Amanda Gates
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A Musings - September 2013

When I was in college there was a boy (of course there was). I really liked this boy and we hung out a lot. However, while he wanted to hang with me all the time, he would tell me he didn’t want a relationship, even though he really liked me, that it was fun to just hang with me, blah blah blah. Because I liked him so much and he was fun to be around, and because he just kept calling me to hang out, I kept it up for several months. One day I was talking to a very wise coworker about the situation. I told her that it hurt that he didn’t want to be more than friends (well, sometimes more), I still held out hope and wanted to keep seeing him because I missed him and was sad when we didn’t see each other.

She told me, “Go right ahead. But there will come a time when it will hurt more to be with him than to be without him, and that’s when you’ll stop.”

And she was right. That time came, I stopped hanging out with him, and while it hurt, it didn’t hurt as much as giving my feelings over to someone who didn’t reciprocate. I never forgot her advice.

Reading Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things reminded me of this moment in my life. Strayed is the voice behind an advice column called Dear Sugar and Tiny Beautiful Things is a compilation of some of her best advice. She gives advice on sex, love, finances, abuse and much more. Her advice is wise and spot on, plus just beautifully written. She can take bits from her own messed up life and turn those stories around and dole out sage advice. Some of the letters and her following advice can make you laugh, cry or just shake your head.

The interesting thing? With every letter, I would give the exact same advice (not as eloquently, but exactly the same in theme). Because with every problem, there really, truly is a best path; a best perspective. But when you’re in the situation? When you’re continuing to hang with the boy who doesn’t return your affections? You can’t see it. Your situation seems impossible, like there is no answer. But from the outside, either as Strayed or as the reader, the solution seems so easy: leave, stay, buck up, shut up, get help, etc.

This doesn’t make the book less interesting by any means. It’s completely interesting and touching and so many of her stories and advice struck home with me. When a mid-20s college graduate complained that her parents weren’t helping her with her student loans (how can I possibly get out from under these without their help, they’re being selfish, etc.), Strayed told her to “grow up, people do it all the time.” Love that. When a fiancé didn’t know if he was responding well to his partner’s grief over losing her mother, Strayed said all he needed to do (for the rest of their lives) was listen and say I’m sorry, over and over, even if it felt like the most lame, unhelpful response. Yes. When a mother whose six-month-old was having surgery to remove a tumor and she was questioning a God who would do such a thing, Strayed (who doesn’t believe in God) gave the most eloquent response, asking why we only question God when something goes bad in OUR lives. Bad things happen all the time to everyone. In fact, Jesus, a human man, died on a cross and suffered quite a bit but also endured. She reminds us to find God within our hard times – friends who help you, strangers who reach out – rather than wondering where the hell he went.

It’s like throughout the book she offers the most obvious advice, but it’s advice that we tend to forget. It’s like when bad things happen to us, we lose all sight of common sense. Some situations in the book I’ve been in, some I’m in right now, some I hope to never be in. But, I would love (though it’s pretty impossible) to remember every piece of advice she offers and then keep remembering it the next time I find myself lost within a problem or situation. The answer is there, always, we just have to let ourselves find it and then trust it.

Posted: Wed, 09/18/2013 - 10:20 |

Sunday

Walking Dead: When it ended in March, I didn’t have a new baby yet and it seemed like October was very, very far away. But, here we are, and come October 13 we’ll be watching Season 4. The previews I’ve seen only make this season look even more intense than 3, which was pretty freakin’ intense. I’m excited.

We don’t really have any other Sunday night shows, so we’ll round it out with either football or DVR’d shows from the week before.

Monday

HIMYM: It’s bittersweet because I’m so, so excited to see how this show wraps up (and find out when Slap #5 will happen!), but I also hate to see it go. I maintain that this show is one of the cleverest comedies on TV. Sure, it’s about a group of friends (not original), but the time jumps, long-running jokes, great acting and great storytelling has kept it going strong for 9 seasons. ::cry::

Bones: I can’t pinpoint why I enjoy Bones so much, but I do. I love Booth and Bones together, and I love when the series brings in a bad guy who sticks around for a while. It’s nothing groundbreaking, of course, but it’s a less serious CSI/NCIS/L&O and I like that. (Don’t like that it moves to Friday in late fall….)

Mom: After HIMYM we usually just switch to The Voice, which we like better than any other singing/talent competition on the air (I really hope to see Shakira and Usher back again in another season). However, I might have to check out Mom for one reason and one reason only: Allison Janney. I can take or leave Anna Faris, though.

Tuesday

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: This looks funny and has been getting some good reviews early on. My husband really wants to watch it and it comes right before our other favorite comedy. I hope it’s good, and if it’s good, I hope it stays on. (Though Fox doesn’t cancel shows as fast as other networks, so that’s a good thing.)

New Girl: Love. Anxious to see what happens with Nick and Jess – I’m so glad they got together. I think this could be a good Monica/Chandler relationship that just works for the length of the sitcom.

Trophy Wife: I don’t think we’ll watch it, but if I did, again it would be for one (WW) reason only: Bradley Whitford.

About A Boy (midseason): Love the book and the movie, so maybe I’ll like the TV show?

Top Gear: When it’s new, we watch this on History. It’s more for my husband, but the three guys are really funny so even if you don’t dig cars all that much, they make it easy to watch.

Wednesday

The Middle: This show just continues to get better. Last year was especially good with Frankie’s career change and Axl’s new love interest/heartbreak. Like I say every year, this is one of the only shows on right now that shows a real middle-class family that’s struggling like so many of the rest of us.

Back in the Game: I don’t know? Maybe because it’s on between our two Wednesday night shows?

Modern Family: Don’t have to say too much about why we’ll continue to watch this show. It’s a good time.

Thursday

The biggest overhaul of a TV night in a long time, on every channel.

Parks and Rec: Love everything about this show. Sad to see Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones go, though.

The Big Bang Theory: No explanation necessary. I hope Mayim wins the Emmy on Sunday.

The Millers: Probably not, though might check it out just for Will Arnett.

Welcome to the Family: Eh. But it’s after P&R, so…

The Crazy Ones: Kind of want to see what it’s like to have Robin Williams back on TV. I worry with such a superstar cast (i.e. big salaries), if it doesn’t get Huge Ratings quickly enough it could be considered a flop.

Sean Saves the World: This is one of those comedies where I feel NBC is promoting the hell out of it and it’s only going to be just OK. Is he just playing Jack in a different role? Sean Hayes can do other things; he’s had some good guest arcs on other sitcoms, so I hope we see some of that acting come through.

Michael J Fox Show: Of course we’ll watch. Who doesn’t love MJF? I watched Family Ties and Spin City, so I’ll tune in to this one too. I hope the Parkinson’s jokes simmer down after the initial episodes and it just becomes a funny show about a good guy. We’ll see.

Parenthood: My most anticipated. Love everything about it. Cry every week. So glad it got picked up, moved to Thursdays and we get 22 whole episodes. (The Emmys can suck it though.)

Friday

Ghost Adventures: When it’s new, we watch this.

Shark Tank: We get a kick out of this show, too.

Leftover thoughts from last season: I couldn’t keep up with Go On, and then it got cancelled anyway. But I liked it. And all the shenanigans with Up All Night? Ridiculous. I wish they’d kept it similar to season 1, but they messed with it too much and then it failed. Nice work, again, NBC. Never got back into Community. Also, TNT cancelled Southland in the biggest TV disappointment of 2013. Just lame, TNT.

What are you watching?

Posted: Tue, 09/17/2013 - 11:23 |

I don’t remember why I put The Winter Sea on my Amazon wish list to begin with. It had been on there awhile and then I got it for Christmas last year. It sat on my shelf for half the year, probably because I just couldn’t remember why I wanted to read it in the first place. But, it was time for another book and I felt adventurous and ready to give it a try. And I was sucked in.

I never wrote fully about The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, but I felt like many others out there felt: it was pure magic. It had history, multiple story lines, love, death, sadness, mystery, beautiful writing—it was a completely mind(and heart)-capturing fairy tale.

I never thought another book would even come close to The Forgotten Garden. Sure, I love other books like Harry Potter and Cutting for Stone and Bossypants and The Book Thief, but they don’t really fall within the same genre, so apples and oranges… But then came The Winter Sea and I found another story of pure magic, one that can hold it’s own against The Forgotten Garden, but is just different enough that I can love them both and not feel I need to pick one over the other.

But with confidence I can say, if you loved The Forgotten Garden, you will enjoy The Winter Sea. So read it.

Carrie is a writer of historic fiction and she’s working on her latest book about early 1700s Scottish independence. However, as she’s writing down her story, the things she writes down from her head end up being true in the history books. The book goes back and forth between Carrie writing in a small town on the Scottish coast (a town with an excellent cast of characters) and her account of her heroine Sophia, living at a castle during these tumultuous years of Scottish history.

The Scottish history part—Jacobites, fleets of ships, banished kings, overthrowing queens—was a bit hard to follow and I found myself lost a bit, especially since this part of the world’s history is completely foreign to me. However, I was able to follow well enough that it didn’t take away from the story, and in turn, makes me want to learn more about it.

But I loved Sophia. I loved how Sophia’s moves and love triangle mirrored Carrie’s present-day life. I loved how we as readers were learning what would happen to Sophia right along with Carrie because as the facts came to her she then wrote them down for us. It added an element of suspense. Each time the book would shift time periods, I didn’t want to leave who we were with (Sophia/Carrie), but I also couldn’t wait to get back to who I’d been missing.

I also loved that the present-day story was about an author writing a novel, because I have fantasies of living that life. I loved Carrie’s relationship with her editor, her freedom to spend days and nights writing and also her investigative spirit to learn the truth. The story was engaging, heartbreaking, intriguing, page turning and just perfectly lovely. Total winner.

Posted: Thu, 09/12/2013 - 09:50 |

Someday Someday Maybe

I love Lauren Graham and Lorelei Gilmore and Sarah Braverman, so if she’s going to write a book, then I’m going to read it. Quick, easy and sweet. Nothing groundbreaking but fun to read nonetheless. My favorite part though is in the acknowledgements (I always read acknowledgements) when Lauren Graham thanks Peter Krause and writes, "I love you so." I love them both.

The Art of Fielding

Another great character-driven novel. You don’t even have to like sports to enjoy it (I like baseball, but fellow book clubbers don’t and they still enjoyed). It’s interesting to see how one mistake can mentally affect someone, and how people in general take into account everyone around them when they make decisions. As the book went on, I was afraid I wouldn’t like the ending (that something really, really unhappy was going to happen to leave a bad taste in my mouth), but while it wasn't wrapped up fairy-tale-ending-style, it did wrap up to my satisfaction.

Husband & Wife

A book about infidelity. Hmmm. But, I thought it was good. It read super fast, and I loved the main character’s humor and thought process. The things she says about being a mother, about becoming a mother, about how priorities change and how You change… they were all the thoughts I have in my own head. I nodded along many times, and for a novel, that’s not always the case. As for how she handles her husband’s infidelity, well, it would make for a good book club discussion. Would that be what you would do? It’s really hard to put yourself in that place, but I can’t fault her for her ultimate decision; but I don’t think I would’ve faulted her for choosing the alternative either.

Posted: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 08:01 |