Friday, March 9, 2012

Goodbye for now, Facets!

I've said it several times before and I'll say it again, I still can't believe a year has already passed and our little experiment is ending. Yes, like Cassie said, maybe it didn't turn out how we expected, but I've had a good time and enjoyed getting to know you girls over the past year. Without even noticing, Facets became an ingrained part of my life. Next week is certainly going to feel bizarre without any posts from you all! I know I will be popping back every now and then to read and give updates and I hope to see you here as well in the future. :)

Looking at the year's worth of tags over on the right hand side of the page is making me get all sentimental now... I'm going to miss this!

2022... ten years in the future is a scary time to think about.

Casey: I'm also sorry we lost you so early. You come into my thoughts every so often and I hope you also think of us! I hope everything is going well with you and maybe some day you'll think of us, check out the blog, and update us about your life. :)

Alexandra: I'm sorry we didn't hear from you the last month, but I'm happy that we got to know you over the past year. I hope that it wasn't anything bad that caused your absence. In the future, I hope you are still happily married and have gotten your Canadian residency like you wanted! I admire your conviction and how fully-formed your beliefs are. I hope you're still just as passionate, accepting, and creative! I hope, also, that some of your work has been published and you are happily writing more.

Cassie: Thank you for putting this whole scheme together, it was a great experience and I'm so glad we all did it! I hope that ten years' time finds you happy and where you want to be. I hope your plans for grad school worked out and that you got to live in Boston. I hope you're just as happy doing what you love and that you still feel your work is as rewarding as you do now. Keep being creative, motivated, and driven. You brought five different girls together and made it possible for us to get to know each other and be exposed to different lives. You did not forget to be awesome!

Carlyn: It's been wonderful watching you, over the past year, find such happiness! I hope you're still happily with Meghan. I hope you've successfully finished your grad program and are happy with your career, helping and changing lives. I will miss this project and hearing from you and all the other girls. I also hope you'll stop by every now and then and give us an update! (And I hope the same for every one of us!)

And as for me? I can hardly comprehend being 32, nearly 33, in ten years! I hope that you're happy, really. Whether single, married, kids, no kids... I just hope you're happy! If all goes according to plan, you'll have a PhD or MA, I wonder what it is! (I'm hoping for PhD right now.) Maybe you've discovered some cool language acquisition-related thing by now!

For everyone, really, my biggest hope is that you're happy and where you want to be in life!

As I've said, I'm really going to miss this little part of all of our weeks. I especially have valued recording a bit of our lives each week. In order to keep doing that I'm going to (finally!) start writing in my personal blog here: If you're ever curious about what I'm up to, you can drop by and see. :) I'll also stop by here every now and then to see what is happening in your lives and leave an update myself.

Well, I think the time's come... I've been putting it off, but it's time to end the last post of our year- but not of the blog!

As a great man once said, "It's not really goodbye, after all."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wednesday is tearing up a little bit...

Christina: I am delighted for you and how well you’re doing in France!

Cassie: Your letter piece to me nearly made me cry. I was larger than life when you met me??? Surely you jest! You intimidated ::me::!

Dear FoU Bloggers of the Future,

Considering how quickly this year went by, I’m sure it will seem like a flash before 2022 hits. It’s only ten times as long as we’ve been blogging by this point anyway!

Hopes for all of us: I hope we’re all happy, and I hope we’ve all made progress toward self-fulfillment.

Hopes for Casey, Miss Thursday:
I hope you’re doing well! I’m sorry we lost you, but I hope you remember your time with the FoU ladies fondly and come back from time to time to let us know how you’re doing.

Hopes for Christina, Miss Friday:
I hope your time in France ends wonderfully and that you live your life in a continuously adventurous way. I hope you figure out just what it is you want to do with yourself, and I know (don’t have to hope!) that you’ll do it wonderfully. It has been an honor and a privilege to finish the project with you, and I very much look forward to hearing about how your life continues.

Hopes for Cassie, Miss Monday:
I also hope you’re married to Chase by now : P I hope you’re making a life for yourself doing things you love, because your passion for and skill in what you do are truly inspiring. We had BETTER still be friends, even if that means calling and visiting every once in a while. Our families are going to need to be friends. That’s all there is to that.

Hopes for Alexandra, Miss Tuesday:
I hope you’re achieving all those bits of excitement that are in motion in your life! I hope you’re happily married and enjoying the Canada thing. I’m sorry we missed out on your contributions the last few posts, but it was wonderful to get to know you over most of the year. It will be very good to get updates from you now and then.

I’m going to miss this. I haven’t always wanted to post, but I’ve always been glad when I do. My Wednesdays have been, on a baseline, more enjoyable, because I get to blog.

I hope we’ll all continue to post when big (or little!) things happen in our lives.

And if you ever find yourself near where I am, don’t be a stranger!

(Not that I’m going to be in one place for long over the next ten years. Life at this point is all about adventure and exploration, and I hope we all get our fair tastes of it.)

It has been a delight, ladies.

Miss Wednesday, OUT.

Monday, March 5, 2012

52 Mondays = 1 Year

Dear Girls of the Facets of Us Blog (circa 2022),

Hello, girls. It's Monday. Monday, March 5, 2012, to be precise, the last Monday in our little project.

It's really strange to me that this half-thought-out idea that I had last January, a passing, "Oh, that might be fun," kind of thought has now come to completion. We didn't achieve fame. We didn't gain more than 20 followers. We didn't irrevocably change the world. But we got to know each other a little bit better. And we documented our lives for an entire year.

Girls of Facets of Us in 2022, it is my hope that when you come back to read this letter, you have trouble finding it. It is my hope that it isn't the first post waiting for you on this blog, because it is my hope that this blog will still see us every once and a while. It is my hope that we occasionally find our way back here, to reread and remember and maybe post a JAB here and there about life in general and where we are.

Cassie - I have no idea where 2022 will find you. I hope you're married to Chase by now. I hope you have a Masters degree. I hope you're not still in Bowling Green. I hope you're doing what you love and I hope that you're happy. Remember that letter we wrote when we were 11? I remember occasionally thinking about it in the ten years that followed and trying to remember what I'd written to myself, what gems I'd asked about, what insights I'd shared. And then, when I finally got it, and it came as such a wonderful surprise because I'd managed to forget, I remember being astounded at what had changed, and what had been important to me back then. I wonder if you're reading this now, at age 33, and thinking the same things about me. I am scared of leaving Bowling Green. I am scared of applying for grad school. I am scared that everything I want to accomplish in my life will fall flat, and I hope reading those fears and worries makes you shake your head as much as reading about 11-year-old Cassie's inability to write out Michael's name did when we were 21. (Forgive the grammar of that sentence, please. Verb tense gets so confusing in these things)

Alexandra - I'm sorry we lost you in the last month or so. I think you are the member of this group least similar to myself in many ways, and yet, I also valued your insights. I always felt that you had a lot to share with me, and a lot to share with anyone willing to sit down and listen. I hope you are still happily married. I hope you have achieved Canadian citizenship. I hope you have found success as a writer. I'm glad you agreed to join this project (even if you did throw off the run of C-names we had going on!), and I hope you come back to read it every so often.

Carlyn - I've told this to Meghan, but it applies to you as well: I've spent so much of my life on the fringes of social groups that it's always a little astounding to me when the people I want to be friends with want to be friends with me, too. You were larger than life when I first met you, and a little intimidating, but you knew from John Green and Nerdfighters, and so I asked you to join this project, and I'm so glad I did. You and I better still be in regular contact! After all, we're in a trilationship, you and I and Meghan. Outside of the people related to me, I've never had a friendship that lasted more than ten years, mostly because I've never had a friendship that had the opportunity to, but this had better be one that does. My hopes for you? That you are a wildly successful counselor who is steadily and surely changing the world. That you and Meghan are enjoying a wonderful, crazy, batshit insane life together. That you and Desmond the rental car of awesome have been reunited (though hopefully without Magellan, because let's be real. No one likes him). That you still call me Miss Monday even though this blog project came to a close a decade ago.

Casey - I'm sorry we lost you so early on. I hope, every once in a while, you remember us with fondness, and that the few months you spent here were worth it. I hope that life hasn't overwhelmed you too badly. I hope that, in giving up the blog, you were able to breathe a little easier and stress a little less. I hope you know there are no hard feelings. I'm glad you were here the weeks that you were. I enjoyed even the small chance to get to know you better.

Christina - You were the first person I approached when I thought about actually trying to make this a real thing. I remember thinking that your energy and enthusiasm would be catching, and I was certainly right! I hope you've discovered your passion in life. I hope you've continued to travel the world and make amazing memories and see amazing things. I'm glad you brought friends here that read and commented every so often to remind us that we were not entirely alone here on this blog. I'm glad you stuck through to the end. I have the highest hopes that you will return here every so often to leave an update on your life as it unfolds, and that you will read the JABs of anyone else who does likewise. Thanks for thinking my crazy idea was worth giving a shot. In a lot of ways, you're the reason this actually happened.

Girls, it's been a pleasure and a privilege. It is my sincerest hope that we do return in ten years and reread these posts, to remind us of who we were in 2011-2012. Assuming, of course, that the world doesn't end in nine months, in which case, this was all a little pointless, wasn't it? :) Thanks for being a facet. Thanks for saying yes a year ago. Thanks for sharing a piece of your life with the rest of us.

Miss Monday

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Week 52: One Year Gone

Hello girls.

Well, 51 weeks have come and gone, and now we stand on the precipice of the final week of this blogging project.

For our final week, then I think we should look to the future. We wrote to our past selves, so now, let's write letters to our future selves: the members of the Facets of Us blog ten years in the future.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Christina revisits the first Friday

It's a bit crazy to see the changes that have happened for you two over the past year! I still have trouble believing we've actually been doing this for that long.

Having just reread my first post, I'm a bit surprised to see that I haven't really changed all that much. The things I said in my first post describing myself are still true. The thing that has changed, however, is the things I would choose to talk about in describing myself. Whereas I chose to talk about only-childom, my different social groups, realism, and some other things, these days I would focus on independence and adapting. The past year I have, I think, greatly developed the skill to adapt. This seems completely logical seeing as I've been living in a foreign country for five of the last (nearly!) twelve months. My view has shifted from the relatively narrow one of college classes and my thesis to a wider one of France, graduate programs, world travels, and how to support myself in the future.

I think I've also become better at meeting new people and developing relationships. I've carved out a little life for me in my French hometown. I have a regular cafe I go to and am friends with many of the workers there. I have acquaintances and friends who live in the town, as well as friends who are fellow assistants. I've enjoyed increasing my circle of friends and watching their web of different countries evolve to include more locations.

One final difference, I think I've become much better at living on my own, being smart with my money, etc. This is the first time I've really been on my own: buying my own groceries, paying my rent, buying a coat, things like that. It's certainly been a new experience, one that I'm still working at. I tend to use up all my money on travel and then end up skimping on groceries at the end of every month! But when am I next going to be able to do all this traveling in Europe, right?

Well, there you have it, how I've changed in the past year! As it turns out... not too much (at least not that I can notice)! I wrote my first post from my apartment in Michigan and I'm not writing this one from my friend Sarah's apartment in Paris- the last year seems to have gone pretty well!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday is all KINDS of different. But also the same.

Christina: It’s always interesting to see what we forget!

Cassie: I love Mulan. It was a go-to-everyone-likes-it movie when I was a kid.

Who was I a year ago?

A year ago, I wrote to you about my “flagrant lack of romantic experience.” I had had my first kiss “six-odd short months ago,” and had just ended a very short fling with a fellow that I now laugh about occasionally with my incredible girlfriend of almost nine months.

I still get worked up about inequality and suicide, probably now even more than before, now that I’m almost halfway done with a counseling program. I see inequality and its effects on people in all sorts of situations in my current line of work, and I’m working to (among other things) help prevent suicide on the front lines, helping people directly when they are in need.

I wrote in my first post about my best friend. She was very good for me for a while, but we are no longer friends. The timing of this break coincided with her moving out of our apartment and the approximate time of my relationship starting with That Wonderful Hardward Store Employee—the latter event being, according to Ashley, the reason for our friendship ending, though this is incorrect.

I still have a lot of friends, more now even than before. I have had the pleasure of maintaining, and even cultivating, many friendships from my undergrad town, and I have made oodles of friends here in my new home at grad school.

I now have five tattoos, this year’s addition being a small asterisk on the inside of my right pinky. I’m also planning a few more.

I closed down my jewelry company. I still make things from time to time, but I was really sick of dealing with IRS paperwork and taxes when I never sold anything anyway. So that’s over.

In my third-ever post, I wrote about the uncertainty that I was comfortable with in life. I no longer have quite that uncertainty! I have a career path. I have a life path. I have someone to spend all that wonderful time with.

Finally, I am slightly ashamed to admit that I have not consumed a single but of Nerdfighter media in the entire year we’ve been at this. This surprises me, as I have enjoyed it very much in the past.

This has been a fun ride, everyone. I haven’t always wanted to blog on Wednesdays, but I’m proud to say that, while I’ve been late a couple times, I have never missed a week, and I’m going to miss it.

See you again next week!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday has been singing Mulan all day . . .

"When will my reflection show . . ." Yeah. Been stuck in my head All Day Long. Also, almost didn't write this tonight. It's been an exhausting day and I almost forgot it was Monday. Thanks to the boy for the reminder -- I haven't missed a single week, and I'd hate to lose that streak on the second to last week.

It's strange for me to think that after next week, I won't be writing a post each Monday.

Carlyn - I had a Xanga. I think we all did at some point.

Christina - I did a double take when you talked about being a freshman in high school nine years ago. "There's no way that's right," I told myself. Then I did the math. Now I feel old.

So, 50 weeks ago, I wrote a lengthy post about being a storyteller. I also failed at counting, as I said this project would end on the 16th of March, which is just wrong, Cassie from 50 weeks ago. Come on, girl. Look at a calendar.

I'll let you in on a secret now -- I'd been composing that particular introductory blog post for about two weeks prior to actually writing it. I worked for a really long time on it because I wanted to get it just right and make myself as interesting to you all as possible because I wanted to make a good impression. And I think, somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought I'd be putting that much time, energy, and effort into every blog post. Insert hysterical laughter here.

A year ago, where was I? Two months graduated, planning on moving to DC because my grad school plan had fallen through, and terrified of the future because I didn't know what it held. Now? Fourteen months graduated, planning on moving to Boston for grad school plan number 2, and still utterly terrified of the future because I don't know what it holds.

A year ago, I introduced myself as a storyteller, and I'd hold that that's still true. I've written 50,000 words of a new novel in the past year. I've revised a hell of a lot of stuff. I've written *mumblemumbledeliberatelyvague* pieces of fanfiction and one original short story. I've started working at a library (which, while I love it and I'm thrilled I'm getting the experience, isn't what I imagined). And then, of course, there's the fact that I've written consistently about myself once a week for the past year. That's a pretty big storytelling accomplishment in my book.

This project was my baby, and I'm proud to say I saw it through to the end. I'm proud to say that I got to know a group of really great people over the course of the past year, and I think I got to know myself a little bit better, too. Did the project work out the way I thought it would? Not entirely, no. We've lost a couple of our number along the way, and I regret that, though I know and understand that life can attack when we least expect it. But I think I'm better than I was a year ago because I've worked on this project. We didn't become the next Internet sensation or gain fame and notoriety, but I've enjoyed getting to know the four of you (even the two of you who have disappeared), and if you're ever in Bowling Green, Ohio, you should feel free to look me up.

So who am I? A lot of things, really. Daughter, granddaughter, sister, cousin. College graduate, preacher’s kid, Harry Potter fan, Nerdfighter. Writer, actor, director, teacher. Part-time librarian. Bookworm. Storyteller. Blogger.

For the second to last time, this is Miss Monday, signing off.

Week 51: A Time to Reflect

Go back to your very first post here. Read it. Look at who you were a year ago when this project started. How have you changed? How have you stayed the same? What have you learned (if anything) about yourself?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dear past Friday...

I've written a couple letters to my future self, but I haven't actually received any of those yet. I'm pretty sure I was supposed to get one back when I graduated from high school, but that letter was never seen again. I think we did them in... fourth grade maybe? I'm not sure. We also wrote letters to ourselves in my AP English class senior year of high school. Our class president at the time is supposed to get those to us for our ten year high school reunion. I still remember mine pretty well at the moment, but it will be interesting to see what parts I inevitably have forgotten/will forget!

Well, without further ado, I think I'll write to myself as a high school freshman, at the age of fourteen:

Hey past Christina,

So you're fourteen, a freshman in high school right now. Your time at middle school wasn't the best years ever, probably the least enjoyable of your life so far. And (at least through my rose-colored classes now), high school is going to be a pretty good time. I know it's hard to imagine now, but you're actually going to be part of a sports team for the last three years of school. You're even going to get a few varsity letters and even wear a varsity jacket. I know, crazy, right? You'll even amass a few of those hoodies with your last name on the back like you always wanted. Living the dream. You'll continue with orchestra like you're planning (on that note, it really wouldn't hurt you to practice more. You know, actually put in some effort. You can play pretty well if you practice from time to time). Well, even without regular practice, you'll end up in symphony orchestra for junior and senior year. You're going to also be in pit orchestra for two musicals, Les Misérables freshman year and Once Upon a Mattress senior year. Fantastic job on choosing to be in pit, by the way. Those are going to be some great experiences and especially senior year you'll become really great friends with other pit members.

Speaking of friends, you're going to become friends with this guy named Kyle at least twice before it really sticks and you become bffs. It would've been great if you could have had the foresight to stay in contact all through high school, but it all worked out in the end, so I won't give you too much grief about it. It would be really helpful though if you could write some sort of note telling us when exactly we became friends. It's a question we've debated about many times.

I suppose I should also give you a bit of advice. The main thing I want to say: you should actually put more effort into school! Now, I know you don't really have to try that hard to get good grades. That makes it really easy to just slide on by, but imagine how great you could be if you really put in some effort. Let's see, Chemistry for example. You'll take Chemistry sophomore year and you'll actually put in effort and do some studying for that class and to this day you'll remember the satisfaction of memorizing the periodic table, balancing equations, and acing the final after all the hard work. You really should have tried it more. Oh, also, AP US History? Yeah, do the reading more than a handful of times. (And speaking of history classes, when you're in college please do not think it's a good idea to give history another try... it won't end well... yeah, too late, I know.) The other piece of advice I want to convey to you is just chill out. Calm down a little! Not about everything of course, I encourage you to be just as passionate and crazy as ever about Harry Potter. But, you know, don't worry so much about what other people think of you. Relax a bit, also open up a bit more. Talk to more people in class, go out a bit more, lighten up! This may sound weird now, but it turns out it's not that hard to talk to people whom you don't know too well. Of course, this is coming after nearly nine more years of life experience, so I shouldn't be too hard on you. (Wow... nine years, you're getting up there in age, eh? ... and apparently also have become Canadian.)

Well, little Christina, I think that's all I have to say right now. You're currently living in France (working as an English assistant at a high school) and you're leaving tomorrow to go to Cambridge for the weekend to visit your friend Simone. She's a foreign exchange student from Germany who you'll become friends with your junior year and then five years later will be visiting in England, where she's going to school. Life... right?

Best wishes,
Older Christina

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday has done a lot of changing

Christina: I love your song choices! Especially The Killers and Coldplay. They really ::are:: good. Deal with it : )

Cassie: I don't know why this has not happened. My dragon-sense is tingling. This must be rectified. Also, your letters are awesome.

So, for this post, I really, REALLY wanted to pull a Cassie and reveal an actual letter to myself in the present, written in the past. I have several such letters, all stored away in the safety of the Internets on my online journal (it's a Xanga... don't judge, ok?)--OR SO I THOUGHT. Somehow, the password I have saved for it is wrong. It's just all wrong. And I have no idea what email I attached the account to, so I have no recovery for it. I filled out the little form thingy requesting lifesaving password recovery assistance, but I am forcing myself to consider the possibility that my eight years' worth of journaling are lost. ::quiet sob::

Anyway. Now that I have exhausted my time reserves for the night sifting through password attempt after password attempt, I am going to write a letter to my Past Self. I'll pick... 13-year-old Carlyn, in the middle of her eighth-grade year.

Hey, Self!

It's Me! Or... Us! It's Us!

We're writing to us from the future.

Or, rather, I'm writing to you from the future.

Let's see what I can remember about you as you are right now...

As I type this, your family is doing really well. Grandma and Grandpa Campbell have both passed away, but Grandma Powell is still alive and kicking. Call her more often; it makes her life much happier. Besides, she's going to give you her Beetle. Calling once in a while wouldn't kill you.

Mom and Dad are doing really well, even though you and Ellie are off at college (Ellie went to Kent, like they did). They enjoy each other more than ever. Dad comes up with some really silly-sounding hobbies. You're going to like sharing them with him. Mom works hard at her job, and she's really good at what she does.

Oh yeah, and we all have tattoos now. Dad was the first to get one, and now he's the one with the fewest. His is "Good Grief" in kanji. Mom's first was "Good Grief" in braille down her leg, and her second was birds on her shoulder, just like you'll have on your shoulder and Ellie will have on hers. Ellie has a total of nine (ten? more?) tattoos of various natures. By the time you turn 22, you'll have five.

You're going to do some fun traveling! You've been to Australia already. In fact, you probably remember a lot of that trip. Savor those memories; they're gone by the time you write this letter. I remember throwing up on a boat and being friends with people I didn't like. But you will stay vaguely in touch with a bunch of (other) people from that trip! In a couple years, you'll discover something called Facebook. It will get important. That'll all make sense before long.

The summer you turn 16, you're going to go to Europe with the Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony (which you'll get into! I know it doesn't seem like it now). It's going to be a great time. Later, you'll travel to Mexico with your youth group to teach English. That'll be fun, too. By the time I write this, most of the people you went with will be married, and some will have kids. This will freak you out.

That reminds me--music. You're not going to do that forever. You'll go to college for it, but then you'll realize that your heart isn't really in it. So you'll spend some time floundering around, but you'll settle on psychology for your major. And then you'll go to graduate school for counseling, and you'll learn a lot and enjoy yourself quite a bit.

Right now, you're in the eighth grade! In the future, you will look back on this as the worst, loneliest, most awkward year of your life. So, if you're happy now, know that it only gets better from here.

Don't get me wrong--there will be sad times. Heartbreaking times, even. You'll fall in love for the first time, and it will end in utter despair. You'll be only partially functional for a little while. It's going to suck A LOT. But eventually, you will heal and be much, much better than you were before. You'll learn more about yourself than you knew there was to learn. And you will love again.

Goodness, you will love again.

And she--yes, she; you're going to have to trust me on this one--is going to be incredible. She will be everything you ever needed. She will bring her complete personhood to your complete personhood, and you will make each other better. There's really nothing else I can say that will prepare you for this. The timing will work out exactly right. One word of advice: Don't be afraid to write that note telling her how you feel.

This all leads me to an important point. You're going to be an atheist. I know, I know--this thought fills you with revulsion and terror. But it will all be okay. You will learn beautiful, wonderful things about yourself and the world, and these things will lead you to new, challenging, and exciting views on what life is and what it means. It seems impossible, but I assure you, it will happen. You will be fulfilled and happy and wanting for nothing.

You have an interesting life ahead of you, Young Self. Don't be afraid of changing; it will make you into who you were always going to become.

I am so very excited for and proud of you for all the progress you're going to make.

Live this life, Kid. You get one chance; don't screw it up for us! (I know you won't. : ) )

-Carlyn, 22.5

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dear Monday

Hello, girls! It's Monday!

Carlyn - How have we never geeked out over Anne McCaffrey and Pern? Why is this not a thing that has happened? This must be rectified.

Christina - Thank you for your list! I love hearing new music, and sunny day songs are helpful right now.

So, this week's topic was actually a meme than went around on YouTube a couple years ago that I tried to bring to Facebook but wasn't terribly successful at. But that's not what prompted the topic this week. What prompted the topic was clearing out my desk and finding a letter that went the other way -- from my 11-year-old self to my 21-year-old self.

When I was in the sixth grade, my talented and gifted class did a project where we wrote letters to ourselves ten years into the future, put them in the care of our teacher, and ten years later (which was a year and a half ago), he mailed them to us. So because I've already done the ten points, I'd like to respond to that letter. Which means I'll have to type it out for you . . . you're welcome.

Feb 2, 2000
Dear Me,

In ten years, you will get this letter. This is your life now in 2000. I (you) am in 6th grade at Hillsdale Middle School. I am in Accent. My (your) best friend is your (mine) cousin, Heather. You are in the spelling bee. My favorite food is German Pancake. I play French Horn and piano. My favorite song is the Tarantella. I love acting. I am in 4 different plays right now. My favorite books are the Harry Potter books. The fourth one is about to come out, My penpal is Kate Steen. My dream was to go to Bowling Green State University and get a PhD in drama like Dad. Mom's a minister. Matthew's 15 and Jeffrey's 8. They are annoying!! I am in soccer and softball. Also an acting class. I wonder, are Matthew and Jeffrey still very, very annoying or just a little annoying? Oh well. They're my brothers and I have to put up with them. Dang. have you met up with M.B. (I can't write his name out) yet? I hope it works out all right. I hope your life is good.

Signed Yourself,
Cassandra Marie Guion
aka Cassie

[and on the back, I drew a self-portrait, you know, in case I'd forgotten what I thought I looked like back then]

So now, I'd like to respond to that letter.

Feb 20, 2012
Dear (11-year-old) Me,

Twelve years ago, you wrote me a letter. A year and a half ago, I received it. and I just want you to know, I forgive your fault tense agreement and questionable grammar at times because, hey, you were eleven. And that's not a courtesy I extend to a lot of people, but you know. We're the same person and all.

It is 2012, and I (you) am 23 years old. I have fond memories of Accent (although I still cringe every time I see a copy of Gathering of Days). I'm not in school at the moment. I graduated in December of 2010 with a BAC in Theatre from BGSU, just like Dad. And now I work for a youth theatre group here in Bowling Green as their Interim Managing Director. I've directed three shows for them, and taught lots of classes akin to Story Theatre and Hal McCuen, and it's really the best thing I could be spending my life doing. 23 and getting paid for doing what I love? That's the dream, girl. I'm looking at grad schools right now, Boston specifically, for a masters in Children's Literature, so that I can combine more of the things I love into my career.

I don't play the French Horn or the piano too much these days, but I do play in the handbell choir in church. I don't remember if you've started playing handbells yet, but it's lots of fun. I've also given up soccer and softball, but the acting thing is, obviously, still going on. Good on ya for the four shows at once. Keep it up. It'll be stressful, it'll be crazy, but it'll be worth it and your life will never be dull.

My best friend at the moment is Meghan Johannes. You'll meet her sophomore year of college when you pledge a fraternity (don't give me that look -- just trust me on this, okay? I'm older and wiser than you are. Things change. Also, theatre fraternity.), and she'll be the best friend you've always dreamed of having. You'll even write her into a novel. Oh, yeah. We've started writing. A lot. Five novels finished so far. Nothing published yet, but I'm working on it. We'll make it happen.

Harry Potter is still one of my all time favorite book series. The final book came out . . . God, five years ago. Man, I'm old. You'll love them. They'll change your life. Also, long about 2003, you're going to start writing fanfiction. That's good, it's really going to help you grow as an author, but might I make a suggestion? Don't post the first things you write online, okay? Just . . . save yourself the embarrassment.

Sorry to say I haven't had much contact with Katie Steen in the past 12 years. I think we fell out of penpalism shortly after your letter. In fact, there's not much contact left with the Illinois folk or the Chesterville folk or really the people you're going to graduate from high school with. On the one hand, that might be a little sad, and yeah, I get nostalgic sometimes, but the friends you're going to make in college? Those are going to go the distance. And they're going to have miles more in common with you. Keep Kevin around though. Right. You don't like Kevin right now. You hate his guts at the moment. That'll change. Again, don't give me that look. I'm serious. Kevin Obrecht is the only person from your class you keep in regular contact with. Life goes down crazy paths. Just let it.

About Matthew and Jeffrey . . . how do I say this? They are neither very, very annoying or just a little annoying. They're actually two of your best friends. It takes awhile, but I promise you they end up being worthwhile people.

And about MB. Oh, sweet little 11-year-old me, you make me smile in a sad sort of way. I'm just going to put this out there straight for you and not sugarcoat it, okay? You'll never talk to Michael again, not really. A passing message exchanged on MySpace early in college, but other than that, no. And you know what? It's time to let him go, kid. It's been two years, and that's life. He was your best friend, but your path lies a different way. Let me assure you on this. And I'll let you in on a secret:

In December of 2009, you're going to start to get to know a guy. His name is Chase. In early 2010, he's going to ask you out. You'll be hesitant to say yes because it's not the crazy romantic sweep you off your feet love story you've always dreamed of, but go for it. Because in fifteen days, Chase and I are going to celebrate our two year anniversary, and I couldn't be happier. So I can say with confidence that it's going to happen to you someday.

Keep your chin up, girl. Life isn't always going to be an easy road for you, but you'll come out on top. Oh! And when you have the opportunity to start a collab blog with these four girls you'll meet on the internet, take it! Because it's been a year almost, and I've had a blast. Not to mention getting to know these people better.

Signed Yourself,
Cassandra Marie Guion

Girls, I'll see you later.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week 50: Dear Self . . .

Well, girls, as we near the end of this project, it's all about reflection in a way. At least, it is for me. So I thought I'd give us a topic that I first encountered a couple years ago.

Write a letter to your younger self, say about 10-12 years in the past. What are ten things you'd like your younger self to know? Nuggets of wisdom, things you wish someone had told you, etc. Take this time to think about who you were then and how you've changed since. I look forward to them!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday's Top Ten "Songs for a beautiful day"

I love lists, so I love this week's theme! I'm pretty bad at getting my thoughts down on paper; I get all caught up in what to say first, how to say it, etc. and I like writing lists because, for me, I don't really have to think about how to say something, I can just say it.

There's something wonderful about beautiful, sunny days mixed with a great song. For me there are few things that can compare to that feeling you get when a great songs comes up on shuffle while you're walking outside/driving/riding a bus/what have you. So, I present to you my top ten list:

Songs for a beautiful day (in no particular order)

1. "Eddie's Gun"- The Kooks - link

2. "Mr. Brightside"- The Killers - link

*My all time favorite song of all time. OF ALL TIME. (I love it so much that I feel the need to drag out old, tired memes.)

3. "Baby Fratelli" - The Fratellis - link

4. "Blacking Out The Friction" - Death Cab For Cutie - link

*Not as peppy as the others, especially good for driving and bus rides.

5. "Ready My Mind" - The Killers - link

6. "Time to Pretend" - MGMT - link

7. "Hurts Like Heaven" - Coldplay - link

*As David Tennant would say, "Coldplay.... are really good. Deal with it."

8. "Friday Night" - The Darkness - link

9. "Crooked Teeth" - Death Cab For Cutie - link

*Just brings me right back to spring/summertime in high school.

10. "12:51" - The Strokes - link

Enjoy! Maybe you'll even find some new music!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday is... mystical

Christina: What a wonderful trip! I love your photos.

Cassie: Good list. I read Hunger Games the other day--amazing, as I expected it to be. I don't know why/how it took me so long to read it! Far overdue.

And now, my Top Ten List! Honestly, in no particular order, the best Mystical Creatures:

10: Ghosts. They're all over the place, in gazillions of different cultures. They're evil, good-natured, vengeful, and leftovers of real, live human beings. And, from my very well-researched (read: completely un-researched) point of view, one of the most commonly encountered mystical creatures.

9. Angels. Probably almost as widely spread as ghosts, angels have lots of purposes. They can be our sources of guidance and enlightenment, or they can bring news of the Immaculate Birth of Yonder Messiah. Any way you spin it, angels are all over the place and very important to those who believe in them.

8. Demons. Right on par with angels in terms of belief and import, demons can be torturous or indwelling. They are the attributed cause for many a possession in cultures all over the world.

7. Chthulu. I don't really know anything about chthulu, but I do know that its/his name has the same first four letters as the word "chthonic," which is pronounced in ignorance of the first "ch" and means "of or pertaining to the underworld." So Chthulu is pretty cool in my book.

6. Unicorns. The animal Noah left behind. Horses with horns. Awesome.

5. Vampires. The sparkly ones don't count. Reference: Underworld, other reputable vampire movies.

4. Werewolves. Jacob doesn't count. Reference: Underworld, other reputable werewolf movies.

3. Fairies. Tiny little mythical beings. Reference: Pan's Labyrinth, other reputable fairy movies.

2. Perfect Mates. They simply don't exist. You can have someone just perfect for you, as I'm pretty sure I do, but no one human being is perfect. It simply does not happen. If you want a perfect significant other, try pursuing Chthulu. More tentacles, less imperfection. Or something.

1. Dragons. I was raised on dragons, in the late Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. In this series especially, they're awesome: they bond to one human exclusively, forming a lifelong telepathic bond and teaming up to fight the forces of evil (embodied here as Thread, burning evil that falls from the sky and must be burned to be vanquished).

So that's my Top Ten List. As I write it, I have had one (read: more than one) beer, so it may be just a little bit silly and more than a little bit underthought. But I enjoyed it, and I hope you do too!

Happy last few weeks, all! I'll miss you!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Has Monday mentioned that she reads a lot?

Hello, girls! It's Monday!

Carlyn - I do not envy you your psychopharmachology or whatever it's called class. My brain revolted just from half a sentence. Good luck!

Christina - I'm eaten alive with jealousy! Your photos are absolutely breathtaking and beautiful! I can't imagine what it's like seeing all that in person!

I don't know if I've mentioned this or not, but I read a lot. I've been right in the thick of it lately, with my story theatre classes and my twelve mile long list of books to read for them, as well as the children's novels I'm going through at work for possible book discussions later in the spring. It's February 13th, and I've read 13 books so far this month. Granted, most of them have been around or under 200 pages, but still.

And you might think, with all that reading, that the last thing I'd want to do would be to talk about books some more, but if you think that, then you really haven't been paying attention, have you? Let's talk top ten book series!

Yes, this is my top ten of the week. You get plenty of top ten book lists, but I haven't read a lot of top ten series. Now, here are my criteria:

1. "Top Ten" is a mixture for me of best, favorite, and most influential. In other words, I'm taking all that into account, as well as how the series functions as long-form storytelling and how well connected and maintained it is.

2. I'm defining "series" as three or more books dealing with a continuing or connected storyline. Also, I have to have read all of them.To that end, Honorable Mentions!

Honorable Mentions:
The Princesses of Westfalin Trilogy by Jessica Day George and the Seven Kingdoms Trilogy by Kristin Cashore. Why honorable mentions? Because the third of each doesn't technically come out til later this year. But in each case, the first two of the series have been masterfully done, and I have the highest hopes for the final installments.

10. Ann Rinaldi's Quilt Trilogy
Growing up, I read a lot of fantasy (you'll see a trend in the rest of the list). My historical fiction reading was limited to American Girl and Dear America books (which, don't get me wrong, are both excellent, and probably would have made a Top 15 list). But this series was my first foray into historical fiction for an older audience, and I have to hand it to Rinaldi; she knows what she's doing. She knows how to make history interesting and how to really bring the characters to life. I also love that the series spans three generations and doesn't always give the characters the happy endings we want for them. In a YA series, that takes guts.

9. The 39 Clues series
The brain child of Rick Riordan, this series has 11 books in it, written by, I think, 8 authors, and has spawned a sequel series that will eventually have six books. Geared toward a slightly younger audience, the story was nevertheless complicated and intricate, if at times slightly predictable and not quite believable. It's a dangerous thing, asking so many authors to write in one world, because not all of them are going to do such a great job (*coughPeterLerangiscough*), but overall I really enjoyed this series, and I'm anxiously awaiting the next book's release.

8. The Arrows of the Queen trilogy by Mercedes Lackey
So, I have absolutely no idea how many books Lackey has written in her Valdemar universe. I know for sure I haven't read all of them. But I've read a decent amount, and whenever I come back to the world, I come back to the books that first plunged me in. This is one of those series that my mother introduced me to in high school, so it holds a special place in my heart for that. But it's also an intricate and unique world with very strong characters.

7. The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray
 I am constantly trying to find the words to describe these books and I am constantly and consistently failing. I have no idea how to do them justice and no idea what to compare them to. Frail and dreamlike and haunting are the words that keep coming to mind. I encountered these in high school and early college, and the last book came out the same year as Deathly Hallows, and I wanted it almost as badly. So that might tell you something.

6. The 500 Kingdoms series by Mercedes Lackey
Yes, she has two on the list. The woman is brilliant and multi-faceted. This is one of two fairy tale series of hers, and the reason it's here and not the other is because this series is stronger as a whole. The number is up to six now, I believe, and they're all wonderful. Lackey takes fairy tales places that I would never think to take them, and she combines mythology and thematic elements seamlessly. I love this interconnected world she's created, and I love that she's touched on so many different folklore traditions.

5. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C Wrede
These books were my childhood. My parents read them to me when I was eight, and they influenced basically everything I did with my imagination through the age of 13. I reread these books almost every year, and they are entirely timeless. It takes a special author to write a series that has a villain made out of jelly and weapons like the Frying Pan of Doom and still tells an incredibly powerful story.

4. The Giver Trilogy by Lois Lowry
Sadly, the fact that The Giver has two companion novels is an often overlooked fact. And it's really a shame because they're both wonderful. I mean, Messenger changed the way I read novels. It's the simplicity of the stories that really makes them great. They're clean and simple and elegant, really, all while dealing with very complex issues in a very graceful and real way.

3. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Are amazing, really. What else is there to say? I've said it before and I'll say it again, Suzanne Collins is a masterful author for the incredibly honest and complicated way that she portrays love and relationships. The series leaves me on the edge of my seat as I'm reading it, completely caught up in its world and its characters, and it's positively exhilarating.

2. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
The narration. Oh my goodness, the narration. I really do think that's what sets these books apart from so many. It's the way that Riordan balances "I'm an adolescent boy and I think like an adolescent boy" with "I'm a demigod and I have to go save the world now." Also, each novel is so intricately done! Riordan's done his homework. To pull from and keep track of so much mythology is just downright impressive, and what it all comes down to in the end . . . brilliantly done.

1. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
It seems almost like cheating to put Harry Potter in the number 1 slot. Honestly, a part of me feels like I should have some brand new, non mainstream, scarcely heard of series for my number one, but then I look at my criteria and there's really no other choice. Some of the series above may have more intricate stories, they may be more haunting, they may have a stronger pull into the world. But it's Harry Potter that changed the course of my life. I wouldn't be who I am today without this series. And a lot of that is because of how masterful a storyteller JK Rowling is. Each book is entirely connected with the rest. Tiny things that get barely a mention end up being crucial to the way the story plays out. The characters are real and relate-able, the books are highly quotable, and yes, it's made me laugh out loud. Add to all that the fact that this series changed my life? No contest. Number one.

I look forward to your lists.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Week 49: Top Ten

All right, girls! I want to see some Top Ten lists! I don't much care what your topic is. It can be Top Ten Favorite Tropical Fish or Top Ten Reasons Cheesiest Pick Up Lines or Top Ten Reasons Why Downton Abbey needs to be released faster, but I want to read some top ten lists this week!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The last Friday JAB...

My last JAB, I really can't believe it! It seems like it was just a couple months ago, not nearly a whole year, that we were talking about this and thinking about when to start! I was still writing my thesis and completely freaking out about how I would ever finish... and now it's a year later. I'm really going to miss hearing from you guys each week. It's become an engrained part of my weeks, reading what you've got to say each week. :)

Let's see, nothing too eventful happened during the actual week, but I did go to Amsterdam last weekend with my friend Beth, so I can talk about that!

Amsterdam at wintertime
Amsterdam was beautiful during the winter. I arrived by train on the day which, most likely, will have received the most snowfall all year. As the train was approaching Amsterdam, I watched the level of snow slowly build up until there was about five centimeters on the ground. It was very pretty (especially on the first day when it was still perfect and white- see photo above), but also very cold and wet. I'd love to go back to Amsterdam in the spring or summer when it's sunny and warm and it's easier/more enjoyable to ride bikes around the city.

I've been to Bruges, Belgium twice now and the architecture there reminds me of the architecture in Amsterdam. The main difference I'd point out, though, is the height of buildings. Belgium has the same distinct, side-by-side buildings, but the ones in Amsterdam are about two stories taller than Belgium's, from what I noticed. I love how each building is a different color and has a slightly different appearance. And they all have so many windows!

Pigeons and snow 

Some of the places Beth and I went included the Van Gogh Museum (which I LOVED, but couldn't take any pictures in- this is probably actually for the best since it really puts you in the moment), the Amsterdam Museum (which was slightly informative and very much weird), the Anne Frank House (which was very moving and sobering), and the Cat Cabinet (a museum dedicated entirely to cats!). The Cat Cabinet was so much fun; it was full of cat statues, paintings, posters, and anything else you could think of involving cats really. And also: real cats! There are six cats living there, according to the website, but we only saw two while we were there. There was also a cat who lived in our hotel (who had a cute little stubby tail) and cats in two of the restaurants we ate in. Amsterdam loves cats, apparently. And I love cats too, if I hadn't made that clear.

We learned that Amsterdam has over 200 bridges, here's one of them.
We were definitely in Amsterdam during its off-season for tourism, it was very easy to get in everywhere we went- museums, restaurants, etc. We also stayed in a more adult hotel, so we didn't see the traditional college students there to partake in Amsterdam's... delicacies, so to speak. Though they did just pass a law that you have to be a Netherlands citizen in order to partake, so we wouldn't have been able to even if we wanted!

All in all it was a really nice trip and one of the best parts was getting to spend the weekend in Europe with one of my best friends!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesday is classy

Christina: I have never been to Amsterdam! I have heard it is a must-see place, though. How very cool!

Cassie: I'm glad to hear auditions are going well!

So. My JAB week. My last JAB week.

I'm not sure what to write about!

So I guess I'll write about my classes and how they're going so far.

I should preface: 75% of my classes this semester are taught by the same professor, Dr. N. The remaining class is taught by Dr. E. I'm not sure why that was important to say at the get-go, but I should also say that I am delighted to have, for the first time possibly ever, a professor in every class who actually knows the material. Whether he or she is an apt teacher of that material is almost (upcoming pun intended) immaterial; for once, they actually know what they're talking about. This is freaking unprecedented.

Okay. So. My classes.

On Mondays from 6:30 to 9:10, I have psychopathology with Dr. N. So far, this class is just a load of fun (for real). We get to learn about all sorts of mental disorders, how they're classified, how to start treating them, etc. Dr. N knows this stuff, and he is a very good teacher of it. And my classmates are pretty awesome, in that they also know a lot and are willing to discuss it. So it's pretty great.

On Wednesdays from 6:30 to 9:10, I have techniques of group counseling with Dr. E. Now, I'm not sure yet whether Dr. E will be an effective professor or try to treat class as an overgrown group therapy session, but this woman knows her group counseling. She actually likes--nay, prefers!--group counseling to individual counseling, which is relatively unheard of in this profession. And, at the very least, I find her enthusiasm contagious, and the texts are enlightening. It gets a bit old when she reads directly from the Word doc outline of notes (most of which consists of direct quotes from the reading anyway), but it is a good time to catch up on reading or Fruit Ninja on my iPad.

Thursday from 2:00 to 4:40 is psychopharmacology, again with Dr. N. This class is, broadly speaking, about psychotropic drugs (that is, drugs that affect the mind) and how they do what they do. It's hella intimidating. I'm hella glad I didn't go into pharmacy, as did some of my more ambitious friends. I'm enjoying it so far, and Dr. N is a good teacher of this material as well, but pretty soon it's going to turn from "This is the brain! It has nerves!" to "Now, acetylcholine is an agonist for this and that and OMG SO MANY THINGS TO REMEMBER WHAT IS GOING ON." (The latter was in my reading for tomorrow's class, and I really don't know whether acetylcholine is an agonist for anything. The only reason I know I spelled "acetylcholine" right is because there is no red squiggly line under it as I type.) So that should be fun.

After that, Thursdays from 5:00 to 9:00 is spent in practicum. This is where we get to the meat of counseling--I get to see actual clients. I get to influence actual people, with actual problems, who are going to come to me for an actual session to get actual therapy. I don't have a client yet, but many of my classmates do. I feel pretty decently prepared to do a pretty decent job once I do get a client, as long as I don't get thrown a curveball.

(Example of a curveball: One of my friends got a client who had previously been in therapy with an older student who graduated and therefore passed his clientele onto younger student counselors. When last the old counselor saw Client, things were going ostensibly well. But then, during my friend A's first session with Client [his first-ever client], Client disclosed that he had attempted suicide during the intermission between counselors. Cue faculty supervisor intervention, etc. And as if that weren't enough, in their third session together, Client [a minor] disclosed that his alcoholic mother's boyfriend had punched him. Cue calls to Child Protective Services, etc. My friend A is feeling just an eeeeensy bit like he was tossed into the deep end hitched to a cinderblock.)

So that's where I am. I'll have an update in the upcoming weeks about getting a client, if the Fates have me in kind sight.

And if the Fates are being very kind, my first session will not include disclosures of self-harm.

Happy days to you all!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday has spent much of her recent time reading...

Hello, girls! It's Monday!

So, I spent a lot of last week's post talking about the things I would normally talk about in a JAB post, in terms of my stress levels, but that doesn't mean I don't have things to talk about this week, too!

Thankfully, my stress levels have decreased noticeably since a week ago. This is due to many small changes -- my classes are now closed, so my rosters have settled; one class is at least two weeks ahead of schedule; we had one very successful afternoon of one act auditions, which provides good hope for tomorrow; and I got my first paycheck from the new job, so was able to do the grocery shopping I'd been putting off for about a week. And there's something about full cupboards that helps put minds at ease.

My classes and Horizon projects are my life at the moment, so I hope you won't mind if I go on about them. Who knows? Some of it might be interesting to you.

I am teaching two Story Theatre classes, whose objective is to adapt part of a work of children's literature for the stage. One class has nothing to report but a list of books still forty titles long. The other, though, is miles ahead of schedule and has their top five selections already in place, ready to choose their selection next meeting. They have a tough choice, between The World's Worst Fairy Godmother by Bruce Coville, The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forrester, Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer, "The Lost Girls" by Jane Yolen, and any of the Harry Potter books. Which means I have five books to read this week and find possible scenes from!

My original story class is formulating an interesting world. I was fearful for the first few moments of discussion that they were headed down the same path as every group of twelve year olds seems to come up with -- secret super powers and conspiracies. But after some gentle steering away from that, they've created a world that is actually very interesting to me. They've imagined a United States 600 years in the future, after we have reached the pinnacle of technological advancement and realized that all quality of life had subsequently disappeared. So society destroyed itself and built a new world out of the rubble, returning to pre-industrial society, where use of technology is taboo. The rest of it is too complicated and unsettled to get into, but the core idea is very interesting to me.

And, as I said, we had our first day of auditions for one acts today, and 20 students showed up! We'd like to get about 35-40 altogether, so if tomorrow pans out and is equally successful, we'll meet out goal! Which is very encouraging, especially since this project is brand new and my baby, and things like this are always a crapshoot in terms of how many students and what ages will show up.

And that's pretty much my life at the moment. Casting and scheduling and reading recommended children's books and typing up script selections. But the balls in the air are now at a manageable level. Also, I've started watching Downton Abbey, and I love it, which is bad, because I only have one episode left in season one, and that's as much as they have on Netflix. Why does British TV have to be so good???

The boyfriend has also been reading The Hunger Games. He's about 3/4 of the way through Catching Fire, and it's been immensely amusing to hear his commentary as he goes along. I can't wait for the movie!

I hope life around the globe is going well for all of you!

A late Friday...

I'm sorry for not posting in Friday! I was in Amsterdam Friday-Sunday with my friend Beth and I completely forgot to post before I left. I remembered in the hotel room, but it was too late at that point... sigh. I live about four and a half hours away from Amsterdam by train and Beth was in Amsterdam for a business trip. She was able to stay the weekend after her business was done and we got to have a mini vacation! Neither of us ever thought we'd end up in Amsterdam together and it was a lot of fun. We also happened to end up in Amsterdam on what could end up being the one weekend out of the year when they got lots and lots of snow. Well, lots of snow for Amsterdam- about 5 inches or so. The trains and public transport were just a complete mess, so I think we got a unique Amsterdam experience!

Okay, well stress, let's see. At the beginning of the weekend my stress level was very low because I had a whole fun vacation weekend to look forward to and I was going to get to see one of my best friends! I also already had all my lessons ready for Monday, so I wouldn't have to worry about any work over the weekend. The train delays and weather added a little bit of stress, but I knew I'd get where I needed to go eventually so I wasn't too stressed out about it all. A bit of stress did get added of course when I realized I'd forgotten my blog post, but I tried to not stress about it too much because I knew there wasn't anything I could do about it at the time. My stress right now is a bit higher because I have another week of work ahead of me and I need to plan some lessons. I also need to start preparing for the GRE in a more serious mindset and do some more grad school research. My assistantship will also be ending in about two and a half months, so I really need to think of options for the year before grad school starts (assuming I get in)! So all those little things mean that my stress level is probably about a 4 out of 10. Not too high, but still detectable.

Overall I think I deal with stress pretty well. In college I was the traditional procrastinator, so I suppose you could say stress was necessary for my work. Occasionally it would overwhelm me, but for the most part it helped me get my papers and projects done. I try not to let stress get the better of me because that won't help anyone really, will it?

And wow, is it seriously our last JAB this week? I can't believe how fast this went by!

Week 48: One last jab

All right, guys, it's our last JAB week of the year (of this project), and with five weeks left . . . we're dropping like flies.

I know people are busy and stressed and halfway around the world with spotty internet, but it would mean a lot to me if this didn't just die a fizzled-out death at the end. Let's end strong and put as much effort (me included; I've been slacking) into the end of this project as we did in the beginning!

Thanks, girls. I can't believe it's almost over. Here's to going out with a bang!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wednesday is a point on a stress continuum

Christina: What a story! I’m glad nothing worse befell!

Cassie: Post-Its are amazing. They have saved me in many a stressful situation!

My current stress level is perhaps 3.5-4 out of ten. I’m a solidly chill person, and I’m pretty good about dealing with things as they come to me, so it generally takes a lot to knock me above about a 6 on the stress scale.

A 0 would be the first day of maybe three days of knowing I have absolutely no obligations—nothing currently on my plate, and several days ahead of me that I know I will be in the same mindset—and the freedom to spend my time doing what I want with the people I want to be with. It would also involve knowing I have some structure and obligations to look forward to, so I don’t have to deal with the stress that comes with having nothing to work for and no prospects.

A 5 would be the third day of maybe five days of semi-closely-packed scheduling obligations, interspersed with time set aside to work on preparations for those obligations. I’ve already successfully gotten through two days of hard work, and I have several more to go, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I feel prepared to tackle what’s coming.

A 10 (mind, I’m not sure I can recall a time when I’ve been at a 10) would be the third hour of maybe several weeks of overscheduled, ambiguous obligations, without enough time between obligations to be prepared for the next. I’ve started full-speed-ahead, but it’s only been three hours, and I’m already beat, and I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next few weeks, or even what I’ll be doing, even though I know there’s a ton going on. In fact, even thinking about the 10 is making me think more stressfully about what I do actually have going on at this moment in time. So I will take a step back.

Right now, I have a clearly delineated list of things that need to be done before tomorrow, and my classes are getting into their full swing, and I feel prepared to handle whatever they can throw at me. That, and I have a great weekend to look forward to—my eight-month-iversary with that lovely hardware store employee is this Friday, so I’m going to my college town to spend some time with her (so, Cassie, I’ll be in town this weekend : P).

And with that, I’m going to go get things done before tomorrow so I can have a stress-free night and look forward to my weekend.

Hope all is well with you all! Have a very pleasant February-beginning.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday is feeling the pressure

Hello, girls, it's Monday, and I'm cutting this REALLY close to the wire! Therefore, I'm just gonna jump right in to the topic of the week: stress levels!

I put my current stress level at moderate. It's not as bad as it's been before; I'm keeping all the balls I've been handed up in the air. But I can feel that waver that lets me know I could miss one at any moment and send everything crashing down around me.

I don't know if I mentioned it here, but I started a new job last week. I'm now a part-time librarian in the children's place at my public library, and I love it. I really do. I'm finally getting to the point where I'm being given actual projects instead of just learning the ropes, which is exciting but also stressful, especially because all my Horizon projects are starting to collide a little. Spring classes just started and are still settling in numbers. Every day it seems I have a new email with a student wanting to join late or shift classes or drop out, and keeping track of it all is a nightmare. On top of that, my one acts audition next week, so I'm frantically lining up directors and freaking out over finding rehearsal space and whether or not any kids are going to show up to audition. Plus, drama club is an ongoing project, at some point I have to figure out the educational half of the summer show, and oh yeah, I just got asked when I'm going to start putting together info for summer camps.

So yeah. If my hair puffed, puff levels would be high.

What I'm really missing about life pre-new-job was the freedom to set my own hours. I could shuffle things around as needed, and last minute scheduling switches weren't an issue. Now, though, my hours at the library are regulated for me, and while they're much more flexible about the schedule than most workplaces, it's still a drastic change from what I'm used to. Plus, I'm around people and constantly on my feet for five+ hours a day when I work, which is exhausting. I come home at 8:30 and all I want to do is collapse. And then I get into the loop of feeling like I'm not doing anything but working! The meeting I just got home from was the first time I'd seen friends outside my family and the boyfriend in a week. I want to go out, I want to spend time with my friends, but I'm just so drained at the end of the day.

But, I do love the work I'm doing, and I do love being busy, and I certainly feel productive, which is better than the alternative. So I'm getting by. And I just keep reminding myself to take deep breaths and invest in more post-its!

How are all of you?

Week 47: Stress Test

Sorry for the lack of topic post yesterday! Here 'tis, just a little late:

Let's talk stress levels. Where are yours? What, if anything, is making life a little anxious? Talking can help, so let it all out! And if you're not particularly stressed at the moment . . . what's your secret??

Friday, January 27, 2012

Christina didn't have the best balance as a child

Cassie: Hahahahah, I remember drawing on "non-drawable" things when I was young too. It was just so much more fun to draw on the speakers than on construction paper.

Alexandra: Come back to us!

Carlyn: Oh my gosh, car phones! I often forget about their existence and then am reminded every few years or so. Those were sure short-lived.

I think the strongest memory I have from my childhood is when I nearly cracked my head open. Cheery, I know. I was a big Winnie the Pooh fan when I was little (still am) and I'm was imitating Owl I'm pretty sure (I know I was pretending to be an owl at any rate). I was about two or three at the time. Well, while pretending to be an owl I was kneeling on the arm of the sofa, by the fireplace. What I remember of the experience is saying "Daddy, look!" as my dad was walking by with the laundry- and then falling backwards off the couch and hitting my head on the edge of the brick fireplace. My parents then of course rushed me very quickly to the hospital, ruining the spaghetti that they had been making for dinner. I remember my head being wrapped in a blanket (for the blood, if you wanted to know- and sorry if you didn't) and lying in my mom's lap as my dad drove us there. I don't remember anything after that, but I know I did end up getting stitches. I don't think my head actually cracked open, I'm pretty sure it was just the skin, I should ask my mom about that. Well, 20ish years later and I still have a scar on the back of my head underneath all my hair where no hair grows. So that, girls, is what happens when you pretend to be an owl. Lesson learned.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday recalls her sister's birth

Christina: I love the story about your grandmother and her daughters! She sounds like a woman ahead of her time, and took her daughters along for the right. That’s so awesome.

Cassie: Your siblings are awesome.

My earliest memories!

My very, very earliest memory is of the car telephone my parents used to have in the 80’s-something Camry they had when I was a baby. This memory is vague, but it occurred before I was 18 months old, because we got rid of that phone when I turned that old.

My second-earliest memory is, much like Cassie’s, that of my sister’s birth when I was two and a half years old. I don’t remember much about it, apart from being in a very dark room, with a beam of light coming down from the ceiling to the hospital bed where my mother was laying, holding my brand new little sister. I climbed up on the bed—and that’s where my memory ends. There have been 20 years of memories of my sister since then, both good and bad, but that’s the first one I have.

And now, in the interests of time, that’s the end of my post for the week! Hope you are all doing well!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday was a clumsy child

Hello, girls! It's Monday!

Alexandra - I second Christina's comment -- I like how in not having family stories, you end up with a cobbled together sort of story.

Carlyn - Your parents are adorable. Just sayin'.

Christina - Your mother and her sisters sound like my dad and his siblings, who used to sing two-part countermelodies in the car on long road trips.

And now, moving past stories about family and on to stories about ourselves, here we go.

My earliest memory is falling down the stairs. I was . . . maybe two? We were living in a house with one floor and a basement, and the stairs to the basement were covered in this thick, ugly orange shag carpeting, which is pretty much the only thing I remember about that house. It was summer, I believe, and I had just been given a popsicle, and I was heading down to the basement for some reason. My memory tells me it was the tornado sirens, but my parents tell me that's inaccurate. Anyway, something happened, and, being two, I fell. All the way down the staircase. Bouncing off each step. But! That popsicle? Not one bit of carpet fuzz on it. Two years old, and I knew my priorities. :)

My second earliest memory was the birth of my little brother. I actually wrote up the story for a children's literature class. Jeffrey was born six weeks before my third birthday. He was also six weeks premature. Doing the math, he was due just about at my birthday. So, I got it into my head that he was going to be my birthday present. And I wanted a sister. A sister would mean two against one on my older brother, plus it would be someone to play with and teach things to and all that jazz. Plus, hello, birthday present. I couldn't get a birthday present I didn't want, and I didn't want another brother. Been there, done that. So, when he was born, I went to hospital expecting a baby sister. So imagine my chagrin when the nurse brought ought this . . . boy. Actually, you don't have to. It's all cataloged in photographs. Me, beaming with excitement. Me, looking in puzzlement at the nurse. Me, glaring down at the bundle of baby I am holding. Ah, sibling love.

But the tale that gets told over and over at family functions is the one I alluded to last week. Backstory:

My cousin and I were both very imaginative and creative children. She was . . . slightly more mischievous, though, and a more forceful personality, so wherever she went, I followed. From an early age. When we were three, our aunt was married, and so the family rented cabins in New York for a week to help with all the preparations. Well, at one point, she and I were both inside our cabin and all the adults were elsewhere. My older brother was watching us, but not really because he was seven. Anyway, to make a long story short, I had markers, and she had a penchant for coloring on the walls. Putting two and two together . . . we colored on the walls. Of a rented cabin. With marker. My grandmother still, twenty years later, does not find this story amusing.

That's all I got for this week. I look forward to hearing your childhood tales!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week 46: Stories of Your Own

So, last week we talked about stories from our families. Well, this week, let's talk about some stories of our own. Possible options:

Earliest memory
First day of school
Birth of a sibling
That time you got into huge trouble doing that thing
That story that gets pulled out all the time at family functions

Anything else you'd care to recollect!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Christina's family is not so story-based

Cassie: I love both your family stories! The story of how your grandparents met is so just... adorable. And the holy water story is hilarious. They make me want to hear more family stories. :)

Alexandra: I totally understand not having much in the way of family stories, I point which I'll soon touch on...

Carlyn: Your story was funny and sweet! I also identify with it right now as I've been doing a lot of penny pinching (actually more like centime pinching) here in France as of late.

I alluded to the fact that my family doesn't have many stories, a hunch that I had when Cassie first announced this topic and which I now know after I struggled this week to think of stories to write about. We're pretty good on family history, I know where my grandparents came from, what they did, etc. But little family anecdotes? Not so much. There are a few little things I can think of, however, and I'll share those now.

-My mom used to play the cello when she was in high school and she likes to tell the little story of how, when her sisters and she were little (there are four of them total), they would get together, dress up like The Beatles, and pretend to put on a concert using their violins and cellos (they all played) as guitars. Pretty adorable, right? (Perhaps also a precursor to her daughter dressing up and pretending to be a student at Hogwarts... what?)

-My mom's mom (aka maternal grandmother, to use Cassie's wording!) raised four daughters at home, but also worked as a reporter for, I believe, The Hartford Courant. That may not be the paper, but it was one of the local Connecticut newspapers. She would go around town with my mom and aunts in tow, collecting stories, then write them up at home on a typewriter in between cooking and taking care of the kids (it was the 50s, so that housewife role was still in full force), and then hurry over to a bus stop where the driver would take her stories into town and deliver them by the deadline. My aunt has a newspaper clipping from when a story was written about her, showing her (with one of my aunts or my mom, I don't remember who) handing off an envelope full of stories to the bus driver. I never knew my maternal grandmother, so seeing that picture and hearing the story was really nice and helped me get more of a picture of her.

I have tried and failed to come up with a story from my dad's side of the family. There are little things like the fact that he was a very difficult child, something my grandma (his mom) would tell me a lot, but I never got any specific examples, just the general thought that he was difficult. The one story I can think of isn't the most happy. My dad is deaf in one ear and the story is of how he found out. They were doing those usual hearing tests at school and when he got home from school that day, he found his mom crying at the kitchen table because they'd called to tell her that he couldn't hear in one of his ears. Yupp, a real upper that story is. (He gets by just fine hearing out of his one ear, if you're wondering!)

I can not think of any other stories, so there we go for this week.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday's story is cheap

Christina: It sounds like you are having a lovely time! Enjoy those sales : )

Cassie: Ben’s is awesome. As are your freaking adorable grandparents. Whom I can now claim to have met.

Alexandra: You seem to have a very storysome family, even if you don’t know the stories!

My family is also very storysome. We’re small (four in my immediate family, plus one grandma and minimal aunts/uncles/cousins), but our oral history is vast. It’s impossible to pick one story to call the best, so I will tell one about my parents and how very dirt poor they were when they got married.

One day, when they were maybe 22 and 24 (my parents got married pretty young [Mom was 21, so not as young as some in present company : ) ]), Mom and Dad realized they had 76 cents. This was a pretty big deal; they had not had spending money in a long time. So they decided to go out for dinner.

They went to McDonald’s, where a double cheeseburger cost 75 cents. They got one double cheeseburger and split it.

On their walk through the parking lot outside, they found a penny on the ground. Add that to the penny they had leftover from their lavish burger feast, and they had two cents! Enough to buy a Tootsie roll from the convenience store next door.

So they bought one Tootsie roll and cut it in half for dessert.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday... has a family, I guess

Reason I didn't post last week? I was in a haze of odd sleep schedules and no longer knew what day it was. Not really any other excuse there. You can punish me if you like.

Continuing, to say that I do not care about my family's history, genealogy, etc. is perhaps the world's grossest understatement. I do not know anyone outside of my pretty immediate family's names. I know my grandparents, my one aunt's, and her two sons. I know my father, mother, brother. It ends there. I have a great grandmother who, to my knowledge, is alive. But she could be dead, I wouldn't know. I have numerous great aunts and uncles and I can't remember any of their names. I think there is a John? That could be a lie. I don't know one of my grandmother's maiden names (Benoit maybe?) and the other I only know because it's hilarious (Hoare). I know my cousin's surname, but I probably wouldn't be able to spell it if one of them didn't post on Facebook six times a day.

So any family stories I have are... pieced together from vague memories or just first hand accounts. I seem to recall that I have a great aunt (Miriam? M-something, I think) who is quite notoriously unattractive. I remember a story being told about two men, one related to us, another not, who were talking about the most hideous woman they both knew, and by the end, they realized they were talking about the same woman. I have no idea who she is or what she looks like, so I cannot confirm or deny that. There is the classic story of my uncle Chris. My father, a right troublemaker, had so many parent-teacher conferences with Chris (his teacher... science, maybe? could've been math) that he ended up getting to know my dad's sister very well. Can never go wrong with a bit of a Hot for Teacher story, particularly if it ends in marriage. I know their son, my cousin Tom, does things just to scare his mother, like travelling to Calcutta.

I think my mother's side of the family is full of less pleasant characters. I know my great-grandmother walks all over my grandma. I know I've got a bunch of cousins once removed and great aunts my mother doesn't like. I seem to recall a story about a man with a missing arm. There was someone who was old and sick and curmudgeon who may or may not have been killed by his wife. I don't know how I am related to any of these people, their names, where they lived, who showed up for my mum's wedding and who was barely even in her life, let alone mine. I don't hold any real value to the fact that I share a mutual great-grandparent with somebody, so I suppose I never asked as a kid about anyone in my family. It just never mattered to me. I'd rather know about the lives of the people who cared to share it with me, be they my closer relatives or my friends.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday's great-grandfather was a heretic

Hello girls! It's Monday!

Carlyn - I am sorry for your puffy hair, but less sorry than I would be if you had continued to read The Book Thief. And don't try to pull the "Oh, I'm in grad school and I have so much work to do" line -- because it'll probably work. :)

Christina - Isn't it great to be a regular? The closest I've come to being a regular is at Ben Franklin's. I actually had one of the workers there ask me the other day how my show went last month, so that was nice.

On to the topic of the week!

So, as I said yesterday, and as I've mentioned before, my mother does a lot of genealogy, so much so that she has basically run out of her own family members, and my dad's family members, and so has started doing research on my uncle's family, an uncle related entirely by marriage.When my great-aunt was alive, Mom would drive up to see her at least once a month, both to check in and to get Aunt Muriel talking because she was the last of her generation, and so a generation's worth of stories would die with her.

So my mother is, in many ways, a collector of stories, and she's passed a lot of those stories down. Now, I could take this time to tell classic stories from my own childhood, such as the time I flooded my grandparents' bathroom with my cousin or the time I colored on the walls of a rented cabin with my cousin (actually, many of the most interesting stories from my childhood end with the phrase "with my cousin" -- and there's a reason), but rather than dwell on the embarrassing moments from when I was young, I think I'd rather share some tales of generations past.

To that end, I have two stories for you. One, the story of how my paternal grandparents met and married, and two, the story of how my maternal great-grandfather was a heretic.

Story one:

My paternal grandparents are 90 and 87 and have been married for 64 years, first of all. They are adorable and spry and like few 90 year olds you will meet. For example, for my grandmother's 90th birthday earlier this year, they took a cruise down the Danube River. Yes, that's in Europe. And my grandmother didn't want a lot of people to know because she felt it was extravagant.

But anyway, they've been married for 64 years and have 5 kids and 10 grandkids, and this past Christmas, we were told in wonderful detail the story of how they met.

They met in a Sunday school class in Indiana. My grandfather was in college post-WWII and my grandmother was working in a library in Fort Wayne. The class was about to begin when a member of the church brought a new student to the class last minute, a young lady named Emily, and to quote my grandfather, "she was a vision." She wore a bright yellow dress and white gloves, and it's the gloves that are the focal point of the story.

Grandpa was captivated, and for the next three weeks, he waited and waited for her return each Sunday to Sunday school, hoping that this week, the gloves would come off so he could see her bare hands. You see, he wanted to know whether or not he had a chance with her. But the gloves never came off, and so finally, he had to resort to tracking her down at the library where she worked during the week, where he could finally see that there was no ring. He immediately asked her out on a date.

Their first date was on August 3. On September 6, he proposed. And the next June, they were married. It's the kind of old-fashioned love story that makes me prematurely nostalgic.

Story Two:

This is one of my favorite family stories of all time, but I have to be careful the company I share it in, because many people would not find it funny.

When my great-grandfather on my mother's side was growing up, the Catholic priests would come to the town square periodically to do public baptisms. When they started to run low on holy water, they would pay the local boys a penny to run back to the church and fetch more. My great-grandfather was one of those boys.

Except that he very rarely felt like running all the way back to the church. So he would take the penny and the container, run back to his home, which was closer, and fill the container up with tap water and take that back to the priests.

Side note: I love hearing my mother the minister tell that story and laugh.

So those are two of my favorite family stories. What are yours?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Week 45: Family Stories

The topic for the week:
This Christmas, my grandmother requested that my family do something we've never really done before. We all sat in the living room together one night and talked about the future and our ambitions and where we were in our lives. But we also asked my grandparents to share some stories about their past that we hadn't heard. I heard the tale of how my grandparents met for the first time, among other things.

Family stories are important. My mother is an amateur genealogist, and she's drilled this into my head often enough. Years from now, what will be recorded for the future genealogists to find will be names and dates and little else. It's up to us to pass the family stories down so that the future has a glimpse into what our lives were like.

I'm expounding. Basically, what are your old family stories, the amusing or romantic or mildly embarrassing tales that get told over and over? They can be about you or about generations past, but let's share some of those stories that show how human we are.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday's going away for the weekend

Hello! I'm actually writing this post Thursday night because I'm going to be leaving tomorrow morning to spend the weekend in Lille with my friend Sarah who lives in Paris. She's never been to Lille and I haven't spent much time in Lille, so we're going to make a weekend of it! I'm excited to see the city and especially excited to spend the weekend in a hotel. I've always loved hotels. There's something very relaxing for me about not having to worry about the room. And generally the beds are bigger than the one I usually sleep in. :D

In France they have huge sales twice a year which are called Les Soldes ("The Sales"). The started this past Wednesday, a fact that Sarah and I had overlooked when we planned to be in Lille this weekend. It is going to be crazy. When I was there for the Christmas market in December you could hardly walk down the main roads, there were so many people. I can only imagine what it will be like with nearly every shop having blowout sales. Many of the shops here in Douai (a medium-sized town near Lille) are having 50% off sales, so I'm very excited to see the sales in Lille. I don't want to spend lots of money and I'm not the biggest fan of shopping, but I sure do love a good deal. (I can just hear friends reading this formulating jokes.)

I've been back in France for a little over a week now and things are going well now! The first six days or so were rough. First I was getting over jetlag which meant I was cranky about small things which seemed very big to me. A mix of jetlag and the angst of being separated again from family and friends is not a good combination, but after I got over that things very quickly started looking up. There's a café here in Douai called l'Equitable that I absolutely love and going there makes any day a great day. I've always wanted to be a regular at a coffee shop or café and now I can say I am! When I go in I know at least one person who's working there and I usually recognize some of the other customers too. L'Equitable is one of the things I'm really going to miss when I leave Douai. What else is new... Oh! In a break from my normal personality I went running yesterday. It was a really nice day (50 Fahrenheit or so) and I had a surplus of energy, so I did it and it was the first time I'd run outside and not felt like I was dying afterwards (I prefer running on treadmills). I felt really good afterwards; however, today it is so painful to walk. Anyway, I'm going to try to make it a habit to run or at least get exercise often. If the weather stays unseasonably warm like this that should make it easier. :)

Okay, I'm off to bed to get up early and head to Lille tomorrow, have a good weekend!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday's life is enjoyable, if not entirely exciting.

Christina: I’m sorry you’re feeling stalled! Maybe while you’re spending your stalling time in such a cool place, you can make some leeway figuring out what it is you really want to do with life! Also, Community rocks.

Cassie: To be frank, I haven’t continued reading… not because I don’t love it, but because I tend to be a bit lazy about such things. As soon as I remind myself how amazing it is, I’ll pick it back up : )

So, my life this week. Not a whole lot is going on. I’m back in my own apartment after being gone for three solid weeks (my cat is not letting me out of his sight), and while I wish I could bring all my important people with me, it is good to be back. I started classes with one on Monday, had another today, and have two more tomorrow.

Beyond that, I’m really not sure what to write about! So I guess I’ll tell you little things that are going on.

I quit biting my fingernails again (it happens about three times a year) and am in the midst of painting them a very pleasant turquoise.

My television is stuck on Comedy Central. I can turn it on and off and change the volume, but the channel is stuck. As I often have my TV on for background noise, this led me the other day to watch Jeff Dunham and his ventriloquism. I’m pretty sure I’ve told my talking Woody doll story at some point in the last months on this blog, but in case I didn’t, or in case you have forgotten, I will remind you that I have (or had, as this story will relay) automatonophobia, which is the fear of ventriloquist’s dummies. I have been slowly trying to get over this fear, and I was actually able to watch and enjoy Jeff Dunham. I rejoiced and promptly updated my Facebook status.

For some reason, my hair is really puffy today. I am less than thrilled.

That’s about all I can come up with! Hope all is well with you. Catch you all next week!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday met her goal!

Hello, girls! It's Monday!

Alexandra - I've heard good things about the BBC's Sherlock, though I haven't seen it myself yet. I also completely relate to the boyfriend/husband standing over your shoulder as you play a game, telling you what you're doing wrong!

Carlyn - How goes the Book Thief?

Christina - I was three semesters into my education degree when I came to the same realization you have -- that a classroom was not where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. So I can understand your frustration with the next four months. That being said, soak up the experience of being overseas in every way that you can. You're lucky enough to be doing what so many people say they're going to do someday but never get around to. Enjoy France!

As for this JAB week, my life is much the same as always, plus a new job (I just got hired part time at my library) and a virus that's making me miserable (Worst words ever from a doctor: "It's viral. There's nothing we can do."), but I don't want to talk about any of that.

Instead, I'm going to do my 2011 Reading Wrap-Up that I never got around to. My goal was to read 125 books, a goal I met early in December, at which point, Chase challenged me to hit 150 by the end of the month. I did. Boy, was that exhausting! But anyway, here are my final totals:

Total books read: 150
New Books: 82
Rereads: 68
I looked online and I found an end of the year reading survey that I'm going to adapt to suit my purposes here, and for the sake of ease and fairness, I'm going to limit my answers to the new books I read last year.

Best Book: Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Favorite Book: Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, Fire by Kristin Cashore
Most Interesting Book: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Most Disappointing Book/Book You Wish You Loved More Than You Did?: 
Disappointing was probably The Extra Ordinary Princess by Carolyn Q Ebbitt -- It had such promise! It was a wonderful premise, but it was not executed well at all. Book I wish I loved more than I did, Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card. It was fascinating, but so complicated. I just couldn't keep all his ideas in my head at once. I know it's a brilliant book; I just didn't enjoy reading it.

Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011?
I was pleasantly surprised by Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin. I was expecting some YA romance fluff, but it was actually very good and a lot more complex than I had anticipated. 

Book you recommended to people most in 2011?
Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, as part of the Hunger Games trilogy.
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson -- one of the best books of hers I've read thus far
The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Best series you discovered in 2011?
Hands down, the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
Favorite new authors you discovered in 2011?   
Eilis O'Neill, Polly Shulman, Ally Condie, Elizabeth Gaskell

Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
Definitely Keep Sweet by Michele Dominguez Greene, a book about a young bride in a polygamous Mormon sect

Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?
Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
Book you most anticipated in 2011?
The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Most beautifully written book read in 2011?
Fire by Kristin Cashore
Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read?
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I know, I know. Also, To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee Harper. Who gets to be 23 without having read those books, right?

Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2011?
From I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, one of the reasons I love him so much:
"There is a lot of folklore about equestrian statues, especially the ones with riders on them. There is said to be a code in the number and placement of the horse's hooves: If one of the horse's hooves is in the air, the rider was wounded in battle; two legs in the air means that the rider was killed in battle; three legs in the air indicates that the rider got lost on the way to the battle; and four legs in the air means that the sculptor was very, very clever. Five legs in the air means that there's probably at least one other horse standing behind the horse you're looking at; and the rider lying on the ground with his horse lying on top of him with all four legs in the air means that the rider was either a very incompetent horseman or owned a very bad-tempered horse."
Book That You Read In 2011 That Would Be Most Likely To Reread In 2012?
Fire by Kristin Cashore will be reread, as will many that have sequels or next in series coming out this year: Across the Great Barrier by Patricia Wrede, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, The Heroes of Olympus books by Rick Riordan, and probably several others
Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2012?
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which gets mailed out tomorrow!!! Also The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan, the sequel to Pegasus by Robin McKinley, and Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Reading Goal for 2012?
120 books for the year, 60 new. 
Here's to another year of reading!