Ella Surrounded By Books

I have always lived surrounded by books.

As a child, it was normal to check out at least twenty titles a month from the library and receive copious amounts of literature on holidays and birthdays. I assumed that it was common for people to constantly run out of shelf space and have long discussions about where to put new bookcases. The first thing we thought about while renovating was where we were going to put new shelves. Books have always mattered intensely to my family, and I thought that everyone else felt the same way.

Of course, by the time that I was school-age, it became quite obvious that the rest of the world did not operate as a mirror image to my home life. Some people don’t know what lentils are or prefer to spend large amounts of time watching television. We all make different choices about how to spend our free time that–as long as no one is being hurt–are all equally valid. But I still can’t shake my surprise that other people don’t care for books the way I do.

Last year, I read easily over a hundred books for school and pleasure. It wasn’t hard, and I still feel like I should have read more. I could have spent a lot less time on tumblr and watching The Office. I still feel like I have a huge book debt left over from high school when I was too busy to read over forty books a year.

Besides, I like to use books to sort of spy on people. When I’m at someone’s house, I love reading the titles of books they have lying about. You can learn quite a bit about someone from what they’re reading. (i.e. Audrey’s bookshelf is littered with books about the Middle East, a testament to her passion for social activism and human rights, and works from the Beat Generation, reflecting her interest in counterculture.) It’s a wonderful way to gain insight into their lives. Free time is limited, and people rarely read something they don’t have any form of connection to. The books we read are extensions of ourselves and our interests.

My bookshelves are stuffed, books cram my desk and bedside table and sit on the floor in rather precarious towers. I own fat tomes about American history and silly YA romances. I have Salinger’s complete works inches from my pillow, and I keep a few books in bed with me. (I’ve woken up with weird crease marks on my face too many times to count.) Test prep books and heavily annotated school texts sit in two fat stacks in a corner, banished as far away as the room’s perimeter will allow. If you were to look at the hundreds of titles in my room, you’d have a fair understanding of my personality and interests without ever meeting me.

I simply can’t imagine a life without books.

Day two of being sick draws to close. I think I managed to bruise my nose by hitting my face on a cabinet.

Here’s a third of my books that are currently without a home in a bookshelf. This is the stack of books I’ve purchased or been given in the past six months. I’ve read all of them.

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In Which Ella Wears a Dress From the Fifties, Hosts a Party, and Watches Fireworks While Sitting in the Middle of the Road

Tonight, with the help of Clara, I hosted my second annual New Years Party. There was a clementine cake made by Tal, pumpkin hummus courtesy of Cecelia, and WAY too much sparkling cider. The basement looks like a bomb filled with cups and plates went off, and I’m quite tired, but I had a wonderful time.

2011 was a good year, filled with writing and reading, good times with friends, and the discovery of the wonderful young adult fiction community.

After many, many years of feeling like my life has gotten worse or at least stayed at the same level of mediocre or suck, I can definitively say that in 2011 things improved. If you go back to January and start reading all of my daily posts through it really becomes obvious. I’m mostly happy and am no longer being given medications that make me sleep all the time or give me strange sensations. I can do what I want to when I want to. I am having success with my writing.

I’d say that I have my fingers crossed for 2012 to be full of just as many improvements, but I don’t believe in luck like that. Good years come from effort, personal growth, and that extra special thing called maturing. I plan to continue living as I am now, so I’ll head off into the New Year doing jazz hands and dancing with my friends in my rockin’ dress from the fifties.

Happy New Years to you and yours! I hope you decide to join me for another crazy year of writing about my life on the Internet. I’ve got some more funny stories to tell.

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In Which Ella Receives an iPhone

When I went to the mall this afternoon to upgrade my cellphone, I thought that my dad and I would do what we’ve done every time before, and I would just get whatever free option they had. But that’s not how things went down. Instead, I ended up getting an iPhone after being talked into it by my father.

Mostly, this means that I will now spend all of my time looking up strange things on Wikipedia and sending my mother pictures of the cats when she gets stressed out.

But for tonight, let’s enjoy a picture of Pushkin hiding underneath the Christmas tree and a blog post haltingly typed out on my shiny new toy.

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Ella and Newspaper Fury

There are times when reading the paper is a wonderful escape. Even if the news isn’t rosy, it’s still interesting to learn about the economic climates and elections in other countries. And then there are times when it just makes me furious.

I’m talking foaming at the mouth and pulling my hair out furious. So furious that I have to go look at something pretty or carry around a cat. Otherwise, I’ll find someone and they’ll be forced to sit there while I pace back and forth, use hyperbolic language, and say things I don’t mean as I rave about the stupidity of whatever I just read. This is also the time when I prove to the world that I can put not one, but both feet in my mouth.

It is not a very becoming habit.

So I try to stick to deep breathes and distractions.

And later when I feel guilty about the level of my fury, I just remind myself that there is a huge difference between being the sort of person who gets incensed about discrimination and the person who yells at secretaries when whoever they’re looking for is out of the office*.

I’m off to bed where Maxwell is already asleep in the most inconvenient of positions. Please don’t mention Israel, Somalia, or the Catholic church to me for at least the next twenty hours. I’m working on keeping the happy thoughts in and the insane raving out.

*A word to the wise: If you become friends with the secretaries, your life will be so much easier.

By the end of high school, I could walk into an office and get immediate access to pretty much whatever I needed, to the point that I didn’t even have to wait like the other students. It’s the exact same deal with doctors. I can get emergency refills called-in even when it’s an hour before the office closes, simply because the secretary likes me. Also, whenever I go to the hospital, my favorite nurse (okay, not a secretary, but the rule still applies) specifically requests me and I get the cool examination room with the really fancy scale and the funnier wall art.

Also, secretaries are frequently very abused by the people that come into their offices. Everyone needs something, and most people view secretaries as people who intentionally make it as hard as possible for them to get their needs met. The real bottom line is that being nice to people gets you better service and makes everyone’s day happier.

Ella and the Night of Fiddle Music

There are moments when I feel particularly happy. Happy that goes beyond discovering that I did in fact put York Peppermint Patties in my bedside table to eat when I wake up. It’s that ridiculous type of happy that makes me smile so much that when I close my mouth, my teeth feel cold (I know that as weird as this sounds, you too have probably experienced this).

Tonight was a very prolonged happy moment. Clara, Jacob, and a few other friends hosted a southern dinner at Jacob’s house where we ate homemade pulled pork, mac and cheese, cornbread, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and salad at a large table. Clara had squeezed lemons to make real lemonade and someone brought a delicious chocolate cake.

But good conversation and food wasn’t the extent of the evening’s fun. Lily had brought her violin and book of fiddle music, which meant that we spent the rest of the night playing instruments and singing songs like Old Joe Clark and Bile ‘Em Cabbage Down. Jacob has pictures of me looking insane while holding a shaker egg that will hit the internet at some point, causing me much more amusement and less shame than they should.

I was brought back to my childhood when we would have near weekly music sessions with our neighbors. The kids would role around in the grass and play flashlight tag in the first whispers of darkness, the adults would drink fancy French wine out of the Dixie cups that had jokes printed on the sides–the humor of the juxtaposition lost–and I would beg for Country Roads or Downtown to be played over and over again.

I also played violin and would spend hours listening to bluegrass and Irish reels, hopeful that one day I could play that quickly, and in fifth grade we spent music class learning about local music. Two years back when I was in southern Virginia, I was surprised to discover that I can still play the spoons. I can’t recall anything from my Irish step dancing class in sixth grade, but I do know that you can’t get too close to your partner or you’ll kick them in the shins and they will be very angry with you.

Later, after Cecelia had driven me home, I sent in a lot of college applications (the first to a college in the Roanoke Valley, of course) while playing John Denver songs at a volume higher than could be considered socially acceptable. Last night, it was French punk rock, and tonight, country. Pippa had to crank up Friends in order to drown me out and complained about my music taste.

I also wore my The Great Gatsby shirt, which started the day’s awesome level at a much higher baseline than normal. I refuse to believe that there is a situation that can’t be remedied by wearing a book cover on your shirt.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Nine-Year-Old Ella Officiates a Gay Wedding for Dogs

This evening, Pippa reminded me of a funny story from our childhood in which Lee, Pippa, and I held a gay wedding for two stuffed dogs.

On the day after I threw Pippa’s American Girl Doll out of the window (we’re all sure that I did it for a reason–but no one can recall what it was) Pippa and Lee decided that it was high time we have another wedding. I called dibs on being the priest and went to go retrieve a copy of The Book of Common Prayer while Pippa and Lee decided who was getting married.

Pippa wanted her stuffed Huskie named–wait for it–Huskie to marry another dog, and Lee wanted the same thing for her golden retriever named Sammy. However, Sammy and Huskie were both boys. A lot of arguing ensued between the two over who was going to have to select a different dog until it was decided that gender didn’t matter, and the two boys were going to marry each other. Sammy wore a veil and Huskie had a hat, all of the stuffed animals and dolls were trotted out in their very best clothes for the event, and we roped my dad into playing the music.

After a brief evacuation from the backyard, where the ceremony was being held, after Lee supposedly spotted a wasp, my dad played the wedding march, and I read the wedding ceremony. We all prayed, I stumbled over the readings, Sammy and Huskie were pronounced husband and husband, and we all boogied back down the aisle while my dad played I’m a Believer by Smash Mouth on the guitar. The animals and dolls were then dumped on the couch while we ate cubes of frozen apple juice in front of the air conditioning vent in the dining room (a regular activity if you live in humid D.C. during the summer).

I’m very proud that at such a young age, the three of us held a gay marriage without even questioning if gay marriage was wrong. Sadly, Sammy later got married to an oversized ferret of undetermined sex, thus nullifying his original marriage. But it still says a lot about our upbringing that we married Huskie and Sammy. I’m very thankful for parents, teachers, and other adults in our lives who encouraged us to be so open-minded.

(It should also be noted that at five, Pippa and Lee also seemed to have no problem with polygamy as they both got married to Joseph in one large ceremony that Zach and I officiated. Zach and Lee’s mom was highly amused during the proceedings, and we got tricked into eating a large amount of vegetables when she told us that adults only eat celery and carrots at wedding receptions.)

Today in obvious news, I bring this story straight from the dinner table. Apparently, even when you’re speaking philosophically, sixteen-year-olds don’t like it when you point out to them that they could die at anytime and that just because their birthday is eleven days away, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to make it. It may get you kicked later. The kicking will also hurt.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Has a Lovely Christmas

Santa came with large boxes covered in geese à la The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Pippa opened it to discover a goose feather pillow-topper mattress for her bed.

Funny candies were inside of stockings.

No one has yet to eat it, and I’m not quite sure when anyone will decide to man up and eat the hard brown lumps.

And I got over twenty new books, and looked like this the entire day.

We had dinner, and I proved that I have neither a career in plating food or taking pictures of it. I swear it was MUCH better than it looks. Beef tenderloin is very hard not to like.

And then I turned on The Who and did the dishes while singing along. After all, nothing says Christmas like rock and roll and soap suds.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Santa is currently in the basement doing something that involves a surprising amount of scotch tape and the use of my personal scissors. He also requested a cookie and a smoothie with green apples, kiwi, spinach, broccoli, garlic, ginger, barley grass, and something else that didn’t not sound like it should normally go in a blender. It’s almost as good as the year when we were assured that all Santa wanted were fancy chocolate truffles and a martini, which Pippa and I very poorly prepared (apparently lime juice should only be done in small quantities and upwards of three small olives is deemed excessive).

Pushkin is trying to drink the water out of the tree.

Zelda has fallen asleep in a chair right where Santa is supposed to deposit Pippa’s gifts and is refusing to go sleep in her bed.

Maxwell is lying in my bed and testing the limits of how many times he can kick me before I make him leave.

And Pippa has been attempting for hours in an attempt “to make the morning get here faster.” However, she is still awake and reading Christmas picture books. Hopefully, this will mean that I don’t get leapt on at 6:30 this year.

And I’m settling down for a long winter’s nap not wearing a kerchief or a cap, but instead a knitted toque (my half-hearted attempt to be festive while unconscious) and my flowered nightgown that buttons up to my chin and hangs down almost to my feet. I’ve always felt that it’s best to look old fashioned on Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Christ has been born!

(And commercialization of the holiday reigns)

(Though to be fair no one is certain at what time of year Christ was born, and the date was probably only chosen because it coincided with the Winter Solstice.)

(Still. Jesus, everybody! Jesus was born today!)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.