What the Dickens?

I feel like I’m finally joining the adult world. James and I have settlement on our first house on Friday! We just spent an hour at Target today getting grown up things like trash cans and dish towels. And I didn’t buy books or movies because I currently have “enough” and they’re not “necessary”. Go figure.

Our wedding is not til June 1, so only James will be living in the house for the next 10 months (good thing it’s only 10 minutes from where I live). I get to spend the next 10 months painting and making it exactly how I want it, and filling those gorgeous built-in bookshelves with all sorts of papery wonders. Now you’re talking.

Speaking of books, I recently discovered something amazing. You’re not going to believe it. I started reading A Tale of Two Cities and I am enjoying it. Sure, Ebeneezer Scrooge and Oliver Twist are household names. But how many modern people actually enjoy reading Charles Dickens? I know I never did, even though I wanted to.

Like many modern readers, I approach novels with a bit of violence. You know, eyes flashing like lighting through the words, flipping pages like a wild storm until the end is reached. This method has served me well for decades, beginning with Meet Felicity  in the second grade, and even through my love affairs with Alexander Dumas and Jane Austen.

Dickens doesn’t work that way. It was the opening passage of A Tale of Two Cities that let me on to the secret. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Speed read the beginning and you miss the artfulness of the most beautiful series of comma splices in history. If you try to rush through Dickens, you’re missing the point. He’s meant to be enjoyed slowly, like super rich dark chocolate.

So now I know. I read no more than one chapter a day, one sentence at a time, admiring the genius of each phrase. And I’m loving it. Charlie and I have made peace.

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“Give Me Liberty” or at least plastic bags.

Last night I experienced first hand what the American colonists must have felt back in the 1760s. The Stamp Act, it has much been said, wasn’t so much a pain because of the amount of money. It was a pain because it was big government getting in your face. So what exactly in today’s world is so comparable?

Montgomery County Maryland and the Bag Tax.

Sure, 5 cents on every paper or plastic bag from every grocery, retail, or dining establishment might not make a big hole in your pocket. But it stings. Especially when you take into account all the other absurdities of this county government. Let me tell you what happened to me last night:

First, I went to the library to renew my books.

Librarian:  “Sorry, you can’t renew, you have to give other people a chance to read.”

Me: I just stare, thinking Who else wants to read this book on Medieval England that hasn’t been checked out since 2008? Isn’t that what waiting lists and holds are for?

Librarian: “You can come back tomorrow to get them off the shelf.”

Me: I work full-time and have a life. “Really? You can’t just renew them today?”

Librarian: “Nope. New Montgomery County rule. Read the sign.”

So I begrudgingly took my book marks out of the books and went to my car. Next stop, grocery store to get a bottle of Texas Pete hot sauce. I go to check out, and the lines are around the block. Every person at self check-out is taking way longer than usual, because there were no bags to be found. In their place were signs, “New Montgomery County law, bags now cost 5 cents, please bring your own bag,” or some other insensitive, bureaucratic BS. After waiting for the guy in front of me to finally bum a bag off someone to carry his 15 little items, I bought my Texas Pete and put it in my purse, feeling oddly like a shoplifter even though I just paid.

As I walked to my car, I looked up and saw the Montgomery County seal on the liquor store. I don’t know if anyone out there knows this, but in Montgomery County, you cannot buy liquor from anyone but the government. When you do go to the county liquor store, they scan your driver’s license.  With all that data collection, how long before they start rationing?

I miss Howard County. I miss the nice people who don’t honk at you, I miss the clean roadways without beggars, I miss the free plastic bags, I miss the free-market alcohol. Mostly, I miss the lack of obtrusive government interference in my everyday life. I don’t mind paying taxes for roads, schools, or even well-run temporary welfare programs, but I DO mind it when the government tries to tell me how to live. I’m getting out of this county as soon as I can.

If MoCo is trying to force me to get reusable grocery bags and carry them everywhere I go, I’ll get one with the “Don’t Tread on Me” snake. Where’s Patrick Henry when you need him?

Note: Montgomery County still has not informed retail and grocery stores where to send the money from the bag tax. This whole thing is ridiculous.

Will I Ever Be a Writer?

I have always thought I wanted to write. When I was 10, my mom gave me The Idiot’s Guide to Creative Writing for Christmas. I’ve always loved that book. I’ve always gone to it for inspiration. I have yet to write anything that I consider makes me a real writer.

I always feel like writing, but I never have the discipline to see it through. My excuse for not writing is always “I have too many stories and I can’t pick one.” So, for the millionth time, enough with excuses. It’s time for me to pursue my dreams and be a writer.

I bought a few books on Amazon. Currently, I’m reading Sage Cohen’s book The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to help you write more, stress less & create success. So far it looks great. She seems like she has a lot of great tips. I really want to go step by step with this, but even in chapter 1 she gives a long list of to-do’s that I know I won’t accomplish for a few days or weeks. And her pie chart of time made me realize that I have even less than I thought I did. Work takes up about 10 hours of my day, sleep another 8, then with my remaining 6, can I really do everything I need to do, keep my time with James, read the books I love, and STILL have enough time to have a freelance writing career? I have no idea. But I’m a big girl now, so I’m going to try.