Friday, December 24, 2010


This year, I’m making 2 personal resolutions and we have one family resolution.

My personal resolutions are as follows:

1.  To have an actual bedtime.  I’m planning to be in bed, ready to sleep, every night by 10pm.  Computer off, iPod off, journal written, book read, lights out.  It is so ridiculous any more that I am waking up exhausted.  I have zero energy.  Of course there are exceptions, like book club night, but I’m hopeful that by and large I can get a lot more rest and also set a good example for my teen, who is also suffering some sleep depravation and has concluded she needs a 9:00 bedtime (despite being pissed off at us when we told her she had to be in bed by 9:30 . We gave up and let her stay up as late as she wants and somehow she has trouble staying awake at school when she is up till 11:00 playing cards or watching tv.  Hmmm, funny how that happens?)  Last night I was in bed by 10:00 and I slept till 6:00.  I was still tired when I woke up, so Michael took over Daddy Duties and I slept till nearly 10:00 this morning.  My body is clearly crying out for more sleep, so it’s time to give in and let it have it.  The shows I enjoy that are on after 10pm are all free on demand, so bonus, I can watch them with fewer or no commercials at the same time.

2.  No more going out for meals.  I guess this is more of a family resolution, although it is my idea.  I’ve calculated all the money we’ve spent and it’s outrageous.  Not to mention gas, the time we spend ferrying ourselves around to get to a restaurant, and the time we spend waiting around to be served.  In the time alone it takes us to get there, order, and get home, I could have dinner prepared.  Penny has let it be known that she prefers my cooking to anything we have eaten at a restaurant, and between that, saving a lot of money, and saving time, I think it’s a good idea.  We’ll see how we do on tired nights, but hopefully with getting more sleep, I won’t be as tired.

I just read back over my resolutions for last year and I did a pretty good job, actually.  Of course I didn’t get back on track with Weight Watchers or any other diet plan in a serious capacity, but I’m ok with that.  I did do a lot of walking and working out this spring and summer and I completed a 5K, which I am proud of.  But I have not been anyone’s doormat to the extent I usually have been, and we did apply to host an exchange student and are in the midst of that experience right now.  Parenting a teen has been a challenge.  I’m not going to lie.  There have been times I’ve wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening.  But the joy in it has been far greater than the few minor headaches she’s given me. 

As a family, we’ve also decided to add a workout regiment to our night time routine.  Penny wants to learn some aerobics, so I’m going to introduce her to some DVD’s and we’ll try some things.  Michael is going to hop back on the treadmill.  Once the weather warms up, Leah and I will hit the open road again. 

2010 has been a great year, even with my accident and family issues.  I can’t wait for 2011.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Week 3 Thoughts

This week’s theme was love.  Whenever I think of love, I think of Mother Teresa.  She had a lot to say about the power of love.  So instead of finding a big quote and a small quote, I printed off 2 sheets of her quotations and we chose three of them to read out loud.

If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out.  To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.

Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.


Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in that action.

It is nearly impossible to believe that we’re on the third week of Advent.  I am ready for Christmas, I tell myself.  If that’s true or not bears waiting to see, just like the season itself.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Letter to the People Who are Supposed to Be Representing Us

Dear President Obama, Senators Warner and Webb, and Representative Wittman:

This has been a lousy week in our household.  I’m putting the blame squarely on your shoulders.  This week, it was announced that federal employees will not receive a pay raise for the next two years.  And it was announced that federal employee transit benefits will be slashed in half.  Now apparently this is due to the fact that they were raised and were due to come back down.  Unfortunately for us, it comes at a time when our sole breadwinner is now commuting 4 hours a day to get to his job, which he loves might I add, in our nation’s traffic clogged capital, and because he has been unable to find someone to carpool with, he must now take the train and Metro to get to work.  A train which is frequently late.  A Metro that frequently has “issues”.  In October, he was leaving home at 7:15 and getting home between 4 and 5.  Now he leaves our home at 5:15 and gets home at 6:30.  Doesn’t say much for our quality of life when we can’t spend time with our husband/father, who is exhausted when he gets back from those kind of hours, does it!

The pay freeze and benefit reduction news also came at a time this week when I drove by the local gas stations around here and nearly choked on my own teeth to see a sharp spike in gas prices.  In case you didn’t notice, gas here is back to nearly $3 per gallon.  I suppose I should feel fortunate—in many cases it’s back over $3 per gallon.  And you know that manufacturers and retailers are not going to swallow the increase in gas prices on their end.  They tack it onto the price of the goods that we have to buy.  So really, we get to pay for our gas and everyone else’s.

Our health insurance co-pays have increased.  I can only assume this is on account of the fact that those health insurance bastards had to lobby you guys so heavily not to support free health care for everyone.  They must be laughing now that the bill you passed will only make them richer.  I full support free health care for all.  I just wish you had done it right.  You had an amazing opportunity to do so, something that could have been your enduring legacy, but you blew it.  Good work.

We are far from being in financial dire straits.  This year we have taken in an exchange student.  I still do not work so that I can be a stay at home mom to our 20 month old.  If I was working, the majority of my income would be going to pay for day care and commuting costs.  But don’t think I haven’t thought about going back to work.  I even contacted my former boss who said I am a phone call away from being employed.  Do you know how lucky I am?  Because there are literally millions of people out there right now who are either scraping by at jobs they are overqualified for, who are unemployed, or who are in fear that their jobs are going to vanish.

Because of the pinch we’re starting to feel, even just a little bit, our lifestyle will change in the new year.  This year, we’ve already started buying generics on things that don’t especially matter—things like “raw materials” for cooking (flour, sugar, oil, etc)—and medicine.  We will continue to do so.

The last several years, we have re-invested our tax return into the economy.  We adopted our beautiful little girl.  We made major improvements to our home.  We went on vacation.  We discussed what we’re doing this year and my advice to my husband was, “I think we’d better save whatever pittance we get.”  And that’s what we’ve agreed to do.

We will seriously slash the amount of travel that we do, both locally and nationally.  We do hope to travel next summer to see a former exchange student, but other than that, our plans are to stay home or to visit family.  Traveling by air has become such a pain in the butt that we don’t have any plans to do it unless it is absolutely necessary.  Between extra fees for just putting a bag on the plane, the new security measures that we may or may not be subject to, and the prices of actually flying, we’re better off staying home.  Thankfully the Smithsonian is still free and nearly in our backyard.  This past year, we traveled to New York, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia.  Next year, once our exchange daughter has gone back home to Thailand, we won’t probably go anywhere.  We are fortunate to have been able to show her some of our beautiful country, but we won’t be able to show her a whole lot more of it other than visiting our parents. 

I have been running all over town with my younger daughter this year  as well, taking her to story time and a local toddler gym and the mall and playground.  I participate in a local choir and run a book club.  We have a very active group of friends who like to go sightseeing and bowling and out to meals.  Where our schedule or that of a babysitter has permitted, we’ve enjoyed joining them.  No more.  My activities will be restricted to my book club and choir, my daughter’s to the park, toddler gym, and story time at our public library, which has slashed its hours and needs funding.  I loved going to visit former co-workers and going to friends’ parties and meeting for lunch.  But I think the days of wine and roses are coming to a close.

We have agreed that in 2011, we will no longer go out to eat at restaurants.  We went out last night with 4 friends, and on top of quite a pricey bill, we had to tack on a babysitter.  It was a sobering wake up call as to exactly how much we spend on something that ultimately really doesn’t matter that much.  We can stay home and not pay gas to get somewhere, pay higher prices for a meal, and pay extra money for a tip for the waitress and a babysitter.  Oh sure, I know, we should be supporting the American economy.  I’ve heard all those precious little soundbites from all of you.  But let’s face it.  As a card carrying member of the middle class, I can only do so much.  My dollar only goes so far, and it’s not really going anywhere at the moment.

But of course, you don’t seem to much care about that.  You just passed a big tax cut again for the wealthiest Americans.  I know three of the four of you are going to tell me that it was necessary to help out the little guy, but let me ask you this:  since when did doing the right thing have to be tied to doing the wrong thing?  Republicans like you, Rep. Whitman, are screaming that it was necessary in order to help job growth in this country.  Much like Reaganomics, they swear the effect will trickle down into the rest of the population.  These tax cuts have been in effect nearly a decade, and forget a trickle, there hasn’t even been dripping.  When are we supposed to see some positive effect?

Senator Webb, your email this week was the proverbial salt in the wound.  President Obama, when I shook hands with you in 2008, I felt sure I was shaking hands with one of the greatest men of my lifetime.  Representative Wittman, I have even been to your office, only to be told the reasons I’m wrong.  Senator Warner, I hear nothing from you, literally nothing.  I had to go to your website this morning to read up on anything you’ve been doing, only to find out that while you’re “disappointed” in the tax cut deal, you’re going to vote for it anyway.  What!?  When either of my daughters does something that “disappoints” me, I don’t say, “Oh well, let’s just say it’s ok anyway.”  All four of you are about debt reduction, as long as it doesn’t come at a price.

Well, as detailed above, my family’s debt reduction will seriously reduce the amount of money we’re pumping into the American economy, and we are not unique among American families.  And watch our choices and the choices of other families trickle down.

Gentlemen, let me assure you that unless something drastic changes, I will not vote for a single one of you when you are up for re-election.  I’m not switching sides and voting for the other guy.  I’m going to hope someone new comes along with some new ideas, someone whose vote that is supposed to represent me, protect me, and make my family’s life better hasn’t already been bought and paid for by huge corporate donations I cannot hope to match.  Let me remind you that the votes of the people got you into office and that’s who you should answer to.  Every single one of you seems to have forgotten it.  Quit “playing the game” and start making life better for all of us.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Advent Week 2

Reflections on Peace:

Peacefulness is an inner sense of calm—it comes from becoming still—in order to reflect and meditate on our inner wisdom and receive answers.  A peaceful heart is one that is free from worry and trouble.  It’s becoming quiet so we can look at things quietly so we can more clearly understand them and thus come up with creative solutions.  It is learning to live in the present.


“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”


Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Saga of the Gas Points

We have a local grocery store chain here in town that offers you 10 cents off your gas for every $100 you spend in groceries.  While I love Wegman’s, gas prices are so high that I can’t help but go spend money at said chain and get some kickbacks towards my gas.  You earn 1 point per dollar spent and 100 points per $100.

The way it works is that you can accumulate all the points you can in a 30 day stretch and then the points expire after that 30 days.  You can use them as you earn them, providing you have a minimum of 100 points.  Regardless, either after using them or 30 days has passed, your balance is supposed to go back to zero and you start earning again.

About 8 weeks ago, I was at 257 points.  I took Penny to the store and told her we HAD to spend 43 dollars because we were planning to drive up to Northern VA and I wanted to get 30 cents off my gas.  Well, despite our best efforts, we only spent about 40 dollars.  Imagine my shock when I looked at the receipt and it said I had 320 points!  I was not going to argue with it, so we went to the gas station and got our 30 cents off gas and I was so happy.

The next time we went shopping, I spent enough that I thought I’d have 100 points again.  But somehow, this time, I had 460 points!  I was afraid there’d been a mistake, so I jumped in the car, ran over to the gas station, and sure enough, I got 40 cents off my gas.

This has been on going.  The day of my Gerber party, I went through the line and after picking up snacks and so on, the tape told me I had 520 points. I had forgotten something and when I paid again (not having left the store, mind you), my points dropped to 480 points!  I did our family grocery shopping the very next day and was up to 580 points.  In no ways did the totals reflect what I was spending.

Over Thanksgiving, I was getting close to 700 points.  Mike and Lesley needed some groceries, my dad needed things for Thanksgiving, and we needed odds and ends here and there.  Sure enough, I was up to 800 points by the end of their visit.  But the weird thing is, Mike and Lesley checked out their groceries and the clerk gleefully exclaimed that they had 800 points and 80 cents off.  They handed my key tag to my dad and he only had 750 points.  Again, I never left the store.

At the end of Thanksgiving before my dad left, I ran to the store to grab our weekly groceries, and I suddenly had 1000 points!!  I told my dad to go fill up his car quick, as he’d get a dollar off.  When he got there, however, he only got 10 cents off per gallon instead of the dollar I was expecting.  Last night I went to get gas there just to see what would happen, and despite the fact that I had not grocery shopped at all, the machine endowed me with 80 cents per gallon off.  I haven’t paid more than $2.20 for gas in 2 months, and I haven’t paid more than $1.89 per gallon in a month.

Today I went to pick up some sodas and the receipt has informed me I have a mere 50 points at present.  I can’t help but wonder if that’s going to change when I grocery shop this weekend.  I don’t know what’s going on with their system, but I hope it stays weird.  I’m enjoying the hell out of my savings!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thoughts for Advent

The picture you will see below is my Advent wreath.  My mother once upon a time entwined the holly garland around what is otherwise a plain green candleholder.  In the aftermath of my parents’ divorce, I somehow wound up with this.  Judy wound up with the prayers that we read during each week of Advent, one per week.

I don’t remember the prayers, but I remember the topics.  There was one each for peace, hope, faith, and love.  With Leah getting older and with us having Penny in the house, someone from another culture and religion entirely, I wanted to make Advent and the wreath about something more than just lighting a candle in a wreath that sits in the middle of our table each night. 

However, we are not an overly religious family either.  So to say prayers together feels strange to me.  Instead, I have decided that each week I will share some passages about the given topic for the week.  We lit the wreath tonight instead of last night, as we were busy last night with getting people to airports, choir practice, Leah, Yahtzee, and PopPop.  Tonight, it was again just the four of us, and time for some quiet, serene reflection.  I chose two passages to read my sweet family, the longer one before, the short quotation afterwards.  I have put the picture in the middle to indicate when we lit our candle.  From here on out, each week, I will simply include a photo of the wreath with the next candle lit and our before and after passages.  I hope you find these as interesting, sweet, and thought provoking as I did.

Thoughts on Faith From Garrison Keillor:

What keeps our faith cheerful is the extreme persistence of gentleness and humor.  Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that faith rules through ordinary things: through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music, and books, raising kids—all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through.  Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people.  Lacking any other purpose in life, it would be good enough to live for their sake.

P1090227 “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.”
--Elton Trueblood

Final Book for Twenty Ten

743636 As the month of November was winding down, I was getting increasingly desperate to find something to read that I could finish quickly and get done with the TwentyTen Challenge.  Finally, I went over to my shelf of TBR’s, the only category I had left, and decided to pick out the absolute shortest book I could find and read it.  That book happened to be a book called something like It’s Not What It Seems or something like that, a book about a brother and sister whose father moves out on their mother to go write the great American novel.  They spend their summer opening and running their own restaurant.  Anyway, it wasn’t that great a book—obviously if I can’t even remember the title—and I wound up tossing the book in my recycle bin.  I went back to the drawing board because I really wouldn’t have much to blog about that book and found Lois Lowry’s Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye.  I had a sneaking suspicion I’d have a lot to say about this book, and I think I was right.

(WARNING:  This review is downright chock-full of spoilers!)

First, I will offer up the summary from the back of the book:

Natalie has everything—beauty, a loving family, a terrific boyfriend, and an entrance to the college of her choice.  But she is haunted by a missing link in her life—who is the mother who gave her up when she was only a few days old?

The summer she is seventeen, Natalie decides to find out who were her natural parents and what has happened to them.  Old newspapers and a high school yearbook yield clues that start to unravel the mystery of her past.  From a small town in Maine to New York City, Natalie’s search leads to anger, hope, even love—and finally a confrontation with her real mother.

Ok.  So of course as an adoptive mother myself, I take issue with the wording that Natalie is off to find her real mother.  But seeing as the book was written in 1978, I’m willing to give it a bit of a pass.  Although people still ask me if I’ve heard from Leah’s real mother even now, so I guess I’m just the artificial substitute.

Anyway, the book was fairly compelling reading, and I’ve ready many of Lowry’s books in my youth and greatly enjoyed them.  I guess this one touched on some of my own fears as an adoptive mother.  If you happen to be new to my blog, here’s a picture of me and my precious daughter, Leah:

P1040054She’s African-American, and I’m Caucasian.  There’s no denying the fact, even if I wanted to, that she’s adopted.  (For the record, I wouldn’t want to, I’m proud of the fact that we were chosen to adopt her from all the parents who could have been hers. )

To give credit where credit is due, Lowry’s fictional adoptive parents also make no secret of the fact that their daughter was adopted.  When Natalie approaches them to ask if they will give her information to go on her search, they take months to come to terms with the idea that Natalie wants to go in search of her “real mother”.  I hope and pray that if Leah comes to me, she doesn’t use that terminology.  My husband and I have chosen to have an open relationship with Leah’s birthmother (a phrase which even now, only a year after our adoption has been finalized, is I do believe going out of fashion in favor), and we love her very much, but it would break my heart to hear Leah refer to someone else as her “real mother”.  It’s bad enough when other people ask me that question!

Natalie’s parents finally relent, despite the hurt they feel, and provide Natalie with all the documents they have regarding her adoption—basically a letter from an attorney.  From that point, Natalie is able to go to the town where she was born and piece together her past. 

It does not hurt that Natalie is a spitting image of her birthmother.  It does not hurt that this was taking place in the 70’s and Natalie was able to phone people and say, “I’m an old friend of Julie’s!  Can you tell me where to get in touch with her?” and she was given tons of information and phone numbers.

What really got me is that Julie, Natalie’s birthmother, is a fashion model who lives in a fabulous home on New York City’s Upper East Side with her husband and two sons.  I genuinely would have preferred a book that touched on a more realistic scenario and not one that somehow indicates perhaps that giving up an infant when you are a child yourself will somehow allow you to catapult into a world of wealth and fame.  (Props to Lowry for making Julie a pregnant teen—in today’s world of MTV’s Teen Moms, it would be refreshing to see more teens selflessly giving their children a life that ultimately they have little hope of being able to provide during their own adolescence.)

Julie reluctantly agrees to meet Natalie at the Russian Tea Room and attempts to get Natalie to join the world of high fashion modeling.  Then abruptly, she stands up and strolls out of their lunch, only to call Natalie the next day and have her over to the house to meet her half brothers.

For all that she wanted to find and all that she did find, Natalie is ultimately glad that her family is her family, but that she did uncover the secrets of her past.

What Leah will discover when she asks us about her own background is very different from Natalie’s discoveries.  I hope that like Natalie, Leah will remain true to herself and follow her own dreams, whether they be to know her family of origin or not to, whether they be to have some sort of relationship with her birthmother or not.  She will always have me there for her, no matter what she chooses and how it turns out.

Here are a few of my “rules” for people inquiring about our adoption.  I hope they come in handy if someone in your life is adopting or has been adopted.

1.  Please don’t ask about an adoptee’s “real parents”.  As I’ve said before, this is insulting to us.  We have bandaged her scrapes, we have gotten up with her every night, we have fed her and clothed her, we’ve tickled her and tucked her in, we’ve hugged and kissed away the tears and aches and pains, and celebrated every milestone in her 19 months with her.  To indicate that we are somehow not her “real” parents does us a disservice.  In having to defend ourselves about being her “real” parents, we feel we must then do a disservice to the beautiful and brave young woman who made what I can assure you was a heart-breaking choice to ask us to parent her child for her in a way she could not. 

2.  Please do not ask an adoptee or their family why his/her mother “did not want her.”  I can assure you that wanting her never was a factor in the equation.  Leah was wanted by her birthmother very much.  The reasons she chose to give Leah up for adoption and the reasons she chose us to parent her are intensely personal for her and for us.  I can tell you that she loves Leah with every fiber of her being.  She did what she felt was best at the time, and it was never an issue of “wanting”.  I feel confident that for 99.99999999999999% of birthparents out there, it is the same.

3.  Please do not inquire about an adoptee’s family of origin’s background, but if you do, do not expect to get all the minute details.  On our part, our families and close friends know as much as we care to share.  There are some things I wish I hadn’t shared, I can say honestly.  We know as much of the story as Leah’s birthmother chose to share with her, and we shared as much of that with our loved ones as we felt comfortable.  It would be unfair to share everything. It is not our story to tell.

4.  If you do have information that a family has disclosed to you or that you may have gleaned from other sources somehow, please do not give that information to the adoptee unless asked.  Again, using our family as an example, we will let  Leah make her own choices about what and how much she wants to know, and she will do it in her own time.  She may choose to know everything, she may choose not to know one single thing.  It is only right and fair that she should hear it from us and from her birthmother, and from no one else.  Even a slip of the tongue could cause unintentional pain if Leah were to overhear words that were unkind, untrue, or she didn’t want to know certain information.

5.  Finally, be loud and proud of the adoption, the adoptee, and the adoptive family!  Don’t treat the adoptee any differently.  Truly no better and no worse.  When I look at Leah, I see my daughter.  I do believe that when my parents and my husband’s parents look at her, they see their granddaughter.    I don’t think she gets any preferential treatment to my nephews or my niece, and I don’t think she is treated less well than they are.  This is all I could hope for—her true acceptance into our family.  Help make that a reality in your home too!  Don’t whisper, “he’s adopted” when you think you’re out of earshot of the adoptive family—it sounds like something you’re ashamed of or something that should be kept quiet or secretive.  When you hear others expressing doubt over adoption, share your family’s positive experiences, whether you are an adoptee, you have adopted, or a member of your family has adopted a child.

Ok, stepping off my soapbox now.  So I am DONE DONE DONE with the TwentyTen Book Challenge.  For the record, here are the books I read and each of the categories they fit into:

Young Adult:
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnston
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye by Lois Lowry

New in 2010:
Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich
Miss Julia Renews Her Vows by Ann B. Ross

Shiny and New:
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Someday My Prince Will Come by Jerramy Fine

Bad Bloggers
Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
Found II by Davy Rothbart

When Katie Wakes by Connie May Fowler
Leftovers by Laura Weiss

Older Than You:
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susanne
Galahad at Blandings by P.G. Wodehouse

Win! Win!
Secrets from the Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean
Never Change by Elizabeth Berg

“Who Are You Again?”
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Riegler
The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian

Up to You!
Crackhouse by Terry Williams
Dear Diary by Lesley Arfin

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Found II

In my continuing quest to finish these book challenges, I have had a slight problem with the “Bad Blogger” part, as I only read one book blog regular, my BFF Lesley’s.  (Well, ok, now I read Melissa's as well.)

QTQ5EVNU6SP9KAS8QX7N_L Anyway, I had some listed that I thought I’d get around to that I’d read from Lesley’s blog, but on a recent trip to the bookstore-that-shall-not-be-named because I had to get a gift card for a friend, I found a copy of the book Found II in the $1 bin.  I have been a fan of Found and it’s attendant website ( for several years now, so for $1, I swallowed my pride and bought the book.

I’m glad I only spent a dollar, honestly.  I think Found might work better as a “blog” type thing.  By about halfway through, I was tired of reading people’s dropped lists, letters, notes, emails, papers, etc.  I put it aside for a few days and completed it a bit later on and that helped me to get through it.

I love the voyeuristic nature of Found, and the letters, pictures, and whatnot in this particular book were no exception.  Recently I was walking with Leah down the street and we found a letter that I thought immediately of sending into Found, only Leah got her hands on it and ate it.  Pity!  It would have been perfect.

Nonetheless, I do and will continue to read the Found site/blog occasionally and catch up on new finds.  But I don’t see myself reading it in book form any more!  PostSecrets keeps my attention a bit more easily, maybe because it’s shorter.  Some of the stuff in Found II went on a bit long!  I’ll give it 3 stars on Goodreads.

And thus am I finished with one more book for the TwentyTen Challenge, leaving only the TBR category and one more book left to read, before I’ll have completed 3 of the challenges I signed up for.  I am sure I’ll get it done before the end of December and am super-proud of myself for getting it done!  WOO HOO! :-D

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Home Stretch

n64130 I am in the home stretch, polishing off the final book challenge I signed up for this year.  This week I finished several books, but only one of them can I count.  Darn it!  This week’s selection is Galahad at Blandings by P.G. Wodehouse.  I read it as part of the TwentyTen Challenge, and am submitting it for the “Older Than You” category, as it was published for the first time in 1965, a full 10 years before I was published.

I first was introduced to Wodehouse by an online acquaintance who sent me a copy of Luck of the Bodkins and later by my father, who loves to read the Jeeves series.  I have never gotten into those books, but having remembered the name and thought well enough of Luck, I was browsing at the Acton Library when we lived there (in 2003!) and found Galahad at Blandings as an audio book.  I checked it out and read it and enjoyed it very much.  The reader was fabulous.

Several years ago, I picked up a print copy and fully intended to read it again, but it has languished on my TBR shelf ever since.  This seemed like a perfect opportunity to launch into it, as it is a fairly short book, which is my current criteria for getting these challenges read!

The story revolves around the setting of Blandings Castle, home of Lord Emsworth, a peaceful, pig-raising man earl whose home is overrun by his meddling sister Hermione, a new secretary named Sandy who is cleaning up his mess so he cannot find anything, and his brother Galahad, quite the man about town.  “Gally” is a man never without words, he can literally talk his way into or out of anything and can convince others to do whatever he cares to.

Galahad at Blandings is the 9th book in the Castle Blandings series that Wodehouse wrote.  I have only read one other book in the series, but enjoyed reading about The Empress, Lord Emsworth’s prize pig, who has a minor role in this story.

This particular book centers around young love—many engagements are broken due to various and sundry misunderstandings, the Empress is found drunk in her sty, a young lover is hiding out under an assumed name at the castle having popped a policeman in the eye and stolen his bike, Hermione is attempting to get Lord Emsworth married off to Dame Daphne Winkworth.  Through it all, Gally is running around spouting stories of his wayward youth and attempting to reconcile all the young lovers while helping his brother rid himself of Hermione’s meddlesome guest and restore order to the Empress’s sheltered life.

I have to say that I didn’t enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed listening to the story on audio.  The story was vastly entertaining, but I think there is something in the acting-out by a gentleman with a properly clipped accent that lends itself well to “reading” Wodehouse. The twists and turns that the story takes are uproarious, to be sure, and I highly recommend reading this book or other Wodehouse works to anyone who wants a good laugh.  A slice of England, a good dose of humor, and an unbelievable plot that even in its complexity is easy to follow.  I give this one a solid 3 out of 5 on

All I have left for the TwentyTen Challenge are TBR and Bad Blogger.  And I’m almost done with Bad Blogger. :-D  Hooray!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Being a Mom

I haven’t exactly made a big secret out of the fact that I love my little girl more than anything in the universe.  Today, for some reason, I am feeling compelled to sit and sing her praises, and to sing the praises of our newest family member and of being a mom in general.

I had no idea 2 years ago that I would be handed my sweet little baby and my life would be changed so dramatically.  When I sit and think about what life was like pre-Leah and what life is like now, it’s no contest which way I’d rather have it.  I haven’t posted to her blog in forever, and her milestones are slipping past me without my really recording them.  Sometimes I feel like my mommy card should be revoked.  I haven’t kept up with her baby book, I lost the lock of hair from her first haircut, I have no idea when she started really talking.

But every day, she and I engage more and more.  Her mind is opening up and figuring things out and I am way too busy enjoying every second of this process to worry about the particular details.  To listen to her speak actual words and tell me what she wants (whether she gets it or not is another matter) is truly awesome.  Of course, her favorite word is “More!”, one word we could surely do without and there’s lots of guessing as to “more what?”, but just the idea that she can communicate with us is awesome.  She says “bot bot” when she’s thirsty, “mama” when she wants me, “’Enny” when she wants her big sister, “dada” on the increasingly-more-frequent times she wants her father, and a host of other words.  Unfortunately, she has developed a taste for soda, which I deny vigorously and which pisses her off royally.  She loves lollipops from the doctor, could literally eat nothing for a meal except raw onions and broccoli (weird child!), prefers milk to juice, adores oranges and grapes, loves chicken and hamburger, and her favorite food word is “dog dog” which means hot dog.

She is learning other words too, especially “bubbles!” and “woof!” and “moo!” and “ball!” and “No!”  When we ask her if she wants something and she doesn’t, she will vigorously shake her head and say “no no no no no no no!”  She hasn’t come to terms with “yes!”, but we are working on it.  If you ask her what a chicken says, she will tell you “bop bop bop” which is so stinkin’ cute as to be unreal.  If you say “Go!” she will start running in circles until she falls over, dizzy and breathless, taking only a short break to regain her balance before doing it again.  She is furious at my refusal to let her run into the street.  She loves to color with crayons, pencils, pens, markers, or whatever she can get her hands on.  She loves putting stickers everywhere.  She loves building with blocks, popping bubbles, riding in toy cars, taking walks in her now decrepit stroller (sorry, Mike and Lesley, we put a lot of miles on this sucker and it’s time for a replacement!!!  it was surely LOVED!!!!!!!!!), giving other kids at Toddlin’ Time the death glare if they get too close to her toys, going to storytime, reading books, playing children’s games, and exploring.  She keeps us so, so busy.  I literally fall into bed at night exhausted, but thrilled.

I do not parent Leah the way any of my friends parent their children.  None of my friends parent their children the way anyone else I know parents their children.  We all have our own unique styles, and every last one of us is raising amazing kids.  I so admire my friends who continue to work while they have small children—even though I am excited at the prospect of returning to school, I am also terrified about trying to juggle studies with child-rearing.  I am in awe of my friends who have more than one child under age 5.  I always thought I would love to have a huge family, but I know now that there is no way I can manage another young child at this point.  When I think about adopting again, it is equal parts of “Oh, I want to so badly” and “No way in heck!”  Unless the scales tip in favor of “I want to so badly” then I think we’re a one baby family.  But you never know, right?

Raising Leah and knowing what is best is like being in a pitch dark room the size of a football stadium and trying to find the light switch with only a birthday candle to guide me.  She needs to know some discipline, but I don’t want to crush her essential Leah-ness.  She has such a marvelous spirit about her, and to mold and shape her into  a straight-and-narrow path would be to deny her who she is.  This is part of the reason I allow her to be messy.  I hate cleaning up the mess, and if I’m being honest, I sometimes ask, “Why do I have this messy child!?”  But she never does anything I can’t undo, she doesn’t do anything outright destructive (other than coloring the white ottoman with crayons—haven’t figured that one out, but she did get in trouble for that one!), and it takes so little to “punish” her (taking away the crayons resulted in a hurling-herself-on-the-floor tempter tantrum) that she quickly learns not to do some things again.

Overall, though, she is a little superstar and I am proud to brag about her.  The other day we were at the store.  She now prefers to be strapped into carts that are forward facing so she can see her loyal subjects.  As we cruised the aisles, she did her little Windsor wave to everyone whose path crossed ours.  Young, old, fat, skinny, black, white, happy, sad, didn’t matter to her.  She offered each person a toothy grin and a wave and giggle and people were just captivated.  My sister-in-law suggested that because Leah knows how much she is loved by her mother and father, she can go out into the world and be totally confident to be who she is, even at this age, and give back some love to the world.  I love that idea.  And I love that P thinks we are doing a great job and loving our girl.

This past summer, adding Penny to the mix, I was concerned that maybe we’d mess up the good thing we had going.  Michael and I have long discussed adding an older child to the family dynamic one of these days, either through fostering, adoption, or as we are doing now, through foreign exchange.  We were both worried that we would not be able to relate to a teenager, and we both wanted something of a trial run at it before we actually parented a teen.  We accepted Penny into our home, with all her previous 18 years of experience, background, how she was raised by her parents, none of which we knew.  We did not understand her culture, nor did she understand ours. 

Our time with her has not been without its challenges.  We have had two major disagreements in the past 3 months since she’s been here.  Nothing has been un-resolve-able, but it has been more difficult to sit down with a fully functioning nearly-adult human being and tell them they have to do x, y, or z and have them inform you that they do not share in your opinions and will do whatever the heck they feel like doing.  And then to have to dole out “punishment” or restrictions to get them back into line. 

When Leah was about 6 months old, I went through a difficult period where I was exhausted, going through a lot of issues with my family, and just wanted time to myself.  The task of parenting was nearly overwhelming and someone told me that if I couldn’t handle it, I should just “give her back”.  During the past week when we had some trying times with Penny, several people asked if we couldn’t just send her packing.

As a mom, there is no turning back.  Whether taking in someone else’s infant to raise and love and care for or someone else’s teenager who needs a safe and happy place to call home for 10 months, I have made a commitment to both of my girls that will extend for the rest of my life as long as either of them wants me.    Leah has helped me get in touch with my inner child, has given me confidence that I can be the person who matters like no other and in whom she can totally trust and depend and I can return that love on a level I never knew possible.  Penny and I have a very close relationship in which we are able to share each other’s stories, play games, bake, and hang around together.  She has helped me remember my essential me-ness:  that is I am not just what everyone else “needs” me to be, I am a person with my own interests and opinions and experiences who has something to offer the world if I choose to do it.  I can relate to a teenager and I can be there for her as she needs or doesn’t need me to be.  Having Penny has helped me draw closer to my own parents (I called my mom early on in the school year and apologized for any time I’d ever been a pain in the ass; last week I called my dad and he happy reminded me of all the similar battles we went through when I was in high school to give me some perspective), has made me realize I’m not that old, taught me about the world and my own country, and brought me a new “daughter” who I adore.

Being a mom has been the most challenging and rewarding job ever, and I would not have traded these last 18 months for anything.  Every night I whisper to Leah “you’re my favorite part of every day” before heading downstairs to bond with Penny some more.  My life is an embarrassment of riches, and I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

W.W.W. Wednesday

MizB of Should Be Reading sponsors WWW Wednesdays.  I doubt I will participate in this one as often since my reading doesn’t change all that much from week to week lately.  However, I’ll enjoy participating when my reading selections do change.

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

* What are you currently reading?
* What did you recently finish reading?
* What do you think you’ll read next?

1.  I am currently reading two books.  The first is The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.  It is a book club selection, a book I had never heard of before it was chosen for book club.  So far, I’m enjoying it.  Hopefully this is a good sign for the rest of the book club year!  The second book is Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen.  It was an impulse buy when I recently had an hour to myself in the local bookstore and a gift card from my birthday to burn.  I am enjoying it a lot and am glad I picked it up (Thanks, Wendy, for the gift card!)

2.  I recently finished the first book in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Lightning Thief.  It was a fun read, quick and easy and engaging.

3.  I have the next Percy Jackson book, which I may read next.  I was also plowing through Galahad at Blandings and The Great American Typo Hunt before I put them aside for the two books mentioned in Question/Answer #1.  This is a common problem I have, actually.  I’ll be happily reading along in a great book, and then other great books come along, so I put down the first books to start the new ones.  I need to develop some kind of follow through!  Anyone else do this?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

At present I am reading 2 books, so I’ll post a teaser for each.

“The walls seemed to sag around us.  The toast wavered in the air.”

                                         --The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
                                            (Aimee Bender)

“What of religion itself?  Clouds, tornadoes, sins awhirl before some imagined but necessary altar—a Perfect Storm of jingoism!”

                                        --Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
                                           (Rhoda Janzen)

Many thanks to Sarah at Run, Bake, Read for a fun new Tuesday something-to-do!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Whirlwind Weekend

This is one of those weekend that got so busy and so crazy so quickly that you’re almost glad it’s Monday.  Except that I don’t have back up to keep Leah entertained on Monday. But it’s nice to have her to myself today!

Last Tuesday, we got the mail and in it was a little postcard from Lisner Auditorium.  I was sitting on the back porch when Penny brought the mail up and as I read the postcard, I yelled, “Holy sh**!” and ran in the house to buy my tickets for Cinematic Titanic, the live MST3K show.  I got a great seat and emailed my friend Joe and asked him to go with me, since we spent a good deal of college watching MST3K. 

Friday night, we met up at the Lisner and headed over to Bertucci’s for dinner.  It was a big night for us, every October on some nebulous date, we celebrate one more year of friendship, and this year we celebrated being friends for 16 years.  I brought him some fun cards and he paid for dinner.  Due to the crappy service at Bertucci’s, we sat around for 90 minutes, but it was a fun time to reminisce and talk about life now and I got to preview his new comic book, which is amazing.  (way to go, Joe!)

P1080545 The show was spectacular.  I laughed for 2 1/2 solid hours.  The movie was predictably horrible.  Although the postcard read for something like “Battle of the Insects”, the real name of the movie was Genocide.  (But as they pointed out, who wants to say they went to the theater to see genocide, and even worse, who wants to say they laughed at it?)  When Joel Hodgson stepped out on stage, the whole theater erupted.  One of the cast members said, “MST3K fans are the best fans in the world.  You know why?  Because the show has been off the air for 12 years and you’re still packing auditoriums!”  WOO HOO!!!!

The movie was horrible—I was actually bored of it, although not of the experience, but I was just like, “Come on already!”  As the MST3K cast riffed on the movie, there was a chance for them to interact with the audience depending on how we reacted to their jokes, so it was just amazing.  Joe and I agreed to bookmark it and if they ever come back to DC, sign us up!

Afterwards, we got on line to get autographs.  I had dug out my old VHS tapes, which Joe was extremely impressed at their condition.  And I had picked up a couple of DVD’s at Borders the night before.  The line was quite long but moved rather quickly and it was exciting to get up there and talk to the cast.  Joel said hello and shook my hand (I’ll never wash it again! haha) and then signed my tapes and I moved on down the line.  For some reason, one of my DVD sets piqued their interest as none of them had seen it before.  Go figure!  It was awesome to meet Trace Beaulieu (unrecognizable without the crazy hair) and Frank Conniff, who looks exactly the same as he did as TV’s Frank.  I shook hand with all of them and they were all so nice.  Joe and I were beside ourselves.


I got home around midnight, and I was exhausted, but I knew the cavalry was coming.  Saturday morning, I got up and we got Leah ready to go to Woodbridge to spend they day with Auntie Melissa.  We drove her up there and dropped her and a pile of toys off and then came home.  Penny was waiting for us, and she told us she missed Leah as soon as we walked in the door! :-D    She had Homecoming on Saturday night, so she was excited to go dancing with her friends.  I spent the day cleaning up the house, which I am happy to report is still pretty clean even though Hurricane Leah has been home a full day now.  It only took me a few hours and then everything was more or less up to snuff—I need to wash the floors, but other than that, I’m in good shape, vacuuming, dusting, and surfaces all complete.

Penny’s friend Ashley came over around 4:30 to do her hair and make up and I sat down and watched a zombie prank on YouTube that my buddy Steve had posted to his Facebook.  I was laughing so hard Penny and Ashley came down to see what the heck was going on.  I don’t know where the Japanese get off making this kind of stuff, but it is HILARIOUS.  I was crying I was laughing so hard, mainly because I could totally picture Leah kicking the zombie in the back.  If you want to see it, click here.

P1080553 Afterwards, we got Penny dressed and took a few photos before going up the hill to see the family of the young man she was taking to the dance, who happened to be Ashley’s cousin.  He was all dressed up and ready to go, so we all took a bunch of pictures and then Ashley, Penny, and JB headed out and Michael and I came home to go have a quiet dinner somewhere.  We decided on Ruby Tuesday’s.  We went to the one in Central Park, but it was JAMMED, so we took off and went to the one on Mine Road, where we had a delightful meal.

We came home and decided it was a perfect night to spark up the firepit and have some smores and our neighbor Jett came over to say hello while we were out there.  We chatted with him for a while till the fire died out and then retreated to the warmth of the house just in time to get the call that Penny was on her way home.  I downloaded the new Sara Bareilles song King of Anything, which has become my new anthem of the moment and when Penny arrived, we were debriefed on the fun of homecoming, at which it seems she had a great time, and that was confirmed looking at her pictures!

Sunday, Melissa brought Leah home, although Leah didn’t particularly care if she was brought home or not (between you and me, I think she enjoys the spoiling she gets up there).  We took Melissa out to lunch as a thank you for watching our girl and then she headed out and I made a big pot of tomato sauce for my family for dinner, since I was heading up to NPR.  I had planned to bake pumpkin cookies, but frankly, I fell asleep.  The only thing that woke me up at 4:00 was my mother-in-law calling to talk to Penny. :-)  Since I needed to leave around 4:30, it was just as well.  I got up and found Penny and called back to Rhode Island and got myself together and headed out to WAMU, with a quick stop to get gas.  I don’t know how it happened, but I saved 60 cents on gas at Giant, which was awesome.  I thought I’d save about 40 cents, which would have been good enough, but 60 cents is even better!

Wamu I got to WAMU at 6:10 or so and found my preferred table was back where I wanted it to be.  My sister walked in and a bat-shit crazy part of me was so happy to see her that I even smiled at her, which she completely ignored and sat elsewhere with her husband.  I found his presence interesting on a number of levels that I can’t really go into.  Anyway, it was a good night, we raised $35,000 in 3 hours.  I only took about 8 calls and not for big money, but a lot of people were getting small donations that apparently added up to a bunch of money in the end.  A place called Tonic (I think) provided the meal, which was a chicken pasta dish, bbq chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots, salad, cupcakes and brownies.  The food was very good, especially the salad.  I picked up 5 or 6 new books from the table, which was cool, read a lot of my book club book, and I was home by 11:30.  I’m looking forward to the February campaign!

Good thing too since Michael’s carpool driver didn’t sleep last night (I know the feeling), so he had to get me up at 6:00 to go and take him to the train.  It was actually nice, though, as I got to spend some time with Penny before she left for school, and I was able to write out her note for missing a couple days for our upcoming trip.  I took a hot shower and now I’ve been able to fill in my blog updates! WOW!

By some miracle, it’s 7:45 and Leah is still sleeping!  It was most definitely an awesome weekend.  My father once told my sister that I didn’t understand the importance of feeding the soul.  Well I do, and this weekend, I fed it by just being me and having a whole lot of fun.  And can I just say, walking into a clean house is a real boon to the spirits!  I’ve been beating myself up mentally a lot lately, and this was just one of those weekends that let me put things into perspective.

Coming up, I will finish off my grad school applications—I am waiting on one more letter of recommendation—and we are heading out for my mom’s 60th birthday soon.  Penny and I will spend a day at Disney World, her first time there.  She has triple and quadruple invitations to Halloween parties, so she has to decide what she wants to do about Halloween and I have decided to skip the Rally to Restore Sanity to preserve my own sanity so I can take the girls to the pumpkin patch and we can carve pumpkins and whatnot.  The annual Kosior Fall Festival—I want it to happen! :)

Ta ta for now!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Miss Julia Renews Her Vows

miss-julia-renews-her-vows I have long been a fan of the Miss Julia books.  Recently, however, I was disappointed with the last book, Miss Julia Paints the Town, and so when I heard there was a new Miss Julia on her way, I felt like maybe I’d hate it.  I’ve been shucking off series here and there that haven’t kept my interest (for instance, I haven’t read a Diane Mott Davidson mystery in a long time, nor did I make the leap to Jan Karon’s new Father Tim books despite enjoying the Mitford series immensely until the last couple).  Still, I never flat out quit reading a series until I give it a fair shake, so I decided that I would read the latest Ann B. Ross offering, Miss Julia Renews her Vows, and see if Miss Julia was worth continuing.

***SPOILER ALERT:  If you are just starting out with this series, you may find information contained herein that will tell you what happens later on in the books.  Be forewarned that you may want to stop if you don’t want to know what happens with the characters in future novels.

I started the book earlier this year, snagging a copy on sale at a local bookstore as soon as I saw it was out.  I read the first chapter and thought, “Oh jeez” and put it aside.  The book begins with Miss Julia breaking the news to her considerable social circle that Hazel Marie and Mr. Pickens have gotten themselves hitched.  Hazel Marie is embarrassed to have the word come out at the same time that she has to announce she is pregnant with twins, as she knows the town gossips’ tongues will be wagging about her eloping and being in a family way.  Miss Julia arranges to have a luncheon and concocts a story to cover Hazel Marie and JD’s “extra-curricular activities.” 

As I started reading all this, I was like, “This is so unnecessarily complicated!”  The charm of the Miss Julia books, for me, come in thinking about a very proper old lady who gets thrown into circumstances in which she has to act against a lifetime of rules she has invented about what good breeding entails in one’s behavior.    But let’s face it, Hazel Marie is Miss Julia’s dead husband’s former mistress.  No one expects that Hazel Marie is necessarily a paragon of virtue, no matter how she acts now that she is somewhat “reformed”.  Add to that the fact that Mr. Pickens is married 4 times now and there’s really not much to worry about.

Fortunately, however, Ross strays away from this story line as Miss Etta Mae Wiggins calls from the police station and pleads with Miss Julia to come down and bail her out, as she is being interrogated, suspected of bashing in the head of one of her clients.  Meanwhile, Miss Julia’s pastor has invited Pastor Fred back to conduct marriage enrichment classes, which Miss Julia’s husband, Sam, agrees to attend in support of the church.  Both these events send shockwaves through Miss Julia’s household, and she does her best to help Etta Mae and avoid Pastor Fred at all costs.

Both of those parts of the book showcase Miss Julia at her finest.  This was not even close to my favorite Miss Julia book, but it was good enough that I was inspired to continue reading the series for now.  I’ll be glad in the next book to find out if Hazel Marie gives birth to two girls named Lillian and Julia, as I suspect she will, or if Ross has something else up her sleeve.  3 out of 5 stars on

Miss Julia Renews her Vows also fulfills my last requirement for the What's In a Name? Challenge by giving me a title with a title in it, the title being “Miss”.  To sum up, I read:

Body of Water:  Your Oasis on Flame Lake (Lorna Landvik) (review here)
Food: Leftovers (Laura Wiess) (review here)
Music: Secrets from the Vinyl Cafe (Stuart McLean) (review here)
Place Name: Moloka’i (Alan Brennert) (review here)
Plant: Columbine (Dave Cullen) (review here)
Title: Miss Julia Renews Her Vows (Ann B. Ross)

There is not one book I read for this challenge that I did not like.  I think I got lucky with this challenge, since ever single one of them was excellent and I was able to use many of them to cover other challenges as well.  Many thanks to Beth F. for hosting the challenge and I’m pleased I was able to complete it, although I’m not sure I used a single book in my sign up blog entry as I planned to!

It also is my second selection for the TwentyTen Book Challenge as a “New in 2010” title selection.  I have only 3 books left, 1 each in the categories of To Be Read, Bad Blogger, and Older Than You, and I have roughly 3 months to complete it!  I think I’ll get there.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Bitches With Books

October marks the last month of any given year of our book club’s schedule.  This October was particularly special, in that I had asked all the women in the club if they would grant me a wish and come down to Fredericksburg once for book club.  I haven’t hosted a meeting in my home since November 2004, when we lived in Centreville, because the commute to the ‘burg is insane.  I was pleased when everyone agreed to come on down and lose out on a Saturday of their precious weekend to come to my place and talk book.

Last month’s meeting got a little rowdy, and while we were all laughing and crying and enjoying ourselves, Lauren suggested that we should include a night at the bingo hall at the end of book club as part of the F’burg experience.  Then I was beyond excited!  So it was set, October 2 was books and bingo day.

I selected The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger as my book for this year.  I love going to book club and discussing the books, don’t get me wrong, but I also wanted to shake things up a little bit and try something new.  Since I knew we’d have a good amount of time between book club and bingo, I decided to change our format of eating and discussing to include arts and crafts hour.

Cecily contacted Steve and he agreed to call into the club meeting at 2:00pm.  We were scheduled to start the meeting at 1pm, but of course with a car fire on I95, everyone got to the house around 1:30.  We tucked into our food (Dinner theme:  What would you serve if your favorite celebrity came to dinner?), and then discussed the book for a few minutes until the phone rang and Steve was ready to chat with us!

He is a fascinating book club speaker and talked with us for about 45 minutes.  He told us lots of stories about how the book came to be, who the characters were, and so forth, and a hilarious story about the Tony Awards (seriously, if you ever have him call into your club, ask him about that one!). 

Afterwards, I finished off with one of my favorite quotes in the book and then it was time to set the schedule for next year.  We have an awesome round up of books coming up this year (see below for the list) and I’m really excited to get reading!!!  We asked Penny to take a group photo as well.  She agreed, but we had pre-arranged that after we took one regular shot, we would all make a peace sign like Penny does in most of her pictures.  Oh my gosh, she was so embarrassed and laughing.  it was ADORABLE!


The it was time to get busy and do some crafty fun!  I asked each member to bring a picture of someone who had changed their life and be ready to talk about it.  We went around the circle with our pictures and everyone started talking about the person who influenced them.  More than a few tears were shed as we talked about moms and best friends and teachers and aunts and uncles.  It was a special and moving experience that I can’t hope to capture here, but it was awesome to be a part of. 

Then I got out all my scrapbooking materials and we set up shop on the coffee table.  Pretty soon scraps of paper were flying, stickers were being exchanged, and projects began to take shape.  I’m so glad I decided to do something a little different—I think it was a whole lot of fun for everyone and gave us all a lot to think about.


36045_476435517497_733927497_6747248_1024638_n 36045_476435522497_733927497_6747249_1965098_n 36045_476435527497_733927497_6747250_6862242_n 36173_476435487497_733927497_6747247_255984_n 58156_476435567497_733927497_6747252_2456878_n 58156_476435572497_733927497_6747253_8322364_n

The person I selected was the school librarian from my school growing up.  I first remember meeting Mrs. Collins (at the time, Miss LeBel) when I was in kindergarten and she really inspired me with what has become a lifetime love of reading.  In 1998, when I had moved home and was trying to figure out what to do with my life, Mrs. Collins would request me all the time as her sub when she was out.  In the spring of 1999, she asked me to be her long term sub while she battled cancer, a fight she ultimately won.  Then she was diagnosed with MS and retired from the library.  This spring, I was lucky enough to see her at my dad’s retirement party, and introducing her to my husband and my daughter was a special moment for me.  Then I sat down with her and began to talk about the new crossroads in my life:  what’s next?  What am I going to do with myself after Leah doesn’t need me full time any more?  Mrs. Collins responded, “You would make a great librarian.” 

So here I am now applying to library school, the final push in the right direction having been applied.  And I have asked Mrs. C to write me a reference.

Back to book club…

After we all finished our projects and shared them, we had some time to hang out and relax until bingo.  We started packing up at about 5:45 and headed over to Wawa for some extra provisions in case our meeting leftovers didn’t hold out.  We got to bingo a trifle bit late, so we all had to cram around a table for 6 (and there were 7 of us and the people next to us were not giving an inch!). 

Luck held.  Melissa won big, $100, her first ever bingo win!  For most of the night, we were all sitting around laughing, eating, and hoping for big winnings, but Melissa was the lucky draw.  Then a few games later, my number came up at the exact same time 6 other people’s lucky number came up, so I won a whopping $14.  Ah well, it nearly paid my admission! :)  A win is a win is a win, right?

 46282_476435782497_733927497_6747267_3057941_n 62448_476435727497_733927497_6747264_3974830_n

39593_476435397497_733927497_6747241_3047415_nAnyway, at the meeting, we officially agreed that a) we would change our names from NoVa Lit Chicks to Bitches with Books and that b) Books and Bingo will now be an annual event and I’ll get to host, so I am over the moon excited with how great that is.  My favorite girls, my favorite game, my favorite hobby!  What gets better than that? 


Bitches With Books Year 7 Reading List

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkaner
The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
A Scattered Life by Karen McQuestion

and 4 choices to be named later.  Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


colum I have been wanting to read the book Columbine by Dave Cullen for months now.  I’ve had it on my PBS wish list, but the numbers have never gone down substantially.  This past week, I started taking Leah to Mother Goose story hour at our local library and while we were wandering around afterwards, I spotted the book in the lobby and snagged it.  After finishing Moloka’i, I knew I would have to find something similarly gripping, and I hoped Columbine would be it.

I was not disappointed.  Before I sat down, I tried to recall the things I thought I knew about Columbine.  When it happened, my husband and I were on our first vacation as a couple together.  We had gotten a condo down in Myrtle Beach SC (with my mom! haha)  and were spending a lot of time as beach bums, but that morning, Mom had gotten a call or something that there was something going on and to put on CNN.  We spent the entire day watching the events unfold.  I remember watching “The Boy in the Window” being rescued and the kids streaming out of the building to safety.  I remembered Cassie Bernall’s story of martyrdom, I remembered the Trench Coat Mafia, and the names of the killers, Eric and Dylan.  I remembered one teacher had been killed.  Other than that, I didn’t remember a whole lot. 

The book reads like a novel.  It is so interesting.  Cullen is considered one of the foremost journalism experts on what happened at Columbine and he used his considerable research to write a book that covers Eric Harris’s detailed planning and psychopathy, as well as Dylan Klebold’s suicidal depression and dependence on Eric.  Cullen read through the boys’ journals and watched their tapes, interviewed witnesses and family members of the victims, and meticulously detailed everything to write a book so gripping and compelling that I was reading it straight through for several days in whatever bits and pieces I could.  If I could read a paragraph, I literally would take the opportunity to do so.

Most of what I thought I knew about Columbine turned out to be false.  Harris and Klebold weren’t a couple of losers who hatched a hare-brained scheme to get back at the jocks at school.  They weren’t members of a goth gang of kids.  Cassie Bernall was never asked if she believed in God by the killers nor did she profess her faith before she was shot.  I was so happy to read about The Boy in the Window (Patrick Ireland) and other survivors and hear about their recoveries and what happened to many of them.  It was interesting to hear about how families of those killed dealt with their grief in constructive and destructive ways.

Additionally, what went on after the massacre took place may shock you as much as what went on before and during.  This was a great book and Michael and I talked a lot about it while I was reading.  Oddly enough, he and I were married on the anniversary of the Columbine attack, 3 years later.  Neither of us remembered that it had occurred that day when we were planning our wedding and were reminded after setting the planning wheels in motion. 

5 Stars on  Highly recommended!  This also counts towards my “What’s In a Name?” Challenge total, as a title with a plant name in it.  Columbine is Colorado’s state flower, and as you can see, it is a beautiful plant.


Thursday, September 16, 2010


It’s been a while since I did a book review.  This is for two reasons.

  1. I haven’t felt like reading much.
  2. I’ve had a book hanging over my head for book club that I Did. Not. Want. To. Read.

Every year when the calendar ticks over on a book club year, I make a solemn vow that I will read every single book.  And every year I fail miserably.  Someone always picks a book about a topic that does not interest me, and this year was no different with 2 books focused on Asia.

Then Melissa joins the book club and due to her attendance record in her early membership and someone else dropping out, I let her pick the September book.  And she chose Moloka’i by Alan Brennert.  She chose this based on the fact that Lesley liked the book so well and blogged about it in 2009.  She seems to like the books that Lesley reads and she spends a lot of time not liking the books that I like to read.  This is hilarious.  Lesley and Melissa are both two of the best friends a girl could ask for, and neither one of them has any taste in literature.  Haha  I say this because I hate everything either one of them loves.  It’s a wonder we’re friends.

So when I found out that Melissa chose it due to Lesley’s glowing review, I immediately knew I was going to hate it.  I went to Lesley’s blog and read her review and thought, “Well, crap.”  And reading a summary of the book induced similar thoughts.  Because, a) I have no interest in the history of Hawai’i and b) sweeping epic novels of any sort of history just turn me off almost immediately.  That’s why I’ve been unsuccessfully attempting to read Gone With the Wind for 3 years now.  Moloka’i spans something like 70+ years. 

Still, I went over to a local bookstore and picked up a copy when a search of my local library proved fruitless and the list on Paperback Swap wasn’t getting any shorter.  I figured I could always swap it for something else.  I read the first several chapters in early August and then put it aside.  There was something about it that was already way too sad and I couldn’t bear the thought of reading about Rachel being torn from her family and forced to live in a colony far away from the people she loved.

31 Before I get any further ahead of myself, Moloka’i is the story of Rachel Kalama, a 7-year-old living in Hawai’i with her mother, sister, and two brothers.  Her father is a sailor and is away from home for months at a time, but is a devoted family man.  Hansen’s Disease (commonly known as leprosy) has broken out in Hawai’i at the same time the government is being deposed, and young Rachel contracts the disease.  She is found out as being a leper and sent off to the leper colony at Moloka’i, far from her family and home and beloved father.  The book is a testament to Rachel’s strength from the beginning to the end of her life, as I say from age 7 to well into her 70’s.

On Sunday, with book club looming on Monday, I decided to re-visit Moloka’i.  I wanted to at least give it an honest effort.  As I  first began to read, I was totally overwhelmed with sadness.  I literally cried every 2 or 3 pages.  But I was also increasingly captivated by Rachel’s story.  I can’t tell you why exactly.  As I went along, my tears dried up, and in fact, I became almost numb to the death and destruction that was apparently commonplace in a leper colony. Even when my favorite character, Henry, dies later on in the book (I’m really not giving anything away, given the span of time the book covers and the subject matter, you can bet most people will be dead by the time you close the back cover), I felt strangely removed from the grief I felt early on in the book.  I started to think maybe something was wrong with me.

Anyway, I didn’t get the last 70 pages read in time for book club.  We had an amazing meeting, literally laughing and crying together, renaming the club B*tches with Books, and just had one of those magical meetings I will remember for a long time.  As member Lauren put it, “There was definitely something in the air tonight.”  But when I got home, I was more determined than ever to finish Moloka’i.  I picked up in bits and pieces what happened at the end, but in fact, I didn’t feel like the discussion ruined anything for me.  I still felt pretty surprised by what went on.  And when I read the Endnote, the floodgates opened, and I had myself a good cry.

Moloka’i is, God strike me dead, an amazing book that Lesley may have been right about.  Hey, it was bound to happen sooner or later!!!  I did tend to skim the Hawai'ian folk lore sections and the mythology, but I loved reading the character’s reactions to modern inventions like airplanes and movies when they were brought to Moloka’i.  This was a great book and I highly recommend it.  Just have a box of tissues handy at the beginning and the end.  Five Stars on

Book Challenges:

This book  counts as a “Bad Blogger” book for the Twenty-Ten Challenge and as my Place Name book for the What's In a Name challenge.  I need to read 2 more for WIAN? and 5 more for Twenty-Ten.  Woo hoo!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Ready for a Break

This past two months has been tiring with all the business going on with my arm, but the past several weeks have been a nightmare of activity!!! 

Tonight, I am sitting in the basement coloring in price tags so they’re the correct color for the upcoming consignment sale at which I plan to sell of a bunch of baby clothes that either got dumped here in May or else were Leah’s.  So I spent last night sorting clothes and today Cindy came over and we re-sorted and tagged most of it.  Since she’s left, I’ve gotten all but the 0-3 month clothes tagged and bagged.  Which means as soon as I think I’m done, I’ll find stuff I missed.

This week we had a lot of appointments.  Penny had 2 events at school plus a meeting with her AFS liaison, and I had 3 medical appointments for my arm.  After my last orthopedist appointment on Thursday, I noticed Leah had developed some sort of rash around her mouth and wound up taking her to the doctor.  Fortunately, she is fine and has nothing more than a bad cold.  Unfortunately, she has shared the cold with her big sister, so now both girls are miserable and stuck in bed.  Happily, on my own health front, I have completed physical therapy successfully (and made a new friend in the process!) and have been discharged from the orthopedist.  I am allowed to lift up to 30 pounds and drive again (little did they know!).  The risk of re-dislocating my elbow is slim to none.  It would have to be another gross act of stupidity on my part.  So that’s a huge relief to know, although I am not terribly graceful so it’s possible I could do something else idiotic at any moment!

All this week, The Chief has been taking a class up at Quantico.  He has had to go in early, which means he has had to take the train, which means I’ve had to get up early to drive over there.  I thought today would be the last day, but unfortunately for me, his regular driver will be on a much-deserved vacation until Wednesday, so Tuesday, which is Penny’s first day of school and Leah’s first day of school (I’ve signed her up for Toddlin’ Time, a local music and exercise Mommy N Me program here in town), I also have to squeeze in a ride to and from the train station.

Housekeeping, needless to say, has fallen by the wayside.  I managed to get the rabbit cleaned out this week and I cleaned out the fridge.  Other than that: nothing.  Which means I have a lot of catching up I need to do. 

Recently, a link to The Introvert's Corner appeared on a new friend’s Facebook page.  I read over a lot of it, and really related to the idea that my energy comes from internally, meaning I need time to myself to recharge my batteries and be the best me I can be.  Keeping up with my family has not afforded me much opportunity to do so!  I admit, I am loving every minute of having Penny here, and I do think I’m going to feel a little bit (ok, a lot bit) lost come Tuesday when she boards the big yellow school bus and heads off to school.  But I am looking forward to getting Leah back on a schedule that allows me to have an hour or two each day to myself.  I am exhausted.

It’s funny, but all this has turned my thoughts towards family and expansion.  I have 3 friends right now who are pregnant and expecting early next year.  2 of them already have young children at home, and 2 of their children are not much older than Leah is.  And I’ll be honest, there is nothing in this world that could entice me right now to take on a newborn.  I think, “My God, you must be crazy!”  Leah is at a stage right now where she does not give a damn about toys or TV.  There are 3 things in the world that make her happy:  running through the house in her shoes, playing with buckets of water on the back porch, and taking walks around the neighborhood.  Period.  The idea that I could go back to getting up every 2 hours with a newborn and then have to chase around an extremely active toddler all day appeals to me not one bit.

Not to mention the fact that The Chief has been busily applying for jobs in the DC area and informed me that if he gets one, I’ll have to take him to the train every morning.  Thus did I immediately think of Steve Martin in the movie Parenthood when he utters the phrase, “My whole life is have to”.

My neighbor Lisa and I were walking today with the kids and talking about how everyone is asking about the long weekend and who’s doing what, and how every day and every weekend is the exact same to us, and what would we even dream of doing with a 3 day weekend.  I would check into a hotel on a beach, someplace warm and sunny.  In the morning, I’d get up and have my nice continental breakfast, go change into a swimsuit and shorts, grab a book, sit by the water and pretend to read while I actually slept for about 3 hours, during which time someone else would clean up my living space.  Then I’d get up and have a nice lunch somewhere nearby that I didn’t have to drive to, head back to my newly clean room and fall asleep for another 4 or 5 hours, get up, walk somewhere else for dinner, head down to the beach, call a friend or family member, and then go up and sleep some more.  I would probably feel incredibly guilty the entire time, but I’d do it.

Anyway, I think all this fatigue and chasing and food in my hair and the actual work of parenting, which you don’t really believe in until your baby is here, has helped assuage some of my ongoing feelings of grief over our infertility.  Or at least I no longer think “WHYYYYYYYYYYYY!?!?!?!” when I hear someone else is expecting.  I think, “Sucker!” :-D  But I would not trade either my toddler or my teen for all the tea in China.  I love them both dearly.

So now I am going back up to the living room to finish sorting and tagging and then will hit the hay.  Tomorrow is another weigh in and the farmers market and then I might just put The Chief in charge while I take a long nap.  Have I always had this history of biting off more than I can chew, but managing to get it done anyway?  Don’t answer that! :-D