Jul 16

Reading Memories: Crying About Dr. Seuss and Frodo

reading memories

This summer, I’ve been working with the Institute of Reading Development, and it’s been a lot of fun and also the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve worked double shifts as a server and bartender. I’ve worked with impossible ghostwriting clients. I’ve worked at the job from hell. But nothing compares to the exhaustion I have felt after teaching 4 reading classes on a Sunday.

When I’m done, my brain is tired and almost incapable of thought. My body hurts from standing for about 8 hours straight, but also from squatting down to talk to each and ever one of my students. I’m drenched in sweat, because even when the air conditioner is on, I can’t stop sweating because I’m all over that classroom.

And while all of this is going on, I’m teaching some of my favorite books of all time.

The high school class centers around learning to properly read and take notes in textbooks, as well as reading Book I of The Fellowship of the Ring. This is absolutely perfect for me, because in high school, The Lord of the Rings trilogy was very important to me. The first time I ever skipped class in high school was to go buy tickets for The Return of the King. I can attribute elements of my own moral compass to that book series since I read it at a time when I was figuring out what was wrong and right to me. If you ever have four hours to watch a person cry hysterically about friendship, or about our ability to rise to a higher nature, then buy me a beer and let me talk about Tolkien.

If you don’t have that kind of time, then satisfy yourself with this picture of me dressed as Frodo back in high school.

Reading LOTR made me think dressing like Frodo was a good idea.

What can I say? I have a very particular milkshake that literally brings zero boys to the yard.

Both of the high school classes I have taught this summer have been very successful. And I attribute most of that to the fact that no one is allowed to dislike Tolkien on my watch.

But I get to teach other favorites too. The last class session with my kindergarteners finds me reading The Cat in the Hat out loud. It’s a straightforward, silly story. There’s no room for emotional breakdowns there.


There's no room for emotional breakdowns there. OR IS THERE?! Click To Tweet

Spoilers: There is.

I think my first memories of being read to involve The Cat in the Hat. In fact, one of my first conscious memories involves that story. My brother and I are in the bathtub playing with this metal toy pot that went with our kitchen play set. (This was back in the day when kids’ toys were made of metal and other non-safe materials.) My mom is there giving us the bath, but midway my dad walks in. He’s still in his button-down shirt and tie. (Also, his mustache and hair are still dark black and not gray like they are now.) He grabs the pot and pours some water on our heads. My brother and I laugh hysterically.

Then, we’re dried off and put to bed. My brother’s bed is on one side of the room, and mine on the other. Mom sits in a rocking chair between us and reads The Cat in the Hat. Dad sits on the edge of my bed. Then we’re asleep.

This could very well be a conglomeration of memories of bath and bedtime routines from my childhood. But I don’t think that matters. What matters is that I have this memory of my family all in one room together, thinking about the same thing all at the same time. That wasn’t something that happened a lot. While my mom stayed home with us, my dad worked really long hours as a restaurant manager when we were little. I remember we pretty much only saw him for those few minutes before bed. And because my brother has autism-like symptoms, we don’t really share a lot between us. We were never close, but we shared that story.

So, while I read this story to my kindergarteners now, it’s hard not to think about how significant those moments were, even though they happened probably 28 or 29 years ago. It’s kind of crazy to think how unbelievably important a silly story about an anthropomorphic cat who makes a big mess can be.

Do I get a little choked up in class? Yeah.

But I think that’s par for the course with teaching kindergarteners. The class requires that the parents sit in class with their children. And it’s really sweet to watch the kids bond with their parents while they work on reading.

If I’m being honest, teaching kindergarteners has been the first time that I’ve thought to myself that I want to have a kid. And I want to have a kid because I want to teach a kid to read.

Naturally, this desire to have a kid was completely erased when I walked into my middle school classroom. There is truly no birth control like sharing a room with ten 13-year-olds who all think they tell the best jokes.

Spoilers: No 13-year-old tells good jokes.

Jul 16

Grinding Gears

grinding gears

I’ve always driven a standard car. At first, it wasn’t by choice. While all my friends were getting sweet new automatic cars, my parents told me I couldn’t get my license until I learned to drive my mom’s old Toyota Carolla with a standard transmission. And while I eventually got it down, I spent a lot of time grinding gears.

That green Toyota Carolla took me through high school and college. Then, when I bought my first car after college, I made sure to get a standard. There is just something supremely satisfying about the feel of a standard car when you’re driving it. And, if I’m being honest, I loved giving a ride to a male coworker or love interest and how vocal they were about how emasculated they felt about me driving a standard.

It’s silly. But I live for that sense of superiority.

As with all things though, there’s a downside. Even though I’ve been driving a stick for about half my life, I still find myself grinding gears. Sometimes traffic is rough and I make a pretty evasive maneuver to get into the next lane. If everything isn’t timed just right, I might let my foot slip off the clutch a little too quick and grind the gears. Or, when I’m braking suddenly in front of the elementary school across the street. Sometimes a kid will just dash out in front of you. And even though you’re going the school zone speed, you still gotta hit the brakes hard.

Or, as is most often the case, sometimes I’m just a little zoned out in standstill traffic, and come to only to realize I should’ve gone 3 seconds ago and I’m holding up traffic. In my rush to get the car going, I grind the gears.

Now here’s the part where I take this out of the realm of driving and show you this was a metaphor all along.

Sometimes, in life, you get that rush to get something going. Sometimes you want to start a new project and you feel like everyone else has left the starting line. So you rush to make it happen only to realize that you’ve screwed up somehow. That’s what it feels like when you’re grinding gears.

Sometimes, you have all this anxious energy and you want to put it into something. Only, you can’t. No matter how hard you try to make something happen, to get something started, you find yourself stutter stepping at the start line. That’s what it feels like when you’re grinding gears.

Sometimes, you’ve got everything set up and ready to go. You’ve done all the back-end work and it’s time to make some dream of yours into a reality. Only a loved one steps out in front of you and you have to come to screeching halt because your life is about them too. That’s what it feels like when you’re grinding gears.

All this is to say that I’ve felt really stuck lately. I’m not sure why. I’ve been trying to make headway on so many things, but I feel like I’m always stuck at the start line. It’s frustrating and exhausting. And it feels exactly like it does when I’m on the road and I find myself grinding gears.

What about you? Have you felt a little stuck lately? Have you felt like you’re grinding gears?

Jul 16

Perennial Tomatoes: The Lazy Gardener’s Reward

I’m really bad at gardening, y’all. I found this out last year, but like, damn. This summer is really reinforcing it.

Perennial tomatoes

Instead of cleaning up our raised beds this spring, we decided to let them lie fallow. Let’s use that term. We’re totally letting the soil regenerate all it’s nutrients and what not and not being lazy assholes who don’t grow their own jalapeños and cucumbers.

There were moments this summer where I felt like I really regretted not cleaning up the beds and throwing down some seeds. I kept thinking about all that homemade salsa I was missing out on because I wasn’t growing enough veggies to make the aforementioned salsa. (Never mind the fact that I didn’t make salsa once last summer when our garden was functionally exploding with tomatoes.) But the moments of regret were overwhelmed by the moments of pure bliss and joy I experienced while NOT gardening. That was a pretty pure sort of happiness.

I know for some people, the act of keeping a garden and watching plants grow is nourishing. There are those who see all the possibilities a patch of dirt has to offer. When I look at that same patch of dirt, all I see is an endless list of chores. I love reading about Marie’s love of gardening, and it’s obvious that for her, the act of cultivating and maintaining plants is a spiritual experience. Her garden is a happy place for her.

For me, my garden is a place where I’d really like to never have to spend any time at all. And, honestly, that’s how I’ve approached my garden this summer.

I assumed that my garden had become a desolate wasteland of weeds. And, for the most part, it had. But lo, not all was lost, for my slothful indolence was repaid with tomatoes! Just two little guys, to be exact, but that reward was much more than I deserved.

I suppose these tomatoes are perennials. Maybe. Who knows? Honestly, I didn’t do a whole lot of research when I planted the garden the spring before last, and I had been gifted most of the plants and seeds. So, even when the garden was in good shape, I really had no idea of what was going on there.

Rather than pick the tomatoes, I left them there. I didn’t feel worthy of them, as I had done nothing to encourage their growth. I didn’t want the gods of gardening to think I was taking something without giving the proper amount of work as an offering. So, there the two cherry tomatoes sit, slowly sun-roasting on the vine. And there they shall stay.

As for the garden, well. It’s full of grass and weeds. The raised beds are still there, but it’s like we have two little elevated yards within the backyard. And Rosie sure does love to take a nap in them whenever her little dog heart decides it’s time to sunbathe and snooze. So maybe the space isn’t a complete waste.


Jul 16

The Best TV Shows To Get Lost In

When I was a kid, I stayed up way too late reading books, and I have a few memories of my mom busting into my room at 3 AM and yelling at me to go to sleep. Only, the thing is, I couldn’t. I was, and always have been, completely and utterly addicted to that feeling you get when you get lost in a story. And I totally need to get lost in a story, and for a long period of time. That’s why my first love is books. But recently, I’ve gotten into some pretty good TV shows, thanks to the modern convenience of binge watching.

a list of the best tv shows to get lost in

As an adult, you can still find me staying up pretty late on occasion as I try to power through a good book. But I don’t have to limit my good stories to just books anymore. Since the so-called golden age of television, there are tons of great shows out there that you can really get lost in.

That’s what this post is all about. I’ve created a list of the best TV shows to get lost in.

(Note: Pretty much all of these are available on Netflix. What can I say? I’m one of those terrible Millennials the handwringing old people warned you about, and I haven’t had cable since 2007.)

TV Shows You Can Binge Right Now

Peaky Blinders

I was raised on gangster movies. My dad spent a large portion of my childhood quoting The Godfather to me and my brother, so much so that the first time I saw the movie at the age of 12, I was concerned that perhaps someone had stolen my dad’s sayings and turned them into a movie.

Because of this, I love a good story about a man who takes full advantage of the capitalist system by working a little outside the law — or in the case of this show, by keeping law enforcement in his back pocket. The storylines are amazing, the acting is fantastic, and the costumes are awesome. Do I have a crush on 1920s gangsters from Birmingham? Maybe a little.

Star Trek (Any Variation)

Okay. Hear me out. I know that Star Trek isn’t new or some well-kept secret show. But let me ask you this: How many of the various reincarnations have you seen? Not all of them? Then start watching now.

Sure, some of the storylines are pretty cringe-inducing, especially on the older shows. But there are a ton of episodes available, which means that once you get into this show, you don’t have to come up for air unless you want to. It’s nice to know that you have a whole world available to you that you can explore without the fear of running low on episodes. I’ve recently started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation myself, and I’m having a blast.

Jessica Jones

I was really excited for this show to come out, and when it did last summer, Chris and I binged it over the course of a weekend. It’s pretty much everything I wanted in a show based on a comic book — a female protagonist, a really grim storyline, and a complete lack of skimpy costumes.

Fair warning: This show is really dark. So if you’re the type who is looking for a superhero show full of cheesy one-liners and a hero that fights a really campy villain, this show may not be for you. And I will admit that after you spend a lot of time absorbed in this show, you’ll want to take some time to be absorbed in something a bit lighter.

Stranger Things

Chris and I were really excited for this show to come out. The previews made it look a lot like the shows we loved as kids, only made for adults. Everything about this show from the storyline to the characters to the music is completely and utterly perfect. And I’ve already had nightmares about aspects of the show!

I especially recommend this show to early Gen Y/late Gen X people, just because it has that vibe that a lot of our childhood programming had. But be forewarned that this is a show with only 8 episodes. So, your dive into this world won’t last long. But that’s totally okay. Chris and I both agreed while watching it that we don’t want a second a season of this, because it’s not the sort of story that can easily transition into a season 2. (Or maybe it is. I’m not finished yet, I just know that I hate when shows prolong an ending and sacrifice story for money.) It will, however, probably get a second season since people like Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro are hyping it up on social media.

Upcoming Shows

Luke Cage

So, if you’ve watched Jessica Jones, then you’re familiar with Luke Cage. He’s a big, handsome bartender in Hell’s Kitchen. He’s also bullet proof and insanely strong.

In this new show, Luke finds himself trying to rebuild his life in Harlem after his bar was destroyed, but things go awry (as they are oft wont to do) and he finds himself stuck in a battle for the city. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in this story, but it doesn’t really matter. Knowing what little I know about Luke Cage and Jessica Jones in the comic books, I’m excited to see what the future has in store for Luke Cage.

The Crown

My life has been pretty empty without a good costume drama. Ever since I stopped watching Downton, I’ve been without a very dramatic, yet restrained British show. Luckily, The Crown will premiere on Netflix soon. (I’m not saying that these shows are anywhere near similar. I’m getting the vibe that The Crown will not be full of the sappy soap opera nonsense that plagued Downton.)

This show follows the entire life of Queen Elizabeth II, and is written by the man who brought you the movie The Queen, and the play The Audience. It’s definitely a new show to invest your time in, because there’s no way that it’s going away any time soon. There has been a lot buzz around The Crown, and it’s expected to be among the top shows extended for a second season.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

While I didn’t care much about the book series when it first came out, I’m really excited for the opportunity to get A Series of Unfortunate Events. I totally plan on picking up the books before the show premieres. And I think this is something I could totally make Chris watch, and maybe even read with me.

As a person who really refuses to grow up, I’m really looking forward to getting absorbed in this show. I love that it’s set in sort of a timeless world that looks like the 1800s and 1930s, though there are some references to computers and fiber-optics as well. It’s definitely going to be a fun world to fall into.

What about you? What stories are you currently getting lost in?

Jul 16

The Six-Year Anniversary and Bold Predictions for the Future

Today marks six years since Chris and I officially became a couple. The six-year anniversary isn’t a particularly special one, but it’s one that I will mark nonetheless, simply for the sake of marking arbitrary milestones throughout the course of one’s life, which I’m told is something you humans do.

Chris and Marisa - six-year anniversary

I met Chris while I was bartending at the McNellie’s on Main Street in Norman. It was July 12. I was covering a pint night shift for the regular bartender. On pint nights, the bar gave away a free, featured pint glass to the first 50 or so people who ordered the beer starting at 5. The crowds were always huge, and generally not your best customers. But after the rush, the night settled into a regular Monday night at a bar, which is to say incredibly slow.

Chris came in around seven or eight. He sat at the bar and ordered pork chops with a side of veggies. (I actually remember the majority of the food and drink he ordered that evening.) When he sat down, I knew I was going to date him. It wasn’t like a premonition or anything. It was the sort of knowledge (and power) a 24-year-old woman has when she meets a viable mate. Ask any waitress or bartender. They’ll tell you they can pretty much make anyone date them.

We chatted a bit as the evening wore on. His friend, Aaron, joined him for a bit, but left long before Chris did. After Chris tabbed out, he asked me, “What’s your favorite beer?”

What's your favorite beer? The dreaded question. Click To Tweet

The dreaded question. McNellie’s is a beer bar. They had roughly 300 or so beers. And somehow, every customer always managed to ask me my favorite. And if you know anything about my ability to consume food and drink, then you know I don’t have A favorite, I have favorites. So in an attempt to not sound like a complete alcoholic, I told him I liked ESBs. Little did I know then that he was also a fan of ESBs. And, even though he’d closed out his tab, he ordered a Fuller’s ESB so he didn’t have to leave just yet.

Then, after he finished his beer, the cute guy with shaggy red hair and beard reached over the bar top to shake my hand.

“I’m Chris. I hope I see you again sometime.”

Chris and Marisa - six-year anniversary

And with that, I knew I’d met the man I was going to marry. (That wasn’t 24-year-old power. It was like fate punching me in the gut.)

After Chris did some clever Facebook stalking to find me, we went on our first date one week later, on July 19, 2010. And here we are — on our six-year anniversary.

To celebrate, we went out for steak dinners on Friday, and then came home and watched Spotlight on Netflix. Perhaps it’s not the most romantic evening you could imagine, but for me, a night spent on the couch with someone who doesn’t mind that I take all my makeup off before I watch the movie (just in case I fall asleep) is a good night. I’d rather spend every night for the rest of my life on a couch in my yoga pants with a person I trust and respect than chasing those beginning-of-the-relationship butterflies with overly involved date nights and grand gestures.

So, keeping that in mind, I’d like to give you six bold predictions for the next six years of our relationship on our six-year anniversary. They are the sort of predictions that make sense for people whose life revolves around Netflix and the couch.

We will get another dog.

Rosie needs a baby brother or sister. Chris doesn’t seem to think so, but he isn’t always right. The Norman animal shelter is full of pit mixes that would just love to cuddle and play with our little Rosie. And, after we get that second dog, I can realize my dream of becoming a full-time stay at home dog mom.

We will finally finish renovating this damn house.

That, or a tornado will sweep it away and we can move on with our lives.

We will take a family vacation.

And by family vacation, I mean me, Chris, and Rosie will go somewhere. We’ve been looking into this for a while. We’re thinking maybe Eureka Springs, or Fort Collins. We just have to find a fun cabin or B & B that will allow Rosie to tag along. Oh, and we’ll need to actually take time off work to make it all happen. That’s the hard part.

Chris and Marisa - six-year anniversary

We will get professional couples photos taken.

Maybe that’s what we should’ve done for our six-year anniversary. But Chris and I aren’t big on having our pictures taken. In fact, every picture in this post is from before 2013, and was taken by extending an arm all selfie-style. You can tell these pics are old because I’m still wearing glasses in them. Check out pre-LASIK Marisa! So, I’m pretty sure that we’ll have some professional pictures taken in the next six years or so, mainly because I want them, but also because I know an entire boatload of photographers. Now, to get over this fear of having my picture taken…

All out war will be declared between us and the teenage dirtbag kids who live on our street.

It’s only a matter of time, and I’m honestly surprised that it hasn’t happened yet. But know that there are a lot of teenage dirtbags who live with their parents in our neighborhood. And, since it’s a working class area, a lot of those parents are off at work while the kids are at home alone. When they aren’t setting off fireworks at 3 AM, you can hear them screaming out in the street in the middle of the night while they play tag. And if they aren’t doing that, then they’re sneaking out of the windows of their homes. It’s fun to watch, unless you have to wake up and go to work the next day.

We will attend midnight showings of every Fast and the Furious movie that comes out.

Because yeah, we totally will. Also, Helen Mirren is going to be in the upcoming eighth movie. OF COURSE WE’LL BE THERE.

Chris and Marisa - six-year anniversary

So those are my bold predictions for the next six years on our six-year anniversary. Oh, and if you want to wish us a happy anniversary, feel free to leave a pizza and a bottle of wine on the doorstep. We need it to watch Netflix.