Merry Easter, Hoppy Holidays!

Erm.....Yeah, Christmas has it's magic, but nothing compares to Easter.

I am sitting in my living room, with all the windows open on a beautiful day, watching my Detroit Tigers on TV. It's bliss to have a nice breeze, a baseball game, some chocolate, some strawberries, and no obligations for the rest of the day.

I even made a tiny Easter basket and filled it with peanut M&Ms, strawberries, and Reese's cups, and hid it for my husband this morning. It's not quite like the traditions I remember loving about Easter, but it was fun.

When I was younger, Easter was an entire day of sweetness. In the morning, my mom would wake me up with a card from the Easter bunny. I would be all bleary-eyed, messy haired excitement. Inside, a rhyming clue would lead me towards my Easter basket. Things like,

Good morning! It's true
I've hidden things for you
But before you seek,
Better brush those teeth!

Okay, so that doesn't really rhyme, but trying to re-create my mom's genius is difficult. :) I would follow the Easter bunny's clue to the bathroom, where next to my tooth brush might be a lolly pop with a clue tied to it.

Once, after many many clues, I had to do a complicated math problem. It was more of a math riddle, because once I came up with the solution, I had to figure out where those numbers led me! I came up with 4545244. It took me a moment of staring at them before I remembered that this was the code to get into my mom's car with the keyless entry! I dashed out to the car, punched in the numbers, and voila! The trunk popped open and there was my basket, overflowing with goodies.

Then, after I'd solved the mysteries at home, we'd get dressed up and head to my grandma's. I always brough colored hard-boiled eggs in little hand-made paper baskets for my grandmas. We'd save some for ourselves too, and the next week, we'd eat them with a little salt. Sometimes the whites of the eggs would have little cracks of color.

At Grandma's, the first order of business for everyone was Easter Dinner.  If it was nice enough out, we'd grill. Honey ham, barbecue chicken, potato salad, these little things my aunt makes called polish roses. They are pickles and cream cheese wrapped in thinly sliced chip beef. My mouth is watering just thinking about it all. Around the house, there would be bowls of jelly beans, pastel M&Ms, and Brach's caramels. It would be a feast.

After dinner, my cousins and I would run around playing, tripping over aunts and uncles. The dogwood tree out front would be hung with plastic eggs and ready to drop its pink petals. We would hide in its branches and shake them down on unsuspecting passers-by. Through the window in an upstairs closet, we could reach the roof. We'd lay on the warm roof tiles of the porch and relish the newly mild weather. 

Then, my grandma would take us to the park for an hour or so. When we returned...Surprise! The Easter bunny had been, and had hidden eggs for us all. We picked an egg out of a bucket, and the color (or color combination) you got was the one you looked for. The plastic eggs were filled with even more candy. After we found all the eggs, we would each be presented with a chocolate bunny from World's Finest (bought from a school fundraiser.)

Traditionally, a movie popped up in my Easter basket. That night, we'd go home and watch my new movie (I remember getting Beauty and the Beast and 101 Dalmations.) 


Uni Beauty

Willow Shields
This is Willow Shields who has been cast as Primrose Everdeen in the Hunger Games. You might notice, as I did, that she sports a facial feature that is culturally taboo.

Ms. Shields has a unibrow.

She's like a little blond Frida Kahlo, and I like it.  She's unapologetic. And her brow frames her big brown eyes, illustrates the little freckles on her cheeks, and makes her unique and memorable.

Now, my very first thought upon seeing this picture of her was, "Can't they just wax her!?" But then, shortly after, I thought...why? She's pretty just as she is. And she's a kid. She shouldn't have to worry about that nonsense. Yes, let's give her a complex. I hope she appears in The Hunger Games with her brow intact.

And I've compiled some photos of other people who have unique, "correctable" features, and who wear them unapologetically and beautifully. 

For your viewing pleasure.

Stacy London
Stacy London is a co-host of TLC's What Not To Wear. She's a style expert. On the show, she's great because she's completely honest with the guests, but doesn't forget that how you present yourself is a very personal thing. She treats them with compassion, honesty, and a sense of humor.

She has a streak of gray hair down the right side of her face, something she has had for many years. It doesn't diminish her (or her hair's) beauty. Stacy has even, recently, been seen in ads for Pantene, showcasing her hair itself.

She is not beautiful despite her gray hair, she's beautiful because of it.

Kate Bosworth

Kate Bosworth has two different colored eyes. It's odd to look at at first. Human eyes are fickle things, and are subject to many an optical illusion. When a person has two different colored eyes, they look almost as if they have two different expressions at the same time. Since we take many social cues from eye contact, trying to connect to someone with different colored eyes can be difficult.

But this photo illustrates their exotic beauty. Her skin, hair, and lips are almost all the same color. The photo is very close up, forcing you to focus on her face and her face alone. You have to accept her gaze. You cannot look away. First, you are slightly disturbed, then, as you appreciate the unique beauty of these eyes, you realize how lucky she is to have such a distinguishing feature.

Keira Knightley
This is Keira Knightley. You probably know her from Pirates of the Carribean, Bend it Like Beckham, Atonement, Domino, or King Arthur. There is something about her that deviates from standard "hollywood beauty."

The girl has tiny boobs.

In Pirates of the Carribean, they gave the impression of cleavage with airbrushed makeup. But in fashion shots like this, you can see that her small breasts are not hidden or enhanced. You see her as she is.

(I have to admit that I included Keira because I have quite the opposite problem, and I'm terribly jealous.)

I have only women on here because I think that they are expected to adhere to as stricter "code" of beauty. But I'm interested in finding more uniquely beautiful people--men and women--...people who shock you at first, but then, on second look, you find beautiful. If you have any, leave them in the comments or check me out on twitter!

"Hungry fingers devour me, wanting to feel my flesh. As a stricken man clutches my face between his hands, I send a silent thank-you to Dalton for suggesting I wash off the makeup. How ridiculous, how perverse I would feel presenting that painted Capitol mask to these people. The damage, the fatigue, the imperfections. That's how they recognize me, why I belong to them." -Katniss in the rebel's hospital in Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


Babies, Babies, Everywhere, and Not a Wedding Ring

Hey, good news! So, in 2008 (a little old, I know) less teens were getting pregnant! Great, right? A teenager could never care for a baby properly. They're still kids themselves!

But if you are 20+, go ahead, ladies. You don't have to be married. You don't have to have a boyfriend.

All you need is sex.

Something wrong with this picture? Is it just me, or are more ladies in their 20s having babies (s!) out of wedlock?

It's not just me. The same Reuters article that says teen pregnancy is down reports that more women in their 20s are unapologetically having kids without husbands or boyfriends.

Maybe I'm just old fashioned.

I mean, this IS 2011. It's the latest it's ever been. The first Sci-Fi novels didn't even consider this year. (I always have a feeling they'd be disappointed that we're not zooming around in space cars, but utterly flummoxed by an iPad.) 

How Many Kids are Too Many? 

So, maybe I am just behind the times, but I am amazed (and shocked) at how many of my Facebook lady friends are having multiple children out of wedlock! I've been married for about a half a year, I graduated college, I've been relatively independent for about three years, and I can't imagine having a kid or two. It's one of my biggest fears: an uninvited, unforeseen bundle of responsibility that I can't handle either financially or psychologically.  I have a hard enough time keeping myself fed and happy and out of too much debt. And these ladies, some of whom are still dependent on their parents, are creating expensive, dependent humans. That's two layers of dependency. Is that responsible? Don't we as citizens of our world have a responsibility to provide as well as we can for our children? How can we possibly provide for them if we can't even get out from under our own parents?

Maybe three generations in one house is preferable. What is it that people say? It takes a village to raise a child? Maybe, in the absence of a mother-father team, a mother-grandma-grandpa team is quite as good. I don't know though. I have only my own experiences. I was raised an only child in a house with my mom and my dad, a couple of cats and a springer spaniel. I accept that there might not be one "right" way to raise a child. And sometimes mothers are not single by choice.

But there seems to be an alarming amount of ladies on who seem not to care whether or not there is a relationship between mother and father. From what I see, they're attempting to foster a relationship between the child and his father, but the mother seems to be completely unattached, whether there's been a break up or what.

And the comments, when a single lady announces that she is pregnant again! Congratulations drip all over the comments. "Likes" add up. I suppose you can't say to a person, "Dammit, Lady, how the hell do you make this enormous mistake twice!?"

Society dictates that my harshest response be "no comment."

One comment I saw recently on a photo of a single lady's second baby offered their congratulations, and then commented that she'd have the perfect family: herself, one boy, and one girl. I was surprised to hear her refer to that as the "perfect" family.

But what is a "perfect family?"

I know it isn't the 1950s. I know a nuclear family isn't necessarily the ideal anymore for everyone. But I think, traditionally, family styles tend to reflect the overall life style of the parents. Farmers have many kids: free farm hands! Working parents have one or two: that's all they have time for (and can afford to give the lifestyle they prefer.) I've read a couple news articles recently that talk about the middle class having smaller and smaller families. One or two kids now is the norm, as opposed to the three or four that was common several years ago.

Still. I cannot imagine myself raising two kids by myself.

And it's not just being able to provide the love and guidance to children...it's also a financial thing. The link under the photo up there brings you to an article that says that the average cost for raising a child is over $200,000. How can one mother provide enough for herself and both of her children? If I weren't married, I'd never be able to live on my own. I just don't command the economic resources to pay rent on an apartment, buy a car, keep myself in food and electricity. Forget the internet, a cell phone, a TV, or furniture! How would I ALSO manage to pay for baby food, toys, clothes, diapers, school supplies, winter coats, roller blades, dance lessons, medical bills, college!? I could never do it. I could not provide for my child if I were single. I would have to depend on the charity of others.

And is it really anyone else's responsibility to provide for my bastard children? I don't think so. Still, a child is a child, and all sacrifices must be made to provide for it. It's a human. If you bear a child, you have to take any help offered to rear that child successfully.  For the child's sake.

I propose taking EVERY precaution to avoid conceiving children out of wedlock, or out of financial solvency. I don't care if you have to take birth control, wear a condom, or simply abstain.

Once you conceive, you're in it for the long haul. But that's an entirely other blog post.

"All I can think of is the emaciated bodies of the children on our kitchen table as my mother prescribes what the parents can't give. More food..... And here in the Capitol they're vomiting for the pleasure of filling their bellies again and again." - Suzanne Collins in Catching Fire, p80


The Trials of Katniss

I am sure you're wondering why I have a random beautiful girl on the side of this post. Who is this person? Why is she on Amanda's blog? Where have I seen her before?

Well, I will satisfy your curiosity presently.

It's Katniss!

This is Jennifer Lawrence and she will be playing Katniss in the Hunger Games movie. She was nominated for an Oscar this year for Winter's Bone, and if she doesn't really look like the practical, ruthless, skillful, compassionate, faithful Katniss you imagined, just pull up some of the pictures from that movie.

Your faith will be restored.

I have really high hopes for the Hunger Games movie. My one big concern is that they'll do what they did to The Golden Compass and miss the entire point. I hope it doesn't look or feel like Twilight. There is going to be a pretty girl torn between two different and worthy guys, but Katniss is NOT Bella, and I hope that they don't portray her as some romantic damsel. She is NOT romantic. All of the romance in the books comes from Gale and Peeta, NOT Katniss. But Jennifer Lawrence can play it well, I think. I saw the clips from Winter's Bone, and she looked awesome. If she's tough like that, she'll make a good Katniss.

The actors for Gale and Peeta have been cast too, and I am pleased so far, although I have never seen the movies they're in. From their photos, I think they are a good foil for each other. The actor who plays Gale is kind of exotically beautiful, and the one who plays Peeta is kind of down-home beautiful. Gale and Peeta both have their strengths, and they are both good people. They have hard decisions to make, and they do the best they can, even when they make mistakes. I like the dichotomy of the two. In the books, I waver back and forth between favoring them just like Katniss does.

I am sure you have read The Hunger Games, but just to be safe:

It's different for Katniss though. She is unromantic. She is practical. She has always been accustomed to putting survival first. I'm a lot luckier. I don't usually have to wonder whether I'm going to survive. Things that threaten my are usually beyond my control: the chance that an airplane I'm on might fall out of the sky, for example. No one can defend themselves against catastrophe.

But of course, I don't live in a post-apocalyptic version of the world. My strength is not continually tested. Sometimes I wish it were, and others, I'm just glad I live in a fairly stable world. On the one hand, I would like to prove to myself that I'm not completely useless. I would like to win a fight, scheme my way out of danger, be determined the fittest in a life or death crucible. On the other hand, I am just glad I don't have to.

One of the reasons I love the Hunger Games trilogy is that I can expound upon it like this. Another strong reason I love them is because it challenges my morals. It challenges what I find acceptable. Katniss is placed in a terrible situation, and she has to make some gut wrenching choices. For her, the choice is constantly between the lesser of two evils. Her position in her world is always precarious. She is balanced on knife's edge all the time. And yet she finds ways to be compassionate in her compassionless world.

In the arena, every person is a danger. No one can possibly be your ally, because every person must be your enemy. Katniss and Peeta solve this in the only way possible: A stalemate fueled by compassion. It was incredibly brave. And had a low chance of success. Most people wouldn't be strong enough to resist the temptation of a rules-devoid battle to the death, especially if you were among the last few. If you killed a few of your opponents, and began to have faith in yourself, if you thought, once, "I could win this. I could survive. I could beat all of the other people." You might be sucked into the glory of it all. A gladiatorial glory. A fight that previously filled you with terror now fills you with power. You feel like you could survive anybody. Bring em' on, and you'll lay them out. I am convinced that Katniss could have prevailed in the arena. But she chose not to.

Looking back with our 20/20 hindsight, and our detached, objective view, it seems obvious that this is the answer. But if we were experiencing it (as we do, from Katniss' eyes, in the present tense, while reading the book) how many of us would make the right decision?

Hard to know.

But I am glad none of us ever have to find out.

"I spread out my fingers, and the dark berries glisten in the sun. I give Peeta's hand one last squeeze as a signal, as a good-bye, and we begin counting. "One." Maybe I'm wrong. "Two." Maybe they don't care if we both die. "Three!" It's too late to change my mind. I lift my hand to m mouth, taking one last look at the world. The berries have just passed my lips when the trumpets begin to blare." - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


The Heron

I didn't have my camera with me today when Gordon and I took Tilly for a walk at Seneca Creek State Park, but we saw one of these herons. We were walking down a steep path with root steps, and we spooked it. It lifted off a branch above us and swooped down to land in a little creek we were about to cross.

I un-gracefully squawked, "HOLY CRAP!" It's wings were so wide and it was so close to us that it shadowed us for a second. It was such a cool steely gray, so weirdly alien. It went to stand in the gummy, grimy water, and it watched us out of the corner of its eye as we passed. It took a few slow-motion steps forward, watching Tilly. Tilly was completely oblivious to it. I swear, she would be a terrible hunting dog. (She doesn't even chase squirrels unless they're climbing up her screen.)

The heron eventually decided that we were boring and continued to gaze out over the lake, and we went on. It was a really good walk though. We met a nice couple twice. They have a farm in Gaithersburg, and a Pomeranian. The husband wants a motorcycle. It is their new years resolution to walk more often, but the wife is bored with their neighborhood, so the husband took her to the park. I never learned their names, but we met them twice and they laughed at my dumb joke. And they liked Tilly's boots and backpack.

Everyone loves Tilly. She is kind of universally adorable. And don't get me wrong, of course, I think my dog is adorable. But people seem drawn to her. People stop their cars and get out to pet her. They roll down their windows and yell. Almost every single person I pass with her stops, or at least says something. I think I might make her a youtube channel or something. She does some pretty adorable things. Like her dervishing, and when she lays down and does her wiggles like a kid at a roller rink playing dead bug. :)

Anyway, in other news, I joined some groups on Meetup.com, and they look promising. One is a doing-things-with-dogs group. They do activities and walks and such. Another is a writing/art group that is having a meetup in Silver Spring on Wednesday. Man. People getting together to write and do art? Sign me up! Hehe. I'm trying to get Gordon to go, but kind of half-heartedly. I mean, I'd love it if he went, but I have to get used to doing things on my own. He's going to be in field med in June, and then deployed probably. So I have to be able to make friends and find things to do by myself. I'm so bored lately. Chronically bored. You can tell by my past two posts. Boredom just turns my thoughts inward, and that can be a terrible thing. I do so much better if I don't force things.

Well, oddly enough for lately, I'm actually kind of tired. I'm going to start ending each of my posts with a quote from a book or movie or song that I've been thinking about. I used to do that on my Xanga about a thousand years ago, and it's the only thing I liked about it. :)

So without further ado, so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodnight.

"The idea hovered and shimmered delicately, like a soap bubble, and she dared not even look at it directly in case it burst. But she was familiar with the way of ideas, and she let it shimmer, looking away, thinking about something else." - The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman


How to Get a Life

It's funny.

I spend a lot of time watching other people do things that I want to do. I'm not quite nerdy enough to write on the public interwebs that I would like to go questing or adventuring, and I'm far too wimpy to put myself in any real danger, but a lot of the satisfaction that I get from things like World of Warcraft and fantasy books, TV, and movies comes from imagining myself in the positions of the characters.

Watching people being active, fighting for something, having fun, being in danger, being excellent at what they do is all fine and good, but I feel like I'm becoming some raging voyeur of their lives. My life is so BORING. It seems like there just aren't many options for having fun. Well, there are options, of course, but you need money to do it.


[insert useless ramblings about the evil constriction of money]

And that is a useless argument because I know that it is not a reason, it is an excuse. I can not blame my lack of money on my lack of life.

And fun is not the only thing I need. I need purpose.

There is a disconnect between what I feel like "living" is and what I feel like I am able to do. I feel like I should have a destination, that I should be searching for something, that I should be working toward something. And I feel like "working" should feel like moving forward. I should feel the wind on my cheeks as I move.

But I am trapped here. I'm super-glued to my chair. I have no money. I have no confidence in my skills. I am afraid to jump into the deep end. But it is more than that. I don't know where the deep end is. I can't find my way to the pool. How does one begin living?

Okay, first, I know I have to get out of the house, physically. But go where? Where am I welcome with no money? Where can I get on foot?

The library? The park? Where does life happen? Bars? Starbucks? Work?

What do I do? What do I want to do? How do I do it? What is meaningful?

I am lonely. I crave friendship. But how do I make friends? It seems instinctual, easy. But I meet people, and I do not get close to them. I like them well enough, but it has been a long time since I have felt friendship form. I have many acquaintances, but very few of those acquaintances change into friendships.

It seems as though everything is a sham. I feel like I need to dive into the earth. Find something real. Find some happy medium between material girl and hippie.

I feel the need to run. Drive. Get out here. Find something worth finding. Do something worth doing. But what would that achieve? Is that living?

Maybe the season inspires my restlessness. Discontent. Spring should bring things of value. I feel like I'm bursting with restlessness. I didn't sleep last night. Not until this morning, until I was exhausted. Slept through the day, woke, watched TV, plated some WoW, ate Chinese food, read a book. It's night now and Gordon is asleep on the couch.

Another day wasted.

Perhaps I'll have better luck tomorrow.