Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Off to the Big Apple!

In a few moments, we are departing on our first big adventure with three kids: a trip to NYC! We'll be staying with Mike's brother and his family in Manhattan. Many have told us that we are crazy, but travel is in all of our blood! Wish us luck.

I'll post news about our trip when we return. Happy spring!!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What Is Love?

A friend forwarded me this e-mail recently. I’ve seen a few of these before, but they are worth reading.

Today I talked to a friend who recently underwent surgery for colon cancer, and she told me that her husband is doing a great job taking care of her…in fact, she said that sometimes he’s taking care of her TOO well. When your loved one has cancer, I don’t think it’s possible to do too much to express your love and concern.

What does love mean? A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, "What does love mean?" The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think:

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love." Rebecca, age 8

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth." Billy, age 4

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs." Chrissy, age 6

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired." –Terri, age 4

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK." –Danny, age 7

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss." Emily, age 8

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen." Bobby, age 7 (Wow!)

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate." Nikka, age 6 (we need a few million more Nikkas on this planet)

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford." Chris, age 7

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day." Mary Ann, age 4

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross." Mark, age 6

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget." Jessica, age 8

And the final one--Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a 4-year-old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Adoring Cousin Ryan


I had to share this adorable photo of my 5-year-old nephew Ryan holding his cousin Nicholas. Ryan and his two younger brothers simply adore him, and they just cannot get enough snuggling. Nicholas will be very lucky to have such a wonderful circle of older boys around him, to coach him and teach him how to make coffee, identify all the Thomas the Tank Engine characters, read about Roo, and learn about the Wizard of Oz! :)

The New Wiggle



For those of you with children, you'll most likely have heard that the Wiggles have a new lead singer, Sam. I took Kieran to the Wiggles concert this afternoon and we checked out "Sam" in person. (If you have been sleeping under a rock, the original lead singer, Greg, recently retired because of health problems.)
Fortunately Kieran reminded us beforehand that we had to bring a rose for Dorothy the Dinosaur! I thought I might have some tears when some children also had "bones" to present to Wags, but I distracted him by telling him that next time we would take a bone for Wags.

Kieran sat stockstill and serious throughout the concert, while I was dancing in my seat and humming along to the catchy tunes! That tends to be the way he responds to performances...rapt and absorbing every moment...but I made the mistake of telling them that the Wiggles were to perform another concert at 5:30...of course he begged me to take him to the next performance as well!

And the new Wiggle? He was fine...but he wasn't Greg. Greg has more of a dynamic, magnetic personality and seems more of a natural, and maybe Sam just needs to grow into the role.

The rest of the Wiggles are obviously getting older (as are the rest of us), and somehow I don't think they will be like the Rolling Stones, continuing to perform into their AARP years...Anthony had a moment of appealing to the parents' tastes when he started a riff of "Stairway to Heaven" to great applause!

It was a fun show anyway, and a worthwhile date with my middle child!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mom My Ride

Here is a hilarious video that shows what happens to your pristine automobiles when you have kids!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEFE3B0Rje0

Free coffee at Starbucks...

Starbucks...love 'em or hate 'em!

I heard a news item on NPR yesterday about Starbucks in the Forbidden City. Yeah...I know that they are a corporate monolith and are taking over the world...but I do patronize Starbucks and enjoy their coffee. However, I do draw the line at dropping Starbucks into cultural and historic treasures!

It reminds me of the vending machines planted smack dab in the middle of beautiful, exotic gardens or mountain viewpoints in Japan.

At any rate, if you do find Starbucks a guilty pleasure, you'll want to know that they are having a "Coffee Break" promotion tomorrow: you can get a free 12-oz drip coffee from 10:00 a.m . to noon. Enjoy!

http://www.starbucks.com/ourcoffees/coffee_break.asp?cookie%5Ftest=1

If you say it three times...


Last night Mike was putting Kieran to bed and they were saying prayers together. Mike said a prayer for his mum, because she is having some heart problems and we've been feeling frustrated with the slow pace of treatment in the UK.

Kieran echoed his prayer by saying "Please, please, please help Grandma England get better!" Then he looked at Mike and said, "Dad?" Pregnant pause, while Mike is wondering what in the world he will say...

"God always answers your prayers when you say please, please, please!"

Oh how wonderful are the faith and confidence of preschoolers!

Some thoughts on peace and Iran...

Here is my favorite quote about peace:

"Another plan I have is 'World Peace through Formal Introductions.' The idea is that everyone in the world would be required to meet everyone else in the world, formally, at least once. You'd have to look the person in the eye, shake hands, repeat their name, and try to remember one outstanding physical characteristic. My theory is, if you knew everyone in the world personally, you'd be less inclined to fight them in a war: 'Who??? The Malaysians??? Are you kidding??? I know those people!!!" --George Carlin

A coworker sent me the link to this wonderful web site yesterday, and I found it truly touching. Let me know what you think by clicking on "Comments" at the bottom of this post on the Web site.

http://www.lucasgray.com/video/peacetrain.html

Suffering Pregnant Pigs--Not for the Faint-Hearted!

Personally, I've not been able to eat much pork ever since dissecting a fetal pig in high school biology. I can eat it if it's heavily spiced or smoked, such as in sausage or bacon, but I am not crazy about ham or pork chops.

Here is a very disturbing article about the living conditions of pregnant pigs. Knowing how uncomfortable it can be to be pregnant, whether human or pig, I couldn't help but be sympathetic to these poor pigs:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/14/opinion/14niman.html?th&emc=th

Mike and I don't eat red meat, although we have occasionally eaten it at other people's homes when not offered an alternative. Both older boys, though, love their hamburgers! When I was pregnant with Chris, I craved red meat and ate a lot of hamburgers. I then read Fast Food Nation (nonfiction) and My Year of Meats (fiction) and decided I could not continue with that food choice.

The more I read about the living (and dying) conditions of animals in our food chain, the more reasons I have to go vegetarian, or at least eat only fish and free range meat.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Potentially Controversial Issue--Newborns with Terminal Illnesses and the Nature of Choice

Okay, so I know that this is not the most uplifting of topics, but it's one near and dear to my heart. Through our experience with Christopher as well as other circles of my life, I have come to know so many wonderful families who have had to face the tragic death of a child.

The New York Times online has an article today about hospices for babies...and they are little-known, wonderful resources for families having to face this issue:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/health/13hospice.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

When I was pregnant with Nicholas last year, the anatomical ultrasound at 20 weeks showed a soft marker for Trisomy 18, which is the disease that Alaina (in the article) has. Although Nicholas was as healthy as I could have hoped for at birth, we faced some serious fears that our chance of having a very sick baby had increased. We chose to focus on the overwhelmingly higher chance that he would be fine...and indeed he was...but we were only too aware that things can go wrong in pregnancies.

With both of the babies I had over 35 (Kieran at 38 and Nicholas at 41), we chose not to have an amniocentesis. One interesting point in this article is that it talks about two of the families who are Roman Catholic and pro-abortion rights, but that they chose to go ahead with their pregnancies even though they knew that their baby would most likely die.

I can truly relate to this viewpoint. When I got pregnant very unexpectedly with Nicholas, I read that 65 percent of unintended pregnancies in women over 40 end in abortion. I'm strongly pro-choice when it comes to abortion rights, but in my own case I never even considered it. The reason for that is based in my own belief that everything has a reason and God has a plan for my life...which is also the way I view Christopher's very early prematurity and traumatic birth. Beyond that, though, I also confess to some ambivalence about abortion, having given birth to a 24-weeker.

From a socioeconomic, spiritual, and compassionate perspective, I believe that abortion is WAY better than bringing an unwanted child into this world who might end up emotionally or physically abused. It's a necessary option in this world of ours.

I tend to be able to view an issue from all sides (must be the Libra in me), and I feel the same way about informing parents of their options when they have a very sick micropreemie. Doctors and nurses need to find a way to respectfully and carefully let parents know that their babies might not turn out perfectly...without taking away the parents' hopes that everything could indeed turn out okay. Just as I view abortion as a complex issue with shades of gray, I also believe that each parent and family must be supported in their decision whether to resuscitate or prolong life in a baby whose future survival is unknown or at risk...

This is my first controversial post. What are your views on this matter? Click the "Comments" link below to express your opinion.

Greener Grass

"The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass where ever you may be." --Robert Fulghum

This quotation really spoke to me when I saw it this morning. It's especially suitable given the task I was working on yesterday...coming up with a list of the top 10 reasons to work in my company's Publications group, which we are hoping to use for recruiting purposes.

I sent out an e-mail to my team soliciting their responses, and viewing the long list that I've compiled, it was a good reminder of why I love my job...and I hope it did the same for my team members as well. A positive outlook and focus breeds more positivity, just as negativity and complaining breeds more negativity.

I'm certainly not saying that there's anything wrong with a good vent now and then...but if we spend too much time venting and complaining and not enough time watering the grass where we are planted, the grass turns brown, withers, and dies.

With that said, if we run out of water and more than half of the grass is brown (I always use the 50 percent rule), it's time to find new pastures. Life is too short to remain in dead grass.

That's my thought for the day!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cousins, Cousins, Here Come the Boys

"Cousins, cousins, here come the boys!
Bedlam, mayhem, noise, noise, noise...
Blow up the air mattresses, hide the breakable toys,
Cousins, cousins, here come the boys!"

(from "Cousins" by Tom Chapin)

We've just finished a very busy weekend of enthusiastic boy energy, as my sister and her family visited...and a close college friend also came down for the weekend.

My sister also has three boys, and between us, five of the kids are 5 and under. It is certainly bedlam and mayhem, and certain to become more so as they get older. Right now the younger ones are like a pack of boisterous puppies. It's gratifying to see how much they all adore each other.

On Christmas Day, we were having dinner at my parents' house, and as I looked around the table, I realized that we had 10 males and 3 females (my family, my sister's family, my parents, and my brother). As the boys get older, the testosterone levels are only going to get higher!

My sister is an internal medicine physician who has lots of older patients. Not a week goes by when she doesn't get pitying comments for having all boys. I got a few of those when I informed people that I was expecting my third son, and occasionally people ask me if I'm going to try for a girl (like I would ever have a baby just to get a particular gender!)...but for the most part I don't have to deal with the constant tactless comments like she does.

I always imagined that I would have a daughter, and I would have been thrilled with one. However, my sister and I both went through so many difficulties getting (and staying) pregnant, that I'm just grateful and overwhelmed to think of the abundant blessings we have received. We both feel privileged and specially chosen to raise strong, sensitive young men who will be loving and kind.

One of her sons is an expert coffee maker, vacuumer, and one of mine loves to wear feather boas and dress up like the Wicked Witch of the West. They are all loving, affectionate boys, love their moms and dads, and are not hesitant to express their feelings or thoughts openly. If they can retain these qualities into adulthood, I will deem our child-raising a great success...and the world will have six more wonderful men...a fantastic feat indeed.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

My son, the blogger


I've started a blog trend in my family...now the 10-year-old has one! I'm sure that it will be heavily slanted toward media and pop culture, but it reflects his 1o-year-old view of the world perfectly. The great thing about blogging is how easy it is to set one up...the tricky thing is how to explain to a kid that he shouldn't post our home phone number on his blog. I know other parents who are quite open with their kids by telling them all about all the predators and "bad guys" in the world. Although I want my kids to be careful and safe, I also don't want to portray the world as a scary, sinister place, with potential villains around every corner. So it's that balance that I seek.

Chris is such a positive, forgiving, and good-natured kid. The world is a wonderful place for him. In one of his posts called "The Giving Box," he suggested that people could send us donations, and we'd give them to charity (hence the phone number). It's a great intention...

I explained to him the importance of not sharing personal information on the Internet, but at the same time, it is tough to tell him that there are people out there who want to harm children. (And I suggested that he could post the names and addresses of the actual charities instead...)

Parenting in the new millennium. It's only going to get harder...

Friday, March 9, 2007

Lemonade for the Munchkins


Nearly-four-year-old Kieran is a huge Wizard of Oz fan. He's the only preschooler I know who can watch the entire movie without flinching. When I was on my last maternity leave, Mike came home from Blockbuster Video one day with Kieran and Oz in tow. I reacted in horror, asking him whether he realized how scary the movie is. He apparently had never seen anything past the munchkin scene.

During the first few viewings, we had to fast-forward through the witch, grabbing trees, and flying monkeys, but now he loves it all. He is planning a Wizard of Oz birthday party in April, and he's already decreed that he is to be the Wicked Witch of the West; his cousins will be the scarecrow, lion, and tinman; I am to be Glenda; Aunty Nadine will be Dorothy; Daddy and CHris will be soldiers; Baby Nicholas will be Toto; and his beloved Swanson sisters friends will be Miss Gulch and the house that fell on the Wicked Witch of the East!

Last weekend I took him to the Children's Museum, where he proceeded to paint his face a deep shade of emerald green, and announced that we could not wash it off until his birthday (on April 9). Somehow I was able to sponge most of it off in the bath that evening, much to his dismay. What a spoilsport I am!

He's also taken to mixing up liquid conconctions by melting Tic-Tacs in water, etc., and announcing that they are for the munchkins. I opened our spice cupboard last week to discover a bottle of water with a spoon in it, which was apparently "lemonade for the munchkins." Yesterday Mike finally threw it out, only to have Kieran inquire about how his lemonade was doing later in the day. When Mike told him that he had drunk it because he was thirsty, the Wicked Witch threw himself on the floor and howled!

I came home last night to discover a bowl of liquid in the bathroom with plastic wrap stretched across the top...it is punch for his cousins...who no doubt will greet it with suspicion, as they should!

I could not dream this stuff up...he is such a crackup!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Marie's Top Reads of 2001

1. A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel: saga about the French revolution—great historical read about Paris
2. The Red Tent, Anita Diamant: wonderful midrash retelling of the biblical story of Dinah and women’s friendship
3. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser: indictment of the fast food industry—no more hamburgers or fast food for us!
4. The Ladies Auxiliary, Torva Mirvis: life in a small Jewish community in Tennessee disrupted by a newcomer
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K Rowling: I’m hooked!
6. The Real Life Adventures of Lidie Newton, Jane Smiley: gritty, independent woman marries an abolitionist and ends up in pre-Civil War Kansas during the conflict with Missouri
7. Ice Bound, Dr. Jerri Nielsen: doctor goes to Antarctica, discovers she has breast cancer, and treats herself
8. One Year Off, David Elliot Cohen: great adventure about a family of five who travel around the world
9. As Nature Made Him, John Colapinto: chilling story about a boy raised as a girl because of a botched circumcision
10. Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver: a wildlife biologist observing coyotes and humans in the Appalachians
11. The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Amy Tan: another great story about strong Chinese women through the years
12. Picture Bride, Yoshiko Uchida: about a Japanese picture bride who ends up in an internment camp during WWII
13. Crazy Ladies, Michael Lee West: wild southern women
14. The Flower Master, Sujata Massey: spunky Japanese-American detective exposing crime in the flower industry
15. Funny Boy, Shyam Selvadurai: touching coming of age story about a young gay man in Sri Lanka
16. Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende: a Chilean woman who disguises herself as a man in Gold Rush California
17. Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik: gives a real flavor of Paris life, but I thought the guy was a bit of a snob…
18. Paula, Isabel Allende: Allende’s amazing life story, told to her daughter lying in a coma
19. At the Still Point, Mary Benson: South Africa in 1965 at the beginning of apartheid
20. Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood, Fatima Marnissi: memoirs of growing up in a Moroccan harem
21. While I Was Gone, Sue Miller: woman faces a dark secret in her past from her radical student days
22. Chocolat, Joanne Harris: yum!
23. Sister India, Peggy Payne: eccentric American runs a boarding house for travelers in India during civil unrest
24. The Book of Ruth, Jane Hamilton: dark story about a woman with troubled childhood and marriage—very sad…
25. Stuck Up a Tree, Jenny McLeod: young Jamaican woman faces her past when her mother dies
26. Light (beach) reading: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Helen Fielding; Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married, Marian Keyes; The Old Girls’ Network, Catherine Alliott

Marie's Top Reads of 2002

Fiction1. The Floating Girl, Zen Attitude, and The Bride’s Kimono, Sujata Massey: spunky Japanese-American detective/antiques dealer—can’t wait for Massey’s next book!
2. A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry: Excellent, deeply melancholy story of four people—three men and one woman—during Indira Gandhi’s India
3. The Far Pavilions, M.M. Kaye: Another great Indian saga, this one took place in the 1860s; particularly timely as it describes the British-Afghan war
4. Saints and Villains, Denise Giardina: Gripping, fascinating historical novel about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life
5. Fall on Your Knees, Anne-Marie Macdonald: Very dark, brooding saga about family living off the coast of Novia Scotia…Catholic themes, shocking plot developments, and characters that are difficult to like, but a great story
6. American Fuji, Sarah Backer: Great read about American woman who goes to teach in a Japanese small town and gets wrapped up in a mystery
7. Letters from an Age of Reason, Nora Hague: Sweeping historical saga with such plot elements as interracial romance, suffragettes, morphine addiction, and lesbian innuendo, it’s easy to see her mentor was E.L. Doctorow
8. Total Recall, Sara Paretsky: She’s so much better than Sue Grafton and all the other imitators!!!
9. Plain Truth, Jodi Picoult: Young, unmarried Amish woman has a baby who shows up dead; spunky defense lawyer moves in with her family and gets to know the Amish ways; good until the implausible ending
10. Only in London, Hanan al-Shaykh: Four Arabic strangers meet on a plane from Oman to London
11. Murder on the Iditarod Trail, Sue Henry: Story of a gutsy woman and a glimpse into an entirely different culture—mushers on the Iditarod Trail
12. Vine of Desire, Chitra Banerjee Divarakuni: Sequel of Sister of My Heart, which I enjoyed, but this book was weaker
13. Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth, Donna Gershten: Mexican woman who rebels from her traditional upbringing and marries an American; drawn back to her roots, she finds herself in conflict with her rebellious daughter
14. Jim & Louella’s Heart Fix Remedy, Bertice Berry: Older black couple revitalizes their love live with advice of their ancestors, then discover they have special curative powers to fix broken hearts
15. The Painted House and The Chamber, John Grisham: First Grisham books I have ever read—Painted House was especially good; The Chamber had interesting insights on the death penalty
16. The Persian Pickle Club, Sandra Dallas: Story of a small-town quilting circle in depression-era Kansas
17. Feeling Sorry for Celia, Jacklyn Moriarty: Coming-of-age story of Australian teenager told through letters

Nonfiction1. Karen, Marie Killilea: Written in the early 50s, a story about her 3-months-premature daughter who developed cerebral palsy, when very little was known about it
2. The Invisible Thread, Yoshiko Uchida: Memoirs about growing up in California as a Japanese-American and becoming interned during WWII
3. Black, White, and Jewish, Rebecca Walker: Memoir of Alice Walker’s black-Jewish daughter—I found this book to be sad, as she was caught between two worlds, feeling as if she belonged nowhere
4. All Over but the Shoutin’, Rick Bragg: Memoir of Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who grew up poor in the Appalachians
5. Don’t Let Us Go to the Dogs Tonight: Memoir of an African Childhood, Alexandra Fuller: Evocative memoir of a British girl who grows up in Africa with racist parents and an alcoholic mother
6. Honeymoon in Purdah: An Iranian Journey, Alison Wearing: Set of travelogues about author’s travels through Iran disguised as a honeymooning couple with her gay friend
7. Frida, A Biography of Frida Kahlo, Hayden Herrera: Made me long to go back to Mexico again!

Marie's Top Reads of 2003

Fiction
1. The Secret Lives of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd. Best of the year!
2. Red Water and The Chinchilla Farm, Judith Freeman. Especially liked the first one…historical fiction.
3. Blacklist, Sara Paretsky. One of my fave mystery writers.
4. The Samurai’s Daughter, Sujata Massey. My other fave.
5. Pastries: A Novel of Desserts and Discoveries, and Darjeeling: A Novel, Bharti Kirchner. Exquisite Indian expat novels.
6. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold. Disturbing, good read.
7. Compromising Positions; Close Relations; Magic Hour; Shining Through; Almost Paradise; After All These Years; Brave Dames and Wimpettes, Susan Isaacs. (I’ve just discovered her!)
8. Sophie and the Rising Sun, Augusta Trobaugh. Southern woman finds love with Japanese man during WWII.
9. Beach Music, Pat Conroy. Surprisingly good family saga.
10. When Elephants Dance, Tess Uriza Holthe. Gripping story of wartime in the Philippines.
11. Cause Celeb, Helen Fielding. Better than Bridget Jones.
12. Agnes Browne, Brendan O’Carroll. Whole series is great!
13. Someone Like You, Cathy Kelly. Three Irish friends.
14. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, JK Rowling.
15. Brick Lane, Monica Ali. Expat Bangladeshi life in UK.
16. I Don’t Know How She Does It, Alison Pearson. Career mom wants it all--good read but didn’t like the ultimate message.
17. Dating Big Bird, Laura Zigman. Young career woman wants a baby.
18. Hideous Kinky, Esther Freud. Hippie life in Morocco.
19. A Married Man, Catherine Alliott. Fun read.
20. American Pie, Michael Lee West. Southern zaniness.
21. White Teeth, Zadie Smith. Race, sex, class in the UK.
22. Range of Motion, Elizabeth Berg. Sad, uplifting story.
23. The Nanny Diaries, Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus. Do people really live like this?
24. Flight of the Maidens, Jane Gardam. WWII England girl friendships.
25. The Hope Chest, Rukshana Anmad. Sad and moving.

Nonfiction
1. Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer. Fascinating look at Mormon history and fundamentalism.
2. The Secrets of Mariko, Elisabeth Bumiller. Great book about the life of ordinary Japanese woman.
3. Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich. Great investigation into living with a low-wage job.
4. Indira: A Biography, Catherine Frank. Intriguing life.
5. My Forbidden Face, Latifa. Life under the Taliban.
6. Lucky Man, Michael J. Fox. Inspiring.
7. After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back, Nancy Venable Raines. Sad but inspiring.
8. A Slant of Sun, Beth Kephart. About an Autistic child.

Marie's Top Reads of 2004

Fiction1. The Secret Lives of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd. Best of the year!
2. Red Water and The Chinchilla Farm, Judith Freeman. Especially liked the first one…historical fiction.
3. Blacklist, Sara Paretsky. One of my fave mystery writers.
4. The Samurai’s Daughter, Sujata Massey. My other fave.
5. Pastries: A Novel of Desserts and Discoveries, and Darjeeling: A Novel, Bharti Kirchner. Exquisite Indian expat novels.
6. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold. Disturbing, good read.
7. Compromising Positions; Close Relations; Magic Hour; Shining Through; Almost Paradise; After All These Years; Brave Dames and Wimpettes, Susan Isaacs. (I’ve just discovered her!)
8. Sophie and the Rising Sun, Augusta Trobaugh. Southern woman finds love with Japanese man during WWII.
9. Beach Music, Pat Conroy. Surprisingly good family saga.
10. When Elephants Dance, Tess Uriza Holthe. Gripping story of wartime in the Philippines.
11. Cause Celeb, Helen Fielding. Better than Bridget Jones.
12. Agnes Browne, Brendan O’Carroll. Whole series is great!
13. Someone Like You, Cathy Kelly. Three Irish friends.
14. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, JK Rowling.
15. Brick Lane, Monica Ali. Expat Bangladeshi life in UK.
16. I Don’t Know How She Does It, Alison Pearson. Career mom wants it all--good read but didn’t like the ultimate message.
17. Dating Big Bird, Laura Zigman. Young career woman wants a baby.
18. Hideous Kinky, Esther Freud. Hippie life in Morocco.
19. A Married Man, Catherine Alliott. Fun read.
20. American Pie, Michael Lee West. Southern zaniness.
21. White Teeth, Zadie Smith. Race, sex, class in the UK.
22. Range of Motion, Elizabeth Berg. Sad, uplifting story.
23. The Nanny Diaries, Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus. Do people really live like this?
24. Flight of the Maidens, Jane Gardam. WWII England girl friendships.
25. The Hope Chest, Rukshana Anmad. Sad and moving.

Nonfiction1. Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer. Fascinating look at Mormon history and fundamentalism.
2. The Secrets of Mariko, Elisabeth Bumiller. Great book about the life of ordinary Japanese woman.
3. Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich. Great investigation into living with a low-wage job.
4. Indira: A Biography, Catherine Frank. Intriguing life.
5. My Forbidden Face, Latifa. Life under the Taliban.
6. Lucky Man, Michael J. Fox. Inspiring.
7. After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back, Nancy Venable Raines. Sad but inspiring.
8. A Slant of Sun, Beth Kephart. About an Autistic child.

Marie's Top Reads of 2005

Fiction
1. The Forest Lover, S. Vreeland. Beautifully written story of Emily Carr, who preserved native culture in her art.
2. The Kite Runner, K. Hosseini. An Afghani returns home to find redemption for childhood sins.
3. March, G. Brooks. Excellent novel about Little Women’s Mr. March--abolitionist, minister, committed to justice.
4. Lost in Translation, N. Mones. American woman living in China gets involved in an expedition to find Peking Man.
5. Fire Sale, S. Paretsky. Richly textured and interesting plot with memorable characters.
6. The Book of Joe, J. Tropper. A man leaves his town and returns after writing a book damning its inhabitants.
7. The Buffalo Soldier, C. Bohjalian. A grieving couple become foster parents to an African-American boy.
8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, M. Haddon. Told by a 15-year-old autistic boy; interesting insights into autism and the world's reaction to eccentricities.
9. When the Emperor Was Divine, J. Otsuka. Spare, beautifully written story of an interned Japanese-American family.
10. Before You Know Kindness, C. Bohjalian. Thought-provoking saga about hunting, vegetarianism, and family dynamics.
11. Family Pictures, Sue Miller. A family torn apart by one child’s autism and the historical “blaming of the mother.”
12. The Magic of Ordinary Days, A.H. Creel. Exquisitely written, about a woman who befriends two Jpn.-American interns.
13. The Mermaid Chair, S. Monk Kidd. A woman returns home to South Carolina to uncover her family secrets.
14. What We Keep, Elizabeth Berg. Beautifully written story about mothers, daughters, sisters, and forgiveness.
15. Slammerkin, E. Donoghue. Sad, compelling story about a girl who falls into prostitution in Dickensian England.
16. Atonement, I. McEwan. Postmodern drama of a child with an overactive imagination and the lives she ruins.
17. The Bowl Is Already Broken, M.K. Zuravleff. Story about the art world, working moms, and museum politics.
18. Chang and Eng, Darin Strauss. Fascinating fictional account of the famous Siamese twins.
19. Comfort Woman, N.O. Keller. Tragedy about a woman enslaved during the war, and her daughter’s perspective.
20. Any Place I Hang My Hat, S. Isaacs. A bright, gutsy woman seeks the mother who abandoned her as a baby.

Nonfiction
1. 24 Years of House Work and Still a Mess, P. Schroeder. I was lucky to hear this amazing woman speak in January.
2. Holy Cow : An Indian Adventure, S. Macdonald. A woman returns to India after an ill-fated visit in her 20s; her second time around she grows to love India.
3. The Bookseller of Kabul, A. Seierstad. Fascinating, heartbreaking view inside an Afghan family.
4. My Life So Far, J. Fonda. Inspiring, brave; Fonda discovers herself after a life of changing herself for her men.
5. The Glass Castle, J. Walls. Intriguing story of a troubled childhood amid deep familial love.
6. Living History, H. Rodham Clinton. Insightful look into the Clinton era and this fascinating, bright woman.
7. The Big Rumpus: A Mother's Tale from the Trenches, A. Halliday. Funny, irreverent memoir of an artist/writer mom raising two energetic kids in NYC.
8. Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, A. Lamott. Irreverent, provocative essays on life, politics, and faith.
9. Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, R. Reichl. Thoughtful, whimsical, about fine food and snobs.
10. Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe, G. De Becker. How to protect children from danger.
11. Blink, M. Gladwell. Some of the best decisions we make are made in the blink of an eye.

Marie's Top Reads of 2006

Fiction
1. Plum Wine, A. Davis-Gardner. American teaching in Tokyo inherits a tansu chest full of wine and diary entries from a friend.
2. Sex Wars, M. Piercy. Wonderful novel about the suffragettes.
3. We Are All Welcome Here, E. Berg. A girl with a quadraplegic mom and a black caretaker in 60s-era Mississippi.
4. The Flamenco Academy, S. Bird. Explores the world of New Mexico flamenco and gypsy culture.
5. The Time Traveler's Wife, A. Niffenegger. Great first novel.
6. One-Hit Wonder, L. Jewell. A one-time pop star suddenly dies—and her estranged sister tries to solve the mystery.
7. The Memory Keeper's Daughter, K. Edwards. A man makes a split-second decision that affects his whole family for a lifetime.
8. Alamo House, S. Bird. Eccentric female grad students live across from a wild frat house and wage war on them.
9. The Arms of God, L. Hinton. A woman who abandoned her child reenters the child's life years later.
10. A Land of Sheltered Promise, J. Kirkpatrick. Three novellas about the Big Muddy Ranch in eastern Oregon.
11. The Mommy Club, S. Bird. A quirky young woman becomes a surrogate for her employer...colorful characters and story.
12. Anybody Out There?, M. Keyes. Bittersweet story about an Irish woman with a wacky family who loses her husband.
13. The Tall Pine Polka, L. Landvik. Fun read about a small Minnesota town and its quirky, colorful characters.
14. Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me, K. Karbo. Fun read about motherhood and the class system.
15. Plantation: A Lowcountry Tale, D.B. Frank. Touching story about S. Carolina, family relationships, and affection for the land.
16. A Long Fatal Love Chase, LM Alcott. A spunky heroine marries an abusive, sadistic man, and she runs away from him.
17. Shalimar the Clown, S. Rushdie. Sprawling, sad story of the making of a terrorist in Rushdie's classic poetic, literary style.
18. A Time to Kill , J. Grisham. Grisham’s first novel--good vacation read!
19. Baby Proof , E. Giffin. A couple agrees not to have any children when they marry, but then the man has second thoughts.
20. Born Again, K. Kerney. A young girl in a fundamentalist family tries to reconcile her Christian faith with Darwin.

Nonfiction
1. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations, One School at a Time, G. Mortenson. The title says it all. Read it!
2. The Accidental Office Lady, L. Kriska. Excellent account of author’s time working for Honda in the 80s.
3. Dry, A. Burroughs. Searing account of alcoholism.
4. Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, S.J. Gilman. Girl grows up with hippie parents and feminist ideals.
5. It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons, A. Buchanan. Very interesting essays.
6. FBI Girl: How I Learned to Crack My Father’s Code, M. Conlon-McIvor. Quirky, interesting memoir.
7. Are Men Necessary?: When Sexes Collide, M. Dowd. Funny, insightful essays on gender-related topics.
8. Don't Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America, M. Spurlock. We are what we eat!
9. Looking for Chengdu: A Woman's Adventures in China, H. Gates. Anthropologist's travels in China.
10. 7 Money Mantras for a Richer Life: How to Live Well with the Money You Have, M. Singletary. No nonsense!
11. The Tulip and the Pope: A Nun’s Story, D. Larsen. A young nun’s decision to leave the convent.
12. Into the Wild by J. Krakauer. Raises interesting questions about what draws people into taking risks.
13. With Love from Karen, M. Killilea. A large family embraces their daughter with cerebral palsy in the 50s and 60s.
14. Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned , A. Alda. Interesting but wanted more depth.
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