Sunday, December 28, 2008

Entertainment Overload

I feel like I should be scooping bits of gray matter off the floor as I type. Surely my brain has exploded. I have stuffed it with so much "input" the past week that I feel headachy! I've been on a book binge. Some sort of colonic of the head after 1776 - I've picked up new books by all my old favorite authors - books that you can read in an afternoon and I've read one of them each afternoon until the words are swimming on the page. I know there are bloggers out there dedicated to books that do that on a regular basis but it's a bit much for me.

And I've been pursuing the Holiday Movie Marathon - three full length features at the theater in three days. I started out with a girlfriend at The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - at a whopping two hours forty-eight minutes that almost counts as 1.5 movies. Then Youngest and I saw High School Musical 3 and the next day, Bedtime Stories. None will make my Favorite Movie A-Z list but they were a fun diversion during the long vacation days.

And I've been playing like a fiend on Facebook. My bro and I are trading top spots on the geography game which actually requires a bit of brain power for me - geography is not my strong suit and there's a whole section on flags, some from countries I've never even heard of.

So that's my exploding skull scenario - too much stuff to stuff into this tiny brain. I'm reading furiously the "last book", an Anita Shreve which I'm half way through and have just now figured out has a character that was also in Weight of Water which I DID NOT LIKE (twice). So I'm a little perturbed but trying to keep going and keep an open mind. This is the end, the last book, before I settle back into reality - what with going back to work tomorrow AND my book club selection arrived from Amazon and it's a historical fiction about Frank Lloyd Wright which sounds interesting but will be more difficult reading than the all the lazy afternoon ladies I've been spending my days with.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

From Picoult's website: When Daniel Stone was a child, he was the only white boy in a native Eskimo village where his mother taught, and he was teased mercilessly because he was different. He fought back, the baddest of the bad kids: stealing, drinking, robbing and cheating his way out of the Alaskan bush – where he honed his artistic talent, fell in love with a girl and got her pregnant. To become part of a family, he reinvented himself – jettisoning all that anger to become a docile, devoted husband and father. Fifteen years later, when we meet Daniel again, he is a comic book artist. His wife teaches Dante’s Inferno at a local college; his daughter, Trixie, is the light of his life – and a girl who only knows her father as the even-tempered, mild-mannered man he has been her whole life. Until, that is, she is date raped…and Daniel finds himself struggling, again, with a powerlessness and a rage that may not just swallow him whole, but destroy his family and his future.

I will surely win the blog award for most boring reviewer when I say yet again, about yet another book, "This book was good, but not her best". Can I think of anything else to say? Perhaps a little. As the synopsis above would imply, the father, Daniel, is supposed to be a pivotal character in this book. But I really couldn't get "into" Daniel. The Eskimo thing, the comic book thing, the stay at home dad thing - it all just wasn't my thing. I thought the daughter was fascinating, the mom was very interesting too - even her lectures about Dante's Inferno - which didn't interest me one whit when I was in school! The story started off a little bit slow but midway through, it all of a sudden got pretty interesting and the pace stayed good until the end.

I loved My Sister's Keeper that was my first Jodi Picoult book. I worried when I finished it, knowing that she had so many others already out, "Did I read the best one first? Am I going to be disappointed by all the others?" And if this were my only book to judge her by, I'd have to say, yes, I read the better book first. But everyone I have talked to says others are good too. So I am going to raid Bookworm's bookshelf at some point and read some more of Jodi Picoult before I pass my Final Judgment. Which circle of hell do you suppose is reserved for boring bloggers?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Remember Me by Sophie Kinsella

From the back cover: When twenty-eight-year-old Lexi Smart wakes up in a London hospital, she’s in for a big surprise. Her teeth are perfect. Her body is toned. Her handbag is Vuitton. Having survived a car accident—in a Mercedes no less—Lexi has lost a big chunk of her memory, three years to be exact, and she’s about to find out just how much things have changed, Somehow Lexi went from a twenty-five-year-old working girl to a corporate big shot with a sleek new loft, a personal assistant, a carb-free diet, and a set of glamorous new friends. And who is this gorgeous husband—who also happens to be a multimillionaire? With her mind still stuck three years in reverse, Lexi greets this brave new world determined to be the person she…well, seems to be. That is, until an adorably disheveled architect drops the biggest bombshell of all. Suddenly Lexi is scrambling to catch her balance. Her new life, it turns out, comes complete with secrets, schemes, and intrigue. How on earth did all this happen? Will she ever remember? And what will happen when she does?

Sophie Kinsella has a formula that works - quirky young English girl entangled with filthy rich English stud. It's a formula that results in fun - madcap adventures, lots of expensive name dropping, great English slang. It's fluff but it's right up my alley. I had to laugh when I went to Sophie Kinsella's website and there was a reading guide for the book. If my book club chose this book, there would be no discussion. It would be a quick, yeah, that was fun, where's the wine? How can you have a discussion about fluff? Well, I guess I am writing a post about fluff so it may be possible.

I had high humor expectations for this book and, unfortunately, it fell just a little bit short of the mark but I think that has everything to do with my expectations and not so much to do with the book itself. It was the same humor level as Undomestic Goddess - solidly funny. It was not laugh out loud and snort and make your family keep asking you, "Having a good time with that book, Mom?" funny like Can You Keep A Secret was. I wanted Can You Keep A Secret funny so I was a wee bit disappointed. But it was better than the never ending sequels of Shopaholic books so that is good! And, BTW, the original (and best) Shopaholic book is getting ready to come out as a movie - release date is Valentine's Day 2009.

The one bit of "deep thought" I could throw out about this one was the story's moral that you can't pretend to be something you're not and be happy. I have personal experience with this one. Having been a chronic "mover" with Ex-Marine and even in my younger days with my father's somewhat transient job, I have had my share of opportunities where I thought I could just reinvent myself in the new place. I could be the bigger, faster, stronger version of me. That never worked. I'll never forget one particular move when I resolved that at my new job, I would be healthy. On the day of my orientation, my new supervisor offered me a Diet Coke as I was filling out papers That was like offering kibble to a dog - diet Coke was one of my main sources of sustenance. But the "new me" was going to be healthy. So I replied, "No thank you, I brought a bottle of water with me." To which the mew supervisor replied, "Oh God, you're one of those", laughed, and walked off. I kept up the charade for maybe a month before falling utterly and completely off the wagon. The new supervisor ended up being a pretty good pal but her 44oz diet Coke from the 7-11 each morning hung in the air between us like raw meat dangling in a pool of piranhas. Finally I couldn't take it and I was chugging my 44 oz right beside her and, next thing you know, I was smoking too. You just can't pretend to be something you're not!

Christmas - check.

I'm checking off my "to do" list and judging by all the checked off items, with the exception of thank you notes and the accompanying wailing and screaming from Youngest and Tween over having to write them - Christmas is done. Christmas really snuck up on me this year. It was with complete and total surprise that I saw the Advent wreath decorating the sanctuary the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Where did my "cushion weekend" go this year? How is it that I was still reeling from the cooking and traveling of Thanksgiving and all of a sudden Advent was upon us and I was not ready?! So I got busy made my list, checked each item off as accomplished and now ..I'm done. Well, except for Christmas cards too.. but everyone knows not to expect those until the New Year - that's a Just Mom tradition.

Well, there you have it, the meat of many a homily. Christmas doesn't end on December 25th; Christmas begins December 25th. Advent is not the time to be is the time to get ready! Advent is not supposed to be everything is in place already around the house's the open your heart, open your home, and GET READY time. So now that Christmas is here and I, apparently, am ready, what should I do to celebrate?

Today's celebration was quite a lot of work! The morning was unwrapping, and breakfast, and then Mass. After Mass was cleaning from all of the above and then cooking, and eating, and cleaning again. And then, at last, the lazy began!

The lazy today included:
1. Finishing my Sudoko book that I've been working on for months.
2. Reading my Christmas present book, Remember Me, by Sophie Kinsella. (Review to follow.)
3. Reaching another FreeCell milestone - 999,200.
4. Discovering a new game, Bubble Spinner...very difficult!
5. Uploading pictures from the camera to the computer and to Walgreens and maybe I'll even order some...nah.
6. Eating the Godiva chocolates I got from Ex-Marine.

So now that I have indulged myself, I feel like I should make some sort of spiritual plan for celebrating Christmas. Perhaps readign scripture, some sort of extra prayer, attending Mass more often? I'll think on it and get back.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Knitting Under the Influence by Claire Lazebnik

From the back cover: Sometimes it feels like their weekly knitting circle is the only thing that keeps Kathleen, Sari, and Lucy from falling apart. Their fine-gauge scarves may look fabulous, but their lives are starting to unravel.

She who always finishes a book, no matter what, (see post about Gravediggers Daughter or Weight of Water) didn’t really finish this one. I just skimmed it. 40 pages in I knew it was awful but there I was in the doctor's office with nothing else to read so I continued. I just could not care about these characters. I can enjoy frivolous, shallow people - I've watched every episode of Sex in the City, I've read all of Sophie Kinsella - emotional depth is not a requirement in my world. But these girls were bad. They were so one dimensional that they never felt remotely real - I could not have cared less about them or their problems. So I skipped huge chunks of text and just skimmed to find the few parts of the plot that I actually had any curiosity about in order to get to the resolution. The storyline about the child and adult with autism were somewhat interesting, I work with children with autism too. I am not a miracle worker like Sari (because I am real) but that part still piqued my curiosity. And then the laboratory scenes. The lab rat, David, was of some interest as well - I've always had a soft spot for nerdy guys.

Waking up at five o'clock in the morning on Christmas Eve with a throat so sore you feel like every swallow contains shards of broken glass…no fun. Sitting in the hospital waiting for the strep culture results when I should be wrapping and shopping and cooking…no fun. Perhaps all that misery colored my perception of the book. Maybe it's not really that bad. But, with probably 30+ books in my TBR pile,  I am NOT going to reread it to find out. I dropped it in the give away pile as I left the hospital.

Best part of this book - a "send off" at the end with drink recipes. I was tempted to rip those pages out before I dropped the book off. The recipe for "The Cozy Brown Afghan" 1 oz coffee liqueur, 1/2 oz chocolate liqueur, 1/2 oz Irish Cream liqueur, and a chocolate covered cinnamon reception stick sounded like just the thing I needed for my sore throat! But I decided instead to stick with amoxicillin and save the liqueur for later. Here's to later - cheers!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

From the back cover: Every so often I read a book about age, and whoever's writing it says it's great to be old. It's great to be wise and sage and mellow: it's great to be at the point where you understand just what matters in life. I can't stand people who say things like this. What can they be thinking? Don't they have necks?
I loved this book! This is true confessions for women over 40. Nora covers everything from unwanted hair to heels that have the "consistency of a loofah". She's telling my life with her words. Except, of course, that Nora Ephron's life includes fascinating chapters on living in New York and dining with authors and chefs and celebrities, somehow those elements are missing from my world! Like the last book of Nora's that I read, Wallflower at the Orgy, this is not a novel but is a series of essays so in theory you could pick it up and put it down as you read the essays. But I couldn't put it down once I started. I planted my behind on the couch and laughed my way from one cover to the other. That's not completely true - there is death and divorce and other drama so it wasn't really non-stop laugh out loud funny but Nora's spin on things always ends up making you smile in the end.

And then she had her first hit of crack comments.

Word on the street is that comments are addictive. There is a very funny blog post about the stages of blogging that describes the progression from receiving an occasional comment to becoming a "comment whore" where you lose your sense of self just to generate comments. If I can ever remember where I read it, I'll post a link! Philosopher-Mom flirted with the idea of disabling comments so she could "see how blogging 'into the silence' differed in character from blogging with feedback via comments"... in the end, however, she choose not to.

I just had my first experience with comments. My first hit from the pipe of comment crack. I participated in a reading challenge and at the end, I went around to read other folks' wrap-up posts and basically wrote the same ineffectual comment on almost all of them. I have finally figured out the blogging etiquette that if you visit you should say something - even if you really have nothing to say. (The back story to this part "why I have nothing to say" is that the reading challenge that I stumbled on seemed to lean towards Christian fiction. So I would read entire lists of books and not recognize a single author or title because my reading preference leans towards profanity filled smut - not really but it felt that way by comparison. There was the exception of one blog that had a book list of science fiction slash soft porn that was both fascinating and repelling at the same time. Kind of like Nip/Tuck.) So I clicked and commented all over the Internet and then it happened. Many of those bloggers clicked over to my blog, read my wrap-up post, and left a comment. It was a flurry of comment activity! And it was fun! And I immediately contemplated whether or not I should pursue more comments - should I become a comment whore? Because what you want immediately after your first comment is your next comment.

A careful review of my previous blog posts revealed that I lack that "certain something" to become a comment whore. And that "certain something" would be humor. The blogs that get lots of comments have authors who are consistently witty. You are practically guaranteed a chuckle, if not a LOL, just by clicking. They are funny "haha" not funny strange. And so my fleeting time in the spotlight will end here. BUT...I have already planned to participate in the Spring reading challenge so I am looking forward to the deluge of comments to be expected sometime around May 2009.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen

From the dust jacket: It's an otherwise ordinary Monday when Meghan Fitzmaurice's perfect life hits a wall. A household name as the host of "Rise and Shine", the country's highest rated morning television talk show, Meghan cuts to a commercial break - but not before she does something that, in an instant, marks the end of an era, not only for Meghan who is accustomed to dealing with adversity, but also for her younger sister, Bridget.

I was dead tired when I started the book but I had to read the first 35 pages through my half closed eyes just because I was so curious about what the main character, Meghan, does on air to start this ball rolling. Of course, I won't reveal that here! But in actuality the story isn't about that moment, it's about all the repercussions from that moment. It's about the relationship of the two sisters and there was much more delving into the character of the "lesser sister" than I expected, Bridget, the one who wasn't famous but lived her life in her sister's shadow. But isn't that what you find with all good storytellers? It's not the event or the setting or the activities that make the story - it's the relationships.

Anna Quindlen is a favorite author. I've read Black and Blue, Blessings, Object Lessons, and Loud and Clear. Rise and Shine would be in the category of Blessings - a good read but not her best. Black and Blue was the best - at least for me - I like the kind of books that at some point make you feel like you've just been punched in your emotional gut. Object Lessons was not a favorite - my review is here.

Favorite Movies A-Z

Chloe posted this on T-Net and it looked like fun. I'm going to complete it as a stream of consciousness - first movie that comes to mind (that I like, of course) but I reserve the right to go back and refine later!
A - Alladin
B - the Bourne series
C - Cape Fear
D - Devil Wears Prada
E - EDTv
F - Few Good Men, Field of Dreams, and Four Weddings and a Funeral (because I feel Al Pacino, Kevin Costner, and Hugh Grant all need representation!)
G - Gladiator
H - Hairspray
I - Indiana Jones
J - Juno
K- Kiss the Girls
L - Legally Blonde
M - Miss Congeniality
N - Nine Months
O - Officer and a Gentleman
P - Professional
Q - Quantam of Solace ( I know this and I haven't even seen it yet)
R - Remember the Titans
S - Sleepless in Seattle
T -  Top Gun
U - Urban Cowboy
V -  Valley Girl
W - We Are Marshall
X - (haven't seen any and none appeal to me)
Y - You've Got Mail
Z - (haven't seen any and none appeal to me)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy

From the dust jacket...When a new highway threatens to bypass the town of Rossmore and cut through Whitethorn Woods, everyone has a passionate opinion about whether the town will benefit or suffer. But young Father Flynn is most concerned with the fate of St. Ann's Well which is set at the edge of the woods and slated for destruction. People have been coming to St. Ann's for generations to share their dreams and fears, and to speak their prayers.

This is a lovely Maeve Binchy read - gentle tales of a variety of people with an Irish setting. The format of this book was most interesting. Each vignette was told from the viewpoint of the featured character and then the next vignette would be a character somehow related to the first - although they may not even know each other. (It reminded me of the movie "Crash" just with Binchy's slow paced, small town, charm rather than drugs and gun and violence!) I didn't always discover the connection between the vignettes so perhaps she was inconsistent or I was reading too fast.

Fall Into Reading Wrap Up

"My guesstimate of what I will accomplish between now and Christmas - maybe the first four - and then The Pillars of the Earth will do me in and it will all come to a grinding halt.."

Those are my words from September. I did better than I thought I would! I did end up deviating from my original list and if you counted the ones I read since I completely abandoned my original list, I'd look even better! (There's a reason those books on my original list are lingering in my TBR pile - the grass is always greener.)

My favorite book from the challenge was Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard. It was an emotional tale and just wrung me out with crying which is just a good thing every now and again. I'll remember that story while even now looking at some of the other titles, I couldn't do a plot summary without grabbing for the book to review.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into a reading challenge. And this one was such a laid back "come as you are" affair that it was the perfect, no stress beginning for me. Thank you to Katrina for hosting..I'll be back!

Here's what I accomplished -

The Tent by Gary Paulsen

A kids lit book - not as good as his others.

The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates

Didn't care for this one but plowed through.

Object Lessons by Anna Quindlen

Another dud.

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy

Typical Maeve Binchy - gently entertaining.

Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard

My favorite.

The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve

Ugh - not a good one for me.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

I did end up skipping this one - not sure why I find it so intimidating.

The Breakdown Lane by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Good but not her best - that would be Deep End of the Ocean followed closely by Cage of Stars!

Wallflower at the Orgy by Nora Ephron

Interesting collection of magazine articles from the late 60's - fun peek into the culture of the times.

Breakfast with Tiffany

What a great morning. My dear friend, who in the spirit of online anonymity shall now be known as Tiffany, came for breakfast. So, of course, I cooked and I cleaned, and I cooked and I cleaned and it was worth every moment of effort. The menu was sausage-egg breakfast casserole this recipe except that I used all regular milk - no evaporated milk, pineapple angel food cake no recipe for this, just sliced a store bought angel food cake and filled with a mixture of cream cheese, sugar, cool whip, and crushed pineapple - turned out great, and an Entemann's raspberry danish.

The activities were Apples to Apples and Pictureka. Apples to Apples has been a staple at Bookworm's church youth group for awhile but our whole family didn't get in on it until we vacationed with our extended family and the aunt brought it. There is a junior game that would eliminate the occasional racy entry/cuss word but when we bought it for our family we stuck with the grown up version. It's a lot more fun just to have to edit a little bit than to not have the grown up humor that makes it a good time for the adults to play too. When you have the multi-generational game going some of the cultural references are lost on the kids they just don't know who, what, or where but you can look across the table at the other adults and have a little moment. Pictureka came to me courtesy of a blog I follow: Parental Approval.

We polished off the morning out in the yard shooting a BB gun at targets stapled to trees. The Red Ryder BB gun was a gift last Christmas for Tween. Tiffany and I share a love of the movie A Christmas Story so there were many repetitions of "You'll put your eye out." between fits of giggling. Good food, fun games, and weapons - what a perfect morning.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nighttime Is My Time by Mary Higgins Clark

I took a breather from heavy reading to enjoy this Mary Higgins Clark - Nighttime is My Time. (And I continue my fun with the Maeve Binchy I started as soon as I closed  the cover on this one - should be done with that sometime tomorow!)  I would have to look back at the other Mary Higgins Clark books I've read to be certain but I think the central character is always a youngish, attractive, succesful woman. This one is no different. These herioines would be likeable if they were at all realistic but they are too good to be true so you are always vaguely aware that you are immersed in fiction. The rest of the characters are exaggerated to the point of caricature. But I recognize that for what it is - a tool to differentiate such a large cast of characters in the least amount of time.
So readng thus far you might think I didn't actually like the book - my comments aren't very flattering. But that's not true. I love reading Mary Higgins Clark and this was another winner. She comes up with plots that are full of twists and turns, I rarely figure out "who dun it' before the very end of the story. It is escapism and very fun. You know you're reading a contrived story but it's a great story and I always want to read straight through to the end to find out who the villain really is (insert evil laugh here).  

Sunday, December 14, 2008

George Washington, 1776 by David McCullough

I read other people's book reviews and I am so impressed with their insightful comments. We'll have none of that here... my brain is tired out from this book so I am just going to spill out my thoughts and hope they make sense. The book was tough reading for me. My sense of history and geography are not strong. (That's one of the reasons I chose to do this reading challenge - to shore up one of my weak spots.) As I read it, I kept thinking, "This book was on the bestseller list for so long. Are there that many people in America who are smarter than me?" It was a very humbling realization!

The book was not easy to read not only because of my deficits but also because so much of it was focused on the military aspects where I was more interested in the human aspects. I enjoyed reading about some of the minor characters - Molly Corbin who took over the cannon after her husband was wounded, Nate Greene, the young inexperienced soldier that Washington trusted so readily. I do think McCullough did a great job including excerpts from actual letters whenever possible so that you could hear the story from the mouths of those living it. And, he was careful to weave the excerpts smoothly into his narrative so it wasn't a series of rough transitions.

The title, 1776 is a pretty big clue that the story centers on that particular year of the war. But nonetheless it came as a bit of a jolt to me that after the incredible detail recounting the movements of that particular year, McCullough just skimmed over the next six and a half years in a single paragraph to get to the treaty that ended the war. Believe me, I was ready for the book to end, it would not be possible to continue past that year with the same throoughness and have it be a single title - it would be a series. But it still tickled 's the way I wrap up some posts rather abruptly...drone on and on and on and on about nothing and then STOP! Makes me smile just thinking about it - certainly not his intention!

I enjoyed learning about Washington. There were two aspects of his leadership that I want to take away as a lesson. The first was his composure at all times. When I am leading, I sometimes feel like my desire to put the best possible face on things is "Pollyanna-ish" and so I second guess my presentations. But what Washington did was to always conduct himself as a successful leader in public and only divulge his worries and fears to confidants. Now it is a far stretch to compare leading an army into battle to fundraising for the PTO but that's where my brain went. Even when the money isn't coming, it's important to appeal to the people from a position of strength. Your cause is good, sell it. Don't beg for pity and expect folks to follow you out of mercy.

The second item is a quote from Washington, "we must...make the best of mankind as they are, since we cannot have them as we wish." It's like Saint Francis meets a twelve step program - you can't change other people, you just have to accept them as they are and do your best with what you've got. I'm going to try to apply that to my relationships and see how much of my dissatisfaction stems from my wanting others to behave as I think they should rather than accepting them as they are and enjoying them for who they are.

I'm delighted that I have finished my first book for the U.S. President's Reading Project. I'm feeling smarter already.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ice, ice, baby.

I have many cold stories for my years spent in Maine but the one that stands out is the Ice Storm of 1998. It stands out because all the other cold stories have one thing in common - the possibility of being warm - just GO INSIDE! Yeah, it's cold picking apples, raking leaves, watching parades, shoveling show, sledding, making snow angels, and all the other outdoorsy things that make up a Maine fall and winter but you can, at the end, just go inside and get warm again. But the ice storm was different because the ice took down the trees, which took down the power lines, which blocked the roads, and the end result of that domino trail was that we ("we" the people of Maine) had no electricity, no fuel to be delivered, no way other than wood to heat our homes. So it was cold.. even on the inside.

The first day, not realising the magnitude of the storm, I was home with my two children huddled in my bedroom under tons of covers with candle after candle burning. I had never fully appreciated until that day and night how much warmth even a single candle flame can emit. But I certainly appreciated the danger of the open flames and so stayed up as late as I could to watch them and then finally relented and blew them out to get some sleep. The temperature immediately plummeted and sleep was hard to come by. I met the new morning more tired than I had been the night before.

Where was my husband? At that time he was an active duty Marine. As a Marine wife, the first thing you learn is that you come second. When the hurricane comes, when the streets flood, when the prisoners riot, when the towers fall, whenever anything bad happens, your Marine goes off to help other people and you are left alone. So I started out the ice storm alone.

As the storm continued my husband came home to check on us. He helped us move downstairs and start a fire in the wood stove. The wood stove was in a room that was an addition off the back of the house. It stuck straight out of the back, an awkward appendage built on a slope so that it was exposed on every side even the bottom! The wood stove put out a lot of heat but the force of nature, the wind whistling along every wall and corner was too much competition. You were only warm as long as you were within inches of the stove and that was a tricky thing to accomplish with a preschooler and a toddler. Next thing I knew someone felt almost too warm and I realised that my daughter was sick with a fever. We spent one long night huddled together in sleeping bags and under every cover we could gather trying to sleep beside the stove. The cold was unrelenting and there was no hope of sleep in such a dangerous situation. What if my daughter got sicker and needed help? What if my son toddled too close to the wood stove and got burnt? All these worries kept me from any sleep and when morning came, I was exhausted and worried and scared and most of all still very, very cold.

How would we ever make it through another day and night? It humbled me that "just the cold" could bring me to such a state of desperation.

My husband was finally able to be relieved of his duties at work and came home with a plan. The main highways had been cleared and the bigger cities had power restored. So we loaded everyone in the car, got onto 95-South and drove to Portland, Maine. (Oh, how I wished we could just keep driving 95 all the way South to home! To warmth!) Husband settled us into a hotel and returned to his duties. It was less than a day or so until we heard that power back home had been restored and we piled back into the car to reverse our journey.

The irony of the ice storm is that it doesn't seem stormy at all. After the initial rain, there is calm, The ice silently forms and everything comes to a halt. There is silence that seems so peaceful but the numbing cold keeps the land encased in the blanket of ice and prevents it from healing. In fact, the sound that would break the silence was the crack of limbs falling and after less than a day at home, the power was gone again. Refreshed from a good night's rest at the hotel, we braved it for a night in the cold, cold house before giving in and looking locally for other accommodations.

The "other accommodations" were a flea bag motel on the wrong side of town. When I registered and all the clerk wanted was a first name and payment in cash, I knew it was going to be one of the more interesting nights of my life! The motel didn't disappoint because my only hope and expectation was to be warm. Being warm, even in a lice infested cheap motel, being warm was a blessing.

Now I cuddle in the warmth of the blessings I have in my family and faith and know that I will not take this warmth for granted. When it gets too cold, I will come inside and be thankful for the warmth.

This post has been submitted to the Write Away contest for December hosted at Scribbit - this month's theme is "keeping warm". I started this post when the contest was first announced - long before the elements combined to create another ice storm, devastating the Northeast. Prayers for all the people living through it now.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why I want a Wii Fit.

"How do you fail PE? Twice?!" This is the question I get asked whenever anyone has to review my college transcripts. Lucky for me, as you age your college transcripts get reviewed less and less frequently. Other things also slow down - reaction time, metabolism, sex drive...but really that's a different post. My goal here is to answer the question, "How do you fail PE? Twice?!"

My first physical education failure was the result of the sloth gene that I inherited from my mother. My advisor is truly responsible - there should have been some sort of counseling against registration for the roller skating class that started all the way across town at 7:50am. Sleep in a soft warm bed ooooorrrr roll in circles around a cold concrete rink? Sleep won out and I failed PE class #1 simply for lack of attendance.

My second physical education failure was the quarter I enrolled in weightlifting. The first day of class I arrived at the gym with an assortment of other students none of whom looked to be anything extraordinary. I assessed the group and decided that I fit right in. Then the class began. The first move the instructor wanted us to try was lifting a long bar from shoulder height straight up into the air and bring it back down to shoulder height again. The dilemma for me was that she wanted the bar to have weights on it. And even with the lightest possible combination, I could not lift the bar. So "Plan B" in weightlifting was simply lift the empty bar. Still not gonna happen. Which prompted me to move on to "plan F".. leave the gym and never return, not even to drop the class and save my parents the tuition for the quarter. I was so humiliated, I just took the "F".

Someone who has trouble getting out of bed, someone who can't lift even the lightest weight, that person needs to exercise in the privacy of her own home. She needs a Wii Fit! And just to clarify - that person is ME! So to get my Wii Fit, I'm entering the giveaway at Magpie Musing. Check it out here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Game for the Idle

A Game for the Idle, picked up from the Happy Catholic. Because, you know, that despite having mountains of things to do (that was an allusion to laundry!), I remain idle.

Bold anything that you have done.

1. Started your own blog
Here you are!
2. Slept under the stars
Courtesy of the Boy Scouts of America.
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/Disney World
I've been to both. My family lived in both California and Florida when I was young. We took our children to Disney World last year and had a wonderful time.
8. Climbed a mountain
I was lucky enough to chaperon our parish high school youth trip hiking the Camino de Santiago. My preconceived notion of Spain was that it was flat - I was wrong! We climbed lots and lots of mountains.
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
My high school graduation present was a European tour with the high school French Club.It was a fifty countries in twenty days kind of event! I wish I could do it again now as an adult although I probably wouldn't have the stamina.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
I'm going to assume that we are using the term "art" loosely and will include crafty things here like scrapbooking and cross-stitching.
15. Adopted a child
I almost bolded this one - we have a child we sponsor through Catholic Charities but I think the intent here is a full adoption.
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
That high school tour again - it started with a layover on New York!
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
High school tour.
20. Slept on an overnight train
At one point during our three years in Maine, I was so desperate to escape to the south, that I bought a 30 day rail pass and embarked on a train trip to visit the East Coast relatives. That experience is a post all of it's own waiting to be written.
21. Had a pillow fight
I've had real ones in my younger days; now I'm having virtual ones on Facebook!
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
Do this ALL the time. Luckily the definition of sick is fairly broad and there's a little box on the leave slip that I can check about appointments for family members. I figure that covers almost anything I need to do. Some would say "field trip", I say "appointment" for a tour.
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
One of my favorite memories growing up in Florida was watching the sun drop down into the water at the end of each day. The Gulf makes for a very dramatic sunset.
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
My 40th birthday present to myself was a cruise with a girlfriend who was also turning 40. It was great and I can't believe I haven't done another one yet.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
That would be Norway and, no, I've never been.
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (in general)
We should be satisfied. In today's consumer culture there always seems to be something more that we want to have but in reality, we have plenty and for that I am very thankful.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
High school tour ...again!
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
And the tour...again!
41. Sung karaoke
Just a few times but both quite memorable. Once Bonnie Raitt while out with Ex_Marine and a girlfriend (same girlfriend I cruised with in #32). Had too may drinks, thought I could sing, and then fell in the parking lot and ripped a hole in the knee of my pants. Other time was with a group of old friends at a reunion... no drink this time as I was quite pregnant..hence no ripped clothing either!
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
Too many times to count - love the coast.
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Dang...that high school tour really helped me out here.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
Mixed memories here. Too much pressure too soon as a young teenager but now, great fun here in my small town with my kids and their friends.
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
And eaten.
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
Sometimes they tempt me now that they have displays in the grocery stores.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
Unfortunately yes. Worst college, I bounced a check for a kids meal at Burger King. That $2.00 meal probably cost me $22.00!
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
My mother saved my "Little People", my kids played with them, and I bet their kids will play with them too!
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
A few times.
71. Eaten caviar
If I get organized, I'll post the caviar dip recipe that I like. Don't hold your breath!
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
Bookworm and I were treated to a weekend in New York by her grandparents. Times Square and everything else was amazing. I didn't think I would like it very much considering how much I love the slow pace of a small town but I loved it. Wish I could afford to go back!
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
Steak-N-Shake at age 15.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
Just guess...
77. Broken a bone
Two fingers of my right hand.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
With a boy who was showing off.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
I wish!
82. Bought a brand new car
Stupidly...yes...more than once. I know it goes against all the financial advisers but financial restraint has never been a strong suit of mine or Ex-Marine's. .
83. Walked in Jerusalem
Another wish.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
You now I assume yes, but can't really remember a specific instance. But I am sure I have - my wedding announcement if nothing else!
85. Read the entire Bible
Hanging my head in shame.
86. Visited the White House
I think I was in about the fifth grade with my family. It's been awhile!
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
well, when you go crabbing, you bring them home alive and the cooking kills them so I guess that will count!
88. Had chickenpox
Yes, as a child. Bookworm had them at age one. Boys had the shot so I guess they'll never experience that.
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
I started one with girlfriends but we petered out after a few months. I do book challenges online - kind of the same idea?
93. Lost a loved one
All of my grandparents have passed away.
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
More than one. It's my lifeline with these three busy children!
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day
Many times - I'm a book slut.

Friday, December 5, 2008

U.S. President's Reading Project

I can't quite figure out how to format this the way would like...I'll work on it!


1. George Washington (1789-97)
1776 by David McCullough

2. John Adams by David McCullough

3. Thomas Jefferson, 1801-9 (Democratic-Republican)

4. James Madison, 1809-17 (Democratic-Republican)

5. James Monroe, 1817-25 (Democratic-Republican)

6. John Quincy Adams, 1825-29 (Democratic-Republican)

7. Andrew Jackson, 1829-37 (Democrat)

8. Martin Van Buren, 1837-41 (Democrat)

9. William Henry Harrison, 1841 (Whig)

10. John Tyler, 1841-45 (Whig)

11. James Knox Polk, 1845-49 (Democrat)

12. Zachary Taylor, 1849-50 (Whig)

13. Millard Fillmore, 1850-53 (Whig)

14. Franklin Pierce, 1853-57 (Democrat)

15. James Buchanan, 1857-61 (Democrat)

16. Abraham Lincoln, 1861-65 (Republican)

17. Andrew Johnson, 1865-69 (Democrat/National Union)

18. Ulysses Simpson Grant, 1869-77 (Republican)

19. Rutherford Birchard Hayes, 1877-81 (Republican)

20. James Abram Garfield, 1881 (Republican)

21. Chester Alan Arthur, 1881-85 (Republican)

22. Grover Cleveland, 1885-89 (Democrat)

23. Benjamin Harrison, 1889-93 (Republican)

24. Grover Cleveland, 1893-97 (Democrat)

25. William McKinley, 1897-1901 (Republican)

26. Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-9 (Republican)

27. William Howard Taft, 1909-13 (Republican)

28. Woodrow Wilson, 1913-21 (Democrat)

29. Warren Gamaliel Harding, 1921-23 (Republican)

30. Calvin Coolidge, 1923-29 (Republican)

31. Herbert Clark Hoover, 1929-33 (Republican)

32. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933-45 (Democrat)

33. Harry S. Truman, 1945-53 (Democrat)

34. Dwight David Eisenhower, 1953-61 (Republican)

35. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961-63 (Democrat)

36. Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1963-69 (Democrat)

37. Richard Milhous Nixon, 1969-74 (Republican)

38. Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr , 1974-77 (Republican)

39. James Earl Carter, 1977-81 (Democrat)
Beyond the White House by Jimmy Carter

40. Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1981-89 (Republican)

41. George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989-1993 (Republican)

42. William Jefferson Clinton, 1993-2001 (Democrat)

43. George W. Bush, 2001-2009 (Republican)

44. Barack Hussein Obama, 2009- (Democrat)

Lawrence Welk explained.

A vivid memory of my childhood is the sight and sounds of the Lawrence Welk show. I can hear the man saying, "A one an a two" as he counted on the next number. I can see the set with  the blue curtains and the bubbles and the singers and the band. It was on PBS every night after dad's passion or perhaps just his kindred North Dakotan spirit. Or so I thought.
Fast forward to my house. And every night on television is something like House or CSI or Seinfeld...entertainment everyone likes. So when bedtime rolls around, nobody wants to go. They want to finish watching the great show...just one more episode...just ten more minutes...just until the next commercial...please, please, please, PLEEEEEEZE!
But the other night I happened to have the clicker in hand and was flipping through a few channels making my selection and a show caught my eye. It was the Celtic Women special on PBS. I paused briefly with no real intention of spending more than a moment when my children immediately started to question this decision - no one it seemed wanted to watch Celtic Women except for me. With a flash of clarity I realized that I had stumbled onto more than just some Reubenesque women in flowy gowns who could sing and fiddle. I had found the antidote to the begging for more TV. As the show went on the kids showed only the briefest passing interest, both boys, Tween and Youngest, took note of the generously porpotioned size of the women (even at ages 9 and 12 stereotypes of female beauty are already firmly ingrained) and Bookworm inquired whether there would be any dancing Ala Riverdance. But that was it and then they just filtered out of the room off to other pursuits. I was left in peace.
And so now I wonder...did my dad even like Lawrence Welk or did he simply like that we didn't like Lawrence Welk? Hm-mm....I'll ponder that one while I Tivo a few more gems for the nights when I am ready for some peace and quiet even if it means I have to have my peace and quiet accompanied by big band music, or Celtic tunes, or Gregorian chants.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's not easy being me...

I have always been one of those people who tries not to take an "in your face" stand about things that I think are right because before you can say, "boo", it will turn out I am wrong. There are those that will argue a point and there are those of us who just won't. I always agree to disagree.

Being this type of person gets me labeled as "nice". People say things like, "Oh Just Mom would never say anything mean about anyone else, she is so nice.". These kind of comments are made by acquaintances - real friends know I can be very catty. Nothing to be proud of but it is the truth. So all the periphery people who think I am the good fairy of sweetness and light are deluded. The real me is just a wimp who is so afraid to be wrong, that she won't stand up and argue when she knows she is right.

Yesterday I arrived home to no Internet. The Internets was gone and I was MAD! And it was gone because we hadn't paid the bill. But you see....we hadn't received a bill. Here's the story. In August we switched from a phone line Internet provider to a cable Internet provider - Hargray. Hargray came out and hooked us up by cable and the Internet worked just fine - speedy quick just like we wanted. But the cable lay across our yard for weeks and weeks and no one ever came back to bury it. So I finally called to complain and it turned out they had our house number wrong. They had sent someone out to bury the cable but they had accidentally sent him to the neighbors house and they had no cable to bury so he left. Then the neighbor came over with a bill, addressed to our name but with his house number. Yessiree Bob, Hargray had made a mistake. They had our house number WRONG!

We called and got it straightened out. They came out and buried our cable. But guess what, we still didn't get a bill. We were still getting great, speedy quick Internet, we had plenty of other bills to pay, so we didn't even notice that Hargray hadn't asked us for any money. Until they decided to cut us off. And that made me mad. Because they had our house number WRONG! They hadn't sent us a bill.

Off I went to the Hargray building checkbook in hand, righteous indignation at the ready, and I told the girl at the counter exactly how Hargray had messed up. She was apologetic, she accepted my payment, she put a rush order on the reconnect, and she just couldn't understand how it had happened because according to her records our address had been changed and the new bills (plural - 2 months worth) had gone to the correct house. I smugly sat and let her do her work and as I waited, I started looking around. And I started to notice not so much of the familiar red Hargray logo but lots and lots of an obnoxious bright green Cricket logo. All over the place, the same color bright green Cricket logo as that strange bill we had at home. The bill that I thought maybe was an old cell phone we had forgotten to disconnect and so had set aside to deal with later - for two months in a row! And I kind of remember reading something announcing a buy out or a merger or some sort of marriage of telecommunications that resulted in my Hargray account now being called Cricket. Oh, man, I was WRONG!

And the moral of this story is that I need to be exactly who I am - a non-confrontational wimp because there seems to be a proportional relationship with how right I think I am (and how insistent I am upon the fact) and how wrong I actually am. I do not need to grown a backbone because apparently I need to focus all my energies on growing a brain. It's not easy being me but I need to be who I am.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Waste of Time status report

I can barely type because my hand is stiff from clicking....999,400!

And, of course, I'm at over 20,000 on Facebook's Word challenge.

Is my laundry done? No.