Thursday, February 26, 2015

Getting to know....myself

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for over a year, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week, Froggie chose the topic: If someone you hardly knew took a look at your Facebook timeline, what are the first three things they'd learn about you and talk about those three things.

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic. I will be only posting links to posts on this same topic from my group. So check back if you were hoping to read their blogs and don't see a link yet.

Darwin Shrugged
Moma Rock

These things are pretty obvious, but they really are what makes up some of my personality. And if someone was visiting my page for the first time, they'd definitely notice these "traits" right away.

1. I'm a movie buff: I know with the Oscars having just taken place, I've been posting a lot about movies lately. I watch movies almost every Saturday night and even watched one this past Tuesday, as I've been itching to see it for a long time! I also have a thing for silly and somewhat obscure comedies.

2. I enjoy sharing the little and big moments in my kids' lives. Some of the most recent moments involve teeth, between my daughter's recent dentist visit and my younger son losing two teeth in less than a week. New friends will also come across quotes from my kids or my bragging about their achievements. I know they'll see a birthday message for one of my kids soon, as well. I don't talk about my kids much on this blog, as I wanted it to be more focused on who I am apart from being a mom. I used to have a blog that was all about my kids and private with access only for family and close friends. I haven't posted in there in years though. I also used to be a parent blogger for Empowering Parents but I gave up on that after I ran out of ideas for what to post. Writing this post forced me to go back and look at my other blog and remember some of the really funny things my kids have said at one point. Since I don't want to go overboard, I'll share one funny quote from each of my kids right here.

E (9.5): (After being asked if he knows who Elvis is) "Yeah. Elvis Pretzel, right?"
Big M (almost 7): (Expressing frustration over a computer program) "I can't save it because it says you need a license and I don't have a car!"
Little M (4):  (After being asked to say the "magic word" when she's demanding something from us) "Abracadabra!"

3. I'm a bookaholic. If you didn't meet me through my book blog, you might not know this right away, but seeing all my Goodreads reviews and links to giveaways might be a hint. ;)

There you have it. Take some time to look at your Facebook posts through the eyes of someone new. You might just find out something fun and interesting about yourself!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Worth the 11-year wait...

Seeing the stage version with "Jack" in 2014
Back in 2012, I wrote a post about how much I loved The Last Five Years without having ever seen it. (This also explains the story in more detail.) Last spring, I finally got a chance to see a stage production. It was at a small theater about 30 minutes from where I live. The audience was pretty small too, but it was a nice production and I remember crying at the very beginning when Cathy is singing her haunting ballad. In the meantime, I knew that a movie version was in the works, starring the "smashing" Jeremy Jordan. (And, of course, Anna Kendrick. If you don't know who she is by now, you've been living under a rock.) So I was just counting the days until it was released, and then more until "Jack" and I could finally get our schedules together to see it. Well, the day has finally come and it was worth the 11-year wait since "Jack" originally gave me the CD. (We had also seen the stage production together last year.)

Before I go on, it's best that you watch the trailer. I'll wait...

Doesn't that make you want to see it now? ;)

I was very impressed with the movie version of this beloved musical. When I saw it on stage, only one of the actors was on at a time and they would sing their songs as a monologue. That was how it was intended for stage. They are only supposed to be together at one point and that's where they meet in the middle of the story. However, they're together most of the time in the movie. And even when they're not, they're interacting somehow or they're imagining the other's presence. Like with Chicago, the way some of the songs were done in this movie took the concept of the story to a whole new level. We get to see the story played out in natural environments with supporting actors. This adds on so many new dimensions and some of the songs are done in a way that it looks like either Jamie or Cathy is having a conversation with another character. The use of costume and hairstyle allows for a clear distinction between time periods. There's only one part that felt confusing because I thought it was supposed to be during Cathy's time but it was during Jamie's instead. I think that they could have done more to make the time discrepancies clear though. There's more creative license when it comes to a movie vs. a play. I'd even just be happy if they put the year at the bottom each time. There were some clues, but it still could be confusing to the average viewer. There was a (500) Days of Summer aspect to the time shifts, which were more clearly indicated in that movie. (If you're not familiar with the story, you'll be less confused by the movie if you know in advance that Cathy's story starts at the end and goes backwards and Jamie's starts at the beginning and goes forward. Otherwise, you'll think you're watching a time travel movie.) Also, I still don't know what they're looking at during "The Next Ten Minutes" when they say "That's Jerry Seinfeld. That's John Lennon." 

I wouldn't say that I cried during this movie, but I did get emotionally involved. Sometimes I'd get the chills from a scene being just THAT good. Having the two characters interact really boosted the emotional quality of their performances. Some scenes were filmed in a way that was unexpected. Like with "Shiksa Goddess," they're being physically intimate most of the time (and even some of the time in "I Can Do Better Than That") and it really gives off the heady feel of new romance in the "honeymoon" stage, when you just can't keep your hands off each other. And playing those scenes out that way really worked for me! I also loved the humor element in the "Shmuel Song." I was laughing out loud from most of it, as well as from "A Summer in Ohio." The way Cathy's story plays in reverse also ties in with the "Shmuel Song" in ways I didn't think about while watching it on stage.

2002: In our "honeymoon" stage
Other parts of the story are harrowing as you start to see where their marriage goes wrong. You see how great it was in the beginning and you're just wishing they could find a way to make things work. It made me think of my own marriage and how thankful I am to be with my husband a total of 13 years (married for almost 11). I got the original soundtrack of this musical right before my wedding, but thankfully it wasn't an omen as much as a cautionary tale. Not that I was even worried. Watching the movie just reminds me of how my husband and I still enjoy spending time together but also feel we can do our own thing and not feel overshadowed by one another's successes.

Having said that, they way they interpreted the last song was so interesting and creative. It could only really work that way on film though. I won't say anything more as to not spoil the ending. I just wish the movie had included how Jamie and Cathy met in the first place. That would have added a fun new element to the overall story that isn't really gleaned from listening to the soundtrack or watching it on stage.

I learned some fun facts from "Jack." One is that they used the Avenue Q stage on Broadway for one of Cathy's auditions. The other is that Jeremy Jordan's wife, Ashley Spencer, has a small role. (She was also in the Grease audition show on NBC and was the runner up for Sandy.) I learned from IMDB that both Sherie Rene Scott and Betsy Wolfe had small roles in the movie and they played Cathy in different versions. (Sherie was the original one.) Jason Robert Brown, who wrote the musical, also had a small role as a pianist. And Jeremy Jordan has the same birthday as my husband.

If you're into musicals and want a story that's different, has great songs with a perfect blend of lead actors, and packs quite a punch...look no further than The Last Five Years. Now it's time for me to try to get the songs out of my head...a "hazard" of knowing almost all the words and tunes! I definitely have more of an appreciation for the soundtrack after watching this movie.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I'm a '90s girl, in a '90s world...

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for over a year, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week, I chose the topic: The '90s

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic. I will be only posting links to posts on this same topic from my group. So check back if you were hoping to read their blogs and don't see a link yet.

Darwin Shrugged
Moma Rock

A while back, this blog project group talked about the '80s, before Darwin Shrugged joined us. Too bad because she would have had another excuse to talk about Bon Jovi. ;) In any case, I decided to get all nostalgic again this week, as I'm obsessed with Hindsight on VH1 and that's all about the '90s. I feel more of a connection to this decade because it's when I went to high school and college. I started my adult life toward the end of 1999, so most of this fabulous decade was spent in school. I even wrote a short story about the '90s. Hindsight came out a few months after that, but it's funny that both are about time travel and involve someone going back to 1995.

Instead of writing some long-winded post about everything 90s (trust me, I could go on all day), I am going to share some top five lists. These are written from the perspective of my personality in the 90s, even though I still like most of these things now. (I introduced the 80s stuff the same way.)

Top Five Favorite '90s TV Shows

  1. Friends: Could this show BE any funnier? (Speaking of funny, my BFF sent me this post about what Friends would be like in 2015.)
  2. Seinfeld: This show had a bigger impact on my life (at the time) than just making me laugh a lot.
  3. Party of Five: If I didn't already want to move to San Francisco because of Full House, then this show would have sold me all the way. I even re-watched all the episodes when they were on Lifetime.
  4. My So-Called Life: So sad that this was cancelled so soon. I even got to meet Wilson Cruz (Ricky) in the early 2000s.
  5. Animaniacs: See the story of how I "sort of" met the voice of Wakko.

My sister and I with Wilson Cruz in 2003

Top Five Favorite '90s Movies (links are to trailers)

  1. Clueless-I'm not a Jane Austen fan, but I am thankful to her for inspiring such a fabulous teen movie.
  2. Beauty and the Beast-Why it didn't win the Oscar for Best Picture, one will never know.
  3. The Wedding Singer-I still love Adam and Drew together (seeing Blended confirmed that) and this started everything off. So cute, funny, and romantic. A great throwback to the 80s too, with lots of fun music!
  4. Life is Beautiful-In my opinion, the best movie ever made about the Holocaust. I cried way more for this than I ever did for Schindler's List. So incredibly touching.
  5. The Shawshank Redemption-I wasn't expecting to be so moved by this film, but it has definitely stayed a classic for me 20 years later.

See the rest of them here.

This next section is all about music. I did a blog series on '90s music a few years ago, but will share some of the highlights here.

Top Five Favorite '90s Male Singers/Bands

  1. Nirvana
  2. Barenaked Ladies: Saw them in concert twice (2001 and 2004)
  3. Toad the Wet Sprocket
  4. Green Day
  5. Gin Blossoms: Saw them in concert when they performed at an Independence Day festival by my parents' house.

Top Five Favorite '90s Female Singers/Bands

  1. Jewel: Saw her in concert, even though getting there was a bit chaotic.
  2. Alanis Morissette: Saw her in concert with BNL in 2004
  3. Natalie Merchant: Saw her in concert at Illinois State in 1996.
  4. Juliana Hatfield: I almost saw her in concert to open for Aimee Mann, but then she was sick and Beki Hemingway opened instead.
  5. Jill Sobule

Top Five Favorite '90s Albums

  1. Nevermind, Nirvana
  2. Dulcinea, Toad the Wet Sprocket
  3. Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morissette
  4. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Sarah McLachlan
  5. Tails, Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories

Top Five Favorite '90s Soundtracks

  1. Rent
  2. Clueless
  3. Reality Bites
  4. Empire Records
  5. Wayne's World

Top Five Favorite '90s Songs

  1. "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
  2. "Plush" by Stone Temple Pilots
  3. "You Gotta Be" by Des'ree
  4. "Who Will Save Your Soul?" by Jewel
  5. "My Favorite Mistake" by Sheryl Crow

Top Five Favorite '90s Books

  1. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
  2. She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
  3. I Know this Much is True by Wally Lamb (It was 900 pages and I breezed through it...and during winter finals too)
  4. Most V.C. Andrews novels (hard to choose just one, but I was a bit obsessed with Secrets of the Morning from the Cutler series.) 
  5. Most Katherine Stone novels (also hard to choose just one)

Getting to meet Wally Lamb in 2013

Top Five Favorite '90s obscurities

  1. Welcome to the Dollhouse: If you knew me in 1996/97, you know how obsessed I was with this movie. I think I had it memorized at one point. "Wanna see my fingers?" 
  2. Liquid TV: This show on MTV with cartoons and puppetry. They had regular sketches like "Aeon Flux," "Winter Steele," and "Dog Boy." Beavis and Butt-Head originated from this series, as did cartoons about Milton from Office Space.
  3. The Murmurs: My friend put a song of theirs  ("Mission," from their self-titled album in 1994) on a tape for me and I loved their sound so much, that I had to listen to more of their music.  Only one song of theirs was ever on the radio: "La Di Da."
  4. Cupid and Diana by Christina Bartolomeo. Fairly underrated, but if Chick Lit Central had been around in 1998 when it first was published, it would have had lots of love and attention. It takes place in DC, which I loved about it even long before I knew I'd live in the area.
  5. Tribes: My pen pal got me into this show and then it was cancelled soon after and I was so upset that I wrote Fox to tell them to air it again. They replied to my letter but just to say that they had already made up their minds. 

Top Five Favorite '90s fashion trends

  1. Bajas: Apparently they resurfaced from the '80s because people were wearing them a lot in the early '90s.
  2. Birkenstocks: I had an imitation version, but I still loved the style and comfort.
  3. Grunge: I wore the flannel shirts and Chuck Taylor hi-tops through my early years of college.
  4. Rolling the ankles of jeans tightly
  5. Overalls/overall shorts
Rockin' the overall shorts and (imitation) Birkenstocks
while pretending to be in the opening credits of 
Friends. (1996)

Top Five Favorite '90s memories

  1. My "Rocky Horror" phase
  2. Speech team tournaments in high school
  3. Waiting all day to get front row seats for Rent
  4. Going to see Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind every weekend
  5. College

With a few friends from college at this restaurant
where the waiter (behind us) managed to break a table from a booth.
(And yes, I am wearing overalls here too.)

What are some of your favorite things from the '90s?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

You've got (WAY too much) mail!

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week, Moma Rock chose the topic: What is something you're really bad at?

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic. I will be only posting links to posts on this same topic from my group. So check back if you were hoping to read their blogs and don't see a link yet.

Darwin Shrugged
Moma Rock

Right around the time we got our topic from Moma Rock, I received this fortune at a Chinese restaurant.

I thought it was fitting, since I can't really change something unless I'm aware of the problem to begin with. Well, I've been aware of my burgeoning inbox over at my Gmail account and have been loath to do anything about it. I've been hoarding e-mails there since late May of 2006, starting with a message from my friend Denise (NOT Darwin Shrugged), where we were joking about John Krasinski for some reason.

The amount of new mail in my inbox is only half of the total amount. My older son will look at my inbox sometimes and make fun of how many messages I have not opened yet. You'll also notice the folder called "Ads," which is where I have mail sent if it's for Groupon, magazine subscriptions, Goldstar tickets, etc. I could easily empty this mailbox, and I just never seem to get around to it.

The amount listed for my inbox was from Sunday. It has gone up to 10,849 as of this past Wednesday at 4:20 pm.

And here's the total amount of messages in my inbox. Brace yourselves...this is NOT pretty!

Having said all this, something I'm REALLY bad at is managing my e-mail. I not only have this account, but also three Gmail accounts related to my book blog (why I don't condense some, I will never know). In addition to that, I have a Yahoo account I rarely ever check unless I need to post something to a listserv I'm connected to there so that it doesn't clog up my Gmail account. There's also my Facebook Messenger inbox, which is quite a mess. And finally, my work e-mail, which I won't even try to make you anxious about.

Now that I'm aware of this problem, I realize there are some changes I need to make. I'm going to first start with my personal Gmail account. 

1. I'm going to go back to messages from years ago and just dump anything that doesn't have a picture attached to it. I'll do it in small groups as to not get overwhelmed.

2. I'm going to clean out my "Ads" folder, even if it's just deleting 100 a day. Again, small groups.

3. I'm going to create some folders into which I can place certain messages. I have a "follow up" folder for messages I know I need to reply to soon. 

4. I'm going to send anything book blog related to one of my book blog accounts to answer over there.

5. I'm going to unsubscribe from companies that send me ads that I don't even care to open anyway. (This will also be done in small groups.)

I think five is a good set of steps to start with. I will report back in a month to let you know where I'm at with this progress. I need someone to hold me accountable for inbox organization, and who better to do it than my readers! Here's hoping I'll actually be able to conquer these tasks! Wish me luck.

Physical embodiment of where my e-mails should go.

Friday, February 6, 2015

It takes two...

The other day, a friend of mine received rather interesting and surprising news. When I heard this news, I was completely floored and even cried for her a little.

Would the above situation make a difference if I told you that this friend was Mindy Lahiri from The Mindy Project? Not Mindy Kaling, but the character she plays on this series. (Oddly enough, Mindy Lahiri doesn't have any girlfriends on the show anymore and I feel like there's something wrong with that.)

This, and a conversation I had with a friend recently, makes me wonder if I have more emotional investment in TV characters than I do with friends in real life. A while back, I blogged about being too emotionally invested in TV shows. And after seeing all the posts about people crying during the series finale of Parenthood (a show I have not yet seen), I believe that there's no limit to the investment. When a friend and I were talking about being emotionally invested in friendships, it got me wondering if we need that factor for the friendship to sustain itself. I started to assess my own relationships with my friends. When it comes to having an emotional investment in a friendship, I see it in a lot of different ways.

*Your life is entangled in theirs: There are the friendships where you're so involved that you feel like you're living vicariously through your friend. You are elated, sad, anxious, frustrated, or excited when they are. You feel their experiences like they happened to you somehow. This is definitely a deep emotional investment and happens mainly to the closest of friends.

*They're your diary: You've pretty much shared all your deepest, darkest thoughts with this friend and have sworn them to secrecy.

*You can cry on each other's shoulders: This friend has seen you ugly cry and you've seen them do the same.

*Your bond is forged from an emotional situation: You first became friends with them because a life experience they had drew you to them emotionally.

*You go above and beyond: It's not enough that you're there as a listening ear, but you'll also look out for them in other ways, remember things they like and don't like, get them gifts with no expectation of reciprocation, etc.

*You laugh together: Inside jokes are an emotional investment in some ways. No one else will get what you and your friend find so funny and you can always bring up this inside joke to further bond yourself with this friend.

*You're practically a couple: You are attached at the hip. If you get into a fight, you're devastated until things have smoothed over and are back to good again. If this friendship were to ever end, it would be like the worst breakup in history.

*You only know them online but feel like they're family to you: In this day and age, it happens more often than you'd think. I read a magazine article a few months ago about two women who had become close through the Internet but lived far apart. They eventually met up in person and it was like they had known each other their whole lives.

*The affection connection: You say "I love you" to each other. You hug a lot in person. You use a lot of X's and O's in your written communication. You aren't afraid to be mushy about your friendship.

*You never run out of stuff to talk about: Your connection is so seamless that you'll lose track of time from talking with each other and your conversations naturally segue into other conversations.

*You trust each other. Not just with secrets, but also that you won't betray each other and that you have each other's backs.

These are the main examples of emotional investments one can have in their friendships. You may recognize some of these in your friendships, whether it's a combination with one friend or a bunch of friends having different facets of investment from you. I listed these examples because I know I have some of these with various friends, as well as a combination with each of my closest friends.

The funny thing is, I've mainly applied this to girlfriends. I have guy friends too. The ones I'm most emotionally invested in, aside from my husband, happen to be gay. With the straight guy friends, it's more of a "shooting the breeze" type of friendship. Like we can talk and laugh with each other, but I don't have the kind of relationships that I do with my female and gay male friends. Most of the guys are married to my friends or friends with my husband. (Or both.) Some I've known before I met my husband, but our friendship moved to a more easygoing place since then. I still get along well with my straight guy friends and enjoy hanging out with them (usually when it's a group of friends together or a double date), but I don't seek emotional fulfillment from them since I have that with my husband already.

An example of this "phenomenon" is my friendship with a guy I dated almost 15 years ago. We only went out for about five months and then mutually decided to become friends. (I think we practically said it at the same time.) After that decision, and for about a year or so until I met my husband, we would e-mail all the time and even get together to just hang out. I'd give him dating advice and even get emotionally involved in his relationships. When I started dating my husband, I'd still talk with my friend from time to time, but when we'd hang out, it would be on double dates. He also bowled in a league with my husband for a little while. We went to each other's weddings, as well. I recently found out that he's going to be a dad soon. I'm very happy for him, but if a girlfriend had given me that same news about herself, I would probably be crying and over the moon with happiness, depending on the degree of emotional investment in our friendship.

In  regards to online relationships....ever since I learned how to use the Internet in college, I have made lots of friends online. There are some I've met in person and some I have yet to meet. I have become rather close with a bunch of online friends, including the authors I've been working with ever since I started my book blog. Just like friends I know in person, online friends come and go too. I know who will stick around over time, and I hope they know who they are too. I know that I also have some easygoing relationships with various friends from the Internet, where we can just send each other news about pop culture or funny memes. Less of a deep emotional investment still allows for us to get along well and who knows where things could go over time?!?

This also applies to friends I know in person, either from the past or present. Most of my emotional investments are with these friends, but at different levels. It depends on where we are in our relationship. When I moved away from Illinois, I know it affected some of my friendships. I'm still friends with people I went to high school or college with, as well as some I met after the fact. However, we don't talk as often and when we do, it's mostly just easygoing banter. We can still care about each other and when we meet up in person, it's like no time was lost. There are still some friends I am really close with regardless of the distance. My BFF is definitely on the top of that list. We do a Google Hangout once a week and it's definitely strengthened our bond even more.

There are also the local friends to take into consideration. I live in a close-knit Modern Orthodox Jewish community. Over the five years I've been here, I've made some great friends. Even with being local, my friendships with certain people are at higher emotional investment levels than with others. It doesn't say anything about how much I like someone, but most of us are parents and have busy lives between work, our kids, and everything else going on throughout the days, months, and years. There are friends I may only see once a month to hang out one on one, or those I just see in Shul every so often and we do our catching up in the moments our kids aren't tugging on our skirts in groups or at kiddush (the time everyone gathers for snacks when services let out). It's always friendly banter though. There are some friends I've become really close with over time and not all of them are from my neighborhood. Those friends should know who they are by now.

I'm at this point in my life where I can only make so much effort in a friendship before deciding where it will go. If certain friendships end up in a less emotionally invested place, it doesn't mean I don't care about the friends themselves. We still check in with each other from time to time, but it's different than it was when we were in a different place in our lives. When friends want to be part of my life for the long haul, no matter how close or far we live from one another, my level of effort and emotional investment goes WAY up.

From being a kid and having very few friends I could say I was close with to where I am now is a huge lifestyle change for me. I used to be a lot clingier to friends because if our friendship ended, I'd feel completely unmoored. While I'd still feel that way if certain friendships were to ever end (Hashem forbid!), I also feel like I am in a much better place. I enjoy and cherish my relationships with my friends, whether they're really tight or just a check-in every so often.

Does this answer the question about the need for emotional investment in a friendship? I think I answered that by what I said above. I think it's important to have at  least some friendships with an emotional investment as it keeps the friendship strong. However, I can also talk comfortably with someone as an acquaintance or as a friend I shoot the breeze with from time to time by just talking about surface topics like favorite TV shows and something funny we heard recently. I am enjoying the balance and as long as we're at the same place in our friendship (putting the same level of effort in, whether it's deep or easygoing), it's all good with me.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Maryland, I'm coming home...

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week, Darwin Shrugged (or at least a friend of hers*) chose the topic: What place draws you to it for some unknown reason and maybe what are your feelings about a previous life?

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic. Starting this week and going forward, I will be only posting links to posts on this same topic from my group. So check back if you were hoping to read their blogs and don't see a link yet.

Darwin Shrugged
Moma Rock

*Darwin Shrugged asked her readers to help her come up with topics for our group. (Clever idea, but I'm too much of a control freak to do that. :) ) The "previous life" part is related to the backstory for this question. The originator of the question said she got emotional when she visited a certain place and her husband suggested that maybe it featured in a previous life of hers.

I listen to the Ally McBeal soundtrack every now and then. The last song on the CD is called "Maryland." The beginning of the chorus is the same as my header for this post. When I was younger (like in my 20s), I didn't think much of it. Then I heard it again after living out here a few years ago and it gave me the chills. Funny thing is, Vonda pronounces it the way most people who don't live here usually do.

I don't know how to explain it, but I feel like I was destined to live in Maryland. I am so comfortable living here and can't even imagine living anywhere else, even the town where I grew up. There's just something about Maryland that somehow called to me long ago and eventually compelled me to move here. It just feels so right. I don't know if I lived here in a previous life. All I know is that I feel established here, like my life began at age 33 when I first set foot in our house. I know I've lived other places, but I feel like I truly belong here. That's why I'm known as "Merrylandgirl," after all!

This is a post I wrote a while back, after only living here for 10 months.

So yes, Maryland, I've come home!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

My basket is overflowing

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week, I chose the topic: What FIVE places would be in your "Basket of Trips?" Please say why for each and list at least one thing you'd do at each place. Time and money are no object, so the sky's the limit!

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Moma Rock

I was reading Olive Kitteridge recently for book club. While I didn't like it all that much (other people two readers are alike), there was one concept that stood out to me and inspired today's post: A "Basket of Trips." It was referring to a basket this couple had that contained pamphlets in it of places to go on vacation, should the husband be cured from his cancer.

While there are a lot of trips I still want to go on, including places to re-visit, I am being a good girl and sticking to the limit of five that I imposed on everyone.

Back in the 90s, I became close friends with a lovely girl who was on an exchange year at my high school. We stayed in touch after she moved back overseas, and then she came for a visit ten years later to help me celebrate my wedding. We got to spend lots of quality time together too. Now it's my turn to pay her a visit, and of course I'd bring my family with to hang out with hers. Therefore, I would like to go to Amsterdam. Aside from hanging out with my friend all the time, I'd want to be all touristy and visit the places I saw (and read about) in The Fault in Our Stars. One such place is the Anne Frank house. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is so full of history and so important to Judaism. Aside from that, I'd want to walk by the canals. Our friends have this gorgeous picture of the canals in their family room and I always think of how cool it would be to see it up close in person.

At my high school graduation party

In 1992, I went on my first trip overseas and spent a month in the UK. I had a great time and went to so many different places with the exchange group from my high school. However, we only got to spend a day or so in London and most of that involved doing what the teachers wanted us to experience. "Lunch" (I think it's called "dinner" in the UK) consisted of these disgusting sandwiches. And we saw a musical at night, but nothing I would even consider memorable. So I would want to go back to London either by myself or with some girlfriends. I'd want to meet all the authors I've connected with, such as Rowan Coleman, Sue Margolis, Carole Matthews, Talli Roland, Michele Gorman, and, most obviously, Sophie Kinsella. I'd also want to make arrangements to meet the UK reviewer for my book blog, as we've been corresponding for a few years now and she's really sweet. And if I could make it work, I'd want to reunite with the girl who stayed at my house in 1991 and whose house I stayed at in 1992. Other than that, I'd do touristy things I didn't get to experience as part of the exchange trip, such as shopping in Harrod's, riding the London Eye, and seeing a well-known musical. I heard Miss Saigon is really good out there. I'd also want to hit up some pubs.

When I was growing up, I had a pen pal from Australia. We lost contact back in 2000 and I haven't been able to locate her since. However, I'm still fascinated with "the land down under." Especially since two fabulous authors I know (Juliet Madison and Liane Moriarty) live out there and write about it so beautifully. I got to meet Liane last year at BEA and will hopefully get to connect with Juliet when she's in town this coming spring. However, I'd still love to check out Australia and be all touristy, visiting the Sydney Opera House, checking out koalas and kangaroos, etc. I'd probably want to go around March or April, which is equivalent to September or October out here. It would be cool to see what autumn is like down under.

I know I've said this before, but I really, really, really want to go to Hawaii! I'd be all touristy out there too, and probably drag my friend "Jack" along so he could give me a tour of stuff that only locals would know about, as he grew up there. Of course, I'd want to attend a luau, but I wouldn't be partaking in any pig eating. I'd spend some of the time just relaxing on the gorgeous beaches.

You may not know this, but I've been to Canada once before. I went with my high school music groups (chorus and band) to Kitchener, Ontario. Part of the trip involved rehearsing for a combined concert with the school we were visiting. The other part was very touristy and I had a lot of fun during that time. Since that time, I've made some friends in Canada. The first being a woman I met online in the 90s and have yet to meet in person, yet I feel like I've always known her. She also lives in Ontario, as does a book blogger friend I've been e-mailing with for the past few years. One of the book reviewers from my blog lives in Canada, as well. (She's in Alberta.) I also have some author friends out in Toronto, such as Catherine McKenzie, Samantha Stroh Bailey and Lydia Laceby. I got to meet the latter two last spring, but would love to hang out on their "turf" sometime. I'd want to go back to Niagara Falls and be all touristy there. Of course, I'd want to visit the area where Orphan Black is filmed (also in Toronto) and see if I can find landmarks from the show. (Maybe I'll just go when they're filming so I can meet Tatiana Maslany. Just saying...)

Side note: I've noticed that most of my trip choices have to do with books. Even the Hawaii trip does, as I've read some books that take place in Hawaii (such as Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink by Kim Gruenenfelder) and have fantasized about going there based on those.

There are other places I'd like to ideally visit in my lifetime. Honorable mentions go to Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles (especially Hollywood), Maine, Italy, and Greece. I'd want to go back to Israel, as well. I spent an extensive amount of time there during Birthright, but we have some friends, as well as relatives of my husband's out there. And finally, I'd want to go on another cruise.

What is in YOUR basket of trips?