Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Redux: A Year in Books

I read up a storm this year, and couldn't have enjoyed it more. I rediscovered my love for fiction, reread some childhood favorites, and discovered the joy of comic books and graphic novels. I began educating myself on feminism, sleuthed my way through multiple mysteries, and admitted that I just can't get into Stephen King.

The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women
Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists
Three Black Swans
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Cradle Lake
Kingdom Come
Ender's Game
When Evil Came to Good Hart
Bone, Vol. 1: Out from Boneville (Bone, #1)
The Shining
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
Mrs. Queen Takes the Train
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Ordinary Grace
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine, #1)
Murder in Greenwich
My Sister's Keeper
Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep, and Enough Wool to Save the Planet
The Night Circus
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Sisterhood Everlasting (Sisterhood, #5)
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
The Fault in Our Stars
My Name Is Memory
Bath Massacre: America's First School Bombing
Deep and Dark and Dangerous: A Ghost Story
Tuck Everlasting (A Sunburst book)
T-Rex Trying
The Shining Girls
The Other Shepards
Time Windows
The Doll in the Garden
Wait Till Helen Comes
The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress    

(All images courtesy of Goodreads)

My Top 5 Favorites of 2013:

The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes
Gone GirlGillian Flynn
Wild, Cheryl Strayed

Honorable Mentions:

In years past, it has always just been my goal to read as much as possible. This year, with the onset of grad school and adding classes to an already busy schedule, my goal is to read one book a month for pleasure reading. I don't want to lose sight of why I'm going back to school in the first place: my insatiable love for books, libraries, and the written word.  

Already on my list for 2014 is the Divergent series, Where'd You Go Bernadette?, and Hollow City. In the name of "research," I'm planning on catching up on my children's and YA literature. I'd also like to read the writings of John Muir. To the library!

What's the best book you read in 2013? What do I need to be reading in 2014? 

Wishing all of you a 2014 full of happiness, favorite books, and bottomless cups of coffee. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

(Very) Belated Holiday Wishes & A Life Update

A Berrien County winter. 

Does anyone else feel like time has been passing with lightening speed since Thanksgiving? I can't believe that yet another holiday season is behind us and a new year is just hours away. I'm grateful for the passing of the solstice and am looking forward to longer days slowly inching toward just a few more moments of daylight. 

My life has been full since I've last very full. Kyle and I celebrated a wonderful holiday season with our families and friends: eating good food and watching favorite movies, indulging in a drink or two and counting our blessings among the busyness. In addition to being quite literally thankful beyond words for the supportive people in my life and the opportunity to explore a new path in life, I'm continually grateful for the little things: Tuesday nights at The Meanwhile Bar with friends, when my dog burrows his head in my neck, and Seinfeld on DVD. 

Despite my yearnings for it to hold off, Thanksgiving quickly slipped into the Christmas season as it's wont to do. Kyle and I chopped down a tree (a tradition that always makes me a little sad), watched Christmas Vacation and The Christmas Story, It's A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, and I avoided Christmas shopping like the plague. We enjoyed some lovely parties with friends, and a few of us dressed as the Griswolds because why the hell not? 

"Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?"
Photo courtesy of Morgan.

About a month ago, I started a new job. (Thus ending my funemployment.) I'm working at a cafe and I really, really love it. It has its trying moments like any job, but overall I'm so happy with it. The hours are perfect and work well with my increasingly hectic schedule. I come home from work each day feeling accomplished and at peace. I'm saving my tips to see more mountains, something I find that I'm missing more and more with each passing day.

Next week, my grad school classes begin and I will officially be a student once again. If I'm being perfectly honest, I'm not looking forward to projects and papers and I'm absolutely horrified of failure, but the end result makes my heart beat with anticipation. Though there are moments of apprehension and panic that nearly take my breath away, I know that what I'm doing is right and I am grateful beyond words for this outstanding opportunity. As the armchair intellectual Martin Crane once said about his son Frasier, "You're good at reading. And then telling people about what you've read." (I think maybe Martin was talking about me too.)

I hope your holiday season was merry and bright, and I wish you happiness and enlightenment in 2014 and beyond. As always, thanks for listening friends.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

MY Voice

Mt. Roberts, Juneau, AK

I've written before about the struggles of being a Millennial, my complicated relationship with my generation, and my anger with how we're portrayed in the media. So when I read an article this week about the "100 Things Every 20-Something Needs to Realize," it had me seeing red. Really, I should have known better---listicles about twentysomethings almost always get under my skin. I realize that the majority are written in good fun, but something about the overgeneralization just bothers me. But for reasons unknown, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to click. I was almost immediately sorry that I did.

The article, if you can even call it that, was idiotic at best and offensive at worst. While many of the items on the list are painfully generic and sophomoric stereotypes (and certainly eyeroll-worthy)  a few actually made me grit my teeth with rage. To spare you from actually having to read the article yourselves, here are a few highlights: 

(Note: The original quote is bold, my thoughts are italicized.)

3. Shaving is more than a suggestion. That goes for both men and women. Or, we could stop judging people based on the amount of hair their bodies produce or assigning a person's value based upon physical appearance.

4. If you eat enough pizza,  you will turn into a tub of oily cheese. Or, we could stop judging people based on their food choices. See also: LAY OFF ME, I'M STARVING.

19. The way people see you is just as important as the way you see yourself. Or, you could just be confident in who you are.

34. If you can get her in to bed by date 3, then you'll get bored with her by week 2. So, if a woman has sex too early in a dating relationship (by the author's standards) she's a slut? Doesn't it take two to tango? 

43. If you're feeling shitty, get some exercise. Yes, exercise is a beautiful thing, but I'm fairly certain it won't solve all of the world's problems.

50. You should live in New York City for at least a year. How is this even logistically possible? Do we all take turns? Are rent scholarships available?

57. Make mistakes now. Making them later will be too late. Won't "later" still be our "now," just...later? Maybe reading this article was my first mistake.

82. Slow and gentle will always get her off. Rough and intense only works on occasion. How scientific is this statement? Was there a survey? Did mine get lost in the mail?

89. You don't have ADD. Yes, actually. Some people do. 

90. You're most likely the cause of your own depression. Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me. 

Perhaps this article was meant to be satirical, and I'm taking it far too seriously. Perhaps there was a disconnect somewhere and I just didn't understand tone of piece. Or, maybe this is exactly what the author was going for and my reaction was the intended effect. The context of the article suggests that the author is privileged, heterosexual white male, but I don't want to generalize. He is entitled to his opinions, views, and beliefs, and has every right to voice them. 

But so do I.

So, why am I letting a stupid article like this bother me so much? Many would say that this transparent cry for attention doesn't even warrant a response. And they're probably right. But if this prejudicial voice can be heard, so can mine. This so-called "Voice of Generation-Y" certainly does not speak for me. And I want my voice heard. I want blogs like Live Inspired and The Militant Baker to be heard above the din of articles like this, blogs that promote positivity and openness, advocacy and community. 

With articles like this floating around the Internet and getting attention, it's no wonder that my generation is viewed the way it is. I'm so sick of it. Stop generalizing. Stop equating individualism with narcissism. And for the love of god, STOP TRIVIALIZING DISABILITIES AND MENTAL ILLNESS. 

I realize my voice is just one of millions. I realize this blog post is just one of millions. I realize that others have said what I'm saying louder and stronger and more eloquently. But I want to add my two cents. Because if I raise my voice, and you raise your voice, together we can be heard over the stereotypes. And maybe, just maybe, history will remember Generation-Y/Millennials/Me Generation as a generation that stood for equality and acceptance, peace and creativity. Maybe I'm just waxing poetic. But maybe, just maybe, I'm right. 

I can't wait to find out.

What are your thoughts on these types of articles? Are they offensive, or all in good fun?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dad!

For sharing my sense of humor and sarcasm, instilling in me a love of beer and baseball, and always encouraging me in my many pursuits, I am forever grateful. 

Love, Goose

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hello, November

I'd fully intended on writing this oh, 11 days ago, but tech week (and pre-tech week, as it were) took over and it just didn't happen. As a result, I will be spending the next few days catching up on laundry, grocery shopping, and with my codependent relationship with Netflix. The fleeting days of October were lovely, but I'm excited to be in the month of my favorite holiday. I absolutely love Thanksgiving! It's terribly gray and snowing here in the Mitten today, so it's nice to have a day of copious amounts of food and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles to look forward to.

I spent the last weekend in October at Western Illinois University visiting the fabulous Arielle  and taking in her MFA show, Noises Off!. She was obviously amazing, and it was just an added bonus that she was staring in one of my favorite plays. When Arielle wasn't performing, we watched Will & Grace and laughed our asses off. It was so refreshing to spend time with some of my closest friends, and it really reminded me just how much I miss Arielle and Darion.

Photo courtesy of Morgan

The following weekend brought our Halloween celebration. When your friends are theatre kids, Halloween is a big effing deal. Everyone's costumes were awesome, and Kyle and I won Most Creative for our Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme. (Obviously, we weren't going for Most Topical. Are we ever?) With Kyle as Mike Nelson and myself as Tom Servo, we made snarky comments all night to keep in character. But really, that isn't anything new. I don't think we'll ever top last year's costumes; however maybe one of these years our attire will actually be topical. (But knowing us, probably not.)

Tom Servo & Mike Nelson

In this season where we put extra focus on being thankful, I look back on the past few months and am so grateful for where I've been and where I am now. These next few months will undoubtedly bring more changes, both expected and unexpected. And while I have moments of apprehension, I'm so ready for this next chapter to begin. 

Bring it on. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Behind Shadows

The summer before Kyle and I graduated from college, he started writing a play. It was a tale of love, loss, and time travel (of course). He worked on it for months; excitedly filling me in on plot developments and reading dialogue each evening when I stopped by his apartment after my summer job selling tee-shirts. Although he had no prospects of getting it published or produced, he poured his heart and soul into his writing. While the script was eventually finished near the beginning of the fall semester, it would sit in a file on his computer gathering cyber dust for the next few years.

Fast forward to the first weeks of 2012. Kyle and I had both graduated, gotten married, and were living downtown. In an effort to combat the winter blues, I decided to participate in an event at the public library called History Detectives. There were a variety of presentations throughout the day, each regarding notable historical people, places, and events in the Grand Rapids area. One such presentation touched on the Sanford House, a beautiful mansion at the end of our street in Heritage Hill. As it turns out, this house that we walked our dog past every day had quite the history--famous owners, mysterious fires, rumors of hauntings. When I offhandedly mentioned to Kyle what I'd learned, he inexplicably became a man obsessed. He spent hours in the library archives, scouring the Internet, and talking with Heritage Hill historians, researching the house, its former occupants and all he could about their lives. 

Eventually, Kyle pulled out his old play and completely reworked it. While keeping true to the original tale of love, loss, and time travel, the script was completely transformed with his research into the Sanford and historical Grand Rapids. The final result was Shadows at the Sanford, the story of newlyweds Alan and Eliza Callaway who time travel to turn-of-the-century Grand Rapids and meet prominent residents of the Sanford, John and Katherine Blake. With multiple rewrites over the next year and a half, he was finally satisfied with the play. And this time, it was going to see the stage. 

Through our involvement with The University Wits, Kyle was given the opportunity to not only see his play staged, but also to direct it himself. It has certainly  been a collaborative effort. Our friends, family, and the local theatre scene have worked so hard to get this show off the ground. I'm so, so proud of everyone. But I'm especially proud of Kyle. His passion for this show and the story it tells is unwavering. In some ways, Shadows at the Sanford is the story of Kyle and I: the life we live together, and the life we hope to. 

Tonight is Opening Night, and I'm so excited to be there at Kyle's side. 

If you're in the Grand Rapids area this weekend, we would love to see you at the show. Shadows at the Sanford runs November 7-9 at 8:00 p.m. and November 10 at 3:00 p.m. at Dog Story Theater downtown. Visit the Dog Story Theater website for details and ticket information. 

Break legs tonight, cast and crew! And thank you. You're making dreams come true. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Entirely Discontent

Grand Rapids Public Library

Recently, one of my favorite authors Neil Gaiman gave a lecture on the importance of libraries and how reading can be transformative to society. Mr. Gaiman so eloquently articulated my feelings on my love of literature and the importance of literacy. Since my grandmother taught me to read at the age of 4, I've devoured nearly every book I could get my hands on. Throughout my childhood, teenage years, and into adulthood I've spent countless hours in libraries; running my fingers over book spines, peering at covers, and inhaling the intoxicating smell of ink on paper. 

In the pages of books, I've traveled to faraway lands: Oz, Narnia, Fantastica, Wonderland, Middle Earth. I've inhabited a little house in the big woods, meditated with monks in Shanri-La, and made Boo Radley emerge from his house. I've learned about faith, romance, and what it means to be human. I've shed tears for wizards, followed cold-blooded killers, and grieved for a little prince, a wise spider, and a best friend in Terabithia. I've lived many, many lives and allowed my mind to soar to places I'd never dreamed. This has been both a blessing and a curse. 

Mr. Gaiman said it best: 

"Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate the fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different."

For so long, I cursed these feelings of discontentment. My life was predictable and comfortable. I was grateful for my fortune, but also longed for something more. Despite knowing change was possible, I'd relegated myself to a lifetime of discontented monotony due to an imagined sense of duty. However, I've learned that you can only remain discontent for so long before feeling like you're going to explode. 

A few short days after I'd resigned from my job, I had a revelation. I'd spent years with my nose in a book, searching for answers, dreaming of adventure, and longing for new beginnings and new chapters. Laying on the shores of Lake Michigan with a book in hand, I suddenly realized that I'd had the answer within me all along. 

"Be a librarian," my heart said, because somehow it's always known.

Last week, I received my acceptance letter to Wayne State University's School of Library and Information Science in Detroit. In January, I will start online classes to obtain my Master's degree. I'm going to be a librarian. I want nothing more than to share my love of literature, libraries, and literacy; not just because it's something I'm passionate about, but because it's something that deeply, deeply matters. 

I'm nervous about the rigors of grad school, balancing classes with life and work (hopefully), and the bouts of apprehension that are sure to occur. But in my heart, I know this is right. I'm so thrilled to be given the opportunity to pursue my passions and further explore my love of the written word. Though the rest of this story remains to be written, I'm so thrilled to have a new beginning. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Few Things

With all of the changes in my life recently, it only seemed appropriate that my blog should receive a much-needed update as well. Thanks to Carrie Loves Design I feel like the design of my blog finally reflects my personality. Carrie was phenomenal to work with and had my design installed within hours. I am so pleased with how it turned out. Seriously, I'm in love. 

Along with the design face lift, you may have also noticed that I changed the name of my blog from life is (grand) to Just Grand. The content will remain the same; I just feel like Just Grand better exemplifies the direction I want my blog (and writing) to go. And honestly, the grammar fiend in me hated all of the weird punctuation going on in the former name. 

I'm also trying to branch my writing out to other sites. Eventually, I would like to be writing for a variety of websites. I've always loved to write, but recently I started thinking (again) that it might be something I would like to do on a more professional level. I know this will be an ongoing endeavor, but I'm working on putting myself out there and networking more. 

On that note, the first article that I've written since college appeared last week on The Awesome Mitten. I'll be honest, I love seeing my name on a byline again. If you're interested in reading the article I wrote about Dog Story Theater and its impact on the local GR theater scene, click here.

Today I'm off to Illinois to see Arielle, my college roommate, perform her MFA project Noises Off. I'll miss Kyle, but I'm looking forward to spending time with Arielle and Darion, who I don't get to see that often, as well as Morgan and Max, who I do. Oh, the shenanigans to be had!

Have a lovely autumn weekend, friends.