Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's been a while...

since I got my hair cut. 
Like four months.
And it was a bad cut with a stray middle layer
that I was too lazy to go back and have corrected.
My new hairdresser pointed out how bad it was.
But today--today--I got a GREAT cut from this place that my sister-in-law recommended.
Short hair cuts start at $30 and long at $40
including wash, dry, style, and tip. 
Whadaya think?
Pardon the photo booth lighting.

It's also been a while...

since I last dusted my blinds.
To tell the truth, I'm pretty sure I've never dusted any blinds 
in any house I've ever lived in.
Quite a confession.
To my credit, I've only been in this house for a month
I'm pretty sure the people who lived here for 3 years before we got here 
didn't dust either. 
Shame on them.
So I went to trusty Bed, Bath, and Beyond today and bought an Oxo duster.
The best part? It goes in the wash.
Good thing, too, because halfway through dusting my blinds, 
it needed to go in the wash.
1.5 hours and lots of coughing later (I'm not exaggerating): 
my blinds pass the finger-swiping test.
I'm hoping it'll never be that bad again.
I've seen the error of my ways and will, from now on, be a duster of blinds!

Mine's not quite so crispy-white now.

And it's been a while...

since I've been hit on by a creepy guy.
I guess it's only been about a month. Remember this?
But today it was a face-to-face person.
In Bed, Bath, and Beyond. 
I was standing there looking through a 21-page wedding registry 
trying to decide what to purchase.
He was the third person to ask if I needed help. 
He stared a little too long.
And was a little TOO helpful.
And smiled a little too much.
Despite my clear please-go-away signals, he lurked. 
So I said thank you and walked away.
Then he walked up to my friend and I a few minutes later.
His words:
 "I just want to let you ladies know that you are very beautiful women." 
Insert fake smile and polite thank you as he walked away
followed by eye rolling and the word "creeper" coming out of my mouth.
Mean, I know. Really mean.
But seriously.
If he was that desperate, he should know to look for a rock on my left hand.
Maybe I should have been flattered, but I was just kind of creeped out.

Happy Wednesday to me!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I'm terrible at remembering friends' birthdays. Really terrible. So terrible, in fact, that I spent an hour with my friend Melissa today before I realized it was her birthday (and only then because someone else wished her a happy birthday)!

Anyway, in honor of Melissa's life, I want to give her a blog-toast. Clink!

I like to give my friends nicknames, and anyone who's my friend knows that. Melissa (lucky girl) was dubbed "Mel" early on in our friendship, and whether or not she likes it, it pretty much stuck. So, here are a few things about Mel that I admire/am fascinated by/am blown away by/am intrigued by (in no particular order):

  • She is one of the most intentional people I know. For example, she decided that instead of getting a set of china, she'd like to have a piece from all her friends' sets to make a mis-matched collection that will remind her of the people she loves every time she uses them. She and her husband also only have art on their walls from people they know so that their house is full of unique talents applied & shared instead of generic pieces. Those are the kinds of things I love but would never think of. 
  • She's creative. In addition to being a great writer (check out her blog!) and seamstress, she just comes up with unique ideas all the time. She's always working on interesting projects like this one to organize her jewelry. 
  • She's confident. Not cocky, just sure of herself, of what she believes, of what she prefers. I like that.
  • She reads. A lot. I'm not just talking classics, here, although she reads lots of those too. She reads everything. Harry Potter, British poetry, children's books, Jane Austin, Twilight, cookbooks, magazines, modern novels. You name it. One of my favorite questions to ask her is "What are you reading?" because I can't wait to hear the excitement in her voice when she tells me about the books.
  • She's a great wife and mom. 'Nough said.
  • She asks good questions. Mel always seems to know how to ask good questions--questions that will get people talking, questions that will get people thinking, questions that communicate that she cares.
  • She runs...and likes it. Ever since middle school when the track coach tried to recruit me for the track team, I knew that I did not enjoy running. For practicality's sake, I do run (occasionally), but I really don't enjoy it (although a little "Soulja Boy" does give me a nice distracting beat). So, basically, I'm amazed by anyone who actually likes to run, which means Mel's love for running = an awe factor for me.
  • She's thoughtful. She's the kind of person who makes chocolate chip cookies every time we go over for dinner because she knows they're my favorite. She's the kind of person who does remember friends' birthdays. The kind of person who opens her home, buys random gifts, and texts because she thinks of you. I'm grateful to know that kind of friend.
  • She loves Jesus. And not just in a I-go-to-church way, but in a real God-in-the-grit-of-life way. She loves Jesus in a way that makes me know Him better.
So Mel, here's to you on your birthday! May you nap often, read much, and eat well! Cheers!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ice Cold B's, Hot D's, and Base B

Confused by the title? Read this and take a gander at the picture I've included and you should be able to put it together.

America is tuning in to its favorite pastime tonight with the All-Star game, so Phil suggested a traditional baseball meal: hotdogs and beer (with a few extras thrown in). To his credit, he also suggested the title of this post.

After a week of working 13-hour days and us adjusting to extremely limited time together, Phil got off unexpectedly early today (only an 11-hour day!), so we were able to slow down a bit and enjoy some relaxing time together. Nothing like baseball and watermelon on a summer night. Can I get an AMEN?

I have to admit, though, that it feels funny posting about something so whimsical when others in my life are going through much more serious and difficult events. I have a friend whose van was hit by lightning the other day (and she and her kids lived to tell about it), another friend who's spent the last three days at the hospital with her four-week-old, and two new friends who just moved to Birmingham from far away and know almost no one. So, by posting about baseball and beer, I don't mean to be insensitive to those in darker, more complicated places.

I've been there too.

But I'm learning that it's good to record the whimsy too. Good to remember that all days are not dark days, that sometimes light breaks through and the burden eases and simple pleasures like hotdogs and baseball still exist.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I adore ALDI

I'm late getting on this boat. I know it. But give me a break--I've been out of the city for a year and where I was had one ALDI that was 40 minutes from my house. So yeah, I was an ALDI virgin until yesterday.

To clarify any misunderstanding (which necessarily happens when you throw the word "virgin" into a sentence), ALDI is a small, European-style grocery store with huge knock-off prices, a "put in a quarter to get your cart; return your cart and get your quarter," we-have-our-own-brands-that-are-just-as-good-as-the-flashy-ones, bag-your-own-groceries, we-only-accept-cash-or-debit-cards kind of place. And did I mention the prices? Oh my.

So, ALDI fliers showed up in my mailbox this week, which made me wonder if, in the past year that I've been away, Birmingham made a good choice in the midst of all the bad ones (remember our brilliant ex-Mayor, Larry Langford?) by building an ALDI near my house. Turns out, ALDI is 2.91 miles from my house!

Here's a glimpse of the savings from my $30 (!) grocery bill yesterday:

  • $2.79 for 28 bottles of water
  • 25 cent peaches, plums, and nectarines 
  • $1.50 a pound for cherries (and they were already separated into 1-lb. bunches so you didn't have to guess how many pounds you were purchasing)
  • $1.00 salad dressings
  • $5.99 for a bag of about 6 frozen chicken breasts
Just a glimpse. I was so giddy leaving the store that I almost called my mom to have someone to celebrate savings with! I didn't need to buy any wine, cereal, fresh meat, or other refrigerated products this time, but I needed to save a little something for next time anyway. And there will definitely be a next time!

By the way, if the whole process of putting a quarter in your cart, etc. is a little foreign and intimidating to you, check out this link that explains how everything works and you'll look like a natural in no time.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My latest reads

It's about time for another book post, and I squeezed in a little pleasure reading a few weeks ago on our Johnson family trip. Many thanks to my friend Andrew for letting me borrow from his oh-so-quality library. Here's what I've been reading:

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
by John Boyne
Since high school, I have been both fascinated and sickened by the Holocaust, so when this movie came out a couple of years ago, I really wanted to see it. I'm glad I didn't, though, because I like to read books first and this book was beautifully written. It's a quick read (I read it in a couple of hours), but the story runs deep with friendship, heartache, innocence, intuition, and creativity. For those who don't know the story, Boyne creates a fictional story about a childhood friendship between a German boy and a Jewish boy who is in a concentration camp. The most moving part of the story is the innocence that both boys maintain in the midst of what we know to be such a tragic genocide.

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother
by James McBride
My non-fiction for the week. I saw this book years ago at Barnes and Noble and had heard wonderful things about it  (it's a NYTimes Bestseller), but ended up not buying it. So, when I saw this on Andrew's shelf I knew I needed to read it, and I wasn't disappointed. As the subtitle suggests, James McBride tells his story, but also the story of his mother, interspersing actual conversations he had with his mother in the writing of the book. He tells of how she bore twelve children, all of whom went on to college and most of whom went on to earn other advanced degrees. He tells of her challenge being white woman in a black culture and of his own identity challenges being biracial. He tells of his family's poverty, his mother's unmoving trust in God and education, and of his own transformation from rebellion to what is now his livelihood (music and writing). It's a powerful story, and even more so because it's true.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
I read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven when I was in college and was drawn to Alexie's unique writing style. So, when Andrew recommended The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to me, I was in. It's Alexie's first young adult novel (although there are parts that I wouldn't want too young of an adolescent to read), and it was a quick read, complete with funny pictures that give it that diary feel--similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid but aimed at an older audience. Not only was the story clever and full of emotion, but it was also beautifully written. Alexie has a way of writing phrases and sentences that I have never heard before, and I love that kind of ingenuity. He tells the semi-autobiographical story of Arnold Spirit, a goofy, made-fun-of 9th grader  who struggles with finding his identity, struggles with friendships, struggles with his culture, struggles with girls, and struggles to be both part of his people and to distinguish himself from them. A great read!

Books I've barely started that are sitting on my bedside table and that I hope to read before the beginning of the school year:

The Discomfort Zone
by Jonathan Franzen
Really can't tell you much about this yet, but it's a non-fiction book that was given to me by a friend and the first chapter is interesting so far!

Jayber Crow
by Wendell Berry
I've become a huge Wendell Berry fan after reading Hannah Coulter last semester for one of my classes. He writes brilliantly, and I recommend any of his books for a book club because they always spark good discussion. I got this book from my sweet sister-in-law, Kari, for my birthday and began reading it back in May. However, after just a couple of days, I was derailed by school and moving and had to put it down until this week. So, because I can't remember anything about it, I'll be starting it over this week and can't wait! I'll write about it again when I'm finished reading it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My first days back in Birmingham: the bad, the good, and the funny

Not one, not two, but THREE truckers honked at me on our drive here from Chattanooga. 
The bad news: Truckers between here and Chattanooga just aren't as classy as you'd hope they'd be. 
The good news: I've still got it.

Three hours at the DMV.
The bad news: On top of seeing TWO of my former students (and having to remember their names, which I did after only a short delay), the printer was messing up and made my paper license look like a shiny cartoon. I was told that my official license wouldn't make me look orange. We'll see.
The good news: For the first time in Alabama DMV history, every employee whom I spoke with was kind and pleasant.

Our cell phones don't get enough reception at our house.
The bad news: We had to cancel our 7-year long loyalty to T-Mobile and our oh-so-cheap plan.
The good news: We have switched to Verizon, will not drop any more calls, have matching phones (his is black, mine is red--be on the lookout for a blog photo story to come), AND I am in love with my ring tone. It makes me dance. Makes me.

In an effort to "simplify, simplify, simplify," I'm parting with around 70 books.
The bad news: Parting with books is such (sweet) sorrow.
The good news: I'm hoping to sell about 25 of them on The rest will be part of our donation tax write-off.

Three days into being here, I absolutely MUST have Taziki's Friday Special.
The bad news: There's a good possibility that I will crave this every single weekend. Not good for the pocketbook or for variety.
The good news: I live 10 minutes from a Taziki's and, better yet, I can make the Friday Special at home (although it's never quite the same)


For the last year, I have written pages a day. Pages. And while the whole romantic notion of "being a writer" sounds wonderful, let me tell you that pages a day is not always wonderful. It's wonderful when you discover that your 6th draft is going to be the one that's "good enough" (a piece is never really "done"). It's wonderful when you turn a piece in. It's wonderful when you're writing about something you really care about. It's wonderful in those rare moments when you're in the zone and could write for pages and pages. And it's really, really wonderful when you no longer have to write pages a day. And as of Monday*, I am FINISHED with my Master's and experiencing all kinds of wonderful!

Huge exhale.

What I love and hate about being a writer is the discipline of it all. Hate that it rarely comes to you quickly. Hate that it's easier to do just about anything other than write. Hate how it isolates me for hours on end--all for the sake of a paragraph! But love how I discover myself. Love how the pages accumulate like layers of quiet snow. Love the feeling of moving people with words. And I couldn't do the love part without discipline, which I often lack as a writer.

As relieved as I am to be finished with the never ending deadlines, I'll miss them screaming at me to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE! like sergeants in my face. I won't have those writing deadlines this year and I'm afraid I'll start to slip into the ease of not writing.

For now, though, I'm enjoying the choice to write or not to write, enjoying the exhale.

*More on Monday's experience later