released into the wild

i often think, feel, and act younger than my current age, but i (unintentionally) found a way of combating that: return to the college campus you attended as an undergrad. the town that saw you grow from 18-22. the ‘burg that bubbled around you, protected you, secluded you, enhanced you, taught you, fought you, encouraged you.

6 of us decided to have an impromptu reunion in harrisonburg. i use the term impromptu loosely because nothing really is spontaneous when you’re trying to plan a trip with 6 people who have full time jobs and hectic lives and responsibilities. why go back to the ‘burg? yes, we may have spent more time out of college than in it. and we may be closer to 30 than 20. and we may not be carded anymore. and we may have our own healthcare. and we may pay all of our own bills. but we really aren’t that old, are we? we can still reclaim our youth, can’t we?

reality check. (transcribed for full effect).

BOY: birthday party. our apartment. saturday night.
JILL: my sister and her friends will be in town. we may swing by. we may not.
BOY: sister? friends? girls? they can come.
JILL hesitates, says: well, it’s my older sister and some of her friends.
BOY: how old?
JILL: they’re 28 and 29.

we embraced this new label. we declared it the weekend of cougars. we knew that even if we are old by college standards, we still could and would relive our glory days. we stayed at an off campus apartment. we visited all of the usual hot spots. we hit up some new restaurants. we showed 2 forms of id everywhere. we played pong. we won. we ate at the new dining hall. we toured campus. we thought about how lucky we were to go here. we ate. we pointed out new buildings. we took pictures of the old. we reminisced. we laughed. we ate. we told tour groups to pick this school. we bought new paraphernalia. we drank. we shivered and froze. (WTC, virigina. it’s march. i expect sunshine and daisies.) we marveled at the offerings. we talked about the changes the campus, and ourselves, have gone through. we ate. we were overwhelmed. we went to happy hour. we relaxed. we ate. we saw ghosts of our former selves. we waved. we cheers’d to 11 years of friendship. we filed away new memories.

and in the middle of all the “do you remember when”s, we accepted our transformation from duke dogs to cougars.


happy birthday, maga

maga turns 89 today.

*round of applause*

it’s a momentous occasion to be sure. one that deserves celebration, lots of candles, and even more cake. since i can’t be there in colorado with her, i figured the least i could do is list 89 reasons why she is so stellar. but before i do that, i’d like to direct you HERE. it’s slightly more serious and befitting of an 89th birthday.

and now, without further ado, 89 REASONS TO CHEER FOR MAGA.

(1) because she’s lived 89 incredible years.

(2) because she graduated from wellesley college, earning a degree when many women didn’t.

(3) because it wasn’t all work and no play. she knew how to have fun. by gathering up the girls and playing round after round of bridge.

(4) because she said “i am” when a girl friend asked who was free to go on a blind date with a boy from MIT.

(5) because that “i am” turned into an “i do” when the blind date turned out to be with one joseph searles bowman.

(6) because she moved to the west coast so she could be “closer” to jobo should he ever get leave from the war. (a leave was apparently quite short and they wanted to maximize their time together and it would have been severely diminished if she had a 3 day train ride from the east coast to the west.)

(7) because she didn’t know anyone on the west coast when she moved there. she moved there for love.

(8) because it’s a brave woman who can follow her heart like that.

(9) because it’s a strong and true love story that can withstand a war and unanticipated time apart.

(10) because she created a family and cherished them completely.

(11) because she has strong opinions.

(12) because she still puts on lipstick before leaving the house.

(13) because she is fragile and needs our love.

(14) because she still gets around town.

(15) because she loves dessert.

(16) because she still has pictures printed into hard copy form at her little photo shop down the street.

(17) because she can whip my butt at cards.

(18) because she instilled a love of card games in my mother, who then introduced them to her kids.

(19) because she has a hard time letting go of magazines and cards and trinkets and whatever else you can fit into a basement because what she really doesn’t want to let go of is the memories.

(20) because she took a deep breath and let J and i sort through her entire magazine collection and throw away almost 400 magazines.

(21) because she picked out a particular magazine to give to one of her “ladies” because she knew maria would get more enjoyment out of it than she would.

(22) because she has traveled the world; seen and experienced it all.

(23) because she took a house and turned it into a home.

(24) because she loves spending time with family.

(25) because she puts a smile on her face and makes it through another day.

(26) because she is grateful for the smallest gestures, like regular phone calls.

(27) because she loves gardenias.

(28) because she has more courage than she realizes.

(29) because she decorates her house with pictures of family.

(30) because she is interested in what you are saying.

(31) because, in the absence of jobo, she is holding onto her home.

(32) because she has so much left to teach us and share with us.

(33) because she likes to laugh as much as anyone else.

(34) because she is a good example for us.

(35) because she is embracing the detour life has given her.

(36) because she opens the doors to 353 ivy 365 days a year.

(37) because she still writes christmas cards.

(38) because she keeps the candy jar full of lemon drops.

(39) because she gets dressed up when the occasion presents itself.

(40) because she has a reason to get dressed up, which means she is keeping busy with an active social life.

(41) because she gets her hair done every week. (or so).

(42) because she has a computer in her house even though she has no idea how to use it.

(43) because she stands by her convictions.

(44) because she likes watching the olympics.

(45) because she is honest about how she is feeling.

(46) because over the course of a conversation, her voice can go from sad to happy.

(47) because she is continuing to live, and possibly even thrive, despite the passing of the love of her life.

(48) because she is an incredible role model.

(49) because she is stubborn.

(50) because she has all of these memories to share.

(51) because she shares them willingly.

(52) because her mind is as sharp as ever.

(53) because she loves to take pictures. the old fashioned way. with film. and have a store develop them for her.

(54) because her name is maga.

(55) because she is stronger than she even knows.

(56) because all she asks is that we visit her.

(57) because her laugh is infectious.

(58) because she would do anything for her family.

(59) because her heart is full of love for us.

(60) because her legacy is one of love, laughter, intelligence, and family.

(61) she has 12 grandchildren and 4.5* great grandchildren. (the .5 refers to J’s as yet to be born babe).

(62) because of greg.

(63) because of jane.

(64) because of jennifer.

(65) because of peter.

(66) because of me.

(67) because of heidi.

(68) because of emily.

(69) because of gib.

(70) because of caroline.

(71) because of anna.

(72) because of jack.

(73) because of joey.

(74) because of madeleine.

(75) because of aaron.

(76) because of liam.

(77) because of christian.

(78) because of baby girl mccarthy.

(79) because she’s happy when we’re happy.

(80) because she sends us a check on our birthday and again on christmas.

(81) because she sends us a $2 bill on valentine’s day.

(82) because she sends us handwritten cards.

(83) because she deserves to have the love she sends to us returned to her tenfold.

(84) because she generously shares access to the dillon condo, the dude ranch, the fishing spot, and cherry hills country club.

(85) because she answers the phone with a “hello, abby dear” and an excitement in her voice that can be felt from 2,000 miles away.

(86) because she teaches me something new every time i talk to her.

(87) because she is loyal.

(88) because she is adorable.

(89) because she is a survivor.

happy birthday, maga!


author appreciation week, day 5

And so our week-long celebration of Author Appreciation Week comes to an end. This initiative was sparked by 2010 debut author Heidi R. Kling (see here for more details). I picked 5 favorite authors + 5 anticipated authors to show my appreciation for. I’ve posted one from each group each day, Monday – Friday. In case you missed any…My first post is here. My second post is here. My third post is here. My fourth post is here.

FAVORITE AUTHOR: Roald Dahl. Oh man, the BFG. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Henry and the Giant Peach. Matilda. This man has created them all. He is a wiz at crafting stories that are based in reality but have a hint of magic or a suggestion of fantasy. Just enough to set his books apart. Just enough so you fall in love with his words. Just enough that you don’t hesitate to believe.

And you better believe that I wanted to win the golden ticket so I could jump in the river of chocolate. I didn’t care if it meant a certain death. What a way to go. And he also turned the idea of the oft scary night time into a sweet thing by introducing an unlikely partnership between Sophie and the BFG (Big Friendly Giant). The scary giant that roams the night is actually replacing your nightmares with happy dreams. The dark contains nothing to be afraid of, and in fact, you should know that you can find friends in surprising places. Including within the pages of a book. His books. While teaching us about our new friends, Dahl tackles all sorts of family issues. This can sometimes lead to dark places, it’s that hint of the fantastic that takes the edge off the terrifying truths he’s telling. And never fear, the books are resolved with a satisfying and light touch. His works will be cherished for a long time to come.

ANTICIPATED AUTHOR: Aidan Donnelley Rowley. I came across the loveliness that is Aidan via her blog. She writes about the insecurities that plague us all. She poses questions that jump start intense conversations. She pairs together simple words in a way that they wallop you over the head. You don’t even see the deep end coming until you’ve stepped off the ledge and are submerged by thoughts on life, love, babies, emotions, friendship, beginnings, celebrations, etc. Each post is crafted with care. Each post contains many revelations. Each post is organized into bite size thoughts. Each bite feeds the conversation and by the end of the post, your soul is exquisitely full.

You know it’s a special writer who can get me to read outside of my preferred YA category. Some people just know how to lay down words and shape paragraphs and twist your perception so that the end result is fresh and honest and raw. Aidan is one of those people. I can’t wait to see what happens in LIFE AFTER YES, which releases on May 18. Brace yourselves.


author appreciation week, day 4

And so continues our week-long celebration of Author Appreciation Week. This initiative was sparked by 2010 debut author Heidi R. Kling (see here for more details). I decided to pick 5 favorite authors + 5 anticipated authors to show my appreciation for. I’ll post one from each group each day, Monday – Friday. My first post is here. My second post is here. My third post is here.

FAVORITE AUTHOR: Maureen Johnson. If you can say one thing about MJ, it’s that she is originally hysterical. All. The. Time. She has a blog, but it’s her Twitter account that has legions of fans. Everyone tries to outwit her, but MJ comes out on top every time by saying the thing you least expect, but yet is the cleverest thing no one else thought of. It’s not really all that surprising since she keeps us (her followers) in jars. In fact, it’s very likely that she actually IS Twitter.

Oh yeah, she writes books too. MJ’s books are just as humorous as her online presence, except they move on a more linear scale. Her characters are endearing and believable and the plot lines are just slightly off the wall enough to make you feel like you’re escaping the doldrums of your own life. Her books are consistently entertaining and frankly, that’s one of the main reasons why I read. I want to dart away from the dreariness of every day life and MJ’s books happily invite you to do so. If you haven’t already, I suggest you check them out.

ANTICIPATED AUTHOR: Tawna Fenske. You may remember her from this post of mine. I know I know. Twice in one week. But I can’t help gushing. It’s because her Twitter and blog showcase her awesomely inappropriate and always, ALWAYS laugh out loud writing. I’m not one to ever write “lol” but sometimes Tawna’s writing makes me giggle so fiercely, that’s all I can type. For someone who is this liberal in telling about her own life, I cannot wait to see what she’s going to reveal about the characters in her stories.

From her tales of social awkwardness to scene writing to how she got a 3 book deal from Sourcebooks, I am addicted to her writing and, also, to her personal story. She’s the poster child of perserverence and maintaining a slapstick attitude about it. (I’m thinking the road ahead of me is going to be long, so I best take some cues from her). I don’ t know if she just attracts absurd situations or if her telling of the stories makes them more so, but I think she’s the perfect person to write romance. Because sometimes it’s not glamorous and I have a feeling Tawna’s going to tell it like it is. The first of her books is due out in August 2011, but you know what? The world has been deprived of her work for too long. Let’s unleash the beast!


author appreciation week, day 3

And so continues our week-long celebration of Author Appreciation Week. This initiative was sparked by 2010 debut author Heidi R. Kling (see here for more details). I decided to pick 5 favorite authors + 5 anticipated authors to show my appreciation for. I’ll post one from each group each day, Monday – Friday. My first post is here. My second post is here.

FAVORITE AUTHOR: Ann M. Martin and Francine Pascal. Okay, so I cheated and picked two authors. It’s my blog, you can’t stop me. And besides, it’s better to have too much love than not enough, right? Both of these authors are from days gone by, but I have to pay tribute to them because they got me reading above my age level. My sister J was reading their books and I wanted to be like her. But pretty soon, it was the stories that captured my attention and I began to read for my own enjoyment instead of just because I was emulating J.

The heroines of Martin’s Babysitter’s Club (BSC) series started out as caricatures, but evolved into characters I loved to spend time with. They were smart and savvy and sassy and silly and serious and honest and helpful and alliteration is hard. I may not be a published author (yet), but it was because of people like Martin that I first entertained the idea of  putting my own words on paper. You have to appreciate that type of inspiration.

Pascal’s perfect size six twin sisters Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield led more glamorous lives than those in the BSC — think Gossip Girl for the early 90’s. I think I stole these books right out of J’s room, but if she was reading it, that meant I had to be too. I had to know what it was like to be in high school, to be adored, to be in the middle of all kinds of drama. Those Wakefield twins really knew how to command attention and I happily gave them mine.

ANTICIPATED AUTHOR: Stephanie Perkins. I came across Stephanie’s blog and twitter courtesy of Kiersten White. (Side note: I am loving how accessible all of these upcoming authors are.) I put a lot of stock in recommendations, especially if they come from people who have similar tastes in writing and reading as me. But also, when someone (Stephanie) gets consistent praise from every person who talks about her? That’s when I take notice. That’s when I turned to her blog.

Said blog is charming and sweet with a touch of funny on the side. Her words appear effortless even when she’s writing about how much freaking research she had to do for her novel. An effortless post about an effort-full effort? I’d like to write me one of those. (I’d also like you to say that 10x fast.) Did I mention she posts pictures of cute boys? She does and I fully support this. If she’s putting up those kinds of photos in her blog, it leads me to believe that her novel is going to include some a very adorable boy as well. I am ready to swoon, Stephanie! Bring on your book. Oh wait, ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS doesn’t release until December 2010. That is really really really far away. I don’ t know if I’ll be able to handle the anticipation.

Hold my hand?