Staying inside the lines

Last night Clayton and I abandoned our budget and normal diets and went to dinner at Cheeseburger in Paradise, successfully gorging ourselves on cheeseburgers and fried pickles. While we ate, we talked about various topics, including memories from when we first started dating long-distance in high school. Clay and I used to send each other letters (actual letters, not emails). As embarrassing as it may be to admit, one could definitely say they were love letters ... and I loved getting them. Clay would send me sheets of notebook paper filled front and back, and sometimes he would send me pictures he colored during his study hall. It was kind of an ongoing joke that Clay liked to color, and every so often I would bring him a coloring book and a box of crayons when I would drive down for a visit.

During dinner Clay bragged about how good he was at coloring, and I had to agree with him. We joked about how well he stayed in the lines and how smooth and even his crayon (or marker) strokes were. Clay attributed his stupendous coloring abilities to his uncanny level of patience, and that ended up sparking a conversation about how he and I are so different.

Even though I most definitely stay in the lines, when I color? You can tell I'm in a hurry. I don't make sure that my lines are all moving in the same direction. I color left to right, up and down, zig-zagged - any which way I can think of that will help me fill in that particular shape as fast as I can. It's like I'm coloring just so I can finish it and move on to the next thing. Like my life is a constant state of, "What's next?"

Clay is a very patient, laid back person. He can sit and color small, even strokes for as long as it takes. He'll get to it when he gets to it. When he's doing something, he's not in a hurry. He's confident it will get done when it gets done. I on the other hand, am wound up so tight that I rush to get things done because I don't know if I'll get a chance to finish it later. I run around with the mentality of, "I have to do this and do it now because what if I don't get a chance to come back to it? I have to get to the next project/thing/date/activity/worry/thought".

We jokingly compared our coloring skills to work. Clay said, "Yeah, if I don't get this picture done today, that's alright. I can finish it tomorrow." And I said, "I have to finish this picture tonight because what if my boss thinks I did it too slow and fires me? What if I get sick tomorrow and can't finish it?"

We are so very different, he and I. We compliment each other so well. He is the brake pedal to my gas pedal. I am the gas pedal to his brake pedal. And I am very grateful for that. I think that's why we work so well. He slows me down and calms me when I need to take a chill pill. I speed him up and encourage him when he's being a little too lax.

Staying true to my manic state of being, I don't just read books, I devour them. I never do anything half-way - it's always full-throttled and passionate. Reading is no exception. I've never been one to buy or check out a book and read it in sporadic, lazy bursts. That's not my style. When I read a book, I read its face off.  I sit for hours on end and plow through it. My reading is like my coloring. I'll break my back sitting in an uncomfortable reading position for lengthy amounts of times because I refuse to move until I make decent headway in my book. I love reading so much, I'm in a constant state of, "What can I read next?"

Last night I devoured The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. A very good friend of mine recommended it to me and I started reading it solely on the pretense that it involved a dog. I'm inherently drawn to stories that involve dogs simply because dogs are my favorite things, even though I know full-well that most books involving dogs as important characters don't usually end up fairing too well for said dogs (i.e. Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, Marley and Me, ect.). But the story is told from the family dog's perspective, and I thought it was too intriguing to pass up.

I finished the book last night at about 2:30 a.m. and sat in bed, still holding the book open on the last page, and bawled. After I closed the book, I wandered out to the living room where Clay was still watching tv, crawled up in lap, and cried.

The ending was perfect. Perfect in a sad, bittersweet kind of way. Kind of like Toy Story 3: The ending sucked because it was depressingly sad, but we all know that it was the right ending.

That's how The Art of Racing in the Rain ended for me.

As a whole, I wasn't overly impressed with the novel simply because all of the talk about racing (the main character, Enzo's owner, was trying to become a professional Formula One race car driver) and trying to relate racing jargon to life was redundant and boring ... and there was a LOT of that going on in the novel. Maybe I would have liked the book more if Enzo's owner was, say, a fashion designer and Garth Stein was making metaphors about life through witty anecdotes about stilettos or handbags.

Plus, Enzo was in tune with his feelings. Like super duper in tune. While the book is obviously fiction (although I think Joey is smarter and more observant than he lets on), I think Stein should have at least tried to make Enzo a little less human and a little more dog like. With the exception of only one or two events in the story, Enzo acted more as a person in a furry suit that couldn't talk.  Dogs are very instinctual, live-in-moment creatures. I just didn't find Enzo's inner monologue and recollection of the past and past emotions that believable.

However, what I did like was how Stein gave a voice to a dog's loyalty to his master. I loved that. I truly believe that dog is man's best friend, so I just ate those parts up.

I don't know why I felt the need to basically share a book review with you guys, but hey, it was on my mind. I stopped at the library this morning to return the book and ending up checking a few more out. I got a non-fiction book about women in the media (I'm such a nerd) and picked up a new title called The True Story of Hansel and Gretel. Hopefully it's as interesting as it looks! It's about two children who flee Poland during Nazi occupation and are left in the woods. To hide their "Jewishness", they are known as "Hansel" and "Gretel".

Happy Friday!