Food and Books

Early on in the pandemic, I fell into a routine, as one does. Every Tuesday, I’d go and pick up our grocery order. That actually wasn’t new, as I had done that before the earth was ignited in a fervent blaze of stupidity and sickness. Tuesday was the day because I didn’t want to waste my precious kid-free days slumming it with the peasants at the grocery store, and I usually had my little one on Tuesday/Thursdays. Not that you care, and I digress.

So Tuesday-Food-day were the same, but Pandemic Melissa got to go forage for food sans little people because the husband was (at the time) working from home, and presumably there in case violence broke out. Or the need for more snacks. Buuuut, (I’m getting to it, I swear) once the library opened back up for holds pickups, it was like Christmas morning come early. Books! New books! Books that weren’t mine! Anything novel (pun intended) was most welcome, indeed. It was then that I added the library to my epic Tuesday pandemic outings.

I remember the last day the library was open before it closed for about four dreadful months. I hurried over there when I heard the news. (Note that I didn’t make a run to the grocery store when everyone was panic buying toilet paper and kale, but you bet your ass I hauled over to the library to grab as many books as I could carry.) When I got there, people were skittering around like scared mice. The shelves were disturbingly bare. Fear echoed throughout the extra open space. My oldest had just learned to read, so I went to the children’s room and filled my bag and arms with as many picture books and early readers as I could. I had to ask what the limit was for checking books out. “I hope we don’t die of boredom,” I said to the librarian checking me out. Her head still down, she raised her eyes to look at me over her glasses and said, “Or anything else.” We shared a smile that only lovers of dark humor can share.

By the time those four unspeakable months were over, we were all long done with our library book piles. And so it became my weekly Tuesday ritual to first dart into the library, masked and moving with the speed of your typical neighborhood super hero, to grab my previously selected treasures off the shelf, check them out via machine with zero human interaction, and then take refuge in my car where I’d bathe in hand sanitizer before moving on to grocery pickup. I have an even better example for how this went: picture Foxface when she hid at the cornucopia to grab her lifesaving loot first and then disappeared into the woods, deft and swift as her nickname. Only I don’t die from eating the wrong berries. Oops, spoiler alert. (Actually, if you haven’t read that book yet and actually need that spoiler alert, you can stop reading right this second. If you don’t know what any of this is in reference to, this blog also may not be for you.)

Another little pandemic side habit (ritual? obsession? maybe she’s born with it) I developed was in stalking and raiding local Little Free Libraries. It began when I started to walk laps around parks while my kids played because gyms were closed and so was my heart. As I passed these LFLs, each one looked as if a raccoon shoved books in there every which way, spines covered, upside-down, fucking anarchy. My compulsive need to impose order would not let this go, so I began to organize the tiny book houses. While organizing, I’d often find a gem that I liked or one of my kids would like. Mmm, dopamine. The next day, I’d come back and glance over to see the LFL ravaged again. I answered the call. And so the almost daily dance began. It’s a combo of needing control and tidiness to feel safe, and the primal urge to scavenge for treasure (read: books. play on words INTENDED!) when I felt an overwhelming sense of end-of-the-world scarcity of resources. At this point I can’t pass a LFL and not tidy it whilst looking for books to take home.

Once the library began to open up even further (good lord, the gloriousness of browsing the stacks cannot be conveyed with words) its little used bookstore also reopened. While the bookstore doesn’t need constant organizing, it does require that I visit it weekly so that I may continue to hoard books build my own private library with colorful paper word bricks that bring me such joy.

The book hoarding has continued, and I began shoving them into my already full shelves. It recently got bad enough that I could no longer find what I wanted, so I was forced to reorganize and create some meaningful categories. (I now have a World War Two Female Spy section that makes my ovary do flips and I’m pretty sure I now own every publication and cocktail napkin Brene Brown has ever written on.) During the course of said organization, I found that I had bought used copies of Quiet twice (I really enjoy introvertism, y’all), and I had two copies of Hillbilly Elegy for unknown reasons. Several books I didn’t even remember acquiring; surely I brought them home in a pandemic-stress-fueled fugue state.

Back to my weekly Tuesday adventure! (tangents and graceful transitions are my specialty) I’d venture to the library first, partly because books are more important and partly because food of the perishable and frozen variety needed to be picked up last. Once at the grocery store, a kind stranger would load up my trunk with my pre-selected goods and I would begin the journey home, ready with food for my family’s bodies and nourishment for our minds. It was a supply run, and I was returning victorious with the things that mattered most.

For quite a while, those two errands were the only direct contact my nuclear family had with other human life. It was what was the most important for our survival; worth the risk.

Every Tuesday.

Books and food.

Food and books.

Halloween in District 12

Happy Halloween, Psychos!

As many of you know, Halloween is my all-time favorite holiday.  For those of you who don’t know, go here and here and then come back.

Last year, I was overcome with sadness because wedding planning had taken over my life and sucked time away that should have been spent making a brand new Halloween costume.  I was forced to reuse an older costume, but I vowed that I would get back into the spirit this year, and this woman keeps her Halloween vows.

Behold, my interpretation of Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games:

May the odds be ever in your favor!

May the odds be ever in your favor!

My awesome partner was Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games:

I smell like doughy heaven

I smell like doughy heaven

For my costume, I bought the dress at a thrift store, I bought the amazing wig at a Halloween store (worth every penny), and my mom helped me sew the jacket so that I’d have appropriately shiny fabric and puffy sleeves.  Indeed, those sleeves are stuffed with tissue paper.  I got the flowers at the fabric store and pinned them into the wig, and pinned one on each shoe.

For the makeup, I actually used this old, bright pink blush because the color was perfect.  It’s on my eyes, cheeks, and lips.  I bought some tinsel eyelashes and cut them to look more shapely and dramatic.

Happy Hunger Games!

Happy Hunger Games!

For my partner’s costume, he bought the District 12 shirt online, and from what we can tell, it’s exactly like the one in the movie.  Then he added some black workout pants and black shoes and his natural charm, and BOOM, you got some hunky dude whose warm arms smell just like freshly baked bread.

Bet you never knew there was a secret fling between the two, right?  I mean, how else did Peeta actually make it through the games?!

Love is hate

Love is hate

Have fun this Halloween!!!  How do you celebrate this fantastic holiday??

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Guess what?!  I just brought more crazy to Facebook!  I wasn’t even sure that was possible, but I dream big.  Liking Psychobabble on Facebook is like putting on a nice, snug straightjacket to give yourself a hug!

I read some books last year

This post is a bit overdue, but better late than never.

I keep a list of just about every book I have ever read since the age of 8 (first book on the list is Little House on the Prairie).  I find it fascinating to look back on the years of books that I chose to read, and my choices really reflect where I was at emotionally, personally, professionally in my life.  These books trigger memories and tell a story all their own.

I wrote a post last year around this time summarizing the books I read during 2011 and the story they told, and in this post I am doing the same for the books I read in 2012, in the order I read them.

First of all, I only read 15 16 (apparently I forgot one – which is now #10 on the list) books in 2012 (compared to 21 in 2011), which is the least number since 2005, and that makes me sad.  Looking over the list, I think the reason for the small number was because I was trying to get through books that didn’t fully capture my fascination, and that means the process took much longer.  For 2013, I plan to spend time choosing books that are more pleasurable to me – I’ve already started World War Z, so I think I’m on the right track.

(all pictures are from Wikipedia)

1.  Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson

This book was recommended to me by Brian, and it was fairly interesting, but took me a long time to finish for whatever reason.  If I remember correctly, this book is set in the future, and I describe it as being like The Matrix, even though it was published in 1992.  The main character is named Hiro Protagonist, and he’s a high-speed pizza delivery man and professional hacker.  We’re introduced to this whole virtual world that has its own set of rules and ethics.  Hiro’s good friend is basically turned into a vegetable by this virus/drug called Snow Crash that affects a person’s nervous system in the real world when that person’s avatar is infected in the virtual world.  Hiro is then launched into this adventure with a sassy, scrappy young woman named Y.T. that involves murder, samurai sword fighting, cults, drugs, and the giant mass of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean.

2.  *The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

The asterisk means that I had read this book before, and I was reading this book a second time in preparation for seeing the movie.  I lurve this book.  I love dystopian fiction, and I love a good fight-for-survival story, especially one where the main character is a strong female.  I admired Katniss for her strength, for her competence, and for her courage.  I also admired Effie’s outfits.

3.  Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson

I had been waiting to read this book for a while, and I was definitely not disappointed.  Jenny Lawson is The Bloggess, aka one of the reasons I started blogging.  This book is a mostly true autobiography that was laugh-out-loud and pee-your-pants hilarious, blunt, vulnerable, and endearing.  I feel like I know her now, better than I ever did before, so maybe I can take a break from some of my weekend stalking escapades.

4.  Dune – Frank Herbert

I read this book because Brian and I struck a deal.  I really wanted Brian to read Half The Sky because it changed my life, and in exchange I told him I would read a book of his choosing, and he chose Dune.  This book was exciting during the action scenes, but it really dragged for me during the downtimes.  From what I remember, this book took place on two distant planets, where a ruling family moved from their home planet to rule over a foreign planet where water was a very scarce resource and sand dunes covered the land.  The family is plunged into turmoil when the husband and father is murdered, and son and heir Paul is forced to flee with his mother into the dunes.  There, they work to earn the trust and learn the way of life of the sand people who have entirely blue eyes (what would normally be the whites of the eyes are blue as well) due to consumption of Spice, which is the main valuable resource on the planet.  The story basically reminded me of Star Wars – picture Paul as a young Luke on his home planet.  One of my favorite parts was Paul’s struggle to learn the coming-of-age task of riding the humongous and highly dangerous sand worms.  Yee-haw!

5.  Politically Correct Bedtime Stories – James Finn Garner

This short, fast read was absolutely hilarious.  Ever wanted to shake the traditional damsels in distress and tell them to take control of their own lives?  Ever thought they should open up a bank account and run for congress instead of fretting about a lost shoe and caring selflessly for 7 little people?  Read this book.

6.  Night – Elie Wiesel

This book is Elie’s true account of surviving the holocaust, including the harrowing death marches right before the liberation.  I cannot even begin to describe how horrifying, powerful, and moving this memoir was for me.  This is the type of book that I am constantly drawn to (I have a problem picking “fun media,” which you’ll see gets worse as the year goes on), and I think it’s because of my thirst to read about human resilience in the face of pure evil.  This book definitely satisfied that need for me.

7.  The Tenth Circle – Jodi Picoult

After Night, I needed a much easier read, and Jodi Picoult was just the answer.  I’ve read a few of her books in the past, and they are all the same, so I knew exactly what to expect for this one…or so I thought.  This book hit a little closer to home than I thought it might since it dealt with rape and the after-effects of it.  Throw in some infidelity, murder mystery, and running away from home for good measure.

8.  Room – Emma Donoghue

This book marked my profound descent into the world of trauma and choosing traumatic books for pleasure that I manage to do every year.  This book was also unlike any book I have ever read in a way that’s hard to describe – I think because we get to see the world through the eyes of 5 year old Jack who has never been outside a 12×12 room.  The narration reminded me of the blunt starkness of Push, but the remarkable similarities to Jaycee Dugard’s real-life account of her 19 year imprisonment freaked me out.  Let me back up: Jack is narrating this story where we find that he and his mother are being held captive by a sick kidnapper who fathered Jack by rape.  Jack describes the normal-as-possible routines that his mom has created for him that involve mealtimes, reading, TV, bathtime, exercise, games – including one “game” that involves screaming at the top of their lungs towards the one skylight they have in Room.  I won’t ruin any more of the book for y’all, but it was exciting and an interesting look into PTSD from the confused and scared eyes of a very isolated, yet hopeful 5 year old.

9.  Fear – Michael Grant

This book is the 5th in a series of 6 books called the Gone novels.  My friend originally recommended Gone to me by saying that it was a young adult series where everyone over the age of 15 suddenly disappears.  My interest was more than peaked.  Basically, these books turned into Lord of the Flies on steroids pretty quick, with a hint of sci-fi in there because some kids realize they have powers.  Sam, the main character, can create balls of burning light with the palms of his hands.  A struggle for power and order ensues, good kids and bad kids emerge, leaders and followers are identified…and they are all trying to figure out where the hell all the adults went and how they’re supposed to survive without them.

I almost didn’t keep reading this series because it started to feel all crazy like Lost did in the second season.  When Gone introduced talking coyotes I figured I was done.  But, something lured me back to this series…it’s fun, they are fast reads, and I like the characters.  The plot is unpredictable and exciting.  I’ll be waiting for all the answers to be revealed in April when the final book comes out.

10. We Thought You Would Be Prettier – Laurie Notaro

So, in the first published draft of this post, I totally forgot this book.  I read it during my vacation to Puerto Rico because it was easy, fun, and it was paperback.  It was recommended to me by a friend because this author was like The Bloggess – and it was, in that it was absolutely hysterical.  I suppose I forgot it because of all those rum punches…

11.  Black and Blue – Anna Quindlan

Sigh, here I went again.  I dove back into trauma land and I kind of regretted it.  I had this book for a long time and just never read it.  It’s fiction, and it’s about a woman and her son fleeing a very abusive husband and dad who also happens to be a cop.  This woman basically goes into hiding, gets a new name for herself and her son, and tries to start over.  While you’re reading this, you’re fucking scared the whole time.  You’re just like the main character – at every moment you’re waiting for her husband to turn up.  This book had a sucky ending and it made me sad.  I usually like to keep books I read but I am planning to give this one away.

12.  Tomorrow When the War Began – John Marsden

Since I liked the Gone books so much, I decided to try this other young adult series that came highly recommended by Brian.  This one is written by an Australian teacher and is about a group of teen Aussie friends.  They go camping in the Australian bush and come back to find that their country has been invaded by a foreign country and all their families have been taken hostage.  What I love about these books is that the kids do what they can to fight back as guerrilla warriors rather than just waiting it out.  Also, all the cool Aussie slang is really great.  Did you know that “chooks” means “chickens”?!  Amazing, mate!

13.  The Dead of the Night – John Marsden

14.  A Killing Frost – John Marsden

There are 7 books in this series and I began to lose interest after the 3rd book.  The books had bursts of action, but really dragged when they were dealing with angst and squabbles amongst themselves.  The young adult books that I like are written as if they were written for adults, and these books are written in a way that talks down slightly to teens and seems to trivialize their inner struggles.  My waning interest directly influenced my next book pick.

15.  *Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer

I’ve read the Twilight books before, and I have a love/hate relationship with them.  Eclipse was my favorite book in the series, and I find myself going back to these mindless reads when I feel like I need to escape life for a while and live in the land of vampires, talking wolves, and annoying powerless females.

16.  Darkness Be My Friend – John Marsden

I tried one last time to get through this series, and I decided that this would be my last Tomorrow book.  Sorry, Mr. Marsden.  I gave it a good try…onto bigger and better books for 2013.

My fellow psychos – what was your favorite book you read in 2012?

Nobody Likes a Whiny Baby

I would like to thank the person who found my blog by searching with the following phrase, and I’m not referring to the gollum one (although that one’s intriguing…what exactly is a meme involving gollum?  This must be a new-fangled phenomenon I recently missed.  But I digress):

Image

Clearly you and I see eye to eye.  I hope you found my Hunger Games post to your liking.

You made my day.

Thank you, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Review: Hunger Games left me hungry for more

I am a purist in the sense that, when I see a movie that’s based on a supercool book, I want the movie to be as close to the book as possible.  You hear that, movie makers?!

Now, I can understand that movie makers often need to cut out parts of a book in order to fit the whole thing into a movie or in order to make the movie flow, and I get that.  That’s permissible.  But when the screenwriters go changing the plot of the book and adding scenes that indeed never took place, that’s when I get angry all up in my grill.

That being said, Hunger Games was the closest book-to-movie adaptation I have ever seen (that I can think of here on the couch in my Hunger Games induced hangover).  I chalk this up to the fact that book author Suzanne Collins was both co-screenwriter and executive director.  Overall, it was freaking awesome and I wants me a second helping.

First of all, gotta love me some strong female lead character!!  I love Katniss.  She’s smart, she’s caring, she’s stubborn, and she’s downright kickass!  While I liked the casting choice of Jennifer Lawrence, whose amazing job in Winter’s Bone proved she was pretty close to perfect for this role, I really would have liked to see her more gaunt and lean.  She still has that cute baby fat on her cheeks, as well as curves on her body, and because of that, I had a hard time believing that she actually was hungry.

Not only that, but they didn’t really play up the whole hunger part of the Hunger Games.  Katniss and Peeta were supposed to dig into the food on the train to the capitol and we barely saw them touch their plates.  Also omitted was Katniss’ favorite part of the capitol when asked by Flickerman: lamb stew.

In looks, Peeta was not how I had pictured him.  He was supposed to be one of a few from District 12 who got enough to eat everyday, and so he was supposed to look healthier, bigger, a bit fatter than Katniss and he didn’t.  He was tiny.  And in the words of Liz Lemon, I wanted to look at him and just know that his arms would smell of freshly baked bread…but they were rather moldy.  In addition, I thought that book Peeta was far too whiny, sappy, and clumsy.  He annoyed the hell outta me, especially when all he was was a liability to Katniss.  I wanted Katniss alive and home with her Gale, where she belongs.  So, I was much more satisfied when movie Peeta turned out to be much less whiny, less sappy, and much less of a liability.  A definite improvement over book Peeta.

Let me just say that Elizabeth Banks was amazing.  She melted right into her role as Effie Trinket.  Indeed, she wasn’t even visible behind the caked makeup.  I loved the comic relief banter between her and Haymitch.  The only thing missing was a short scene or comment from her after the games showing how happy she was that she’d now get some recognition for her work.

Haymitch was pretty good, although I would have liked to see him fall off the stage at the reaping.  That would have been too good.  Casting for Flickerman and Snow were right on in my mind.  Very well done.  You just can’t beat Stanley Tucci with blue hair, grinning at the cameras like a hyena.

And Lenny.  You know, when I read your name on imdb, I was very skeptical, to say the least.  Cinna was one of my favorite characters, and I didn’t know if you could pull it off.  But bravo, my friend.  I think you proved me wrong.  All the way down to your beautiful gold eyeliner.

And Gale.  My dear actor person who played Gale in the movie – Since Katniss clearly has other priorities, please consider me as your companion with whom to run away and start a family of miscreant, rebellious wanderers.  Here is a list of some of my post-apocalyptic skills for you to review.  *Call me*

The scene of the reaping.  It was so well done.  It made my heart pound with nervousness, and in that pounding I could feel the hollowness.  From Effie, from the Peacemakers, from the propaganda film, the cruel intent was fake, hollow, thinly veiled.  To see the drab-colored District 12 residents, and that their only mode of resistance was the absence of applause.  Whoa.

They struck an interesting balance with all the child-on-child violence.  I assume that they wanted to keep the movie PG-13 to keep the younger audience (and their money) coming.  I must admit that there is this primal side of me that actually wanted to see all the brutal violence on-screen, just as it was described in the book.  There is also another side of me that is happy the movie was done the way it was, by portraying a good portion of violence in indirect ways.  I appreciated the artsy, frantic yet slow-motion way the first few minutes of the games were portrayed.  Music was all you heard as you watched through shaky, first person point of view camera angles as the bloodbath began.

I wondered how they would convey all the information book Katniss gave to us via her thoughts.  The answer was that we got to see previously behind-the-scenes scenes with President Snow and Seneca Crane, the other gamemakers, and with Caesar Flickerman.  Even though these scenes violated my previously stated standards against adding information to a movie that wasn’t in the book, these were very well done, interesting, and I imagine (hope) they came straight from Collins’ brain as what she had in mind all along.  In the book, all we see is the games from Katniss’ perspective in the arena, and these extra scenes gave the movie more depth without having to do something like give Katniss a running inner monologue so that the audience would know what the hell was going on.

More specifically, it was incredibly moving to get to actually see the rebellion starting in District 11 that begins to set the tone for the rest of the story.  That made the tears flow.

Scared the absolute crap out of me when the mutts arrived.  I wish they would have gone the extra mile to make them look like the dead tributes, though.  Ah, well.

As for the ending – it could have been…punchier.  More dramatic.  I expected more than that.  I liked Snow’s warning comments to Katniss; gotta set the tone of fear and paranoia.  Very nice touch with Crane locked in a room with the berries.  It was just Snow’s style.

I could go on nitpicking the details and giving the account about how much I cried when dear little Rue died…those big brown eyes…sigh.  But I won’t.

All I ask is – what will quell this hunger of mine until the next movie comes out?  I might have to make do with berries and dead squirrels in the meantime.