Everything Else: 2013 in Review

Top row: S & I in the mountains on vacation, our new dining room, gifts my teens at the library gave me. Bottom row: some of my best friends, my amazing writer friends, and S & I announcing the pregnancy.

I suppose it’s no surprise that, aside from getting a book deal, the biggest highlight of 2013 for me was learning S and I were going to be parents. I mean, you can’t top that, can you? I think not. So even with the mood swings and weight gain, the aches and pains, the cravings and exhaustion, I’m still celebrating the little human that’s growing (and kicking) inside me. A friend said that once you’re pregnant you instantly fall in love, despite not knowing anything about your child. Well, she was right.

Highlights:

S and I took a crazy road trip from Orlando; up to Pine Mountain, GA; over to Nashville, TN; through the Blue Ridge Mountains; around to Asheville, NC; down to Charleston, SC; and then back home. We learned to like country music, swooned over waterfalls and mountains, ate a ton, saw friends, and bought a lot of records. (Ok, S bought a lot of records. I bought a book. Surprise!)

I enjoyed my job at the library more and more with each experience. Sure there are moments when patrons make me want to throw things, but those scenarios are quickly trumped by memories of a girl giggling over her first library card, a boy telling me he likes the books I pick out, my regular kid visitors who made me a bracelet because they like me, the grandmas from my book club shrieking over the baby news. One of our high school volunteers designed her own program, and we successfully put it on (and let me tell you, I couldn’t have been more proud). Summer Reading Program was a HUGE success with some events having more than 120 very happy children. My teen club, the nerdfighters, celebrated its one year anniversary, and they surprised me with a party and scrapbook that brought tears to my eyes. If starting the club, and bringing all of them together, was the best thing I ever did as a librarian, I’d be set.

Also…we bought a house! Yeah, S and I are homeowners which feels so adult (oddly more adult than having a kid.) We fix things and paint things and own a rake. It’s awesome, though, having this little house of our own. It’s ours to do as we please with (like paint the kitchen teal, which I might have done) and ours to love. And now, ours to create a little nursery in.

I turned 30. Scary. But kind of great, too.

Other Favorites

Movies: I think I saw a grand total of four movies in the cinema this year. Maybe more. I don’t know. I love watching movies, but I also get restless. And I hate being disappointed. So I don’t really have favorites of the year. I did really love Catching Fire and Frozen though. (The soundtrack of the latter may be on repeat at our home. S definitely does not want to build a snowman anymore.)

TV: During my first trimester, when all I wanted to do was sleep, I decided to check out Awkward because I love teenage melodrama (surprise surprise). I might have finished the first season in a weekend. And then the second. And then the third (as the last few episodes aired). So, yeah, you could say I’m a fan now. S & I together finally jumped on the Friday Night Lights bandwagon and I’m so glad we did (see: teenage melodrama). We might have just purchased the box set. Riggins! As for old favorites, I’m still highly in love with Mad Men and Parks and Recreation.

Plays: We saw Book of Mormon this year, and it was awesome. I love the songs (as awkward and awful as some are), the story, the whole moral. (Yes, there’s a moral!) It’s just a supremely well-done show, and I’m so happy it finally came to…ORLANDO!

Music: Let’s be honest, I haven’t updated my iPod since college. Aside from radio hits, the only *new* CD I checked out (aside from the aforementioned Frozen soundtrack and other various Broadway musicals) was Rkives by Rilo Kiley. A compilation of previously unreleased b-sides from a band I loved…in college. So I guess my music taste hasn’t changed much. But, man, that CD was great.

And, I suppose, that is it. There were downs, too, but I’d prefer to reflect on the ups, on the ways the year will be remembered. 2013 was great, and I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.

And to you all, thank you so much for reading my blog, and going through these journeys with me. Your comments and likes make me smile. If I could hug you all, I would.

And so, until next year. Thanks for reading!

xo, Lauren

RTW: Anything For Love

This week’s question: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for love, or what’s your favorite book/movie moment of someone doing crazy things for love? 

As it turns out, I’m not a very crazy romantic person. Ask my husband. I think the most romantic this I did last year was surprise him with FIFA 2012. (In my defense, it was a Big Deal, – he is British and all – and i’m pretty sure he’s more in love with the game than me.)

He’s way sweeter.

So let’s go with my favorite movie moment. It’s not so much a moment, but a culmination of events. I love the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I love how Joel goes from wanting his memories erased, to wanting to keep them forever. I love that, for love, he mentally fights a mental procedure. How great is that?

But mostly, I love the ending. Because Joel and Clementine have seen what happens when they date. It doesn’t go well. They try to erase one another.

And yet. They try again.

Perks Moment

I feel like everyone has their own Perks of Being a Wallflower moment. The moment they discovered the book and felt like it was written entirely for them. Well, with the release of the movie’s trailer, I was reminded of mine –

It was the summer of 2002 and I was working at Borders. I remember shelving the small books and being instantly intrigued by the minimal yellow cover. It was so cute. And the title was very…me. I had always felt like a wallflower. So I bought it and brought it home and read it.

And read it again. And again. And again.

It was the summer after my freshman year of college and while I was four years older than the protagonist, I knew how he felt. It was just so real. So I started reading it every year.

Now, there are two types of book owners I’ve realized: a) those who believe books are a work of art and prefer to keep them as pristine as possible and b) those who believe the more worn a book looks, the more loved it is. I subscribe to the second belief. My books are very loved.

So while reading, I started underlining my favorite sentences, passages, so I could easily go back to them. When I got back to college (I was home in Orlando during the summer; my school was in Tallahassee), I handed the book off to my good friends, instructing them to read it and underline their favorite passages. To me, the book felt like a letter I had to share, one that everyone made their own. I loved seeing the different underlined passages because while we all loved the I felt infinite moment, we each had different parts that spoke to us just as well. (My favorite line is the one underlined above. It’s simple, and perfect.)

In the process of handing it off so often, my copy started to wear down. Pages were lose, ripped. And then, one day, a friend spilled an oil candle on it. At first, I was upset; my book was ruined, gone, dead. But then, when the pages dried, I saw that there wasn’t any harm, really, and the only permanent damage was that it kind of smelled like cinnamon apple.

And I was okay with that.

Because every time I went into a Cracker Barrel I thought of Perks. Every time I went into one of those country, good-time shops, I thought of Perks. And I smiled.

Years later I taught high school english. On my first day, as a very scared 22 year old, I passed around surveys to my students to learn a bit more about them. Who was an athlete, who was a drama kid. The last question asked them what their favorite book was.

One student said Perks.

It wasn’t a Bill and Charlie moment; we didn’t become best friends or anything like that, but I was so happy to see that the book transcended generations. That the same book that spoke to me so many years prior still applied to teenagers today.

Which was when I realized that I could relate to these students. While I didn’t have a cell phone at their age, I did understand what it was like to be a wallflower.

And I think that’s the most important part of the book. It makes you feel understood, and connected to a larger group of people you might not have known otherwise. Good books can do that.

And this one certainly did.

Have you read The Perks of Being a Wallflower? What’s your story? What’s your favorite line? 

Why I Dislike Film Festivals*

*Not all of them, just the ones in Florida

Last week, the Florida Film Festival opened here in Orlando. With our press badges in hand, S and attended a Saturday night showing of Norman, a film about a high school student who can’t fit in, and spawns a rumor that everyone believes. It looked funny. I like high school movies, so we went.

And I hated it. I’m not joking when I say I left the theatre angry. Here’s why: it wasn’t funny or enjoyable, it was extremely depressing. Did the review say his mother died in a horrible car accident, and thus he decides to repeatedly try to commit suicide? Does the synopsis mention that his father is also dying of stomach cancer, which prompts Norman to tell the school he, himself, has cancer? No. (And from someone who has a parent with cancer, never should you ever lie about having cancer.)

Okay, but that happens often. Misrepresentation and all. But here’s the thing – every film I’ve ever seen at the film festival has been devastatingly depressing. I’ve been going to the film every year for quite some time, and it’s always the case. Even one claiming to be family friendly this year (Snowmen) dealt with cancer and death. It’s like to be in the film festival, a movie must be sad.

Which got me thinking – is that true? I reviewed some other film festivals happening throughout the state (there are quite a few) and noticed the same trend – many sorrowful, serious films. No comedies, no romances.

Now, I understand a film like, say, Knocked Up, will never be an award winner, but it is entertaining. (Okay, bad example, but you get the point). If a movie is happy in any way, can it not play at a festival? Can it not be taken seriously?

Don’t get me wrong – I love a serious movie as much as the next person, but I’m not always in the mood for one. Film festivals aren’t just full of competing for prizes films. Why not open it up for a more eclectic collection? Or would bringing a comedy decrease the value of the festival, and make it be thought of as trivial?

To be considered good, does a movie have to be sad?