Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best of Reading

In college, I had two really hard professors in political science, and I revered both of them. One of them, George Thomas, taught me constitutional politics and always really challenged me. I remember him telling me that his favorite book of all time is The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, and that he would reread it over each holiday break. I have no idea why, almost 10 years later, that I would finally pick up that book (for the 3rd time) on my honeymoon and bring it home, and then decide to try to read it on my own (almost non-existent) holiday break. (I can barely pronounce Karamazov or Dostoevsky - but at least it seems en vogue to refer to the book as "The Brothers K.")

I started reading it, and I'm still reading it, and I will be reading it for a long time. I have finally gotten used to the Russian names and nicknames, but I still don't feel like I get lost in the book yet (which is the point of reading during holiday vacation, at least to me, but this may be why I'm not a constitutional politics professor). I am trying to read more classics, and I think I succeeded at that this year, but I am also trying to make sure I read a book a week, and that was not happening with TBK (even shorter and easier to say!).

What's a reader to do?

I picked up another book that I wanted to read during Christmas break, The Instructions by Adam Levine. Instead of being over 700 pages like TBK, it's over 1,000. And the writing is being compared to David Foster Wallace. Umm, it's also not an easy read, but I've at least found myself lost in the Apatakisic world.

My current reading material reminds me of the summer I spend reading Infinite Jest. It was WORK. And in the end, it was worth it. I've never read such accurate depictions of depression and addiction, and that really hit home. In the forward of the version I read, Dave Eggers talks about how sometimes a reader needs to work and put in time and effort:
"And yet the time spent in this book, in this world of language, is absolutely rewarded. When you exit these pages after that month of reading, you are a better person. It’s insane, but also hard to deny. Your brain is stronger because it’s been given a month-long workout, and more importantly, your heart is sturdier, for there has scarcely been written a more moving account of desperation, depression, addiction, generational stasis and yearning, or the obsession with human expectations, with artistic and athletic and intellectual possibility. The themes here are big, and the emotions (guarded as they are) are very real, and the cumulative effect of the book is, you could say, seismic. It would be very unlikely that you would find a reader who, after finishing the book, would shrug and say, 'Eh.'"

I guess my subconscious is agreeing that I need to do the same, hence TBK and the Instructions.

Grant is also struggling to get through a book right now, so we established a reading night. This may be the best part of marriage yet! Wednesday night is book night, which means I read a cool 100 pages yesterday, exercised my mind, got myself sufficiently sleepy, and had a really good night's sleep.

I wonder how well I'd sleep if I'd exercise physically, too? Eh, let's talk about that later - NEXT YEAR. (Get it?)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Best of Conversations

Grant picks me up from work.

C: Hi, George!

G: Hi, Fred!

C: Who's Fred?

G: If you call me George, then I'll call you Fred.

C: It's just like Harry Potter!

G: I don't know who you're talking about.

C: You know, the Percy twins, Fred and George...

G: You've still lost me.

C: Okay, remember Harry's best friend, Ron Weasley? They're his twin brothers.

G: The REDHEADS?! They are not my people.


G: Whoa. You are a little too into Harry Potter.

(If only he really knew - just a few weeks you guys!!!)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Best of Babies

Tonight, Baby Abey and [somewhat] Baby Henry met each other for the first time. They were both very cautious, touched noses once, and then we all learned something very primitive. When Babe-ra-ham was eating a sucker (with the wrapper on), and not sharing with Henry, Henry cried. When Henry was eating Abraham's leftover dinner, and not sharing with Abey, Abey cried. And then they lost interest in each other. I think it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Best of Courage

This is the kind of mom I want to be - both she and her son, even at a young age, have amazing courage.

Best line: "If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to ‘make’ him gay then you are an idiot. Firstly, what a ridiculous concept. Secondly, if my son is gay, OK. I will love him no less. Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off."

Second best: "If my daughter had dressed as Batman, no one would have thought twice about it. No one."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Best of Wants

Last year during November, I wrote a novel. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and ended up writing over 50,000 words. I started because Brigette asked me to do it with her, and after the first day of trying to write 1,667 words, I wanted to quit. I remember lying in bed with Grant, freaking out, and asking him how I could tell Brigette I wasn't going to do it. I didn't think I could do it, I believed that everything I had written was awful, but I felt like I should do it, because I told her I would. So much of my internal debates are made of these two components: can't and should. We can all thank my counselor that I can recognize it now. When I talked to Grant about NaNoWriMo, he gave me the biggest pep talk ever, that I could do it. And everyday I spent my time at my computer, listening to the Avett Brothers, writing as much as I could. When I was in the bedroom with my laptop and headphones in my ears, everyone knew not to interrupt me. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to find a way to silence your inner editor, the one who tells you that you shouldn't waste your time, that you can't do it, that you are writing a bunch of shit. And I wrote a bunch of shit. But I kept going, without deleting, day after day. At the end of November, I ended up with 120 pages of writing. Probably only five pages is really good, but that part is REALLY GOOD. And even my inner editor knows it. Sometime I will take it and try to make it a short story, or build on it for a book. Maybe this is why some of my favorite authors go years between their books?

Last year, I felt like I couldn't do it. This year, I feel guilty that I'm not participating, that I SHOULD be if I really want to write. I just wasn't up for it this November. I don't think our new marriage needs the added stress, and I don't think that I need it, either. But I still feel guilty. I go back and forth with guilt (should) and doubt (can't) all the time. I'm working on it, and one of the ways I'm trying is to only do what I want to do for a week. If I don't want to work out, I don't. If I don't want to do laundry, I don't. There are still glimpses of guilt - the gym part and what I eat particularly. One of the blogs I read had a post today that really captures this and confronts shame, and it's why I love the internet. I thought I was the only one who felt this way, but read this, and the comments, and maybe you do, too? See, we're not alone.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Best of Wednesday

At least it's not Tuesday. Man, that sucked.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Best of Tuesdays

One month ago today, I was married. I hadn't thought of the significance of the date, since there's another big event today, but grinned when I saw the text from Chilton wishing me a Happy One Month. Then I stole her idea and sent it to Grant. We made it one month! Hot Dog!*

And... it's Election Day. I voted (and got my very specific "I voted in Arlington" sticker) this morning after walking Henry. The office has been slooooooow, so it feels like Election Day, even though I'm not campaigning. When I got nervous about my wedding day, Bidisha reminded me that a wedding day would be like an election. You do all of the work beforehand, and then if you're doing it right, the actual day would be boring. You just have to let go, I guess. And man is it boring. The waiting makes everything last even longer (this day feels like 3 days at least).

It dawned on me last night what fall is usually like for me - during the last cycle in 2008 I spent most of September and October knocking doors and helping my candidates when I wasn't at work. I remember doing GOTV with my grandmother and seeing the prettiest orange tree and wondering when summer had ended. I'm glad I'm getting to enjoy fall this year.

Tonight is also my night to myself - Grant has his class, so I want to go home, work out, read, and perhaps cook and put together some bookshelves. And maybe watch as many election results as I can stand.

*I worked that in just so I could also post this picture.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Best of Figuring It out

Yesterday, my husband (!) ran in his first 10K. He ran his first race this past July, the Crystal City Twilight 5K, on one of the hottest days of the year. After that race, I felt overcome with emotion -- I was just so proud of how healthy he has become and so awed at what his body could do after what he put it through. And yesterday. That he was able to run 6.2 miles in 1 hour and 3 minutes and 59 seconds. (He is really proud that it wasn't 1 hour and 4 minutes.) That he ran for recovery. That he raised over $750 for such a good cause. He's pretty amazing, right?

After the race, we decided to go to Eventide in Arlington for brunch to celebrate, plus one of us could afford the calories. That's going to be our last meal out for a WHOLE MONTH because we made a deal to try not to eat out for all of November.

And then we had a fight over who should have to go get the dog food out of the car, since we were both cozied up on our respective couches.

This must be marriage, right? Overwhelming emotions -- good and bad -- celebrating and trying to find discipline -- and we're trying to figure it out.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Best of Weddings

I want to write more about this, but I had a blast at our wedding! After a day full of nerves waiting to see Grant, I relaxed into the ceremony and actually enjoyed myself. Thank you to our friends and family who made it so magical. I still feel overwhelmed with all the love and joy that surrounded us that day, and our celebration felt exactly like this:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Best of Marriage

Less than one month out from my wedding - THIS is what I want our marriage to resemble:

Danny & Annie from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Best of Pep Talks

Man, I needed to read this (and possibly print it off and show it to my counselor):

ARIES (March 21-April 19): How well are you capitalizing on this year's
unique opportunities, Aries? Since we're halfway through 2010, let's take
an inventory. I'm hoping you're well underway in the heroic task of
conquering your past. It has been and will continue to be prime time for
you to wean yourself from unresolvable energy-drains. So exorcise
irksome ghosts, please! Pay off ancient debts! Free yourself from
memories that don't serve you! You're finally ready to graduate from
lessons you've had to learn and re-learn and re-re-learn. The coming
months will bring you even more opportunities to finish up old business
that has demanded too much of your time and energy.

PS Can you believe the year is half over? And I'm getting married in just a few months (a little over three)!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Best laid plans...

So far the wedding planning is teaching me lessons that I know will be helpful in our marriage. If you know me, then you know I have a tendency to make a plan for something, and then I really do not want to deviate from the plan. At all. Because it was part of the plan, so why would we change the plan, when we took the time to come up with the plan in the first place? (Maybe I’m not super sure what the word “plan” means, especially versus “actual.”) I hope you’re picking up on my control issues.

The first lesson after our engagement? I thought through all the factors for our wedding – cost, weather, travel, etc. My plan: a wedding in Annapolis (less expensive than DC, close to the easiest-Oklahoma-arrival airport), in the fall (because I LOVE the fall, which wouldn’t be during high season in Annapolis, making it less-less-expensive than DC, with brisk weather), on October 9 (Audrey’s birthday), on a boat! It was perfect! We announced the DATE, we announced the LOCATION, we shared it with family who were excited to reserve rooms and buy plane tickets!

Except so much of that plan was out of my control. Do you know what else wants to happen in Annapolis on October 9, 2010? The world’s LARGEST boat show. And apparently the world wants to stay in Annapolis during the world’s largest boat show, making hotel rooms approximately $350 a night, if you can get one at all. And all the venues might be booked. And if you wanted to, say, have your wedding on a boat, that boat could not get to the dock to pick you and your guests up because of all the world’s other boats.

[NOTE: I also forgot to tell you that when my plan doesn’t go exactly as planned, I have a tendency to want to scrap the whole thing.]

When we found out October 9 wouldn’t work, I wanted to scrap the whole thing. The positive side of me: Let’s just elope! The negative (which honestly has more sway): This is a sign you shouldn’t get married! Luckily, one of players in this relationship is sane, and he talked me off the cliff, telling me, “I’ll marry you TODAY! That’s the important thing!”

Wedding=back on! But when? Where?

After doing a blackberry check to see if there would be another boat show on October 2 (good thing, because the OTHER world’s largest boat show is in Annapolis on October 16), we thought it might work. Then I thought to check football schedules, to make sure it was not a home Navy game (driving up those costs again) or on OU v. TX. Check! Check! Except I was wrong about one of those.

The boat didn’t work out, either, after they up-charged me $2500 finding out that our “event” was a “wedding.” I scrambled to find a venue, hearing rude event planners ask, “October second OF THIS YEAR?!?!” like I was getting married the next day. But I found the perfect place – St. John’s College – which will once again incorporate books into our story. And it’s been hard for me to ask bridesmaids, wondering if they will be able to make the trip from Oklahoma and me being scared about rejection. Wedding websites that didn’t let me change colors and limited my word count (not my strong suit, obviously)! Venues that didn’t allow candles! Hotels that wouldn’t do wedding blocks! We don’t have a photographer! My planned food provider now won’t return emails! Oh my!

But I get to marry Grant Thompson, surrounded by my friends and family, in one of my favorite places, in my favorite season. We get to continue our life together, which was hard for me to even imagine a year and a half ago. I couldn’t even formulate the plan that would get us to this point. And maybe that’s the point. I lived my life day-to-day, because that’s all I could do. That’s all I could handle and digest.

I have a plan for our marriage – a happy and healthy one – but I can’t control it. I can’t will it into being. I can shape it, day by day, loving Grant, taking care of myself, and finding ways of letting go.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Best of the best

Let me start with: this post has a very, very happy ending. A very tangible happy ending that fits on my left ring finger and that I can look down on during my day. An ending that is a beginning and a middle, and a thank you to the universe who is all about "life lessons" and "patience" and everything else I'm not really good at. (I'm also not really good at rephrasing "not really good at" so it doesn't end with a preposition.) But enough about grammar! I got engaged! To Grant! And it is worthy of a thousand exclamation points!!!!!! times infinity!!!!

Maybe you didn't notice, but I've had a rough go of it lately. I think that's part of my personality, when I get down or depressed, I draw into myself and spend more alone time when having people around who love me and make me laugh would help much more. And I do this crazy thing where I get through the actual hard part okay (see last year; moving across the country; major health issues; unemployment) and when I get to stable ground, I royally FREAK OUT (see the past few months; crying). I have a place to live in a city I love, I have a job, and I have the most wonderful, patient, and understanding man (that's still weird to say even though he's thirty-two) who loves me. But I still doubt it all, because that's what I do. I doubt if I'm good enough or deserve it or wonder what I will do to mess it up.

That brings us to Wednesday, March 3. It's a typical day in my life, I'm at work, and I'm crying (there have been many tears lately). I don't know exactly why I am crying, but I feel like a fraud, and I feel like I'm not learning fast enough, and I feel like a disappointment. If you were Grant on that day, you would have heard all of this several times on the phone, when I called him at his work, desperate. I hate feeling this way, and it's horrible, because it feeds on itself and gets worse and worse, and it's so hard to just stop. To try to bring reality back into the picture and not focus on my feelings. Grant helps me focus, and on that day, he got me to stop crying. He told me that maybe I shouldn't bring work home, because part of me being so overwhelmed might have something to do with working 24/7. He asked me if I wanted to go to dinner (we don't eat out much to save money), and he offered to pick me up from work. He reassured me and listened to me and it still didn't work. I walked back into the office and tried to get through the day and cried at/on Alaina. Then Grant called and he was there to pick me up.

I walked downstairs and across the street and made it into the car where I started sobbing uncontrollably. I told him that I just didn't know why I was so upset or how to start feeling better. He suggested that just having dinner and getting away from everything might be good. And he put on Jack Johnson so we would have something nice to listen to driving to Dupont Circle. We went to Taj Majal, where I had a Groupon (the new frugal me LOVES these). It was at this point that I had thought he might propose but two or three things talked me out of it: 1) it was a work night, 2) we were using a Groupon for our dinner, and 3) did I mention the crying? and the puffy face? and the incessant crying?

Grant doesn't usually go for Indian, so I was excited about that. And when we got to the restaurant, it gave me some time to just breathe. One of my favorite parts of Eat, Pray, Love is at the beginning, when she can't stop crying on the bathroom floor, and suddenly she divinely realizes that she does not have to make any important life decisions right. then. When I can remember that the same sentiment applies to me, I'm a much calmer person. When I'm with Grant, he helps me remember that I'm doing the best I can. That I can just get through the day and sometimes that's enough.

We order a delicious dinner, that, thanks to Groupon, is half off. The annoying and loud girls at the next table leave shortly after we get there. Grant is wearing an argyle sweater, and I'm wearing argyle rain boots (partly because I forgot to bring real shoes). I've stopped crying. He suggests we walk to Kramerbooks. Even though it's past my bedtime, I agree.

At this point, I know. Argyle + Indian food + books? Has to equal proposal.

We walk arm-in-arm through the circle to Kramers. When we walk in, I go immediately to my favorite table at the entrance (where I have never, ever picked up a bad book; in fact, it's where Dave Eggers first found me eight or so years ago). He tells me that he has to go to the back part of the store, where the restaurant is, to get some Kleenex.

I look down at the books, and I think how perfect this is, that he's going to (finally!) ask me to marry him and make it official and I can tell everyone and holy crap he is walking back from the restaurant WITH Kleenex because he actually needed Kleenex not because he was going to ask you to marry him Courtney get it together you cannot keep doing this to yourself.

And then I thought, "but Kramers would have been perfect."

I go to the fiction wall to look at a Margaret Atwood book, Oryx and Crake, that was apparently the prequel to the book I just read, the Year of the Flood, and I'm frustrated because I want to read it, but I've already read what comes after, and Grant comes over and is looking at books next to me. I'm looking at Atwood, and he starts looking at... Austen? Grant pulls out a Jane Austen book and gets the giggles.

And that's when I really know.

He turns to me and asks me if I'll marry him. And then he says he doesn't know what to say.

I ask him what he wants to say.

He tells me that he loves me, that he'll work harder at our marriage than anything he's ever worked at before, and that we'll have babies.

I'm crying. Again. But in a good way! I say yes, and he starts crying, too.

Then he asks if he has to get down on one knee, and I say yes again, and he gets down on one knee and puts the most beautiful and most perfect ring on my finger, and he almost knocks over a bookshelf standing up. We kiss and hug and get a stranger to take our picture.

He tells me that he wanted the proposal to be a surprise, which is why he did it on a Wednesday and on a Groupon. He tells me that he wore argyle because he thought I wouldn't say no to it. He tells me that he's been on the phone with his family all day telling them what he was going to do, and that he thought of Kramers, and how much I love it, and how I brought him here when we first visited the city, and how much he is liking reading now especially when we read next to each other before bed. He tells me he loves me, and I feel it.

We go back to Afterwords, the restaurant, to get coffee and dessert and to call our friends and family and announce our plans for our life together.

One of the best parts? He'd had the ring for several days and decided he wanted to ask me that Wednesday. He said he didn't get much work done, that he was so excited, and that even after the phone calls and the tears and the not knowing what to do, he still wanted a life with me.

It was a horrible day and a wonderful night and that's life and it is perfect.

It is what it is.

It is what it is!!!!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Best of Seth, Volume Three

When Seth came to visit me in DC, he came to the office one day so I could give him a tour of the Capitol.

And he took of his shoes to go through security in my building, which I would have paid to see.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Best of Messages (and Responses)

Grant starts to chat with me a bit this evening, while I am still working, and tells me that he “got my message” and cleaned the bath. The message: one morning, I was taking my bath and noticed how grimy it was getting (gross, I know), so I used my fingernail to scratch the words “CLEAN ME” to remind me to clean it. Only I’ve been taking baths just in the morning when I don’t have time to clean it, so THAT’S WHY I HAVE THE BEST BOYFRIEND IN THE WHOLE WORLD.