Tuesday, June 14, 2011

For The Love Of Jeopardy!

So, here's something you may not know about me - I am a Jeopardy! fanatic. For the past couple of years, I have taken the online test in the hopes of becoming a contestant. This year I passed the online test and was invited to audition for the show!

Monday morning Jim & I packed up the Kia and hit the open road. My audition was scheduled for 3:00pm in Kansas City, Missouri so we had to travel about 3 hours. The drive down was interesting. We got to see several areas of imminent flooding and also areas of sandbagging to create levees. We arrived in KC just before 1:00pm so we decided to explore the downtown area a bit and grab some lunch.

I had some difficulty swallowing lunch - I was nervous! My throat was dry and my heart was racing a little bit. I didn't expect to be anxious as this was something I was doing just for fun. It reminded me of taking an important test or my first day working as a physician assistant. New. Exciting. Intimidating. Full of anticipation.

I was feeling all of these feelings and more.

The first thing I had to do was complete an application. Then the contestant coordinators took everyone's
photo with a Fuji Instax instant camera. It's funny but this was the thing that reassured me, helped me to relax. I also have an Instax and this commonality seem to bring the whole experience back into focus. I was here to have fun. I found myself starting to breathe easier. My heart slowed. I could suddenly swallow again.

The aspiring contestants were taken to another room. We went through some practical instructions on how to play the game, including tips on ringing in and review of specialized topics like "Before & After" and "Rhyme Time." Then we had to take another test, play a mock game and participate in an interview. I had such an amazing time. I laughed. A lot actually. I got to talk other people who love Jeopardy! just as much as I do. Really smart, funny amazing people. And if nothing else, I got this totally awesome pen.

Thank you, Jeopardy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

10 on the 10th - 10 Books That Changed My Life

Welcome, readers! Today I am initiating a new feature on my blog inspired by Shimelle Laine and her Beyond Blogging for Scrapbookers class called 10 on the 10th. Each month on the 10th I will unveil a new listing of 10 - it could be 10 things I love, 10 ideas I Wish I Had First, 10 Favorite Desserts, even 10 Things I Hate This Month.

I really love this feature.

For this month, I wanted to showcase something a bit meaningful and truly personal to me. Ask anyone that knows me well to name one of my defining characteristics and the majority will tell you that I am a reader. I love to read, always have and always will. I am prolific in number and eclectic in taste. I believe that books have the power to shape and change what we know, what we believe and even who we are.

Here are 10 books that changed my life, changed in both big and small ways.

The Velveteen Rabbit is the first book that I remember reading on my own. My mother had read it to me many times and I always associate this story with her. Loving something (or someone) so much that it becomes real is a theme that resonates deeply in me...and has remained with me since my earliest days.

Bridge to Terabithia is beautiful story of friendship, love and loss. It is the first book that touched me so much that I cried. It was also the first time I really identified with a character. I vividly remember sitting at our kitchen table, sobbing as the story came to its close. I was 9 or 10 years old but I knew then that I wanted to be gifted with this type of friendship, a deep, loyal and abiding friendship. And I have...

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was the quintessential coming-of-age novel for girls like me, becoming a young woman in the 1980s. I walked each step with Margaret as she moved, made new friends, had her first crush and even started her period. Her confusion, insecurity and courage were supremely reassuring to an awkward teen like me. I knew if Margaret could do it, then I could, too. This book gave me strength at a time I desperately needed it.

The Handmaid's Tale was a revolutionary read for me, delving into gender roles, feminism, patriarchy, the religious state and childbirth as a reflection of society. It challenged my rather narrow view of the world and pushed me to think of myself in terms of my sex.

A Prayer for Owen Meany is a novel I return to again and again. I love the exploration of spirituality, social justice and fate. This is the first book I ever read that explored the Vietnam War and its effects on America's psyche. It opened my mind and my heart, reinforcing my own belief in God and a commitment to evolving my own life's purpose.

The Prince of Tides introduced me to the wonder that is Pat Conroy. He speaks my language, knows my heart. This story also cultivated a lifelong love of the South Carolina Low Country, despite or maybe because of the very foreignness of this place compared to my own home in the Midwest. A story filled with the beautiful balance of comedy and tragedy, love and loss, forgiveness and rage and family.

Bridget Jones's Diary was the breath of fresh air that brought me laughter, hope and a renewed belief in love when I was scrambling to find a way to believe that I might be happy again after a crushing heartache.

The Harry Potter series holds a very special place in my heart. This is the first set of books that my son and I read together, every one. We started when he was 5 and finished when he was 15. All but the last two novels I read aloud to him, even when he was clearly capable of reading them alone. We shared and inhabited this wondrous world together. We discussed concepts like destiny, magic, sacrifice, love and honor. My son is a fervent crusader for social justice and always looks to uphold the rights of the underdog. I like to think of this as a bit of the "Harry Effect" and it makes me smile.

Life of Pi was an amazing adventure to me, filled with equal parts beauty and horror. Themes dealing with religion, what it means to be human and what it means to be animal captivated my imagination. I dwelt on the nature of solitude and the concept of a strong, independent self. I wondered at my capacity for survival. I questioned if I could kill. And I celebrated in the very notion of being alive.

The Kite Runner is one of the most beautiful and tragic stories I have ever read. Its themes of family, betrayal, shame, love and redemption set against a backdrop of war torn Afghanistan are difficult to read. There is violence and horror, racial and religious persecution that sometimes is sickening, but it is tempered with friendship, loyalty, forgiveness and love that is a balm to the soul.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I'm sure I could come up with another 20 or 30 books that changed my life. But I'm more interested in you right now. What are some of the stories that changed your life?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

OLW Blog Hop - My Dreams in Pictures

Welcome back for this month's One Little Word blog hop! I am so glad that I am working a little bit every month on my word for 2011 - DREAM. Participating in these monthly blog hops help keep me motivated and excited to share my experiences. You can check out my previous posts about documenting my OLW here.

I am really loving how Ali has structured this class. There is great balance so far. Balance between words and photos. Balance between thought and action. Balance between creativity and organization. Balance between dreams for myself and dreams for my family.

I am always struggling to find this kind of balance.

So it was really refreshing to see this month's prompt dealt with list making, tasks and to-dos that related to our word. And Ali even created a really special spreadsheet to organize our goals. I didn't get a chance to photograph my own completed spreadsheet, but here is a photo of Ali's example.

One of my self-appointed task items was to create a layout that documented the words that went along with this photo collage. I knew that I wanted to record those words but I didn't want to add the words directly onto the photos in my album. I just loved how the images stood alone, how they progressed and complemented one another. I was afraid adding the words into the collage would distract from the impact of the images themselves. I can happily report that not only did I complete this layout but also I took a photo. Aren't you so proud?

I used my old manual typewriter to journal the dream statements. I love adding typed journaling to my projects. It just adds a bit of grunge and a dash of sentimentality that can be a great contrast to the more artsy, creative photos. Because this layout faces the divided page protector holding the full-sized, unadorned photos I knew I wanted to keep the photos on the layout small. I chose to center words + photos and surround them with plenty of white space. I added some stitching, some splatters and my title. I totally love it.

I also did some work on my album cover this month. I am using the Pink Paislee canvas album from the Parisian Anthology collection. I added some dangling crystals, a metal heart and key, ribbons and string. I love the girly effect. I have this great Jenni Bowlin yellow butterfly rub-on that I've been hoarding in my stash for months. I am going to add that to the front of the album along with the One Little Word title...but I haven't worked out exactly how yet. But come on back next month and see what I come up with!

Next up on the blog hop is Junelle at Yes and Amen blog. Have fun and see you soon!