Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My story as told by water, part VIII (aka the sabbatical)

While some little girls dreamed of babies and families, I gazed out the window at the weathered concrete deer in our front yard and spun stories for myself of careers and adventure. I was going to be an author and then a doctor/author and then a lawyer/author and then a foreign service officer. Flash forward several (several) years and water is my game. I'm lucky enough to use science and laws and words to fix rivers.

Suddenly, after almost 13 years, I'm being asked to try something different. Take a break. As of today, I'm officially on a two-month paid sabbatical. I've struggled with how to write this post because I realize I'm incredibly lucky to have a job where I get this opportunity, and don't get me wrong. I am supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-level excited. The big BUT in the room is that stepping away from my projects, responsibilities and being in the know is hard. Actually, it's practically physically uncomfortable for my type-A personality (can one by a shy, type-A introvert...because hello). And, if I'm being really honest, there's a little fear that I won't be missed, that the people filling in for me will do so a good a job that I won't be needed. Logically, I realize I'm being ridiculous, but there's generally no room for logic when packing emotional baggage. Combine those little nagging feelings with a marathon number of days trying to tie up loose ends and make sure everyone has all the information they'll need, and you can imagine how high strung I've been these last few days. I did a little talking to God yesterday, and I have a feeling that there's going to be some personal growth over the next two months ;-)

Now that we've gotten my issues out of the way, let's talk about how stoked I am to have time--and not just that time you have to steal at the end of the night--to write and to fan the flames of all of those ideas. Hell, I might even get all hashtag crazy! I have visions of waking up early to walk to the coffee shop and write through the morning, leaving my afternoons for reading or some other kind of creating. There may be some traveling, but I'm likely saving that for later this summer. Maybe I'll just embrace being a woman of leisure.

I added a sign to my office door.

Monday, January 27, 2014

10 things we learned in our 30s

There aren't many things better in life than friends you've known for years, who you've built history with. You speak in the code of inside jokes, and it only takes a shared word or two to kill at Taboo. You fight. You love. The highs (you can't mainline Red Bull on your own) are exhilarating, and let's face it, the lows really aren't that bad. Roadtrips and concerts and TV show marathons and texts spent emotionally diagramming emails from boys. Twenty-first birthdays and college graduations and going away celebrations. It's all there, all good. And, when one of your best friends (a ya-ya sister) finally turns 30, you drop what you're doing and throw up your arms in celebration.

Happy birthday, Allie! In honor of the beginning of your 30th year, we* pulled together the top 10 things we learned and/or realized** in our 30s.

1 - Believe it or not, I eventually stopped wanting my house and my body to smell like a baked good.

2 - Confidence is an amazing aphrodisiac that cuts both ways.

3 - Always hire movers. It's worth it. Just do it.

4 - If you have to choose between highlighting your lips or eyes, make those peepers pop. You don't ever hear about someone getting lost in your lips.

5 - Always try to pee before leaving anywhere with a bathroom.

6 - The older you get the more timid and less adventurous you will feel about certain things. Ignore those feelings.

7 - Time is "money" so never spend your time doing something you don't want to do. Just say no.

8 - The rule of throwing out clothing you haven't worn in six months is horrible. Don't follow it.

9 - Always put sunscreen on your chest and hands. You'll thank yourself in 20 years.

10 - Don't try to drink as much as you did in your 20s. You can't. Start following that 1 drink=1 glass of water rule.

The Steven Darling Bonus Addition:

11 - Spend your time and your money wisely and on worthwhile things.

Corollary 1: Lots of people have lots of ideas on what is wise and worthwhile, so make sure it's wise and worthwhile for you.

Corollary 2: Be careful when listening to your own advice. Sometimes, what you think is wise and worthwhile for you is really peer pressure from yourself. Your pressuring self is taking what it thinks SHOULD be wise and worthwhile because it's what everyone thinks should be wise and worthwhile, and tricking you into thinking it's what you really want/need whether or not it's really the wise and worthwhile thing for you.
*Brought to you by Serena and Scarlet with a bonus round by Steven.
**Though you've always been savvy for your age, so I've got a feeling some of these have already been put into practice. ;-)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2014 Tournament of Books -- Let the Reading Begin!

I had a spectacular bookgasm about fifteen minutes ago when I realized that (1) the new Tournament of Books short-list has been announced and (2) the Nook e-book of Goldfinch is 50% off. Scrape me off the floor-level excited. Trust me, guys, this was the best thing that happened to me all day. Why, yes, my day must have stressful for that to be my peak.

Anyway, back to the Tournament of Books (ToBX). I didn't learn about this fun WAY BETTER take on NCAA March Madness until it was too late last year, so I'm stoked to catch the list in January. You can follow the link to read up on the event, but it's basically exactly what you'd imagine. The Morning News selected 17 books it feels are representative of outstanding fiction in 2013, and come March, they will be pitted against each other in the time-honored tradition known as bracketing.

I don't know about you, but I am all in. I like the idea of trying to read all 17 (gulp) of their picks by the beginning of March so that I can play along in the tourney. I'm a little skeptical of my ability to pull it off because (1) I can be cheap, (2) Oyster and all of the amazing backlist I have to read, and (3) new 2014 books to tempt me! The only book on this year's list that I've read is Eleanor & Park; however, I'm heartened by the fact that I found Goldfinch at a discounted price right after deciding to challenge myself.

So, who's with me in this wackadoo ToBX book club?

Finalists for the 2014 Tournament of Books

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Love letter to local bookstores

There are a few different barometers that I judge cities, towns, and villages by when traveling. However, without fail, I always keep my eye out for local bookstores and coffee shops. These are my third spaces, where I go to connect, to observe, to be. Hidden just beneath the surface is a part of me that believes that, if I find these spaces in a new town, I could be happy there...that I would find my people.

For a town of its size, San Angelo* is virtually replete with bookstores. We never warranted a Borders or Barnes & Noble (remind me to tell you about my first visit to a BN in Austin a bit later), but the local mall did have what would later be their smaller subsidiaries, B. Dalton and Waldenbooks. I spent many hours here perched on step stools reading through the teen paperbacks. Neither of these stores survived my teenage years.

Perhaps the most cherished bookstore (and bookstore memory) of my youth is Hastings. It will always be the cool, independent bookstore where I first discovered Smashing Pumpkins (Siamese Dream) and could spend hours browsing all of the books. I yearned to be cool enough to belong in that store. Even though I've outgrown Hastings' local book selection and the store itself has outgrown the label of small and indie, it remains on my visit list when I head home.

Local book culture seems to be hanging on (perhaps even thriving?) in San Angelo. In 2012, the county spent $12M to refurbish a vacant department store downtown and turn it into the new Stephens Central Library. Rita's Book Exchange and Ye Ole Fantastique Book Shoppe are used bookstores that have been around for years. And, during this trip, I finally made it into Cactus Book Shop.

There is something special about a bookstore that can build a space and community around a niche topic (think Reiter's Books and their focus on scientific, medical, and technical books in DC). The Cactus Book Shop does just that with its focus on Texas and the Southwest. My experience with reading westerns only extends as far as Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (fantastic) and last year's reading of The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. I am, however, a huge proponent of soaking up the local culture of wherever you happen to travel, and bookstores provide an awesome opportunity to learn about new authors and topics.

Even though I grew up in San Angelo, I got caught up in the heady possibility of immersing myself in the culture almost immediately upon walking in the door. My mom might have thought I was a bit touched (Texan for crazy) when she spotted me picking up title after title, but she's nothing if not supportive and bought me the Rivers of Texas you see pictured above. I also picked up The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton (local western hero) and Crossing Rio Pecos by Patrick Dearen (Modern Farmer came from Hastings). Clearly, I was also letting my river nerd flag fly.

Do you ever visit local bookstores when you travel? Share some of your favorites!

* where I was born and grew up

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Balance: Resolute

Resolution. Goal. Intention. One little word. Meditation. 

It's that time of year--the moment people all across the world are rebooting their lives in the hopes of some kind of fresh start. The prospect of change is always a heady experience, and while I'm more apt to reevaluate life goals around my birthday, I'm definitely not immune, so let's do this.

My One Little Word* for 2014 is balance. I don't want to lose the momentum I gained with last year's focus on 'create'. I want to always remember to make time to create, build, and implement all of the ideas swirling around in my head. Work hard, play hard and all that jazz. Still, I want to add a bit more balance back into my life over this next year. It won't be perfect. I predict it will even be downright messy, but I want to add in some things I stopped making time for last year. Cooking at home, stepping away from the computer from time to time, and actually making and keeping those doctor's appointments are all on my balance list.

The rest of this month this space will be a smidge dreamy, a bit planny, and possibly filled with other made-up words.

*I wasn't going to call it One Little Word, but let's face it. That's exactly what it is.