amo.says

my life in my words


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White Rabbit

The great thing about having friends that share your love for books is that my bookshelf queue is NEVER empty! Here are some great books that were suggested by friends that I just added to the queue of books to read. I don’t really do book reviews unless one just captures my attention. Since I don’t do reviews, how about a preview? If you’re looking for a book to read, these came highly recommended by my friends—so much so that I actually bought some of them and they are ready to be read! I’m really excited to get to each of them . . . in due time.

1. THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

Henrietta Lacks was a mother of five in Baltimore, a poor African American migrant from the tobacco farms of Virginia, who died from a cruelly aggressive cancer at the age of 30 in 1951. A sample of her cancerous tissue, taken without her knowledge or consent, as was the custom then, turned out to provide one of the holy grails of mid-century biology: human cells that could survive–even thrive–in the lab. Known as HeLa cells, their stunning potency gave scientists a building block for countless breakthroughs, beginning with the cure for polio. Meanwhile, Henrietta’s family continued to live in poverty and frequently poor health, and their discovery decades later of her unknowing contribution–and her cells’ strange survival–left them full of pride, anger, and suspicion. For a decade, Skloot doggedly but compassionately gathered the threads of these stories, slowly gaining the trust of the family while helping them learn the truth about Henrietta, and with their aid she tells a rich and haunting story that asks the questions, Who owns our bodies? And who carries our memories? —Tom Nissley

My friend, who studies science at the UT Dallas recommended this one to me. She knows I’m not really into science, but thought I might appreciate the story of justice and the research that the author shares in the book. I downloaded it to my Kindle over the weekend and I just started this one. So far I’m just getting to the basic science behind it all and discovering the background of Henrietta and her family, but I already feel connected to them!

 

 

2: THE TRUTH ABOUT DATING, LOVE, AND JUST BEING FRIENDS

and how not to be miserable as a teenager because life is short, and seriously, things don’t magically get better after high school and lots of other important stuff, but we’ll get to that later . . .

Chad shines some much-needed light on these major issues for teens. Rather than let their feelings navigate them blindly through their tumultuous adolescence, Chad offers clarity, some surprising revelations, and answers to some of their biggest questions: How do I know who to date? When should I start dating? How should I start dating? Is this really love? And, Why do guys I like just want to be friends?

Packed with humor that adds to the sound advice, this book will help teens make better decisions, have healthier relationships, and be more prepared for their futures. Just a few things girls will learn include: Five things you need to know about love; Eight dumb dating things even smart people do; Ten reasons why teens are unhappy; and Ten things happy teens do.

I first saw Chad speak last year when I took our youth group girls to the Revolve Tour. My friend and her husband are close friends with Chad and gave us the opportunity to go backstage to hang out with Chad and some of the bands at the event and we also got to have dinner with him. He is a great speaker and provides a lot of insight that isn’t just Christianese jargon. Recently, I had the opportunity to go over to my friends’ house to join them and some other friends for lunch with him and I found out he had this new book out. I saw it and read some of it and knew I had to add it to my queue. In just the little bit that I read, it proved to be a great resource for me to share with the students I teach each week!

 

 

3. WICKED:
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST

Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West, has gotten a bum rap. Her mother is embarrassed and repulsed by her bright-green baby with shark’s teeth and an aversion to water. At college, the coed experiences disapproval and rejection by her roommate, Glinda, a silly girl interested only in clothes, money, and popularity. Elphaba is a serious and inquisitive student. When she learns that the Wizard of Oz is politically corrupt and causing economic ruin, Elphaba finds a sense of purpose to her life to stop him and to restore harmony and prosperity to the land. A Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and an unknown species called a “Dorothy” appear in very small roles… The story presents Elphaba in a sympathetic and empathetic manner-readers will want her to triumph! The book has both idealism and cynicism in its discussion of social, religious, educational, and political issues present in Oz, and, more pointedly, present in our day and time.

I must admit, I’m completely late to the game on this one. I heard the Broadway Soundtrack near the beginning of last year and fell in love with it. Yet, I’m just NOW getting around to reading it! Shame on me! I’ve seen pieces of the performance of Wicked that Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth were in and now that I have a face to associate with some of the characters, I’m sure this will be an easy, lazy day read.

 

 

4. GIRLS TO THE FRONT:
THE TRUE STORY OF THE RIOT GRRL REVOLUTION

Marcus’ compelling history covers a specific time period, 1989–1994, and a particular type of music that turned into a larger social movement. The riot grrrl movement was a potent form of female empowerment as well as a post-feminist reaction to sexism and the rising number of sexual assaults against women when expectations for equality were high. A writer and musician, Marcus describes some of the major players on the scene, including individuals (Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail) and bands (Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsy)—all set against the backdrop of the so-called post-feminist period. She tells colorful anecdotes (such as the origin of the title of Nirvana’s breakthrough single “Smells like Teen Spirit”). She describes the music scene in such important riot grrrl locations as the Pacific Northwest and Washington, D.C., and chronicles the rise of riot grrrl zines and riot grrrl conventions. In all, Marcus has done a commendable job of telling the little-known history of an important social and cultural movement. –June Sawyers

I really am not much of a fiction reader. I can get into certain books from time to time, but most of the time, I prefer to stick my nose in books that deal with business, art, psychology, and cultural studies. One of my favorite singers, Hayley Williams (from Paramore), posted this on her blog and it caught my attention. I think it’ll be eye-opening to learn more about this topic!

 

 

5. CONFESSIONS OF AN UGLY STEPSISTER

Gregory Maguire’s chilling, wonderful retelling of Cinderella is a study in contrasts. Love and hate, beauty and ugliness, cruelty and charity–each idea is stripped of its ethical trappings, smashed up against its opposite number, and laid bare for our examination. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister begins in 17th-century Holland, where the two Fisher sisters and their mother have fled to escape a hostile England. Maguire’s characters are at once more human and more fanciful than their fairy-tale originals.

Yes, I know, I totally just told you I don’t read a ton of fiction. The same friend who recommended WICKED to me also said I should give this one a try too. I put it at number 5 with a cultural study book before it so that I’d be able to take a break between the fiction. I really do enjoy stories where it re-approaches a classic tale, so that’s a plus!

What about you?

Got any favorite books?

Favorite genres?

Any recommendations?

Just let me know . . .


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Yesterday

Confession: Lemon Bars are my weakness! Though I may have lost the war with the Lemon Bar, I at least won a couple of games of Bananagrams! Totally worth it!

 

What do you get when you combine amazing friends with food and fun? A night to remember! Yesterday some friends and I got together at one of my FAVORITE restaurants, Saffron Grill, to celebrate my journey to OneDerland. I mean really though, what better way to celebrate weight loss than eating delicious Indian food? Yeah I can’t think of any either! 😉 We were at the restaurant for 2 hours just enjoying each others’ company and sharing life with each other . . . and drinking lots of their delicious chai tea!

 

 

Our evening was filled with encouragement and laughter! It was a true celebration and I’m thankful for these amazing ladies I have in my life who never let me forget where I came from, and challenge me to never go back! They are seriously such pillars of grace and strength for me! After dinner, we headed over to one of their houses to have a post-dinner Game Night!

 

Pre-game shenanigans with Heather J. and Julianna

 

One of my favorite things in the world is Game Night. It provides me both with the company of great friends and an opportunity to relax from the stress of the work day or personal life and just have fun!

I really enjoy playing Words With Friends on my phone, and it’s in fact, majorly addicting for me—maybe even more so than Facebook (I know, right?). I have always loved playing word games, so it’s no surprise that I would have a deep appreciation for Bananagrams. When I lived in Austin, we played a game called Nerts, which was essentially Bananagrams, but using Scrabble board tiles. Making the transition from Nerts to Bananagrams was seamless and my love for the game continues to live on—last night’s Game Night was filled with many rounds of Bananagrams!

As we were playing one of the rounds last night, I was desperately trying to get one of my tiles to work so I could yell, “Peel” and try to win the game. So then I put this together and said:

 

So we KNOW I like guys, but let’s say I had a thought about where I would take a girl out on a hot date. Would we then call it a Bi-Dea? 😉

I tried to fight my case for this new word, but I still didn't get to use it. It's okay though—I still won!

 

Another funny moment was when one of them was trying to win the game:

Me: Technically you can’t use California.

H: Just let me win!

Me: Uh, what I meant was, “SURE, I’ve California’d before!”

 

As we were driving home, I told Heather that the only downside to the evening was that I didn’t video record the entire evening because I want to be able to remember this day when I’m 90—every last detail! This morning I figured I’d at least write some of it down and then just come back to this entry as often as I can to remember my lovely dinner and Game Night with friends!


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Sing

So much excitement is buzzing in my office today . . . literally! Our office windows are insulated with an extra layer of film to keep the cold out and apparently also to trap unwanted insects.

But seriously, if he gets out, I’m moving to a different office! :O

The other exciting thing buzzing around me today is the excitement of a new announcement from one of my all time favorite bands, JACK’S MANNEQUIN!

The lead singer of Jack’s (a common fan nickname for the band), Andrew McMahon is such an inspiration to me as a writer, as a lover of music, and as a human being in general. If you haven’t seen his documentary, DEAR JACK, I highly recommend it. But getting back to the news—they are going to be doing a headlining tour soon!! Also, Jack’s is going to be opening up for GUSTER at a show in Central Park in August!! Can you tell how BADLY I want to go?? I’m pretty sure tickets will sell out in the next couple of days, and I’m in no place to start thinking of flying out to that show, but man—it really makes me wish I had a teleporter. It’s just one more thing that makes me love NYC more!

Me & Andrew McMahon from Jack's Mannequin

I really hope they come to Seattle on their headlining tour. If they don’t, I may need to make another trip down to Cali to see them! I’m also obviously really excited for the new album! I’ve been watching videos of some of their new stuff floating around on YouTube (see below) and it just makes me fall even more in love with their music.

I will definitely be buzzing about this news for the rest of the year until I get to see them play! I just hope that bee finds its way back out (and NOT via my office) before then. 😉

One of the songs from Jack’s that I always catch myself singing is SWIM. It’s such an inspiration song and definitely an anthem for me. So I close this post with this beautiful music video for SWIM. 🙂


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Groove Is In The Heart

I’ve been meaning to update for a couple of days, but sometimes it just takes time to recuperate from landmark moments in life. In this case, it’s not my life that is necessarily important—it’s my father’s. I know a lot of girls who have grown up without a father figure who loves and cares for them. I consider myself incredibly blessed to live in quite the opposite spectrum. My father has always been my hero. He has been my biggest fan, faithful encourager, and never lets me forget how valuable I am.

My father the hero

Last month, while I was on the East Coast, I found out that my father had a heart attack. He had a 95% blockage and it was pretty intense. Through a pile up of circumstances, his heart had reached its tipping point and the docs rushed him in to put a stent in and schedule open heart surgery for him. Fast forward to this past week, and I was on a plane to Texas so that I could be there for my dad before, during, and after the surgery. I am thankful for each and every doctor and nurse taking care of my father. His surgery went very well and the nurses made sure we were aware of what was going on each step of the way. He ended up having 6 bypass surgery and is now on the road of recovery. While I was home, I got to take him to appointments and we were able to have some quality father-daughter talks about how he was feeling scared and what the future would look like for him.

Team Martinez is prepped and ready to go!

One of the most meaningful moments for me was being able to be at his side the moment he woke up from surgery. We knew he would be waking up with a tube in his mouth and he was most concerned about that—he wanted it out ASAP! As he woke up, his eyes widened and he began to panic. I was at his side and able to calm him down while patting his head gently and saying calmly, “It’s okay, we’re here. You made it. You did it! You’re okay. It’s over now and you are doing great. Just calm down. Relax. Take deep slow breaths. You don’t need to talk, we know how you’re out of it and this is all scary. It’s okay, we’re here.” He looked at me as I spoke to him and calmed down, relaxing slowly back into his bed.

 

My dad's room decoration hearts that Kelley and I made

I spent 2 and a half days in the hospital with my dad, making sure he was taken care of and running errands for my family that came to see him after they got off of work. A large part of me wishes I could’ve stayed all weekend, but I know I did what I needed to and I know that it meant a lot for my dad that I was there.

 

Making hearts with Kelley

Another favorite part of the trip was making room decorations with my best friend, Kelley. She had come into town from Dallas and we stayed up the night before the surgery having coffee and catching up. She was seriously a godsend for me. She stayed with me at the hospital that first day and kept me smiling through the worry. We cut out hearts in the waiting room and had all my dad’s visitors write get well notes on them and we also wrote quotes and the word “Heart” on them in different languages just for fun! As I spent time with my dad in the hospital, I got to read the love notes to him and watch him smile, knowing how loved and thought of he was. I also got to read him all the lovely comments people left on my Facebook wall, Twitter, and e-mails. Seeing his face beaming with love made each moment spent with him so much more special.

 

My friends and I at Bennu Coffee in Austin

Of course, going home isn’t just a time to see family, but also to spend time with friends. Even though the surgery was for my dad, my friends were so good to come around me and make sure I felt loved and to cheer me up in the face of this looming event. We got to spend a lot of time hanging out, eating together, drinking coffee, and laughing so much that we’re near tears (as we always do)! I could not have survived the stress of watching my father go through such an intense operation without them by my side. Knowing that they were there for me and my dad made me even more grateful for them being in my life!

I heart my dad

 

Now I’m back in Seattle, ready to get back to the daily grind. My dad is recovering well and should be released from the hospital tomorrow! I got a call from my stepmother last night saying, “Oh he’s just sitting here in his hospital bed watching TV, texting, and playing on the computer in between naps.” And when she said that, I knew he was getting back to normal! 😉 I know that our lives are going to be different, and for the better—for him because he’ll be making better choices concerning his diet and taking better care of himself, and for me because I get to keep my daddy around for a long time!


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Smells Like Teen Spirit

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about our different upbringings and it reminded me of one of the funnier moments I had as a kid. I was in the 4th grade and my brother was in the 7th grade. He always had a line of girls interested in him and always tried to play “Mr. Cool” when he had a girlfriend. So one night he was on the phone with one of his new girlfriends and he was telling her that his sister (me) could sing Whitney Houston’s I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU really well. In all fairness, I could back then, so it was justified. But I knew what he was trying to do, so when he played the tape and put the phone up to me to get me to sing it to her, I TOTALLY screeched and botched the song in parts just to make him look like a moron! It was quite possibly one of my prouder moments in my childhood. 😉 Surprisingly, he never asked me to sing for his girlfriends ever again.

But as I was listening to the song last night and giggling all over again, I decided that today would be a good day to share some old school tunes with you all. While my brother and sister were heavily involved in sports, I opted to hang out with my friends instead of going to their practices and events. I would spend afternoons and evenings with my friends and we would watch movies or sit in their rooms listening to music and talking about our favorite bands and boys we liked. I also spent quality time in my own room, dressing up like a rock star, using my bed as a stage, and dancing along to songs as they blasted from my stereo.

One of the more iconic songs from my teen years that I remember “performing” in my room was It’s Alright, It’s Okay by Leah Andreone. My parents had been through a divorce and I had so many emotional issues going on at the time that the words in the song just resonated with me.

My siblings and I had completely different tastes in music. I listened to rock music (See also: Aerosmith & Red Hot Chili Peppers), my brother listened to rap (See also: 2Pac & Snoop Dogg), and my sister listened to pop music (See also: Hanson & Britney Spears). I would venture at times to try some of their styles but for the most part, I would stick to the heavier stuff. Here’s a list of 10 other songs that all played a big part in my growing up:

(1) Lisa Loeb’s STAY: This song was constantly on repeat. I still play cover songs from Lisa Loeb.

[FOLLOW THIS LINK TO CALL ME CAUSE YOU WANT ME AND ONE DAY YOU’LL LET ME GO]

(2) Trisha Yearwood’s SHE’S IN LOVE WITH THE BOY: I went through a phase where I added country music to my mix and this one was a favorite of mine.

[FOLLOW THIS LINK TO MARRY THAT BOY SOMEDAY]

(3) The Heights’ HOW DO YOU TALK TO AN ANGEL: From a TV show I used to watch called The Heights. Who knew Jamie Walters could manage to both look so hot and sing so great? 😀

[FOLLOW THIS LINK TO HOLD HER CLOSE TO WHERE YOU ARE]

(4) Smashing Pumpkins’ TONIGHT TONIGHT: I was a HUGE fan of Smashing Pumpkins. This one and BULLET WITH BUTTERFLY WINGS were my favorites, but really, all of their music was in heavy rotation as a teen.

[FOLLOW THIS LINK TO BELIEVE IN ME]

(5) The Cranberries’ ZOMBIE: To this day my brother still makes fun of me for listening to The Cranberries. Seriously every time we have a conversation about music he vetos my thoughts with a snarky comment about it.

[FOLLOW THIS LINK TO ZOMBIE IE IE IE IE OH OH DOO DOO DOOO]

(6) Veruca Salt’s VOLCANO GIRLS: I used to blast this and practice jumping off my bed with my air guitar. I REALLY wanted to be in a chick rock band. I even bought a bass guitar so I could be lead singer and play bass in a chick rock band. It was a sad day when my teacher made me switch to acoustic guitar. But at least now I have an electric guitar to play!

[FOLLOW THIS LINK TO LEAVE ME LYING HERE]

(7) TLC’s WATERFALLS: When I’d sing with my friends, they always made me do the rap part. I was listening to it again last night and I was pretty excited that I still knew it all.

[FOLLOW THIS LINK TO GO CHASIN’ WATERFALLS]

(8) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ FREE FALLIN’: This song was my jam! I played it when I was in a feel-good mood or needed to be in one.

[FOLLOW THIS LINK TO MEET A GOOD GIRL CRAZY BOUT ELVIS]

(9) The Carpenters’ CLOSE TO YOU: My parents were huge fans of The Carpenters. We would watch The Karen Carpenter Story for family movie nights and my mom had all the albums. I still catch myself defaulting to singing Carpenters’ songs when I’m thinking through things.

[FOLLOW THIS LINK BECAUSE I LONG TO BE CLOSE TO YOU]

(10) Weezer’s BUDDY HOLLY: I remember seeing Weezer play last year at Bumbershoot and I sang this one especially loud because it reminded me so much of hanging out with my friends and us pretending that we were Weezer, on the set of Happy Days, rockin’ this tune out!

[FOLLOW THIS LINK TO LOOK JUST LIKE BUDDY HOLLY]


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Your Body Is A Wonderland

Ladies and gentlemen, let the party begin…

I am officially in OneDerland!!

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, that’s when you weigh under 200 lbs. This morning was the first time in a long time that I’ve seen a one at the beginning of my weight reading. It has been a long, disciplined, hard road, but I’m here and I’m determined not to go back!

Remember this girl?

 

Me in 2007

Yeah, she’s changed:


Me in 2011

Texans boast that everything is “Bigger in Texas” and for me it was true. I’m not saying that Texas is bad, but a lot of the choices I made concerning my health while I lived there were not the healthiest. I was constantly eating out at restaurants and fast food chains which meant I was surrounded by mass portions of food. Since the metro system wasn’t very reliable and it was easier not to use it, I either rode around in cars or I drove. I had no motivation to lose weight and no one around me ever asked me about it. When I left Texas to move to Seattle, I weighed in at almost 250 pounds. I had been eating all the wrong foods, avoiding exercise like the plague, and was dealing with a lot of emotional damage that made it easier for me to find comfort in food and being a bigger girl.

Please, let's ignore the scarf thing going on there. 😉

 

Even when I first moved, I didn’t have a lot of money so I still relied on my old way of living and maxed out on boxed macaroni and cheap fast food. It wasn’t until about a year later that I got the motivation to make a change. At that point, I started making some minimal changes, and realized that I might actually be able to win the battle of the bulge. Thanks to an amazing group of friends here in Seattle, I’ve been able to make a lot of positive changes and learn to feel good by eating well and taking care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It’s not about being a model for me, it’s about being healthy and beating diabetes and other diseases that run in my family. I am still young and I have a lot of live to live, and I want to get as much living done as I can! Now that I’m under the 200’s, I have even more motivation to reach my goal weight recommended by my gym trainer so that I can be in my best health. My friends have been so supportive of me, listening to my stories and helping me move beyond the mindsets that kept me bound in that shell for so long. They’ve held me through tears, pushed me in the gym, and have celebrated every pound lost with me! I seriously could not have done this without them. One of the other things that helped a lot was doing 2 rounds of The Game On Diet—a fun health challenge that’s more about making wise choices than it is about being skinny. I developed good habits and was able to learn my triggers and be held accountable with my goals.

 

 

I'm actually happy to try on clothes now!

 

 

The friends who have walked with me through it the most is the Biggest Loser crew. Every Tuesday night, I meet up with Heather J. to work out at the gym (she pushes me hard to kick my butt into gear when I just want to give up) and together we do a variety of workouts (We also go to kickboxing class on Saturdays together) before heading over to “The Siers Ranch” for Biggest Loser night where a group of our friends get together to watch the show. That show has also been a huge part of encouraging me to be healthy and knowing I can do it! We laugh, we cry, some do exercises during commercial breaks, and we talk about how it all relates to our lives.

 

Biggest Loser nights at the Siers Ranch are NEVER boring!

They’re all about encouragement and fun . . . well, encouragement, except when it comes to my celebrity crush on Bob Harper! They keep pointing out that they’re sure he’s homosexual and also like to mention that he’s a vegetarian (which is a non-negotiable in my book—I heart meat!).

 

Taking advantage of a screen still and giving Bob smooches

It’s AMAZING to be in OneDerland, and I can’t help but be thankful for the amazing people who have been a part of me getting here. Even when I went to visit my friend Kelley in Dallas, she adjusted her meals to go along with my changed eating habits and accommodated me so that I wouldn’t stray and just give myself extra excuses to eat all the stuff that led to me being so big. I’ve gotten so much encouragement from my family and my friends and it makes this landmark in my life such a BIG deal for me! I haven’t been under 200 pounds since my freshman year of High School, and now I feel like a new person. My outlook on life has changed. God has used these friends of mine to heal so much damage from my past. My friends are more encouraging than ever and I know they’re in this with me for the long haul! Sometimes being the biggest loser just makes you feel like the biggest winner!

 

The BL Crew watching the SNL "Surprise Party" skit after the show was over