Monday, May 30, 2011

The Books of Childhood (Book Nerds Unite)

I remember the first time I read by myself. I don't recall the name of the book but hazy illustrations have remained in my mind. I was around 4 years old, sitting in my bedroom at my parents' first house. That realization that the letters meant something, that I could understand how they composed a story.  That moment changed everything.

I have many fond memories of the books that raised me. Mom reading to my brother and I. Classrooms full of books to read and borrow. Our local library, a frequent haunt of mine, which won awards.

I still see myself sitting on my favorite part of the couch, feet propped on the coffee table, reading for hours and hours. My parents used to tell me to go outside, get some fresh air, and so I'd drag my book with me, setting up camp on a swing or the random inner tube we had. It's not that I didn't like playing and running outside- I did. But it was hard to remove myself from a story once begun.

There are so many books that I've forgotten about.  Many contenders from Battle of the Books, like The Witch of Blackbird Pond, that I know I loved but can't remember why or what the plot was about. Books enjoyed at the time that now make me cringe or reflect my reading tastes back then. These listed below still endure. I may or may not have reread them in recent years.  A well-loved book might be better than comfort food at times.

Chances are you will tell me about your favorite childhood books and I will smack myself on the forehead.  Of course!  How could I forget? That is what I have appreciated about this book series, not just sharing the books near and dear to my heart but hearing about the ones you've loved best.  Adding to my To Read list but also remembering the ones I'd forgotten. Thank you for that.

Favorite Childhood Books:
Black Beauty- Anna Sewell  I went through a horse book phase. I couldn't read enough books about horses but this one always stood out against the rest.  It's funny that I loved these books because I never had a desire to go riding myself. Apparently I just liked reading about other people that did.

Bridge To Terabithia- Katherine Peterson  Secret imaginary kingdom plus boy and girl friendship and then a horrible twist. Did anyone read this and not cry?

The Face on the Milk Carton- Caroline B. Cooney Remember those milk cartons with the pictures of missing children?  Yep, there's the inspiration. A girl discovers the people she thought were her parents actually kidnapped her and she has a "real" family.  Bonus points if you remember that Kellie Martin starred in the TV movie. Cooney's books were great, though I tended to stay away from her "scary" titles.  The Girl Who Invented Romance was another fave, simply because the name "Leigh" is mentioned.

Frog and Toad are Friends- Arnold Lobel  I mean, it's just so sweet and endearing!

The Giving Tree- Shel Silverstein The tree who loved her boy. It totally could have been creepy, yet it wasn't.  Where the Sidewalk Ends was always good for a laugh.

Hinds Feet on High Places-Hannah Hurnard Mom read this allegory of the Christian life to my brother and me, as well as its sequel. Better than Pilgrim's Progress from my recollection of the two.

James and the Giant Peach- Roald Dahl I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Dahl. Such interesting stories he spun for us. James the orphan who befriends insects living inside a giant peach. It's a strange premise yet it works perfectly.  The BFG was another favorite.

Little Women- Louisa May Alcott I always thought of myself as a combination of the strongminded Jo and artistic Amy. I can still remember taking it off the shelf in my 4th grade classroom, unaware of the four sisters its pages held yet ready to dive into their world.

Little House on the Prairie- Laura Ingalls Wilder My friend Ruth and I used to play LHOTP in her backyard. We were all about the pioneer life!  I first read this in 2nd grade and loved not just the story, but also knowing it was based on a true story.

Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock-Carolyn Keene I should have mentioned Nancy in my series list but she's so solidly connected to my childhood that it seemed more appropriate here. There was something about the plucky teen sleuth that was relatable. I envied her convertible and boyfriend Ned. Wherever Nancy's books went, I inevitably followed.  I can still picture where the books were kept in the library and the time I found an original copy at a resale shop. Those Case Files were the best but it all started with the Secret of the Old Clock.

Old Yeller- Fred Gipson I can barely think of this without crying. Saddest dog story ever.

Ramona Quimby, age 8- Beverly Cleary Ramona's adventures were enjoyable tales. Who couldn't relate?

Seventeen Against the Dealer- Cynthia Voigt The final book about the Tillerman family was my favorite. Dicey's struggle to make her way ends up leading her away from her loved ones. The lessons she learns are lessons we must all learn.

Summer of My German Soldier - Bette Greene Maybe this is where my interest in World War II began? A young Jewish girl strikes up a friendship with with a Nazi POW leading to repercussions for herself and her town.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit- Beatrix Potter Oh that Peter Rabbit! The illustrations bring the story to life. The movie based on Beatrix's life is worth watching just to see how she found inspiration.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn- Betty Smith My all time favorite book when I was in middle school, this coming of age tale of a girl observing her family and trying to make her way in spite of her surroundings still resonates with me today.

The Westing Game- Ellen Raskin Such a great mystery! I never saw the ending coming. Did you?

Winnie the Pooh- A. A. Milne Silly, willy, nilly old bear. Winnie the Pooh and company still hold my attention. Lovely stories, lovely lessons on what friendship really means.

A Wrinkle in Time- Madeline L'Engle Love, love, love this story of the Murray children's adventure! I read the continuing stories but there's just something about this one that I cling to. Maybe remembering the awe I felt for the world the Murrays encountered, the grave responsibility they held, and my all-consuming wish to be more like Meg.  Oh, and did you know I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. L'Engle herself?

Stay tuned for more reasons why Leigh Likes Books:

Agree? Disagree? What are your favorite childhood books?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, any purchase you make supports this site.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Sentiments: Church Rut

Sunday Sentiments is an attempt to record what God has been teaching me and the way in which He does it.

I tweeted this morning: "God and I are cool but I'm definitely in a 'not going to church' rut." 

I went to bed last night fully intending that I would go.  I tossed and turned, restless sleep. And when it was almost 7, I knew with assurance that I did not want to, nor could I go.

I love the worship and sermons at my church but I have not found true fellowship there yet. No one knows if I miss. I have no husband or kids motivating me out the door.

Sometimes I'll go Saturday night because I do enjoy having lazy Sunday mornings to read the newspaper and drink my Irish Breakfast tea. And sometimes I just wish that I had someone to sit with, so I'll attempt to go to the 8 am service when I can sit with my best friend and her family.

I was at a different church a few weeks ago while out of town and found myself distracted. The worship time was a show, the sermon difficult to follow and surface level only. It reminded me of my uneasy truce with church attendance.  It's not that we should go to church because of what we get out of it, though certainly there should be some sort of challenge and growth as a result. But we also shouldn't go out of a legalistic sense of duty.

It seems like for every 3 or 4 weeks that I attend church, there's a couple of weeks of absence. I wonder sometimes if I don't go to church because I can choose not to go.  I didn't go last week or this weekend but  I'll be back next week because this has been my trend the last few years.

Apparently I'm not the only one that feels this way. As I told a friend, I'm not sure why it happens, if it's me or if it's church itself or The Church. 

Is it a bad trend?  I'm not sure.  As my friend MK reminded me, maybe God is telling me to simply be still before Him and to listen.

Communion with God occurs in unexpected places. Today I am going to be still and I am going to listen.   

How do you feel about church attendance? Have you ever fallen into a rut?  And if not, what's your favorite flavor of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream? 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Awkwardness in Aisle Eleven and a New Writing Opportunity

About a month ago, I learned about a new site The Well Written Woman from my blog friend Alise.  When I told Alise that it sounded interesting, she advised me to send them a pitch.  At first, I balked. Who, me? Then I gathered courage and did just that.  Marvel of marvels, I am now one of their regular contributors!  Once a month I'll represent single ladies or talk about grief, loss, and end of life issues.  My first piece for Well Written Woman is up today.
They say that grocery stores are a good place to meet Mr. Right. Ah, the all-knowing, all-wise They.  I've read numerous articles in which single women are encouraged to strike up conversations with said cute guy about how ripe the melons are or which vegetable is their favorite.

I always roll my eyes when I read this. First, the suggested conversation starters end up sounding so, oh, I don't know, dirty. Let me get this straight.  You want me to go up to some random guy and ask him how ripe a melon is? And you think he's going to take that question- and me- seriously? Double entendres don't appear to be the best way to meet my future husband...
Click here to read about my flirting trials and tribulations at the grocery store. Spoiler alert: it doesn't go well. And, if you wouldn't mind, leave a comment on the site so that Cam and Lauren know they made a good decision in having me come aboard!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

#30: Go to Arrington Vineyards

It seemed appropriate to celebrate my first year in Nashville by also crossing off another item from my 32 Things.

I'd heard much about Arrington Vineyards.   It's hard to pass up on opportunity to spend time on beautiful land, complimented by a free wine tasting.  It was rather last minute but luckily I have spontaneous friends!
There was a bit of a wait before we could have our tasting so we bought a bottle of red and headed out to sit by the picnic tables.  We'd just about settled when it began to rain.  And then pour.

We huddled under an awning, befriending people around us and continuing to sip our wine until the storm cleared. One man may have detected that he was surrounded by Midwestern gals, plus Elizabeth, our token Southerner.  I can't win with my accent these days!  I sound "too Chicago" for the South but whenever I go home, everyone makes fun of my newfound drawl.  I'm a MidSouthern hybrid.

 With Elizabeth and Rachel

 Janell and Casi

Finally our tasting began. Arrington offers about a 1 oz. sample of 4 wines. The steward was cute and generous, offering an extra wine to sample.  I loved the wines I tried but it's the smallest tasting I've ever had.  But free is free and I shall not complain!

 Something about holding a wine glass makes me feel more cultured and intelligent. Or at least look the part.

Casi, Janell, Elizabeth, me, Shannon, and Rachel having fun

After the tasting, Elizabeth, Tracy, and I headed over to Shannon's family farm for an amazing dinner spread.  I love spending time on farms, mostly because if reminds me of my grandparents' farm. Open land, crops, various animals. I'm very much a suburban girl but the country speaks to me of comfort and refreshment.

 Tracy, resident best friend and woman extraordinaire

Shannon and Elizabeth: my "favorite" coworkers
I ate to my heart's content, as we laughed and talked the night away.

It was relaxing to spend time at the vineyard. But the best part of this day? Looking at my friends and realizing how blessed I am. While I've known Tracy half my life and knew Casi from back home, the rest of these friendships have grown over the past year. These ladies are keepers.

Do you prefer red or white? Do you have a vineyard or winery near you?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Best Book Series (Book Nerds Unite)

Which is better? Discovering a new author, by which you can tear through their backlist or discovering a new series and tearing through without having to wait for each. successive. book. to. come. out?

Both options are pretty grand but there's something about the instant gratification of a newly found series that gets me every time.  Mind that my favorite series listed below were sometimes discovered after the final book was written and sometimes after the first one or two. There's something to be said about the agony of waiting for each installment, talking about it with other friends and book lovers. It's like a secret club.

#BookNerdsUnite continues with my picks for Best Book Series:

Anne of Green Gables- L.M. Montgomery Who doesn't root for the red haired orphan as she wins over the Cuthberts and, even better, Gilbert Blythe? Oh for some raspberry cordial!  I loved all the books but the movies are especially sigh-worthy.  Did anyone else watch them as much as me? 

The Boxcar Children- Gertrude Chandler Warner This series was so special to me growing up. The idea of siblings that were so close, who banded together and did what they could to survive. And then it has a happy ending! Great to read to kids.

The Chronicles of Narnia- C.S. Lewis I just love Aslan.  It's hard to pick a favorite from the series, though Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe stands out, as does The Last Battle.  Lewis paints such amazing tales. Good to read when I was a child and even better as a grown up.

Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen- Robin Jones Gunn I started reading Christy's books when we were around the same age and then continued on with Sierra's stories.  Great teen Christian characters that I could relate to.  I read a few of them for kicks a couple of years ago and I still liked them!

Harry Potter- J.K. Rowling I did my best to resist reading these books despite mulitple recommendations- I knew I would get sucked in. And I did. I caught up just as the final book was released. Rowling powerfully wrapped up the series. And yes, it did make me cry.

The Hunger Games trilogy- Suzanne Collins Another series I was sure I wouldn't be interested in. It sounded too sci-fi and gruesome.  At a friend's insistence, I borrowed the first book while I was at a conference. I was so captivated by Katniss's plight that I would sneak a few pages at every session break. I was obsessed!  Totally Team Peeta, for those that are interested.

Outlander Series- Diana Gabaldon: A friend lent me the first book in this series for my birthday. Definitely a gift that kept giving. The tale of time-traveling World War II era Claire and 1740s Scot Jamie is obsession-worthy. The books are very saucy at times and Gabaldon does not spare her reader from the blood and guts associated with battle wounds and disease. She does an impressive amount of research for each book (generally 600-900 pages long apiece); Gabaldon takes us from the Scottish Uprising of 1745 through Revolutionary War America. After book 3 I started pacing myself because I wasn't ready for the series to be over. Seven books have been released but now Outlander fans must wait another couple of years before Jamie and Claire's story will continue.

Twilight- Stephenie Meyer I read all 4 books in a week and a half.  I never thought I'd like a book about vampires but it truly is so much more than that. I could identify with some of Bella's hopes and fears and fell in love with Edward along the way. Let me be clear: my imagination is SO much better than anything those movies have come up with. The Edward in my mind is way hotter too.

Zion Covenant and Zion Chronicles series- Brock and Bodie Thoene Compelling fiction placed during WWII and its aftermath. I love this time period and the Thoenes give expert attention to historical detail.

Stay tuned for more reasons why Leigh Likes Books:

Agree? Disagree? What are your favorite series?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, any purchase you make supports this site.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I was a Senior Hottie (Class of 1998)

My friend Liz at A Belle, a Bean, and a Chicago Dog is hosting an "I Was a Senior Hottie" link up from May 25-30. I can't pass up the opportunity to post potentially embarrassing pictures of myself and my friends. Of course, I'm joining in, albeit a day early.

You can too!  Just post a picture from homecoming, prom, graduation, or whatever part of senior year you feel like sharing.

My style changed throughout high school.  Freshman year was my grunge phase, thanks to Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Then I morphed back into hippie by sophomore year. The rest of high school was a blend of hippie, preppy, and T-shirts and jeans.

It was hard to select the best pictures so I'm giving y'all a sampling today.  Here I am, in all my Class of 1998 glory.  Interesting fact: I am 17 or 18 in all of these pictures and do not look it. I am 31 now and still don't look my age!

 I look so wise and mysterious in my senior portrait. The photographer never told me to smile! He just took the serious yearbook pictures and then we were done. I remember Tracy and I went with our moms for make-up tips at the Clinique counter a few days before. I was never a big make-up person in high school, though I wanted to wear it so badly in junior high!

 I loved Big Sweaters! They made me feel even smaller than I already was.  I'm still a sweater fan but I try not to keep them as voluminous.

 Hanging with my friends. I believe this is the night we first watched Dawson's Creek. I am so Team Pacey!  Here we have a nice representation of 1990s style: overalls, big sweaters, oversized T-shirts.

Posing with my first car, a 1987 Chevy I bought for $500. It was a good A to B car. Note my jean shorts and casual blue sleeveless shirt, complimented by my sandals. I was all about casual this day.

I LOVED my prom dress! Senior prom was the second high school dance I went to and this dress made it seem magical.  I loved the sequins on the top, the flowing material on the bottom. I finally donated it to Cinderella's Closet last year. Parting was such sweet sorrow.

Prom pictures with my best friends. Everyone wore long, formal dresses to prom. Unless you were a skank but I really don't remember anyone in a short dress.  Annie's (in the white) dress was actually a wedding dress, making her the biggest spender of all of us.
Graduation day with Annie.  We were all about the gold and blue.  Go Falcons!

What was your high school fashion like?