Monthly Archives: August 2011

Pros and Cons

Since moving to California, one of the things I’m asked most often is which place I like better, the town we moved from, Greenville, SC, or our new home here in Bakersfield.

My answer?

Columbus, Ohio.

You just can’t beat the Midwest. It has all four seasons in perfect balance, and it really snows during the winter. It has culture, like symphonies and ballets. I can be in the middle of a big city or out in the country in half an hour, and the Amish live close by, so there’s always good cheese. People are nice, but not too noesy. There are no poisonous snakes anywhere, and ants don’t bite. There huge libraries and lots of museums, but not a lot of tourism. Columbus will always be home home, if you know what I mean.

But Columbus isn’t one of the options.Ooops. 🙂

I’ve lived in Bakersfield for almost as long as I lived in Greenville now. (My first two years in South Carolina I lived at college, which was technically in Tigerville. So I went to Greenville, but I didn’t really live there. If you care.) It pans out like this…

Greenville Pros:

– Real seasons

– Nice mountains

– Accessable Krispy Kreme donuts

– Shrimp sauce at hibachi restaurants

– Real BBQ

– Nice downtown area

– Know more people

– Good air quality

– Family with-in a days drive

– Good southern food (Meat and three, anyone?)

– Sweet tea everywhere

– Fake Mexican food/liberal use of queso. Mmmmmmm.

Greenville Cons:

– Red Necks

– Humidity

– No Hingepoint Church

– Far-ish away from family

– Rains too much

Bakersfield Pros:

– Hingepoint Church

– Moo Creamery/Rosemary’s/etc. (Basically, better ice cream.)

– Pretty mountains

– Quick drive to the beach

– Real Mexican food (Do half of these really have to do with food? Am I really that pathetic? Yes. Yes, I am.)

– Fewer but closer friends

– No rain

Bakersfield Cons:

– Smog

– No sweet tea (except Jeri’s. Which is always great:)

– We’re in the desert

– Bros

– Hot hot heat

– Not-real seasons

– Farther away from family

Total Score: Greenville: 7, Bakersfield: an even 0.

And as a city as a whole goes, I really do like Greenville better. But I’m happier and more peaceful in Bakersfield than I ever was in Greenville, or than I would be in my beloved Ohio, or anywhere, because this is where God has called me to be. And I’m content. Also, it’s nice to be warm when everyone else is cold in April, and also in October. See. Win- win. 🙂

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Mai Furst Caturday

Dis, mai furst Caturday, iz brought to u by…

De letter Ai

For, “Let meh Introduce maiself!”

Oh, hai!

Ai am Cambria kitteh! Gud to meet u! Dis iz mai  hooman’s blog, which Ai stoled for dis, mai first Caturday ever!

Look at me, Ais bloggin!

…de letter G

For “Gudmorning!”

As in…”Gudmorning, feeder. Ai hab been keping ur toes warm fur u. Now fed meh!”

…and de letter B.

For “Books!”

As in…”Books! Ai loves dem! Dey are cumfy…

and yummy!”

Also, de numbuh 3

For “3, de numbuh of times Ai stoled mai hooman’s chair dis morning!”

“Bwahahahahah!”

Victory iz mines!

-Cambria

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Filed under Cambria, Caturday

Eucharisteo

1: Morning sunshine that splashes across my desk.

2: Cold, clean water

3: Packing lunches for Tyler- being able to take care of the one who takes care of me.

19: Really good friends that I didn’t expect.

20: Getting letters in the mail, and not just bills.

21: The smooth slice of peeling potatoes.

45: My warm husband nuzzled beside me in our cold, little bed.

46: Old book smell

47: Uncontrollable belly-laughter on the phone with my mom.

50: Quiet

I’ve been reading this book, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. I’m only to page 73, but it has already taught me so much. Ann was challenged to list 1,000 things she was thankful for, and in the process she learned how thanksgiving, eucharisteo in the Greek,  is so essential to our joy (the derivative for joy, chara, is even found in the word eucharisteo), how we may be saved without it, but we’ll never experience abundant life unless we learn to embrace it. Writing down all the little blessings she would normally have ignored was a way to profess her thankfulness and name her joy, helping her really learn the lifestyle of thankfulness. Even in the bleak times, joy can be found so long as you can humble yourself and be thankful, for we are children of the King, and we are always blessed.

I want to learn this too, and so I decided to start my own list. I’m on day two of my “Gift List,” and I just thought I’d share a few of them with you. Because I am thankful for you too, my friends. You are most certainly on my list. I’m finding that every time I add something to the list, it makes me a little more heedful of what’s around me.

#53: A baby that smiles at me over her mother’s shoulder. (Lord, thank you for new life, fresh and curious. Thank you that I am new too.) #54: Rosemary’s wrinkled, beautiful hands. (Father, thank you for my unexpected friend, and thank you for her hard-earned wisdom.) #55: A text from Tyler, simply reading “I love you.”. (I don’t deserve such a loving man, Lord. Thank you for the grace that gave me my marriage. I am so humbled. I am so grateful.)

I want to learn this practice now, while I’m in a bountiful season, so that when the storms come again I may weather them a little better than before.

What about you- what little gifts are you thankful for? What is God instilling in your heart right now? I’m so excited to share this with you! I challenge you to try it. Start with 100 gifts, one hundred things your thankful for, and see if it doesn’t till your soil too.

Until next time,

Amanda

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Things I'm Thankful For

A Book Review or Two

I read a lot of books. This probably doesn’t surprise most people. I was, after all, half an English major (I’ll explain later, it’s rather complicated), and I work at a book store. And, oh yeah, one of my two hobbies is reading. (The other is scrap-booking, but I feel like such a mom admitting it that I usually don’t.)

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. Partially because that’s just what I do, and partially because my friend Marissa and I challenged each other to read 52 books this year, but I really want to end up at a nice, even 60. Because you know my little OCD-riddled brain prefers even numbers that are multiples of five. I even eat in even multiples of five, which means that if I’m eating gummy bears, I’ll eat five at a time, but I’ll always stop on an even number. So if I’m going to eat 25 gummy bears, I have to keep going to 30. It’s sick, I know. (Was that really weird? Should I have kept that to myself?)

Moving on past the awkward train-wreck that is my brain…

Books. I like them. Mostly.

As a book junkie, I’ve always loved the literary memoir genre. Books about books, could there possibly be anything more perfect in the whole world?! No? I didn’t think so. I’ve read several- The Magicians Book: A Skeptics Adventure in Narnia, The Wilder Life, A Jane Austen Education, but my favorite by far was The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma. Instead of focusing on one author or series of books, Ozma recounts the enormous impact reading together had on her relationship with her father, and her life, and how she learned that there aren’t may things more important in life than reading. It originated with a promise- Alice and her father agreed that he would read out loud to her every night for 100 nights. But then neither of them wanted to stop. So they didn’t. What resulted was The Streak, a 3,000+ night reading streak that ended only when Alice left home for college.

This touching collection of stories was as much an homage to the father who shaped her childhood as it was to books and the love they share for them, and I really related to her deep emotional connection to both subjects. There were many years of my life when they two things I loved best, though I don’t know if I would have had the insight to admit it, were my father and books. I think a lot of bookish adults, and adults who were bookish children, will be able to relate and even revel in the memory of a time when finding space and time to read was a simpler task, and one of life’s unhindered joys.

I also loved how Alice brought her father’s library work into play. His struggle to keep his elementary school library a warm, safe, fascinating place for kids to explore was moving and timely. Sadly, a lot of education systems seem to be seeing the arts- even the art of reading a good book and exercising the imagination- as less and less important. It’s truly a tragedy, and Alice’s call to all book lovers to unite together and keep libraries alive, and hopefully keep them freely available for all kids, was an excellent way to tie up her book.

So here, publicly, I, Amanda Rene Stroud, promise to keep reading alive! I promise to read often, and to read both to my children and any other little urchins who happen to stray into my house at story time. I promise to do my darndest to pass on my love of reading to the next generation, and I hope you’ll join me. Book nerds, unite!

Achem. Excuse me a second while I regain my composure.

I’d been hearing a lot about this quirky little book with a lot of old-timey, mysterious photos, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I even saw it in Target, so I knew it was getting popular, and was probably pretty good, since whoever picks Target’s book selection has surprisingly good discretion and taste. Mostly. They do sell an awful lot of vampire books, but perhaps I’m just one or two generations too far ahead of that trend to truly appreciate it’s scope, and too non-business minded to appreciate how well they probably sell.

But I was thinking about treading Miss Peregrine anyways, when I discovered that the author, Ransom Riggs, is also the author of one of my very favorite magazine columns: Strange Geographies at mentalfloss.com!!! (I believe it appears in the actual magazine. I’m not certain though, since I always read the articles on their website.) First, I got giddy like a little kid who just had a lot of sugar, and then I did the logical thing and dropped everything I was doing, no matter how important it was, went and bought the book (at Target, of course), and read it in its entirety in just under 24 hours.

Do I even have to tell you what I thought? It was pretty brilliant. The pictures were all authentic vintage photographs, found by collectors at flea markets and garage sales and in attics. None of them were altered in any way. It was creepy, but in the delicious way, not the scary way. The story was also very solid. Imaginative and original overall, suspenseful and absorbing in its development, caring and insightful in its treatment of the characters. And, honestly, the pictures are the creepiest part. It is truly masterful how Ransom weaves the images and the story together, as though they were always meant to be viewed side by side.

The story begins with Jacob and the fanciful stories his grandfather told, which he always believed were make-believe. Then Jacob witnesses his grandfathers bizarre death and starts to have nightmares, seeing visions of horrifying creatures and reliving his grandfather’s stories in a nightmarish dreamscape. His parents are affluent and absorbed in their own problems, but they notice his oddities enough to send him to a therapist. In an effort to exhume his ghosts and hopefully put them to rest, Jacob and his father visit the island where his grandfather grew up in a home for children who had been orphaned during WWII, the place where all his stories supposedly occurred. Jacob discovers the house in shambles, but decides to explore it anyway. What he finds, however, is neither what he expected, nor what it seems.

To find out what it is, though, you’ll have to read it for yourself. 🙂 It’s a fairly easy read, being considered only juvenile fiction, but if you like mystery or adventure at all, I think you’ll be highly entertained. And you can always borrow my copy if you’d like.

Next up on my reading list: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (another juvenile fiction), One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (spirituality), and Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch(literary memoir). I’m debating about which adult fiction book I should give a go next. The Map of Time? The Kingdom of Ohio? Has anyone read either of them? Do you have any other suggestions? What else have you been reading lately? Should I check it out?

Okay, friends, the caffeine from my tea has worn off and I’m off to sleep.

Bonne nuit!

Amanda

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books

Colorful Fork Clocks

Tyler and I are now the proud owners of a strange clock made of brightly colored forks and spoons.

Obnoxious, isn't it?!

It’s bizarre. Our kids with think it’s hideous.

We love it.

Tyler found a kitschy clock in Toronto while we were on our Honeymoon four years ago, and it’s all been downhill from there. It seems like he’s always finding an odd new clock or a funky lamp, but we never buy them. Until now.

I made the wallpaper on our shared computer the portrait of a baby elephant. Because it’s ridiculously cute. She’s wrinkled and has red hair, and I’ve nicknamed her Rosie for reasons unknown even to me.

Tyler leaves it, because baby animals are his weakness. (His other weaknesses include fixing things and protecting me with his big muscles. Because he is far more masculine than baby animals might suggest.)

We both love listening to classical music at loud volumes. We could both watch Star Trek for 19 flobbity-jillion hours (and sometime we do). Our outfits match on accident at least three days a week because we favor the same colors. We keep a  stuffed alligator on our bed who we talk about like he’s a real animal, and we talk about our real animal like she’s human.We’ve picked out future-baby names, and they’re old and weird, and we adore them. We could live on sushi and we don’t like candle scents that make us hungry. We drink a lot of black tea, and if there are actual sugar cubes, it’s even better.

To be sure, we have our frustrations. In some ways, I just don’t get that man, and I’m certain (because he’s told me so) that there are things about me that baffle him as well.

But there are 1,000 ways that we’ve melded into our own strange little Stroud family. Our quirks align in a startling, wonderful way, and today I celebrate that.

Amanda

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Filed under Love & Marriage, Tyler

I Guess I’m Blogging Now.

I got a massage yesterday. I had been doing battle with a terrible charlie horse in my right calf, and the threat of a second in the left, so I was getting a massage at my usual place from my usual guy- a large Japanese man who has the friendliest face I’ve ever seen, soft, strong hands, and even less English than I have Japanese. I’d been sitting, engulfed in an oversized arm-chair for about fifteen minutes when I realized that, though I was relaxed, I had no recollection of anything that had happened. When did he move from my left foot to my right? Where was the hot towel that had been over my arms? I didn’t know. I had been so absorbed in my thoughts about the past several hours, ,days, weeks, months… My mind was as engulfed in the past as my body was in the chair.

And then I realized that this is exactly my problem. I spend so much time reviewing the past, contemplating the future- so much has happened in the last two years! And so much is coming my way!- that I miss now. Here I was, in the midst of a luxurious, pleasant experience, but I wasn’t taking in a moment of it.

Massages, enlightening conversations, waking up slowly on a Saturday morning, luxuriating in the warmth of the summer sun, the purr of my kitten-child, the laughter of a friend, the smile of my husband…how much have I seen and viscerally taken in, but never truly experienced? When was the last time I truly savored…well…anything?

Life is precious and short. I don’t want to miss anymore.

I have recorded snippets thus far- a snapshot posted to twitter, an observation every now and then on Facebook. But it is all done quickly, and so it fades quickly. I may post a meaningful quote today, but in weeks or months, when I review it, I rarely remember the circumstances- like remembering a vague, lingering hint of the taste of a delicious meal you can almost recollect, but not quite.

And so I will blog. A little electronic scrapbook of the lovely little things I discover on my journey.

Amanda

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