Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! (My month of gratitude)

This year I went back to expressing my gratitude every day on Facebook. Here are the collected gratitude days:

Photo: It's Gratitude Month!

Day 1: I am thankful to be blessed with many incredible friends. Started out my morning with a coffee date--one of my favorite things in life is spending time with my friends. Each of my friends enriches my life in different ways, and my soul is so much richer because of them!1: I am thankful to be blessed with many incredible friends. Started out my morning with a coffee date--one of my favorite things in life is spending time with my friends. Each of my friends enriches me in different ways, and my soul is so much richer because of them.


2: Today I am thankful for resilience, which our kids have inherited from both Mike and me. This morning, everyone in our house was grumpy...we cracked down on some family rules and got lots of moaning and complaining, and we parents were none too rosy either. 
But now several hours later we are all back to our cheery selves. Family dinner together, followed by movie night (two separate movies because of the age difference in our kids). Everyone will go to bed much happier. I'm so grateful that we all spring back quickly!


3: It's All Saints Day, and today at church we remembered all the saints who have touched our lives. I'm thankful for the lives of these people and what they taught me. (This collage is by no means comprehensive!)
Photo: Gratitude Month Day 3: It's All Saints Day, and today at church we remembered all the saints who have touched our lives. I'm thankful for the lives of these people and what they taught me. (This collage is by no means comprehensive!)

4: Today I am thankful for the inspiring cancer survivors in my life and for the advances in medical technology that give people hope and extend their lives. At the same time, I remember all those people who have lost their loved ones to cancerThis morning just moments after hearing about a friend's clear checkup, I learned that a former coworker had lost her husband to cancer.  Life is sacred and often too short--never miss a chance to tell someone you love them!



5: Today I had lunch with two retired colleagues, and as much as it made me wish I were retired (!), it also reminded me that I am really thankful to have a rewarding, challenging job at a great companyBig shout-out to all my nice, respectful, helpful, and talented colleagues...and to the company itself for offering me daily challenges since 1990 and an opportunity to use my degree.


Photo: Gratitude Day #5: Today I had lunch with two retired colleagues, and as much as it made me wish I were retired (!), it also reminded me that I am really thankful to have a rewarding, challenging job at a great company. 

It's not perfect, and sometimes I see changes in company culture that are hard to swallow...but the best thing about my company is the people. Beginning in April 1990, I have found nearly all of the people here to be nice, respectful, helpful, and talented. And I have rarely been bored. And best of all, I am actually using my B.A. in English every day!My company is not perfect, and sometimes I see changes in company culture that are hard to swallow...but the best thing about my company is the people. Beginning in April 1990, I have found nearly all of the people here to be nice, respectful, helpful, and talented. And I have rarely been bored. And best of all, I am actually using my B.A. in English every day!

6: Of course, my gratitude days are being done in no particular order! Today I am thankful for my amazing partner in life, whom I met nearly 27 years ago in Wakayama, Japan. Every day I am grateful for his caring, compassion, sense of humor, intelligence, and love for us. He also understands my need for "girl time" in this testosterone-charged household and holds down the fort so I can get lots of high-quality time with my friends. (So wonderful!!) I can't imagine sharing my life with anyone else!

Photo: Gratitude Day #6: Today I am thankful for my amazing partner in life, who I met nearly 27 years ago in Wakayama, Japan (story here: http://marie-everydaymiracle.blogspot.com/2012/01/under-eastern-sky.html).

Every day I am grateful for his caring, compassion, sense of humor, intelligence, and love for us. He also understands my need for "girl time" in this testosterone-charged household and holds down the fort so I can get lots of high-quality time with my friends. (So wonderful!!) I can't imagine sharing my life with anyone else!
7: Today I'm thankful for my 17-year-old son, Chris, who gave a speech this morning in front of 300+ people at an event for his school. He was born weighing only 1 lb, 6 oz., at 24 weeks gestation--his survival was the first miracle that inspired my blog. He has grown up to be a kind, funny, and talented young man and I'm very proud of him!
8: I'm thankful to live near the Oregon Coast and to have a wonderful beach house to retreat to! And, as always, I'm grateful for precious time with friends.
Photo: Gratitude day #8: I'm thankful to live near the Oregon Coast and to have a wonderful beach house to retreat to!
9: I'm thankful for theater, which plays such a large part in our family's life. This evening we saw a fabulous production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" at Jesuit High School. I'm the one person in our family who is not drawn to be on stage, but I do like to be in the audience and behind the scenes. I never imagined I would ever spend so much time watching my kids on stage, but I love it.
10: I am thankful for my sweet son #2, Kieran, born after I had four miscarriages and had given up hope of having another child. This afternoon we watched him perform with his choir class--he's learning how to do four-part harmony. I am so amazed at this wonderfully talented child of mine, who seems to have no fear of performing onstage. I hope he remembers to thank me when he receives his Oscar!!
11: Today I am thankful to be part of an amazing, vibrant spiritual community, Mission of the Atonement. Beyond the gifts of worshipping with others who believe in a God who is not boxed in by gender, rigidity, or dogma, many of my closest friends are from this community...and they provide a supportive village to our children, too. 
Our church band, Consorting with Papists
13: I am thankful for this beautiful "bonus baby" I was blessed with at the age of nearly 42. He is so funny, creative, spirited and he just adores me. (So good for my ego!) I most love hearing him (1) sing opera (seriously!) and (2) speak in an English accent--he does both cockney and posh! I tease Mike that Nicholas is the most gifted with accents in our family.
14: Today I'm thankful that my parents instilled a love of reading and passion for education in me, and that I received a high-quality college education at Pacific Lutheran University. And I'm thankful that I actually use my English degree every day in my job...not every English major can say that. While women in developing countries are fighting for their right to be educated, I know I am very privileged and blessed. It never occurred to me that I couldn't be whatever I wanted to be.
15: I'm grateful for our wide, extended parenting village, full of people who love and cherish our three children. Someday they will realize how lucky and blessed they are! 


16: This morning when I was watching Nicholas belly-laughing at a video he and Kieran had just made, I realized how grateful I am for the laughter in my family. My children (and husband) are so silly, and we laugh a lot. It's good for the soul. This is one of my favorite videos of Nicholas laughing, when he was just 4 years old.

17: I am thankful to live in Portland. Love my city! 
Photo: Gratitude Day #18: Today I am thankful for my kids' teachers, especially in light of a looming strike in Portland Public Schools. They are all so dedicated and talented, and they impress me constantly--I could not do what they do! 

I'm also thankful that I have a flexible-enough job to go in and sing with the first-graders every week. Today when I arrived, the class showed me an illustrated book they'd made together, with the words of my favorite song to sing with them. So sweet!!
18: Today I am thankful for my kids' teachers, especially in light of a looming strike in Portland Public Schools. They are all so dedicated and talented, and they impress me constantly--I could not do what they do! 
I'm also thankful that I have a flexible-enough job to go in and sing with the first-graders every week. Today when I arrived, the class showed me an illustrated book they'd made together, with the words of my favorite song to sing with them. So sweet!!

Photo: Gratitude Day #19: I'm one day late! I am thankful for the opportunity to travel the world, mostly when I was younger! In April I wrote every day about all the places I've traveled outside the US in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Check it out! 
http://www.marie-everydaymiracle.blogspot.com/p/blogging-from-to-z-challenge.html19: I am thankful for the opportunity to travel the world, mostly when I was younger! In April I wrote every day about all the places I've traveled outside the USA in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Check it out! 

20: I'm thankful for our wonderful nuclear families (both mine and my husband's). We are truly blessed to be close to them, even though many of them live far away. This year we will have nearly all of them (except the Aussie contingent) with us after Christmas. I'm also thankful for the relative lack of dysfunction, which seems to abound elsewhere.
Photo: Gratitude Day #20: I'm thankful for our wonderful nuclear families (both mine and my husband's). We are truly blessed to be close to them, even though many of them live far away. This year we will have nearly all of them (except the Aussie contingent) with us after Christmas. I'm also thankful for the relative lack of dysfunction! :)

21: I'm thankful for my #1 addiction, reading, and for my lovely book group, which meets tonight. We laugh a lot, drink wine, eat, and...oh yeah...talk about the book. Always a fun highlight of my month! 

Photo: Gratitude Day #21: I'm thankful for my #1 addiction, reading, and for my lovely book group, which meets tonight. We laugh a lot, drink wine, eat, and...oh yeah...talk about the book. Always a fun highlight of my month!

Photo: Gratitude Day #22: I am thankful for all of our foremothers who fought for women's suffrage and rights; John F. Kennedy, who advocated for democracy; and civil rights activists who paved the way for us to have an African-American president. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYIHPj-3hg022: I am thankful for all of our foremothers who fought for women's suffrage and rights; John F. Kennedy, who advocated for democracy; and civil rights activists who paved the way for us to have an African-American president. 

Photo: Gratitude Day #23: I am thankful today for my own resiliency and upbeat, optimistic personality. I hate to be depressed or down (and it does happen sometimes) and usually try to talk myself out of a bad mood. I realize I'm lucky to not be prone to depression, and I'm grateful to be able to find the silver lining in most situations.23: I am thankful today for my own resiliency and upbeat, optimistic personality. I hate to be depressed or down (and it does happen sometimes) and usually try to talk myself out of a bad mood. I realize I'm lucky to not be prone to depression, and I'm grateful to be able to find the silver lining in most situations.
Photo: Gratitude Day #24: For authors, directors, and producers who create art, theater, and books with strong female characters. I took my two older sons to see "Catching Fire" today, and all three of us loved it. I emphasized to them how rare it is to see a film where the main character was a woman...and who is not a girlfriend or minor character. Katniss Everdeen is a kick-ass, sensitive, flawed, but strong heroine. I am grateful for those people who bring these types of women to life. And I look forward to the day when these strong female characters no longer stand out as unique.24: For authors, directors, and producers who create art, theater, and books with strong female characters. I took my two older sons to see "Catching Fire" today, and all three of us loved it. I emphasized to them how rare it is to see a film where the main character was a woman...and who is not a girlfriend or minor character. Katniss Everdeen is a kick-ass, sensitive, flawed, but strong heroine. I am grateful for those people who bring these types of women to life. And I look forward to the day when these strong female characters no longer stand out as unique.

25: A year ago, I was anxious out about my upcoming combined ear and brain surgery on Dec. 12 and worried about how I would get everything ready for Christmas before then. I'm so grateful that all went well and my cholesteatoma troubles are behind me. Now I will visit my ear surgeon annually to make sure it does not return!

Photo: Gratitude Day #26: Today I am grateful for all the difficulties I've endured in my life...from being born with three birth defects and having multiple surgeries and extensive orthodontia as a child; giving birth to my firstborn 16 weeks early and experiencing what no parent should have to experience, 17 weeks in the NICU, fearing for my baby's life; having four miscarriages and infertility; and my most recent medical issues. And then there's other private traumas and personal mistakes. I truly believe I'm stronger, wiser, and better seasoned for all I have experienced.
26: Today I am grateful for all the difficulties I've endured in my life...from being born with three birth defects and having multiple surgeries and extensive orthodontia as a child; giving birth to my firstborn 16 weeks early and experiencing what no parent should have to experience, 17 weeks in the NICU, fearing for my baby's life; having four miscarriages and infertility; and my most recent medical issues. And then there's other private traumas and personal mistakes. I truly believe I'm stronger, wiser, and better seasoned for all I have experienced.

Photo: Gratitude Day #27: Today I'm grateful for life itself...for the privileges of decent health, a roof over my head, a great job, enough food, positive relationships with my family and friends, and the luxury to navel gaze and "waste" time.
27: Today I'm grateful for life itself...for the privileges of decent health, a roof over my head, a great job, enough food, positive relationships with my family and friends, and the luxury to navel gaze and "waste" time.

28: I'm thankful for a day to see family. Both my brother and sister and loved ones were with us on Thanksgiving, and I got to see cousins who I don't see very often. 

With my siblings and two of my cousins

Family and partners

My long-lost cousin Tim surprised us with a visit!
Boys watching the "School of Rock"
Feeling so much gratitude for the blessings in my life. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

One of my mentors

A friend and I are sending each other writing prompts. Last week's was to write about mentors...I listed all the mentors I've had in my life and what gifts they lived and helped cultivate in me. Then I wrote about one interaction, or season, with one of them.

My list of mentors filled up a whole page. I chose to focus on the one person in my career who is the most responsible for shaping my career and helping me to believe in my own skills and talents...my former boss, Mike Payne.
With the first team of leaders I managed as RPM
 (and Chris as a baby), 1997

When I first met Mike, he sat in my office and tried to convince me to apply for the newly created position of regional publications manager (RPM). He also told me that, should I be hired, he wanted me to create “document production centers” in just a few offices, eliminating the local staff centers we had to meet our clients’ publications needs. I told him right away that I did not agree with this approach.

I was only 31 and had been with the firm for not quite 6 years. Mike must have heard something about me, because he strongly encouraged me to apply for the position. For some reason, he had confidence in me and recognized my potential. I’m not sure why! I was intimidated by the prospect of this new position in a huge, recently created region—I would be managing staff in five offices who had never worked together and some who would not be happy about me being in the position.

At a management team dinner
After I finally decided to put my name into the ring (spurred on by other male mentors who encouraged me to give it a shot), I went up to Seattle for the interviews. I had two competitors: one, a proposal manager from Corvallis who had more work experience than me but no supervisory experience, and second, the document production manager from the Seattle team, Elaine. She was overly friendly. I spent much of the day with her, and she talked about the job (to her team and me) as if it were already hers…a done deal.

The hiring process consisted of intimidating, grueling panel interviews with eight business development managers. I felt in over my head, so young and inexperienced compared to the others. Fortunately Mike stayed with me during this process, so at least I knew one other person. I didn’t feel particularly confident after the interviews, so I was surprised to hear that I’d been chosen for the job.

Many years later with the Seattle team, who grew to like me! :)
The week after I was selected, I flew to Denver to meet the other RPMs. One of them told me that I was crazy for taking on such a huge job, and she wouldn’t have wanted the job herself. I made many trips to the Seattle office, where I had to deal with disgruntled staff (who were upset that their manager had not been selected). Mike dealt with Elaine, who was furious that she had not been selected for the job and predicted that I would fail! She had to be asked to leave the firm because of her poor attitude. Soon I had to lay off three of the eight graphic designers in Seattle, the first time I’d ever done a layoff. Mike actually did most of the work. I was grateful for his guidance and the fact that I didn’t have to do it on my own, even though I dealt with the fallout.

Team dinner
We never did create those document production centers, in spite of Mike’s initial plans. He knew that I would always speak my mind and let him know exactly what I thought…sometimes I made a pain in the ass of myself, I’m sure. But I always felt that he valued this in me. He knew I would do everything I could to act with integrity. This could be difficult when I had to implement decisions I disagreed with (like outsourcing our repro operations to Xerox and then IKON) or having to do layoffs. Mike supported me as best as he could, and I always knew he’d be there for me if I called with a question or needed assistance.

Mike holding baby Chris--
Mike looked happy but I think he was terrified!
Several months after I took on the RPM position, I went into premature labor with Chris and was thrown into crisis. Even though he was a childless bachelor, he was the best boss I could have asked for during that difficult time of my life. Chris was actually born on Mike’s birthday, but I didn’t even know that for a couple of years. He seemed to recognize that when someone is in crisis, it’s important not to make it all about you. I went back to work part time when Chris was in the NICU, and when he finally came home I took three months off. I will forever be grateful for his extreme support and compassion during this time of my life.

Mike has always been able to understand the big picture, and he taught me not to sweat the small stuff. He has a wonderful sense of humor and fun, even though he worked too hard and didn’t have much of a social life when he was working. Now he’s retired and I think he’s discovered his social life.

I worked for Mike off and on for several years. Over the years he advocated for significant raises for me because he valued talent over years of experience. He recognized and nurtured my skills and was concerned about my job satisfaction. He wanted me to feel challenged and satisfied in my work. I also appreciated the fact that although he was a finance and numbers guy, he seemed to value my skill with words. Later in both of our careers, he had me edit some highly confidential and sensitive communications. Although our skillset was different, one thing we do share is a warm, friendly personality and strong people skills. Of all the people I've worked for, he is the one whose people and management skills are most like mine. 

At a gathering to celebrate one of the times
 Mike moved on (out of his position)
He also taught me that change is inevitable, and the best way to survive changes is to maintain positive relationships with everyone and keep your head afloat…and try not to let it get you down. Long before my RPM role of several years changed significantly, Mike’s bosses and responsibilities had changed several times. He tried to prepare me for what else I could do in my career. Once he asked me what I’d like to do if I could do any other job, and I said “internal communications.” I also discovered an interest in sustainability and environmental management while working for Mike--our management team was the first one to pilot a new environmental program in the company. Guess what I’m doing now? Internal and external communications with a focus on sustainability and environmental management. So I owe him for planting that seed in my head.

He was the best boss I ever had, and I will always miss working for him, no matter who my bosses are in the future. I am deeply grateful for his mentoring and leadership. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

10 things I can't stand (Monday Listicles)

This week's Monday Listicles is "pet peeves" or "10 things that irritate you." When trying to develop this list, I found that my pet peeves are not many in comparison to many people I know.

I dislike dirty dish water left in the sink, runny egg yolks (that I have to scrub off plates), and cleaning out peanut butter jars. I also don't like wet towels left on the floor in the bathroom or having the lights left on in the house. But those all seem so minor compared to the things that REALLY BUG ME:

1. Racism, sexism, and any other -isms

2. Disrespect of other people

3. When people stare at someone who looks or acts a little different--I was the victim of such stares when I was younger because of my cleft lip scar and it's not fun

4. Bossy parenting advice

5. Use of the word "retard" or "gay" as an insult, or when people use "rape," "Nazi," or "slavery" in ways that dismiss the true horrors of those words

6. People who brag about their children incessantly in a way that implies other children are not as bright or talented--I've seen those children develop huge egos themselves!

7. Gender expectations or divisions, such as big ribbons on baby girls with no hair, boys' clothes being nearly all sports or video game themed and girls' clothes being pink and frilly, or pink and blue aisles and gender categories for toys

8. While I'm at it, lack of equal representation for females and people of color in all media and culture

9. Valuing things or money over people

10. When people use religion as a weapon to discriminate against or judge others--I believe in a God of love and grace...

If you want to see REAL pet peeves, check out the other bloggers' thoughts at The Good Life.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ten things I love about Portland (Monday Listicles)

For this week's Monday Listicles topic, we could choose between "ten things you love about your house" or "ten things you love about your city/town."

Since I'm a true-blue Portlander through and through, I had to go with the latter! Here are some of the things I love about my hometown:

1. Foodie heaven!

Dinner at Mother's Bistro to celebrate my hubby's 50th
I lived in Osaka for two out of the three years I lived in Japan, and Osaka also was known as a foodie paradise. It's where I first discovered Indian food--when I left Portland, it had only one Indian restaurant. Fortunately, no longer!

Portland, according to TIME magazine, is "America's new food Eden." We have a plethora of outstanding restaurants. Even our food carts are amazing, and I'm fortunate to work across the street of one of Portland's great food cart pods.

Dinner with my friends April and Shelia at Isabel Pearl
Whenever I need a food reco, I consult my wonderful foodie friends Brad and Catherine. They can always be relied on for the best, most delicious restaurants. This weekend, I'm looking forward to discovering a new one with Catherine and our friend April.





2. Book paradise!

My reading family (celebrating Banned Books Week)
According to Livability.com, Portland is ranked #1 for book lovers. No surprise...we have the famous Powell's Books, one of the highest rates of circulation for public libraries in the country, and 139 independent book stores--one of them our beloved Annie Bloom's, 1/2 mile from our house. In 2008, I wrote a post praising our independent bookstores and library system. As a reading addict and book lover, I'm so happy I live in Portland!
River walk at lunch time

3. Water abounds!

View of the city from the water
First of all, we have the wonderful Willamette River running through our city, meeting the mighty Columbia River. I am the type of person who loves being near water, and fortunately I have easy access to it. I can walk to the river from my office in a few minutes, and on a sunny day, that's where you will find me on my lunch hour. Also, any Portlander who travels outside of the city knows the high quality of our drinking water. It tastes good, unlike the drinking water in many other places in this country. We are spoiled.











On my birthday in the Columbia Gorge
4. Access to beach, mountains, and parks

We can reach my parents' beach house at Nedonna Beach in a little over an hour and a half. The amazing Columbia Gorge is less than an hour away, as is Mount Hood. Over 12 percent of Portland is park land, including Washington Park and Forest Park. We love the outdoors. Even our free enterprise reflects that, being the headquarters of Nike and Columbia Sportswear, among others.





5. Progressive politics

Yes, we are a blue state...and I love that. Oregon pioneered the bottle bill, we are one of the few states to legalize assisted suicide, and in 2014, we will be the first state to write the right of gay marriage into our state constitution.

6. Live and let live attitude

Sometimes this can be frustrating...such as in 2012, when the efforts to get fluoridated water in Portland failed (I voted in favor of this to assist dental health care for the poor)...but for the most part, I'm glad for this atmosphere. When Portland mayor Sam Adams, who I voted for, was accused of having an affair with an underage man, Portlanders turned their heads for the most part, preferring to keep him in office for the good work he was doing. Even though I was gravely disappointed in his actions, this is one example of how we have a live-and-let-live attitude.

7. Global spirit

When I grew up in Beaverton and then left for Japan in 1986, Portland had very few ethnic restaurants. Now they abound, thank goodness. This is not the only example our global spirit, but one that I definitely enjoy!

My middle kiddo, in Kids Company Northwest
8. Great theater, music, art, and other culture

As culture lovers, we avail ourselves of Portland's great arts scene all the time. Last night Mike and I went to see a concert of Motherlode at the First Unitarian Church. We have season tickets to Portland Center Stage (Portland's largest and longest-running theater company) and Northwest Children's Theater. We love to go to free concerts and Shakespeare in the Park during the summer. And of course as a mom of budding thespians, I'm glad my sons have so many opportunities to express their theatrical spirits. This is a place where Pink Martini has given two free concerts in one year. Fantastic!

I feel so fortunate to live in such a wonderful center of the arts.


9. Creative spirits

Not only do we abound in the arts, but the way Portlanders express themselves is deeply creative. From the Naked Bike Ride and the Holiday Hullabaloo to Will Vinton, Crafty Wonderland, the Wild Arts Festival, Trek in the Park, Grimm, and Portlandia, we are deeply creative...my 10-year-old tells me that our bridges are creative, too!

10. The best people in the world!

When Mike and I got married in 1990, I had just returned to Oregon after living in Japan for three years and Tacoma, Washington, for four years before that. We had about 120 people at our wedding, mostly my extended family and friends from college and church. If we were to get married again, we'd probably have three times that number at the party.

In the 23 years we've lived here, we've developed so many wonderful communities--at our amazing church, Mission of the Atonement; our NICU parent community; the kids' elementary school; and my workplace among others. We believe so strongly in the power and strength of community. We have a fantastic village here in Portland, including our unique Multnomah Village 1/2 mile from our house...where we constantly run into people we know. It's hard to imagine living anyplace else.

I love living in Portland.

View other Monday Listicles at The Good Life.



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ten things that bring me comfort

Monday Listicles this week is "ten things that bring me comfort." I feel so blessed in my life, so this is an easy one! I just returned yesterday from a two-day wonderful girl getaway, which was amazing.



  1. Cuddles and hugs from my boys: I loved the way the boys all greeted me so effusively and showered me with hugs when I got home! They are so sweet.
     
  2. Precious one-on-one time with friends...I am so, so blessed to have amazing friends who nurture my soul!
     
  3. Sharing my life with an phenomenal, loving man who values and respects my strength and personality and overlooks my weaknesses.
     
  4. Watching a movie and eating popcorn, and snuggling, with my boys...this evening I first watched "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban" with 7-year-old Nicholas, followed by the latest episode of "Grimm" with 10-year-old Kieran. Perfect!
     
  5. A wonderful book and a nice cup of tea--like The Sleeping Dictionary!
     
  6. Singing with friends...it doesn't happen enough, but I love doing it!
  7.  Doing something creative, like soul collages--fun stuff!
  8. Knowing that someone is praying for me, which has happened a number of difficult times in my life...nothing is more powerful.
     
  9. Feeling deeply loved and cherished by a community...of deep friendships, church friends, and other friendships forged through the NICU and our children's schools. I feel confident that I have a village who has my back. This is greatly comforting.
     
  10. Feeling grateful for my nurturing childhood and love of my parents, siblings, and extended family. Immeasurable. 
I feel so incredibly blessed and full of comfort in my life. Read other listicles to find out what other people find comforting. 



Sunday, November 3, 2013

What I Read in October (2013)

This is my monthly recap of the books I've read and reviewed on my book blog. For full reviews of these books, click on the title to go to Marie's Book Garden.

October was a great month for reading, with only one just "okay" book:


The House I Loved, Tatiana de Rosnay
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My book group chose this book for OctoberIt's the story of Rose Bazelet, a widow who lives in an old house in Paris in the 1860s, an era when hundreds of houses are being demolished to rebuild Paris. I found Rose to be difficult to like, especially because of her neglect and dislike of her daughter. She poured all of her love and affection into her son instead. And to stay in a house and put others' lives at risk all for the sake of principle? I found her to be reckless at best. It was somewhat interesting to learn about this era in Paris' history, but I'm not sure I would recommend this book to anyone.

Best Novel



Cinnamon and Gunpowder, by Eli Brown

I loved this book. If you like historical fiction, cooking, eating, or pirates, you'll enjoy it too. England, 1819...after pirate captain "Mad Hannah Mabbott" kills Lord Ramsey, she kidnaps Owen Wedgwood, Ramsey's talented chef. 

She informs him that he can stay alive if he cooks a sumptuous dinner for her every Sunday evening. A wild pirate adventure, love story, and culinary tale all rolled into one!


Three Great Memoirs

The Invisible Girls, by Sarah Thebarge
Sarah Thebarge survived grueling breast cancer, and a recurrence within a year, before moving west to Portland, Oregon, where she meets a Somali immigrant and her five young daughters, and a friendship begins. Thebarge alternates her story between getting to know and helping Hadhi and the girls and her travails enduring breast cancer treatment. When she got to know and began to help Hadhi, who didn't speak much English, she seemed to relate to the "invisible girls" because of what she had endured. She too felt like a stranger in a strange land. Thebarge brought delight into their lives and she helped them muddle through, and she too was enriched by the experience. She decided to write this book so she could raise money for the girls to go to college. I hope she is successful in her goal. 


Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint
Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint, by Nadia Bolz-Weber
This book brought me to tears so many times. Nadia Bolz-Weber is a recovering alcoholic and fundamentalist (she was raised in the ultraconservative Church of Christ), and she is now an ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) pastor, wife, and mother. She founded and leads a church called the House for All Sinners and Saints, or HFASS (pronounced Half-Ass) for short. In this book, Bolz-Weber shares deeply and honestly about her own personal trials and how she found her way to the Lutheran church: in one word, grace.

Her grumpiness comes out full bore in her memoir, but that's what I like so much about it: her deep honesty. She's like Anne Lamott as an ELCA pastor. I heavily dog-eared my copy of this book, and if this book sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to read my full review. It's too hard to summarize in a few paragraphs. 
This book, while it might not appeal to everyone (especially if you are sensitive to salty language), made me glad to be an ELCA Lutheran. I'm so glad that we have tattooed, alcoholic pastors like Bolz-Weber, and that she is spreading the word about God's grace to everyone. 

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's PrisonOrange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, by Piper Kerman
I'm completely hooked on the Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black," so I was anxious to read the memoir that is the basis for the show. Rich, Smith-educated white girl smuggles drug money for her girlfriend. Ten years later, after she has reinvented her life and gone to the other side (she's engaged to a man), the feds show up at her door. She has to go to prison for 15 months (13 months with time off for good behavior) because of the mistake she made as a young woman. She serves her time in Danbury Prison in Connecticut, and toward the end of her sentence she gets transferred to even worse places--Oklahoma City and Chicago. While in prison, she makes friends and learns how to survive. Read the full review to learn more about how the book differs from the show. I enjoyed the book, but the TV show is so much fuller, mostly because the stories of the diverse prisoners are so much more interesting than the rich white woman's. I'm glad Piper Kerman wrote her story, though, because it's called attention to the bad conditions of women in prison and their lack of control over their environment.

Ten Halloweens: Monday Listicles

This week's topic for Monday Listicles: "Ten Things Halloween." Even though I have fallen terribly short in the way of baby books, at least I have chronicled my kids' lives in photos and blogging. Well, given the fact that I got my first digital camera over 10 years ago around Kieran's birth, I happen to have 10+ years of Halloween photos. Here goes!

1. 2003:
Mickey Mouse and Ladybug

With my little ladybug (I still have that turtleneck!)
2. 2004
 
Family at the pumpkin patch
Kieran at the zoo (I seem to be lacking Halloween photos of Chris from this year!)
3. 2005 
Police officer and Cookie Monster (sans mask)
 4. 2006
At school Halloween parade (Yu-Gi-Oh, Buzz, and Winnie the Pooh)

Visiting Grandma and Grandpa for trick or treating
 5. 2007
Trip to the pumpkin patch

My littlest pumpkin!

Kieran, aged 4

Chris, fifth grade (a combo of Charlie Brown, Simon Cowell, and Howie Mandel...?)

Kieran as Super Why!
Trick or treating in the village
 6. 2008

2008 marked the first year Kieran REALLY got into Halloween decorating!
The last year Chris dressed up, as a punk rocker (at age 12);
Kieran as Dash and Nick as a firefighter, with my nephews
Fun trick or treating with their cousins in Puyallup!
 7. 2009

Kieran as a vampire
With my adorable Cookie Monster (third one to wear this costume!)
 
8. 2010
With my little pirate
Kieran with friends (vampire for the second year in a row)
9. 2011
 
Visiting the pumpkin patch with friends


Kieran's spooky jester

Visiting my Uncle Lloyd, who loved Halloween!
10. 2012

Kieran as Audrey 2 (Little Shop of Horrors--he made the costume!)

With Kieran's friends who came to trick or treat (Nick as Indiana Jones)
 Bonus: 2013

Mike dressed up for the first time in years: as Dumbledora the Explorer

This costume for Kieran (as Elliot) was a HUGE HIT!

John Cena
Join in the fun with the other Halloween lists at The Good Life.

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