and think about where my ideas, dreams and inspiration came from, I realize that the sources were really few and far between.  There are a handful that stand out:

  • Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books
  • BOP and Seventeen Magazine
  • Sleepovers
  • A bulletin board in my room that was covered, every square inch, with pictures of cute boys cut from said BOP and Seventeen magazines (my own analog Pinterest, I guess)

My books and magazines were driven by what my parents would actually let me buy.  Once in a while a friend and I may have gotten our hands on a Hit Parader or Cosmo that belonged to an older sister or aunt.  Overall, it was a lot of work to find things that were really out of line for where I was in life at the time.

As I grew into high school and I fell in love with all things grunge and sought out the punk and alternative (goth/emo equivalents of today – only way better and not just veiled boy bands) music I truly enjoyed, I had to seek these things out.  There was no Hot Topic- the style required some personal investment and couldn’t be bought pre-packaged off the shelf.  There was no iTunes – I hunted down the little hole in the wall record shops where I could find the import version of a Nine Inch Nails CD to complete my collection.

Today, the sugar plums that dance through my 11-year-old daughter’s head are decked out in heavy eyeliner, “scene” hair and cut up black band t-shirts.  Her Pinterest feed is full of girls between the ages of 16-21 who look like they would fit in perfectly at either a biker bar or some of the more hardcore punk bars in the area.  Now, let’s be clear on my issue with this.  When I was 11 or 12 years old, did I not dream of being a glamorous teenager with nice boobs and the cutest boyfriend?  Of course I did!  That’s why I covered my bulletin board with pictures.  It’s normal and it’s healthy – it’s how we all learn to explore and consider new ideas and ways of presenting ourselves.

So what’s different, you may ask?  What’s so scary? I didn’t have as much at my fingertips.  I learned the most about sex from a book that my mom bought for me, that I found in a desk drawer before she actually give it to me.  I couldn’t go online and find a corresponding video that would perfectly illustrate what I just read.  My parents enforced rules about my appearance – and better yet most of my friends parents did too (which really helped with the peer pressure).  Even so, I still did some really stupid things.  Comparing that to what our kids have access to today makes me wonder how much more stupid their mistakes may be – and how much sooner we may need to be ready to deal with them.

As I sat down to think about what I wanted to say on this topic, I googled “fashion trends for young girls” (naturally).  Here are the image results:

fashiontrendsforgirlsNot completely horrible.  Not much different than the Seventeen magazines I was reading.  There’s one picture here that really stands out to me , though.  Can you guess which one?

younggirlsfashion

Yes, I would bet that out of that whole image search, this is the one that would show up on my 11-year-old’s Pinterest board.  Why?  Because she looks like she’s about 12 and she’s dressed like she’s 21.  We are no longer presenting young girls with images of older girls dressed in fashionable outfits.  When our young girls can have pictures at their fingertips of girls their own age wearing these “fashions” it no longer becomes an aspiration (and I get a little sick to my stomach even thinking that someone would “aspire” to dress like this – but we are talking about pre-teens here) but a reality in their mind.  They think they can and should be dressing exactly how they dream.  That’s where we need to help them draw some lines.

||SIDEBAR:  How would I restyle this girl to be age appropriate in my mind?  First – ditch the slutty heals and put ballet flats on her instead.  Next, get rid of the make-up.  Enjoy being able to walk out of the house with natural skin glowing while you can!  It will take more work the older you get.  Limit the jewelry to one necklace and bracelet.  Wearing too many accessories looks trashy at any age.  Lastly, put a freaking tank top on under that top and not a bra!  Bras are not an acceptable alternative to outerwear.||

So, that’s a whole lot of complaining and maybe just a little productive solutioning.  How do we fix it?  Globally – we can’t.  We can only take responsibility for the young girls whose lives we touch personally.  We can only strive to be a role model and to help them find their way, just like our parents did for us (if we were lucky enough).  It’s cool for little girls to dream – frankly, it’s downright necessary.  What’s most important is to help them separate dreams from reality at the right times in their lives, and hope that they get it in the long run (because we all know they most certainly will not get it every time in the short-term).  Take a look at what they are looking at, pretty frequently if you can, and help them translate those images into a version that fits where they are right now.

I’ll leave you with this little ray of light I found on my Google travels this morning.

tollydollyposh

Tolly is a 14 year old fashion blogger, originally from the UK, who has been blogging since she was 11.  Her goal it to become a fashion designer and she is probably the most authentic 14 year old girl I’ve ever seen.  This what our girls need to be able to find in the tangle of the interwebs.  How luck if this is what they all aspired to be.

 

 

When hearts and brains collide (a story about being ready for change)

ready for change

This morning I had coffee with a woman I used to work with. We had planned to get together to talk through some things that were going on at work and catch up since we really haven’t had the opportunity since I changed jobs back in November 2014.

She’s at an organization that many of us already chose to abandon and, recently, was forced to change her role. As we talked through some of the potential benefits of transitioning from a manager to a more direct individual contributor it took me back to a point in my own career about 3 years ago. While I went in with the intention to help her, I walked out with some insights of my own. Funny how that happens…

I have had somewhat of an “accidental” career. Honestly, I’ve hesitated to even call it a career in casual conversation up to now. To me a career is something you plan and work towards. You start at V, know that you want to wind up at Z and that you’ll need to get to W, X, and Y along the way. My own work life has been a lot more organic. As a result, it’s kinda just been something that I did so I never really threw it in the “career” bucket.

After 14 years at one organization, I had averaged a role change about every 2 years. Most of the positions I held along the way I wrote myself into. I found myself managing a team of people for the first time – thankfully it was a small team. After that two year management stint I found my days spent primarily answering questions and fixing things. I missed doing something, without anyone else, from start to finish. I needed more flexibility because it was as if someone had put a rock on the work side of my seesaw, leaving the life side stuck in the air, legs flailing, struggling to figure out how to get off.

An opportunity to move back into an individual contributor role presented itself at the perfect moment, putting me in a position to work with a tremendous pair of women and for 3-6 months it was absolutely fantastic. Then one of those women took a national position at the organization and another put her name on the list for the next round of layoffs.

Suddenly there I was, standing by myself, as if someone said, “If there is anyone who would like to take on this underpaid, overworked Director role (without the Director title, mind you, but that’s a whole other story) with a very limited staff please take a step forward.” – and everyone around me took one huge step back.

I was a glaring choice to be tapped to fill this position and be pushed back into a leadership role. And considering my chosen position wouldn’t exist on the other side I felt like there really was no other option.

So I tried my best, held tight to where I had drawn my personal limits, and did what I could to help my team – not only with lack of support from above but often times fighting against a huge, gaping black hole that was created when our organization was purchased and our whole leadership team was replaced.

Eventually I snapped.  Thankfully, in almost that same moment I found a much better opportunity. Because sometimes our life is charmed like that.

Now, all that being said – what was the big insight this morning? I was reminded that big changes can only really be achieved when you’re heart is truly ready. Back in the day, I was a good manager. I was ready mentally – it was the next logical step, it was more money, I knew the roles of the people I needed to support – but my heart had to catch up. Today, I’m back in a leadership role, with a larger, more diverse team. I’m at a growing organization and probably have twice as many initiatives running than I ever did in the past. Three years ago I would have been jumping off the bus, convinced my life was about to careen off the cliff.

Today – it makes me happy. Why? Because my heart wants it, too.  And when your brain and your heart can agree to go in the same direction? That’s when you’re really ready for a change.

The Habit of Habit

Well, I need to get back into the blog space but I didn’t expect to kick-off like this.  Without regard, though, it is one of those moments that a facebook status cannot cover and that cannot sit and fester in my head all day.

I had a phenomenal weekend.  I was feeling happy and accomplished and really content with where the family and my closest relationships were.  And like being interrupted after an hour of reading a great book, I have been snapped back to “reality”.  I’m a little shell-shocked.

So this “reality”, which I will continue to put into quotes, is the big crux right now.  Does “reality” have to include constant stress about what the kids may or may not have done wrong?  Do I need to hold my breath every time I’m presented with the word “So……”, waiting for the other shoe to drop?  Do I need to leave Bryan feeling like he’s left holding a big stinky bag of life without any relief or support?  My heart answers all those questions with a big resounding “NO!  Absolutely not!”.  My brain seems to be getting in the way and having a hard time catching up (or vice versa depending on the day).

So……I’m kicking off my blog again.  Not exactly how I expected but in a moment of clarity nonetheless.  Here are a couple of reminders, primarily for myself, as I try to wade back into the too-cold waters of our daily routine.

  • Emotions are fleeting. A statement may be met with an emotional reaction but it is just a moment.  The anxiety around kicking up those emotions cannot have any more control over me.
  • The plan for our family that we’re working towards is important and it makes sense and if my stupid brain would step in at the right times and let rationale thinking take over more often than not the stress that I’m creating for myself will fade away.
  • I was able to create a happiness habit. I am starting to create a fitness habit.  I can just as easily create a supportive habit and provide what my family, and most importantly my husband, really, really needs right now.
  • In the end, our reality is right there for the taking. I just have to get out of the damn way.

Here’s to me getting out of the way today and creating more new, positive habits.

Once upon a time I had a blog.

Once upon a time I had a blog.  It was about books and cheesy TV shows and concerts I was going to.  And then a major event happened in my life, followed by another and another.  Next thing you know – I’m working side by side with my husband, OddPapa (aka Bryan) under a new header and having a great time.

And then our house burned down.  Seriously.

It’s been a very long time now since I’ve turned to my laptop as an outlet.  Frankly, it’s been a pretty long time since I’ve been able to turn to much of anything for an outlet.

I’m finally home – literally and figuratively.  I’ve got so many new things happening!  A new job, new direction….new goals and insights…even a new old house.  Not to mention, new TV, new movies, new crafts, etc.

So, I’m on my way back.  It’s going to take a little while to dust of my keyboard and sweep the cobwebs from my mind  but the process has started.  If there’s anybody out there, I’m looking forward to sharing all of my crazy life one more time.

My yarn on the streets of Manchester.

Bryan and I came across a great page posting events and art out of the U.K. a while back.  The Yarnbomb Consortium, in their words, “is an international collaborative urban yarn-work Initiative” as well as a page with a great eye for cool, visual treats.

Right before my birthday I saw a post in my news feed calling for knitted or crocheted squares for a big street art project that was underway.  Hmmm….I could throw together a couple of squares pretty quickly.  So, that’s exactly what I did.

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I love to crochet and I wish I had more time for it.  I tried to learn from my Grammy when I was little but I could never figure out anything but a basic chain.  I could make chains for days.  A number of years ago I was finally able to spend some time with my Mom to learn again.  I’m a lefty in a family or rightys so that makes it extra hard but eventually I started putting it all together.  I make mostly scarves.  I just don’t have the attention span for an afghan or anything.  Granny squares are another simple, quick project that I enjoy so this was perfect!

Here’s where they ended up:

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I wish I could pick them out.  I could pretend that I know exactly where they are but I honestly can’t even figure out the scale to know where to start.  I do know that they’re there, though, and that’s pretty cool in the end.  We’ll see where this winds up in the coming weeks, now.

My top love songs…today.

A while back Bryan and I were poking around online (of course). We started down the path of punk love songs, thanks to this link on my facebook page last night.

So I started down my own path of favorite love songs.  Mind you – these are my favorites in this moment right now.  I’m sure if I started looking through iTunes or searching more online I’d be reminded of SO MUCH more.  But then if I did that, I’d never really be able to compile a list now, would I?  Also, keep in mind, this doesn’t really span decades or genres (Otis Redding recorded some of THE best love songs, in my opinion, for example).  Nonetheless, here’s what I have so far:


Yes, it’s the Distillers once again.


And, of course, there has to be some Rancid.

Trying our best NOT to be the Griswalds.

conkle's hollow, hocking hillsFor the first time in 3 years we were able to take a vacation with the entire family.  We’ve been so many places in all this time, mostly it was just Bryan and I and occasionally Dylan.  Each of the little ones had been with us on a trip once before but never together.  One of the things holding us back is always time and schedule (having no flexibility or understanding in a custody arrangement makes it difficult).  Once we became five, the other was simply space.  Dylan is quickly approach 6’….putting him in the back seat of a Mazda 3 with two other small people for 3-5 hours at a stretch?  Not really an option.  So, this year?  We got a mini-van.  No, I never wanted a mini-van.  I abhorred the idea.  Then again, I never expected to have a family of 3 kids, either.  Besides,  it does have a DVD player built in.  Bonus!

So, the plan was 4 nights in a secluded cabin in Hocking Hills, Ohio.  The arrangements had been made for months.  We had been making lists for the trip for only a slightly shorter period of time.  The weekend before the trip it seemed like time stood still – things were moving so slow.  That Sunday at 7PM when we picked up the last child for the week we could breathe.  All were accounted for – no shenanigans had ensued.  We were actually going to be able to enjoy this.  No we had to get our shit together – quickly.

Obviously, we have a tendency to go a little overboard.  The first thing we did when we started getting down to business was discover that Bryan was going to have basically a half day off the Tuesday before we were leaving.  Hmmmm….it was only going to be a 3-4 hour drive.  So, if he was getting home by 12:30 or 1:00PM we could TOTALLY pull off getting to the cabin by 5:00PM.  The night was still available – we booked it.  We now had a 5-night vacation.  (Of course we wouldn’t actually wind up getting there until after 8PM since everything we do has to take twice as long as expected, but that’s a whole other story.)

We filled those days and nights, on paper, with ideas for games, fishing, playing badminton and basketball on the courts provided, hiking, shopping, and mini-golf.  We needed food for 5 for 4 days because we didn’t want to spend a lot of money eating out.  There was crazy grocery shopping, the dying of hair, packing, laundry and the list goes on.  Come to find out, the van is a wonderful, spacious thing for transporting people.  People and all of their stuff, though?  Not so much – next time we will invest in one of those luggage things you can strap to the roof of your car.  Anyway….

I shopped like crazy, chopped vegetables, made things ahead….and at the end of the day we forgot most of it at home.  That Monterrey/cheddar sting cheese you asked for at the last minute?  Yep, it’s in the fridge.  But those 5 different card games that we all talked about?  Totally made it in the car.  It was less than perfect.  What would you expect from us, though?

It was an amazing trip.  No, we didn’t get to play all the games we wanted to.  We’ll make plenty of time to do that at home though.  What did we do?  And what did we take away from it? A month after the trip, here’s what stands out:

– Take the scenic route even if it takes longer.  We drove down through Amish Country and it was a hit.  Not only do we find places closer to home that we want to visit another time, we enjoy taking in and talking about a simpler way of life.  Someone actually asked to turn the DVD player off and it stayed off the whole way down (I think it really only played about 30 minutes in total) traded in for music and conversation.

– In this area, everything is at least 20-30 minutes from everything else.  Plan for lots of car time if you want to get out to the parks and hiking trails.  Driving (and an extra grocery trip) sucked up so much of the time we were hoping to have for other things.

– If you plan to take in the antique malls, give yourself a whole day.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that our entire family was able to spend almost 2 hours just going through basically 2 of these places.  Each of the kids enjoyed it. The constant, “oh my gosh, look at this!” was fantastic.  So much so that we’ve added it to our list of things to do back home, too.

– Mini-golf is always a hit no matter where you are.  We played twice, once in a little too much heat and sun and a second at a leisurely “pay once, play as many times as you want” course with only 2 other people and all the time in the world.

– Gem mining is a horrible tourist trap but the kids will always love it – no matter how old they are.  My 14 year old had a blast.  He knew the secret but had fun playing along for the little ones.  And he still started to pout when he was the only one who didn’t find an arrowhead.

– Hiking is good for everyone.  No matter how fit, tired, hot, or young, once you’re engulfed by the cliffs and trees it’s magical.  Everything falls away and little explorers start to emerge.  One thing we did that turned out fantastic?  Don’t be afraid to split up.  Bryan and Dylan decided to come back on a different trail at one park while I stayed with the younger kids.  It was a great idea.  They got to do a more challenging trail while the younger ones got to feel a little more grown up on a hike of their own.  When we were only planning on going to a couple of parks we actually wound up doing almost all of them because everyone enjoyed it so much.

– Spend cabin time being silly.  There was one evening where we had a chance to sit down and play some games.  By the end of the night I remember everyone running around and laughing to the point of falling over – and I mean everyone.  I can’t even remember now how it started but it was a highlight of our time there.

– Get up at 5:30 in the morning so that you can have adult only time in the hot tub.  Not for what you’re thinking necessarily.  But for relaxing – in the quiet.  Without having to answer any questions.  With coffee.

– Of all the stuff you’re planning to pack?  Take all the real food, half of the “fake” food (snacks, chips, etc.), half of the stuff you think you’ll need for entertainment, and all the shoes you think you might want (that’s my rule at least – it never fails that once I’m hours from home I want the 3 pairs of shoes I don’t have with me).

The hardest but most important rule?  Remember that this is a family vacation.  It will be a lot of work and will not be like any adult vacation ever.  There will not be all the time in the world to read or watch movies or relax with a glass of wine on the rocking chair on the front deck.  The cabin may not be everything you expect and there will definitely be moths and spiders at every turn.  It will be some of the best moments you remember – the best time you can spend together.  It will be crazy and challenging and exhausting.  And when one of your kids draws a sad face on a cinder block by the fire pit with a piece of charred wood, choking back some tears, and says, “I’m going to miss the cabin,”  it will be worth every minute.

Lockouts and Rolemodels

red wings hossa lidstromWe are a hockey family.

When I was around 13/14 years old my dad took me to my first game.  It was around 1990 and we finally had a minor league team back in Cleveland.  We went opening night and I was hooked.  He would tell me the stories from when he and my mom were season ticket holders back in the 60s/70s when hockey had a true home in Cleveland.  This was when there wasn’t glass separating the fans from the ice – there was chicken wire.  That way when two guys crashed into the boards the fans could grab at their jerseys through the holes.  Oh, I wish I could have been there then….

watching the Wings, next to the bench, in 2009.

I had the pleasure of passing all of that on to my son and sharing it with my new family.  For a number of years we shared it with some amazing kids by helping to give them the opportunity to play the game at a higher level, all the while keeping them in a family environment.  Billeting is tradition at many levels of hockey.  People open their doors to strangers and treat them like they are their own.  Even the pros do it – Sidney Crosby has lived with Mario Lemieux and his family for years.  I believe this practice is one of the reasons why hockey players are so down to earth. You’d never find a rookie hockey player running around acting like Lebron James.

Now I hear rumblings of a lockout.  My initial reaction, given the state of the economy right now?  I don’t want to hear ANYONE talking about wanting more money.  There’s a flaw in this, though.  In the video below they state that the NHL made $3.3 billion dollars in gross revenue in 2011. Now, bear in mind there are some pretty hefty salaries to come from that – roughly half of that revenue goes to payroll with the avg salaries ranging from 1.3M on the low end (NY Islanders) to almost $3.2M on the high end (Buffalo Sabres).  I can’t quite comprehend how athletic salaries got to where they are today.  Meanwhile, hockey is a drop in the bucket compared to other major leagues (the NBA is easily twice that).  The system of professional sports as a whole is broken.  Mid-class people drop hundreds of dollars to take their families to watch these games (don’t even get me started on the concessions).  How do you ever go back though?

The NHL supposedly wants players to receive a smaller portion of the record revenue that’s coming in.  While I don’t agree with the amount of money moving through these systems, I say if the owners and league are going to continue to drive revenue to the levels it has been and beyond why shouldn’t the players continue to get increasing stock in that?  They’re the ones who  put their bodies on the line every day for our entertainment.  They’re the ones who fill those stands.  You can’t expect to fix just one part of a broken system.

So, beyond all that, I’m really not a sports person.  I would never have imagined writing a post like this.  But I watched this video and here I am this morning wrapping up a post that would probably be ripped apart by many the sports fanatic.  I really could care less – I’m not interested in any debate.  I just LOVE hockey.