Wednesday, February 29, 2012

News from Branson

I slowly drift back into consciousness, fighting it all the way. I was in a deep sleep, and I had been content under the heavy blanket of unconsciousness. My tired, bleary half-awake mind struggles to figure out why I'm waking up. 

And then I hear it. The sound I heard every first Monday of the month growing up. The sound which, as children trains us to crouch on the ground in the hallway, squashed next to our classmate, our hands folded over our heads. I leap out of bed and stumble out of my bedroom door to find my roommate on the living room couch, clutching a blanket around her, her eyes glued to the television. Sure enough, it's the weatherman, and he's talking about Branson. My heart practically jumps to my throat when I see the line of storm on the radar, all of it deep red and heading right for us. 

Roommate and I were lucky. Extremely lucky. The tornado completely missed our part of town. We didn't even lose power, unlike the majority of Branson. We hid in a bathroom for fifteen minutes during some scary wind, and then I went back to sleep.

The first thing I did in the morning was contact my parents, who had heard about the storms, but had not heard from me. I can't imagine how worried they were.

The second thing I did was call work. I wasn't sure I had a job to go to. I'd heard that the Hilton Convention Center, which is right across the street from my Starbucks, sustained some serious damage.

 Starbucks was untouched. Our patio furniture didn't even blow away. Sure, it was without power for most of the day, but no damage.


The Hilton wasn't the only business damaged. Several hotels, restaurants and theatres in town were badly damaged, some completely destroyed.

 Tourist season begins to pick up in March. So many people will be out of much-needed seasonal work.
 I am so lucky.

My home and car are unscathed. My place of work is undamaged. I still have a job to go to.

And I'm so thankful. I'm so thankful that God kept me safe and was looking out for me.

But what about the others? What about the people whose homes were damaged? Who are now out of a job?

Storms like this never cease to amaze me, how entire buildings can be wiped out right across the street from buildings which are left untouched.

Pray for Branson, friends; everyone here would benefit from a speedy recovery from this storm. But not just here. Pray for all the victims of the terrible storm system that hit us. It left a lot of damage in its wake. While you're at it, say a prayer of thanks for your home and your health and safety.

I know I am.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I Wish I Knew

I wish I had something of substance to say tonight, friends.

But I don't. I don't have the tools to quite put into words how I feel, because I don't really understand it myself.

Those of you who know me well know that I'm pretty much an emotional slob. Sometimes my emotions are uncontrollable, a beast entirely on its own.

And tonight I'm struggling to rein them in, to keep the dam around my heart from breaking.

Sometimes I just get sad, for no good reason. A depression washes over me, suddenly and without warning, and most of the time it takes all I have not to let it consume me.

I wish I knew why. I wish I had a reason for this feeling whose only response is a flood of tears that I fight back desperately. But our emotions are not always rational, are they? They do not always follow the rules of logic and reason.

I'm tired of constantly being ruled by my emotions, but it's not something that's likely to change is it? Some things are hard-wired into us, things which hold fast to our personality no matter how desperately we try to change them.

I will always feel my emotions far stronger than I would like. Maybe someday I will learn to accept it, perhaps eventually learn to love that about myself.

But tonight, just for tonight, I wish it wasn't true.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dumb as a Bag of Rocks

Well, friends. I did it. I finished the first novel for my newest blog series, "Leah's Literary Adventures!" I was really dragging my feet on this book. The last time I read a book I hated so much was in high school.

I mentioned before that said novel may or may not have been Ernest Hemingway. The book of choice?

Yep. A Farewell to Arms. You may be asking why I would even choose an Ernest Hemingway novel in the first place. Well the answer is that I was supposed to have read it in high school, but I didn't. Or maybe I'm thinking of The Sun Also Rises. Whatever. Anyway, I'd never read Hemingway, and I was curious what the big deal about him was.

And I'm still wondering what the big deal was. Wait, was that bad form? Should I withhold my judgement until the end?

Sorry. It's my night off, and I've had *mumble mumble* beers, so naturally blogging seemed like a good choice.

Do I have to say "spoiler alert"? If this is a book you haven't read and actually care about, stop reading now.

To sum up, A Farewell to Arms is about Lieutenant Frederic Henry, who is an American serving as an ambulance driver in the Italian army during WWI. During the course of the war, he falls in love with an English nurse, Catherine Barkley.

But now, down to business. I'll try not to make it sound like a paper.

The biggest problem with this book?

The main character is not a likeable guy. It's a big risk to write your main character who's a bit of an ass. I've read books where the main character isn't likable, but you want to keep reading because he's going through some sort of inner struggle, and the redemption at the end will make it all worth it. This isn't that sort of novel.

The event that solidifies Lt. Henry's place as ass? At the very beginning of the book, (That is, after the first two BORING chapters in which LITERALLY NOTHING happens.) Henry steals his friend's girl.

Rinaldi, a member of Henry's company, confesses "I am now in love with Miss Barkley. . . I will probably marry Miss Barkley."

Now, this could be an impassioned Italian thing; Rinaldi is probably in love with a different girl every month. But the rule is always not to go for the person your friend is interested in. Henry and Rinaldi shared a room. They were definitely close enough not to steal each others' girlfriends.

So what happens after Rinaldi's confession of love? During the third meeting between Lt. Henry and Catherine, he kisses her. Then he vanishes for like, three weeks, and when he returns, he lies to her to get her to sleep with him.

Catherine asks him if he loves her, to which he lies and says yes. "I knew I did not love Catherine Barkley," Henry narrates, "nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards.

Now, is this a main character you want to read about? Not me. But still, I kept going.

The next problem with this novel?

Lt. Henry's eventual confession of love is in no way genuine. Lt. Henry and Miss Barkley go through a brief courtship, if you could call it that, during which he is injured in the line of duty. He is then placed in the same hospital where she is a nurse.

The first time he sees her after being injured, he confesses his love for her. "When I saw her I was in love with her."

I'm sorry, am I actually supposed to believe that? You told her that before, when you were just playing games, what makes me think you're actually being honest now? Nothing has happened to make us think he's undergone a change of character, not where his relationship with Catherine is concerned.

Problem number 3:

Catherine Barkley is a stupid ninny. No joke, she's probably one of the dumbest characters I've ever read. About halfway through the book, after she and Lt. Henry have been conducting an affair while he's injured AND one of her patients, there's something obviously bothering her.

At first she refuses to tell him what it is. She says, "I'm afraid I'll make you unhappy or worry you."

Her problem she's so worried about?

She's pregnant.

Yep. She didn't want to tell her boyfriend she's pregnant. She had no intention of leaving him. What was she going to do, wait until the kid popped out to tell him? If she didn't want to worry him, maybe she shouldn't have done anything to get herself pregnant in the first place.

Oh. And?

Later in the book, somehow Lt. Henry and Catherine are talking about STD's. That Rinaldi's had syphilis, and Lt. Henry had gonorrhea.

Do you know what she says? "I wish I'd had it."

I'm sorry, WHAT?

A nurse just said she wish she'd had AN STD.

The very last problem with this nightmare of a novel is the writing. I'm sorry. I'll just say it.

Hemingway is a bad writer.

Besides the obvious flaws listed above, Hemingway has a real pension for run-on sentences. Now, I'll just state that I can handle a run-on sentence if the words are at least interesting.

For example:

"Later, below in the town, I watched the snow falling, looking out of the window of the bawdy house, the house for officers, where I sat with a friend and two glasses drinking a bottle of Asti, and, looking out at the snow falling slowly and heavily, we knew it was all over for that year."

Not only does this sentence go on and on, it's repetitive. Which brings me to my next point. Hemingway also likes to use the same words over and over again. It's annoying.

"If they killed men as they did this fall the Allies would be cooked in another year. He said we were all cooked but we were all right as long as we did not know it. We were cooked. The thing was not to recognize it."

I'm not okay with using the same word three sentences in a row. It's not only repetitive, it's lazy. I realize that he's going for a certain attitude with Lt. Henry. If the one he was going for was "annoying" he certainly succeeded.

Another reason why Hemingway is a bad writer is that he can't seem to keep track of how many people are in a scene at a time.

At some point, Lt. Henry is captured by some Italian anarchists or something and he has to escape by jumping in a river. Now, I read the chapter like three times. Lt. Henry escapes by himself and is floating down the river on a log. By himself. Did I mention by himself?

"I was afraid of cramps and I hoped we would move toward the shore. We went down the river in a long curve."

"We were floating more slowly."

Now what I'm wondering is why he keeps saying we? What "we"?? The log he's floating on is not a person! It doesn't designate "we."

I get that this particular offense is only partly Hemingway's fault. The bottom line is that sometimes writers don't pay attention to details like pronouns and spelling. Which is why God invented editors. It's an editor's job to point all this crap and make sure everything makes sense.

But this doesn't make it any less infuriating.

Okay. To summarize my opinion of A Farewell to Arms, I think it's a crappy excuse for an autobiographical novel.

It's okay to have a unique writing style, to do something other people haven't done before. But at least keep track of how many people are in your scenes. Or at least have a decent editor. And at least use interesting words in your run-on sentences. I don't want to feel like I'm reading a high school English paper instead of so-called "classic literature."

You can't have a main character that people don't like, and you certainly can't have him fall in love with a leading lady that's as dumb as a bag of rocks. There has to be some sort of internal struggle, and he has to end up differently than when he started. Lt. Henry is the same person at the end of the novel as he was at the beginning.

The thing that gets me is that the ending really is quite sad. Bad things happen to the main characters. However Lt. Henry and Catherine Barkley are such poorly written characters that I just don't care. Call me insensitive, but I really honestly don't care. I won't tell you exactly what happens; I'll leave at least something a surprise in case you actually want to read it, although I wouldn't recommend it.

I hated A Farewell to Arms. Can you tell?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Singing Opera For Strangers

I currently desire a part-time job, in addition to my full-time gig peddling expensive coffee. And in Branson, right now is the time to look for one.

Down the street from Starbucks is the Branson Landing, an outdoor mall full of possibilities.

So after my shift this morning, I make the rounds, collecting applications.

At some point, I enter a shoe store much too cool for me, manned by three bros approximately somewhere in their twenties. I ask for an application, and they're appropriately nosey and ask me a bunch of questions about myself.

And somehow, I tell them I'm a singer. They want me to sing something.

Really? Well. . . Okay. I'm thinking, you asked for it.

So I decide to go all out, since, well, they did ask for it, and I bust out an aria from La Bohรจme that I sang my junior year of college. They clapped for me, so I guess I didn't embarrass myself to badly.

It was the most bizarre thing that's happened to me in a long time. 

So in case you've been wondering, singing opera for strangers in shoe stores is always a good idea, and should be done often.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Second Most Useless Holiday Ever

My Valentine's Day has been pretty much like every other day.

I worked this morning.

I paid the electric bill, went grocery shopping, ate some lunch.

Now I'm back at Starbucks, listening to David Bowie, sitting next to a cluster of rambunctious children who I'm trying to ignore, who are also being ignored by their adult chaperone, presumably their father who has decided what sounds like a work phone call is more important than the offspring currently under his care.

Not that I have an opinion on that sort of thing or anything. 

It doesn't feel like Valentine's Day, other than the two cards I got from family members, and one I got from the roommate, even though I didn't reciprocate. (She also got me some candy conversation hearts, the only good part about Valentine's Day!) But she probably didn't expect me to get her anything. She knows how I feel about Valentine's Day.

I'll be honest. I haven't decided if I feel the way I do about the big V-Day because I'm single, or because I legitimately think it's the most useless holiday ever, second only to Groundhog Day. (And you all know how I feel about Groundhog Day.)

Valentine's Day, while it started out as a religious holiday which commemorated the death of a number of Christian martyrs who were all named Valentine, has become a marketing ploy by a number of companies to make money.

Greeting cards. Candy. Flowers. Jewelry.

Where it was formerly completely acceptable for a girl to be single the other 364 days of the year, those of us without significant others are left sitting on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry's and a half-empty bottle of wine and crying while watching romantic comedies on TV. Wait...just me? Okay...

As if I'm not insecure enough about being almost 26 and STILL unmarried and working at Starbucks, let's add Valentine's Day to the mix, and I'll feel REALLY great about myself.

Please don't try and tell me that Valentine's Day isn't about being in a relationship, that it's about love of all sorts. Don't try and tell me that when all I'm seeing are ads for jewelry on TV. You don't give diamonds to your best friend, or your dad, or your teacher.

Don't try and tell me that when the question everyone asks is "What are your Valentine's Day plans?" and when you respond with "None," they get that awkward look on their face where they're trying not to feel sorry for you, but they're doing a terrible job of hiding it. It's the same look people give when you tell them you have to work on holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I don't want your pity.

I don't want you to feel sorry for me for being single today,
or the other days of the year, for that matter.

I'm determined not to let the depression I experienced last Valentine's Day return to bring me down. There is nothing about my life that deserves pity. 

I have a great job, and I pay all my own bills.

I have a pantry full of food at home.

I have a home.

I have a family who loves me.

I am single, and it's awesome.

I have a gory action movie with my name all over it tonight. 

I don't need a boyfriend to feel validated about my life, and I certainly don't need Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I am NOT a Morning Person

I got switched from closing shifts to morning shifts at work.

My body doesn't remember how to go to bed early and wake up early.

I'm exhausted. Too exhausted, dear friends, to write an adequately entertaining post for you.

But I've got one planned. I'm reading a certain novel by a certain dead author whose name may or may not be Ernest Hemmingway. And when I finish, you can be sure I'll write a post and tell you all about what a debacle-- I mean, pleasure it was.

In fact, I'm going to start a new BLOG SERIES!

Leah's Literary Adventures!

I can't promise it'll be every week. But I can promise that I'll have a special focus on classic literature that's supposed to be the bee's knees, but is actually pretty overrated. So if you know of any books you'd like to see torn apart, feel free to leave them in the comments!

In the meantime, if you're looking for an entertaining post about books to keep you occupied, here's one from the archives:

When Good Writers Go Bad

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Internet, Meet Dana

Yep. Dana is my car. I've had her for several years. She used to belong to my mom.

She was named by a college classmate of mine, Kari, amidst an end of semester celebration with our senior project class a couple of years ago. Dependable Dana.

Well, lately Dana hasn't been so dependable.

I think she knows that I want to leave her for a shiny, new car. (Which I can in no way afford.) She's been acting out a little.

List of Offenses:
  • She refuses to give me back a Bob Dylan CD that's stuck in the stereo. I haven't been able to use the CD player for years.
  • The defroster is a PIECE OF CRAP.
  • During a safety inspection, a brake light stopped working. Then started working again. She's trying to tell me something, I know it.
  • A tire was punctured by a drill bit (yep, you read that right) as I was driving along. I was forced to pay an arm and a leg for a new tire, as it couldn't be fixed.
  • She has three, count them, THREE bent wheel rims. 
  • She also only has two hubcaps. 
The Bright Side:
  • She has a shiny new front driver's side door, courtesy of the old lady who backed into her in an empty parking lot a few months ago. (Apparently she just didn't see my car! :/ )
  • At least I have a car. And at least it's completely paid for.
 Well, it appears the List of Offenses is longer than The Bright Side.

It's not looking good for my once-dependable Dana. Her days may be numbered.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Can't Believe They Made A Movie About This

Ah, Groundhog Day.

Each year, I anxiously count down the days until we find out how much of winter is left, as predicted by a rodent who lives underground.


Does anyone else thing it's absolutely absurd that we still observe such an archaic holiday based on wildly inaccurate folklore?

How in the world do you connect the length of winter to whether or not a rodent sees his shadow? Can someone please explain to me how the two are related?

Maybe Punxsutawney Phil could tell me. He totally looks like a weatherman to me.

Perhaps this all would seem a little bit less ridiculous to me if the high today in B-town hadn't been over 60 degrees.

Then again, not. I'm trying to communicate my confusion and amusement at all of this absurdity in a clever, witty way, but I'm failing.

I'll just say it.

Groundhog Day is a stupid holiday.
Although I'm sure the movie is perfectly delightful.