Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Cottage by the Sea, or How I Became a Chick Lit Character

When I started going to the gym regularly, I had to find a way to make it less awful. Music was a given but I found that reading on my Kindle helped make the time fly by. My 45 minute workout did just that everyday and I crushed my yearly book totals (I read a lot of books this way. I don't even count anymore.). I like variety in what I read but I'm also not interested in spending over $3 for a Kindle book and I don't want something that takes a ton of concentration so I tend to focus on a few genres for my "gym books":
  • Mysteries - specifically those involving a sassy woman who can communicate with ghosts and teams up with the cute sheriff to solve old crimes (there is more than one series that fits into this category). My most recent find was called The Girls and it was wonderful despite its lack of sassy woman communicating with spirits.
  • Horror - I like stand alone horror so I've reread some Stephen King classics and a few new ones by Christopher Rice and Joe Hill.
  • Biography/Memoirs - I'm a huge fan of books about people who used to be cults and odd celebrities who led fantastic lives like the girl who played Veruca Salt in the original Willy Wonka movie (she was not in a cult).
  • Chick Lit - throw in travel, baking, or music and I will buy your entire series and read it twice.
I was thinking about this earlier in the week as I walked on the trail near the Village at Shirlington. My apartment complex is still renovating the fitness center so I have to walk outside now rather than on the treadmill. The weather is nice enough (finally) so it's a good way to get out of the house for a little while every day and have something to do. I have a lot of time on my hands right now; it's important to fill the time.

Anyway, as I was on lap four of one of my walks, I had the realization that I have become a woman in one of the novels I read at the gym. Most of the chick lit novels I read involve a woman approximately my age (or in the range of 25-40), something "terrible" happens to her (marriage dissolves, business folds, laid off, death in the family, horrible breakup, all of the above), and she spends the novel reinventing herself or getting her shit together. Along the way, her friends and family get involved (they're always a little quirky), there's a romance, and shenanigans abound. My recent favorites include:
  • The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin
  • From a Paris Balcony by Ella Carey
  • The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag
  • The Coincidence of Coconut Cake  by Amy E. Reichart  
  • Vintage by Susan Gloss
  • Village Books by Craig McKay
  • Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
There are many more I could list but you get the point. Of this group, Little Beach Street Bakery is my favorite (followed closely by The Coincidence of Coconut Cake). It involves living on an island (which I have done), baking as a form of therapy that becomes a business, bees, and a puffin as a pet. There's also a sassy best friend, a super rich dude, a sweet American (the novel takes place in England), and an elderly lady who is awful but ends up being a decent person. Polly, our protagonist, loses her business, her boyfriend (with whom she was in business), and her apartment all at once so she moves to a tiny island that is only reachable when the tides cooperate. She begins covertly baking bread which angers her landlady but leads to her opening a little bakery to make her rent. She also adopts a puffin who breaks his wing on her first night in her new home (his name is Neil which is exactly what I would name a puffin if I had a puffin). She makes a bunch of mistakes and then rights them and there's a Star Wars themed wedding (I'm not making this up).There's a sequel but I haven't read it yet; it's not under $3 so I have to wait.

Since my disastrous week last week, I've done many of the things that any good chick lit heroine would do:
  • I've wallowed.
  • I've visited a winery.
  • I've eaten ice cream and let it count as a meal.
  • I've gone to a yoga class.
  • I've listened to what can only be described as girl power music (you know what I mean minus Beyonce since she's not really my jam).
  • I figured out how to get my gym time in without a gym and now have three new dog friends in my neighborhood.
  • I've talked to everyone I know (slight exaggeration), trying to make them see this as a good thing as I try to convince myself of the same thing.
  • I've reorganized my kitchen cabinets (my closet is next).
  • I've baked and cooked a lot (and have more to come).
  • I listened to three Radiohead albums. 
  • I've talked to my mom at least four times and I'm visiting her today.
  • I'm binge-watching shows on Netflix (about to start season 2 of "Love") and spent an entire day watching CSI reruns.
  • I've considered becoming a flight attendant.
  • I've had conversations with Pumpkin (I do this anyway but it seems like it's happening more).
  • I'm going to Ocracoke right after to Easter to spend time with some friends because all great chick lit heroines go on a trip at some point in their journey.
  • I think about time a lot as in how to fill it and how to set goals for myself to accomplish things.
Following the chick lit heroine trajectory, I'm right on track for week one following the shake up. I stopped crying, both from grief and anger/shock on Monday so I think I'm good on that front at least for now. I've had multiple pep talks from friends and family (thanks guys, you're all the best) and I've started hearing from a bunch of people with opportunities for me to look into for my next job. Now all I have to do is get the old resume together and start applying for things. I'm also going to build a project portfolio website which sounds super fun and something I didn't think I'd do.

Which brings me to week two. Typically in these novels, it takes more time than two weeks for our heroine to get her shit together and move forward; a novel would be boring if that was how it worked. I'm not drowning in a sea of takeout containers and wine bottles (I'm such a disappointment I know). However, since I'm a real person and a certified (in my mind) planner, I can't sit that long. I've got to make lists and feel like I'm moving forward. It's been overwhelming, in an absolutely amazing and positive way, to hear from so many of colleagues and friends in the last few days about job leads and opportunities and how awesome I am. This gives me confidence to get ready for whatever is coming next. So next week, rather than wallow some more and pretend cookie dough is a food group, I'm going to get my resume updated, build my website, and reorganize my closet. It's good to have goals. And bake some; I promised to bring delicious treats to Ocracoke.

The only chick lit week two plans I'm missing are: a meet cute, a spilled cup of coffee (possibly involved in the meet cute, possibly a way to show our heroine's awkwardness or cause her to have a mini-meltdown in public), an awkward conversation with someone, an improbable connection with someone I know (think something along the lines of my friend's uncle is in publishing and wants to read my unpublished novel and thinks I'm a genius), and a fashion montage. Who's up for a fashion montage?

 This weekend on the Island, we're going on a little field trip to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibition, Infinity Mirrors, at the Hirshhorn. I'll post a photo blog so if you don't get to go a least you can see my photos and feel like you were there. 

DON'T FORGET: Saturday, April 8th is Rex Manning Day! I hope you celebrate appropriately by damning the man and saving the empire. 

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