Thursday, March 29, 2007

Catching Up on the Catching Up

Update #1

Landlord Bob fumbled around with the remediation of our "little cadaver problem" for several days. Some nights, I would come home and it would be much better-- still noticeable, but better-- and then in the morning, I'd come back to get clothes for work and it would be worse again. By Friday night, the cat was beyond freaked out, and Ash was kind enough to let me bring her over to his house for the duration. I suffered several scratches and lots of snickers from passersby in the transfer, and she's definitely regressed in her relationship with Ash; we've gone straight back to the "hiss everytime he looks at her" phase, which is quite possibly the most irritating thing she's ever done in her whole life.

There was a great leap forward on Monday: I came home from work to discover a huge mountain of garbage bags piled at the curb and the smell was almost gone. My assumption was that someone-- Landlord Bob, some distant relative of the poor guy formerly in #8, a professional clean-up company-- had cleaned a bunch of stuff out of his apartment, which is, of course, utterly necessary if there's any hope of getting rid of the smell. But on Tuesday, the smell was back with a vengance, almost as bad as the first terrible day.

Last night, I cautiously opened the front door and sniffed the air... what is that? A new and different unpleasant odor... but I can't really smell the... Nope. Wait. There it is. But there's a lot less of it... And what's that noise? Sounds like a big fan running downstairs... Ah, yes. It seems that Landlord Bob is running an air scrubber. Hopefully it's one of the really good ones with a HEPA filter. At any rate, the unpleasant smell of ozone (I finally put my finger on it hours later) means that either Landlord Bob hired a professional or he got some professional advice. Thank God. With a little luck, I'll be able to take the cat back home tomorrow.

Update #2

I am about to rejoin the ranks of those with health insurance and paid holidays. HR called me to let me know that the official offer is being sent to me by UPS. The whole process has been very frustrating, and I'm glad that it's finally over. I had a total of four interviews, including one in which the interviewer had himself started at My Company two days earlier. After the fourth interview, nothing at all happened for over a week. Meanwhile, an org chart appeared on one of my coworker's walls in which my name appeared, labelled as "Contract Manager". Then the department head and one of the managers made a minor production of complaining about how there are still so many unfilled positions in the department, which nearly sent me around the bend. I practically bit my tongue off trying not to yell "Well, I can tell you how to reduce those empty positions by one!"

So I start my new, permanent position in less than two weeks. The sense of relief I feel tonight is indescribable. We'll be able to pay our bills! I'll be able to go to the doctor if I get sick or hurt! Ash and I will be able to make plans!

Update #3

I'm off work tomorrow because the whole office is being reconfigured with new, smaller cubes so that all of the new people that are being hired right now will actually have somewhere to sit and work. This has occasioned more than the appropriate amount of whining and moaning throughout the office, and no one was more put out than Myrtle. All week, I listened to her bellyache about having to clean out her files, about the fact that we had to fold the packing boxes into shape, about the fact that she had to stay later than usual to make up the hours, until I wanted to leap over the wall and scream "Yes! You ARE the only ones being move! And therefore, you are the ONLY ONES being inconvenienced by all of this. And NO you will NOT SURVIVE once you are separated and asked to sit with the other people who work on the accounts that you're assigned to! Because you never know, WORKING HARD MIGHT JUST KILL YOU. And WOW is it FUNNY when you repeat everything someone else says, only when you say it, you use a funny accent."

Oh, did I forget to mention the best part of this whole move? Not only will I no longer be anywhere near any of the Loud Ladies, they've been separated. They are, in fact, nowhere near each other. I don't for a second imagine that this is coincidence. Myrtle nearly had a heart attack when the seating chart was posted on Thursday morning.

"This is terrible. What are we going to do?" she kept moaning all day. Hmmm, I don't know... YOUR JOBS??

Update #4

Blogger is being more cooperative tonight, so here are the wedding-y pictures I tried to post before.

The dress, clicky to see the detail and please ignore the fact that the zipper is undone a little at the top (that's one of the things I'll have to have the seamstress fix)...

The Save the Date cards...

The text inside looks like this:

i carry your heart with me (I carry it in

my heart) i am never without it (anywhere

i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear

no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want

no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

--e.e. cummings



September 21, 2007

Except that I've lost the formatting and the image of a crescent moon in between the poem and our names, so I guess you don't get the full idea, but... eh, at least you can see the poem and such. I'll write a separate post with the wedding planning update later.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Wonder How Much THAT Lot Went For

We received a thank you from the public interest society for our donation to the recent auction. It reads, in part:

"Dear Ash and Katze,

[Our auction was a great success.*] We could not have done it without your donation of a martini sex, a cappucino set, and a cookie basket, and we hope that you will continue to support our efforts in the years to come."

Oopsie! Sometimes even spellcheck can't save your butt.

*I paraphrased that part.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Times When Ignorance Might Just Have Been The Better Path

Strange things occasionally happen in my apartment building, and Bob isn't the most proactive landlord, so I know that if anything goes awry, I must make the effort to call him, maybe more than once, and specifically request the fix. If there are two problems-- say, hall lights are out AND the intercom/ door buzzer thingie isn't letting people in-- you can't just ask him to come and fix the intercom and assume that he'll notice that the repair is taking place in a dark hallway and change the bulbs, too. But if you ask him to fix something, he eventually fixes it. In fact, he's usually fairly prompt about that stuff, once you tell him.

Last night, I opened the door to the building and my nose wrinkled in disgust. It smelled like... oh, I don't know... sewage? No, not quite. Garbage? No, not quite. The best description I could come up with was that it smelled like a grey water leak that soaked a carpet and no one bothered to clean it up, so now it's getting all moldy and germy. Ash, upon his arrival, pronounced it to be a "big, musty dog" smell. It was overpowering in the stairwell, but once the apartment door was shut, it wasn't noticeable. We went to bed and Ash sailed off to the Land of Nod almost immediately, but I kept catching whiffs of the smell and it woke me up. Then I'd have to pee. So I got up and went to the bathroom, crawling back into bed in hopes of joining Ash in Dreamland, only to have the cycle repeat itself. Finally, at 3 a.m., I moved to the couch, hoping that my usual insomnia cure would work its magic. The cat planted herself on my chest and her purring eventually lulled me to sleep.

This morning, I called Bob as soon as I got to work.

"Hey, Bob, it's Katze from Amanger Street. Listen, there's a very strange smell in the building."

"Yeah, I know, the guy in #8 died."


"Oh my God! You're kidding! That's terrible!"

"Yeah. He didn't pay his rent last month, and that's just not like him, so I thought I better check on things and I found him dead yesterday. I guess he'd been there for the past three weeks or so. I had the guys lock up the back stairwell after the paramedics left yesterday."

Locked up the... because apparently, smells can't travel through locked doors?

"Um, well, last night I went downstairs to see if a pipe had backed up or something, and you can't really smell it down there, but it's really, really bad up on the second and third floors."

"Oh? In the main stairwell?"

"Yeah. And in my apartment."

"Hmm. I'll get the guys over today to open up the stairwell windows. Actually, could you just open up those windows right now?"

"Actually, I'm already at work. I was going to do it last night, but the stairwell lights are out again, so I couldn't see to get them."

"Again? There must be something... Well, anyway, I'll have the guys take a look at it."

So, apparently Bob thinks that the maintenance men are going to open the windows, maybe swab around with some Pine-Sol and Clorox, and that's going to take care of it. Boy, is Bob in for a very rude surprise. See, as some of you know, I used to work for a company that does, among other things, death scene cleanup. And as such, I've gained more familiarity than the average person with the things that have to be done once a dead body has been lying undiscovered in a home.

All day long, I have been so utterly skeeved out. I just keep thinking to myself "Dead man. That smell was dead man. Little bitty pieces of dead man are in your nose and lungs." Because I've seen one too many episodes of NOVA and I know how the sense of smell works. I kind of never want to go home again.

UPDATE: After work, I drove home and decided to just go inside. I could check my mail and my messages, feed the cat (poor, poor thing!), and maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. HA. Apparently, Bob had the guys crack the stairwell windows and spray Febreeze around. They were, however, kind enough to leave the can on top of the mailboxes so that we can spray a little more. So now it smells like dead man and peonies.

Monday, March 19, 2007

How a Field Trip Changed My Life

(NOTE: This was supposed to be published back on March 19th. Apparently I can't tell the difference between "Save as Draft" and "Publish". Or maybe Blogger was just being wonky. Either way, here it is.)

It all started quite innocently. German was the last class of the day in the 10th grade and I was planning to drop it after I finished that year. Only three years of a foreign language were needed for an honors diploma and I was sick of memorizing conjugations and trying to remember which prepositions are Akkusativ, which are Dativ, and which are indecisive and follow what seemed, at the time, to be nothing more than a random system of assigning a case to any particular instance. I liked the teacher, though, and several of my friends were in the class with me.

One afternoon in late January, Mr. K asked me to stay after class. I hadn't been doing my homework on what you might by any stretch of the imagination call "a regular basis", so I figured I was about to get a bit of a chewing out. Imagine my surprise when he asked me whether I had considered joining our school exchange trip to Germany. Truthfully, I hadn't. A trip to Europe would be far out of the range of what my family could afford, and I was certain that they would never be willing to host a German student for the "exchange" part of the trip. I told Mr. K exactly that, and he waved his hand impatiently, brushing these concerns away like nothing more than a buzzing, irritating fly. "Yes, but do you want to go?", he asked. Well... yeah. I mean, who wouldn't want to? "OK. We'll talk later." And he was off, leaving the room unlocked and me standing in the aisle, wondering what just happened.

Shortly thereafter, my presence was requested for another little after school meeting, but this time he shut the classroom door. "Do you still want to go to Germany with us?" Heck, yes. I mean, I may never get the opportunity to go again, how could I pass that up? (And the sad, telling thing is that I really thought that was true. It makes me so sad for my fifteen year old self, that I thought my horizons were so limited.) And kindly, good hearted Mr. K had a way to make it happen.

Obstacle number 1: All students who participate in the program are required to host the student they intend to stay with in Germany. It's an exchange program in the truest sense of the words. And I simply could not see a way for that to happen for us. Not only was there no place to put an exchange student-- my own room was a walled off part of the finished basement-- but the fact was that my family was in the middle of a very stressful and chaotic couple of years and life at home was in a fragile, tenuous place that simply would not stand up to the stresses of hosting a student. In fact, at that moment in time, my parents were talking about divorce, and I knew that I could not possibly ask to bring some unsuspecting foreigner into that mess.

American foreign policy to the rescue!

One of the students who had participated in the previous year's exchange had signed up for a second trip. As luck would have it, the program was structured such that the German kids came for September and the American kids made a return visit around March-ish. That meant that the previous year, the German kids came for their Fall visit, but when the time came to get things ready for the Spring visit, the First Gulf War was in full swing. After some back and forth, the decision was made to cancel the trip, just in case. Those disappointed students were being included in the return visit that Spring of 1992. That meant that Rachel, who had now hosted twice, had her pick of two families that she could stay with, and Mr. K thought that it would be a grand idea if I took her place with the other family. They apparently did not want to be deprived of the chance to host a student and had asked Mr. K's counterpart at the Gymnasium to see if they could get another student. In retrospect, I see just how amazing that fact is. At the time, I'm not sure that I realized how special, how unusual that attitude is.

Obstacle #2: Money. This was really the roadblock. It seems like everyone likes to tell "top me" stories about how they were so poor growing up, and I certainly don't want to imply that we were truly impoverished. I never went without a meal and I had a roof over my head and clothes on my back. But we were absolutely what is meant by "the working poor", especially after my father lost the job he'd held since graduating from high school when the company folded and then spent over two years looking for work, accepting a series of low paid, dead end jobs to keep the food on the table and the roof over our heads. We were lucky, though, because we had a good social safety net of friends and family who pulled together and kept us afloat.* Still, a three week trip to Germany wouldn't be cheap. Airfare, spending money, incidental expenses, passport fees, bus fares, host family gift... it adds up fast. But Mr. K had a solution for that, too. If my parents would pay my incidental expenses, spending money and get me a passport, Mr. K had found a grant that would cover the rest.

I took a packet of information home to my parents and we talked it over. I had saved some money toward a car by babysitting nearly every weekend night and delivering newspapers. Together with the grant money, it made everything suddenly seem possible. A few weeks later, I got a blurry photocopy of a profile with a grainy picture attached: Bettina. A few days after that, I was on a plane on my way to Germany, nervous and excited and not entirely certain if Bettina and her family knew that I was coming**, and then I was standing at baggage claim, surrounded by people speaking a language I couldn't understand, breathing foreign air, a little dazzled by it all, when a tall blonde walked up and said "Are you Katze?".

That was fifteen years ago today. I simply cannot imagine how different my life would have been had I not gone on this trip. It changed my entire life. In fact, I don't think it's at all an exaggeration for me to say that the woman I am today is a direct result of Mr. K's invitation to join a three week program semi-jokingly referred to as "the Ultimate Field Trip" in my high school.

* A few years ago, my mother was buying what seemed like an outrageous amount of toys for two of my younger cousins, and I asked her about it. That's when I learned that when we were children and my parents were struggling, her younger sister bought us all of those presents that were labeled "From Santa" under our Christmas tree, just to make certain that no matter what, the kids would have a good Christmas. All those years later, my aunt was having financial difficulties and my mother was the one who bought and wrapped a pile of presents "From Santa" so that two little girls would have a good Christmas, no matter what. Other people at church "just happened" to have extra lasagna in the freezer, or a pretty dress that their own daughter outgrew, or some Zoo passes that they just weren't going to get around to using... and so on. Those things are what made the difference for my family, keeping us sane and healthy and enabling my parents to pull themselves slowly out of "working poor" and into "working class".

** Was I crazy? If I wasn't, my parents certainly were! What if I'd had to sleep in the Munich airport for three weeks?


Friday, March 16, 2007

Cubicle Orinthologist

Ethel: "Did you see that mockingbird this morning?"

Myrtle: "Ethel, those don't really exist, that's just in a song."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Priorities In Order? Check.

How did it go, you ask?

I wouldn't say that it was the worst two days of my life, but it definitely ranks in the Top 10. I felt that this administration was significantly harder than the summer administration. In particular-- and maybe it's just me, since I can't really quantify why I feel this way-- I thought the MBE was very, very different in tone, in question structure, and in content than last time. Fallout from the whole "PMBR is stealing our questions" thing?

But who cares? I found my wedding dress!

I swear to you, I didn't intend to actually buy anything. Hulio and I had planned to try on dresses to see which style(s) suit me best, and then I wanted to buy it online, either via Craigslist (Oh Motherlode of All Things Good and Often Cheap), or direct from the Chinese sweatshops that supply gowns to retailers here in the U.S., thanks to the magic of eBay. So I didn't even make any special monetary arrangements or take along my checkbook when we headed out on Friday morning.

But let me back up.

I took the bar on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday morning, I got up early, did my dishes, ate breakfast, packed my suitcase, gathered my dirty laundry, cleaned my bedroom and bathroom, changed the cat's litter and washed her food and water bowls, loaded the suitcase and laundry (God, I love free washing machines!) into the car, drove over to Ash's, where I picked up the materials for my Save the Dates, my invitations, and my laptop, plus my library books, drove over to the library to return those books and pick up the stuff that I had on hold there. I was on the road by 2 p.m., and I drove almost straight through, in a hurry to get to My Hometown in time to surprise my grandmother at their Thursday night fellowship group. She's had two knee replacements in the past year or so, and they recently found a massive infection in her newest knee, so she was hauled in for not-quite-an-emergency-but-you-really-don't-want-to-wait surgery, and now she's in the midst of a very intense course of antibiotics. Once the infection gets stomped by drugs, she has to go back for another knee. You can imagine how happy this makes her, especially since she's in her 80's, so this is not exactly minor surgery for her. The last two hours of the drive involved a driving rainstorm with gusting wind, and you can imagine how happy that made me.

Nonetheless, I was up bright and early Friday morning to meet Hulio for a daylong trek to look for The Perfect Dress. We hit my favorite place for breakfast first, and I gorged on a crepe with turkey, mushrooms, and avocado, doused in Hollandaise. Mmmmm... mushrooms... hollandaise... I simply don't understand people who skip breakfast. How could you miss out on a meal with so many delicious possibilities? And then we were off to the store where her sister had bought a wedding dress years earlier. We wanted to start there for several reasons, including it's location in the local "wedding district", the fact that it's a locally owned business, and the insane number of gowns on the premises. It seemed like a good strategic decision.

I was a little apprehensive about this part of the wedding planning, having learned a lot about the industry and its deceptive practices in my research, and having heard many, many stories by other women I know who were treated unbelievably badly by the staff at wedding shops. The practices are nearly unbelievable in their nastiness and dishonesty, with the attitude seeming to be "Repeat customers? We don't need no steenking repeat customers!". But I know that not every business is run that way, and I heard some wonderful stories (though, it is worth noting, not nearly as many as the bad stories) about kind salespeople and lovely dresses at decent prices as well. I hoped for goodness and didn't stress it too much, because, hey! I wasn't going to buy a dress yet, anyway!

We were assigned to a saleswoman and she led us back through the racks-- the rows and rows and rows of racks!-- of dresses, asking about the wedding date and location and my budget. I told her that I didn't want to spend much more than $400-- a ridiculously low amount of money for a wedding dress. She didn't bat an eye. Instead, she said, "Well, then let's start with this rack here", and showed us to a rack of discontinued samples that were being sold at clearance. Excellent! Poised at the head of the very long row of plastic sheathed dresses, she asked me what kind of dress I had in mind, and I, never having been the kind of girl who dreamed about her wedding and planned the exact details years before she got engaged, answered "Not strapless." I thought about it for a moment and added "And no huge train." "Okay!" she answered, and we all dove into the racks.

I could not believe how heavy the dresses were. I mean, I sort of knew that they are basically a huge mound of fabric held together with a few tons of beads and sequins and such, but it didn't really sink in until I was feeling the ache in my arms before we were half way down the first rack.
Wow, are there some ugly dresses out there. Hulio and I have a pact: no butt bows, ever. And it is our sworn duty as best friends to smack the other across the face, ridicule her in front of others, even rip the nasty thing off if necessary. Therefore, there was lots of superfluous giggling whenever we saw a butt bow. Several times, we got all excited about a fabric or a detail only to have the image shattered when we pulled the dress from the rack only to find that it had some other fatal flaw. Still, in short order we'd pulled about six dresses from the rack and handed them over to our saleswoman. By that time, my arms were tired and the dresses were starting to look a little alike, so the executive decision was made to try on what we had and take it from there.

Back in the dressing room, the saleswoman complimented my breasts (Me: "Hehehe. Thanks! They're natural!" No, not really. I mean, yes, they really are natural, but I didn't say that. I just laughed and mumbled something non-commital.), and helped me put on the first dress... and I couldn't get it off fast enough. It was, ummmm, a little slinkier than I'd planned to wear for my church wedding. After that, though, we found something we liked about every dress, but none was perfect. If only I could have the fabric from #2 and the neckline from #3 and the skirt from #4... I stepped into the last of the batch and Hulio helped the saleswoman muscle the bodice closed and I turned on the pedestal toward the mirror, and suddenly I was a bride.

I looked at Hulio and said "I am so getting married!" and she said "Yes, you are!" and I started to cry and then the saleswoman brought out a veil and headpiece to try on and holy cow y'all, I am going to get married in just a few months! And I'm going to wear this gorgeous dress! As Hulio put it, it's exactly like me, exactly the sort of thing I would wear. The outside is organza with tiny little beaded flowers all down the bodice and into the skirt. There is a row of buttons down the back and a modest train with more tiny flowers all cascading along the folds.

The best part is, it fit. Almost perfectly. The straps-- it has spaghetti straps, if you didn't guess by the lead-in to this sentence-- will need to be shortened by about 1 cm, and I'll probably need a small dart under each armpit. Oh, and one of the little eyehooks is missing. And because it was the discontinued sample, it was $199. Plus sales tax. Original price $1075. I am the Queen of Wedding Bargains.

Hulio helped me start another wedding bargain I've been itching to work on: my Save the Date cards. I bought every package of dark blue cards from the Target clearance section, and scoured the internet for the perfect stamp. The result:
Well, apparently Blogger (Motto: "We put the 'free' in 'are you freaking kidding me?!'") doesn't want you guys to see any of this, so you will just have to trust me for now: they are sweet.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

And Just to Prove What a Book Dork I Can Be

Continuing in today's literary vein, I was paid a visit today by one of the very many new people who started work at My Company in the two+ weeks that I was off for the bar and such. He stopped by my desk and asked me if I had time to chat. Seeing as how all I was doing was poking a bunch of spreadsheets with a stick to see if I could scare or at least annoy the numbers into making sense, I jumped right up and followed him to a conference room.

We sat down and he asked me if I was still interested in the manager position that I applied for a while ago . Well, yes, I am, but I was also confused because he had been introduced to me as "the new contracts manager". I didn't let on that I was confused, and he popped the big question, the (completely fair) one that's driving me batty in my job search, the one where he wanted to know why I wanted to take that job when I just took the bar exam, which, as he put it, would seem to point to a different career path.

I replied "I don't really want to be a practicing attorney. The bar exam is just my white whale."

Not a flicker of understanding the reference passed his features. In fact, he looked confused. I quickly added "I took it more for personal reasons, to try and conquer something that I failed at the first time I tried, than for professional reasons." That he understood.

Note to self: Unless you are looking for a job in a bookstore, or in a library, or teaching English, you may want to think twice about literary references in the context of an interview.

Levar Burton is My Homeboy

So, I accepted the tag from European, aka Sonja, but I'm changing it up just a little because I feel compelled to leave commentary on this and I think it's a little hard to scan. I stuck with her scheme of bolding the books I've read and italicizing the ones I'd like to read, but haven't.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)-- I am of two minds on this one. On the one side, I have an allergy to anything that becomes such an overblown phenomenon. It takes quite a lot to overcome my prejudice in this regard-- for evidence, see my relatively late entrance into Harry Potter fanhood, which took place only after Finbar called me at 2:30 a.m. to tell me about this really great book he just read. I figured anything good enough to make him stay up past his rigidly observed bedtime AND think it would be a good idea to call me at 2:30 a.m. to tell me about it would have to be pretty good.

2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)-- I read this as a requirement for a European history class in college, and thoroughly expected to hate it, what with the irritating period movies they've made of it and all, but I was hooked by the end of the second chapter and finished it in one afternoon. Writing this just now, a memory floated to the surface of walking down the hill on the street that ran parallel to Clifton Avenue, behind the frat houses and along the hidden parking lot where the law students parked, sun shining through the leaves on the trees. I only had a few pages left to go and I was desperate to finish before I got to my car and had to drive to work.

3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)-- I think I read this as a requirement in school, maybe 9th grade English. I bought my own copy of it, which has been read and re-read so many times that it's creased and the yellowed pages are getting too delicate. It improves with each reading. I also loved the Gregory Peck movie of it, but oddly enough, it never managed to implant itself in my mind as the representation of the characters and how they look and talk and act. I wonder why that is? For example, Alan Rickman is Snape in my mind when I read the books, and I hear his voice reading the lines. But, much as I loved Gregory Peck's soft spoken Atticus Finch, I never hear his voice when I read Atticus in the book. Another odd memory tied to this book: I'm almost positive that this was assigned for 9th grade English because I remember watching the movie in class, and the teacher-- who was young and single, and therefore the object of much minor crushing among the girls, despite his distinct lack of hotness and curly black mullet-- took the time to point out to us that they'd tied a rope around the legs of the dog (in the scene where Atticus shoots the rabid dog) and you could see them pull the poor dog's legs out from under it when it gets "shot". Then he rewound the tape and replayed the scene several times, to the hoots and giggles of a classroom of 9th graders. I remember being mystified by what was supposed to be so funny.

4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)-- and I have no desire to read it. I also haven't seen the movie, and I can't imagine actually sitting through it, no matter how much of a masterpiece it's supposed to be.

5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)

Though I do own the Fellowship of the Ring and the Hobbit in German, both were gifts from a good friend, and I just can't bring myself to read them. I've tried, I really have! But they bore me to tears. (Right now, I bet Luneray is wringing her hands in (semi-mock) despair.)

8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)

9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)

10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)

11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)

12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)-- I couldn't even be bothered to read The DaVinci Code-- wait! I just realized I never put my "on the other hand" part in up there. Here it is:
On the other hand, I've been told by several people whose taste I trust that it's a fun read, even though it's utter dreck, artistically/ literarily (I love to make up my own words. I think that might be one of them.). I may, at some point, decide to have a gander at it when I come across a $0.25 clearance copy of it at Half Price Books or something.

13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)

14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)

15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)-- I know that the two books have only a tenuous connection, but I recently (that is, in the last six or so months) read The Strangeness of Beauty, and I found it touching and compelling, so now I want to read this one. Again, I know that's a totally illogical chain of thought, but there it is. Sometime right after Christmas, Ash and I were in Barnes and Noble, and I spent a good hour paging through a huge picture book/ coffee table book about Geisha, their history, their culture, and their role in modern Japan. It was fascinating. So there's a more logical reason to want to read this.

16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)

17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)

18. The Stand (Stephen King)-- One of my favorites. I read it about once a year, usually when I feel the need for a good, cathartic reading experience. The first time I read it, it scared the crap out of me, in a good way. Now I really love the deliciously flawed characters and the good ol' good vs. evil fight.

19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)

20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)-- I have tried to read this book ever since I was a child, and I've never successfully finished it.

22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)-- This was one of the four or five books in English that a classmate of mine in Hamburg owned and let me borrow during those first horrible months when I desperately needed a break from the constant strain of speaking and hearing and reading and seeing German without quite understanding everything. Reading in German was not a pleasure for me at that point, and I was shocked at just how big a hole that left in my life. As you may have guessed, I am a voracious reader. Not being able to blow through 10 or 15 books a week really left an enormous void in my concept of myself and how to spend time. I adjusted, of course, and by the time Christmas rolled past, I was getting to the point where reading in German wasn't so arduous as to take all the pleasure and relaxation out of it, thereby preventing me from reaching that wonderful state where the real world ceases to exist and you slip into the world of the book. Side note: the first "real" book I read for pleasure in German was "Im Westen Nichts Neues", and it remains one of my very, very favorite books. Once, while I was in college, taking a class on translation issues in literature, I read it in English and was appalled at what a stiff, pompous book it came across as. In German, it's touching and tender and very human.

23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)-- Wow, was this good. I also read her memoir, Lucky. That was also very good, but oh, so harrowing. I don't know if I could ever re-read it.

25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)-- I tried to read this one, but couldn't make it past the first chapter.

26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)

27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)-- This is (was?) one of my high school friend's favorite books. If I remember, she pined to meet a man like Heathcliff.

28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)-- I read all of the Narnia books as a child because for whatever reason, my parents had no objection to my reading them during the sermon at Sunday evening services. I would do anything for a distraction from the terrible, boring sermons our pastor delivered. I used to play this game with myself where I would see how long I could hold my breath, timing myself on the large clock on the wall to the side of the pulpit, but the spirit of scientific inquiry could only hold my attention for so long. Ash recently made me watch the insipid piece of drivel that is "The Chronicles of Narnia". I hate movies with precious, precocious children who save the world. Except the Harry Potter movies. And that is because I am a hypocrite.

29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)-- This is one of the books that is in constant competition for the title of "My Favorite Book of All Time". I love Steinbeck, everything except "Winter of Our Discontent". For some reason, that one just fails to grab me. Anyway, I am stirred to the very quick of my soul by the power of the word "Timshel!", uttered by Lee, by Adam.

30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)-- This book repels me, the treacle of its premise seeping from under its cover.

31. Dune (Frank Herbert)

32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)-- God, I will never forgive Hulio for tricking me into reading this.

33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)

34. 1984 (Orwell)-- Another well-loved classic for me. I've read it several times, and it seems that each time I come away with a slightly different interpretation of it. I love it when that happens.

35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)

36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)

37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)

38. I Know This Much is True(Wally Lamb)-- So powerful. I read this at a time when we were starting to learn more about my birthmother and about the problems that my sister had struggled with all her life. For a time, it looked as though she might be developing a mental illness*, and I was worried that one day I might "go crazy", too. This book resonated with me on a very deep level because of that.

39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)

40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)

41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)

42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)

43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)

44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)-- Though not so treacly as the other book by this author, I still cannot bring myself to even try to want to read this.

45. Bible (though, as with European,not the whole thing)

46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)

47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)

48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)-- This is one of those books that I think I may be one of the only people in America not to have read it.

49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)-- Man, this book gets the bleeding heart, commie do-gooder in me fired up. Steinbeck totally knows how to push my buttons.

50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)-- I read this despite my misgivings at the "Oprah Book Club" sticker on the cover and was instantly in love with Wally Lamb.

51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)-- Another book that I read reluctantly due to its connection to Oprah**. Hulio raved about it and I found a copy on the clearance rack of Half Price, so I gave it a chance. It was a great read. Especially if you read it at the height of a very humid D.C. summer.

52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)-- This is kind of surprising, because I actually really like Dickens. By the time this would have been required reading, I had left the normal AP track behind in order to have the flexibility to go back and forth to Germany.

53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)

54. Great Expectations (Dickens)-- God, was the ending of this stupid! Even for Dickens! Who I love in spite of my mild allergy to happy endings with all the loose ends neatly tied up.

55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)-- This is one of the other contenders for "My Favorite Book of All Time".

56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)

57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)

58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)-- Hulio loves this book. She has, however, not tried to convince me to read it. Smart woman, I think. I know, I know: how can I judge something I've never read? I have to tell you: the television miniseries pretty much put paid to any chance I would ever pick this book up.

59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)-- At some point, I imagine Ash will convince me to read this book. Dostoyevsky is one of his favorite authors.

62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)-- This book was too beloved by the most obnoxious and pretentious pseudo-intellectuals I met in college for me to have ever been tempted by it.

63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)

64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)-- Trashy, but fun. The sequels, however, were not worth the paper on which they had been printed.

65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)

66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)-- I was surprised (very pleasantly so) by how much I liked this book. I have a fondness for children's and young adult literature, so I know that when it's good, it's sublime (The Giver, for example), but that it can be as trite and cliched and superficial as the scribblings of the 14 year old girls in its target audience. I honestly expected to find this one closer to the latter group, but instead I found it to be much more in the vein of Judy Blume.

68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)

69. Les Miserables (Hugo)-- I love the unabridged version, with its long, meandering asides (I bet that's a shock to any of you who read this blog regularly, given the frequency with which I employ parentheticals***), especially the ones about argot and convents.

70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)-- In four languages so far, but never once as an assignment for school.

71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)-- I think I am the only woman of my age in America who did not read this, nor did I see the movie.

72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)-- I actually own a copy of this, but I never seem to get around to reading it.

73. Shogun (James Clavell)

74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)-- This is another book that was ruined for me by the movie-- even though I didn't see the movie, just suffered through the massive publicity campaign for it.

75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)-- The elementary school librarian lobbied hard for me to read this book. My tastes ran more to this and this and this (all books that I remember fondly from the third grade, when I had special permission to use the upper grades' shelves because the stuff in lower grades' shelves was far below my reading level-- and I'd already read almost all of it (literally!) anyway. I could come in early in the morning to pick out books when no one else was there, which was a very attractive perk for a child who already hated how different she was from her classmates, but who had also already decided that she liked the things that made her different too much to give them up.)

76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)

77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)

78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)

79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)

80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)-- And what child of my generation didn't love the cartoon, especially Tempelton's racous carouse through the fair?

81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)

82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)-- I talked my mom into reading this after I was assigned it in 10th grade English (Major American Authors II), and I remember walking into the kitchen after school to find her crying into the mashed potatoes over poor George and poor Lenny. I myself have never read it without crying.

83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)

85. Emma (Jane Austen)-- I read this for pleasure after I loved Pride and Prejudice so much. And I remember liking this one, too, but for the life of me, I don't remember anything about it at all.

86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)-- Ash thinks I should read this. Sometimes I think I should, too. But not enough to actually read it.

87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)-- I keep meaning to request this from the library. I've been meaning to read this for years.

88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)

89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)

90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)

91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)

92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)-- I've commented on this one before (see #70), and I only want to add that I re-read it a year or two ago and I don't really care for it.

93. The Good Earth(Pearl S. Buck)

94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)

95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)

96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)

97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)

98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)

99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)-- Heh. See #1 in this list, then add "I have a severe allergy to this kind of airy-fairy quasi-spiritual, New Age mumbo jumbo."

100. Ulysses (James Joyce)-- And I think its safe to say "Haha! No one will ever make me!"

*Instead of the very scary schizophrenia that was mentioned at one point around this time, it turned out that she was "just" struggling to deal with the frustrations of being borderline retarded and finding her path in the adult world. A good strong course of counseling together with a couple of years of antidepressants helped her over the really bad stuff. She still struggles at times, but she's managed to earn an associate's degree and found a good job, and that seemed to help quite a lot. It's frightening to me how very much in the dark we are when it comes to diagnosing and treating mental illness, and it angers me to hear the stigma attached to it. I guess it's human to hate and fear that which we do not understand and cannot control. It helps to alleviate the sense of helplessness, I suppose. But how on Earth are people supposed to seek the treatment they need-- treatments that can mean the difference between life and death (and I assure you that, without treatment, my sister would have eventually killed herself)-- when they have to fear being stigmatized, shunned, feared, written off as "crazy"?

** Not that I have anything against Oprah, per se. In fact, I admire her philanthropic efforts a great deal. But the Oprah Book Club just always kind of rubbed me the wrong way for a reason that I could never put my finger on. I am utterly in favor of encouraging people to read and broaden their horizons, and the recommendation of Oprah probably led a lot of women to read books that they never would have glanced at in the bookstore. Maybe it was just that it seemed so cultish. Maybe it's that darn allergy to overly huge phenomenon. Maybe I'm just a bad person. I don't know.

***I talk this way in real life, too. Sometimes, I'll be talking to Hulio and 20 minutes later, she asks me, "So, what were you saying about X?", and by that time, I've gotten so far afield of the original topic that it takes me a minute to regroup.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

That's Because I Make It Right

At the end of a lovely dinner together, Ash and I were discussing whether or not to have coffee. As much as I love coffee, I declined, on the grounds (heh. grounds.) that my sleep cycles are already out of whack from the past two weeks and I simply cannot afford to mess with that any more, since I had to start back to work today. Ash countered that we could get decaf, or we could go home and make coffee that's not so strong. I objected, because I really just don't see the point in drinking watery coffee. Decaf, sure, sometimes. But, saints preserve us, not weak coffee.

Ash replied, "Yeah, but there's 'normal coffee' and then there's your coffee. Your coffee is like the god of caffeine walking up and punching you right in the face."

Like that's a bad thing?