Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What I read in July (2012)


July was a month of only fiction (after lots of nonfiction in June!)...some of it disappointing. For full reviews of these books, click on the title to go to Marie's Book Garden.
 
Fiction
 
The Descendants, by Kaui Hart Hemmings
 
This book, expanded from a short story, was beautifully written. Hemmings has a keen understanding of the way teenagers think and act (especially those who do not get enough affection or guidance from their parents!). The book is stronger than the movie in that we get to understand Matt's inner life and motivations. His transformation is a bit deeper and more understandable in the book for that reason. It clearly is a novel of place. Hawaii is ever present, as is its culture, history, and tensions between native Hawaiians and white people. Hemmings also handles the concepts of death and grief in a sensitive, loving, and realistic way.



 
This Beautiful Life, by Helen Schulman


Jake Bergamot, 15, goes to an unchaperoned party where a 13-year-old, Daisy, flirts outrageously with him. He ends up becoming entangled with her that alcohol-soaked evening--he's flattered, they're both lonely--until his friends appear and mock him for robbing the cradle. He shrugs her off, telling her that she's too young for him. The next day an ex-rated video Daisy had made arrives in his e-mail. Shocked and a bit flattered, Jake sends the video to his best friend, who forwards it to a few other friends, and then--you guessed it--it goes viral. This book explores the changing technology landscape for teenagers. As mom of a teenager, this book freaked me out a bit.

 
Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane
 
This is the type of book that totally screws with your mind. If you don't like such books, steer clear. I like Lehane's writing style and the book drew me in immediately. When I finished the book, I wasn't absolutely positive what was true in the end. I suppose that's because I don't usually read these noir types of books and am not the sort of reader who tries to figure things out and look for clues along the way. I'm intrigued enough by Lehane's writing and creativity to try another one of his. If you like psychological thrillers, you will probably like this one. Creepy and haunting!


 
The Teahouse Fire, by Ellis Avery
 
French girl Aurelia arrives in New York with her single mother to live with her priest uncle. She ends up going to Japan with her uncle to convert a "heathen" Japan. Yukako, the young woman who discovers Aurelia and takes her under her wing, is the daughter of a great tea ceremony master. Much of the book is about the ancient art of tea ceremony and how it evolves, particularly with the passing of the Shogun and the ushering in of the Meiji era modernizations. Aurelia leads a sad life...she's not only lost her mother--the only person she ever loved--but she also is shunned and misunderstood as a foreigner living in Japan in this time. It's fascinating to consider how little has changed in Japan since this novel's setting. Although women have more options now than they did then, Japanese culture is still strongly rooted in patriarchy. The Teahouse Fire, obviously meticulously researched, gets bogged down in too many details and characters. I found it difficult to get into and was looking forward to its end.

Monday, July 30, 2012

10 sounds that drive me crazy

It's Monday Listicles time!

I suppose I should consider myself lucky that I find it easier to list things I feel positive about rather than negative. But here goes--10 sounds that drive me crazy!
1. Contrasting music: As in one song playing in one room of the house while another song is playing in another room.

2. Squabbling children: Need I say more? I imagine most parents of more than one child would agree!

3. A baby in distress: We practiced attachment parenting by comforting our babies when they were crying. This meant nursing on demand and not letting our babies cry themselves to sleep. It breaks my heart to hear babies cry...it's the only way they have to communicate discomfort or distress.

4. Neil Young. REO Speedwagon. Celine Dion. Misogynistic rap. Traditional country western music.

5. People singing off-key, loudly.

6. When people speak disrespectfully or hatefully toward others.

7. Whining, whether it be from children OR adults!

8. Loud construction noise or honking when I am trying to sleep.

9. A fly buzzing around in my bedroom right before bedtime (mostly because of the fly itself being on the loose).

10. Overly repetitive songs like this one, which everyone else in my family loves (and they love to torment me with):



Most of these sounds are human generated. I think I would have had an easier time coming up with 10 tastes or smells that drive me crazy...or 10 sounds that I like.

I'm experiencing some hearing problems recently and need to have surgery on my ear (because of a cholesteatoma), so I'm ever appreciative of the sense of hearing. Perhaps that's why this list was so hard for me.

Thanks to Monday Listicles (organized by Stasha at http://www.northwestmommy.com/) for the inspiration. Check out some more on her site!






Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One reason we still need feminism

This is what a childhood friend posted on Facebook, and I agree.

We need feminism for so many reasons, but paramount among them is child brides and other gender issues documented by brilliant photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair.

National Geographic featured some of Sinclair's series on child brides in June 2011, but her web site has far more gorgeous, and heart-breaking, photos.

She has also documented serious gender issues such as self-immolation, gang rape, the never-ending war in Iraq, and polygamy in America.

How can people say we are now post-feminism, and women have achieved it all? Clearly, we have not.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Listicles: Thanks

I've written numerous thankfulness posts before, including this one from last year, but this one is more lighthearted.

1. Thanks to the Pacific Northwest for my pale skin tones
2. Thanks to my current role as steering team president of our church to remind me that I greatly appreciate people who are respectful of all and do not create major dramas in people's lives
3. Thanks to my job as a writer/editor, my obsession with reading, and my malaise about getting back to the gym for the extra weight I'm carrying around
4. Thanks for having boys and not having to endure the princess culture in my home
5. Thanks to my English Catholic husband (and his family) for loving me in spite of being an American Lutheran feminist (and allowing me to listen to his lovely accent every day--still not tired of it!)
6. Thanks to my dramatic boys (and husband) for allowing me to continue in my supportive role as audience member (I'm the only one in the family who does not have a burning desire to be in the spotlight)
7. Thanks to dark chocolate for converting my tastebuds so I'm no longer fond of sweet chocolate (dark chocolate is so much healthier!)
8. Thanks to the Oregon rain and dreariness for much of the year, because I really, really appreciate the sun and warm weather in our summer of July-September!
9. Thanks to my employer for paying me a good wage so we can afford to spend an arm and a leg to send Chris to a great private high school
10. Thanks to Wes Prieb, for negotiating the gift of Holden Village to the Lutheran church 50 years ago...and working so hard to create a wonderful haven and community--this year we will celebrate in our own way by spending 10 days up there for the first time ever--can't wait!

And one more--thanks to Monday Listicles (organized by Stasha at http://www.northwestmommy.com/) for the inspiration. Check out some more!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rape is never funny.

Never. No excuses.

I guess I'm a little behind in the news...I don't watch cable, and I don't pay much attention to celebrity gossip.

Tonight I learned from a Facebook friend that comedian Daniel Tosh commented that "rape is always funny," and when challenged on that by a female audience member, made a rape joke about her: 
"Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her..."
She blogged about this incident, and suddenly comedians are coming out of the woodwork to defend Tosh. Even Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, and Joy Behar admitted that "if it works, it's okay."
Recently I've unsubscribed from two Facebook groups that posted misogynistic jokes--"Mommy Has a Potty Mouth" and "100,000,000 Strong to Help Improve Tea Party's Grammar." When someone challenged these jokes, they were literally attacked with the accusation that anyone who doesn't find such jokes funny does not have a sense of humor." I decided to "unlike" those groups, because I don't need that kind of vitriol on my Facebook wall. And I wouldn't associate with such people in person, so why should I online?

That's exactly what comedians are saying about anyone who says rape jokes are not funny. We don't have a sense of humor. My guess is that they have (1) never been raped or nearly raped or known anyone who was raped, (2) they have never felt sexually or violently threatened, and (3) they really do not care how people feel about such things and they are just trying to be outrageous.

This is how the woman felt when Tosh made a rape joke about her:
"I should probably add that having to basically flee while Tosh was enthusing about how hilarious it would be if I was gang-raped in that small, claustrophic room was pretty viscerally terrifying and threatening all the same, even if the actual scenario was unlikely to take place. The suggestion of it is violent enough and was meant to put me in my place.”

And no, it's not funny when a female makes a rape joke either, such as the Sarah Silverman joke Joy Behar read on "The View": “I was raped by a doctor, which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl."

Never funny. No excuses.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The way to a boy's heart is through his tummy?



Last night when I was putting Nicholas to bed, he pronounced:

"My tummy is called the land of happiness."


This is exactly the type of random thought that often comes out of his mouth, prompting me to laugh in delight. Sometimes I think he says these things to be funny. But sometimes he bursts into tears, commanding me not to laugh at him. It's very difficult to know how to react. I tell him I'm only laughing at him because he's so cute, but he doesn't seem to buy that. He's very sensitive!

What is particularly funny about this comment is that Nicholas is the only truly picky eater in our family. We eat a lot of ethnic food, and the other boys have always loved a wide variety of foods, including Japanese, Indian, and Thai (although of course none of them are truly crazy about vegetables). But Nicholas is notoriously fussy about anything green, seedy, nutty, or otherwise mysterious straying onto his plate. He used to eat the spinach ravioli from Costco, but no more. He also used to devour strawberry bars from Trader Joe's, but doesn't like those any more (to my relief, since they were not organic and strawberries carry high levels of pesticides).

A friend asked on Facebook what Nicholas had last night for dinner. The answer is homemade macaroni and cheese (as in boil pasta; add sauce made out of parmesan cheese, milk, cream cheese, and butter; and stir). To my relief, all the boys including Nicholas liked it--it's difficult to predict sometimes! Before bedtime he ate an apple (cut and peeled) and then demanded a turkey sandwich or cinnamon toast. I told him he could have some string cheese, guessing he would reject it (he used to love string cheese but lately has turned his nose up at it!), and he actually ate it. Maybe he's getting hungrier and less picky? One can only dream.


This is his preferred diet:
Cheese pizza
Hummous and rice crackers (he's very picky about his crackers and once I made homemade hummous, but he rejected that!)
Turkey sandwiches (crusts cut off)
Cinnamon toast
Apples
Grapes
Vanilla ice cream (or commonly called valilla)
Milk
Chocolate milk
Cookies, candy, and sweets (but nothing too far out!)
Apple juice
Macaroni and cheese (but only fresh; no leftovers)
Cheese quesadillas
Tortilla chips
Nachos
Chicken and turkey, if cooked simply with no fancy sauces
Frozen yogurt tubes (strawberry, preferably)
Salmon
Shrimp
Hot dogs
Milkshakes
Chicken fingers (which we try to give him only from good places!)
French fries and tater tots

Now that I list all these things, I see that we actually are fairly lucky compared to some families with picky eaters. At least the list contains more than 20 items. He has been known to enjoy beef when he's had it at my parents' house, too, but we don't cook it much at home.


In the meantime, this one has become a vegetarian--this is his fourth attempt, and he's lasted five days now, nearly a record. I think the fact that he's tried to go veggie so many times means that eventually it will truly take!

But he does love his cheeseburgers. We'll see how he does. :)




Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A little more Oregon weirdness (ala Rockaway crows)

Rockaway has a cute little vintage/pseudo-vintage shop called "The Frugal Crow," and they had a crow-decorating contest going on. Kieran and I were charmed by the clever crow decorating and titles! We each voted for a number of our favorite crows (we could see no limit to voting).


Unfortunately it's hard to read the clever captions,
 but I do remember the cotton ball one was "Caw-Liflower"

This ended up winning first prize!
(Crowbi Wan Kenobi)



Vincent Van Crow (won a prize) and Lady Caw-Caw


Next year I will take better photos!

And here is Rockaway's best slice of kitsch, Flamingo Jim's (with my favorite 9-year-old posing in front). This is the shop that drives every parent crazy!! But it does have a great selection of Rockaway and Oregon Coast shirts.



Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Listicles: What I Would Miss and What I Would Not Miss

Today's Monday Listicle is inspired by the late great Nora Ephron, who wrote a list of what she will miss and not miss in her last book, I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections, which Mike actually just read. Although she didn't talk openly about her cancer diagnosis, she knew that her life would be cut short.

Reflecting my own optimistic and live-in-the-present personality, I have chosen to change my own list to "What I Would Miss" and "What I Would Not Miss." Also reflective of my personality, my list of negatives is way shorter than my list of positives.
What I would miss 
  • My hilarious, loving, and wonderful boys
  • The smell of rosemary, daphne, a freshly bathed baby, a moist forest
  • Music, laughter, the sound of the ocean
  • My partner and love of my life
  • My amazing extended family
  • Seeing Nicholas' children get married (I probably will not be around then, since I was nearly 42 when he was born)
  • Hugs
  • Traveling the world and seeing new, wonderful sights
  • The gorgeous scenery and wonder of the world
  • Fresh garden tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers
  • Berries of any kind
  • Dark chocolate and red wine
  • Asian food (particularly Japanese and Indian)
  • Friends who love to laugh, hang out, and make music and art together
  • Books and movies that move me to tears or make me laugh
  • Sitting by a body of water
What I would not miss
  • Rude, disrespectful people
  • Political infighting
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cockroaches, wasps, mosquitoes, rats
  • Passive-aggressive behavior
  • Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann, and other divisive and ignorant politicos
  • Loved ones getting cancer or other diseases
  • Liver, Brussels sprouts, cheap beer
  • Pap smears, mammograms, and teeth cleaning
Thanks to Northwest Mommy at The Good Life for introducing me to this new list-making community of bloggers. So much fun!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fourth of July at the beach

We spent four nights at the beach this pat week...no matter how long we stay, it never seems like enough time! The weather was positively glorious--sunny every day!


First evening on the beach (Tuesday)





With my sweet boys
Tuesday night we began watching a movie, "Pirates of Penzance," with the kids. It was their first Gilbert & Sullivan. The movie featured Kevin Kline (who I love), Linda Ronstadt (as Mabel), and Angela Lansbury. Consequently, the movie had the whole family walking around singing "Modern Major General"!!

Wednesday, the 4th, was busy...we started out with the hokey little parade in Rockaway. It seemed shorter than usual, but the kids got plenty of candy!


Kieran before the parade
 Mike and Kieran went off to a sunglasses booth and returned with a pair of $5 red sunglasses for Nick. He liked them so much he started dancing, so I put on a little mood music (video):


Nick kept posing by flagpoles, saying "I am the president!"
In front of a fire engine,  with his bag of loot
After the parade we went home for lunch and returned to town for the annual Weiner Dog Races. It was the first time we had attended, and it was so funny!!


That evening we had a very windy campfire on the beach and made s'mores. Then back to finish the movie and go onto fireworks.


Kieran loves to be buried in the sand
The next day my friend Caley came over with her family--they had been staying in Manzanita with Mark's parents. I made pies!

Leftover pie crust appetizers


The blackberry/blueberry pies

Mike's given up dairy in addition to gluten, so I made him a gluten-free/dairy-free pie (not easy!)

All the kids (3 boys and 3 girls!!)
Later in the week we watched "The Trouble with Angels" with Hayley Mills and Rosalind Russell--really funny! Back to Portland on Saturday...into the heat!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What I read in June (2012)

I did not do this intentionally, but June was clearly a month of nonfiction! I only read two novels this month. I gave two of these books five-star reviews on Goodreads.com. Can you guess which ones?

For full reviews of these books, click on the title to go to Marie's Book Garden.

Fiction
The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson

It was a clever novel (Wilson was mentored by Ann Patchett), but just not my cup of tea.

I found this book to be very sad...it was described as similar to "Little Miss Sunshine" (which I loved) or "The Royal Tenenbaums," which is why I read it. Now I realize it's several days I will never get back






Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

Best fiction of the month!

My middle-grade-writer husband read this amazing debut middle-grade novel last week, and he cried and cried and cried.

August (Auggie) had a series of birth defects that resulted in a face that is mashed up and unlike any other. The book starts with Auggie saying "I know I'm not an ordinary ten-year-old kid...I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."

Auggie has been homeschooled for the first ten years of his life because of all the surgeries he had to endure. (Like Auggie, I also had to have jaw surgery and an implant in my chin.) Finally, as he is entering fifth grade, his parents decide to send him to school. And so begins the story. We hear the story from Auggie's perspective, as well as from his older sister Via and a few of his friends. I loved this story of a boy who finds his place in the world, helped along by people who show him kindness.

Nonfiction

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand

Best nonfiction of the month!
My sister Nadine and Mike both read Unbroken for their respective book groups and loved it. I was looking forward to diving in, and it did not disappoint.


Go read this book!! It will make you look at your life in new ways and stop you from taking things for granted.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter, by Peggy Orenstein
Similar to The Mama Boy's Myth, this is an important book about what we are exposing our girls to and the risks they face by being pressured to be princesses instead of heroes. Yes, they all grow out of the princess phase, but what fallout remains as they move into adolescence?



My Monastery Is a Minivan, by Denise Roy
I really enjoyed this book and it gave me a lot to think about...good reminders of finding the sacred in everyday life, not taking things for granted, and remembering that prayer and meditation comes in many forms.

The 100 Thing Challenge, by Dave Bruno

In the "Don't bother" category.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday listicles

I've just discovered a great blog, The Good Life, which has a list on every Monday--a writing prompt for bloggers. I've always been a great list maker, so I think I will give this a try. Here goes!

Monday Listicles

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 23, and find line 4. What is it?

Brownie uniform from the 1970s
"I think of Joy, her knowing smile." --from The Descendants, by Kaui Hart Hemmings (book group selection)

2. How many times a day do you say Hi?

25? Mostly to my kids in the morning and people in the office, walking in the hallways or in the coffee room.

3. Have you ever worn a uniform?

Yes--bussing tables at Village Inn, working at Arctic Circle (now-defunct fast food chain), being a Brownie/Girl Scout and Campfire Girl, and volunteering in the NICU (a Precious Beginnings shirt).

Oh--how can I forget??!!! And of course, when I was a Spur my sophomore year at Pacific Lutheran University. Spurs is a sophomore service sorority...with a song, and a uniform, which I made myself. We were informed that we "made it" when we were kidnapped in the middle of the night and taken to the rose window chapel for a somber ceremony. That was the first of many rituals and ceremonies, in addition to service to the community. We had "big Spurs" and "little Spurs" as each new group came in.

Every Tuesday during my sophomore year I wore a blue skirt, white polo shirt, and yellow jacket!
We even had a song we sang at the end of each meeting, which I still remember. Funny enough, my sister Nadine (and a number of my younger friends) also became a Spur...and one of the Spurs a year ahead of me became Nadine's sister-in-law! During my year, Spurs became coed--we had our first (brave) male member, a young Tom Selleck lookalike. I remember that the year involved a lot of sewing! (Uniform, doll for my Big Spur, scrapbook for my little Spur, Lucia Bride costume)

With some quick Internet sleuthing, I unearthed the PLU yearbook from that year and took a few screen captures. Hilarious!

Every year back then, the Spurs ran the annual Lucia Bride festival. For weeks beforehand, we would meet on lower campus at ungodly hours of the morning to learn the traditional Scandinavian songs and dances. The males were provided by the university's prestigious folk dancing group, the Mayfest dancers. We performed in our hand-sewn Scandinavian costumes and also baked hundreds of cookies for the reception afterward. It was exhausting, but SO much fun! The next year (when I was a junior), they scaled the festival WAY back. The Mayfest dancers did all the dancing.

Spurs pages in the yearbook
(I'm in the group photo, front row, second from the
right--the shortest one!)
Sadly, I don't think that PLU even has the Spurs any longer...yes, it was kind of hokey, but it was fun! Maybe all the sewing burnt them out. Somehow it's hard to imagine today's generation holding hands and singing the Spurs song at the end of a meeting!!

4. What do you think about the most?

Hmm...hard question. Probably at the moment, all the various dramas going on around me (fortunately not in my own family or job, but in many other parts of my life). Otherwise, my family, my job, what I'm reading.

5. How many keys are on your keyring?

Seven--two hardly ever used but a pain in the ass to remove from the keyring.

6. What was the last thing you bought?

Lunch at Cha Cha Cha for me and a close friend going through cancer treatment.

7. Are you growing anything these days?

Tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant (doing horribly), dill, zucchini, basil, snap peas (yum--had some yesterday)...also, our apples will be a bumper crop this year!

8. What is under your bed?

Some hand weights, ear plugs that have fallen behind the bed, Mike's shoes, a Costco coupon book.

9. What is most important in life?

Love, family, friends

10. What is the strangest word you used this week?

Must be something I used in "Words With Friends" (my new addiction)--not sure...

Stay tuned on Mondays for more "Listicles"!
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