List #229: Things That Happened in 2013

I wanted to make a photo collage for this post, but I ran out of time today. And I still don't have my own working computer. So hopefully I'll wrap one up before the weekend. But even without the photos, 2013 was a pretty adventurous year.

In 2013, I:
  • Spent many nights soaked in a bubble bath.
  • Worried that I was making all of the wrong choices.
  • Was let down.
  • Visited New York City/North Carolina/West Virginia/Nashville/Washington, DC/New York City,
  • Ate soup.
  • Practiced yoga.
  • Cuddled with my cat.
  • Planned my college reunion.
  • Attended my college reunion.
  • Watched a lot of Parks and Recreation.
  • Became a Tom Hiddleston fan.
  • Sent a lot of emails.
  • Read 52 books.
  • Walked for Melanoma.
  • Mentored new librarians.
  • Misspelled a lot of words.
  • Met a man.
  • Swooned.
  • Fell in love.
  • Loved a baby.
  • Moved homes.
  • Yelled at my cat.
  • Watched musicals.
  • Rented clothes.
  • Struggled with emotions.
  • Had a hard time falling sleep.
  • Had a hard time waking up.
  • Kissed a lot on the couch.
  • Missed faraway friends.
  • Spent too much time on the Internet.
  • Said goodbye to my grandfather.
  • Missed those that aren't with us anymore.
  • Cheered on the Pirates.
  • Shouted for the Pens.
  • Hoped better for the Steelers.
  • Cared little about college sports.
  • Met families. 
  • Made a bunch of party hats.
  • Felt grateful for friends that feel like family.
  • Took a few selfies.
  • Ate in new restaurants.
  • Felt inadequate. 
  • Felt on top of the world.
  • Danced the hokey pokey.
  • Worried.
  • Patroned a honky tonk.
  • Wandered around the National Mall. 
  • Let the Atlantic Ocean lap at my ankles.
  • Walked in Central Park.
  • Saw Mary Kate Olsen on the street.
  • Woke up from nightmares.
  • Snored.
  • Decorated a real-live Christmas tree.
  • Drank gallons of tea.
  • Felt lucky. So so lucky. 
2013 was a good, good year. So good that truthfully, sometimes I feel like I'm dreaming. And I hope that 2014 brings lovely things our way: continued good health, love, adventure, and peace. To you, to me, to our family and friends, and everyone in between. 

Happy New Year, Dear Readers. Feel free to share your memories in the comments. 

List# 228: Songs for 2013

2013 has been a whirlwind. It's the year I worked hard and wondered what was next, visited far away places with friends, worried about money, and kept my cat happy. But it was also the year I met a man and fell in love, welcomed a baby into my life, moved into a new home, and felt really lucky.

Like many years that had come before it, 2013 was a tough one at times. But unlike many years that came before it, 2013 was kind of filled with a lot of the magic I was hoping it for. And these are the songs that will forever make me remember it all. Actually, I'd say that these albums really remind me of 2013, as I think I played them all more than once or twice. But these are the songs that define them all will forever be rooted in my brain when "this thing happened in 2013."

Blurred Lines ~ Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams , T.I
Not everyone is a fan of this song, and I respect that. But to me, it summarizes the summer of 2013. It's the trip to North Carolina along side the boyfriend. And hot workdays spent inside the library laughing with a good friend. And conversations with a long-distance friend about what we would actually want to hear whispered in our ear. It's dorky dance moves and recording it all on video. It is the happiest song I can think of to describe a stellar summer.

Thrift Shop ~ Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Featuring Wanz
Winter 2013 was the time I took up yoga for a few months. With good friends in a heated room in the middle of a cold night, I was challenging my body. I should get back into this practice, as I lost it when the weather got nice, but during those nights when I had to force myself to stay in uncomfortable positions for longer than I thought possible, I would sing this song to be motivated. And then again, when I met the boy and we had fun around our city singing, discussing Macklemore's Instagram, and talking about how much we'd love to be friends with him. 

Hopeless Wanderer  ~ Mumford & Sons
I first watched this video in a hotel room in Nashville, TN. It was hot, humid, and I was exhausted from a week of intense library training, and I was getting dressed for another long day. It kind of combined all of my favorite things: men with guitars, laughs, and Jason Sudeikis. Plus, a few weeks later I would convince the boyfriend on a random Thursday that we should buy lawn tickets to their Pittsburgh concert. It was spontaneous, something our schedule doesn't always encourage, and really just topped off the rest of the summer. They aren't his favorite band, this isn't his favorite type of music, but he was game for me. And then, we found my brother at the end and laughed hysterically for hours as we battled traffic on the way home.
Royals ~ Lorde
Let me be clear, more than any other song or album, I played Pure Heroine on repeat from start to finish over and over and over again during the later part of the year. I'm talking there were hours of the day when I would sit at my desk, with one headphone in my ear, plugging away at work listening to this teenager. There aren't too many people who are underage that I would want to be for a day. But I would definitely be Lorde. Or I'd at least like her hair.

I guess you could say I had a pop-y year.

So, dear readers, what songs will have you remembering 2013? Share them in the comments.


List #227: Best Books of 2013

At the start of 2013 I pledged to read 52 books in a year. I know that many people think that since I am a librarian that I can spend most of my day reading books, but oddly enough librarian doesn't mean you earn a paycheck by turning pages all day long. In fact, there are often days at a time where I don't even read one page of a novel.

But somehow in 2013, I did it. I managed to read the equivalent of one book a week for fifty-two weeks. Though truthfully some weeks I read two or three, and others I binged on Netflix and People magazine. I'm even more proud of this goal when I think about how busy work was, how unexpectedly busy my personal life became, and how many times I left my book by my bedside and couldn't read during my lunchtime. 

So, like I've done the past two years, I give you my top 5 favorite books of 2013. The only criteria being that I had to have read them in 2013. They may or may not have been published over the course of the year; instead, they are just new to me.

Eleanor & Park Rainbow Rowell
Finished in May
Why I Read It: One of the reasons I wanted to read 52 books in one year was to force myself to different genres. I often stick to Contemporary Fiction and learn about the rest through reviews and word-of-mouth. There was a lot of good buzz about this YA novel from both reviews and mouths. 
Why I Loved It:  Rowell writes about the teenage experience, but sets her story in 1986. And though I was only five in 1986, I feel like my own teenage experience was more like Eleanor and Park's than it is for today's generation that can fill their days with Internet, for better or worse. It's filled with heartache and heartbreak, friendship, and those secrets you just don't want anyone to know. And sure, it's about teenagers but it's just about the best love story I've read in years. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane ~ Neil Gaiman
Finished in September
Why I Read It:  Simply, I picked up because my boyfriend read it on a business trip and came home telling me I needed to read it too. It's rare thing when someone recommends a book that I absolutely love. Only my closest and most trusted companions have succeeded in this challenge. But also, because it's been a few years since I read Gaiman and this book was short enough for me to give it a go.
Why I Loved It:  Gaiman is the only writer I've read encountered who can manage to be both spooky and sad at the same time. The story of a man recalling his childhood is both figuratively and literally haunting. It's the type of book you want to tell everyone about and the type of book you won't forget long after it's over.

The Last Girlfriend on Earth ~ Simon Rich
Finished in February
Why I Read It: As a collection of short stories, it ticked off a box on the different sort of works I was trying to sample throughout the year. The author is a writer for Saturday Night Live (and I love Saturday Night Live). And the title is just amazing. 
Why I Loved It:  Rich's collection of short stories illustrates that not all short stories need to be serious pieces about broken families and all those other sad things people have been writing in fiction classes since the dawn of time. These stories made me laugh out loud during the longest days of winter, while also sticking to my heart. Love is often sad, but love is also ridiculously funny.

Back Roads ~ Tawni O'Dell
Finished in September
Why I Read It: I grabbed it off my library's shelves one Friday when none of my requested items had been delivered. It's one of those titles that gets on lists, that Oprah recommended, that people talk about, and the author sets her stories in Western PA and surrounding areas.
Why I Loved It:  Love is not, perhaps, the word I would use to describe my feelings towards this book. It's so disturbing, morose, and emotionally haunting that I'm not quite sure when I'll pick up another O'Dell novel. But it's also the story, with all of its grit, abuse, and horrendous conditions, that still haunts my memories more than any other book I've read in years.

Life After Life ~ Kate Atkinson
Finished in May
Why I Read It:  I found the cover intriguing, the reviews glowing, and I was craving some history.
Why I Loved It: I don't think there is anyone who ever wondered what would happen if they could go back and alter moments in their life and Atkinson plays with this "what if" over and over again. It's just that her main character must die, each and every time, before she can begin again. The most imagintive and unique book I read in 2013, Atkinson's novel layers history, personal choice, and fate into a story that is for the ages. 

There were many more books that I loved this year that didn't make it into my official top five. And if you're interested in any of the other titles, you can check out my Goodreads list. 

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Shannon has completed her goal of reading 52 books in 2013!
Here's to great adventure and good stories in the new year! And please, share your favorite 2013 reads in the comments.


List #225: Christmas Songs, Number 5

Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel ~ Various Artists
But here, Kelly Clarkson

I went to Catholic school for eight years. And if you ever were a Catholic school child during Advent, you know well that the mornings begin with the lighting of the Advent wreath.  And at least in my school, the requirement that all students sing this song in a dark hallway together. 

I'm not a particularly religious person now that I'm an adult. Spiritual,  yes, but  I'm certainly not a practicing Catholic. Yet, any version of Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel stirs me more than it ever did as a student on cold December mornings. I love it now not because I carry on Advent traditions in my own home, but because it reminds me of my childhood Christmases. How childhood friendships felt so absolute and how teachers would play Christmas carols on cassette tapes before class began. 

So even though I won't be in church on Christmas Eve this year, and even though I don't even know where one would buy an Advent Wreath. I'm going to turn the volume up each time I hear this song. 


List #224: Christmas Songs, Number Four


Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon, Tracy Morgan and Chris Kattan ~ I Wish It Was Christmas Today
And here because the video won't embed.
I'm in that minority of people who have never really stopped watching Saturday Night Live. I started viewing regularly as a teenager, was obsessed in college, and kept right on chugging through good casts and bad casts and every cast in between. And in the joyous days of the late 2000s, this gem was born. Everything that is great about SNL is included here:  a goofy idea, buddies being silly, choking back laughter, snow, and of course, dinosaur noises.
I listen to this song through grainy YouTube videos regularly during the holiday season. It makes me laugh and let's me chat with friends about how funny these men are, how Jimmy Fallon once mistakenly called a girl a boy through an entire stand-up set at our college, and how hot Horatio Sanz got. I cross my fingers every year that Jimmy Fallon will come back and host the Christmas episode of SNL. And then I watch live, hoping that these alums will come back to silently dance and play the keyboard and warm my heart with Christmas spirit.
He's hosting this year, with Justin Timberlake as musical guest. So I will be staying up and watching, of course. And they better play this song. Sure, Dick in the Box was legendary. But this one is the spirit of the season.
Heck, even Salon wrote about it. And I love their idea for the future.


List #233: Christmas Songs, Number Three

Winter Song ~ Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson

Sometimes in the middle of decorating trees, buying gifts, visiting family and friends, and all of things that are red and green in December, it can feel like there isn't any room for moments of anything less than jolly. 

But my December is always a little bit sad. So I play this song. Over and over again to let out a few tears. 

This songs make me remember when it actually snowed on Christmas Eve and pretty red party dresses. I remember big bangs and wishing for Barbie dolls. I remember 50/50 and cookies in small kitchens. 

I remember the last Christmas spent dancing in a heated garage. The last gifts we would ever laugh at with love. I remember the last present she ever gave me. Handmade. Still in a box. Tucked into a secret corner of my bookcase. 

Time moves on and circumstances change. More love comes into our world than could have predicted. But the love we have for those special people? I believe it never goes away. So when I cry, it's not because I've forgotten. It's because every bit of me still feels like it was just a few moments ago. 

This Christmas is going to be wonderful, for so many different reasons and in ways that still surprise me. But no Christmas is the same anymore. And sometimes, I just want to sit in a dark room, lit up by the twinkle of lights on the tree, and remember what it was like before. And hope that all of this love isn't just going nowhere. 


List # 232: Songs of Christmas, Number One and Two

Now that it really is truly the time for Christmas, I've been listening to carols and mustering the energy to decorate. I'm fixing myself to be jolly even when the daily part of my life has me feeling a little frazzled and anxiously awaiting payday. So, in hopes that you'll join in and find more than your normal amount of cheer this year, I'm going to list a few of my favorite Christmas songs and carols and recall whatever memories just happen to cross my mind when I listen to them over and over and over again. And the way they make me feel.
Up first, arguably my most favorite. If I were the type of person to have a favorite. 
Wham ~ Last Christmas

This is the Christmas song that I turn up and sing loudly. It's the perfect blend of campy and heart-breaking. It reminds me of buying the Christmas tree a few weeks before the first big break up. Of swearing to have a little more to show off next year. Of wishing that maybe at Christmas a ski chalet awaits instead of limited time off paired with slushy snow. It reminds me of every ex I have ever known during the holiday season and how my heart felt as lonely as George's.

One ~ Last Christmas
Pair it with the above version, and I'm reminded of preparing for a Christmas in a tiny apartment in a foreign country. I'm taken back to a time when I was younger than I realized and more homesick than I'd admit. It reminds me of drifting off on a bus ride to Athens on the night before Christmas Eve. It's showing Christmas movies to students. Rushing off to the town square for hot chocolate and spirits. It's ordering fast food and watching this video on a loop on the first flat screen TV I'd ever seen. It's the quick blur of colored lights next to the sea. It's rushing off on an foreign island to find Christmas gifts for the friends from home. And eating Christmas dinner inside an ancient castle.
So dear readers, are you a Last Christmas fan? Shout your love in the comments.