What the world is coming to

American flag


Eh, it’s been a week.

I have no words for Boston or West . . . nothing adequate, anyway. Like most Americans, I’ve been glued to news sites and broadcasts for days — unable to tear my eyes away from the disturbing updates and images. The photos haunt me.

Whenever something awful happens, I vow to “tune out” and stay far away from the updates — but, you know, that rarely happens. This dates back to 9/11, I’m sure, when we were glued to our TVs in the D.C. suburbs waiting for word on parents and friends in Washington. It was terrifying; it was life-changing. My inner peace was shattered. And though I was only 16, I was certainly old enough to realize something truly terrible had happened. Life was forever divided into Before and After.

My mom and I frequently talk about “the old days” — the simpler times when she was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s. Long days where kids played in the streets together, unafraid of kidnappers and rapists. No one wore sunscreen; no one got burned. People felt safe enough to leave their cars unlocked, to have their doors wide open. Neighbors waved and hosted block parties. They came to borrow to sugar.

“I feel so sad that you’ll never experience that,” she says.

“I don’t know any other way,” I say.

But their “simpler times” were often far from simple. And we talk about that, too. Threats of nuclear bombs. Volatile race relations. The assassinations of presidents, politicians, beloved leaders. An impeachment. War.

“But it wasn’t broadcast in real time,” Mom says. “That’s the difference.”

It wasn’t on your iPhone, cradled in the palm of your hand. It didn’t surround you and drag you into the thick of it; it wasn’t tweeted live from every nook of the country.

But life keeps moving.

I think about my own kids. They’ll be born in a post-9/11, post-Boston world — but we will work to protect and strengthen them. When I feel anxious and scared about “what the world is coming to,” I remember the resilience of America — through everything, through all of this — and know that, somehow, we will still link arms and work together and figure it out . . . because we’re Americans.

Though I don’t know what the world is coming to, I’m proud of my country. I cry when I hear the national anthem. I’m thinking endlessly of Boston, of Texas. I’m rooting for all of us. And if nothing else, we are here . . . together.


Advertisements

Random thoughts on the second day of summer

Because sometimes we all need a random post, right?

1. My obsession with nail polish has reached a critical point. I’ve actually taken to selling a few new bottles on eBay to feed my addiction, because really — much like my overflowing bookcases, I can no longer store all the shiny bottles of lacquer arriving from Julep and, um, everywhere else. My nails are currently painted with Julep’s Claire, at right. When a friend commented on it being a “wild” choice for me, I decided I’m not daring enough. My goal is to wear whacky colors all summer long.

2. And in the same vein, I’m buying way too many pairs of flats. I’ve purchased three new pairs of shoes in the past month, which has to be some sort of record for my typical shoe-hating self, but I’m getting them cheaper than expected (eBay!) and trying to replace some older pairs that have really had the ax. I’m trying to up my fashion game . . . marginally, anyway.

3. I finally saw “The Shawshank Redemption” from start to finish — and wow, it’s depressing. (“But it has a happy ending!” my dad recently crowed. To which I say: yes, but just barely.) It was really good, though. Really good. Morgan Freeman is amazing — but that’s not breaking news.

4. My birthday is in less than a month. I typically love celebrating, but July 18 is a Wednesday this year — and that happens to be a serious deadline day for me. With a big section going to press plus all my normal weekly duties, there’s no way I’ll be anything but slammed . . . and that depresses me. But I guess that’s adulthood. I’ll have to settle for checking my Facebook notifications and treat myself to post-work dessert. If I’m lucky, maybe someone else will make me cupcakes. I don’t have to bake my own birthday dessert, right?

5. Speaking of dessert, I’m the head baker for my good friend Erin’s baby shower at the end of June! Blue velvet cupcakes — maybe 72 of them. I’m a little nervous. Baking is no problem, and even decorating doesn’t scare me . . . but the thought of transporting 72 cupcakes along bumpy roads makes my stomach drop. I have one of those big plastic carrying cases, but it only holds 24. Hmm
. . . if anyone has any transportation suggestions, please send ’em my way.

6. I’ve become obsessed with Brussels sprouts. I know that’s, like, really weird, but they’re my new favorite vegetable. Spencer got me hooked on them, bringing home the steam-in-the-bag variety, and I find myself requesting them at least once a week. Maybe we should try roasting them for something different.

7. I’m in a book-hopping mood. Sometimes I gobble up novels in a sitting or two, never flitting between books — and other times, like now, I’m restless and anxious and . . . I don’t know. Unfocused. I’ve picked up and put down three or four books in the last week, reading 30-50 pages of each before casting them aside. I’m not ready to throw them in the “abandoned” category, but nothing I’ve read since Beautiful Ruins has really held my attention. Really great books seem to do that: ruin you for a while.

8. Despite being a huge and long-standing fan of “The Bachelor” franchise (I know, I know . . .), I just can’t get into Emily’s season. While I initially loved her on Brad’s show, I’m very lukewarm on he rnow. Obviously she’s a real person and I don’t know her, but I always thought she was sweet and maybe a little “above” competing on a reality show for love. (Not that I judge that — I don’t, honestly; everyone has to meet somewhere.) Now she seems like yet another sell-out. But that’s just me; many people still luuuuurve her.

9. A show I am actually enjoying? “Dallas.” Considering I was in diapers when its first incarnation was on air, I have nothing to compare it to . . . but it’s filling the gaping hole in my life left by “Revenge” ending for the season. (My God, that finale. That finale. My jaw = on the floor.) And the actor playing John Ross reminds me of Jonathan Rhys Meyers, which reminds me of “The Tudors,” which reminds me of when I was actually excited about TV. So good times all around.

10. And because I like ending on even numbers . . . I’m really excited to see my family for our annual crab feast/reunion in a few weeks. You can’t be a Marylander without developing some affinity (or appreciation, at least) for seafood, and I haven’t gone crab pickin’ yet this year. Blasphemy, I know . . . but I feel like I’ve barely been home. Here’s to settling back in and wielding a crab mallet in the weeks to come.

Five things that have kept me humble

The holidays aren’t a time for hubris. Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about feeling the love. About recognizing our blessings and feeling grateful for all we’ve been given. For reflecting upon another year gone by and celebrating the people who matter to us.

I’m holly and jolly at Christmas (and other times, I hope), but sometimes things happen to knock you on your metaphorical bum. One of the nicknames bandied about by my friend Sandy is BH, or “Big Head” — referring to, of course, my weighty ego. I mean, yes — I think I’m great. Not because I’m better than anyone else, but because I’m a woman with confidence and — dare I say it? — swagger.

Writerly swagger, anyway. Which is basically like real swagger.

Sandy first coined BH in a text conversation while I was in New York City. Nervous before the Book Blogger Convention, where I was speaking on a panel, I’d been instructed to write her with news of how everything went in the aftermath. When I texted to say everything had gone well and I was relieved to have not embarrassed myself in front of my peers and publishing types, her response was, “Just make sure your BH can get through the door.”

I’ve lived by that motto. Lest my BH get too big to fit in my office or car, the universe occasionally conspires to keep me grounded.

Very grounded.

Sometimes too grounded.

In no particular order, I present . . .


Recent Things That Have
Kept Me Humble


1. Being asked if I have a 23-year-old daughter.

In the wee hours of Black Friday, I was stumbling around an electronics store with my dad and 23-year-old sister. When the time came to check out, I brought my purchases up to a cashier. She waved to Katie, completing her own purchase nearby, and turned to me with a grin. I guess she recognized the last name on my credit card.

“So,” she said slowly, “is Katie your sister — or your daughter?”

My. daughter.

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve spent a little too much time plucking wiry, silver-white hairs from my scalp lately. In addition to my nightly teeth-brushing and face-washing, I’m often brandishing a pair of tweezers on a mission to de-gray myself. But do I, a 26-year-old woman, look like I have a 23-year-old daughter? I mean, seriously?

For the record, I was nice. I laughed it off with a chuckle. Much like the time a former coworker asked me if I had “a bun in the oven.” He got the Patented Megan Look of Death, and then we all went about our business.


2. Falling out of my office chair.

I have a really annoying habit of leaning forward in my desk chair, practically pressing my tired little eyeballs against the monitor. On one such occasion, while in the middle of a casual conversation with a coworker, I tipped too far forward and went skittering down. Before I could catch my balance, my behind hit the ground — hard. So hard that I whined like a child shoved by a playground bully.

Too stunned to immediately react, I stared at the dust gathering in the corners beneath my desk and tilted my head up to stare at the ceiling. I was totally embarrassed. But, you know — I understand that the sight of others falling is funny. And since I’m a good sport, I allowed myself to be photographed in such an awkward position. With my own camera.


3. Getting hate mail.

I write a personal newspaper column, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned a time or two (or twenty). It’s challenging and awesome, and I’m super grateful to have a J-O-B — especially doing what I love: writing. About myself. (BH . . .)

For the most part, the response to said columns is very positive. I haven’t dealt with many haters. I imagine that if people don’t like what I have to say, they simply don’t read it — and that’s a very effective plan. But I have one persistent reader — she of the original hate mail fame — that can’t sit idly by while I defile the English language and smear the name of good journalists everywhere (paraphrased, and italics are mine).

By her own admission, she’s 83 years old and living somewhere in a neighboring county. I’ve received several handwritten letters from her now, all correcting me on my style and generally “unbelievable” articles, and have been told in no uncertain terms that I’m “not a real journalist.”

Which is great to hear, because I’m totally not.

I’m a writer who happened upon an editing job, which somehow led to a columnist gig. One of which I’m proud. And one I’ll happily keep writing — if only to agitate her.


4. Having a friend share her ‘fat clothes’ with us.

I’m hesitant to include this, given that I love the clothes, but here are the facts: a kind friend of my sister’s shared a bag of clothes with her. As she had recently lost a great deal of weight, these were perfectly good items — many still with their tags — that simply did not fit her well anymore.

She did not call them her “fat clothes.” At all.

But that’s totally what they were.

I mean, words are just words — and who cares how you procure clothing as long as it’s cute? Katie was nice enough to donate one of the dress shirts to me, and I’ve worn it several times to work — where I received many compliments. (BH . . .) It’s a good looking shirt, and it fits me well. I love it.

But sometimes, when I’m feeling weak and haven’t gone to Zumba, I think, “This is someone’s fat shirt. This shirt that fits me like a glove was a shirt that was elephant-sized on someone else.”

But then I drink another gingerbread latte (with whip!) and feel tons better, so there’s that.


5. Realizing I’m aging out of the whole ‘Twilight’ thing.

My sister and I went to see “Breaking Dawn” last weekend. I’m pretty ridiculous in movie theaters, considering I despise when people are talking, texting, loudly opening candy wrappers and generally breathing around me during a film. Given this, I’m pretty hesitant to go see movies — especially new ones — on Friday nights. Too many people around.

Or, more importantly, too many teenagers around.

God help me when I have a teen of my own; I cannot take the silliness and general insanity that accompanies puberty. Trust me: I remember being that age, and I’m not saying I wasn’t annoying as some stuff. I have very vivid memories of going to the movies with friends and giggling in the back row, generally being stupid and disruptive. And that was before cell phones.

But I’ve moved beyond that.

I’ll also preface this by saying I mean no disrespect to those who remain true and diehard fans of Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight franchise. I read and loved the books (and films) years back, falling for Edward’s possessiveness and tortured good-guy act as much as the next chick. I also related to the dark themes and loss of love at that point in my life. But the truth is, with time and experience, I’ve come to realize that brand of love is not one I would ever want for myself. What was once entertaining has become bothersome — to the point that Katie and I have had long discussions of feminism and possessiveness after watching the movies.

All that sort of ruined it for me.

And, um — have you seen “Breaking Dawn”? It was overflowing with super awkward moments, y’all, and not just of the bed-breaking naughty-times variety. That one scene? That bloody scene toward the end? One express ticket to Nightmare City, please.

If I’d been pregnant myself while watching such a film, I might have passed out. But then again, I’m also the one who famously left a child development course in college because I couldn’t take the “Where Babies Come From” video we were forced to watch (and study). I got sick in a nearby bathroom and was too embarrassed to come back to class, considering I’d run out of there as if my hair were on fire.

Also, there were so many teenagers in the movie theater. When I hissed as much to Katie, who is all too aware of how annoyed I get in loud theaters, her response was swift and cutting.

“Well,” she said seriously, “this is really more their demographic than ours.”

And she was right.

I’m getting old. And too old for that.


——–


As Christmas is the season for counting our blessings and decidedly not a time for throwing myself a pity party, know that I’ve shared this list in jest. I know any of these “problems” would never be considered real problems at all, and I’m thankful to have “fat clothes” to wear and people who care enough to hate on me and gray hair (and any hair) on my head. Furthermore, I’m thankful for the friends and family who can also laugh about this silliness.

But seriously. I don’t have a 23-year-old kid.

Review — or let it simmer?

At my core, I’m a writer. One of the things I love best about reading — and having a book blog — is the ability to read and immediately write about a novel. Whether it’s chatting on how terrible it was, how stunning, or just hashing and re-hashing my favorite moments, I love sharing my thoughts — and review books almost immediately after finishing them, typically early the following morning.

I’m realizing something strange, though. As I continue to chronicle my reading adventures and review each book I finish, weeks can go by — months, maybe — before I think about a book again. Then, when I’m scanning my book reviews archive or reading challenges, a title will jump out at me and I’ll think, “Oh yeah. I remember that one. It was . . . good?”

how_i_live_nowAnd I won’t quite know. I won’t remember.

I read the book. In many cases, I loved the book. But the details? Well, the details will have faded into obscurity — characters, places, times. Nothing much remains. And when I go back to see what I wrote, I’ll barely contain my surprise at having raved about something I can barely recall later on. Lu at Regular Rumination recently posted on Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, a book I finished last August. As I was reading Lu’s review, all the things I disliked about it — the things that frightened me — came rushing back, swamping any positive feelings I could conjure up. But after I pulled up my own review, I was shocked by how much I liked it.

So the little wheels in my brain are turning. How different would my review of the young adult novel — which centers around an American teen trapped in England after the onset of a mysterious world war — have changed if I’d discussed it weeks later, instead of the following morning? And that particular morning, as I recall, I was dead exhausted from having stayed up until 2 a.m. or so to finish. It was horrifying; I couldn’t tear myself away. And then, of course, I couldn’t calm down long enough to sleep.

If I were to talk about the book now, my review would be very different — and probably not as positive. And I have a feeling that’s true of many of the novels I’ve read.

So which reaction is the “true” reaction? Is it better to review a book when it’s fresh and freshly in my mind, when I’m probably emotional from having finished it? When I love a book so much and then write a review immediately, I have a tendency to gush. Are those reviews “better” than the ones I might have written had I let the book simmer, giving me time to analyze my feelings and discuss it in a more logical way?

As I’m sure it apparent, I adore writing about books. And if I had to wait to write about them, I feel like they would lose something powerful in the meantime. Those gut reactions to a book are, to me, some of the most interesting . . . and honest. But I know that not everyone feels that way.

So do you review promptly, or let it simmer?
What are the advantages and disadvantages to both?

In which I give thanks

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
— Albert Schweitzer



It’s easy to talk about Thanksgiving in abstract terms; this whole concept of being thankful should be simpler, but it’s easy for me to get ensnared in the day-to-day drama of living, picking up only the little issues and forgetting to step back, breathe deeply and just feel grateful.

First of all, I live in a free country — a place I can discuss anything like, befriend anyone I choose, love as I see fit and hold any job I desire. I’m free. In all the ways that matter, I’m free.

My loving, supportive family slings an arm around me anytime I’m down. My mom and dad have given me every opportunity to succeed, and the absolute last thing I’ll ever do is fail them. My sister is my best friend in the universe; I can’t wait to grow old with her at my arm, both of us laughing at ridiculous TV shows and running out to get Slurpees whenever we’ve had tough days. My grandparents, Maw Maw, aunts, uncles, cousins — everyone has a special place in my heart. I forget how lucky I am to have a happy, healthy family, but I want that to change.

I’m thankful for a sense of purpose — a tranquility that comes from knowing I have a job where I’m appreciated and validated. I love editing, design and my work for a newspaper, but know in my gut that I’m meant to write — and that passion guides me in everything I do. It reminds me not to take myself too seriously, and all the unpleasant stuff that happens? Yeah, it’ll all wind up in a novel someday. Everything that happens — annoying, awesome, frustrating, fantastic — is making me who I am . . . as a person and a novelist. So I can’t feel angry knowing all this nonsense? Great novel fodder.

And my friends! Whether we met in high school, college, at one of the various jobs I’ve held over the years or through the blogging community, I’m so grateful to share my life with such awesome people — and to share theirs, too. Once upon a time, I so feared being vulnerable to the point that I completely closed myself off, lying to myself by saying I was happier that way. Now more than ever, I see just how untrue that was . . . and am thankful to have learned how to be open to the possibilities of honest friendship. I can’t ever go back to how I was before!

Books make me feel grateful — the added experiences, the shift in perspective. A wonderful book can absolutely change your life, and I’ve found several this year that reminded me what it is to be human. Each one seems to find me at just the right time, just as in Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen! There’s no better way for me to step outside myself than to grab a novel and settle in for change. It’s relaxing, invigorating, restorative — basically everything good in the world. Books are just awesome.

I’m thankful for music and the special place it has in my life; I’m thankful that my mother taught me to crochet as a kid, a hobby I love intensely! I’m thankful that I finally got my Etsy business up and running this year, and have so loved making scarves for orders this fall.

The travel I did this year was amazing — and completely put my life in perspective. I started out in London, found myself in North Carolina and recently traveled to California. A different lesson accompanied me on each vacation, and I’m definitely a different person for having gone. I’m thankful that I was brave enough to do what, a year ago, would have seemed totally crazy to me! And I’m very grateful for the friends who were with me on those journeys.

What else am I thankful for? Health. Food. Gainful employment. Love — both lost and found. Humor. Movies. Celebrity crushes. A beautiful sunset. Photography. This blog, and the book blogging community! And you, for sure, for reading this.


Wishing you all a very happy
(and thankful!) Thanksgiving!

You’re so vain — you probably think this blog post is about you

love_sharpieOne of the scariest things I’ve realized about having a personal/book blog lately? People read it. Which means I can . . . post things. And people will see them. And comment on them. And what I say? It’s out in the ether — possibly forever.

Now, I have no delusions of grandeur — I’m not saying I’m one of the brightest intellectual stars in the sky, or that I’m debating some of The Big Issues of our time here on write meg! I am saying that it’s simultaneously thrilling and frightening that I have a forum in which I can . . . write about whatever I want. Mostly because there are so many things I wish I could write about, but know that’s not smart.

My head has been a jumbled-up mess lately. And as much as I would love to pour my heart out, I’m not fourteen years old anymore; that seems immature and, really, less than wise. I’ve had enough of immaturity and childish behavior lately. In fact, I’ve had my fill, to be honest. So I’m trying hard to just move forward, focus on myself and my writing and all the other exciting things in my life and not worry about people who clearly aren’t worrying about me.

But my heart is bruised.

And I don’t remember how to unbruise it . . . other than to trust that time will make me forget all the old hurts, I’ll lose myself in my work and things I love and, eventually, I won’t think about anything other than puppies, rainbows and ice cream again.

Making lists of happy things has made me happy — as has planning my trip to California! I leave for San Diego and Los Angeles in two days. I’m hoping a week with girlfriends in a beautiful place 3,000 miles from here will give me some much-needed perspective on everything, filling me with a sense of peace and renewal. Here’s to hoping I come home a brighter, sparkly person with about a thousand photos on my memory cards. (And maybe, if I’m lucky, a tan.)

I’m very fortunate to have the greatest friends, family and community I could ask for — and this fall will be filled with so many great things. I’ll surge forward, confident that the choices I make in the future will be the right ones — and bring me closer to my happy ending. I wear my ring daily. I go out of my way to take care of me, treating myself gingerly and carefully. I’m not unkind — to myself, or anyone else. I treasure my sense of humor, and my ability to see the best in others — even when they’re acting like jerks. I’m a hard worker. Sincerity and honesty are two of my greatest qualities.

Sometimes I fall too quickly . . . and don’t stop to make sure I’m not jumping blindly because, you know, I’ve been hurt. But being vulnerable isn’t a crime . . . and I’m happy I can still find a way to be open, even when my gut instinct is to hunker down as though a hurricane is roaring up the coast — boarding up my windows, nailing the doors shut, closing myself off and keeping quiet until the storm passes. But I didn’t do that. It was scary, and now it hurts — but I’m glad I did it.

Someday I’ll find someone who loves me the way that I love me . . . and until then? I’ll keep smiling, laughing and moving, knowing that someday — I will.

Musing Mondays: Marking my place

Monday again! musing_mondays Here’s this week’s question:

What do you use to mark your place while reading? Do you have a definite preference? Do you use bookmarks, paper, or (gasp) turn down the pages? If you use bookmarks, do you have a favourite one?

I’m pretty obsessive-compulsive about my bookmarks, as I am with most things! Firstly, I never, ever dog-ear the pages — I hate that! Sometimes I give my sister permission to turn down the page if we’re both reading the same book so she can put her own bookmark in, but if I’m the only one reading it, you’ll never see me pulling that!

Like many devoted readers, I have a pretty big collection of bookmarks — but all of them are the cheap, freebie ones! I do have one or two nice ones, like a hand-painted bookmark I got in San Gimignano, Italy. But since I’m constantly jamming them in the pages and the books are getting kicked around on my floor, jammed in a purse or otherwise jostled, I usually stick with my paper ones! I have a particular Borders bookmark a bookseller gave me years and years ago — long before I ever worked there — and I’ve kept it all this time. It’s the perfect size — not too long, not too short — and it’s appropriately creased where I like bookmarks to be creased.

And if you didn’t think I was a little bizarre and OCD before, you do now! 🙂 Happy Monday, everyone!