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Friday, January 30, 2009

All the Cool Kids Are Doing It

It's been tagging galore on Facebook this week, so I thought I'd share them on here as well. I've tagged enough people on there already, so tag your-own-self if you want to do these. ;)

These are interspersed with the third picture from the third folder on my computer, fourth from the fourth and fifth from the get the idea...

(Picture is of me at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden last Spring. We need to go back.)

All About "Ts"...

1. What is your name: Tiffany
2. A four Letter Word: Tarp
3. A boy's Name: Timothy
4. A girl's Name: Tina
5. An occupation: Teacher
6. A color: Teal
7. Something you wear: Tiara
8. Where is your mind? Top of my head :)
9. A food: Tilapia
10. Something found in the bathroom: Toothbrush
11. A place: Texas
12. A reason for being late: Too much coffee
13. Something you shout: Take your finger out of your nose!
14. A movie title: Teacher's Pet
15. Something you drink: Tea (hot, not cold)
16. A musical group: Tears for Fears
17. An animal: Tiger
18. A street name: Third Street
19. A type of car: Tiburon
20. The title of a song: Three Is a Magic Number

(Picture is of my "throw" bouquet from our wedding...which I hung on our door on our anniversary...and Fred promptly tried to destroy.)
Three Really Is a Magic Number...

Nicknames I go by: 1. Tiff 2. Tiffy 3. TD
Unusual jobs I have had: 1. CNN intern 2. Cracker Barrel waitress 3. Hotel bartender
Places I have lived: 1. Tuscumbia, AL 2. Tuscaloosa, AL 3. Fort Worth, TX
TV shows I watch: 1. House 2. Monk 3. Psych
Places I have been: 1. New Haven, Connecticut 2. London, England 3. Sorrento, Italy
Places I want to go: 1. Seattle, Washington 2. Carmel, California 3. Northumberland, England
Favorite Foods: 1. Pineapple pizza 2. Chapps Cajun Chicken Sandwich 3. Oreos dipped in peanut butter
Things I am looking forward to: 1. February 12--our engagement anniversary (dinner at Outback) 2. The new Star Trek movie (for real) 3. This weekend!

(Picture is of Jason at the Trinity River here in Fort Worth)

25 Random Things...

1. Most people call me Tiff. A few people still call me Tiffy, but they’re mostly close relatives who know they can get away with it.
2. I have one brother, who is 14 years older than I am, and we are pretty much polar opposites. But, along with my husband and my dad, one of the three greatest guys I know.
3. Jason and I have been married for almost four years. He is, hands down, the nicest guy I have ever met.
4. dad is probably the most hard-working...and the biggest coffee drinker. I inherited my coffee addiction from him.
5. Jason and I really, really like living in Fort Worth.
6. But my asthma and allergies have been plaguing me since we moved here. I think that's the only thing we don't like about this area, though.
7. Our favorite restaurant here is Chapps. Their cajun chicken sandwich makes me melt. It's my second favorite food, next to pineapple pizza, which I could have for supper every night except on the nights we eat at Chapps.
8. I spoil my dog (Fred), I buy him cute clothes, I like him better than I like most children, and I am OK with all of that. (I also realize that makes me somewhat peculiar. Oh well.)
9. I majored in journalism at the University of Alabama, and I went on to work in journalism in the print, television, radio AND Internet sectors. But I liked public radio the best.
10. I still listen to NPR every day, and I've gotten so comfortable with it that I can no longer stand listening to or watching any other news source for more than about five minutes.
11. I got my Master’s in Library and Information Studies. This program was in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, and I always get confused about which was Studies and which was Sciences.
12. I was always much more "conservative" than my classmates in both journalism and library school, but I think I'm more "liberal" than most people at Southwestern. Go figure.
13. I became a Christian when I was 10 years old, but I recommitted my life to Christ when I was 24. These decisions are equally big to me.
14. I grew up in the Church of Christ, but now I attend a Baptist church. This is a small difference to most of the world, but it was a huge difference to my family.
15. I rarely cry.
16. According to Myers-Briggs, I am an ISTJ. My husband and I are semi-obsessed with guessing personality types.
17. I still have (and use) my first typewriter. But I also really like my iPod and Jason's Macbook.
18. I have been playing the piano since I was seven years old.
19. I love just about every kind of music.
20. I am a really heavy sleeper, and I am irritatingly perky in the mornings. Probably from all that deep sleep. :)
21. I have scars all over the place from when I was an accident-prone kid. The most notable is the piece of lead still stuck in my knee from the pencil I inadvertently jabbed in there. I'm still pretty accident-prone as an adult. Some people call this klutzy. ha
22. I started reading when I was three years old, and I haven’t really stopped since.
23. I was a head taller than every other kid in my class until about the 8th grade. Then they all started growing, and I stopped…at almost 5’3”…where I remain today. I really, really wish I was tall. Like basketball player tall. My husband says my height is perfect. See? Seriously--nicest guy ever.
24. I wish my life looked more like Christ’s.
25. When I really think about what His life looked like and the changes I would have to make, it scares me to death. Luckily, He's not through working on me yet. :)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wife in the North

Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly

He thinks we will move to Northumberland and life will be perfect. Life is never perfect.

Judith O'Reilly writes about her decidedly non-perfect life with unapologetic honesty and understated humor.

That does not mean you won't end up in the floor laughing as she alternates between frustration with builders to frustration with her children, but you might shed a few tears as she talks about leaving her home to follow her husband's dream and being a mother while caring for her aging mother.

One day you wrap, in acid-free tissue layers, the daughter in you. You admire it as you put away its girlish chiffon colours, you mourn its passing as you stand on tiptoe to put it away on the very highest shelf. From a hanger, you take off and shake out the sensible navy role of mother and slip it on.

O'Reilly does not initially describe her move from London as sensible, blaming it instead on pregnancy hormones.

Northumberland is the northernmost county in England, bordering Scotland--the sort of place you go to get away from it all; but what if you do not want to get away from it? What if you like "it" just fine?

However, as time passes, she starts to appreciate some elements of country life, including riding horses, haunted castles and neighborliness. The big question, though, becomes whether they will stay or return to London.

The novel reads like a blog (which, from what I understand, is how it started). Entries are short, daily or weekly, often descriptive of just one episode, so, theoretically, it's easy enough to read a bit and put it down. But I bet you can't read just one. Her writing is too delightful, and you'll get caught up in the seasons of her family's life.

By the end, if you can't get enough of the book, don't worry. Neither could I. Keep reading the blog--Wife in the North.

Other favorite quotes...

There is a sympathy between women which does not need words to feel another's hurt, to ease another's pain.

When strangers disapprove of your parenting, you can virtually chew the air between you.

There are glittering candles watched over by wooden martyrs, pictures stain the glass, and a wise man in brocade vestments walks behind a cross with a nailed-on saviour, then speaks of peace and goodwill to all men...I have never felt so lacking in goodwill.

For being there when it would have been simpler and far cleaner to give me "space and time" and all those things that mean "I don't know what to say."

When I got myself to that school on two scholarships, I wanted to be Prime Minister; now I just want to get through the day without crying. Mind you, that is probably how the Prime Minister feels.

It [blog] is not a secret diary, locked up with a tiny key, click, turn, in a gilt clasp, and saying what you think out loud in cyber space can get you into trouble.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Making Waves

Making Waves by Cassandra King

Step on in to Making Waves, sugah, and let me do somethin' with your hair. We'll frost it or perm it and give you a few free makeup tips while we're at it (you can never go wrong with blue or green eye shadow). And you just might hear a little of the town news (good Christians like us don't call it gossip) while your rollers are settin'.

Making Waves is the beauty shop in Zion, Alabama, where hairdos--and reputations--are made or ruined. Donnette is the beautician there, and she's married to Tim, who was the star quarterback in high school, but lost his chances for larger fame after a wreck left his throwing arm paralyzed. Taylor Dupree--Tim's best friend--was driving in that wreck, and it shook him up so badly that he took off for Tulane...never to be heard from again...until now. He came home because his Aunt Della, who raised him, is getting old and needs help saving her house from the greedy clutches of her brother and his no-account grandchildren.

Confused? Probably not if you're from a small Southern town, where tales like these are traded, dissected, analyzed and spread on an hourly basis.

King is a master at spreading these tales and at analyzing Zion's incredibly rich characters. The novel is definitely character-driven, and it is written from the perspectives of several characters--but not so many that the story becomes disjointed. King also does a great job of tackling issues that are important but don't seem to be discussed often--male friendship, quarterlife crises and a sense of place.

I loved this book partly because I felt like I already knew the town and its characters from growing up in my own Zion. But I also loved the beauty shop connection. My grandmother, who passed two weeks ago, was a beautician in another Zion for almost 50 years. This is a picture of her shop, which, like Making Waves, was connected to her house. (This is not her standing beside it.) I couldn't help but think of Maw-Maw as I read Donnette's story.

Favorite quotes...

Aunt Della was a real Jesus freak, always had been. But I kind of liked her Jesus. The way she talked to him was cool, even to a sinner like me. Sometimes I wished I could have such a simple faith. Or any faith at all.

It was weird to me how she always had leftovers on the table covered with a cloth, sitting out all day, yet no one ever got sick from them.

I've gotten good at sarcasm since I've been to the business college.

I love to eat out. Usually we go to Tuscaloosa or Columbus, though, where they have nice restaurants like Shoney's.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Walking Through Walls

Walking Through Walls by Philip Smith

I always read memoirs these days with the proverbial grain of salt. Might be true, might not be. Who cares? If it's a good book, I like it.

And I like Philip Smith's account of growing up with a father who, Smith says, could travel to other dimensions, cure diseases, read thoughts and communicate with "spirits."

Smith puts a fairly happy spin on what could have been an extremely unhappy childhood. His parents were not exactly typical to begin with. His father was a Miami decorator, catering to celebrities like Jackie Gleason and Walt Disney. His mother wore cocktail dresses on a daily basis, chain-smoked and just seemed a bit too glamorous for Miami in the 1960s.

Our neighbors, whom we hardly ever saw and made every effort to avoid, were good old rednecks who drove beat-up Ford pickups with gun racks on the back window and Confederate flags fluttering from the antenna. They all had long-drawn southern accents and deeply rooted beliefs as to the God-sanctioned inferiority of Yankees, Jews, and blacks. We fit the first two categories.

But Smith's outsider status grew exponentially when his father started exploring his spiritual side. Lew Smith ultimately becomes a psychic healer and somewhat of a spiritual guru, often working with the homeless and others who'd been neglected by society (and modern medicine).

My father rushed by us, lost in thought, carrying a two-foot-tall wooden crucifix...Given the last few years of his rapidly evolving religious curiosity, neither of us would have been surprised if he had suddenly become a Pentecostal or Baptist when we weren't looking.

But the book never comes across as dark or self-pitying. Instead, Smith writes with a nice combination of wit and skepticism when describing his father. I would have liked to have learned more about Philip's life as an adult and how his father shaped him. However, the focus seemed to remain on his father, even after his father is gone.

As cynical as I could be at times, I was also completely certain that my father knew things that no one else in the world knew. No matter how crazy they sounded, no matter how much I didn't want to believe him, no matter how everyone in the world would laugh at him, in the end, he was always right. The truth was that Pop could do things that no one else could do.

I even found myself wanting to believe! True memoir or not, Smith's thoughts are worth reading.

Other favorite quotes...

None of us can ever really know what generates or extinguishes that special spark between two people. We are all outsiders when it comes to other people's relationships.

Thought is basically an electrical impulse similar to radio or television. You can't see the signals in the air and you can't feel the signals, yet when you turn on the television set, you can see or hear your favorite program. Pretty amazing, if you think about it. Yet this is exactly how psychic healing works.

Great leaps in culture have always been made whenever invisible energies were discovered and harnessed, such as X-rays, atomic energy, television, radio, electricity, and microwave communication, among others. Perhaps Pop's initial discoveries of these subtle energies will eventually be used for healings that could include organ regrowth and reduced cellular aging, which could lead the way to an immortal body.

Remembering Maw-Maw

This is my grandmother, Rosa Mae Harris.

We were fortunate to have her here for almost 88 years. She was a Christian, and she passed away in her sleep after spending the night playing cards with her husband (my step-grandfather) and her sister. Even though I will miss her terribly, I'm so thankful that she went peacefully, and I know that she is now with God, which is infinitely better for her. But still sad for us.

Here are a few things I want to be sure to remember about my grandmother...

-She was the best cook I've ever known. Cornbread dressing, fried okra, homemade biscuits and banana pudding were her specialties, but all of her vegetables, dumplings, cakes and cookies were delightful.

-She taught me everything I know about hair and skin care. She was a beautician for almost 50 years. (I'm not sure who this is in the picture of her shop that was just out behind her house.) She taught me how to give a permanent (using me as an example for many summers in my childhood!), how to roll and tease hair and how sleeping on silk pillowcases can help you "hold a style." She also stressed the importance of staying out of the sun (she always looked about 20 years younger than she was) and removing your makeup every single night. She used the traditional pink Oil of Olay moisturizer, and that is the smell I will always associate with her.

-She introduced me to Patsy Cline and Floyd Cramer. This is her with my step-grandfather on their wedding day in 1992. They would dance to "Last Date" while I played it on the piano. They loved to go dancing.

-She told wonderful stories from her childhood and never minded when I asked to hear them again...and again...and again.

-She taught me that skim milk is a sacrilege. If you're going to drink milk, drink it whole. Oddly enough, fat-free buttermilk is just fine.

-Before she and my step-grandfather were married, she slept with a gun under her mattress.

-She was teeny-tiny as a young adult--about five feet tall and probably not even 100 pounds, but all four of her children weighed more than 10 pounds when they were born. She was so thin at one point that a doctor prescribed a "daily can of beer" to help her gain weight.

-She was the first daughter born after six or seven boys, so she was quite spoiled (and readily admitted it) when growing up.

-She snored like a Mack truck.

-She hated to be called Rosie.

-She loved to play cards, shop for shoes and be with her family. This is her with my dad. She was my mother's mother, but she treated Dad like a son, too.

She was a beautiful lady, a consummate hostess and the best grandmother I can imagine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Trying Not to Get Behind in 2009

Here's a picture of what we at the Davis-Norris house enjoyed reading on Christmas Eve. Good times. :)

Moving on...

Hooray! Being a librarian is one of the best things you can be. is the profession changing?

And how is the Internet changing the profession? Check out one of my husband's favorites sites that attempts to archive the Internet.

On the political side...librarians apparently are not immune from politics.

Nor are children...when it comes to some public libraries.

And while I offer my sincerest congratulations to President Obama, I'm also looking forward to reading Laura Bush's book next year.

Meanwhile, I feel as if I'm already getting behind in my reviews this year! Two--coming soon!

Monday, January 12, 2009

(Mostly) Mobile Uploads

So, I was cleaning out pictures from the phone and here and there, and I came across a few I missed sharing.
Here's downtown Fort Worth all lit up for Christmas...

Some random guy walked in front of me while I was taking this one, but I thought it turned out kind of cool...

Here's one of our tree this year...

And here's one of Jason in the Atlanta airport, where we spent approximately six hours on my birthday...good times...

Finally, Jason grew out his beard over the holidays. This was right before he shaved it off. I don't have an after picture...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Ralphina, the Roly-Poly

Ralphina, the Roly-Poly by Claudia Chandler

Ralphina is a lonely roly-poly who is eager not only for a human playmate, but also for a human pupil. She wants to teach Alec, the boy who lives in the house beside her garden, all about roly-polies.

Finally, Alec discovers Ralphina, and the friendship blossoms.

The story is simple but charming, and the scientific facts included in this picture book are not overwhelming. Chandler does an incredible job on the illustrations, making even roly-polies seem beautiful. Most are double-page spreads filled with eye-catching colors and an up-close view of nature.

I would recommended this for young children, perhaps 4-6 years old.

You can find more information about Chandler's work online at Claudia's Custom Creations.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What's In a Name-Round Two!

I am so excited about this year's What's In a Name challenge. Last year's was lots of fun, and I always enjoy stretching my thinking a bit when it comes to pick. So, without further ado...the list!

1. A book with a "profession" in its title.

2. A book with a "time of day" in its title.

3. A book with a "relative" in its title.

4. A book with a "body part" in its title.

5. A book with a "building" in its title.
The Mansion by William Faulkner

6. A book with a "medical condition" in its title.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Andrew Clarke Interview

Hope everyone's 2009 is off to a great start! Mine certainly is--I was pleased to be able to chat with Outcasts of Skagaray author Andrew Clarke. Here's what he had to say...

How did you create the unusual world of Skagaray?
Skagaray is an imagined idea of a natural environment which is harsh, like parts of the Scottish Highlands, or the rugged parts of Australia or America; but which could have a certain beauty if its human inhabitants are not cruel. A physical environment can have a wild beauty about it, or it can seem dangerous and hostile if the human inhabitants are dangerous and violent. It seems to me that places can have an atmosphere or a 'spirit' about them which reflects the way its people live and behave.

Can we draw comparisons between the practices on Skagaray and how people behave in our world today?
Definitely, yes. There is a need to strive for your own living, and look after your family and yourself, but that is not the same as deliberately preying on others. A humane society is one in which people who can't always look after themselves are cared about by others, not abandoned or despised. The Nazi regime of the mid Twentieth Century carried out a policy of euthenasia against handicapped people. The 'master race' theory they lived by taught that some peoples and races should be dominated, or even exterminated, by the so called 'superior' race. In some societies the poor are regarded as deserving their poverty, even if circumstances beyond their control have held them back. We can strive for excellence in various ways without becoming elitist and looking down on those who cannot be outstanding. If people who are excellent at sport hold non-athletic people in contempt, or people who are physically attractive despise those who are not, they are showing the same cruelty as the Skagars. A point to remember is that we may be born with some advantages, not earn them.

There are definite Christian themes in the book, but they are subtle (similar, to me, to C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien's writings). Was this intentional, and what is the main theme you wanted to convey in the book?
The Christian themes are supposed to be subtle because it can simply put people off if you push something at them too hard. Also I hope plenty of people can enjoy the book, whatever their spiritual beliefs. As a Christian I believe in God and the need to look to Him, but I can't tell other people what to believe. The main theme I wanted to convey was the need for people to live together in good faith and peace. We would not see brutal dicatorships, or poverty and squalor, or urban violence, if every person respected every other person's right to live. Nearly all of those things happen because someone tries to exploit and victimize, or because they simply don't care about others. When the outcasts in the novel save the supposedly powerful elite, it shows that had the 'strong' been treated the way they treated others they would have all been lost. Also, you can never know what gifts an individual might have. It is a mistake to trash them because they don't impress you or have something you want.

I saw a lot of compassion for animals in the book. Is this something that is important to you personally?
Yes, it is. We all know companion animals can be very important to people. Horses, dogs and cats can show attachment and affection, and save their human owners' lives in some cases. Deliberate cruelty to an animal is an abomination like mistreatment of a human. There may be need to defend ourselves against some animals or take them for a food source but not to kill them just to prove something about ourselves. Like humans, animals are a created life form that can suffer. They often have a great splendor. Bears can be dangerous, but they can also be magnificent. The same is true of dogs and horses, or felines like a cougar. Treating all life forms the right way is part of being a noble human being rather than a savage.

Are you currently working on a sequel or another project?
I'm writing a sequel to "Outcasts Of Skagaray" which has to be done carefully so that is not just a re-run which spoils the concept. I've also written another novel, not published at this stage, set in a different world from Skagaray.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell me about the book or your writing?
I would really hope that people find anything I write uplifting. It is good to entertain, I read for enjoyment and relaxation myself. If a reader simply enjoys the book that's great. If it also causes the reader to think about important issues, that's good also. Any human being who cares hopes to reach others and discuss the things we care about.

ESPN, Artsy Photos and Christmas With a Big Black Dog

Jason was sick the last time we were in Connecticut (two years ago), so he didn't get to do the ESPN tour. This time, we were determined, and we both had a lot of fun!
Signing in...
On the set...
I just thought this was a cool hallway...
Pehaps a back-up job if we move to Connecticut for Jason to be a bi-vocational preacherman? ha

Meanwhile, I'm continuing to try and be artsy and have fun with the camera.

Christmas dinner table...

Christmas decor...

Up-close of Christmasy chandelier...

Another close-up...

My Christmas dishes...

We also had a lot of fun palling around with my dog-nephew, Scout. He's a lot like Fred...except quadrupled. (i.e. When he paws at you, you feel like you've been punched.)

Aunt Tiff and Scout...

Uncle Jason and Scout in a staring match...

You kind of can't tell here, but he can easily put his paws on my shoulders when he stands up...

Hopefully he and Fred can get together on the next vacation. Ebony and ivory....

Read from the beginning...