Sunday, January 27, 2013

My childhood aspirations (Monday Listicle)

This week's Monday Listicles is "As a child, which 10 things did you think you would do or be?" Some of these were easy and some required a bit more memory power (which is lacking lately)!

1. Have children
I always knew I wanted to have children--as a teenager I babysat a lot and taught Sunday school and bible school. I formed close relationships with many younger children. Friday I heard a story on public radio (can't find it online) about a single woman who chose to have two children on her own (through a sperm donor). That's what I knew I would do, if I hadn't gotten married. I never had doubts about having children. I know I'm privileged to have had great parenting myself, which certainly helped me have confidence that I could do it.

With some of my students in Japan
2. Become a teacher
When I was an adolescent, I wanted to teach emotionally disturbed children (that was the term back then). That's hard to imagine now...I would never had had the patience.My dad was a social worker in the inner city schools, and a few times I went to shadow him and his colleagues. Then I decided I wanted to teach elementary school. But then I changed my major from education to English. The only teaching I've done is three years in Japan, but the situation was extremely different from how public teachers work today. I have eternal admiration for teachers, but I think being a writer/editor suits me better. Here are some posts I wrote a few years ago about how much I admire teachers:
In Praise of Teachers, Part 1
In Praise of Teachers, Part 2
In Praise of Teachers, Part 3

3. Sing
Similar to any young girl with a voice and a guitar, I did have some dreams of grandeur. Now I sing regularly at church and spend time singing with the kindergarteners every Friday morning. I also go to music camp every year!

4. Go to college
My parents both are well educated (my dad has two master's degrees, one in math and one in social work and my mom went back to school to get her master's in counseling when I was in junior high). I never considered not going to college and felt lucky to get my parents' support and encouragement. They instilled in me a love of and respect for education.

5. Help people who are less fortunate
As I mentioned, my dad worked in the inner city schools. I remember one time he brought home an African-American boy for dinner. (This was very rare, and I'm not sure what prompted this event.) I'm sure he must have felt tempted to bring home children on a constant basis. My parents taught us that it was our job as humans and Christians to take care of the less supporting a safety net for people who didn't have the same opportunities. They are why I'm a proud democrat and believe it's our duty to raise other people up when we can.

Eating gasoline-scented sandwiches in front of Central Park
 (and the Museum of Natural History), 1981
 (We traveled with tents and ice chest--
there was a gasoline spill in the trunk!
Can't believe we ate those things!)
6. Travel
After my parents graduated from college, they set off for Europe--to travel and then to teach and live there. I did the same--but I went in the opposite direction (to Japan). Even though my childhood travel was confined to car trips and within the contiguous United States, I loved hitting the road...and still do!

7. Spend time with my family
I grew up spending lots of time with my nuclear and extended family, most of whom still live in Oregon. Birthdays and all major holidays were spent with aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins. Family has always been so important to me, and I never doubted that this would continue into adulthood. It's changing, as my extended family is changing. I truly believe that family time is better than a clean house (although it would be very nice to have a clean house)!!

8. Work outside the home
We used to tease one of my friends in college, because she willingly confessed that she wanted her Mrs. degree. I was not averse to staying home and raising kids, but it wasn't something I necessarily wanted to do.  My dream is to work part-time someday instead of full-time! I think I would have been bored staying home taking care of kids all day. I admire those people (including my husband) who are able to do this...and I certainly believe it's ideal to have one parent at home, if it works.

With childhood friends (I'm second from right,
 and my sister is at the far right)
9. Be social
I'm a shy extrovert. I get my energy from being with other people. When I was in first grade, my teacher wrote on my first report card that I needed to spend more time on my schoolwork and less time socializing. (This reminds me of my children!) On Friday night I went to a wonderful women's dinner party given by a dear friend, and I was shocked to discover that it was nearly midnight when many of us left. I guess I'm feeling better! I am shy, though, when I don't know people...but once you are my friend, I let my guard down and open up.

10. I can't think of a #10, so I will twist this into what I never would have predicted about myself:

  • Live abroad for 3 years
  • Marry a Brit
  • Be mom to THREE boys
  • Be the primary breadwinner while hubby can write and take care of the boys
  • Write for a living
  • Feel so, so blessed--I can't imagine having a happier life!
Monday Listicles is sponsored by Stasha at The Good Life blog. Every week we blog about the topic of the week. Check others out at her site.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Blessed with good medical care

Today I met a woman at work who has a cleft palate that has never been repaired. She's 33 years old now.

She bought a raffle ticket I was selling for Chris' school, and she carefully asked me if I had a cleft palate. (She probably assumed it from my cleft lip scar? I'm not sure.) She is Chinese-American, and when she was young her parents didn't speak much English or have health she never had it treated. In fact, she still wears an obturator (the speech appliance that tormented me and I wore until I was 15).

She has seen a few specialists--both here in Oregon and in New York--but because of her age, surgery would have just a 50 percent success rate. She also never had braces (her teeth are not nearly as crooked as mine were, though), but when she went to see an orthodontist about getting braces, he told her she'd have to stop wearing her obturator for at least 2 weeks. I know what that would be like. I took mine out every night as a child, and I could still talk...but I couldn't enunciate very well. I wouldn't have dreamed of going to school or out in public without it. She told me that children of Asian descent are more likely to develop cleft palates--her mom was 45 when she had her, and she's always wondered if that was why. (My mom had German measles when she was pregnant, likely the reason.) says:
"Cleft lip and cleft palate defects occur in about 1 or 2 of every 1,000 babies born in the United States each year, making it one of the most common major birth defects. Clefts occur more often in children of Asian, Latino, or Native American descent."
Once again, I am feeling extremely thankful for medical technology and for my first-world comforts of living in the U.S. with access to medical care and educated and resourceful parents. We didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up, either, but we did have insurance...and I believe a lot of my medical and orthodontic care was covered by Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU). This woman and I were laughing about how they used to call it the "Crippled Children's Center" (now called the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center). I remember my friendly doctor at the Crippled Children's Center, Robert Blakeley, who died a few years ago. I have found quite a few references to him on the Internet, including this blog written by his niece!

One of my close friends of many years, Judith, adopted a baby from China who had a cleft palate (also repaired at OHSU). When cleft lips or palates are repaired at a young age, the surgeries have high success rates. I'd like to think that some (less observant) people don't even notice my scar. As for me, I am not very observant about people's height, weight, or other physical traits, but I do notice cleft lip scars or speech impediments...just like I wonder if very slender children who wear glasses or appear slightly clumsy were preemies. (Sometimes it's all I can do to keep myself from asking the parents--not to gawk but to form a connection.) I've also been drawn to stories about children or adults with facial deformities, such as Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Greal or Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

While doing some research for this post, I found some great blogs by parents of children with cleft lips and palates, including this beautiful one featuring the writer's adopted Chinese baby who just had her cleft lip repaired.

I'm not sure what this woman will do about her cleft palate--she doesn't seem to mind wearing the obturator as much as I did. It seems that she is still assessing her options. She didn't seem angry or sad about not getting treatment at a younger age, but I wonder if she ever feels that way. It just goes to show that appearances can be deceiving...if she had not opened up to me today, I would never have known that she had a cleft palate (unlike me, she doesn't have a cleft lip, which, unrepaired, is completely noticeable!). I consider her visit a gift.

And it makes me so very grateful that my life was made whole, that I could fit in with the crowd, because these defects were repaired. And all I have to complain about is going to the dentist. Well, also that dratted cholesteatoma...which is definitely related because of all the ear infections I had as a child (all connected)...I think I will allow myself to complain about that.

So while I'm feeling sad about my friend fighting lymphoma, I'm feeling grateful and hopeful for another close friend who has finished her cancer treatment (hooray!) and also very, very glad that we live in a developed country that has excellent (although expensive and not nearly accessible enough) medical care. That's me--always looking for the silver lining, as best as I can!

Prayers needed for a friend

I was so looking forward to 2013 being better for me and my loved ones. My parents have been dedicating most of their time recently to caring for my Uncle Lloyd, who is nearing the end of his life. It's a hard but precious time for them. They are grateful for the time they have left with him.

Then this week I got some bad news about a dear friend from work. Her name is Loretta, and she works in our Denver headquarters. Both of us have worked at the firm for many years, but had not worked closely together until a few years ago. She is the marketing and communications manager for our Environmental Services Business Group, and she's been using me a lot to write intranet stories, manage award applications, and provide other communications support. With another friend and coworker, we initiated a Communications Community of Practice in our firm...for all communicators to have a place to share ideas and learn.

Loretta is such a kind, loving person, and I feel very lucky to know her and be her colleague. This week she let us know that she's been diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma. She hadn't been feeling well since December, and with my time away, I was not aware of what was going on. The last I heard from her was right after New Year, when she e-mailed me: "I prayed for you so many times throughout the last two weeks! It’s so good to hear from you. Glad you’re back." Typical of her, she didn't share anything about what she had been going through.

I feel so horrible that I didn't know about all the worry and concern she's been enduring, and now she's in for a rough haul. She will have a few rounds of chemo (every 3 weeks, for 6 hours each) and then they'll check to see if it's working. Tomorrow they will conduct a bone marrow test to determine if the cancer has metastasized to her bones. If so, she will be reclassified as Stage 4. So either she has Stage 2 or Stage 4...lymphoma is treatable, but the staging is very important to the treatment and success rates.

If you are the praying sort, will you say a prayer for my friend, Loretta? If you are not into praying, hopeful thoughts are nice too! Fortunately she has a large circle of friends in Colorado, and she's going to need them. I feel so far away and helpless. I will have to find some fun things to send her to cheer her up.

Thank you. Please no more cancer!!!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ten new things in our closets

My clearance dress
This week's Monday Listicles topic is "10 things in my closet." After a weekend of shopping and fun, I seem to have bought more than my usual share of items...only adding to the quantity of stuff we have in our house. Instead of revealing the skeletons in my closet, I'm going to share the items I added over the weekend.I think I will set myself a goal this week of getting rid of 20 things for bringing in (more than) 10 things this week!! See how I do.

1. On Friday I went to my favorite resale shop and found some great bargains--I bought three things on the clearance rack--a pair of soft, fitting black pants, a Chico's top, and this Vera Wang dress, which will be saved for the summer but only cost me $7!

At the Grand Lodge

Nobebook and rulers
2. Also on Friday, my dear friend Shelia came over for the weekend from Boise. We drove to the Hotel Grand Lodge on Friday afternoon and had a lovely time hanging out and catching up. Shelia gave me a wonderful book lovers' notebook and two fun rulers.

One of my new CDs
3. That evening after dinner (crab cake burgers), we heard a singer-songwriter perform in the Grand Lodge's "Garage." Her name is Laurel Brauns, and I love her music! She lives in Bend but performs in the Portland area every few months. I bought two of her CDs. I know it doesn't actually go in my closet, but oh well.

4. On Saturday we drove back into Portland and met our friend April in Multnomah Village for shopping and lunch. We hit one of my favorite stores, Topanien, where I took advantage of more clearance sales:
African candles

New earrings
Tea with friends at Medley
With my new prayer shawl

5. This morning a friend gave me a gorgeous prayer shawl that his mom and her knitting group had made for me. It's made of the same yarn I used for a scarf I made for my mom, which grew out of control!! (So clearly they chose the right color!) I love it! I will use it for my next surgery in June...and anytime I want to remember how much I am loved!
Old vs. new

6. I took my notoriously picky six-year-old shopping this afternoon. We desperately needed to buy him some shoes. He is very picky about clothes, shoes, and food! Every weekend day (and most weekday evenings) he wears his Indiana Jones costume; we draw the line on letting him wear it to school. He has one pair of brown pants he wants to wear every single day, and the last time Mike took him shoe shopping, he gave up! I knew I couldn't give up because his old shoes are literally falling apart...but it took me 45 minutes to get him to agree to a pair. It helped that he saw his best buddy in the store, who happened to be wearing a pair of Vans.

New shoes for Kieran
7. I also got a pair of shoes for his big brother, who is MUCH easier to buy for. He wasn't even with us, and fortunately I scored on this pair...his first pair of Nikes.

Boots, scarf, and hat

8-10. I also bought some clearance stuff for me: a pair of fun Wellington boots, a scarf, and another buttoned hat.  I now own three hats...they are growing on me. I think it helps to have longer hair.

11. Okay, I know I went to 11 items but this counting system is completely shot anyway as you'll notice. Clearly, I also did not follow the "closet" rule! Another thing I splurged on today was a new area rug for our living room. The last one was looking old, threadbare, and's what happens when you have three boys. I have been wanting a new rug for awhile, but I had to convince Mike. He keeps saying we should wait until all the boys leave home (which is still 12+ years away, since we have a 6-year-old!!). He said that about our old, awful furniture as well, which was cream and blue striped. If he had won that argument, it would have turned completely brown and ratty by the time they left home.

This one I even chose WITHOUT him. It was on sale as well, so I figured it was a risk I would take and we could always take it back. Fortunately, he likes it!
New rug--it's not quite as big as our old one,
 but looks so much nicer!
It is actually redder (and less mauve) in reality

Listicles is brought to us by Stasha Check out her blog and read about what's in other people's closets!

Kids Company NW Fall 2012

Last fall Kieran went to theater rehearsals every Saturday, as a member of Northwest Children's Theater's Kids Company Northwest. Kids Co is NWCT’s ambassador group to the community. This is what the website says about Kids Co:
"Talented young performers take original musical reviews to festivals, events, retirement homes, schools and more. An important arts training ground for intermediate and advanced students, Kids Co students work closely with musical theater professionals to develop performance skills and become part of a close-knit, supportive ensemble and peer group."
When Kieran initially auditioned for NWCT, he only wanted to be on the mainstage. We convinced him to keep his options open. When the call-back form arrived and he discovered that he'd been called back for Kids Co and not the mainstage, he threw a fit. (I understand this is not unusual for actors!) However, a friend of ours was in Kids Co as a girl and had a fantastic time. She was very encouraging and convinced him to give it a try.

The initial auditions for NWCT had 400 kids participating, and the call-backs were down to 100+. They spent five hours at the theater, split into small groups and taught dancing, acting, and singing. They told the parents that they were looking for "pizazz." Well, Kieran's sure got the pizazz. He was thrilled to learn that he'd earned a place in both the fall and spring troupes. (Being a boy helps tremendously in getting a place in theater!! The girls had much stiffer competition.) 
All fall they rehearsed, and in December they performed throughout Portland, mostly at retirement homes. Their public performances were two nights on NWCT's mainstage, one night at the Tualatin Library, and one morning at the Portland Children's Museum. They have two troupes; his performed a show called "London Is London," about a group of London street players. Some of the kids were better at the cockney accents than others!! He had a wonderful time, and last Friday they had a joint cast party in the theater..the day before the new troupes started.

This spring, he'll be in a show called "Hillbilly Heaven." So from London to the Appalachians we go! This whole experience has been more positive for him than his first big break with the Hullabaloo. The teachers are very encouraging and kind, and he's really enjoyed being part of a company of other talented kids. 

Here are a few brief bits. The music was very catchy--we all learned the music!

Christmas Carol
London Is London
Little Drummer Boy (one of my favorite parts, where Kieran's character gets to be mischievous)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ten best movie quotes: a tribute to Kate

This week's Monday Listicle comes from Ally at Just a Normal Mom: 10 best movie quotes.

I'm not one of those people who remembers movie quotes in general, with a few exceptions such as "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die" and "Luke, I am your father." What's with the father theme? I also remember "As you wish." (Cue Princess Bride!)

But I do love the movies, and I especially love great actresses that transcend stereotypical gender roles. Mike and I just saw "The Iron Lady" the other night, and I was struck, once again, by how talented Meryl Streep is. I love her, and I need to watch more of her films.

The first actress I loved, though, was the late great Katharine Hepburn. IMDB tells us "she was the daughter of a doctor and a suffragette, both of whom encouraged her to speak her mind, develop it fully, and exercise her body to its full potential."

Here are ten great movie quotes by Katharine Hepburn:

  1. "All I'm trying to say is that there's lots of things that a man can do and in society's eye it's all hunky dory. A woman does the same thing--the same thing, mind you--and she's an outcast." --Adam's Rib
  2. "Oh, that's silly. No woman would ever run for president. She'd have to admit she's over 35." --State of the Union
  3. "War! Is that all you men know?" --Mary of Scotland
  4. "I see that, in addition to your other charms, you have that insolence generated by an inferior upbringing. --Stage Door
  5. "The time to make up your mind about people is never." --Philadelphia Story
  6. "I even made poor Louis take me on Crusade. How's that for blasphemy. I dressed my maids as Amazons and rode bare-breasted halfway to Damascus. Louis had a seizure and I damn near died of windburn... but the troops were dazzled." --The Lion in Winter
  7. "The trick in life isn't getting what you want, my dear, it's wanting it after you get it." --Love Affair
  8. "If I knew I was going to live to 86 I wouldn't have let the maid go." --Love Affair
  9. Come here Norman! Hurry up! The loons! The loons! They're welcoming us back." --On Golden Pond
  10. "Now to squash a rumor. No, I don't have Parkinson's. I inherited my shaking head from my grandfather Hepburn. I discovered that whiskey helps stop the shaking. Problem is, if you're not careful, it stops the rest of you too. My head just shakes, but I promise you, it ain't gonna fall off!" --Katharine Hepburn: All About Me

It turns out that my first favorite actress strongly disliked my other favorite. Also according to IDMB, she thought "very highly of the acting talents of Jeremy Irons and John Lithgow, but she particularly disliked Meryl Streep, claiming she could recognize Streep's constant search for tactics during a performance."

Perhaps she knew that Meryl Streep was her only likely real competition? Streep beat Hepburn in the number of Oscar nominations...but Hepburn tops that record as the only four-time Oscar winner for acting.

Not only was Kate's character sublime and funny in the movies, but also in person. Here are some final quotes, outside of the movies.

  • Wouldn't it be great if people could get to live suddenly as often as they die suddenly?
  • I find a woman's point of view much grander and finer than a man's.
  • I remember as a child going around with "Votes For Women" balloons. I learnt early what it is to be snubbed for a good cause.
  • Plain women know more about men than beautiful ones do.
  • Life is hard. After all, it kills you.
  • I think most of the people involved in any art always secretly wonder whether they are really there because they're good - or because they're lucky.
  • I never realized until lately that women were supposed to be inferior.
  • Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well find some way that is going to be interesting. And you don't do that by sitting around wondering about yourself.
  • [When Barbara Walters asked her if she owned a skirt] I have one, Ms. Walters. I'll wear it to your funeral.

Let's hear it for Kate! I need to have a Kate/Meryl film marathon! We'll make them sisters in film, even if Kate wouldn't have liked it.
Listicles is brought to us by Stasha Check out her blog and find more great movie quotes.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Every girl and woman needs to watch this video!

Highly articulate Victoria's Secret model Cameron Russell gave a TED talk last October about the illusions of modeling and the fashion industry. She immediately illustrates the power of image by appearing in a short, sexy black dress and high heels and then change onstage into a longer wrap skirt and flats...and she says:
"I'm on this stage because I'm a model and I'm a pretty white woman, and in my industry we call that a sexy girl...and I'm going to answer the questions people ask me, but with an honest twist."
As she explains it, she "won a genetic lottery, and I'm the recipient of a legacy." She showed several photos of her modeling shots, contrasted with her as a normal person, to emphasize that fashion shoots are constructions.

She notes how difficult it is "to unpack gender and racial oppression when I’m one of the biggest beneficiaries, but she does. She discusses the privileges she gets from beauty...and how others have to pay just because of the way they look...and she talks about how few models are people of color. "I've received all these benefits from a deck stacked in my favor."
Young girls often ask her what it's like to be a model, and she gives an honest answer. Models have the "thinnest thighs, shiniest hair, and coolest clothes...but they're the most insecure people on the planet." 
I've just finished a memoir by a woman who has spent half her life as an anorexic and bulimic. Young girls and women cannot escape the constant barrage of constructed images by the fashion and entertainment industries. As Russell compels us, we need to "acknowledge the power of image in our perceived successes and our perceived failures."
I encourage you to watch this TED talk. Russell is extremely bright as well as the winner of a genetic lottery and legacy.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Moving performance by a 15-year-old with two moms

Noah St. James, just 15 years old, performs a moving and poetic monologue about his lesbian moms' relationship...and how a moment that he feared signaled the end of their relationship actually was a way to honor and affirm it. Here he is at the Youth Speaks Grand Slam Championship, where he won this year's "NPR Snap Judgment Performance of the Year."

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy birthday, Mom!

Today is my amazing mom's birthday. She was born in 1940, a bonus baby to her parents, Lloyd and Rita Allen. Her brother Lloyd and sister Janet were 17 and 14 years older, respectively. 
The other day my own bonus baby, Nicholas, was asking me how old I would be when he reached various ages. When he's 60, for example, I'll be 101 (and probably not still alive...who knows?). When he asked me how old I'd be when he was 90, I had to explain that I would be dead. Not a fun conversation to have at bedtime. Although being an older parent does have some advantages, these types of conversations are hard. 
I think about my mom's parents and how they must have felt knowing these same things. My maternal grandma died when I was 9 or 10, so my mom was only 34, and her dad died the following year. My aunt Janet died a few years ago.

Now she's caring for my Uncle Lloyd, who has multiple health concerns and might not live much longer. What I find most touching about their recent relationship is that we didn't see my Uncle Lloyd much when I was a child. We tended to spend more time with my dad's large side of the family, perhaps because my parents had more in common with them...or because they were more into family gatherings. Uncle Lloyd and his wife Audrey were reclusive and reserved and didn't often attend Christmas Day Allen family gatherings. 

But then his wife (and both sons) died, and in the past several years my parents have become much closer to him as they cared for him. After both times that my uncle's been in the hospital this year (in the spring and this month), my parents have moved in with him until he got back on his feet. Watching my Uncle Lloyd interact with my mom, I can see how much he loves her and appreciates all she has done for him. 

As I've written before in other posts, when I was born, my mom was 24 years old. She contracted German measles while she was pregnant so she didn't know whether I would be blind or developmentally delayed or worse. The doctor wouldn't let her hold me until she had been warned that I had a cleft lip and palate (as well as a club foot). She was just glad that my defects could be repaired. Throughout my childhood I had multiple surgeries, starting at a few weeks old. By the time I was five and she was 29, she had three children. She was a stay-at-home mom but when I was in junior high she went back to school for her graduate degree and then went back to work as a mental health therapist.
In addition to being a compassionate sister and sister-in-law (my parents also make weekly visits to see my dad's brother, who has dementia) and an amazing mom, she's also an awesome grandma. I particularly appreciate her efforts to encourage independence in my children and support them in whatever they do. She practices unconditional love and support for all her children and grandchildren, as all of us can attest. She never discouraged me from aiming for my goals or expressing myself. 
I know that I am truly lucky to have her as my mom and consider her to be one of my closest friends.

I love you, Mom--happy birthday!

Monday, January 7, 2013

What I read in December (2012)

I'm a little behind in my book blogging, mostly because my surgery seemed to sap my typical book obsessions. Instead I've been watching lots of DVDs (movies and TV programs). I did read a few books in December, but not as many as I usually do. Overall it was a disappointing month for reading...the only book I'd recommend of the three would be the first one, and even that one was not fantastic. For full reviews of these books, click on the title to go to Marie's Book Garden. 

The Treasure Map of Boys, by E. Lockhart

I don't read much young adult (YA), but from what I understand from my middle-grade writer husband, YA is often full of a lot of angst and dysfunctional relationships. Ruby Oliver, the protagonist, struggles with making and keeping friends and has a lot of stress around relationships with boys. Reading this book made me SO GLAD I do not ever have to do high school or junior high ever again. 
Ruby's parents are well-meaning hippies, and she actually does have some friends worth keeping. The stories about her teachers and baking were amusing...also her time working in the Birkenstocks store at Pike Place Market. Ruby is a smart, well-meaning girl, and she really doesn't want to screw up her friendships, but somehow she has a knack for that. After I said that I don't read much YA, I now realize that this is actually the fourth or fifth YA book I've read all year...and it was fine but it's my least favorite. The others--WonderMarcelo in the Real World, and Shine--focused on much more serious issues, and this was like marshmallow fluff in comparison. 

The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver

I had to give up on this one. I got up to page 207, after putting it down to read a lighter book group selection, and tried to pick it up again. I will never forget my delight in reading my first Barbara Kingsolver novel (The Bean Trees) back before she was very well known. I have loved so many of her novels. I am interested in Mexico, Frida Kahlo, and Diego Rivera and loved a biography of Frida I read several years ago. So I really, really wanted to stick this one out. But I had to give up...I just couldn't get connected or drawn in. So disappointed!


Daughters-in-Law, by Joanna Trollope

I picked this book up at the library because I was stocking up on some lighter fiction to read after my brain/ear surgery. I've read a few Joanna Trollope books in the past (my mother-in-law likes her), but I hadn't read her for a number of years. I should have known better...I gave the last two books I read only two stars. This was definitely light, but it was not interesting. I wish I'd given up halfway in, but I finished it. Trollope said she wanted to write about the relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law because she believes they are more difficult than relationships with sons-in-law. But this book missed the mark. Some light reads are enjoyable or memorable, but this book is neither. It was a waste of time.

For better recommendations, refer to my "Best Books of the Year," in 2012 and also in previous years.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

10 anti-resolutions

This week's Monday listicles is "10 things you have no intention of changing in 2013." It's the antidote to the New Year's Resolution craze. I like it! So here goes! I am not changing the following habits:

1. Indulging in fair trade, high-quality dark chocolate and red wine, often together.

2. Changing into my PJs when I come home from work. Even though Mike thinks I'm very silly. I was gratified to learn from my book group (all women) that I am not alone in this habit. Some of them even bring slippers to book group! Why change into jeans when my fleecy PJs are so much more comfy?

3. Blogging. It's my creative outlet and I love having a one-sided (mostly) way to express my opinions, because I really do not like to argue but I'm passionately opinionated!

4. Reading. I am really looking forward to getting back into reading. After my surgery I just didn't have the mental energy. Instead I've been watching tons of DVDs (movies and TV shows). Now I'm reading Maisie Dobbs and am finally enjoying a book again. Thank God. I was worried that the brain surgery had altered my passion for reading! Wouldn't that be a tragedy?

5. Multi-tasking. Right now I'm watching "Downton Abbey," blogging, and using Facebook. Previously #5 was "Using Facebook (my guilty pleasure) to connect with people," but a friend asked me on Facebook if I was watching Downton while on Facebook, and I realized how hopeless I am! Facebook is just one part of my multi-tasking ways. I've read all the articles suggesting that people get less done multi-tasking, but I'm not convinced. It's the way I'm wired, and I just can't help it.

6. Listening to and making music. Music and reading are two of my life's pleasures. I love to have music playing in the background of my life, and I long for a time when I can make time to play my musical instruments more.

7.  Being silly and spending time with the kids. This evening I watched Nicholas perform an Indiana Jones play, and then I watched several silly videos he and Kieran had made. My kids are growing up so fast. I want to focus more on that...and remember that these sacred moments pass quickly. For that, I received adoration: "You are the most wonderful mommy in the whole wide world!"

8. Having date nights and evenings away with my honey. These stolen moments help us remember each other in the midst of all the hub-hub that is our home with three active boys.

9. Spending money on craft supplies. I made jewelry and note cards this year for Christmas gifts, and yesterday I had some fun stocking up at Michael's. I have always enjoyed making crafts and expressing my creativity, and I need to remind myself to do that more often.

10. Spending more time with my family and friends having fun than creating a House Beautiful. Even though I do actually have a real New Year's resolution that involves organizing our family into regular cleaning duties, I still commit to spending more time having fun than cleaning and making our house perfect! The card above describes our family so well!

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