Entries from December 2011

52 in 52

Friday, December 30, 2011

At the beginning of this year I took on the challenge of reading fifty-two books in fifty-two weeks. I didn’t commit to the challenge until the end of January when I had already passed my quota for the month… I figured with such a great start I may as well give it a shot.
Every month I made an effort to read at least 5 books, some months I fell short, others I pushed forward. 
Come week 47 I met my goal… and kept going. 
Here’s a list of the books I read this year. The books highlighted in yellow were my favorites and the ones highlighted in blue are notable and definitely recommended. I did not dislike any of the books I read and have something good to say about each one, the highlighted ones just stood out a little bit more than the rest.

1. Hector and the Search for Happiness – Francois Lelord
2. Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer
3. The Drawing of the Three – Stephen King
4. What Color Is Your Parachute? – Richard Nelson Bolles
5. The Monsters of Templeton – Lauren Groll
6. If You Have to Cry Go Outside – Kelly Cutrone
7. Beginner’s Greek – James Collins
8. World War Z – Max Brooks
9. The Walking Dead Book One – Robert Kirkman (this is the first 12 issues)
    – recommended if you like the show

10. Operating Instructions – Anne Lamott
11. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
12. Coraline – Niel Gaiman
13. The Waste Lands – Stephen King

14. Save Karyn – Karyn Bosnak
15. Wizard and Glass – Stephen King
16. Sugar and Spice – Lauren Conrad
17. How Starbucks Saved My Life – Michael Gates Gill
18. What Now? – Ann Patchett
19. Official Book Club Selection – Kathy Griffin

April and May
20. Floor Sample – Julia Cameron
21. Nickel and Dimed – Barbara Ehrenreich
22. Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth – Donna Gershten
23. The Wolves of Calla – Stephen King
24. Sinner Takes All – Tera Patrick
25. Song of Susanna – Stephen King
** Bossy Pants – Tina Fey

26. The Dark Tower – Stephen King (loved and hated it at the same time)
27. Lessons of a Lipstick Queen – Poppy King
28. The Sound of Paper – Julia Cameron
29. I Don’t Care About Your Band – Julie Klausner
30. On a Hoof and a Prayer – Polly Evans
31. Reviving Ophelia – Mary Pipher

32. Bonk – Mary Roach
33. The Mysterious Benedict Society – Trenton Lee Stewart
34. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – Barbara Kingsolver
35. Through Painted Deserts – Donald Miller

36. Long Quiet Highway – Natalie Goldberg
37. The Hours – Michael Cunningham
38. Walking on Water – Derrick Jensen
39. Animal Dreams – Barbara Kingsolver
40. Yes Man – Danny Wallace

41. The Sea Wolf – Jack London
42. I Am a Pencil – Sam Swope
43. Lit – Mary Karr
44. Wildwood – Colin Meloy
45. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
46. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

47. White Teeth – Zadie Smith
48. Teacher Man – Frank McCourt
49. Linchpin – Seth Godin

50. This Is Not the Story You Think It Is… – Laura Munson
51. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
52. One Day – David Nicholls
And I kept going:
53. Strange Angels – Lili St. Crow
54. Betrayals – Lili St. Crow
55. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
56. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
57. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
58. The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show – Ariel Gore

59. Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson
60. The History of Love – Nicole Krauss
61. Walking in Circles Before Lying Down – Merrill Markoe
62. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
63. The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
64. School of Dreams – Edward Humes

**Looks like I made 65 instead of 64… somehow, when putting April and May books together I had forgotten that I had read Bossy Pants. How I forgot about that is beyond me.

While I loved this challenge I think I need time for other things next year. I am going to continue to keep track of the books each month but I am not going to stress about reading 52+. I do have to figure out my next reading goal… maybe a classic a month for 2012, or I can only purchase a book a month… the rest have to come from the library… 
I haven’t decided quite yet.
What are your reading goals for next year?

original image found via piccsy

A Safari Adventure with The Brows

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

This kid has my heart to the end. I’m pretty sure everybody knows that already, and when (read: if) I’m rich and have lots of money I will find creative ways to spoil this boy like no other.
Did you know he’s like 2 times the size he should be, or that’s my lame math that’s probably totally not correct when in reality he’s the size of a four year old but he just had his second birth day! I brag about him like he’s my own. I was smiling the whole day because he’s such a character. 
Our day went a little like this:
We met in the parking lot, Baby Brows just waking up from a short nap. He went into the stroller and we walked to the front gates. Señor Brows treated me to this trip which was oh so awesome and so we went in. We started by getting The Brows some food (I had eaten an El Pollo Loco tostada on the drive over, a juggle for sure) and I just laughed while Baby Brows became more and more animated with each french fry and chicken strip. By the raisins he was chattering about his milk, saying yum and calling Señor Brow’s soda “my meel.”* After pouring some milk in a cup similar to dad’s Baby Brows thought he had the same thing as dad and was content.
We then walked to find the Safari tour so Baby Brows could wake up a little more and see all the different animals, and ride the “tuck.”** After a very short wait we were sighting animals left and right. Baby Brows had his game face on but was bouncing when he was allowed. He may have been more interested in the mode of transportation we were taking and the kids in the seat in front of us, but every once in a while he was really excited about the animals too. The tour ended just in time, because he was ready to start running around.
And run he did.
I pushed the stroller as we made our way through the maze that is the Zoo Safari Park, formerly known as the Wild Animal Park. He stopped to look at the ducks, smell some flowers, and to sit on a little bench. He tired out and went back into the stroller until we found the elephants. Again Baby Brows was more interested in his surroundings and playing with his stroller than the animals… he ran circles around the poles, then around some benches, then would look back at us, then run toward us, dance a little bit and go around again. 
I did take a little bit of time to watch the elephants, there was one really young one who was sooo cute. Oh baby animals!
Then we moved on to find the petting zoo. Baby Brows went back into the stroller at this point, exhausted from running around. At first he didn’t want to get out of the stroller then he saw the goats and became pretty excited. He ran right up to the first one petting it until the goat threw his head a little… nothing hard or hurtful but Baby Brows ran back to dad to get his bearings. Then it was off to see the brushes (and use them on his own hair for a second… hahahahaha kids!) and find other goats to pet. He and another little boy were petting the resting goats when two others started sparring. It was cute to watch. Then a bigger goat started choking or something and Sebastian thought that was the funniest thing. He couldn’t stop laughing which made the other boy’s family laugh. 
After a couple minutes Baby Brows was done with petting goats and we went off in search of a soda and churro for me, I really can’t resist at theme parks of any kind. I love churros. 
Then we attempted to have birds land on us but that exhibit was closed once we arrive and so we trekked back toward the tigers. We managed a tiger sighting (and also saw a young boy pushing his sister’s stroller down a hill, letting go of it and running in front of it to scare her…. while the parents chatted on) and then headed toward the exit. They were ushering us out through arrow signs at all exhibit trail entrances. Very helpful, like I said, this park is a maze.
All in all a wonderful adventure. Baby Brows didn’t disappoint. I haven’t been to this park in probably over 12 years and probably wouldn’t have gone if friends and a child hadn’t been involved. Theme parks regain their magic when sharing them with a kid. 


* my meel is my milk in Baby Brows speak
** tuck is truck

Happily Wasted

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Zues and Ziggy… 
Ziggy is very hard to photograph, I have to catch him when the whites of his eyes are showing otherwise he is just a little blob of back fur. In case you are wondering, Ziggy runs the show. Zeus, the bigger dog, is very gentle with him and only sometimes kindly takes the ball out of his mouth. They are so cute.

I think I’m doin’ this new thing of not using the general picture for every week. While I still love that image I created, I just think it’s been used too much. Instead I’ll be using my favorite picture of the week (most likely from my phone). Also, I’m taking out the music I’m listening to and the books I’m reading… basically, I’ll just link you to anything I’m loving and/or thinking about for the week (or past two weeks…).

I hope you’re looking forward to all the New Year and new goals like I am!!!

what stopped me in my tracks this week:

Mrs. Dani posts about the importance of maintaining friendships even with busy schedules
I am quite envious of Elsie’s closet!
I’m going to start monthly recaps next year I think… these just look so pretty!
I won’t resort to regular gift wrap ever again!
I love goal lists!
50 questions

And, a special Christmas link… this almost made me cry with happiness. Simple really. I’m such a sap.



Sunday, December 25, 2011

It was about 12 years ago that the idea and meaning of Christmas became convoluted to me. It was a hard time for one side of my family, there were a lot of changes happening and young children in the mix, myself included. Well, I didn’t feel young at the time, but looking back I know that I was indeed, very young.

Even though I was young, I was definitely the oldest of many to stop believing in certain things. My mom had kept the dream alive for as long as possible (seriously, I was 13) even though my grandma was concerned that I would be made fun of at school and seen as a freak or something of the sort.

The first year of being on the flip side of Christmas (the ones keeping the magic alive for the younins) was definitely a little less bright. I don’t know if that was because of my new knowledge or because of the family trials and tribulations, but either way it just wasn’t the same. The curtain had lifted and I was left confused.

I wish I could stay I picked myself up and brushed myself off by next year but I have to be honest and say that I STILL don’t know what to do when it comes to Christmas. This year even more than most. Again we’re faced with an interesting time in this family, AND we’ve hit a time of change with my younger siblings.

I would like to say that time just slipped away from me this year, that always seems to be a good excuse, but it didn’t. I knew that Christmas was coming, there was plenty of warning…plenty of time to get things together or create traditions, and I just felt confused.

I thought about going with the family to the Festival of Lights at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, getting hot chocolate first and laughing at the different things they put into the display. I think last year when I went with Señor Brows and Unicorn Sparkle(bottom)s there were dolphins and dinosaurs. I guess if they are made out of lights it counts and Christmas right?! 🙂

I thought about wrapping presents by a fire and watching different movies but we’re working on getting ceramic logs and honestly I didn’t have money for presents for anyone this year. (I’ve been trying to help mom out as much as possible with the holidays as a present, that and because she’s done so much for me and is a great mom.)

I love reading the blogs in December, sometimes I feel like the spirit catches me after reading special posts but a few minutes later, when I come back to my own life I just feel like it’s another day. I’m not traveling anywhere to get home for Christmas in time, I’m not buying people presents, I’m not singing carols (neighbors… you’re welcome), I drank hot chocolate once thus far and I have not listened to any Christmas songs AT ALL. (As I type I am listening to Taylor Swift)
Even though the posts were beautiful and I want no one to lack the spirit I did wonder if anyone else was feeling at all like me. I mean, it seems like everybody has been getting ready for Christmas for weeks and weeks, and I’ve just been sitting here as if it were any other month.

Up until last night, I only had a few moments where I kind of felt Christmas, but nothing really true and full. Last night I went to a little get together at a friend from high school’s place. It was really good to catch up and open gifts and eat cookies and see people who know the good and the bad of who I am and still invite me places and WANT me to show up!
Then, tonight, a big thanks to Christmas Eve for bringing some more cheer home. My mom and I wrapped presents and watched Christmas Vacation and then I introduced her to one of my favorite Christmas movies, Love Actually. Oh how I love that movie, and it’s even better when shared. We ordered pizza, garlic bread, diet soda and watched movies, shared stories about grandpa (he’s doing a bit better but still being kept in the hospital) and wrapped the gifts.

Being surrounded by wrapped presents and scraps of wrapping paper definitely made Christmas a little more real. Helping my mom so she wouldn’t have to be up until 1am like she has in the past made me feel good despite not having money to buy anybody anything.

I know the meaning of Christmas is not the actual gifts. I have learned that more and more with each passing year (which DOES NOT mean I don’t look forward to getting gifts… I’m human). But I really do enjoy finding a great gift for someone and seeing their face when they open it or getting a call when they get the mail. I just keep telling myself I can surprise people throughout the year and be extra great on their birthdays once I get myself a job and life back on a path of some sort!

I’ve also been making mental notes of what I want my Christmas to be like next year. Presents will be bought for friends and family by the first week of December, I will have thought and planned for those gifts since the beginning of November, the paper will be brown and I will decorate it and there will be ribbon and it will be gorgeous. I will have a tree in my place (because by Christmas of next year I DEFINITELY plan on being out of my generous mother’s house) that will be cute and decorated with lovely lights.
Next year I will be making paper snowflakes and some sort of dessert and maybe even salted caramel. I will watch the Christmakkah episodes of The O.C. as well as Love Actually and Elf…
Next year I’ll help my mom stay on track because, let’s be honest, she has her hands full with two kids (both will be in high school then) and her over full time job.
Oh yes, and there will be a picture of me on Santa’s lap! I’ll be planning my pose all year long.
I think I will start a pinterest of my Christmas goals for next year…

But until then I will keep this post more positive than what-am-I-doing-with-my-life melancholy and share some of the times I did feel like Santa day was almost here:

-My sibling sand I managed to surprise my mom with a Christmas tree! That was a good memory that I will have for years and years to come. We went to home depot to pick out a tree and we get it to the car, we had enough room to put it IN the car, and we drove home to find mom there. Luckily she hadn’t (and didn’t) go into the living room at all when we had been gone otherwise the surprise would have been ruined because I had cleared a spot and put the tree stand down already.
She was going to dinner with a friend so right after she left we grabbed the tree and started bringing it into the house, right as we almost made it in the door lil bro yelled “she’s coming back!” because we saw a white car round the corner (and mom has a habit of coming back to grab something she forgot). With this we all laugh and scream and try our hardest to run with a tree in our arms and hide it in the office we have right by the living room.
Turns out the sighting was a false alarm but my goodness was it funny.

-Searching with Grandma for a gift for mom. Unfortunately we were unsuccessful but the outing was less stressful to her than most and she was so happy to be out of the house and searching for gifts for people. It’s been really easy to forget the woman she was before she became caretaker for both my grandpa and her brother. It’s been a hard few years for that woman and even if our outing was only a few hours I’m glad she had a second or two to be some of the woman I remember.

-Going around Target with my lovely friend Kate while she picked up some Christmas decorations for her and her man’s apartment. Chatting and looking at Christmas decorations definitely help keep my spirits up.

-Walking around Target with B&N my housemates from a couple of years back, the picture above is actually of their tree. We bought some Starbucks drinks and walked around Target just like old times.
It probably should be said here that I am at Target quite frequently…

-Cleaning dishes from mom’s baking. She bakes for her customers every year and while cleaning dishes isn’t always great, getting some pieces of brownie or cookie are treats and the house always smells delicious.

-Decorating the tree with the family and introducing them to Elf. We couldn’t find the lights for the Christmas tree for a good while, when we did mom pretended to fall into the tree from her perch on the couch while putting the lights at the top… we danced to the songs we had on, looked at the ornaments from the years and ate brownies or something else sweet.

-Going to the Zoo with Shay and Baby B! While it wasn’t a Christmas adventure there were lights everywhere and Santa was doing photos (which I SHOULD have taken advantage of!) Seeing Ms. Shay and meeting Baby B were an awesome present. I miss her so much and he’s ADORABLE. My friends keep having beautiful kids and I’m such a sucker.

-Going to the Wild Animal Park, oh excuse me, Zoo Safari with Señor and Baby Brows. Again, not Christmas related exactly but Señor Brows treated and Baby Brows is always a crack up. I love that little man so much. He’s a baby giant, seriously.

-Taking the sibs to buy mom a christmas gift (at first I had an idea and I was going to pay for it and it was going to be cheap, but meaningful…) but then she gave us money to buy her a gift… oh next year you will be better, and I think we did a pretty good job. Lil Sis wrapped the gift up and I’m really excited for mom to open it tomorrow.

So I guess, all things considered, I’m not at a complete loss for good memories this year. There have been bits and pieces and tomorrow should be full of more. We might go visit Grandpa in the hospital, which is going to be hard, but probably a really good idea. Then it’s off to northern L.A. to see some of the family and trade white elephant gifts.

Maybe I can get mom to stop for some hot chocolate on the way or something. 🙂

Merry Christmas lovelies.

Even if you don’t celebrate I hope you find some happiness tomorrow.


a day in the life

Friday, December 23, 2011

Today started out as any other. Isn’t that how they usually start? 
I woke up (maybe a tad earlier than usual), put on some work out clothes that were also acceptable to be seen in public in (long yoga pants, vans, stripped tank, blue american apparel hoodie, hair in a pony tail with a headband keeping the bangs from going crazy) put on some make up, ate some breakfast and headed to my grandparents’ house.
Yesterday I went over to take them both to get their blood drawn and then I sorted my grandpa’s pills for him (he has so many and the doctors keep changing them), and while we were at the doc’s office waiting for them each to see the nurse, grandpa sat down in a chair by the wall and hit his funny bone pretty hard on a shelf holding magazines. His skin tears really, really easily and he’s on a blood thinner so any injury is bandage worthy. The nurses bandaged him all up real good and they took his blood and her blood and we went on our way back to their house.  
Today I was scheduled to take grandpa back to the doctor’s office for another blood test, this one with him fasting. There are times where in your head you wonder if certain things are a smart idea and this was definitely one of those times. Grandpa has been in and out of the hospital a few times this year for falling due to lack of strength, cracks in curbs or slippery socks. It’s been a trying year for my grandma, my mother and the rest of that side of my family.
So lately, I’ve been helping them out (and they have been lending me their extra car) by sorting pills, or running errands or driving grandma around when she doesn’t feel up to driving…
Today I asked Grandpa how he’s feeling when I arrived. Yesterday he was feeling winded and shakey. Today he said he was feeling pretty good which made me happy. I was going on a solo mission with him to the doctor’s office and I am not in any way shape or form strong enough to hold him or help him get up from a sitting (or any other position).
We head out and grandma closes and locks the door behind us and as we are walking on the path to the car I see his feet moving oddly. I asked him how it was going and he said not good and by the time I was able to get in front of him and hold his walker he was on his way to meet the ground. 
I feel like poop. I want to say another word but I refrain from cussing here.
I saw his feet stumbling a little and I should have gotten in front of the walker before he had pushed himself to the downward slope of the driveway, I just didn’t catch it in time. I’m thankful I caught it at all. And I’m kind of thankful it was right by the car.
He fell. He slid to the side of his walker and broke his fall with his shoulder and ribs. I immediately ran back to the door to knock on it and then ran back to grandpa and called 911. I knew the drill even though I had never been present for it before. 
From across the street a man came running over to see if he could help me at all. I didn’t want to move grandpa, I know how these things go (again, not from practice, just from tv shows and grandpa’s other gory stories) and thought letting the paramedics deal with it was the best bet. But I was thankful for that man’s company, he kept light but inquiring conversation with grandpa while I called for a paramedic.
I admit, I stumbled a bit calling 911. I was fighting with the lock on my phone and then realized I could press the emergency call button and then when that didn’t do what I wanted, I managed to punch 911. They answered immediately, I was a little shocked by that (which wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, but somewhere in there) and I had to tell them what happened and the address.
Luckily my grandma was out of the house by this time and she’s really use to this so she knew better than I how to handle him and the situation. 
While on the phone the paramedics that I was transferred to asked me a couple of questions, I am so thankful and lucky that he was conscious and lucid. I don’t know if I’ve made this confession here before, but I’ll make it now…
I have a phobia of throw up/vomit.
I go into panic attacks if I think I might be getting sick. I get anxiety if I find out I was around someone who then even a couple of days after ends up throwing up. If someone starts throwing up around me I either get as far away as possible, or if I can’t curl up into a ball, plug my ears (my fingers as far in the ear canals as possible) and start humming. I wish I was joking. I have relaxed a bit in my issues, if I can determine the person who had thrown up wasn’t contagious I don’t worry for three days I still can’t be around the act.
So back to the phone call, they ask how bad he is bleeding and if he has hit his head… he didn’t hit his head as far as I remembered because he was holding his head up as he fell and when he fell and he kept testing his hurt shoulder which I kept asking him not to (in a very nice and calm way) telling him the paramedics would be there soon to check him out. 
When the man on the phone found out he was bleeding he told me he wanted me to try and stop it, he might have thought I was a sissy because I stumbled with my answer there, but luckily we found out that for me to stop the bleeding I would have to get a towel and that would require me going inside and not being able to keep an eye on him, which, in all honesty, would have been a bit of a relief after the next thing he said…
Paramedic told me to watch him so long as the blood wasn’t pouring out he would be fine. He then told me to watch to see if grandpa lost consciousness and… if he started vomiting to roll him on his side.
I was so good until then. And even then, to the guy on the phone, I didn’t want to seem like the brat of a granddaughter that wouldn’t make sure her grandpa didn’t die by choking. But I was really wondering what I was going to do if anything came to that point.
Luckily it didn’t. 
Minutes after I hung up with the paramedic the firetruck came around the corner… I told them that he was on blood thinners and they wanted to make sure, over and over that he didn’t hit his head and I told them, from what I could remember, he didn’t. He also said he hadn’t. Small fact, if you are on blood thinners, it’s really, really dangerous to hit your head. 
Learn something new every day.
I talked to the head firefighter while the paramedics and other firemen took care of my grandpa on the ground. I have to say, until now, almost 12 hours later, I didn’t feel much more than a normal amount of anxiety. Now, as I type this, it gets a little more real. It sucks.
My grandpa was always such a strong man. Until he broke his hip when I was in middle school he was always outside gardening or walking their dog of the time. He was always fiddling with sprinklers that weren’t working right or crafting up something else. 
He was the man that helped me make a dolphin out of a piece of extra wood, he was the man that showed me where the strawberries were growing in at the house in Palm Desert, he was the man that hung different bird feeders and watched the birds with me at 6am when no one else was awake. 
Grandpa is but a shadow of his former self. His body still looks relatively the same, maybe some new bumps, bruises and cuts, but altogether very similar. Piece by piece, bit by bit things are failing him though. It is really hard to see a man, once so active, healthy and sometimes even happy, reduced to an old, gray shell constantly in his chair, needing a walker to get to the bathroom.
There’s nothing to be done by me other than continuing to help with his pills as well as helping grandma with errands and such, but sometimes I still feel frustrated and helpless. 
I can’t imagine life without grandpa, but this really isn’t grandpa anymore. 
So the paramedics loaded him into the ambulance, the firefighters said goodbye after cleaning the blood off of the cement and grandma and I went back inside to sit before figuring out where to go to meet up with him. Finally, after all had left, the garage door had closed and we had sat down grandma started to cry. It wasn’t a long cry, as I said, she’s use to this kind of thing, but there was sorrow. 
I often wonder if there is any love left between those two but the way she takes care of him, even after all the complaining, it’s pretty obvious that she loved him, and if nothing else she still cares about him deeply now.
Last we heard tonight, grandpa has two fractured, but not separated, ribs and is in the worst pain yet. That’s saying a lot and makes me feel even worse… he once went to the hospital after falling on his face and breaking his two front teeth… THIS time was more painful?! 
You just wish you were stronger, or you caught it sooner, or if he had asked for a little help or something… I don’t know if I did something completely wrong, I really don’t know. But what happened happened and I hope we find a way to really, totally, keep this from happening any more.
I really have no summary or anything to end this post. Just maybe thanks that it wasn’t worse and that there was someone to rush to our aid even if there was nothing he could do.

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