too little and too much to say today, so…

…it’s list blog time again, y’all.

I know. So exciting.

What I’m Reading: I just wrapped up with Tiffany Baker’s Mercy Snow (which was quite good), but I’m waiting to start another book until I get my delivery from ThriftBooks next week (Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Laura McHugh’s The Weight of Blood). But I’m dealing with the interim time pretty well because…

What I’m WatchingGILMORE GIRLS! Thanks to its arrival on Netflix, I have put my West Wing power-through on hold in order to return to Stars Hollow once again. It. Is. Glorious. And the 20-something American female population doth rejoice.

What I’m Eating: Bagels. And they were buy one, get one free at Publix, so I didn’t even have to choose between blueberry and cinnamon raisin. It’s the little things in life, you guys.

What I’m Listening To: Every Broadway playlist on 8Tracks.com. I’m a bit obsessed, and I don’t even care.

What I’m Learning: How to play the ukulele. Oh yes. I now serenade my roommates nightly with whatever Taylor Swift song I decide is my current favorite. They really appreciate it.

What I’m Loving: All things Harry Potter. This isn’t unusual, but today I’m a bit more excited that normal because…

Where I’m Headed: THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER! Suz and I are about to embark (in like five minutes) on a fall break trip to HP World, and I am so excited. In fact, we need to pack up the car right now. So…bye! : )

ahead of the pop fiction curve (maybe?)

I am forever late to the party when it comes to the next.big.thing. in YA/YA-adjacent literature series.

Harry Potter? Half-Blood Prince was already in paperback. The Hunger GamesMockingjay had come out the same month. Divergent? Four months before the release of AllegiantTwilight (yes, Twilight)? 10 months to go until Breaking Dawn.

So yes, I am perpetually late to the pop culture lit party.

But I think, for once, there is a chance I’ve caught a big series after Book One. *chorus of literary angels*

This Book One is Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season (published August 2013). It’s the first of what will eventually be a 7-book series, and it is not a short intro piece, a la Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneThe Bone Season clocks in at 452 pages. Here’s the back cover blurb:

The year is 2059. Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant–and under Scion law, she commits treason simply by breathing.

Elsewhere, however, there is a seat of power even greater than Scion. And they have a different design for Paige and her uncommon abilities…

So yes, it’s another dystopian series. Shocking, I know. But TBS  also benefits from some Harry Potter-esque fantasy elements, specifically the fact that it focuses on gifts of clairvoyance. Clairvoyance, for the purposes of TBS, are those who can access the Æther (aka the spirit realm). There are seven different main types of “voyants,” each with various sub-types: soothsayers, mediums, sensors, augurs, guardians, furies, and jumpers. Voyants also have a colored aura, the color corresponding to which main type of voyant they fall under. Amaurotics (a.k.a. non-voyants) can’t see auras or connect with the æther.

In this dystopia, a group called Scion began taking over various major world cities after the reign of Queen Victoria, starting with London. Under Scion rule, voyants are considered unsafe and traitorous, so they are forced to work underground in black market situations in order to survive. Shannon said she was inspired by the idea of what might happen in a second Salem Witch Trials-type situation.

Paige Mahoney, the main character of TBS, works for a syndicate known as the Seven Seals, headquartered near London’s Covent Gardens. Paige is 19, strong-willed, and pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from dystopian heroines. Supernatural Katniss. This isn’t a bad thing, it just isn’t reinventing the wheel.

There are minimal amounts of romance, thankfully, but I imagine more is headed our way in the next 6 books. Again, not a bad thing, just not what I always care to have my books focus on.

I want to tell you so much more about the novel and its world, but to do so would give away plot points, and I’m trying to be as anti-spoiler as possible here (I wouldn’t even write this blog post until my roommate had finished reading the book).

What you do need to know is this: the world of TBS is not laid out for you. Period. You’re stuck trying to piece together the rules and makings of the Scion world as the novel progresses, and I’ll admit that I was pretty frustrated by that at first. Once you get it, you’re great, but the first few chapters are tough when you don’t know the world you’re stepping into.

There is, thankfully, a handy-dandy glossary at the back that defines the slang and names used. The vocabulary was actually one of the more fascinating things for me, since it’s halfway stuck in the Edwardin era (a.k.a. when Scion took over) and also mafia-ish in a way. I spent a lot of the first part of the book flipping to the glossary to make sure I understood what was going on, so I definitely recommend buying the hard copy as opposed to the e-book.

Ugh, I so want to discuss the rest of the book, but I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone. Literary frustration!

And yes, this series is expected to blow up. Shannon’s second entry in the series, The Mime Order, is scheduled for a January 27, 2015 release, and the pockets of the Internet who heralded The Bone Season have had their pre-orders in for months now (I’ll probably put mine in by the end of the month). Andy Serkis’ movie studio, Imaginarium Studios, has already purchased the film rights. Samantha Shannon has even been called “the next J.K. Rowling.”

I’m not going to say it’s perfect or my favorite, but the next.big.thing. is here, my friends, and it’s The Bone Season. And for once, I am finally ahead of the curve.

on tuesdays we play trivia

On Tuesdays, we play trivia.

“We” is Parkside and Recreation, a somewhat fluid group of Samford post-grads who attempt to answer questions about movies we’ve never seen and music we’ve never heard.

Occasionally we get questions about pandas. We do really well on panda questions.

Parkside and Recreation has never won. We came in third a couple of times, but we’ve also come in dead last twice.

When you come in last at Trivia Tuesday, you get to pick a category for the next week. Our two choices: Harry Potter wandlore and How I Met Your Mother.

We did really well on those categories, as well.

Every week there is a music round, featuring 10 songs that share some common thread. Parkside and Recreation hates the music round. We are too young for the trivia curator’s taste in music and keep crossing our fingers for the day when the common theme will be “show tunes.”

There is a burger sold at the Trivia Tuesday establishment, and one has graced our group’s table every week for the last month. While I have never had it, the speed with which it disappears clearly speaks to its magnificence. I believe bacon jam is involved?

We have a group message thread for Trivia Tuesday. I believe this is what makes it an official “thing.”

We fit in general life updates between rounds. Some of us don’t see each other except at Trivia Tuesday. It’s our chance to play catch-up.

On Tuesdays, we play trivia. And Tuesday is now my favorite night of the week.

joining the tribe

Today I made one of my largest steps into adulthood by officially joining the congregation of Brookwood Baptist Church.

I’ve been attending BBC since the end of my sophomore year in college. I was active in the college ministry and served as a media intern while at Samford, and I continued to be involved once I moved back to Birmingham post-graduation, assisting with the children’s choir and running the slides during Sunday services. I was essentially a member in everything but the official sense.

I always had my reasons for not joining. During college I wanted to maintain my home church membership, as most college students do. No big deal. When I moved back to work for Cooking Light, I knew my position was temporary, so I didn’t want to make such a big decision when I wasn’t guaranteed to be in the city long-term.

But then I took my position at Samford, a job that would solidify my Birmingham life for a more permanent period of time. And I began to question if Brookwood was the right church for my stage of life. I knew I loved the church and the people there, but it was so intwined with Samford in my mind that I felt I needed to get some distance. Find a different church with a strong young adult ministry that wasn’t quite so ‘Samford.’

I was convinced that was the right move for me, and was actually pretty excited about it. I decided to keep attending BBC until I felt God leading me to that new church, which I was certain was going to be anyyyyy day now.

Well, if God sent me any memos in regard to a new church, I didn’t get them. Instead, I made more and more connections at Brookwood and found myself with a deeper appreciation for the church and its members. And sometime over the summer, I finally came to the conclusion that God wasn’t leading me anywhere else. He had led me to Brookwood in the 2011, and He still wanted me there in 2014.

It still took me quite a handful of weeks to finally make it official, obviously, but today I made it. I’m so happy to officially be a member of the church that loved me so well all through college and continues to do so today. I adore Grace Fellowship and always will, but Brookwood is the first church I chose for myself, and I’m honored to finally call myself an official member of the tribe.

yesterday

Yesterday was ordinary.

Yesterday I didn’t set an alarm. I woke up, stay snuggled in bed for a while, then hopped in the shower.

Yesterday, I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast. They were from a can, and they were delicious. I texted my mom to make her jealous.

Yesterday, I went with Shea to the 2nd Avenue Sidewalk Sale. We browsed our favorite junk shop and stopped by the different vendors set up on the street. I chatted with a ukulele-playing kindergarten teacher and bought a candle.

Yesterday, I made sure we stopped for a while in Reed Books. We looked at old books and new books and pretty books and not-so-pretty books. I bought “The Children’s Classics: Tales from Shakespeare” (1925) and “How to Recognize Typefaces” (1952). They will go in my office.

Yesterday, I made a quesadilla for lunch. I watched Scandal with Suz while I ate.

Yesterday, I straightened my hair. I watched 1.25 episodes of The West Wing during that time.

Yesterday, I played and sang the one full song I know on the ukulele and only messed up a little bit.

Yesterday, I went with Shea, Cameron, and Rex to eat the “best burger in Birmingham.” It was the best burger I have ever eaten, and we concluded that the title is well-deserved. You can find it at Chez FonFon.

Yesterday, I argued with Cameron about the rules of Quelf. I also composed a six-line rhyming poem that is not very good and has since been torn up and thrown away.

Yesterday, I stayed up too late talking with Shea and Rex about the differences between America and China. Cameron fell asleep on the futon.

Yesterday was ordinary.

I like yesterday.

flawed family, perfect love

This morning was the first of a new sermon series at my church focusing on the life of Joseph (the one with the colorful coat, not the carpenter). Today’s title: “Joseph: Staying Faithful in a Flawed Family.”

My pastor spoke about the truth that all families are flawed, all suffering from dysfunction of some sort. He spoke of Joseph’s pretty intense family struggles and gave anecdotes of others he knew with major turmoil in their family life. He went on to speak of their faithfulness in the midst of family strife and how God works for good in all situations, but by that point I had gotten a bit distracted (sorry, Dr. B).

As he spoke of these difficult family situations, my mind began to swarm with every blessing poured into my life by my family. How God put me into a family that never gave me cause for significant struggle. An imperfect family, yes, but one that has always, always, always been a rock for me. 

I give thanks for my dad, who leads our family and Grace Fellowship with humility and courage. For him always putting family first. For passing on the ridiculous sense of humor we both share. For teaching my brother and me to be unapologetically passionate about what we love. I am thankful for his honesty and how he acknowledges his short-comings and struggles. For the way he shares his gifts with our family, our church, our school, and our community. For instilling a love of history inside of me. For his consistent example of servant-leadership. 

I give thanks for my mom, who has poured her life into our family. For the sacrifices she makes in order to be there for the ones she loves. For calling me out when I let fear and complacency take hold in my life. For making time when Jay or I need to talk. For memories captured in her photographs. I am thankful for the way she confronts her weaknesses and helps me face the ones we share. For the way she loves ferociously. For her preparation. For joining alongside my brother and me in pursuing our futures. For embodying Christ-like womanhood.

I give thanks for my parents as a team, who together instilled in me a great love of reading and a thirst for knowledge. For they way they continue to support my dreams and passions. For forever placing Christ as the cornerstone of our family. For praying blessings over Jay and me every day of our lives. I am thankful for them taking the time to know us. For their example of a godly marriage. For the many ways they show they love us and for telling us often.

I give thanks for my brother, who has grown into the most incredible person. For his sharp wit. For his unwavering loyalty. For his uncanny ability to text me at just the right time. For his intelligence and insight. For loving me even after our obnoxious middle years. I am thankful for his heart, how he shares himself with the ones who matter. For his ambition and imagination. For the way he stays true to himself. For his encouragement.

I give thanks to the Lord, who placed me in just the right family. I will be forever grateful for their stability and unwavering love, for the blessings I have received through them. We will never claim perfection, but we will claim each other, and for that I am intensely grateful.

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life lessons in the apple store

After months and months of dealing with my iPhone’s broken lock button, I finally made the time this weekend to take it into the Apple store and get it checked out.

It was a simple issue, and the whole Genius appointment (including wait time, diagnosis, setting up the loaner phone, and putting in the repair paperwork) took less than an hour. That’s insanely good for such a habitually packed store. I’ve had wait times nearly as long at Apple stores before. 

As the Genius was wrapping up the appointment, he looked up from his computer and said, “Thank you. You’ve been so pleasant and cheerful, especially with the wait, and just…thank you.” The look on his face was absolute and total relief, so much so that I felt like I would start crying.

It was clearly evident that this technician had been through a rough morning and most likely a rough few days before, too. He probably dealt with more than his fair share of angry, belligerent customers in his face about issues he was doing his best to solve, maybe so many that the nice customers began to seem like mirages. 

I heard no fewer than three angry couples in the store while I was waiting for my appointment (which, by the way, was 10 minutes tops), and I could see the strain on the employees’ faces as they worked to handle those situations with tact and poise. 

It breaks my heart to see situations like these, to see that much relief on an employee’s face when he finally comes across a pleasant customer. That shouldn’t be such an unusual circumstance. That’s the customer we all should be, isn’t it?

I don’t say this to toot my own horn; I say this because I didn’t feel I was doing anything out of the ordinary, and yet it came across to the technician as extraordinary.  I had an issue, he helped explain the situation and solve it, I said thank you with a smile, and somehow that’s not the norm? Something is wrong there.

Please be nice to your salespeople. They are doing a job that requires a lot of patience and mental stamina, dealing with all sorts of people. If they didn’t do their jobs, you wouldn’t have access to a lot of things you look forward to and/or depend on. You know what it’s like to have hard days, so please don’t be a contributing factor to someone else’s. Actively seek to make someone’s day brighter, and you most likely will.