Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Books of 2009

The end of the year seems to be a popular time for "Best of" Lists. I couldn't miss the opportunity to make my own Best List. Of course mine is going to be all about books. Of the 87 books I've read in 2009, 13 of them received a 4 or 5 star rating. Looking back over those, 4 rose to the top as my choice for Best Books of 2009. And one book which I gave 3 stars to continues to come to mind when people ask for book recommendations. So I just had to give it a place on Best Books of 2009 list.

Pam's Five Best Books of 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockett - The only book to receive a perfect 5 stars.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan - The book I fought for (and lost) to be the 2010 RARI selection

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford - The first book I have nominated for the 2011 RARI selection

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert - A surprisingly uplifting book considering the depressing topic

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson - The best 3 star book I've ever read. I'm still thinking about it all these months later.

2009 was a great book year for me. I read quite a few memorable and recommendation worthy books. How about you? What are your top books of 2009? I'd love to hear from you. After all 2010 is just around the corner and I can always use some recommendations.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Feed Your Soul

A couple of weeks before Christmas I got together with my college friend Kristen to see an exhibit at Rhode Island School of Design Museum. During our lunch break the conversation turned to Christmas preparations. Of course, we both grumbled some about the stress and the busyness inherent in this time of year. And we shared ways in which we've made the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable over the years. And then Kristin said something that really struck me. She said that now that she is in her 40s, she is a lot less willing to fill her time with activities (and even people) that she doesn't truly enjoy. She has slowly over the last few years eliminated from her life people, organizations, obligations and activities that don't add value to her life. Now she spends her precious time engaged in activities and surrounded by people who "feed her soul". I love this phrase. Feed the Soul.

I have always been pretty good at engaging in activities that I enjoy. I realized when my girls were still toddlers, that I needed to participate in some activities that replenished and renewed me. Sometimes I was made to feel guilty about this by other at home moms who didn't understand or approve of my need for time away from my kids. Time spent doing things that I enjoyed. I NEEDED this. And I much as I knew I needed it, I did sometimes feel a little selfish about it. But like Kristin, now that I'm well into in my 40s, I realize that I was filling a deep personal need. I was feeding my soul by adding things to my life that brought me joy. But this year I came to the realization that some of the activities that I'm involved in and responsibilities that I have taken on are no longer adding joy to my life. I've begun to think about the "value added" to my life by these activities and responsibilities. And I've decided that sometimes the value added is not enough to supersede the aggravation they also add to my life. And I'm learning to let those things go. I did some of that in 2009. But after listening to Kristen discuss feeding her soul, I realize that I need to do even more. So I'm declaring 2010 the year of Feeding the Soul. I plan to spend some time thinking about the ways I spend my time with an eye toward evaluating their value added to my life and if they do in fact feed my soul. It's easy to be on autopilot and to keep on keeping on. I think it's time to step back and "clean house" with the goal of eliminating anything I can that doesn't add value or feed my soul. As my friend Jeanni said to me years ago, "It's all about the joy". I sure do have some smart friends.

How about you? What do you do to Feed Your Soul?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Last Stand of 2009: A New Year's Meme

The following meme is courtesy of Saturday 9.

Last Stand of 2009

1. What did you think of 2009?

I hadn't really given 2009 as a whole a lot of thought. I think like most years, it had it's ups and downs. Overall I think it was a good year, in the sense that my family is relatively happy and healthy.

2. What do you think was the news story of the year?
It seems as though the big entertainment story of the the year was Michael Jackson's death. But the most amazing story of the year, in my opinion, was the plane crash in the Hudson River in which no one was seriously injured. A truly heroic moment.

3. What happened this year that you never want to hear another word about?
Jon and Kate Gosselin and their 8 whiny brats children.

4. What was your favorite song of 2009?

Second Chance by Shinedown. That is one song I will sing at the top of my lungs no matter who's in the car to hear me. And if you knew how bad of a singer I am, you would know that I must LOVE that song!

5. What did you accomplish this year?

Ths is a tough one. My life is really just about the day to day. I don't really accomplish "big things". I did participate in the Reading Across Rhode Island nominating committee this year, which is something I'm proud of and excited about. Other than that the most important thing I did this year was help my daughter through a stressful time this fall. It was very overwhelming for several weeks, but I managed to find an appropriate solution while also keeping her afloat academically and not falling apart myself. It was a real challenge, but we got through it.

6. Did you learn anything new this year?

I learned that sometimes it's better to let go of things in your life that are not adding value. Especially if they are adding stress. Even if it means giving up on something that you feel strongly about.
7. What are you looking forward to in the new year?

I'm not sure about this one. This year will be the year that Katie (my oldest child) goes off to college for the first time. That is really something I'm spending a lot of time anticipating. Not sure I'm exactly "looking forward" to it. But it is looming large in my thoughts. I'm very aware of the passage time in relation to my time spent with her. Ugh!

8. What are your plans for New Year's Eve?

Right now the plan is to have a quiet evening at home with Geoff and the girls. Of course, if it's anything like last year, the girls will make last minute plans with their friends and Geoff and I will be left home staring at each other. But in all seriousness, after the hubbub of the holidays, I really do like to spend New Year's Eve at home with my family. It just felt a little lonely last year when the girls went out. Oh well. That's life.

9. What's the best thing you ever did on a New Year's Eve?

Several years ago we had three families come over and spend the night. The adults enjoyed a wine, cheese and chocolate tasting while the kids watched movies in the basement (also known as the teen lounge). It snowed over night and in the morning everyone (except me and one other mom) went sledding at the golf course in our town. They we all had a New Year's Day brunch. It was a lot of fun.

Want to play? Be sure to link up your post at Saturday 9.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Story of Our Family

Yesterday I mentioned that each and every ornament on our Christmas tree has great sentimental value. And it's true. The year I got married was the first year that I had a Christmas tree of my own. And that year Geoff and I received two Christmas ornaments commemorating our wedding. And every year after that I made a special effort to buy an ornament that signified a special event that had happened in our lives that year. I call these our "Special Event" ornaments and they are all lovingly dated, labeled and packed up each year. And every year when I unwrap them I relive the special moments in our family's life - big moments (the births of our girls) and smaller moments (the year the girls and I attempted to learn how to golf).

I also collect ornaments when we travel. It is always such a joy to unwrap those ornaments and reminisce about those family vacations. There are other ornaments on our tree as well. There's the ornament I made in catechism in 2nd grade out of beads and glitter that were put into a muffin tin and melted. I love that ornament!

And the Christmas ball given to me by my mom that has a Christmas scene on it and says "To a Special Daughter, 1980". There are ornaments from dear friends that I left behind in AZ when I moved and handmade pasta angels that were given to me by my dear friend Margaret.

And then there are ornaments that speak to my soul.

Every year when I see those ornaments again I am reminded of our family's history. Where we've been, what we mean to each other, the milestones in each of our lives and how we've built this family together. It may seem silly, but I believe that our ornaments tell our story in a very tangible way. They are among my most valued possessions. Silly or not, they mean the world to me.

Sentimental Sunday

It's been a while since I've posted a Sentimental Sunday picture. Since this is the last Sunday before Christmas, I thought I'd post a photo of our current Christmas tree. Our Christmas tree is truly very sentimental because each and every ornament on it tells a story. But you'll have to wait to hear more about that. I will be writing a post about it next week.... Sorry to keep you on the edge of your seats. LOL!

Oh and just for fun, here's a few pictures of what I woke up to this morning. These were take from the garage, there was no way I could even contemplate wading through all that snow to get a picture of my house from the street. Maybe after the snow plow comes. There isn't much I like better than a snowed in Sunday! I've been looking forward to today since they began predicting the "big snow" on Friday!

This is a picture of our side door from the garage. As you can see, we can not even open the door! YAY!

Here's Katie's car. Look how high the snow is on the tires.

What a guy!

The pine trees on the side of my house. Don't they look glorious! I love winter!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Unfinished Friday

Marie at The Boston Bibliophile is testing out an idea for a new book meme - Unfinished Friday. Here's how she describes it:

I know most of us endeavor to finish everything we read, but we don't have to, and sometimes it's impossible- it just doesn't work for us, for one reason or another. But it's still possible to get some mileage out of that work for your blog- by sharing it with us here on Fridays!

I really like the idea behind this meme, for a couple of reasons. First it allows me to give my opinion of a book that didn't resonate with me without having to write a full blown review. I'm not interested in writing lengthy reviews of books I didn't like, especially if I didn't finish them. Secondly, for those of you who look at my Goodreads widget and notice what I'm reading and what books I've given low star ratings to, now you'll have a way to know if I read the whole book and didn't like it or if I abandoned it early on because it didn't appeal to me. And thirdly, it serves as a way for others to have a realistic gauge of my Books Read This Year widget, because I include all books there, even those that I didn't finish .

Recently, I've been in a real book slump. It seems as though nearly every book I pick up, I abandon early on. This is a bit unusual for me. The idea behind this meme is to update your unfinished books every week, but since the meme is new I'm going to update for the last two months - especially in the light of the fact that my books have been dropping like flies recently.

So far in December I've given up on two books:

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault - A mystery that takes place in the offices of a dictionary publisher. Two lexicographer's find clues to a mystery hidden in the citation files for new words. It sounded intriguing and it was mildly interesting. I got about half way through this one and I might have finished it, but a book I was anxious to read finally came in at the library.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery - I've seen this book come up on numerous lists and decided to give it a try. It takes place in France, which was interesting and it involves two quirky characters who live in the same apartment building. One a middle aged concierge the other an intelligent and sensitive 12 year old girl. I gave up on this one because the writing was so pretentious I couldn't stomach it. Yuck!

In November, I gave up on:

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan - The latest Oprah book. I don't usually pay attention to Oprah picks, but this one sounded promising. I liked the idea of stories of hardship and poverty as told through the eyes of children. Depressing, I know. But a child's perspective could be enlightening (think Slumdog Millionaire). Anyway, it wasn't what I was expecting. The stories did not move me in any way. I kept waiting for one to be over so I could see if the next one was better. I finally gave up after 2 or 3.

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary by Anonymous (actually Marta Hillers) - This book was originally published anonymously and was the diary kept by a female German journalist (Hillers) during WWII. It chronicles the living conditions, sights and sounds of Berlin in the immediate aftermath of the Russian invasion. I found it terribly repetitive and uninspired as a "story".

And just because I'm completely anal, here is the list of the other books I started and left unfinished so far in 2009:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Gone Tomorrow by P.F. Kluge
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

So do you have a book you haven't finished that you'd like to tell us about? You can leave a comment here and also at The Boston Bibliophile.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Best Part of Christmas

For the last 8 years I've been involved in wonderful local Christmas charity, Woonsocket Adopt-a-Family (AAF). AAF's mission is to provide a full Christmas for needy children in Woonsocket, RI. My step mom Sandy from It's a Jungle Out There has been involved for 25 years and is currently the Program Coordinator for AAF. (And from what I heard while volunteering this year, she's really the heart of the program. But, I already knew that!)

My involvement began in 2001, when we moved back to RI. I started out as a volunteer during Distribution Week - the whirlwind week when all the donors deliver the gifts they've so generously bought and also when the recipients come to pick up their gifts. Like all first time volunteers, I was awed by the sheer number of bags of gifts that are donated.

Not to mention all the bikes!

Oh, I can't forget Santa's Workshop. The AAF board members also shop the after Christmas sales and stock up on toys and clothes just in case they don't have enough donors and need to complete what they refer to as "in house adoptions". This year, not surprisingly, there were fewer donors and more recipients. So, the AAF elves were hard at work putting together donations for over 300 children (Sandy, please correct me if I've got the numbers wrong). It's a wonder to behold.

This year gifts were donated for 2,310 children in 1,118 families!!! That's about 100 classrooms full of children! But beyond that, the Type A part of my personality was impressed with the simple, yet effective procedure that makes the whole process run smoothly. AAF is a well oiled machine!

I still volunteer every year during Distribution Week, but since 2002 I've also "adopted" a child. And you know what? Shopping for that child is a complete joy. AAF provides donors with a wish list complete with the child's clothing sizes and needs and a few toys they would like to have. I love to imagine the face of "my child" on Christmas morning. I wish I could be a fly on the wall.

But beyond the joy of giving, I love working with the AAF board members during Distribution Week every year. And every year, I get tears in my eyes when I see that room fill up with bags and bags of gifts. And it doesn't stop for an entire week. As soon as some gifts are picked up by the recipients, more are dropped off. The generosity of the donors is astounding. It renews my belief in the goodness of people. For me, it's the Best Part of Christmas and one small way that I honor the 11th Commandment - Thou Shalt Not Stand Idly By.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And a Merry, Happy Holiday Season to All!

Sometimes I think people have completely lost their common sense. Take the whole Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays conundrum. A few years ago it became more acceptable to say Happy Holidays as opposed to Merry Christmas in order to avoid offending people who don't celebrate Christmas. OK. I suppose there's no harm in that. But now apparently, some people are upset about this change. Really? Why does anyone even care about this? I suppose that's easy for me to say, being that I do celebrate Christmas and since I'm not particularly religious, I don't mind being wished Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

But, how would I feel if someone greeted me with Happy Hanukkah? Would I be offended? No, I don't think I would be. I think I would pause for a moment and wish them a Happy Hanukkah as well. Why not? I certainly do wish people of all faiths a happy holiday - whatever it might be. And if someone chooses to bestow upon me a cheerful greeting, I accept it with the goodwill with which it was given. Kindness deserves kindness. Look at it this way. If someone wished me a Happy St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day or Flag Day - would I get upset if I'm not Irish, their sweetheart or particularly patriotic? No, of course not. So why should anyone care if they are wished a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Ramadan or Season's Greetings. It makes no sense to me. My philosophy is to be grateful for the good wishes and cheer and move on.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. However, if you have a strong opinion either way, please present your point of view with grace and kindness. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Book Review: The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

It's been awhile since I've written a book review. I've been in a bit of book slump lately. But there was one bright spot. The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig was the November/December book club selection for the book club I run at the library. I had read a review of this book in The Providence Journal ages ago and decided that the book sounded interesting. I added it to my list of possible book club choices and finally got around to selecting it. It was a wonderful selection.

The Whistling Season is told through the eyes of the now middle aged Paul Milliron, as he recounts his childhood in rural Montana in the early 1900's. Paul's father is an overwhelmed widower trying to raise three rambunctious sons while also eking out an existence on the unforgiving land. When he hires a housekeeper, sight unseen, from a newspaper add that states "can't cook, but doesn't bite", the lives of the the Milliron "men" are changed forever. The fascinating Rose arrives with a surprise guest- her scholarly and gentlemanly brother, Morris. When the teacher in the one room school house runs off to get married, Morris takes over the duties as teacher. His passion and knowledge transform the children of Marias Coulee in wonderful ways. As the story unfolds we learn more about the lives of the people living in this harsh landscape.

The Whistling Season is a simple story, beautifully told. Doig is a master of language and his writing is glorious and poetic. As a matter of fact, Doig himself has discussed in interviews his love of the "poetry under the prose". He states that "rhythm, word choice, and premeditated lyrical intent are the elements of this type of writing". His writing evokes a different time and place. What I loved most about this book is its simplicity. There is no intrigue (OK, maybe a little at the end), no drama, no big conflicts. Just a good old fashioned story. That seems like a rare commodity these days. If you want to read a story filled with lyricism, simple yet fully formed characters and be transported to a time gone by, I highly recommend Doig's literary novel - The Whistling Season. I don't think you will be disappointed.

I would give The Whistling Season 4 stars - I really liked it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

TV Quick Quips

Here's my take on this week's episodes of my favorite shows:

The Biggest Loser - I was so excited that Danny won! He really struck me as a really decent guy. I liked Rudy too and his transformation was completely amazing. But, I think the best man won. I hate to be catty, but I thought Rebecca looked cheap and sleazy. Her hair looked terrible, her dress was way too short (I could see the all the extra loose skin on her thighs flapping as she walked) and she seems to have morphed into a hootchie mama. What happened? She didn't look "hot", she looked ridiculous. I know that's mean, but it's true. Of course, she deserves a ton of credit for losing all that weight, but no matter what size you are, you need to dress for your body type. She failed in that. I was also glad to hear that a new season of The Biggest Loser will be starting on January 5. I've never watched this show before, and I just assumed it was over until next fall. Yay!

Modern Family - It was fun to see Phil's Dad on Skype. The apple didn't fall far from the tree apparently. Loved Jay's comment about not being in Columbia since there are "no goats in the street" and Cam's description of the baby swing as "something astronauts would train in". Very funny. Another great episode. This show keeps delivering week after week.

Glee - Yes, yes, I know I said was done with Glee. But after Modern Family, Madeleine wanted to watch Glee and since I was so comfy snuggle up on the sofa, I decided to watch rather than give up my prime location in the family room. (It's not often I get the sofa). I actually thought it was a pretty good episode. It seems they've put to rest the two pregnancy story lines that were bugging me. And it's nice to see the two couples who should be together moving in that direction. I was surprised when Madeleine said that episode was the season finale. Though it was a great finale episode. Way to keep the fans on the edge of their seats. But, then I heard from Karen at A Peek at Karen's World that part two of the season will begin again on April 13th. I reserve my right as a woman to change my mind about this show.

The Office - Once again, Creed had the best line of the episode - "What if I've been evil"? So Creed. Love it. Darryl was also great in this episode when Oscar came to the warehouse with Matt's (Mark's?) check. Very nice. I love the random Creed and Darryl moments. This season they've used Creed a lot more. Time to give Darryl more screen time, as well.

I was a little surprised (and sad) to see that both Modern Family and The Office aired their Christmas episodes last week. I guess that means there won't be any new episodes until after Christmas. With Glee finished until spring and The Biggest Loser finished until January 5th, I guess there won't be much to watch on TV for the next couple of weeks. I guess that means I'll have plenty of time to watch all my favorite Christmas movies on DVD.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Christmas Meme

I found this cute Christmas meme at A Peek at Karen's World and just couldn't resist. Feel free to play along if the spirit moves you. Come on! You know you want to.
1. Have you started your Christmas shopping?

Yes. I've got the lion's share done. I just have a couple of gift cards to get and I still need to come up with something else for my husband. Any ideas?
2. Tell me about one of your special traditions.

In 1978, when I was 14 years old, my paternal grandmother hosted a Christmas Eve get together for her 4 sons and their families. It was such a success that she did it every year until I was about 22. I always looked forward to spending Christmas Eve with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Most of whom I didn't see very often throughout the year. When my grandmother was too old to host, my Dad and Step mom took over the duties and we continued getting together with my extended family until 1995, the year my Grandmother died. Now each of her sons hosts his own children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, as my generation grew up and got married it just got to complicated for everyone to get together. Suddenly, there were too many other families to consider. But, Christmas Eve at Dad and Sandy's is still my favorite Christmas tradition. And now it's my children and my brother's children who get to spend the evening with their grandparents, cousins and aunt and uncle. We've come full circle.

3. When do you put up your Tree?
I don't have a set date, but usually I do it 2 weeks before Christmas. This year we will put it up this upcoming weekend.

4. Are you a Black Friday shopper?
Absolutely not! And I have no intention of ever becoming one.

5. Do you Travel at Christmas or Stay home?
On Christmas morning we go to my brother and sister-in-law's house for brunch. It's only 1/2 mile away. Not really "traveling", but we do leave home for a few hours.

6. What is your funniest Christmas memory?
My funniest memory is the year my mother attached wind chimes to the outside of our Christmas stockings so that she would hear us when we snuck out of bed and tried to get into the presents in the middle of the night. I still vividly remember the wind chime that was attached to my stocking.

7. What is your favorite Christmas Movie of all time?
A Christmas Story, hands down. We make a concerted effort to watch that movie as a family every year at Christmas time. I also love The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (the original cartoon version). I'm the only one who really likes that one and I watch it every year, even if I do it all by myself.

8. Do you do your own Christmas baking? What’s your favorite treat?
I do NOT do any Christmas baking. For a few years when my kids were very small, a friend and I would get together and bake cookies during one marathon session at one of our houses. It seems so silly now to think I did that with four toddlers running around. Why the heck did I think that was a good idea? I don't really have a favorite Christmas treat. Maybe I need to get one.

9. Fake or Real Tree?
Without a doubt, REAL! Though sometimes I understand the wisdom behind the convenience of an artificial tree. I'm just not ready to "go there" yet.

10. What day does the actual panic set in to get it all done?
No particular day. And I usually don't panic, but being that I'm a Type A+ personality, once I start shopping I feel compelled to finish RIGHT NOW! Even if I start in October. It's completely ridiculous. If I haven't started, I'm completely fine, but once I get going I just want it done... NOW! Can you say anal?

11. Are you still wrapping presents on Christmas Eve?
Absolutely not. See anal, above.

12. What is your favorite family fun time at Christmas?
Watching A Christmas Story, Christmas Eve with my entire family at my Dad's and playing games on Christmas Day.

13. What Christmas craft do you like the best?
I don't do "craft".

14. Christmas music? Yes or No, and if yes What is your favorite song?
I enjoy listening to Christmas music in the two or three weeks leading up to Christmas. Any sooner and I get very cranky. My favorite Christmas song is Oh, Holy Night. I get goosebumps every time I hear the lyric "Fall on your knees". Not sure why.

15. When do you plan to finish all your shopping?
Sometime between now and next week. I usually finish the week before Christmas.

Do you want to play along?Just simply copy and paste the questions into your blog, and then answer them.

Here are the official rules, though I am choosing not to tag anyone. Feel free to do so, or not.

•Then tag 5 or more of your favorite blogs, and leave them a comment telling them they’ve been tagged.

•When you post on your blog, please spread some Christmas Cheer, and leave a link back to the blogger who started the meme: Heather @ (Top 10 Christmas) Heather would like any blogger to participate in this meme, so let her know if you do it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TV Quick Quips

Considering the fact that The Biggest Loser finale is on tonight, I'd better hurry up and post Quick Quips for last weeks episode. Better (super) late than never.

The Biggest Loser - I was so impressed that Danny was able to lose 59 lbs while at home for 60 days. And Rudy lost 40+ while both of the women lost about 16 pounds (a respectable and realistic 2 lbs a week). What's up with that? Why is it so much easier for men to lose weight than it is for women? I realize that Danny and Rudy both have a lot more weight to lose than do either Amanda or Liz, but I've noticed this all along. It just seems so unfair. OK, rant over. As for the 4 finalists... I really hope Danny wins. Of the four remaining contestants he has been the most consistently nice and supportive without ever being annoying. Rudy really disappointed me when he stabbed Shay in the back. (In this morning's newspaper, I read that Rudy actually grew up in and still works in RI. I had no idea. Usually I would root for the hometown boy, but not this time). And as much as I like Amanda and think she's adorable, she's a bit of a whiner and a crybaby. Something I really have a hard time with. And while I've been rooting for Liz as the middle aged female on the show, she really can be a bore at times. But Danny is just a genuinely nice guy. I hope he wins. Phew! Glad I got that posted before the finale.

Glee - I'm no longer watching this train wreck of a show. I'm really disappointed about this, too, because the show started out so strong. I just can't stomach it anymore. I will no longer be quipping about Glee.

Modern Family - No show this week. I'm having serious withdrawal symptoms.

The Office - Ugh! I really need to give this show the heave ho. I just can't though because of the awesomeness that was season 2. I know. It was years ago. Time to move on. I'm working on it. This episode was just so stupid and repetitive that I can't even think of one episode specific thing to say about it. Oh wait. I think Rainn Wilson did a great job with his impressions of Stanley, Kevin and Toby. So good, in fact, that I thought maybe he was lipsynching over their real voices. That's about all I can say about The Office this week.

Not a great TV week. I did watch an excellent foreign film, however. If you don't mind reading subtitles, I highly recommend Elling. Here is how Netflix describes this charming and quirky movie:

Per Christiansen Ellefsen and Sven Nordin play the shy, retiring Elling and the imposing Kjell in this Norwegian movie about two mentally challenged friends who battle adversity and find their place in the sun. When the two become roommates, they attempt to create a life for themselves outside the confining, but protective, walls of the hospital. Petter Naess directs this Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language film.

Genre: Foreign Comedies, Foreign Dramas, Scandinavia
This movie is: Feel-good, Understated, Quirky, Emotional

Elling was without a doubt the best thing I watched on TV this week.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Musing Mondays

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about library etiquette…

For the regular library patrons among us: do you have your own idea of what constitutes proper library etiquette? Is there anything you always try to do? Anything you hate when others do?

Oh boy! Don't get me started... Of course, I'm going to be coming at this from the other side of the circulation desk. But truthfully, I'm anxious to read what bugs library patrons. There are probably things I can do differently to make using the library more enjoyable for my patrons. Hmm...

My number one pet peeve, is parents who come into the library with toddlers and then sit at the computer and completely ignore their child/children. For long periods of time. And they don't bring anything for the kid to do nor do they even direct them to play with the puzzles or look at books. They simply ignore them or even worse yell at them the whole time to "behave". Seriously?! These children are under 5 years old. Guess who ends up entertaining these poor little kids. Yup! The staff of the children's room. Grrr!

Patrons who steal from the library. OK, maybe this is number one. Of course books are sometimes never returned, but sometimes people steal CDs and DVDs right out of the cases on the shelf. Our entire collection of country music has been stolen. Right now we keep the new discs behind the counter, so the cases are empty. But our country music thief is very patient. As soon as the discs are back in the cases... they disappear. So now ALL music will be behind the desk. And it doesn't end there, our donation jar has been stolen numerous times and we've even had a computer stolen. Come on, people. We're a library. We're not "the man". We're here to serve you. We're not ripping you off. You don't need to "stick it to us". I hope your conscious is killing you.

People who take hardcover books to the beach and return them with bits of sand under the plastic cover. Somehow it feels as though the book has been defiled.

Books that come back smelly like cigarette smoke. Totally ruins the reading experience for me. I will go so far as to order a different copy. Reading is a very sensual experience for me. If the book reeks like stale smoke, I can't enjoy the reading experience.

As I said, I could go on and on. But, I'll stop there.

As for what I do to make the experience nicer for patrons, I always greet everyone who comes into the library. I try to be pleasant and smile to each patron who comes to the desk. I make an attempt to learn the names of the all the toddlers who come to story hour and speak to them individually when they come up to the desk. Basically, I try to be everything that the stereotypical librarian is not. Cheerful, friendly, helpful and kind - even when moms are surfing the net while they're bored, hungry, tired children are running rampant in the children's room.

How about you? What bugs you? I'd love to hear how library staff can help make your library visits more pleasant. This is your chance to really let me have it. I'd love to hear from you.

Thou Shalt Not Stand Idly By

Last Thursday night I had an opportunity of a lifetime. I was able to attend a lecture at Bryant University given by Elie Wiesel. Most people know Wiesel as the Holocaust survivor who wrote about his time at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in the book Night. (If you haven't yet read Night, you really should. It's one of those books that everyone should read at least once in their lifetime). But, Mr. Wiesel is also a professor and a humanitarian. And it was in his role as Humanitarian that he spoke to the packed audience at Bryant.

I have read the book Night three times. And all three times it made a huge impact on me. Most recently I read it in early October. It had been assigned to Katie in her World Literature class. I offered to read it with her. It was a moving experience to read that with Katie and discuss it together. So, when Sandy of It's a Jungle out There told me that Elie Wiesel was coming to Bryant to give a lecture that was free and open to the public, I jumped at the chance to attend. Sandy was kind enough to make the call and get tickets for me and Katie to attend the lecture with her and my Dad (for those of you who don't know, Sandy is not only my friend, she's also my Step mom).

It is impossible to describe what it felt like to be in that room with Wiesel. This is a man who regularly talks to world leaders. A man who is summoned by Presidents to consult on matters of world peace. And here he is, speaking to a group of students, professors and community members. For free! It's hard to wrap my mind around that.

It's also impossible to describe or summarize his talk. His mind is so nimble and his intelligence so great that he made transitions in his talk from one topic to another very smoothly, but as a listener it is difficult, in retrospect, to figure out how we got from his writing, to memory, to the violence of modern language, to the silence between words, to the Bible, to world events, and on and on. I felt as though I was in the presence of true greatness. I was so honored to be in his presence. I know how schmaltzy that sounds. But it was my honest reaction.

In spite of the fact that it's impossible for me to summarize his talk, I did walk away with a message. Wiesel spoke about the 10 Commandments and he suggested an 11th. The most important commandment. One he lives his life by and one he exhorted us to live ours by as well. Thou Shalt Not Stand Idly By. The focus of his Foundation and his message is that people should not stand idly by when others are suffering or in need. That as human beings we must respond to those around the world and those close to home who are in need. I've been thinking about that since Thursday night. And I wonder if I measure up. I try to give back. But I do it in a more distant way. I think I need to do more to relieve suffering that I witness first hand. But, you know what, that's much harder to do. So much more up close and personal. So much "messier". What would Mr. Wiesel say to that? In his gentle and accepting way I think he'd tell me not to stand idly by. Words to think about. And live by.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Rat in a Maze...Again!

Well my good luck with driving in Boston has run out. Once again I was a rat in a maze driving in circles on one way streets, making numerous illegal u-turns and cutting off big, burly men in large trucks.

On Tuesday I was invited by my college friend, Kristen, to attend a private tour of the Museum of Fine Arts. The tour was being led by an artist and teacher who would give us an insider's look into the museum building itself and would highlight some of the museum's more famous works. How could I say no? Even if it did mean driving into the heart of hell Boston. Again. As you all know, I haven't always had the best track record driving in Beantown. But, the last time I went, I did great! So with my new found confidence, I gathered up my MapQuest directions and away I went. And the gods laughed. I got hopelessly lost, drove in circles and broke every traffic law known to man. But, I made it!

The tour was totally worth getting lost. Our guide knew a lot about the history of the museum and the different collections. He showed us a wide variety of artwork - from sculpture, to ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek artifacts to John Singer Sargent murals and paintings. But my favorite moment came when we were looking at a famous Sargent painting, Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.

I was not familiar with this painting (even though it is apparently quite famous). As the guide was talking about the unusual composition of the painting he compared it to another famous painting by the Spanish painter, Velazquez. He couldn't recall the name of the painting and was describing it and gesturing to explain the skirt of the young girl in the painting while searching for the name.

I nearly jumped out of my seat, because I knew exactly what painting he was referring to! I had seen it in Madrid with our friends, Amy and Roberto, this past summer. Roberto had proudly shown us this painting and explained its composition to us. I immediately called out Las Meninas (I'm pretty sure I mangled the Spanish pronunciation, but he knew what I was talking about). This was such a great moment for me. It felt so good to be able to connect those dots in that moment. I love when that happens. Of course, my bubble was burst when I left the museum and was trapped in a labyrinth of one of streets and was seriously worried that I would never find my way out of Boston. Maybe I need to give the GPS another try. Ugh!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Attitude Adjustment

Lately, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the holidays. Specifically I've been thinking about my bad attitude toward them. I've stated somewhere on my blog that I'm a bit of a Bah Humbug when it comes to the holidays. That I dislike all the stress, the hustle bustle and the sense of obligation that comes along with this time of year. I found myself grumbling about this a lot in recent weeks and I was actually dreading the holidays. How sad is that?

But then Thanksgiving came and you know what... It was AWESOME! Amazing even. The day went very smoothly. And I didn't feel harried, rushed or stressed at all. I felt happy. And peaceful. And full of joy. And then I remembered that I felt this way last year, too. How come I forgot about that? How come I only remember all the years when I did feel overwhelmed and stressed out? Because really, if I think about it, I seem to remember that the last few Thanksgivings have been really nice. Aha!

So, I spent yesterday thinking about why this is. And I think I figured it out. Sure I've eliminated some of the "extras" and tweaked some of the essentials to make things a bit less stressful. And I think that did help some. But, I've done that in previous years as well. What I think has made all the difference is that this year I have not gotten caught up in what I call The Christmas Crazies. I haven't done any significant Christmas shopping yet. And I'm not getting all stressed when people ask me if I've FINISHED my shopping. In the past I would get caught up in that frenzied state of mind. In a post I wrote last week about being annoyed with nonstop Christmas music before Thanksgiving, I joked about getting through savoring my holidays one at a time. Well, you know what? I think I was on to something. Taking the holidays one at a time and just being present for each one makes me happier. There, I said it. I'm happy. And it's almost Christmas. I don't feel stressed, overwhelmed or resentful at all. This just might be a Christmas miracle.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Happy Thanksgiving!

There's no better time for a Thankful Thursday than on Thanksgiving. Here's what I'm thankful for this week:

1. I'm thankful that Katie made dinner twice this week. One of those times she had to make up a food lab from her Foods and Nutrition class, but she enjoyed making dinner for the family so much that she offered to make dinner the next night as well. It was fun to watch her in the kitchen. And it was fun not to have to make dinner. Thanks, Katie.

2. I'm ever so thankful that the final episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8 has been shown. Thank Goodness! Madeleine loved that show and I had to listen to that annoying family for weeks. And my annoyance with them only got worse after the separation and Jon's subsequent bad behaviour and Kate's transformation from shrew to saint. Yuck! I've heard that Kate has some show in the works, but I'm hoping Madeleine won't hear about it or won't be interested in it. I don't think I can take one more second of any of the Gosselin's. Good riddance!

3. I'm thankful that Madeleine asked me to participate in her new Language and Literature project. She has asked me to read a novel with her and then journal about it as a way to record our thoughts about the book. How great is that?! It's right up my alley. The book she's chosen is Lord of the Flies, which is so ironic because that title came up in the comments of my Musing Monday post and Sandy from It's a Jungle Out There and I were discussing possibly doing this book in our monthly book club. *cue Twilight Zone music*

4. I'm thankful that Katie has sent in her college application. I know I've already blogged about this, but I'm so grateful for it that I feel it's worth repeating.

I know that the focus of my Thankful Thursday posts is on the small things that go well each week. But, that doesn't mean I'm not aware of the really important things in my life. Since it's Thanksgiving I feel I should acknowledge all those "big" things for which I am grateful. I'm sure you can guess what they are, but I think it's important to acknowledge them today of all days.

1. I'm thankful for my health and well-being. It's very easy to take feeling good (physically and emotionally) for granted. I'm reminded of this every time I get a bad cold or a stomach bug. Fortunately, I have no serious health issues. And for that I am very grateful.

2. I'm thankful that I have a loving and supportive family. I can honestly say that my family is filled with people I can count on and who have supported me my entire life. I grew up surrounded by people we believed in me and made me believe in myself. That is a powerful message to hear and it's never left me. I am a confident and self-assured person who believes I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. Maybe that's not always realistic, but it's a great way to go through life.

3. I'm thankful that I have a wonderful husband and two amazing daughters. I've written before about how terrific Geoff is. He is kind, loyal, hardworking and completely devoted to me and our girls. Without him my life would not be what it is today. It is because of his hard work and business sense that we are able to live the life that we do. And he doesn't ask much for himself. He's a terrific guy. And my girls are truly my joy. I know that I complain about how hard it is to be a parent and I sometimes complain about the aggravation of raising kids. But truthfully, I wanted to me a mom as long as I can remember. And there was a long period of time where I didn't think it would happen for me. I went through hell and back to have these two girls and even if it doesn't seem like it, I know how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be a mom. As much as I moan and complain, deep down I am grateful to be a mom to these two fabulous and fascinating girls. And for having that opportunity, I will be eternally grateful.

I hope that all of you have an opportunity to count your blessings, large and small, today. There's no better day for taking stock of all that you have to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You Win Some, You Lose Some (twice)

Once again I'm behind on my theater reviews. As I said in a previous post, I went a little crazy with theater subscriptions and tickets this year and it seems I'm seeing a show every other week. I'm not complaining mind you, I just can't keep up - with blogging or with my schedule. My eyes were bigger than my stomach. Anyway I've seen two shows in the past couple of weeks - A Chorus Line and To Kill a Mockingbird. First, A Chorus Line...

Oops, I did it again! Some of you may remember that I saw A Chorus Line back in March when it played at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC). And I didn't like it. At all. Even if it is the Best Musical Ever. Whatever. So when The Community Players announced their 2009-2010 season back in May, I wasn't thrilled to see that A Chorus Line was the first show in their line up. (Even if I had loved this show, it really doesn't make sense to me that a small community theater group would choose to do a show that was just in town as a Broadway tour. Does this make sense to any of you?) But, I digress. I decided to go see the show at The Community Players (TCP) anyway. And I still didn't like it. There were however a few bright spots. Albert Jennings who played Paul (the Puerto Rican who relives his drag act and his coming to terms with his homosexuality) was spectacular. A real triple threat. The boy can act and he can sing, but man can he dance. He was amazing. It was also fun to see Lia Del Sesto in the role of the saucy and streetwise Sheila. It looks like a fun role to play and Lia did a great job! Lia just happens to be a friend of Colleen - who is one of the friends with whom I attend TCP. As a matter of fact, it's because of Colleen's friendship with Lia that a group of us are now season ticket holders to TCP. So any show that has Lia in it, is especially exciting for us. But, exciting or not, I'm done with A Chorus Line. I won't be seeing any more productions of this longest running Broadway show - no matter who is in it or where it is playing.

This past Saturday night was the long awaited production of To Kill a Mockingbird at 2nd Story Theater in Warren. 2nd Story Theater is another local community group that gets rave reviews - and not just locally. Believe it or not, I had never seen a show there. Mostly because I like musicals a lot more than dramas (at least I thought I did) and until last year I wasn't seeing all that many shows. After last season when I had an opportunity to see a few different productions at different venues, I vowed to myself that I would make an effort to see more theater this season and at more venues. Since 2nd Story Theater is practically in my neighborhood, it made sense to see a show there. When I saw that To Kill a Mockingbird was in their lineup - it was a no brainer for me. I vaguely remember reading this book in HS, but I couldn't remember anything about it. Then about a year and a half ago, my book club read TKAM and everyone loved it. The book made such an impact on me I borrowed the movie from the library and watched it. And needless to say, I loved it as well. Four of us from book club attended the production and it was fabulous. The theater is quite small and very intimate. The acting was all very well done. Both Margaret Durning, who played Scout and Vince Petronio, who played Atticus were very good. But two of the actors really impressed me. The first is Evan Kinnane, who played Jem. I wish I knew more about Evan (there was no playbill for this show, just a half sheet of paper with the actor's names - no bios. That's a real shortcoming in my opinion). He looked to be about 11-13 years old and he was a real natural.** But the best characterization by far was F William Oakes portrayal of Bob Ewell. Oakes portrayal of Ewell was so realistic and creepy that I swear I thought they found some dirty scumbag from off the street (or in a prison) to play him. His body language, his appearance, his demeanor - everything - was so authentic. I've never seen F William Oakes in any other plays or in real life, but I'd love to see what he's like. He's either a scary individual or a great actor. My gut tells me he's a great actor. Kudos to Mr. Oakes! I will definitely try to fit more 2nd Story Theater productions into my theater schedule. Wish me luck!

**EDIT: I did a little research on Evan Kinnane and he is 13 years old and has already appeared in over 2 dozen shows. He is one of 9 home-schooled children. A recent article in the Providence Journal highlighted Evan's career. You can also watch video of Evan singing John Lennon's Imagine (which just happens to be my all time favorite song). And as the American Idol judges would say, "Evan, you really made that your own. Good job, Dawg!" Since I have no idea how to post a video here, I'll give you the url:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Musing Mondays

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about your bookshelf…

What books did you read while in school? Were there any that you particular liked, or even hated? Did any become lifelong favourites?

I don't remember a lot of what I read in school and I think I wasn't old enough or mature enough to enjoy most of the reading that was assigned to me. I remember reading Billy Budd, Death of a Salesman and the The Sun Also Rises in 9th grade. The only books I remember from 10th grade are Sherwood, Ohio, A Raisin in the Sun and To Kill a Mockingbird. In 11th grade (British Literature), we read Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales and lots of Shakespeare. I remember absolutely loving both The Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare, even though I didn't understand all of it. I think it was the language and the "history" that I loved most of all. But that was the start of my great love of all things Shakespeare and in college I took two Shakespeare courses. Again, I didn't always understand absolutely everything, but I LOVED it just the same. Oddly enough I can't remember what I read in 12th grade. Not a single thing. Weird. Anyway, the one book I read in school (for an 8th grade book report) that became an absolute life long favorite and one of my "transcendent books" is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. This book stayed with me (which is very unusual) and I decided to reread it a few years ago. I was delighted to discover that it was just as good as I remembered. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

How about you? Do you have any favorite books from your school days?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

TV Quick Quips

TV Quick Quips are late again this week. Ugh! Here's my thoughts on this week's episodes of my favorite shows. Even though I feel as though I'm starting to repeat myself.

I still cry every episode of The Biggest Loser, but I'm at the point where I like all the remaining people equally. So, I don't really have all that much to say.

Modern Family is still the best new (or old) show on TV, in my opinion.

I've definitely lost my enthusiasm for Glee. What started out as a light-hearted, fun, guilty pleasure show has most definitely lost its charm. The whole Quinn lying to Finn about him being the father of her baby has gone on too long. And her attitude that he needs to "do something" about her financial situation is gag worthy. She needs to take some responsibility as well. Not to mention Finn isn't even the dad. And the fact that these are teenagers (!) just makes it all the more sick. I do enjoy the singing and dancing, but I'm not sure I can stomach any more of the pregnancy storyline(s) - both Finn/Quinn and the Schuster's false pregnancy. Yuck!

The Office was disappointing this week and there wasn't even a good Creed line to redeem the episode. As much as I hate to admit it, I think this show has outlived it's funny. I will probably continue to watch, though, since I was so in love with this show for so long. And every now and then there is a good episode.

But my big TV news for this week comes courtesy of Nan at Jade Page Press. Last week Nan mentioned to me that she was enjoying the first season of a BBC show called Gavin & Stacey that is out on DVD. She thought I might enjoy it. And did I ever! Geoff and I were hooked from the very first episode! The show centers around two young people who meet over the phone (through their jobs) and over the course of a few months decide they like each other and want to meet. The show is about their relationship, their families and their nutty friends. It is adorable, charming, funny and quirky. I (and Nan) highly recommend it.

Sentimental Sunday

It's been a while since I've posted a Sentimental Sunday. After I posted about seeing the gravestones of Revolutionary War veterans, Sharon of Gamma Sharon's Life left a comment mentioning the WWII memorial in Washington DC. That got me thinking about my visit to DC a few years ago when I had an opportunity to see that memorial for the first time. I was really impressed by it and it quickly became my favorite of all the DC memorial/monuments. I love that it is a public space that people can visit and spend time exploring or just sit in quiet reflection. The impact of this memorial was, for me, much more intense than that of other memorials/monuments. So, thanks to Sharon for inspiring me to post these pictures.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Mother of All Late Fees

As an assistant librarian I often have to tell patrons that they have a fine on their library card. Some people get all embarrassed and try to explain why this happened and how this isn't normal for them. Others just ignore me and I know that they have no intention of paying (as long as the fine is below $5.00 they can continue to check out materials). Others get all indignant and want to know EXACTLY why they are being charged .30 in late fines. What, exactly, was overdue. And then they argue that they most certainly did return it on time. We're talking about .30 here. Well, imagine my surprise when I heard the story of a man in Phoenix who returned books to his local library that were 51 years overdue. He had checked them out when he was a high school student! And along with those books, he presented a $1,000 check to the library to cover the late fines! How awesome is that? I love this man's integrity and giving spirit. I'd like to nominate him for library patron of the year. It's people like this who make working in a library a real joy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Application is in the Mail

After 17 months of researching, planning and visiting colleges (and a whole lot of drama) Katie has submitted her application to two schools!!! And I couldn't be more proud of her. While this may seem like a fairly normal event for a HS senior, this topic has been one full of stress and worry for Katie and for us. Without getting into too much detail, the past two months have been very difficult for our family. This process has been fraught with serious anxiety for Katie. But, for the most part, it's over! She finally found one school that she absolutely loves and she has applied Early Action. This means that she should hear something by December. Hallelujah! And she also applied to one other school as a back up and has one more in the works (that one does not accept the Common Application. ARRGH!) She is still considering some other options, but she really has her heart set on this one school and it's a good match for her academically. I would be very surprised if she didn't get in. (Of course, stranger things have happened). So, keep your fingers crossed for her. Life will be so much nicer once this whole decision is made.

OK, that's the "thankful" part. Can I just take a minute to vent? Thanks.
Part of what makes this whole process so stressful is all the extraneous paperwork that has to be done. It's not just an application and an essay. There are forms to fill out for the guidance counselor, transcript request forms, SATs to send and also teacher recommendations to get. Katie's school has a fairly complicated form that needs to be handed into guidance and most teachers accept this form to help them fill out teacher recommendations. One of the teachers that Katie requested a recommendation from does not accept the school form, but has her own form and a whole list of very specific instructions that she requires. Why??? Whatever. Katie jumped through her hoops and filled it all out. This teacher requires 3 weeks notice for submitting her recommendation. (All others require 2 weeks). OK, whatever.... Katie turned in all her paperwork 5 WEEKS ahead of the deadline (November 15). For the schools that use the Common Application, students can "invite" the teachers to send the recommendation online. Katie did that in early October and turned in all her paperwork to the teacher directly. A week or so ago, the teacher still had not submitted the recommendation. So Katie "re-invited" her. This annoyed the teacher. Do you think that this teacher managed to submit the recommendation before the November 15th deadline? Nope! Am I annoyed, angry and frustrated by this? Yes! Have I lost all respect for this teacher? You betcha! The real kicker? There is absolutely nothing Katie or I can do about it. Talk about stressful....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fa la la la la la la la la!

Is it just me or is anyone else annoyed by the fact that some radio stations are already playing Christmas music? Now don't get me wrong. I love Christmas music as much as the next person. As a matter of fact, I still remember the day many years ago when I found a radio station in Phoenix (where I was living at the time), that played Christmas music every day. I loved that! But it didn't start BEFORE Thanksgiving. It started the day after Thanksgiving, which is also a bit much, but I can handle that. Personally, I don't mind an occasional Christmas song starting right after Thanksgiving. But, I don't like to listen to it continuously until the week of Christmas. But that's just me. I don't like to rush my holidays. Life is rushed enough. I want to get through savor each holiday one at a time. It's bad enough that the Christmas decorations are in the stores before Halloween and that they have been piping in holiday muzak for weeks, but continuous Christmas music in early/mid November!? THAT is just too much! Tell I alone in this?

Friday, November 13, 2009

TV Quick Quips

Here's my take on this week's episodes of my favorite shows:

1. The Biggest Loser: I was absolutely shocked by Rudy's behavior this week! When he betrayed Shay during the Circus challenge I was stunned! He did explain himself and technically he did say something to Shay about "if it got down to the two of them", but really I was just as surprised as Shay when he worked against her when it got down to three contestants. That was low. And then he decided to twist that knife in Shay's back by voting against her at the end of the show! I couldn't believe it! Up until this episode, I really thought of Rudy as a guy with a lot of integrity. I was wrong. Shame on Rudy! And I'm so sad that Shay was sent home. Of everyone on the show, she needed to be there. I wish she had been able to stay longer.
2. Modern Family: Pre-empted due to some silly award show! That is just egregious. I'm having some serious Modern Family withdrawal symptoms.

3. Glee: It was great to have Glee back after a two week hiatus. The episode was OK. I'm just not feeling this show anymore. I missed Emma this week. I realized that her storyline is the one I enjoy the most. I was disappointed in this episode.

4. The Office: OK episode. Once again Creed stole the show with his line about needing to get settled and running out of the office when he thought he was a suspect in a real murder and not a just a game. Love Creed. All his crazy behavior and weird comments really make me wonder what his life outside the office is like. Now THAT would be a great episode!

How about you? What's your take on your favorite shows?

Image from Google Images

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Witches or Patriots?

On Tuesday I visited my college friend K in North Andover, MA. K and I see each other a few times a year and our visits are usually some type of field trip. The last time we got together we visited the ICA Museum in Boston to see the Shepard Fairey exhibit.

A few weeks ago I read a book called The Heretic's Daughter which deals with the Salem witch trials. Quite a bit of the book takes place in N. Andover and I recommended the book to K, thinking she might enjoy some of the local references. Not to mention K is a huge history buff. Of course, she had already heard of the book and she informed me that there were more woman from N. Andover accused and convicted of witchcraft than women from Salem. Who knew? She then suggested that our next field trip be a visit to the sites in N. Andover related to this part of our country's history. How could I resist?

So on Tuesday I drove to her house and she proceeded to drive me around N. Andover pointing out sites of historical interest. We stopped at two historic cemeteries with guidebook in hand in hopes of locating the graves of people related to the accused "witches". (None of the accused women are buried in N. Andover apparently). While we saw many interesting gravestones dating back to the mid 1700s, we never did find the relatives of the witches.

But all was not lost. While I may have been searching for evidence of one part of our nation's history, I actually found another. One thing I noticed right away was that many of the graves were marked with fresh American flags decorated with badges that said 1776! The cemeteries we visited were filled with Revolutionary War veterans. Since it was the day before Veterans Day it was clear someone had visited the cemetery very recently and place the flags there to honor these first veterans of our country. I was very moved to see this. It filled me with pride and gratitude to know that no veterans of the US military are ever forgotten. No matter how long ago they served. All of our veterans and patriots deserve our thanks and remembrance. Even the originals.

Image from Google Images (I had my camera in my purse, but I failed to take pictures. *slaps self on forehead*)

Booking Through Thursday

Suggested by JM:

“Life is too short to read bad books.” I’d always heard that, but I still read books through until the end no matter how bad they were because I had this sense of obligation.
That is, until this week when I tried (really tried) to read a book that is utterly boring and unrealistic. I had to stop reading.

Do you read everything all the way through or do you feel life really is too short to read bad books?

Life is DEFINITELY too short to read bad books. I have no problem putting a book down if I'm not enjoying it (with the exception of a book club book. Those I finish, regardless of whether or not I like them). I will usually give a book a chance of at least 50 pages, but I have put a book down in as little at 5 pages. I don't really have a hard and fast rule. And there have been more than a few times where I've given a book so much of a benefit of the doubt that I've actually finished it (against my gut feeling) and regretted it. The last book I read, The Angel's Game, is a prime example of this. Ugh!

How about you? Do you feel obligated to finish a book that you are not enjoying?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Theater Review: Shooting Star

On Friday night Geoff and I attended a production of Shooting Star at Trinity Rep with our friends. This was the second play in Trinity's 2009-2010 season and I was very excited about it. I knew I wanted to see this play as soon as I read its description:

A young man and woman fell in
love, and promised each other
they'd change the world. Twenty
years later, they meet in a a snow-
bound airport and rediscover
each other - and themselves
- in a smart romantic comedy.

I love movies and books (and plays) that deal with this topic. I'm intrigued by stories that deal with people's life journeys and how they end up where they are. And if they are happy with where they end up. And I wonder if they look back and wonder how they got there. Or if they question how their lives veered from their original plan (if it did, in fact, veer). So the topic of this play was fascinating to me. The fact that it's billed as a smart romantic comedy only served to sweeten the pie. As I read more about this play, I also learned that it contains only two characters and the actors who were cast in the roles are actually husband wife. Even more interesting.

I'm happy to report that the play did not disappoint. The set was simple yet wonderful and very effective. The stage looked exactly like the waiting area of an airport with rows of metal chairs, a gray tile looking floor and a wall of windows with snow falling outside! Very cool. The actors, Nance Williamson and Kurt Rhoads, were absolutely amazing. They are not Trinity Rep regulars though both have acted at Trinity in the past. It was fascinating to watch a one act play with only two characters who were basically on stage the entire time. The dialogue was very funny (especially that of quirky, hippie Elena).

Throughout the course of the play the story of Reed and Elena's relationship is revealed as they reminisce and rehash their past. And each of them reveal more of themselves to each other now than they did in the past. Overall, the play was very good. The storyline and the topics covered where much more serious than I had anticipated. I wasn't expecting the play to be so "heavy". And there was one scene in which Elena has a phone conversation with Reed's daughter that I thought crossed a line, but other than that it was really wonderful. If you have a chance to see Shooting Star at Trinity (or at a theater new you), I highly recommend it.

Image from Trinity Rep's Website

Monday, November 9, 2009

Book Title Meme

I saw this book meme on Tutu's Two Cents and couldn't resist. It's a great way to review all the books I've read this year and it's fun to think of the titles in a new way.

What To Do: Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!

Describe yourself: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

How do you feel: Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

Describe where you currently live: Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins

If you could go anywhere, where would you go? My Life in France by Julia Child

Your favorite form of transportation: Passionate Nomad by Jane Geniesse

Your best friend is: Listening is an Act of Love edited by Dave Isay

You and your friends are: The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney

What’s the weather like: The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

You fear: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

What is the best advice you have to give: How Not to Die by Jan Garavaglia

Thought for the day: Gone Tomorrow by P.F. Kluge

How I would like to die: Mistaken Identity by Don van Ryn

My soul’s present condition: Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg

A couple of these are a bit of a stretch, but it was fun to do. Feel free to join in and leave a link here if you'd like.

Image from Google images

Sunday, November 8, 2009

TV Quick Quips

Here's my take on this week's episodes of my favorite shows?

1. The Biggest Loser
- Thank goodness Tracey was finally voted off the show. I loved that Jillian admitted to the camera that she doesn't like Tracey! I'm liking Jillian more and more all the time. I must admit, however, that Tracey looks fabulous and she really was able to keep up the weight loss and healthy lifestyle after she went home. So, good for her! I'm going to have to complain about product placement again, though. What the heck's up with suggesting that Extra Gum will be a good snack alternative to ice cream?! Really?! I don't think you can convince people who are thin and not food lovers that gum can be a good substitute for ice cream. Let alone people with food issues. (Or ice cream lovers like me). I'm not buying that. No way. And lastly... What's up with Bob and Amanda? I think it's great that he motivates her and they have a connection. Does anyone else think maybe there's more to it? I don't have a problem with that (unless one of them is married. Are they?). I just noticed it and I was wondering if I'm the only one.

2. Modern Family
- What can I say. This show is just one great laugh after another. Loved the very end when Mitchell and Cam were pretending to figure skate and Cam yells "My turn" as he runs at Mitchell for a lift and the screen goes black. Brilliant! Geoff and I are still making jokes about that scene days later. Loved all the sweet and clever t-shirts Jay had made for his family to celebrate their accomplishments. Awww... But I think my favorite part was that they focused a bit more on the middle daughter, Alex, and her practical jokes on her brother and sister (charging the cell phone and iPod). I thought it was very clever how they took her nerdy, bookish personality and showed how she used that in a comedic way to get back at her snarky sister. Go Alex! I hope to see them develop the other minor characters as well. Another great episode.

4. Glee
- No new episode for the second week in a row! This is so disappointing. Especially since the last episode I saw was one I didn't enjoy. I'm kind of losing interest now. Not good. I hope it's back this week with a really great episode.

3. The Office
- Again Creed comes in with a zinger of a line (that paper wasn't supposed to be delivered). So random, so funny and so Creed. I liked that we got to see some Dwight/Andy one-upmanship and prankiness. That is definitely an area of the show that has the potential to be very funny. And one I think they should pursue. This weeks scenes were a little lacking, but the idea is good. Not sure how I feel about the whole Michael and Pam's mom scenario. I thought his birthday lunch and scrapbook was very cute and I liked that Pam and Jim were charmed by it. But then when the whole thing changed because of her age, I wasn't really sure how to feel. I didn't think it was funny. But it was typical awkward Michael Scott, just much more personal than most of his previous gaffes. What did all you Office fans think?

How about you? What did you all think of these episodes or those of your favorite shows?

Image from Google Images


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