Friday, August 30, 2019

Unfinished Business

                     broken glass window

Necessary Vocabulary for this Post: DNF
Literal Meaning: Did Not Finish. 
Frequently made a verb, as in, "I DNFed that book."
While the acronym implies starting and never finishing, it is generally not used to denote a book that is still, theoretically, in progress. Rather, DNF is a way of saying, with finality, that you have quit a book. You have slammed it shut. You do not plan to finish it. At least not until something significant changes in the way you view either that book or the world. 

I have so much Unfinished Business in my reading life: series I started and never completed, books I DNFed but now think might deserve a second chance, and books that left me with questions I needed a few years and a reread to answer.

Do you have Unfinished Business too?

Let me give you some examples and explain along the way why I think cleaning up literary Unfinished Business is important for mental health and growth.

Series I Never Finished
It was pretty common for me to find the first couple books in a series from a small, local library, love them, but then have a hard time getting my hands on the rest.
I think each unfinished story left a little wound. I got invested in the characters and then accidentally abandoned them to whatever danger or internal struggle they were facing, and in doing so, I abandoned myself to whatever the story was helping me work through. This might not make sense to you, and that's okay. Stories help me get through life. They help me see my own mess through a different set of eyes, and each story helps me get a little less messy. At any rate, I'm bothered by each story I haven't finished, so I'm being really intentional at this stage of my life about remembering and going back and finishing things.

                                            Image result for the children of the lamp

The Children of the Lamp series by P.B. Kerr is one of these. It's a seven-book series about a pair of twin siblings who discover, at the age of 12, that they are djinn. They grant wishes, pop in and out of lamps, and, naturally, take on the forces of evil in the djinn world. It's very Arabian Nights, elementary edition. I found the first two books in a little Christian school library somewhere around fifth grade and convinced the librarian, *cough* my mom, to add the third one when it came out. And then I'm not really sure what happened. I didn't see hide or tail of the fourth book until I was eighteen and wandering around a Borders. By that point I had pretty nearly forgotten the story, but I read it anyway, trying to pick up the where I'd left off. It didn't feel the same. Reading it without remembering well just created a disconnect. I could have sought out further books, but I didn't.

It wasn't until this Spring that I started thinking about it again, did a little research, and discovered that the series was finally complete and available at my (much larger) local library. So I went back to the beginning. Sometimes you have to do that. I've reread the first two books, and I hope to complete this bit of Unfinished Business by the end of the year.

                                                 Image result for troubling a star

The story was a little different with Madeline L'Engle's Austin Family Chronicles, a series I started in highschool by accident. I had just finished the Time Quintet, loved it, and picked up what I thought was a standalone L'Engle novel at a used bookstore. Turns out it was the fifth and last book in the Austins series: Troubling a Star. I loved it, but also got the feeling that I had missed a huge amount of the story. But did I learn my lesson? No. Not knowing exactly why Troubling a Star felt so incomplete, I picked up A Ring of Endless Light in college thinking it, too, was a standalone novel. Turns out it was the fourth book in the series, which I was now reading backwards. A month or two ago, I finally picked up the first book like a Normal Human and thoroughly enjoyed reading the beginning. Now all I have to do is read books two and three. But in Which Order? I haven't decided.

Books That Needed a Second Chance

I've only DNFed a few books in my life. I hate doing it; it feels so wrong. The first time I ever did it was with a book called Wringer by Jerry Spinelli. It was about a little boy who had to kill birds by wringing their necks, and it disturbed me so much I had to just put it down. I felt sick. Both about the story and about not finishing it, but every subsequent DNF has been easier.
(I just realized it kind of sounds like I'm talking about the first time I killed someone and how each subsequent kill got a little easier. Oops. But I stand by it.) I have no intention of ever resurrecting Wringer.

But not every DNF is like that. There are a few books I put down for good reasons and finally picked up again for different good reasons.


This was the case with Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. I borrowed this book from my small-town library in early highschool based on sheer cover love, and I was hooked from the first page. Absolutely riveted. It's a multi-generational mystery with multi-generational pain. It's beautiful and harsh and honest and problematic.

**Spoilers Ahead** A romance developed on the side between the female lead and the boy who captained the troops on the other side of a war between boarding schools. It was low-key violent and high-key mean. The relationship began with a concerning level of pushing each other around, which shifted through tense and mistrustful make-out sessions, to genuine affection. The deeply-rooted mystery kept me hooked through one sexual encounter between two adult side characters, but by that point I knew I shouldn't still be reading. The language, violence, and sex were all aspects I knew my parents did not approve, but I desperately hoped I could get to the end before admitting that to myself because the story was So Good. But then, a few chapters from the end--So Painfully Close to the end--it became apparent that the two main characters were about to have sex in an alley.**Spoilers Complete**

 I closed it. And I cried. I told my parents. I tried to get the library to move it to the adult section so that no other unsuspecting naive virgin mind like my own would be so blindsided, but to no avail. Apparently librarians view even the slightest challenge to a book as an attempt to squelch free speech. I'm not entirely sure I disagree, but it hurt at the time. The whole thing really hurt at the time. And the unsolved mystery burned in the back of my mind. This book haunted me FOR YEARS.

And finally, sometime in my college era, I just sat down and asked myself why I couldn't just finish it. Why I couldn't just find out how the goshdarn thing ended. So I bought it. And I read it. And I cried. Because after the characters do what they do, they go on to solve the mystery. And it's sad. And poignant. And hopeful. And beautiful.

And Some Stories Are Worth Wading Through A Little Yuckiness, Okay?

This book is now one of my favorites in the whole wide world. Would I recommend it to just anyone? No. But it did make me reevaluate my book standards. Do I believe I compromised my morals to read this book in full? No. If you read books To Be Entertained and Nothing Else, then your moral standards ought to be pretty tight, I think. After all, if you're just opening your brain and dumping stuff in, then it should probably be as pure as possible. But that is not and has never been how and why I read. I read to learn. I read to see. To evaluate. To feel. I read to Think. So will I read Fifty Shades of Grey so that I can Think Deeply About the Themes? Ummm NO. But I will never again close a book just because a character commits a sin that the Christian community has arbitrarily decided is Particularly Yucky. I'll probably take up this topic again in a later post.

                                                 Image result for the sword bearer

Moving on. The Sword Bearer by John White, book number one in the Chronicles of Narnia-like Archives of Anthropos, is a book I accidentally DNFed. I call it a DNF because it was, at the time, quite permanent. I had picked up the first book in publish order: The Tower of Geburah in Ivory Coast, Africa when I was nine. The volumes belonged to my mother and had been left behind in Africa after our first evacuation, but we were back and hopeful that the country would stay stable. I was midway through The Iron Scepter when the first bombs dropped. I started The Sword Bearer a day or two before we started packing our bags. And I do mean bags. 20 kilos apiece is all we were allowed to bring on the military transport when the UN pulled us out. It wasn't until I was on the jet that I realized I'd left the book behind.
I accidentally left that book in my home on a different continent and never ever got to go back to that home. A new copy just arrived in the mail last week, 15 years later. I don't remember the series being that good, but I am going to finish it. There are some things you just have to do to heal.

Books That Needed Rereading by an Older Me

This last category is much harder to explain or understand. In much the same way that Jellicoe Road haunted me, there are books I read years ago that have haunted me even though I did finish them. These were books I knew I didn't understand. Books that hurt, and I couldn't tell why. Books that left me with unanswered questions. The best example of this was A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.

                           Image result for a series of unfortunate events books

I read these voraciously as they came out. I died waiting for release dates. And all along Snicket said, Don't Read This. You Will Regret Reading This. Read Literally Anything Else. Like most of the avid reading world, I didn't listen. And then I read The End. And I hated Lemony Snicket (or Daniel Handler, if you want to be all correct about it). The series left me with so many gaping wounds. I could not understand at the time how the ending was a good one. I could not come to terms with the fact that the Baudelaires, having been through so much, could not have a traditionally happy ending. It had to be quiet and sad. It had to be that way or it wouldn't have been real. It wasn't until I had a talk with Marli Hutchinson about the series, which she adores, that I began to realize I was wrong to hate Mr. Snicket. Marli's beautiful, sad, artist soul helped me realized that it's okay if you never get over the death of Dewey Denouement. You Shouldn't ever get over the death of Dewey Denoument. That's the whole point. **SORRY SPOILERS, DEWEY DIES**

So by the time the Netflix series came out (Which Is Amazing by the way), I was ready to tackle a reread. It was worth it. No one but Lemony Snicket has ever taken such time and care to talk to children about hardship and evil and injustice in the world. No one has ever been so honest or funny or raw or hopeful all at the same time. It's wisdom packaged in the ridiculous and macabre. If you want to read more about A Series of Unfortunate Events, see my sister's extensive reviews from her own reread: Books 1-3Books 4-6Books 7-9Books 10-12, and Book 13 on her blog, Out of Coffee, Out of Mind.

I've found that the more I've undertaken to revisit these childhood loose ends, the more I've uncovered. And it's been such a beautiful season of reading because of it. I'm quite literally turning the page on some painful bits of childhood, and it's fixed some bruised places in my soul.

All that to say, don't be afraid to retrace your steps in your reading life. Sometimes revisiting something old is better for your insides than reading something brand new. 

Let me know what you think in the comments. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A Balanced Reading Diet

                  assorted book lot

[I've peppered this post with the covers of some books I've read or been thinking about recently, sans commentary. Feel free to ask.]

You've just finished a book. It was fantastic. You cried a little. You called up a friend to talk about it. You lovingly shelved or regretfully returned it to the library. Now you look around your life and feel that gaping hole in your existence. You need something else to read.

What do you do? How do you decide what to read next?

                                         Beauty and the Clockwork Beast (Steampunk Proper Romance)

Who am I kidding? This never happens to me. One, I've always got multiple books in progress, so it's very rare for me to feel that gaping hole. Every once in a while I make myself finish everything I've got going before I start anything else, but even then, Two, I always know Exactly which book I want to start the minute the last one is done.

Which is why I'm writing this post.

I'm intentional to the point of neurotic about my reading diet. Let me show you.

              TBR = To Be Read, implies a list or a pile. Use: "It's on my TBR."

I have a massive TBR.

There are four ways books make my TBR:

1) Recommendations 

I'm careful with recommendations. People are so different. What deeply resonates with one person can rub another the wrong way. Individuals often recommend that which is uniquely their own taste, and that ends up being a hit or miss kind of thing. However, if I hear the words, "You would really like this book," from someone who gets me, then I will probably read it. If I hear the words, "You are reading this. This is not a suggestion," then I will read it. If I get the same recommendation from multiple people, I will probably read it. If I've been eyeing a book for a while, wondering if it's any good, and I get a recommendation from Literally Anyone, I will read it. At the end of the day, recommendations can push me out of my literary comfort zone, and that can be a really good thing, even if I don't end up loving the book.


2) Hype

If a book is being recommended all across Booktube, debated all over Twitter, featured on every Bookstagram from here to Russia, or inspiring Fanart on Pinterest, then I'm probably going to read it. Eventually. I'm often late to the game on hyped books, but I nearly always enjoy them. If a book is widely loved across millions of readers, then there's something to like about it. Or at least to think deeply about. Even if the writing isn't great (*cough* Veronica Roth) or the romance is cringy (*cough* Stephanie Meyer), there is always something the author captured, however clumsily, that in turn captured a ton of hearts, and to me, that's nearly always worth the experience.

                                            Image result for Twilight (Meyer novel)
3) Controversy

Controversy is like salt, I don't like too much of it in my reading diet, but some is good. It keeps my thought life from becoming bland. Reading controversial books gives me the chance to join in the conversations. It makes me think about that which I'm actively avoiding. That which I am just too self-centered to consider. That which I can't imagine and need someone to show me. And oftentimes after reading something from a wildly different point of view I still disagree, just with more compassion. And that's important.

4) It was Shiny

Sometimes I'm just cruising a bookstore or wandering a library or scrolling through Goodreads and I spot something. And then I buy it. Or borrow it. Or download it. First I'm "just looking around," then two seconds later I'm 100 pages into a book I had no idea I needed in my life. I love this. I love when I meet books like this. It shouldn't work out so consistently well, but it does.

                                             Image result for caraval

You CAN Judge A Book By Its Cover. The more an editor believes in a book's potential, the better the cover art and title will be. If you're drawn to a cover, there's often a good reason. Good cover art communicates the spirit of a story, so if you're really into the art, then that book is probably worth your time. Don't believe me? Walk into a bookstore and buy the book to which you're most visually attracted. Tell me you don't love it. I dare you.

Moving on. 

Once a book is on my TBR, it's just a matter of time and priority.

At any given time I like to have something going in each of the following categories:

1) 1-2 Physical Fiction Books. These are the books I read on my lunch break. That I read in bed. That I read while Jon plays video games. That I read while walking. That I read in the bath. You get the idea.

2) 1 Book on Kindle. I don't use an actual Kindle for this, just the app on my phone. I usually reserve this slot for extra-long books that are just too heavy to lug around. Aside from the sheer convenience, a book on Kindle is really great for when I want to read in bed, but Jon wants the light off because he's trying to sleep. Marriage is all about compromise, right?


3) 2-3 Audiobooks. One for the car, and one or two for everywhere else. Audiobooks are my bread and butter. I listen while I'm folding laundry. I listen at work. I listen when I'm doing yoga or cooking or walking or putting together a puzzle. Sometimes I struggle to pay enough attention, but generally speaking, it's a great way to get a lot of reading done while still completing other necessary tasks. Almost any book worth reading is available in audio format through your local library, Hoopla, Audible, and even Youtube.

4) 1 Book of Nonfiction, Short Stories, Essays, or Poetry just to break things up. I don't rush myself. I just take it slow and enjoy it over the course of a month or two.

Into each of these categories I am intentional about getting a good mix of the following:

1) Classics
Classics can be slow and linguistically difficult, but they are a million times worth it. I also love me a good retelling. There's nothing like a fairy tale or Austen novel repackaged for the modern age.

                                                Image result for east of eden

2) Fresh Titles in a Variety of Genres
Gotta stay up on what's up.

3) Children's Books
I will never ever be too old to read children's books. Children's books are everything.

                                            Image result for the composer is dead

5) Rereads
You have to make time to reread your favorite stories. It's important. No matter how thick my TBR gets, I will always find time to reread gems like The Lord of the Rings, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Inkheart trilogy, and, of course, the Gallagher Academy books.

6) Nonfiction
Never stop learning. I pick my nonfiction based on absolute whim. And why not?


7) Graphic Novels
I'm just getting into these. From manga to graphic retellings of classics there is so. much. out there. I love the marriage of visual art and story. It's also perfect when I want something I can finish in an hour or two.                             

8) Series
I find it really easy to start a series and then get distracted with other things, even if it's really good. I have to make myself keep circling back to a series until I finish. I love the breadth and depth of story that can exist within a series. It's a commitment, especially if it's more than four books, but I've found these massive stories become landmarks in my mental landscape, which is really important to me.

                                                 Image result for city of glass

After that, it's up to my mood on any given day.

This has been just a tiny look into my incredibly convoluted What-To-Read thought process. Coming up next:

Unfinished Business in My Reading Life

See you then!!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

I Have Anxiety and PTSD. I'm Doing Stuff About It.

                   person holding white printer paper

I struggled for a while with how to approach the topic of anxiety, but I'm posting now because I had a rough week, and it's on my mind. My approach is going to be as haphazard as my thought life has been these last few days. Sorry.

Disclaimer: Not everyone who struggles with anxiety or PTSD struggles in the same way, so I'm not speaking for everyone, just for me.

I've been on medication for anxiety for the past year. It doesn't make me groggy. It doesn't make me loopy. It doesn't make me a bad Christian. The low dosage of Sertraline that I take each night runs interference on what is otherwise an inexplicable, nameless, constant, and sometimes painful white buzz in the back of my head. I say buzz. I mean muted screaming, but it's okay. I can ignore it most of the time. It's fine. Everything's fine. 

There are approximately more or less mostly probably four reasons I have this problem.

1) I really don't talk about this one, but a war zone is no place for a child. Or a human.

*This is a fault line along my most primal responses to crisis, loss, violence, and sudden loud noises. Also packing.

2) There was a person who made me afraid. At the worst he put me into a wall and broke my foot.

*This is a fault line along my reactions to humans who are male. To humans who adhere to the same systems of thought that he did. To myself when I fail to live up to the standard of womanhood I built because of him.

3) I might never be able to talk about this one.

*This is a fault line along ***REDACTED***

4) People will let you down. People will hurt you. That's life. For me that life has just mostly happened inside the walls of church, and that's messed up.

*This is a fault line along my interactions with church people and also the parts of the Bible/the Faith that have been used in ways that hurt me and/or people I care about.

Trauma has a way of planting chemical triggers like little landmines into mental landscapes. When they get hit, the shrapnel hurts the people I care about. 

Just because it is not my conscious intention to react inappropriately to people and/or situations, doesn't mean I'm not responsible for the way that I act. Just because something in my past influences my actions doesn't mean I'm not responsible to shore up those fault lines and be intentional about fixing my reactions.

At this point I just try to make it a point to apologize to anyone who was around me at the time of an episode. I don't apologize for having an attack. That would be silly. I apologize for any ways in which I was unfair or unkind while under the influence of the chemicals surging through my brain. I apologize for lost sleep and lost time. Sometimes I'm too embarrassed or so eager to move on with my life that I don't apologize. I'm working on that.

By the way, there's no way I could have figured any of this out without counseling. Period.
Counseling is really scary. It can also be kind of expensive. I think it's worth it.
If you live in Northern Virginia, and you want to see someone here's where I go.

To Recap: I have an anxious buzz in the back of  my head caused by past traumas (traumi? I want it to be traumi). Even though I go to counseling and take medicine to turn the volume down on the screaming, if a personal interaction or situation hits one of my weak spots too hard, it can be enough to send me into a panic attack or a PTSD episode.

But usually there's a bit more going on.

9 times out of 10 if I'm having a panic attack, I'm dehydrated, and the fastest way to fix me up is to shove water in my face.

4 out of those same 10 times I also need food.

Sometimes this food and water need plus the buzz in my head plus visual overstimulation (such as all the colors and bright lights and cute things in Target) are enough to put me over the edge.

Sometimes (statistics not available) if I'm having a really bad attack for No Apparent Reason, and I also happen to notice a sharp pain in my lower stomach, I am having an attack because an ovarian cyst just ruptured. Literally no other reason. This has happened twice this week, which is part of the reason I've had such a hard time.

The other part is that last week I, in a fit of stubborn self-dislike, went off my meds. Bad. Not doing that again. I apologize to everyone involved.

The point I'm trying to make here is...It's Not All In My Head. I can get through an attack much easier if I pay attention to my body, and I can often avoid one if I just take care of myself in the first place.

                     turned on Focus signage

For most of this post, I've focused on ways I've been able to help myself with my anxiety,
but Jon helps me a lot too.

He knows that the first step is immediately getting me away from whatever it is that triggered the attack. Whether that's turning off a TV show or putting pause on a conversation or walking out of a building.

He knows the second step is getting me comfy and giving me water.

He knows I might need to talk, but also that a barrage of questions: "What's wrong? Are You Okay? Talk to me? Abby?Abby?Abby?" can just make it worse.

He knows that if I do talk to him during an attack, it's probably not my normal self. The person who needs to talk is usually nine, and she emotes like a nine-year-old. If I'm going to be able to talk during an attack (which is often helpful), that's the person he has to draw out.

He knows that depending on which fault line was hit, I might want to be cuddled or I might need to not be touched. Whether or not I can handle touch can change at a moment's notice in the middle of the attack. He knows that it's not personal.

Jon knows that whether or not I can handle touch, I need pressure on my central nervous system. This is why he bought me a weighted blanket. I don't deserve him.

Most importantly, Jon knows that I'm not hysterical. I'm not crazy. I'm not dramatic. Sometimes he does pray with me if it seems like I'm struggling with something spiritual in nature, but that's not his main focus. Because Jon is a Fireman/EMT, he's always going to check on my physical needs first. Where are the Triggers? Thirsty/Need Sugar? Cuddles or Blanket? Wanna Talk About It?

Jon approaches my anxiety attacks like a medical problem. Because it Is a medical problem. Sure it's an emotional one too. Even sometimes a spiritual one. But mostly I just need water.

This has been My Chronic Dehydration with Abby.

Please join the conversation! Leave a comment below. 

Friday, August 2, 2019

Honeymooning the #JonsAbs Way


What's the best way to quit procrastinating on something? Start another project, and then procrastinate on That one by finishing the First one! So this is me procrastinating on my reading marathon by telling you all about some of the quirky fun things Jon and I did on our honeymoon!

First of all, there are some things that we Obviously did and enjoyed Very Much on this honeymoon, and that is all that I will be saying about that. This post will be about the Other things that we did when we weren't doing the obvious things.

Before I go any further, I just want to explain both to myself and to everyone involved Why I am writing a public post about our honeymoon. The whole thing was a really fun story, as you will hopefully see. There are some really cool things I learned about marriage and about friendship and about life that I really want to share with you all. It's also just really fun to relive. That's it. That's the reason. Moving on.

In my last wedding post I told you that the first thing Jon and I did after the ceremony was take a nap, and the first thing we did after the reception was jump in East Grand Lake and get all the birdseed off of us. Some of our more intrepid guests saw us jump in, and joined us. These guests were my favorite guests. I'm sorry to everyone else, we love you too, but anyone who is willing to jump in a lake with the bride and groom is just an exceptional sort of wedding guest, I hope you understand.

After Jon and the boys enjoyed jumping off the dock a few times, and I swam to the middle of the cove and back (because that is my favorite East Grand Lake/Dark Cove pastime), we got out, and Jon helped me pull 5,642 bobby pins from my hair (numbers probably inaccurate). We loaded our suitcases into his car, grabbed a couple leftover chicken pot pies from the wedding feast, and got on the road just as the sun was setting.

Our first major concern was finding a open gas station in the middle of the North Maine Woods. That took about half an hour. Our second major concern was the random black garbage bag in the middle of the road that we didn't see at all until we had plowed into it at full speed. We kept driving, but discovered later that there had been some sort of wet white paint in it which had splashed all down the side of Jon's red Ford. He was....Unhappy. Fortunately we got most of that paint off a couple days later in a car wash.

That same night my maid of honor and her carpool had a Very near miss in the mist with a moose.
Maine is sneaky. And not nice sometimes.

Jon and I made it to my hometown, Machias and the adorable Margaretta Inn at some late hour and fell asleep immediately. We were exhausted. You know what they say...Marriage is Hard Work. If you're ever in Machias, the Margaretta Inn is the way to go. 10/10. Just saying.

My goal for the first day of our honeymoon was to show Jon around my hometown, which he had never seen before, since my parents moved after I left for college. Our first stop was a brunch date at the iconic Helen's Restaurant. Helen's, famous in the circles of Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart for its blueberry pie, has been a fixture in my hometown since 1950. It burned to the ground one summer night in 2014, but the town rallied and raised money to rebuild it so that Jon and I could have our first married brunch looking out at the Machias River in 2019.

By the time we finished our crab cakes and french toast (or whatever we got), it had started raining. We immediately elected to cut about half our plans for the day, but I still HAD to show Jon my favorite beach in the whole wide world (and I have been to beaches from West Africa to Southern California). I showed him Roque Bluffs, the bit of ocean I've written some mediocre poetry about, the bit that's hidden by rose bushes and hides whales sometimes. We had coffees in our hands and enjoyed the mist and spray and light rain while wading in the cold waves. There was no one else on the whole beach, and it was pretty special.

After our beach adventure, we began our road trip to Pennsylvania where we'd be spending the majority of the trip. Jon and I road trip together really well. We just have a lot of fun. Our destination was a cabin in a camping resort near Bushkill. We checked in Incredibly Late at night and slept in for forever the next morning.

We spent the next several days cooking in the fireplace, watching romantic movies, and taking long baths in the rather large tub, which was my favorite part of the whole cabin. I still miss that tub. I still miss the margarita I accidentally dumped into the suds. It was in this tub that Jon and I had the idea to do something I highly recommend to all married couples: We switched shaving roles. I learned how terrifying it is to take a sharp blade to a face (I did not cut him, I promise), and he learned how big a task it is to shaves one's legs and how easy it is to completely miss large swaths of hairiness.

We honestly didn't leave the cabin very much. Jon surprised me with a trip to a teeny local theater to watch Spiderman. He straight up shocked me when he suggested getting pedicures (it Was his idea, and don't let him tell you otherwise). We made an obligatory trip to Bushkill Falls, a 100ft waterfall with sister falls all around, connected by hiking trails. That was lots of fun.

I will confess that I did bring some books on my honeymoon, and I did actually read them. Just because you're in love and married doesn't mean you won't need still time to yourself, and Jon and I have quickly learned when to steal away for that time to avoid silly fights and to recharge so that the time we do spend together can be that much sweeter.

After our time at the cabin was spent, we packed up and took ourselves to Hershey Park. I had never been to Hershey Park before. I had only been to one theme park ever, and that was at the age of nine. I had only been on one roller coaster ever, and hadn't been too sure of it at the time. The first thing Jon did was take me on a roller coaster I was really really really not ready for. Roller coasters go against every self-protective instinct in my being. Once I got off--shaking all over--Jon and I had to figure out what to do in a marriage where one person lives for roller coasters and burning buildings and other such thrills, and the other is scared to death of them. Jon was very patient with me.

We backed off the tough coasters and slowly worked me up to it. We started with the water park slides and rides, then worked through the baby coasters, slowly getting me used to the speeds and the drops until I was more or less comfortable. I did refuse, though, to go on any coaster which had a harness which went over one's head. I did not want to be flipped upside down and sideways. Whenever we came upon one of these in our ramblings through the park, I waited with Jon in line, then climbed over the coaster seats and waited on the other side til he came back Not Dead. Which gave me even more confidence.

Near the end of the day I screwed up my courage to go on The Great Bear.

It. Was. Awesome/Horrible. I felt like I was flying. It was thrilling. I got motion sick. I stayed motion sick for a week. I stayed motion sick so long I took a pregnancy test just to make sure there wasn't some Other Reason I was nauseous. There wasn't. PHEW. If you think I'm scared of roller coasters, you have no idea how terrified I am of motherhood. Might write a post about that soon. Just might.

Jon and I finished out our night at Hershey riding the Comet, which I truly believe is the most romantic ride in the park, especially at night when you can enjoy all its little white lights. But of course we couldn't leave Hershey without buying a mountain of chocolate. This chocolate, in subsequent weeks has been quietly shuffled back and forth from Jon's super secret candy hiding spots (which weirdly include the freezer) to my super secret candy hiding spots.

After Hershey, we came home to our adorable little apartment in Berryville--at that point quite crowded with wedding gifts and decor and unpacked nonsense. The next day--our first official day of mundane marriage--we made a huge brunch together and watched movies--which is pretty much all we did the entire honeymoon, but whatever--and then I had to be off to Elisabeth Wilk's wedding rehearsal! In other words: the first thing I did after all my wedding festivities were over was spend two more days in wedding festivities. It was really nice, because along with celebrating with Elisabeth and Aaron, we got to celebrate with members of our friend group who weren't able to make it all the way to Maine for Our wedding. Back to back weddings? I'd do it again. Roadtrip with Jon? I'd do it any day. Roller coasters? I guess I like them now. But only when I have a certain hand to hold.

P.S. To anyone who gave us a wedding gift and hasn't received a thank-you note yet, please know that I AM thankful, I'm just procrastinating on that too. If you don't get one, I blame the United States Postal Service. I'm still getting wedding invitations back in the mail. *Shakes Head*

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Liz and I Embark on a Readathon


Okay, so I know everyone is just Dying to hear about Jon's and my honeymoon (eh, probably not, but I did promise, so I will make good on that), but I've procrastinated on that too long, and now I feel like posting about the 2019 Reading Rush instead. So, being under no deadlines save the ones I put on myself, I'm going to do that.

What Is The Reading Rush, you ask??

Formerly known as the Booktubathon, it is a seven-day-long reading marathon hosted by Youtube and aimed at their Booktubing community and its fans. (A Booktuber is a Youtuber who makes videos about books. It's a whole community of which two of my favorites are Jesse the Reader and A Clockwork Reader.) The Reading Rush has now grown into a separate organization with its own website. Technically, the readathon started and ended last week, but Liz (my sister, of Out of Coffee, Out of Mind) and I decided to watch the Booktubers do it first, and start ours today instead, on the first of the month, because that felt right.

So how does this thing work?

Each year, Youtube issues seven challenges, theoretically corresponding to seven books of the reader's choice, although many readers choose to complete several challenges with a single book rather than try to read seven books in seven days.

The best way to show you how this works is to tell you which books I've decided to tackle this week, why I picked them, and how they line up with each of the 2019 challenges. Liz and I decided to shoot high by picking out seven books, one for each challenge, but also to cover ourselves by picking books that could fit multiple challenges so that even if we don't complete all seven books, we can conceivably still kill all seven challenges. Now, Liz's picks are almost entirely different from mine, so I'll let her announce her choices on her own blog. Here are mine:

Challenge Number One: "Read a book with purple on the cover."

                                                Macbeth (Manga Shakespeare Series)
See? Purple. I noticed that several Booktubers, including A Clockwork Reader selected one or two graphic novels for the Reading Rush in order to have a couple easy-to-complete titles on their TBR (To Be Read) piles, so I gave myself permission to follow suit. I have been fangirling over this Manga Shakespeare series adapted by Richard Appignanesi and illustrated by a wide variety of artists for about a year now. Macbeth is one of the view available titles I have not yet read in this series, so it's my pick for the first challenge.

Challenge Number Two: "Read a book in the same spot the entire time." 

                                                 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
I chose the audio CD version of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid for this challenge because listening to an audio CD book at my desk at work should be an easy way to complete this challenge. I chose this book because it's being talked about a Lot in the book world right now, and I'd like be be able to understand and participate in that conversation. This book could also fill Challenge Number Six.
Challenge Number Three: "Read a book you meant to read last year." 

I definitely meant to read Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury last year, and it's especially fitting in light of my Challenge Number One pick because Mr. Bradbury stole his title straight from Macbeth. I'll be steaming the audio for this book through the Hoopla app on my phone. If you have a library card, you can borrow six titles per month through Hoopla for free. I use my Hoopla allotment to give myself some portable entertainment while cleaning my house. The app also features a sleep timer, so I often set it for fifteen minutes, and fall asleep somewhere around minute 14. This book is supposedly pretty creepy, so I may not do that this time around, but we'll see.

Challenge Number Four: "Read an author's first book."

                                                Paperback City of Bones Book
I've been wanting to try out Cassandra Clare's writing for some time, and City of Bones was her debut novel, so this worked out nicely. The Mortal Instruments series, which begins with City of Bones is both immensely popular and widely controversial, so I'm excited to be finally developing an opinion of my own about it. I'll be listening to an audio CD version of this book in my car this week. This book could also fill Challenge Number Five, since its main characters only Look human--to those who can see them, that is.

Challenge Number Five: "Read a book with a non-human main character." 


My original plan had been to read The Green Ember by S.D. Smith, which came highly recommended to me by a friend, but unfortunately I wasn't able to get my hands on a copy in time for the challenge, so I'm putting this at the top of my post-challenge TBR pile, and I've selected Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman instead.

                                                  Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1)
Aurora Rising doesn't fit the challenge nearly as well as a book with rabbit main characters, but one of the Aurora squad is an alien, and this book has been sitting unread on my shelf for months, so it'll do. If the The Illuminae Files series is any indication, I won't regret having to go with my second choice.

Challenge Number Six: "Pick a book that has five or more words in the title." 

                                                  Paperback How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found Book

How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found by Sara Nickerson fits this challenge perfectly. This is a mid-grade novel which I (appropriately) read in middle school. It's mildly creepy, and I remember only bits and pieces of the storyline. I just know Liz and I were blown away by it back in the day, but subsequently lost access to the library where it lived. Years passed, and the title, author, and most pertinent details of the plot Disappeared Completely from our minds Never to be
Found until, after years of searching, making queries online, and even writing to Scholastic, Inc., I finally found mention of it in a thread on Goodreads begun by someone else who was also trying to track it down. I am So Excited to finally have this book in my hands again (a beat-up used copy since it's out of print) and to finally be able to reread it! Sidenote: I may write a blog post at some point about how to relocate books you loved in your childhood, but subsequently lost to time.

Challenge Number Seven: "Read and watch a book to movie adaptation." 

                                                   Cover art

This is the only challenge for which Liz and I selected the same book. We were neither allowed to read the book nor watch the movie as kids (for some good reasons, I think), so now, as adults, we've decided to tackle it and discuss it and enjoy the movie together as a mid-marathon reading break.

That's my Reading Rush 2019 TBR everybody!!

IN SEVEN DAYS I will post again with either an announcement of my victory or a confession of my defeat. I will include a mini-review of each of the titles I manage to complete as well my thoughts on the experience as whole. If you want to do this challenge with Liz and I, feel free to start any day you wish, and let us know what books you pick and how it goes!