Happy Birthday, Neil Diamond.

I know that I had heard Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline before the time I’m going to tell you about. But —

The time I remember vividly was in Wilmington.

I was a senior in college and I had gone on a spring break trip to the beach with my best girl friend. Wilmington was only half of our spring break — the second half of the trip was at the end of the week.  To Chicago. Looking back, that was quite a lot of miles for seven days.

We went to Wilmington to visit my friend’s brother. Older brother. You know how these stories go. What I remember was driving the 350 miles straight to the chain pizza restaurant where Jesse worked. He served us draft Blue Moons with orange slices; a taste brand new to my recently-turned-21 lips. We had a few of these beers and they went down cold and easy.

After Jesse got off work, his sister and I followed him back to his sparse apartment. You know how these apartments are. One floor lamp, a camping chair, a coffee table with a few empty coffee cups, one pint glass half full of water. Or old vodka.  There was a huge tv, an upholstered couch that was an indeterminate shade of grayish tan, and a broken vinyl mini blind that let streaks of light shine in from the street.

From the kitchen came the greenish glow of the refrigerator door opening as Jesse handed us cans of beer. I don’t remember what kind of beers they were but the room was full of grown-up energy.  It was the first time I had drunk beers in an apartment with a man. Never mind that I was there with his sister. You know how it feels to be in a room like that.

We sat around the living room and drank those beers and talked about school and jobs and relationships.  While my friend sat on the couch with her brother, I sat in the camping chair.  I hadn’t yet learned the art of strategic seating arrangements.  You remember how that was. We got tipsy and giggly and Jesse turned on the tv. His tv had an antenna (a real antenna because this was in 2004) and there were only a few tv stations that would come in clear.

Jesse flipped through static and landed on an annual fund drive of a PBS channel.  After the please-send-us-your-money spiel, the programming returned to a pre-taped live Neil Diamond concert. We had had just enough beers to shout with delight and dissolve into laughter at this revelation.

The concert crowd went wild with the opening bars of Sweet Caroline.  They screamed WHOA-WHOA-WHOA at all the places they were supposed to and the 3 of us sang right along with them. Neil shouted out, “We’re coming to the very last chorus now and need all of your voices to join with me! ARE YOU GOING TO DO IT OR WHAT!!!  I looked at Jesse and he looked at me.  The crowd went crazy and so did we. In unison the 3 of us belted out the last verse and fell into a heap on the floor laughing so hard that my sides hurt.

Neil then told us how wonderful we were but asked why we were all still standing… He licked his lips and said, “Surely you’re not expecting us to do the song again?” The crowd roared — completely lost their collective minds. AND THEN HE SANG SWEET CAROLINE AGAIN. And so did we.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CLICK HERE AND WATCH IT.

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After the epic Neil Diamond concert my best friend slept on the floor.  I spent the night on the couch.  You know how these stories go.

The only other thing that I remember about the first leg of that spring break trip was using Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap for the very first time. If you’ve never used this soap you absolutely should.  The tingling that happens to the sensitive parts of your body is memorable; especially after a long night of drinking and singing Neil Diamond songs.

Years later, I caught a few episodes of the tv show Glee with my cousin.  I had previously eye-rolled through the show until that hunky jock/bad boy Puck stood up in class and said, “I’ve been working on something…” (to be honest I listened when this character said anything) “…a personal tribute to a musical Jewish icon.” And just like the bitchy Gleek did as soon as she heard those first bars, I sat up straight, too. And felt a tingle all over again.

NOW PLEASE CLICK THIS SO YOU CAN TINGLE, TOO.

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Because of all of this, today I say:

Happy Birthday, Neil Diamond.

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Are we on MySpace? (a survey thing)

Do YOU remember the beginning of social media?
Oh MySpace, you were a hilarious and perfect place for life back then.

Here are some picture from my life back then. Unfortunately, I don’t have the originals–(these were pulled from my FB account) so I can’t make them any bigger. Regardless, you can see proof of my first crew of foster kittens, my silly and persistent love of watches (and 80085), and that gothy-emo comb over that was everything in 2007.

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My darling librarian pal Wendy tagged me in this on Facebook and oh lawdy it reminds me of those early social media days. Isn’t it funny how these things were SO POPULAR in the MySpace era? People loved over-sharing, especially in the form of quizzes like this.

You may remember Wendy from this Tiny Tuesday a while back that featured TINY and perfect lavender book earrings. That’s really the tip of the iceberg with her though–she is such a strange and wonderful artist, vegan, animal rescue whisperer, epic road tripper, letter writer and all around fun AF. Anyhoo, Wendy is a helluva pal and I will surely do this thing she tagged me in. {Follow her on current social media where you can try to discern which name is her pseudonym: here}

 

Let’s play!
Four jobs I’ve had:
1. Social Studies teacher
2. {non-degreed but still totally a} librarian
3. farm hand
4. house cleaner

Four things I like to do:
1. read/research
2. knit things
3. work in the vegetable garden
4. bloggy stuff

Four things I enjoy watching on TV/Netflix:
1. Longmire
2. Hell on Wheels
3. Stranger Things
4. Poirot

Four places I’ve visited: (EDIT-this year)
1. Lafayette, LA
2. New Orleans, LA
3. Daytona, FL
4. Bryson City, NC

Four things I love to eat:
1. my mom’s chex party mix
2. cheese
3. Pita Wheel
4. pickled things

Four places I’ve lived:
1. Knoxville, TV
2. Columbia, MO
3. Griffin, GA
4. Lincolnton, NC

Four currently living people I’d like to meet:
1. Jimmy DiResta
2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
3. Grav3yardGirl
4. PATTI SMITH, duh.

Four favorite beverages:
1. seltzer
2. Coffee
3. grapefruit juice
4. whiskey

Four people most likely to also post this: (comment on this!)
1. Modmom
2. TG
3. Jessie
4. I dunno, I hope YOU will!

2018 “To-Do List”!

HELLO there, pals!!!!
Welcome to the annual To-Do List for 2018!
These are some things I would like to accomplish this year.MVIMG_20180107_135710.jpg

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(Please excuse the pet hairs you can see on the floor–
I just vacuumed yesterday but y’all know how it is when you have fur-babies.)

Speaking of FUR BABES, check out this photobomb by Patti Smith!

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1. WRITE MORE LETTERS. I used to write letters. A LOT of letters. In fact, I suppose the precursor to this blog was my zine, which was called “Letters I will never send to you.” I still get an occasional letter in the mail (HI LESLIE!!!! ❤ ) but nothing like I used to get…when I wrote letters frequently. This year I am going to write more mail and hopefully I will get some in return. I make even resurrect the old “Post cards from pals” photo album series.

2. DRINK MORE WATER. I feel like if there is one thing I can do to really help take care of my body it is to drink more water. I’m not going to promise it will be 8 glasses a day (I’m a TEACHER for crisssakes, I ain’t got time for that) but will drink more than I have been.

3. VISIT MY SISTER (and other folks). For those of you who know me on social media you might have seen my post a few weeks back about getting to see my sister. IT WAS SO AWESOME. The long and short of it is that we hadn’t seen each other in a reaaaaaaally long time — I don’t want that to happen again, so I’m putting it on my To-Do List to ensure success! She lives pretty far away so it’ll take a bit of doing but it is possible! I also want to do better about visiting folks closer by. I have a bunch of friends and family that live one county over from me…and I never see them. I want to change that.

4. CONTINUE GENEALOGY. I haven’t done much research on my family tree since I left my job as a librarian. I have several friends who are just getting started on their family trees and it has reminded me how much fun it is!

5. TRY SOME FICTION. When I was a teenager one of my dream jobs was to be a writer. Specifically a novelist OR a food writer for a big time newspaper. While I have written quite a bit in my adult life, I have not written much fiction. There are a handful of characters and story lines that have been knocking around in my head for years. I’d like to try to get them out of there and on to paper.

6. CONTINUE DOOM SHARK PURGE AND REFURBISH. I did a pretty dang good job of getting the Doom Shack set up last summer BUT I want to do another purge and really get things settled in. Once that happens I can really use the space as the studio it is meant to be! I can’t wait to film in there for my youtube channel (CLICK HERE!) AND have Doll Club over to play!

7. AMTRAK ADVENTURE WITH MR. SMITH. We FINALLY got to take a trip on the Smokey Mountain Railroad (here is the video!) this summer and it was so so so fun. I also got to take the Amtrak to New Orleans which was also really dang fun. I REALLY want to go on a long train trip with Mr. Smith — I dunno where I want to go, but I really hope we can get away over the summer on a truly epic train adventure TOGETHER.

8. GARDEN UPGRADE 2018. I’m actually going to so a whole other post about gardening stuff, ideas, goals, etc. so you’ll have to stay tuned for that!

9. MONTHLY DONATIONS OF STUFF/TIME/$$$. I have a lot of stuff I still want to go through and purge from the house (clothes, craft supplies, knick knacks, etc x 1000) and I’d like to make a monthly thing of it. Every month I want to take a load of stuff to my local 2nd hand shop. I want to do more than that though — while I don’t have a HUGE amount of $ I can easily donate, I do have some TIME. I  just need to figure out how to incorporate that into a regular thing.  I’m also making a goal to donate the money to my local shelter to have 3 animals spayed/neutered. I’d like to increase that donation as the years go along. AND FOSTER KITTENS!!!! I reaaaaally want to foster kittens.

10. THE CHECK INS. I want to keep y’all posted! I want to keep myself accountable! I want to challenge myself again in 6 months! So stay tuned!

What things are on your To-Do list this year?

Remember, don’t get overwhelmed by your to-do list. Look at me posting about it on January the NINTH!!!! We are NINE days in to the new year and it is still okay to make a list!!! I would recommend keeping the list to 10 or fewer things. Big lists can get a little overwhelming. I promise that by having a list it WILL help you do more, think more, and be MORE INSPIRED to get stuff done.

Be sure to check out my progress from previous years by reading these old posts:

CLICK —–>2017 To-Do List Re-visited!

CLICK—–>2017 “To-Do” List

CLICK—–>2017 “To-Do” List, Annotated Edition

CLICK—–>2016 “To-Do” List
(This one explains why I call is a “To-Do List” and not resolutions)

2017 To-Do List: Final Assessment!

So, how did I do with last year’s To-Do List?

Click HERE to read my mid year update!

I only have a few things to add to what I told you back in July.

I re-challenged myself mid-year on my book list. In 2016 I only read 29 books (which may seem like a lot to some, but for an avid reader it was a personal low) so I set a goal of 50 for 2017. By July I was already really close to achieving that number so I bumped it up to 75 books. Y’all. I read 74 books XD XD XD I WAS SO CLOSE! I definitely want to keep up this pace. Maybe this year will be the year I reach 100?!

I set a goal to help animals in need. By July I was feeling like I hadn’t really done what I set out to do. I really wanted to foster kittens, which I still want to do, but didn’t get to do in 2017. What I did end up doing was maybe even bigger than that.

Mr. Smith and I adopted another dog.

Pepper really deserves his very own post with more about his story so I’ll just leave you with some pictures as a teaser!

MEET PEPPER!

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I especially include this part about him because it’s a good example of how setting goals can sometimes turn into experiences you didn’t have in mind at the outset.

There are some things from 2017 that I think I did really well! I think I blew the garden out of the park! I am so proud of all the successes AND failures I had with it. I have SO many ideas and goals for the garden in 2018. I think I did a really good job getting the Doom Shack in order. There’s more work to do, but overall I feel like I accomplished my goal! Also we did a switcheroo on extra rooms of the house and I got a room that is ready for fostering kittens THIS YEAR. Part of my old goal might come to fruition after all. I kinda dropped the quilting ball. For whatever reason I just wasn’t feeling it this year. But guess what? IT’S OKAY! Resolutions and goals and To-Do Lists are not carved in stone. Even when they’re written in pen, you can scratch them out or put an asterisk on them.

All you have TO DO is MAKE a To-Do.

I think you’ll be amazed by how much more you DO!

Here’s to YOU and an awesome 2018.

What did you read in 2017?

Here it is!!!

The annual list you’ve been waiting for!

It’s my annual “all the books I read this year” post!!!

Here are a few book stacks from the past year:

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NOTE:
Remember that I only keep track of the
“chapter books” that I read,
not cookbooks and craft books, etc.

Here are the lists of books I read in 2017!

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THAT’S A GRAND TOTAL OF 74 BOOKS!!*
*see upcoming “To-Do List” post for more on that number

!!!!Beware of mild spoilers!!!!

STAND OUT BOOKS OF 2017:

Wool by Hugh Howey (graphic novel is also great, but I would recommend reading it after the full novel because I am a purist). Last Christmas I actually bought a copy of this book as a gift for a teenager friend of mine after reading a review of it from Ernest Cline (author of Ready Player One …unfortunately see this year’s TOTAL DUDS for more on that author). I LOVED LOVED LOVED and could not put this book down! It is part of a trilogy buuuuuuut I just couldn’t get in to the 2nd book. I guess I need to give it another try before I totally give up on the series. Wool is definitely a post-apocalyptic novel but has some twists that I haven’t seen before in the genre. If you’re in to that sort of sci-fi then you should definitely give it a try. Let me know if you get through the 2nd book and whether or not I should try again.

Gumbo Tales by Sara RoahenSee New Orleans, Part 1. for the full scoop on this book. I have told soooooo many people about this author and you should 100% pick up a copy of this book to keep if you have any ties to the New Orleans area. It will become your travel Bible. I’m not going to re-hash why it is so delightful; you can go read the blogpost for a full review AND you might as well read about my summer adventures in New Orleans while you are at it.

The Walking Dead graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman & illustrators. I have been a huge fan of this TV show since its first season and I didn’t even realize there were books until I had watched at least season 3. This is one of those truly strange situations where I am okay with the fact that the books and the TV show are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. If you’re a fan (books or show) you’ll probably know this already but it still blows my mind that Daryl is not even a character in the books!!! If you like the show, you should read the books–just be prepared that your favorite characters are going to have different lives. I have managed to dole these volumes out to myself in 4 book increments so I don’t binge the whole thing in one weekend, a feat I am rather proud of. That said, I feel a little funny about my rather high number of books read this year since TWENTY of them are from this series and it only takes me about an hour to read each one!

TOTAL DUDS OF 2017:

Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe. Y’all. It is okay if you love this book. It is okay if you do not love this book. It is also okay if you do not even want to read this book. I decided it was something I wanted to tackle and if you are friends with me on social media you will surely have read my tirades during the time I read it. Since I have grown up with Asheville as part of my life, and since the book is basically set there I wanted to see what all the fuss was about (because there is plenty of fuss!!). With the exception of the VERY RANDOM long winded food descriptions, I was totally bored with this tome. I should mention I tried to read the book with my eyes many years ago with no luck. This time around I listened to it on audio-book. I can at least say that I have done it, masochist or not.

From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. Let me quote myself from last year’s book post: “I guess maybe the moral of this story is to be careful rereading childhood favorites.” Shew. This was a book I LOVED as a child but was HORRIFIED by as an adult!!! SYNOPSIS: These 2 kids run away from home, live off weird food bought with change that was picked out of a fountain, wash their underwear in said fountain, end up at the home of this crazy Mrs. Frankweiler who KNOW THE CHILDREN ARE MISSING but she proceeds prompt and to listen to their adventure story before calling to alert the parents that THEIR MISSING CHILDREN are safe! I wanted to kick her in the shins. And the shins of the guards of the museum. None of it would have been possible in this post 9-11 world. SO I TELL YOU AGAIN: be careful rereading childhood favorites!!!

Armada by Ernest Cline. I was sooooo disappointed in this book. Looking back, I am surprised that Ready Player One did not make my top books of the year last year–I really enjoyed it. I was super excited to get Cline’s follow up book and I absolutely could not finish it. Not finishing a book is pretty rare for me. If I make it past the first 25 pages, I am most likely going to slug through the whole thing. After three discs of this audio-book I gave up. Here are my thoughts: maybe I didn’t like it because I’m not a gamer. There was a LOT of gamer stuff in this book — I was really pulled in to the family & friends plot line but lost at the gamers parts. I must give a caveat though–RPO was also full of gamer stuff and it worked for me in a way that this book did not. Also, the plot seemed obvious, contrived, and hokey from the get go. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the main character’s father probably wasn’t dead after all. Have you read it? Am I right? I know I’m right. I told you so.

What did you read this year?

What was good? What was worth cautioning against?

Here’s to 2018 being full of wonderful literary delights…and trashy stuff, too!

BE SURE TO CLICK here for 2016 AND here for 2015  FOR PAST READING LISTS!