December 31, 2010

Happy New Year 2011

As I take a moment to review 2010 I am filled with gratitude. This year brought more blessings than curses. Those moments I felt despair this year were few and far between. Even the dark clouds had silver linings. I remain ever grateful for my husband and two growing boys. They are alive and healthy and that is all I can ever truly wish for.

I am not one to live in the past. I really do try to live every day in that day without regrets. I believe what I say on my blog ... life has no dress rehearsals. Yet, I also know that there is room for improvement.

I would like to live 2011 more simply. The thoughts that have been wandering through my head were very well put into words by Girl Detective who also quoted what is one of my all time favorite blog posts by Mrs. Mental multivitamin.

I make time for the things without which I could not live -- my family, my work, and my studies. And then I make time for the things among all the rest that will enliven my sense of self; and, of course, this has and always will include involvement with my community. But -- and this is essential -- it will be on my terms, not someone else's.

I have already begun this process. I will be relieving myself of two-thirds of my commitments to Cub Scouts this Spring. I will be doing only the part which I love doing. I have already resigned from the PTA board. I will stop substituting at the boys' school. I will not be a Team Mom for baseball or DI. Because of a run-in with an absolutely crazy person last Spring, I have learned to appreciate my misanthropist tendencies.

In 2011, I want to read more and think more. I also want to gain a little more of an upper hand on my ADD and finish the projects that I start (photo books and de-cluttering here I come). I want to spend more quality time with my friends - the real ones I have learned to appreciate even more this year. I want to take naps and do yoga. I want to learn to make homemade pasta and corn tortillas.

This year, I will make no hard and fast resolutions about the number of books I want to read or a promise to post on this blog more. I won't swear to run a half-marathon or learn to fly the plane. I don't want specifics, just a promise to myself to live more truly. I want to find more time to enjoy my wonderful life and to breathe.

November 29, 2010

52 (now 53)

A friend posted this on my facebook page. Play along and give me your number in the comments. See my thoughts on this below ...

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses. :)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

These lists are silly. This one made me feel pretty good.

Who is the BBC to decide which 100 books should or shouldn't be read?

Whether or not I agree with this list, I am proud that I have read (all or parts of) these 52 books. 

Twenty-on have been attempted or completed since college.

I have never even heard of thirteen of these.

I never intend to read six of them.

Four are on my list for next year.

My 11 years old has read 13 of them.

November 12, 2010

New Year

Already. It is only November, but I have come up with a reading project for next year.

Each month of 2011, I will read that book. You know the one that you were supposed to read in high school or in college and that is referenced and referred to in other classic and modern works of literature, but that just somehow got away from you. Yeah, THAT book. Here are the 12 I have chosen:

Madame Bovary
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Mrs. Dalloway
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Absalom, Absalom!
Moby Dick
Vanity Fair
Invisible Man
Doctor Zhivago
Farewell to Arms

Most of these, by the way, are sitting on my library bookshelf. Two just arrived this week from Amazon.

All of these, except Doctor Zhivago, are on The Novel 100 list, but that is not why I picked them. Interesting to note however, that a number of books that I finished this year are also on the list including, Middlemarch, Great Expectations, Don Quixote, and War and Peace. Some are long time favorites including Huck Finn, Lolita and Pride and Prejudice.

Oh yes, lest I forget, my 11 yo son and I will also be reading The Hobbit. Yet another one that got away!

Hopefully, I will have time to throw in some lighter reading as well. You know, The Atlantic or The Bible? Please tell me you get the sarcasm.

November 6, 2010

Bad Habit

I have a bad habit.

Ever since I purchased Amazon Prime last year, I buy books without even giving them a second thought. No waiting for them to arrive at the library for me. I don't even have to wait for my total to equal $25 to qualify for free standard shipping. Any book. Any time. Free two day shipping. My latest purchases are due to arrive Tuesday.

Thanks to Girl Detective, I followed a few links to New Century Reading and Nonsuch Books. After reading a few posts I decided I had to have Doctor Zhivago. A few more clicks and I was at Amazon where I could buy that AND Madame Bovary. People buy these books together. So I guess I should too. $40. But free shipping.

But when the hell am I going to read them? Maybe I will wrap them up and put them under the tree. They look like good January books.

October 30, 2010

The Package

UPS delivered a much anticipated package last night at 6:15 PM. It is now 6:27 AM. My husband finally gave up on all conventional means of opening it. He is in the garage with a hacksaw. No wonder it cost $11.50 to package and ship.

September 14, 2010

Go Cats!

I am an extremely proud Northwestern University grad who lives in Texas - far, far away from most Big 10 football action. I miss Chicago. I miss Evanston. I miss Buffalo Joe's. I miss the El. I miss the weather (only in Spring when the crocuses bloom). I miss listening to NUMB (Northwestern University Marching Band) play the fight song.

Now we can all enjoy it and practice for the NU football game. My friends think I am a little crazy to be so excited, but I haven't seen my beloved Cats play in over 10 years. Go. Wear Purple. Beat the Owls!

August 3, 2010

And Another Photo

You know you wanted to see another photo of Glacier National Park in Montana ... I know I did. Did I mention this was July 14th?

iPhone Dependency

I broke my iPhone. I broke it 8 days ago. I have been waiting for my new iPhone 4 to arrive at the store. Did you know that 7 to 10 business days is an eternity?

I remember when my oldest child was born. I didn't even have a phone.

Heck, I remember living in South America the year after we got married and I didn't even have internet in my apartment. How times have changed. I think I could almost live without the internet. I know I could live without facebook. But my phone. Come on AT&T and Apple ... could you please speed up production, processing, shipping. I can drive to Fort Worth to pick it up ... it is only 4 hours. I am not sure I can take this much longer.

I think I may soon need a support group for people experiencing withdrawal from the iPhone.

July 30, 2010

Ready for Vacation

I am deep in the middle of planning next year's summer vacation. You think I am crazy? Hotels in the National Parks book up a year in advance. Easter will find us in Big Bend and August will find us in the Dakotas visiting Mount Rushmore, Badlands, and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks.

We take a lot of vacations. We don't drive fancy cars. We don't spend a lot of money on our interior design. My kids don't wear designer clothes.

We travel. After 15 years of marriage and many, many moves, I can't sit still for long. Besides, my husband just found out he is eligible for one more week of vacation than he thought he was. We will now have to fill five weeks instead of four. We also have to use those two carry-over weeks sometime.

Just for Laughs

Check this out ... Catalog Living.

Many thanks to Laura at 11D for sharing this. I needed to laugh out loud.

So two weeks became ...

almost a month without writing.

To be perfectly honest, I have settled into a mild depression. I don't want to live in Houston. I don't want to raise my kids here or drive here or shop here or eat here.

I want to live here.

O.K. so this would be tough as it is accessible only by a 4 mile mountain hike. Close to here would be nice. Close to here so I could visit and take my kids to see this more than once a year. Close to hiking and white-water rafting and skiing in the winter.

I want to be far away from the maddening rat-race of our lives.

I'll get better. I'll snap out of it. I'll reengage in my life and start reading and teaching and participating. But I don't want to .

I want to move to Montana.

July 8, 2010

Excuses, Excuses

photos by David Restivo

Not that I have been busy blogging a lot this summer, but I won't be again for about 2 weeks. I am going to Glacier National Park. Aren't you jealous?

I'll have photos of my own to share when I get home.

July 2, 2010

This Time He Has Gone to Far

My husband, that is.

He left 5 days ago and went to Paris and Antwerp.

Soon he will be on a plane bound for Columbo, Sri Lanka.

Please do not get any ideas that this is in any way glamourous or fun. It is work and he hates it.

Sri Lanka is, however, a new country for him. I can't remember if it is number 40 or 41. He could also add Qatar and U.A.E, but when we count countries we believe you actually have to leave the airport. Well, I count Japan even though I never left Narita, but I spent 14 hours in that airport with two young children. I paid my dues there.

To get home he will take two planes and fly 21 hours. He will leave Sri Lanka at 3:15 AM his time and get home at 4:25 PM my time.

That is too far away from me and the boys. We miss him. We have been trying to fill our days. It doesn't help much.

June 30, 2010

Best Photo

I don't know this man. He works at our favorite bar-b-que restaurant. I would like to know him. I bet he has some interesting stories.

Summer Reads

I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last night at 11:37 PM. I then stared at the ceiling for a good hour or so processing what I had read. I started out slowly with this book, not sure I was going to like it, but the momentum built quickly and once Lisbeth was more fully introduced I could not put it down.

I will be driving to the bookstore this morning to pick up the next two in the trilogy. These are perfect summer reads.

I was recently called a "book snob." Yes, I am. I WILL NOT read Twilight. I WILL NOT. Funny, the comment came from someone who hasn't picked up a book in months. She couldn't remember the last book she had read. And she is surprised at how well my children read and what they read. Go figure.

A Masterpiece

Despite my general enjoyment of life, I have been a little frustrated lately. Always one to lead, I feel like I have just been buffeted by competing forces. I have been in a few situations that robbed me of the power I usually have over my life. I couldn't get out of a rut. I have been living in a never-ending dress rehearsal.

I was finally able to turn things around and have been having a great summer. While not giving 100% (you were right, that would be off-balance), I have been living deliberately. I have been making the decisions in my life. I have taken the power back.

It has been so enjoyable. Each day, I have woken up knowing what my responsibilities were and what I wanted to make of the day. I have done what I needed to do and what I wanted to do. I have taken some steps to insure my children are insulated from the crazy people I am forced to live near.

We have travelled. We have had fun. We have spent time with real friends. We have created. We have even played a few video-games.

As I was driving home from dropping my husband off at the airport early one morning, I missed the NPR station and landed on the Christian radio station where I was lucky enough to catch a taped interview with the late Coach Wooden. What a funny guy with his homespun poetry and sayings. What an amazing leader and teacher. How he loved his wife.

Make each day a masterpiece. That's it. Same concept as my "there are no dress rehearsals," but I think I like the Coach's words even better. A masterpiece. A thing of beauty. Something enjoyable.

And guess what. My masterpiece is not yours or my neighbors. So if I am something you aren't and if I do things differently (from almost everyone else around me - which is not a way to win a popularity contest, by the way), then that is o.k. This is my masterpiece.

June 8, 2010

Bookbag - May

If April was "finish 15 books month," then May was "don't finish books" month. I started quite a few books, but I didn't seem to like very many of them. Living the belief that there are too many good books out there to bother with the bad ones. I moved on.

Anthill - E. O. Wilson
This was probably the highlight of my month. Wilson is the Pulitzer prize winning author of Ants and On Human Nature. In his first attempt at fiction he manages to weave a tale that educates while it entertains. His writing is lyrical and bewitching. In the end I cared as much about the ants as I did for Raff. I have recommended this book over and over. Now I get to do it again. Read this book.

How Lincoln Learned to Read - Daniel Wolff
I just found this one boring. I didn't get past Sojourner Truth.

Life After Death - Carol Muske-Dukes
I thought I would like this when I started, but by the time I got to page 93 I no longer cared what happened to the characters. I put it down and picked up something different.

Simplicity Parenting - Kim John Payne
More of the same old thing. I'll spare you a few hours of unnecessary reading ... turn off the t.v. and cut out some of your child's activities. Spend more time with them. There. That is the whole book. Don't bother.

The Red Pyramid - Rick Riordin
We love Mr. Riordan around here so we were very excited to jump into his newest series, The Kane Chronicles. I liked it, but J. loved it. He said the Egyptian gods are even better than the Greek gods. I thought he tried to hard. The Percy Jackson books seemed to flow from a real love of ancient history and story telling. This seemed a little contrived.

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (Audio Book)
This was my in-car audio selection for May. I really enjoyed it, but I am not sorry I waited until now to attempt it. I would not have liked or understood it when I was younger.

Let the Great World Spin - Colum McCann
Well, I finished this one, but I had to force myself to do it. I joined a new book club ... actually I started it with a close friend of mine and this is the first selection (I did not make it). It was o.k., but I was bored. Some of the characters were intriguing, but I would have gotten more from the book if the connections had been more obvious earlier. I did not enjoy trying to flesh them all out on my own. The most interesting man was the one I thought McCann should have spent much more time on ... Phillipe Petit. He wrote him into to the story, but only as a connection. Six degrees of Petit. I think his story was more interesting to me than McCann's book.

The Broken Teaglass - Emily Arsenault
A mystery that wasn't really mysterious.

Reflections In A Golden Eye - Carson McCullers
Needing a book to restore my faith in the American novel, I turned to old friends at the end of the month. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter would probably rank on my personal Top 10 list. This, McCullers second novel, did not disappoint. I did not enjoy this one as much as the first; but here, her writing was wonderfully concise. The story moved and flowed. It made sense to me. It is so nice to have those authors that you can turn to when everyone else seems to be failing you.

Busy Days

Expect a flood of posts in the next few days. I have been saving up my thoughts to pour out to you since the end of May. So much has happened around here, but I have been too busy with life to write about it. It's a good thing to be busy in the way I have been. I celebrated my 41st birthday. My sister, her husband and her three kids visited us for six day (not long enough). The boys finished another school year (with straight A's). I have been reading. It has been wonderful.

Yet today I was wondering, what would my life be like if I gave 100%? What if I gave even 90%? Life has been pretty easy for me. I am relatively intelligent. While I'll never be a super model, I am not ugly. I have great eyes and a wonderful smile. I attract mostly good people. My husband is brilliant, kind and generous. My children are healthy. I have achieved all of this while running at about 30% most days. Sometimes I bump that up to 40% when I have a lot to do. What if I gave even more ... I don't mean gave more away. I mean what if I gave more into my own life? What if I put some real effort into it? What could I accomplish?

I have always written that my life is guided by the truth that you never get to live this day again. That there are no dress rehearsals. I have kind of always lived so that there are no regrets. Even things I wouldn't do again, I don't regret. Everything I have done has shaped where I am today. I like where I am today. But what if?

What if I gave 100%?

May 31, 2010

Some Gave All

USS Arizona Memorial

American Cemetery, Manila

Marine Corps Monument

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

U.S. Cemetery, Normandy

May 26, 2010

Protest, Please

I know you are upset about what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. I encourage you to protest.

Don't use your car for a month. Remember, you also can't take the bus, the subway, a taxi or fly in an airplane.

You have to walk, ride a horse that eats hay you grow on your own land, or ride a bike.

I don't like what is happening either. It is a tragedy with years and years of repercussions. There are no easy answers. It isn't an easy problem. But I can tell you that some of the smartest minds in the world are working on it.

The "oil companies" are not the whole problem. They don't all consider themselves "beyond petroleum." Some of them aren't putting windmills on their gas stations. Some of them are focusing on what they do and are doing it the best way they know how. Some of them focus on safety. Some are doing the job they know how to do better than anybody else in the world. I know this because my husband works for one of them.

He works longer hours in more dangerous situations than just about anyone I know. He is committed to personal safety and project safety. He has over 1000 people working for him. Their lives and well-being are his responsibility. He takes his job very seriously.

Yes, he makes a good salary and his company makes a profit. I refuse to apologize for that. If you own a mutual fund, then you should be glad they do.

Given all of that ... I wold like you to put him out of business. I would like to see more of him. So if everyone will stop using oil and gas products, he will be out of a job.

Go ahead. Protest. Please.

May 21, 2010

Random Thoughts

I don't have pet peeves,
I have whole kennels of irritation.

-Whoopi Goldberg

May 19, 2010

City on A Hill


I may have mentioned this before. I have great Faith. I have known how I believed since I was 13 and have little strayed from it. I can pull it out and quote an appropriate Bible verse for your specific situation at the drop of a hat. I was steeped in it as a child. I was raised on it as a teen. I don't talk about it a lot now that I am an adult. It is personal. It is mine.

I used to be more vocal, but I am not a stupid person. When I get burned, I stop putting my hand in the fire. I also have a really tough time with hypocrisy. I do what I say I will. I expect the same from others. I can't stand those who plaster their Christian bumper stickers on their car and then cut you off in traffic. It is a silly example, but you know what I mean.

Both my husband and I have lately felt a pull to be more open with where we are in our walk with God. We are older and wiser now. We have travelled so many roads. Yet I resist. I am not really afraid. I guess just wary.

Eric Metaxas addresses exactly my many recent questions in the Spring 2010 issue of The City with two simpler questions, "Does God want us to change the world? And if so, how?"

The answers are simple. Aren't they? If they are so easily answered, why do I see so many of my very intelligent Christian friends pulling themselves out of the world instead of wading headlong into it? Why have I been pressured lately, not by family but by friends, to enroll my boys in a Christian based classical school? (I won't, by the way, put the boys somewhere where they are not taught to think, but are told what to think.)

Metaxas turns to William Wilberforce as an example. Finally, one I can understand. He changed the world. And he did not do it by completely separating himself.

Christians have always struggled with how much they should be separate from the wider culture. It’s a crucial balance to strike. It’s tempting to mock those who today or in the past have separated themselves entirely, but often they’ve done so with good reasons, such as a desire to preserve their faith, to keep the secular or pagan culture from destroying it. Of course that’s why God called the Israelites to be separate from the pagan cultures around them. Another good reason has to do with wanting to protect one’s children from harm. Nonetheless, in the last century, Christians on the whole have pulled back too much from the wider culture, retreating when they ought to have advanced, or at the least, held their ground and fought.

Metaxas claims Wilberforce is an excellent example of someone who did not chose to be either "in the world" or "not of the world." He understood how to be both.

If they (the Clapham Circle) had come across as merely odd religious fanatics, their success would have been seriously hurt.... When we hide in a separate Christian subculture, with its own celebrities and music and "literature" and "Paintings of Light," we often lose the ability to communicate effectively with those on the outside.... Within the plastic palisades of Fort Churchianity(TM), we will care little if the world outside perishes.

So I will stay my course. I will slowly be a little more open with my Faith. I don't have to become a missionary to China or Haiti to do it either. I don't have to hold a revival on my front lawn.

But I will continue to read and study those things which are part of a "culture" that I love and respect. And I do not mean People or InStyle magazines. I will not, as my friend Ann suggests, "Remove that liberal trash (The Atlantic)" from my house. I will continue to read and to study. I will go to museums. I will teach the boys to read the Bible and Darwin. I will rest secure in my belief that being in the world does not always mean being of the world.

Paul quoted pagan poets and philosophers to put his points across. He didn’t advocate their worldviews, but he took from them what was valuable, what was universally true, and he used it to point to the one who is Truth.

Childish Behavior in Adults

Can someone help me with the terminology? If you are kicked off someone's facebook friends list are you "un-friended" or "de-friended"? I think I like the latter.

Is it the new ultimate insult?

What would have been the equivalent when we were in high-school? Not being invited to a party? Or how about being invited to a party and then being told you couldn't come.?

By the way ... I don't want you to think I am upset about this. I think it is the funniest thing to happen around here in a while.

May 14, 2010

He Can Tell a Story

As we work our way through our "at home" world history curriculum, J. and I are moving through the Middle Ages. We are making our way slowly, ever so slowly, to the Renaissance.

We flew through the Ancients. We loved the stories of the Egyptians and the Greeks and Romans. I haven't found quite as much to love in the stuffy English monarchs and the Plague.

Until this week. When we experienced Henry V.

I have read a little Shakespeare. A little. I remember when I was a girl, someone in my family gave me a beautifully illustrated children's version of some of his plays. His most famous comedies and his tragedies were all there. But there were no histories. There were none of the compelling and beautiful stories of the the great men of England.

So we jumped in this week. Anticipating this chapter and needing to add a little life into our study (the Greeks and Romans had tons of outside material to draw on, I haven't found as much for the Middle Ages), I purchased Henry V in comic book form for J.

and No Fear Shakespeare for myself.

We read them one afternoon, and the watched Kenneth Branagh in the title role in this film adaption.

I'll say it right now. I have missed out on a lot. It was wonderful. It was powerful. It was brilliant.

But we in it shall be remembered--
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
this day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

After we finished the movie last night, J. was pretty quiet. You know, it isn't very "cool" in 4th grade to be a fan of the Bard. Then he said before he went to sleep, "That guy really knows how to tell a story." Amen.

May 4, 2010

Bookbag - April

If you didn't notice, there was no "Bookbag" in March. I didn't read. I skied quite a bit, but I didn't read.

April has been an entirely different matter all together. I have read voraciously, probably to make up for lost time. And the things I have read - WOW have they made me think. Some have even begun to change my life.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Have you been watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? Shame on you if you haven't. If you have been watching it and want to take the next step in your personal food revolution, then this is the book for you. It will change the way you think about your meals. The first sentence of the book asks a fairly simple question - What should we have for dinner? He answers the question, but leaves us to ask and answer bigger questions about our food. This is the book that has changed my life. I'm a big thinker to begin with, but now I have added thinking about my food to the list. Thinking about my relationship with it, not just what it will taste like.

Food Rules by Michael Pollan
This is the book to read if you don't have time for Pollan's larger work. Pollan breaks eating down into 64 simple rules that can have you eating better than you ever have before in you life. Some of my personal favorites, "Eat only foods that will eventually rot," and "Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself." Simple easy solutions to our food crisis. My grandmother would be proud. Jamie Oliver would cheer.

The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges by David and Kay Scott
We are visiting Glacier this summer and Big Bend next year. Then we plan to hit Yellowstone, Yosemite and The Grand Canyon.

Brave Companions by David McCullough
This was my favorite book this month. It may rank as one of my favorite books of all time. I always learn from Mr. McCullough and this book is no exception. It is a collection of articles and pieces that came from his larger works and from speeches. He writes near the end, "there is nothing inevitable about history." I don't think it is a lesson we have quite learned as a country. He shows, so eloquently, that one man can make a difference and that we can be the change. I learned that the truisms are, well, true. Unfortunately, he has also added to my TBR pile. There may be 50 books he referenced that I must now read.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Chris Cleave's Little Bee was wonderful. Fiction has bored me lately. Most of the works I have picked up (especially some of the best-selling popular ones) have given me absolutely no reason to turn the page. So many have been the same story told with different words. I have found nothing original, until I picked this up at the bookstore the other day. One of my daily blog reads had done a small "chapbook" entry on it and I decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did. As much as I have travelled, I have never been to Africa, but I am connected to the continent one week a month while my husband is there on business. Often protected by bullet proof cars and men with machine guns as he is driven to work (yes, he is in the oil business), he looks out and sees the desperation and tragedy that is life over there. He has often said that I couldn't imagine what he sees and what life is like for the people of Nigeria or Angola. Yes, I can. Yes, I can.

I also participated in Girl Detective's 15 Books in 15 Days Challenge. Here are the links to those posts:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Time Pirate
Profiles in Courage
Nikon D90: Guide to Digital SLR Photography
The Emperor's Code
With The Old Breed
Mere Christianity
Touch the Dragon
Looking at Pictures
The Girl Who Threw Butterflies
Ruined by Reading
The Mother Tongue
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
The LIttle Prince

May 1, 2010

To Fly, To Read

Chapter nine of David McCullough's Brave Companions begins:

In the mid-1920s, in several parts of the world, a number of brave, skilled young men and women began taking to the air at the controls of a variety of aircraft ...

I was hooked on that chapter. I was hooked on the book as well, but I read and re-read that chapter. Then I went back to it and read it again.

These were no amateur pilots. They were intensely professional, intensely serious about the craft of flying and about their own role in history....

But most remarkable is how many of them proved to be writers of exceptional grace and vision, authors of more than a score of books.

The chapter was compelling because it combines two things I am passionate about ... reading and flying. You get the reading part. Who else would agree to read 15 books in 15 days and finish? Either someone who is passionate about reading or crazy (and I have been called that before).

But my passion for flying is a hard one to explain. I am not a pilot (my husband takes the controls of our personal aircraft). As many times as he asks me if I want to take the controls, I say "No." That is too much pressure. Too much responsibility. I don't want to pilot.

I like to navigate. I like to figure out how to get where we are going ... too easy sometimes with our modern avionics. What I really like is too look out the window and watch the ground rush by as we fly overhead. I like being up in the air. I like seeing the world from that angle. I like to fly.

I understand what compelled them to fly and to write. It is the same thing that compels me to read and to travel in our small plane. Both take you to new places.

The airplane offered a spiritual pilgrimage in ways other machines never had. These aviators wrote of being lifted out of themselves by the very act of flight, of becoming part of something infinitely larger than themselves.

McCullough discusses the books of both Lindberghs, Beryl Markham, Nevil Norway and Amelia Earhart. But I realized with a shock that I had never read one of the most famous pilot/authors signature works. I had never read Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince.

That would be my 15th book. The Little Prince.

Much has been written of this little book that I learned to love in an hour of a day. But McCullough can say it better than I ever could.

"What frightens me more than the war is the world of tomorrow," Saint-Exupery told his mother in late 1940. Central to all he wrote was the theme of responsibility. In The Little Prince, it is the fox, finally, that tells the Little Prince what really matters in life, by reminding him of the flower, the single rose, he had cared for at home on his own small planet. "Men have forgotten the truth," says the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose."

I see that as I fly. The responsibility I have as a wife and a mother. The responsibility I have a citizen. We have built this country. We have planted and harvested from her soils. We have crossed her majestic peaks. We have settled and populated her. We have tamed her. Now we are to be held responsible.

April 30, 2010

I Carried it in my Pocket

It was a little book of poems that I found on the bottom shelf in the poetry section of Half Price Books. It was the little part that appealed to me, because it could fit in my pocket and because it was a book I could read it in a day ... or an hour.

Now I don't like Cats, the musical. I thought it was silly and a waste of my money. I should be clear that I also don't like cats - the animals - either. I am a dog person. Cats don't do anything. And I am allergic to them. Cats have caused me hospital visits before. I tend not to be overly fond of "cat people" either. Dogs are it.

This little book was fun. I enjoyed it with my boys after school. We read the book out loud. We took turns with the poems. I think T.S. Eliot would have liked how his little book inspired us.

April 29, 2010

Do you know that it is poem in your pocket day?

I suggest not only putting a poem in your pocket but a whole book of poems.

Or make copies of a poem and hand them out to your friends.

Of course you must read the poem. Out Loud.

To you kids!

I Laughed All Day

Bill Bryson makes me laugh. I was sitting at the Ford dealership and a restaurant yesterday ... laughing out loud. People kept giving me funny looks. Only one person asked me what I was reading and said The Mother Tongue sounded like a good book. When I offered her my copy (I happen to have two) she said it was probably too long for her and she didn't have enough time to read.

I didn't bother telling her that this was my 13th book in as many days. I didn't want to make her feel bad.

If you haven't read Bryson, by all means run out and pick up some of his books. The Mother Tongue is a great one, but my all time favorite is A Short History of Nearly Everything ... everything you ever needed to know about science in 560 pages.

The best part of the book is my new favorite word ... sluberdegullion. I can find many uses for a word that means a worthless or slovenly fellow. I even used it yesterday.

April 28, 2010

Ruined by Reading

I didn't think I was going to make it yesterday.

We had a crazy morning around here. We barely made it to school on time. The dog got sick (he is fine now). I went to Whole Foods with a friend. Doesn't sound like a big deal except that Whole Foods is 45 minutes from my house.

We went to lunch.

On the way home we had to make an hour pit stop on the not so good side of town while we waited for the tow truck.

Then I actually had to cook some of that great food and grass fed beef on our brand new grill. Yesterday was our only family night for meals. I finally blogged about Monday's book and then it was 8:00 PM. I hadn't even begun a book.

After a quick check of my shelves I spied this small tome. I think I have read it before. I didn't care (I didn't remember it anyway). It was a perfect book for the crazy day.

Reading ... does offer a delectable exercise for the mind .... Like the bodies of dancers or athletes, the minds of readers are genuinely happy and self-possessed only when cavorting around, doing their stretches and leaps and jumps to the tune of words.

I like this little book. It wasn't really as much about reading as it was a note or a letter to the author's books thanking them for their importance in her life.

It started -- my reading, that is -- innocently enough, and then it infiltrated. It didn't replace living, it infused it, till the two became inextricable, like molecules of hydrogen and oxygen in a bead of water.

My favorite passage was this ... it seemed so appropriate after the hours my husband and I spent this weekend trying to put the grill together.

Incidentally, living by the word, by organized series of words, which is narrative, is a handicap when it comes to operating modern electronic devices like telephone answering machines or VCRs. (Or reading directions for putting a grill together.) Such ineptness is not due, as laughing children suppose, to quaintness or premature senility. It is simply that readers are accustomed to receiving information in the narrative mode.

April 27, 2010

Baseball, Book 2

Mudville is the second of the books I am reading as possible "Bookclub for Boys" summer reading books. I just don't know if I like this one or not. Well, I know that I didn't like it, but I wonder if my boys will like it. I used to be much, much better at picking out books for them.

There is enough about baseball. The main character is a boy. But there is almost too much about curses and girlfriends and dysfunctional families. It just isn't what I wanted.

What I want are some great recommendations for baseball books.

April 26, 2010

Texas Bluebonnets

We spent the day out in the Hill Country yesterday. I have never seen Bluebonnets like these. You could even smell them.

(By the way ... this is straight out of my new camera!)

Baseball, Book 1

I am hosting a summer "Bookclub for Boys." I have great plans for this club. It is open to any boy at the elementary school my kids attend. There are no restriction on age or grade. I don't even care if they can read. Their parents can read to them.

We are going to read baseball books, watch baseball movies and learn to keep score. At the end of the summer we will all attend a game together and use our new baseball skills to really enjoy the game.

I saw this book and loved the title. The Girl Who Threw Butterflies. It just sounded like a good book. It sounded like a fun read. It was. Not to melodramatic. Enough plot to keep me going. Fun characters. People in a community coming together.

The problem. The main character is a girl. A girl who plays baseball mind you. But she is still a girl. While I will have my boys read it, I don't think it will make the book club list.

April 25, 2010

Help for the Summer Homeschool

I grabbed this book from the new book shelf at the library as I was walking out the other day, hoping I could use it as we prepare for our summer "homeschool." You know the museums, art classes, and history programs that I stuff the kids with over the summer to make up for the deficiencies of our (really good, by the way) public elementary school.

If your kids have never been to a museum or never taken an art class, then this is a great choice. While I really like the book, it was a little too "elementary" for us.

But it is a book, and it is number 9 of 15.

April 24, 2010

A Journey Back to Thailand

I bought yesterday's book, Touch the Dragon, 5 years ago on a family vacation to Thailand. We were in Chaing Mai and I walked into a little expat bookstore and asked for a book on the country. I didn't want a picture book or a travel guide. I wanted a book about life in Thailand. The proprietor did a great job with this recommendation.

It has been said of this book that it is "as if I had been lifted all the way to Thailand without ever booking passage." I think I have to agree. While I can't speak to what life with the Thai people is like, I can say that my memories of the trip mesh perfectly of her descriptions of the country. Vivid color. That is what I remember and that is what she describes. I don't think I have ever been anywhere as colorful as Thailand.

The blues seem bluer. And there are more shades of blue in the Andaman sea than anywhere else. ...

There is more gold and red.

Sometimes you begin to think that every part of the country is covered in color.

Even the elephants can paint.

And while I can't speak to life in Thailand, I understand the loneliness of living in a place where you just don't belong. We were able to travel so easily to Thailand because we were living as expats in Korea. Talk about not fitting in. Talk about not understanding a culture and a people. While we did make some friends in Korea, we never truly felt like we were part of their lives. We were always on the outside.

I should have read this book while I was in Thailand, but I am kind of glad I waited. I had a wonderful time yesterday looking through my old photos and remembering our trip.

April 23, 2010

7 of 15 ... but I am Tired

Oh, I am not tired of reading. This challenge has kept me going through some very difficult days. In order to read, I have had to clear my mind. But I am tired. I am frustrated.

I was told of the loss of a really good person this week. I haven't even been able to get my head around the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico yet. I know BP drillers. I know Transocean contractors. One of my Cub Scouts' dad worked on that platform. I haven't heard if he was on rotation. I don't want to call in case he was.

I am not good (on a good day) with stupidity and incompetence. When I meet them on a bad day, things spiral downhill. I have run into a brick wall of stupidity, incompetence and downright deceitfulness over the last week as I have tried to refinance my mortgage. I can't even begin to write about that or I will lose all focus for the rest of the day.

I am tired and I am sad. I want to crawl into a hole. At least I can take a book with me.

Yesterday I took Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis into my hole. How I love Lewis. I never understand why so many people find him so difficult to read. I find him so approachable. Reading his books seems like having a conversation with a good friend.

If you didn't know, Mere Christianity began as a series of radio talks Lewis gave during some of the darkest moments of WWII. His voice lifted a nation and helped many individuals get through trying times. Maybe that is why this is even more like a conversation ... it was. It was a conversation with England.

It was a blessing to the people then and it was a blessing to me yesterday.

Reality in fact is something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is not a religion you could have guessed.

And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor's shop. We are the statues and there is a rumour going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.

He knows all about it. You are one of the the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner that that) He will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one.

Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

April 22, 2010

With the Old Breed

This is Adam Brown. Adam is a Navy SEAL who was killed in combat on March 18, 2010. I didn't know Adam personally, but his life has touched mine on the fringes.

I was told of this tragic loss yesterday as I was reading the 6th of 15 books in the 15/15/15 challenge, With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge. It is Sledge's account of his time with the Marines on Peleliu and Okinawa in WWII. It is one of the most profoundly moving books that I have ever read.

Sledge addresses the big picture: the war, the battle, and the Marines. But he also manages to make his experience more personal. He brings us into the action with a personal side and human stories.

The personal bodily filth imposed upon the combat infantryman by living conditions on the battlefield was difficult for me to tolerate. It bothered almost everyone I knew....To be anything less than neat and sharp was considered a negative reflection on the Marine Corps and wasn't tolerated....In combat cleanliness for the infantryman was all but impossible....It has always puzzled me that this important factor in our daily lives has received so little attention.

I have been fortunate enough to have spent time on Guam and in The Philippines. We have built close personal relationships with men who fought there. My husband stood with them as they honored their fallen comrades on the crest of Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima. They are heroes whose name will never appear in any history book or on any television series.

Mr. Sledge brought the stories that I have heard them tell me to life. I understand now that when Ed was telling me a gruesome story of a friend of his who was killed on Iwo, he was leaving much out. He was sparing me the most bloody details. He wanted me to understand the war, but he did not want me to know the war.

Mr. Sledge brought me closer to the battle than I would ever want to be.

To me, artillery was an invention of hell. The onrushing whistle and scream of the big steel package of destruction was the pinnacle of violent fury and the embodiment of pent-up evil. It was the essence of violence and of man's inhumanity to man.

During prolonged shelling, I often had to restrain myself and fight back a wild, inexorable urge to scream, to sob, and to cry. As Peleliu dragged on, I feared that if I ever lost control of myself under shell fire my mind would be shattered. I hated shells as much for their damage to the mind as to the body.

I hope I will never know war. I hope I will never lose a husband or a son.

I hope that the lives of the men who died in battle in WWII or Korea or The Iraq War will never be forgotten.

I hope that Adam's wife and two young children will know that there are people out there who appreciate their sacrifice and his.

I hope you will take a moment to say a prayer for them.

War is brutish, inglorious and a terrible waste. Combat leaves an indelible mark on those who are forced to endure it. The only redeeming factors were my comrades' incredible bravery and their devotion to each other.

If you have the way or the means in these trying times, I hope you might consider Adam's family.

Adam Brown Memorial Fund
Navy Federal Credit Union
Body 200 Dam Neck
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23461

April 21, 2010

A Word of Explanation

You might be wondering why so many book reviews. Well, I decided to participate in Girl Detective's 15 Books in 15 Day challenge. The reviews you are reading daily are the result of that. I have also unplugged the T.V. for 5 days, so I can't comment on politics or the world I know nothing about. I have immersed myself in books rather than other forms of media. The result so far is that I feel much calmer. I don't hear as many voices in my head. They are quieting and allowing my own thoughts to come through. I like it.

A Little Book for A Day with Little Time

I knew yesterday would be crazy. I subbed at the school for my favorite teacher (she also happens to have M. in her class so I got to spend the day with my son). And I chased boys from 7 AM (running club and choir) to well into the night (baseball practice). I picked up a slim volume that I knew would be easy, The Emperor's Code. This is Book 8 in the The 39 Clues series developed by Rick Riordan but with a different author for each book in the series.

The books are fine. J. loves them, but he also loves the on-line game aspect that comes with them. He likes collecting the cards and figuring out the clues. As a marketing plan the books are genius. As a series, they are just o.k.

To be honest, I expected more from the likes of Riordan, Gordan Korman, and Jude Watson. They have all produced better work.

I do like that they manage (if the kids care enough to check it out) to teach a little history, a little geography and a little of the liberal arts. I also like that the heros are kids ... a theme that always draws me to Children's and YA literature (i.e. Nick of Time and Percy Jackson).

Do you have a struggling reader? These would be great! Amazon says they are for kids ages 9-12. I think a twelve year-old would be bored, but a struggling 8 or 9 year-old would probably find them easy enough to get through but interesting enough to hold his (or her) attention. My advanced 7 year-old has no trouble with them.

April 20, 2010

A How-To Book I Needed

If Graphic Novels count in the 15/15/15 challenge, then so does my entry for today. It is a "how-to" for my new camera. And boy, did I need David Busch's Nikon D90: Guide to Digital SLR Photography. I only skimmed chapters 4 to 9, but I read in great detail every word and instruction in chapters 1 to 3. The detailed reading of the latter chapters will come as I hone my skills. Well, it will come after I develop some skills. This is a serious camera. I bought it for our upcoming trip to Glacier National Pack, and I want to know what to do with it.

Of course every book says the same thing ... take lots of photos. But you kind of have to know what all those buttons do first. This is going to take some time, but I have a pretty good start.

Are you interested in a new camera? Do you have questions? Are you looking for reviews? Before I bought my new D90 I read over and over for months until I finally made up my mind. He also has some great user guides and info sheets.

April 19, 2010

Think for Yourself

TV turnoff week starts today. Can you do it? Can you turn off the T.V. and limit your non-work screen time? Can you get off Facebook and stop Twittering for a week?

I challenge you to keep the T.V. off for a whole week.

I dare you not to load Facebook for a week.

Turn it off.

Read a book. Even a bad one is probably better than T.V. (But if you are just going to read Twilight then you might as well just turn the T.V. back on.)

Do you feel lost without Facebook? Have lunch with a friend. Call your dad on the phone.

Play a board game.

Make pizza from scratch.

Go to a baseball game.

Thinking for yourself means finding yourself, finding your own reality. Here's the other problem with Facebook and Twitter and even The New York Times. When you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do now--older people as well as younger people--you are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people's thoughts....You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice.

William Dersiewicz in The American Scholar

Lessons on Leadership

My reading yesterday was a huge departure from the previous two days. My husband will be teaching a course on "leadership," and while we were searching rows and rows of books at bookstores and libraries for reading on the subject (I think he should write his own book, by the way), I came across John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage.

The 1955 Pulitzer Prize winner, Kennedy's book presents a mini-biography of eight extraordinary senators who committed acts requiring courage that changed the men and sometimes the course of history. The book introduced new characters to me and gave me broader perspective on those I had heard of. It definitely illustrated, if it did not define, "leadership."

In a book I read earlier in the month that reminds me of this one, David McCullough said, "We have not had a president of the United States with a sense of history since John Kennedy." I believe that to be true, unless you consider that they have a sense of their own history. He suggests that we should have a history requirement for the presidency ... I think we should at least require that all members of Congress read Kennedy's book.

April 18, 2010

Two For the Channel Islands

Did you even know there were Channel Islands? If you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I reviewed yesterday, you were introduced to them.

I have to admit I was ignorant of them until I read Ted Bell's first book for children, Nick of Time. I fell in love with the islands and all of the characters he created. The proud Lord Hawke (who happens to be the main character in Ted Bell's series of books for adults and I imagine is very good-looking), the curmudgeonly Gunner, and the courageous Nick McGiver were engaging and appealing. The story was exciting and interesting. The book was educational while being a great read. Best of all, I love that it shows how a 12 year-old can be a hero ... and so can his little sister.

Regardless of what you think of Glenn Beck, you have to appreciate his love for a great story. Here is his interview with Ted Bell:

Could the second book, The Time Pirate, compare to the first? Would Nick's Tempus Machina save him and the world again? I had one day to find out.

"Aye, Matey!" It was as good as the first. The murderous enemy Billy Blood was just as evil and tracherous. The people of the islands were more resolute in the defense of good. Nick McGiver ... well I won't tell. Not a word about what he does.

This book again takes us back to the Channel Islands during WWII; but, instead of going further back in time to help the British Lord Nelson, Nick finds himself face to face with George Washington. Will the British boy help out the American General? You'll have to read it to find out. I promise the journey with Nick will be worth it.

Just a note: one of our favorite ways to enjoy a good book is in the car as we rush from place to place. We have found some wonderful books on tape - it is how we were first introduced to Percy Jackson. I only managed to keep this book from the boys because I promised them we would listen to it together. Every time we get in the car we turn on The Time Pirate, even if it is just the 5 minute trip to school. The narrator of both this book and the first one, John Shea, masterfully brings the story to life. Tired of bad music and talk radio. Listen to this instead!

April 17, 2010

Oh, But I Didn't Want to Like It

My first book in the "15 Books in 15 Days" journey seems highly appropriate. I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society because Mrs. M-mv said it was good, and I trust her opinion. She has rarely steered me wrong. She said she read it because Girl Detective said it was worthwhile. It came from the library, off the wait list, the day before yesterday so I picked it up and began.

I didn't want to like it. I am just like that. I have found that I don't often like those books that are in fashion, The Help or The Life of Pi for example. At least I finished Pi, I coulen't get past the first twenty pages of The Help. Maybe it is my non-conformist nature. Maybe I just don't like people telling me what to do. I was determined not to like this book.

But I did. I did like it. It gives me reason to scoff at those people I know who say the uneducated can't understand great literature. It gives me reason to believe that anyone, at any point in their life, can become a reader. You just have to be in the right place and have the right inspiration.

It was an easy read - perfect for this challenge. It was a beautiful little book. But I didn't want to like it.

Stay tuned for more on the Channel Islands tomorrow. I am not kidding. Two books on a before little known part of the world.

April 1, 2010

This is not a fashion blog

I don't usually write about fashion. I don't usually care about fashion. However, after a very bad start to my day yesterday, I was privileged to be a guest at the Houston Chronicle's 10 Best Dressed Women of Houston luncheon.

(Before you get all snippy on me about useless women who have nothing better to do than parade around in very expensive clothes, this event raised over $350,000 yesterday for the March of Dimes and has raised over $5.6 million in 26 years for the same organization.)

I don't care much for fashion ... like I don't care much for cars. Yet, just as I can appreciate an antique English roadster for its quality and lines, I can appreciate truly beautiful clothing when I see it.

The show started with this.

The cut of this coat was amazing. I could see from my seat in the third row that anyone would look good in something like this. Later in the runway show came this.

You can't tell from the photo, but the detail on this dress was wonderful. I thought it might be one of my favorites, but then this dress came out.

It was deceivingly beautiful ... on the runway you had to look twice before you noticed the sequins. And talk about sequins.

The movement of this dress was wonderful. You wouldn't believe that a dress with so much weight to it could flow like water. However, my favorite dress of the day was this one. I don't have anywhere to where it, but I might just put it in a frame on my wall. It was like a work of art.

Anyone have a couple of thousand dollars to loan me so I can own it?

March 31, 2010

I Can't

I can't read. I can't think. I wanted to punch the rude lady at the Starbucks this morning. Can someone just be nice to me today.

March 29, 2010

I live here in my dreams

I am still day-dreaming of this place.

This is my place.

I would happily and easily give up my comfortable life for the peace of the aspens and the pines.

My husband could be a bartender. I could be a waitress (or a ski instructor).

The kids don't need new clothes.

March 26, 2010


In an earlier post I described how much I missed the boys and how we were taking a mental health day. Well, I just shooed those same boys (who I enjoyed a wonderful day with) out the door with their dad. They are off on a weekend camping trip and I am home with the dog until noon Sunday.

Tonight I will watch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.

Tomorrow I will go to the art fair, do some shopping and have dinner with my girl-friends. Sunday, I will read the New York Times from cover to cover while drinking a quiet cup of coffee.

I will not watch Phineas and Ferb or ESPN Outdoors.

Forget the mental health day with the boys. I am going to get off the computer and start my mental health weekend.

Oh, how I will miss those boys.

Cast-Iron Belief

A post on one of my favorite blogs sent me to an article by John Polkinghorne. I have been pondering some of the questions - and many deeper ones - in my heart lately.

Well, I don’t think it’s possible to prove the existence of God. There are many things I don’t think you can prove in an absolutely cast-iron, logical way. You can prove that two plus two equals four; you can’t prove the foolishness or falseness of ridiculous assumptions. I could maintain that the whole world came into existence five minutes ago and that our memories of the past were created at that moment. I don’t think you could defeat me in logical argument about that, though we all know that would be an absurd thing to say. So proof, cast-iron proof, is pretty limited and not actually a very interesting category of things. I believe in quarks and gluons and electrons. I believe that’s the most intelligible, economic, persuasive interpretation of a whole swath of physical phenomena, but I don’t think I’ve proved their existence in the two plus two equals four sense — just as I can’t prove the existence of God. What we need, I think, is beliefs that are sufficiently well-motivated for us to feel that we can commit our lives to them, knowing that they may be false, but believing that they are the best explanation. I’m very sold on motivated belief but I am not sold on knowledge through proofs either in science or religion, or anything in between.

Mental multivitamin: John Polkinghorne: "I call myself a bottom-up thinker."

Save your Child's Life

Save your own.

Watch Jamie Oliver tonight on ABC ... 8 ET/7 CT.

March 25, 2010

Random Thoughts

When you have to listen to abuse, that means you are being buffeted by the wind. When your anger is aroused, you are being tossed by the waves. So when the winds blow and the waves mount high, the boat is in danger, your heart is imperiled, your heart is taking a battering. On hearing yourself insulted, you long to retaliate; but the joy of revenge brings with it another kind of misfortune shipwreck.

Why is this? Because Christ is asleep in you. What do I mean? I mean you have forgotten his presence.

Rouse him, then; remember him, let him keep watch within you, pay heed to him … A temptation arises: it is the wind. It disturbs you: it is the surging of the sea. This is the moment to awaken Christ and let him remind you of these words: “Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him.”

- Augustine of Hippo, Sermons on Mark

March 22, 2010

Did You Watch?

How funny that the one show on TV last night that was really about "health care" in America was cut short for a special report on the health care? vote. Shame on you ABC ... what Jamie Oliver is trying to do can make a bigger change in our country than anything else.

Watch Jamie Oliver.

March 18, 2010

What Being on the Winning Side Gets You

I recently wrote a post on how J. learned a huge lesson by losing. I think I failed to mention that the organizers of the competition gave out trophies to the teams who came in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. In other words, they only gave out trophies to the winners. One of J.'s teammates was upset by this. She thought everyone should get some sort of recognition. "My mom says we are all winners just because we tried."

Except that they weren't winners. They lost. They came in second to last. They did a bad job. There was no teamwork. They were losers. You are a participant because you try. You are a winner when you come in 1st. Yes, they give out three medals at the Olympics, but only one of them is gold. As my husband has been known to say, "Second place is really first loser."

It sounds kind of harsh today to hear it phrased that way, but it is true. Second place really is first loser.

Yes, the kids tried. Yes, they worked hard. Yes, they put in a lot of effort. But does my 7 year-old son need a trophy every single baseball season. He has a shelf full of them, but they mean nothing to him. He doesn't care if they fall and get broken. If you ask him what they are for he will tell you, "Those are just baseball trophies." Then he will walk you over to his dresser and point to his Pinewood Derby trophy. "This is my favorite," he will say. "I won this when the car that my dad and I built got second place." It has a place of honor. It has some meaning.

The Atlantic has tied the sense of entitlement these "Trophy Kids" we are raising have to the trouble they are having finding jobs in the recession.

Many of today's young adults seem temperamentally unprepared for the circumstances in which they now find themselves....people who graduated from high school in the 2000s dislike the idea of work for work's sake, and expect jobs and career to be tailored to their interests and lifestyle. Yet they also have much higher material expectations than the previous generations, and believe financial success is extremely important.... "It's a generation in which every kid has been told,'You can be anything you want. You're special."'

(Jean) Twenge attributes the shift to broad changes in parenting styles and teaching methods, in response to the growing belief that children should always feel good about themselves, no matter what. As the years have passed, efforts to boost self-esteem-and to decouple it from performance-have become widespread.

When did we stop telling our kids it is O.K. to lose? Do you even believe it yourself any more? (I think it was about when we stopped teaching cursive in elementary school) But you know what? It is O.K. to lose. As long as you put in your best effort and as long as you tried, it is o.k. to lose. It is a lot of fun to be recognized to for something you did, but it means so much more to be recognized for more than participation. Ask M. He'll show you how it feels to be recognized for winning. Ask Bode Miller. Ask Evan Lysacek. Ask the Saints.

She (Twenge) worries that many young people might be inclined to simply give up in this job market.... There's an element of entitlement-they expect people to figure things out for them.

Ron Alsop says a combination of entitlement and highly structured childhood has resulted in a lack of independence and entrepreneurialism in many 20-somethings.

Perhaps most worrisome, though, is the fatalism and lack of agency that both Twenge and Alsop discern in today's young adults. Trained throughout childhood to disconnect performance from reward, and told repeatedly that they are destined for great things, many are quick to place blame elsewhere when something goes wrong.

Be gracious in both winning and losing. Be a good sport. Try harder next time. Know that it is perfectly fine to lose. Teach your children this, because being on the winning side might get you more than you bargained for.

March 15, 2010