Monday, December 17, 2018

Book group extraordinaire

Eight years ago I co-started a book group with my close friend Kristin. As NICU graduate moms, professional leaders, and former co-presidents of a nonprofit we helped create that supported NICU parents, we used our skills and savvy to be selective about setting it up. Each of us chose three friends in the beginning. Of the original six, three of us remain--me, Kristin, and my dear friend Caley. And now we are seven.

Our second annual book exchange in 2011
In the past eight years we've seen a handful of members cycle in and out, most leaving because they were not ready to commit to a monthly read and meeting. In the last year we've grown from a low of four members to a high of seven. As our membership has evolved, so has the way we choose the books we read and how we meet.

We like to alternate between fiction and nonfiction, and we especially like books written by women or people of color and that address weighty subjects. One of our books this year tackled the plight of poverty in the United States--Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. The process of choosing books is highly democratic and inclusive.

The longest-running core part of book group
Book group overlaps in many other areas...not only have many of us worked together in previous jobs, but now several of us sing in Portland Rock Voices together and get to see each other weekly! And several women even see the same counselor, thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations. We celebrate each person's birthday in some way. We bid a sad goodbye to one of our members when she had to move to Colorado for her husband's job, and then we welcomed her back again happily when she returned to Oregon! Even though we often laugh heartily, we have also shared deep pains and struggles as well, often brought to light through the books we read.

Entertainment provided by Niki's cats,
who love to sit on their perch and watch birds and mice on TV!
Last night was perhaps the most fun evening yet in book group. We enjoyed delicate squash/goat cheese quiche and salad; shared book group stories of olde; had a impromptu, hilarious dramatic reading of this month's book selection (The God of Small Things); played a fun game with imaginary gifts (thanks to my friend Adele, who invented said game); and laughed until we were about to pee our pants.
The dramatic reading

Every December we have a book exchange...and every year we widely read individuals always manage to choose a book that we have never read. It's an unbroken record!

When I chose my book out of the pile, I chose the one with a piece of folded paper on it. And this is what I found:

One of our newest members, Amy, is a gifted and witty writer, and she wrote a multiple-choice list for whomever chose her book. Of course, we had to read it all out loud. And a few of us got misty-eyed!
The gifted, thoughtful writer!
The book exchange had another dramatic reading, as Niki opened a book by a Scottish writer and ensued to read the description in a broad, loud Scottish accent!

I feel so grateful to be part of this circle of funny, bright, justice-seeking, inquisitive, loving, and compassionate women! Here are some more photos of the fun event (keeping the video top secret!!)!

My book came with a gorgeous ribbon I thought would make a nice headband!

Love you all!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Back to Old Blighty--2, Saffron Walden and Sunday Lunch in Cambridge

A few nights after we arrived in England, we had our first-of-many meetups with old friends. Mike shared a house with Vicky when he studied for his M.Phil in Victorian Literature at Linacre College, Oxford University. Vicky and her husband Nigel live not too far from Cambridge in a lovely, historic old mill house with their three children. Last time we were in the UK in 2007, they were the only ones we saw (being so close to Cambridge). Since then, their oldest son Jacob (and Mike's godson) visited us during his gap year.

We had a lovely evening with them, starting with a brisk walk through the countryside! 

Beautiful old church

Nearing the end of our country walk
One of the fun things about our visit back to England this summer was getting to know our friends' grown (or nearly grown) children. Jacob, Joshua, and Isobel are all lovely!

So nice to have three weeks off work and spend time with my family!

Chris made friends with Jacob and Joshua and later in our trip,
he took a trip to Thorpe Park (an amusement park) with them

Chris and Nick




Jacob, who was also a preemie

Yummy English BBQ, including potatoes they'd grown in their garden

Photogenic Isobel

Cuddling under a blanket as the evening got chilly

Sweet mother and daughter
The next day we went out for lunch in Cambridge at a buffet restaurant, followed by a trip to the movie theater, en masse, to see "Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again." We all enjoyed it, but some more than others!

The following day we had most of Mike's extended family over for lunch. Mike's dad had four sisters, and sadly all of that generation is gone now with the exception of Mike's mum and her brother-in-law...and one other brother-in-law in Scotland.

We had a great time catching up with the cousins, and the kids got along splendidly!

The lunch spread

Mike's cousin Kevin with his son Ali, who came to visit us several years ago on his gap year

Mike's cousin Paul's wife Sue, with niece Emily and her boyfriend

The last of the generation!

Lots of table tennis games!

Mike's cousin Kevin and his wife Kym

The younger set

Ali is now an engineer in Edinburgh,
and he came down to Cambridge for the visit!
When he visited us a few years ago, he was a huge hit with the boys!

Emily with her boyfriend Will

Mike with his sister Kath, our wonderful host!

The whole family!
The under-30s!

The over-30s!

Such a sweet couple!
Hugh Gilmartin's part of the family (missing four in Australia)
It turns out that Kieran is a beet lover, like many others in Mike's family!
(I am not much of a fan)