6/30/11

Things to Read - Six Interesting Articles from Around the Web (on Parenting, College, Superbugs, and the Revolution)

1 (college). Advice for the class of 2011 - what would you emphasize?

2 (college). What is the purpose of college? - I'm unclear myself right now.

3. (parenting). Lori Gottlieb's article How to Land Your Kid in Therapy (Why the obsession with our kids' happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods) in the Atlantic should be required reading for all parents. According to Gottlieb, a psychotherapist, she continually sees patients in their 20s or early 30s suffering from depression and anxiety who have "'awesome' parents . . . fabulous siblings, supportive friends, an excellent education, a cool job, good health, and a nice apartment." The influx of such patients lead Gottlieb to wonder if the problems of this generation stem from the fact that rather than having neglectful parents, these adults were raised by parents who had "done too much." As summarized by Gottlieb, "[h]ere I was, seeing the flesh-and-blood results of the kind of parenting that my peers and I were trying to practice with our own kids, precisely so that they wouldn’t end up on a therapist’s couch one day. We were running ourselves ragged in a herculean effort to do right by our kids—yet what seemed like grown-up versions of them were sitting in our offices, saying they felt empty, confused, and anxious. Back in graduate school, the clinical focus had always been on how the lack of parental attunement affects the child. It never occurred to any of us to ask, what if the parents are too attuned? What happens to those kids?"

The article goes on to discuss other research on this topic. I especially found the comments of Paul Bohn, a psychiatrist at UCLA, insightful. According to Bohn, "many parents will do anything to avoid having their kids experience even mild discomfort, anxiety, or disappointment—'anything less than pleasant,' as he puts it—with the result that when, as adults, they experience the normal frustrations of life, they think something must be terribly wrong."

"Consider a toddler who’s running in the park and trips on a rock, Bohn says. Some parents swoop in immediately, pick up the toddler, and comfort her in that moment of shock, before she even starts crying. But, Bohn explains, this actually prevents her from feeling secure—not just on the playground, but in life. If you don’t let her experience that momentary confusion, give her the space to figure out what just happened (Oh, I tripped), and then briefly let her grapple with the frustration of having fallen and perhaps even try to pick herself up, she has no idea what discomfort feels like, and will have no framework for how to recover when she feels discomfort later in life. These toddlers become the college kids who text their parents with an SOS if the slightest thing goes wrong, instead of attempting to figure out how to deal with it themselves. If, on the other hand, the child trips on the rock, and the parents let her try to reorient for a second before going over to comfort her, the child learns: That was scary for a second, but I’m okay now. If something unpleasant happens, I can get through it. In many cases, Bohn says, the child recovers fine on her own—but parents never learn this, because they’re too busy protecting their kid when she doesn’t need protection."

The article goes on to quote Barry Schwartz, a social scientist at Swathmore, "We want our kids to be happy living the life we envision for them—the banker who’s happy, the surgeon who’s happy" even though those professions “might not actually make them happy.” "We’re not so happy if our kids work at Walmart but show up each day with a smile on their faces,” Schwartz says. “They’re happy, but we’re not. Even though we say what we want most for our kids is their happiness, and we’ll do everything we can to help them achieve that, it’s unclear where parental happiness ends and our children’s happiness begins.”

The article concludes with the reminder (which I really should attach to a pinboard somewhere) that "[o]ur children are not our masterpieces." A great article, I highly suggest it (thank you, Julia, for the link!)

4 (superbugs). The Rise of Superbugs in the Atlantic - "Today, nearly 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to healthy farm animals. Drugs that can mean the difference between life and death in humans are routinely mixed into animal feed to make them grow faster and to compensate for unsanitary living conditions. It's a wasteful practice that squanders one of the most powerful tools of modern medicine." SCARY!!!

5 (the revolution). If you want to be depressed but educated, then you MUST read Chris Hedges's Endgame Strategy on why the revolution must start in America. "The game is over. We lost. The corporate state will continue its inexorable advance until two-thirds of the nation and the planet is locked into a desperate, permanent underclass. Most of us will struggle to make a living while the Blankfeins and our political elites wallow in the decadence and greed of the Forbidden City and Versailles. These elites do not have a vision. They know only one word: more. They will continue to exploit the nation, the global economy and the ecosystem. And they will use their money to hide in gated compounds when it all implodes. Do not expect them to take care of us when it starts to unravel. We will have to take care of ourselves. We will have to rapidly create small, monastic communities where we can sustain and feed ourselves. It will be up to us to keep alive the intellectual, moral and cultural values the corporate state has attempted to snuff out. It is either that or become drones and serfs in a global corporate dystopia. It is not much of a choice. But at least we still have one."

6 (parenting). How to Talk to Little Girls "Ask her what she's reading. What does she like and dislike, and why? There are no wrong answers. You're just generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain. For older girls, ask her about current events issues: pollution, wars, school budgets slashed. What bothers her out there in the world? How would she fix it if she had a magic wand? You may get some intriguing answers. Tell her about your ideas and accomplishments and your favorite books. Model for her what a thinking woman says and does."

6/29/11

Places to Go (Vacation) - James Madison's Montpelier (Orange, VA)

lion

As part of our Orange, VA weekend getaway, we visited James Madison's impressive Montpelier estate. Unlike George Washington's Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, restoration of the Madison mansion began fairly recently. So the interior still has some empty rooms as the archaeologists try to figure out exactly how the house was furnished during its prime. Plus, Dolly Madison died bankrupt after selling off most of the family's possessions (poor Dolly), which complicates today's search to find the "original furnishings." The estate refers to these efforts as "the Presidential Detective Story" and it makes an interesting tale. We've visited a number of restored estates but until we visited Montpelier I had never really considered how much effort it takes to bring back the past.

In addition to the house, the grounds are beautiful - with tons of trails, gardens, amazing views of the Blue Ridge mountains, and places to explore. Speciality tours are offered throughout the day - we attended a really informative Slave Tour (the original slave cemetery is preserved). Plus, I enjoyed learning about Madison himself, quite a life.

We went without the kids but there are plenty of things for kids to do (minus the house tour, which would probably bore children under 10) - archaeological digs for children, a hands-on tent (with building techniques and crafts), an outdoor cooking tent, a Freedman's Farm with animals and a special Children's playroom on weekends. Plus plenty of room to run and run (which is usually what my kids want to do). Also, for lovers of horses, the thoroughbred retirement foundation is on site.

Montpelier is about 1.5 hours to 2 hours from DC, so you could visit as a day trip. But if you can swing it, I highly suggest an overnight in this lovely area of Virginia. Admission is $16 for adults and $8 for children 6-14 (children under 6 are free). The estate is open from 9 am to 5pm in the summer (9-4 pm in the winter).

doors and windows

RANDOM LINKS:

*Thank you, Sweet Fine Day for this, so well stated - " . . . . . And this is why I choose to share (sharing is caring! bwahaha, sorry, couldn’t resist). It’s not because I think my life is better than yours (I assure you, it is probably not). It’s not because I want to be some kind of blog celebrity (that whole thing, you guys, is so weird and strange). It’s not because I have anything to teach anybody. What I do have, through age and experience for a lack of a better way to describe it, are stories and I genuinely believe that through sharing, we can help each other out. To tell each other that it’s ok to get angry, to be sad and frustrated, to be scared and lonely sometimes. That it’s ok to be all of these things even as mothers. Although I love my children dearly and I am proud of the little people that they are turning out to be, being a mother isn’t my greatest achievement in life. It may very well turn out to be in the end, but I don’t know this to be true yet because I haven’t finished living my life. Being a mother isn’t what defines me. It’s part of who I am, but it isn’t what defines me. I get to decide what does."

*A beautiful set of photos.

*I found this really inspirational (link via The Blue Hour)

*Shadow art with piles of trash - INCREDIBLE!!

*100 Things that Are Getting Better (YAY!!)

*A reality show about "real" food? This new show sounds amazing, "each episode will feature a different issue and the grassroots solutions that “food rebels”—Food Forward’s affectionate name for changemakers—are implementing, from sustainable farm fishing in Alaska to rooftop gardening in New York City to organic ranching in Wyoming."

*Tori Amos continues to amaze me. She even makes 80's pop music sound magical.

fence

6/28/11

Things to Make - The Best Smoothies Ever (via the Inn at Westwood Farm)

inn

A few weeks ago, Dan and I celebrated our 6 year wedding anniversary. My wonderful in-laws volunteered to take the kids for a weekend and we headed off to the Inn at Westwood Farm in Orange, VA for some must needed r&r. Though we've stayed at bed & breakfasts before, I was a little nervous about the Inn's small size (only 4 rooms) in that it might feel a little too intimate. But all my apprehensions vanished as soon as we walked in the door - wine and wonderful snacks, huge verandas with comfy chairs and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, chickens, horses, beautiful meadows perfect for evening walks, and gorgeous interiors. The place was literally amazing; the inn keepers made sure that every detail of our stay was taken care of - earplugs by the bed (for the roosters), coffee (or tea) first thing in the morning, an endless supply of drinks and bottled water, reservations and suggestions for places to go, and lots of big comfy chairs and open air (where I curled up with a good book). Plus breakfast was phenomenal, so good that I asked for the smoothie recipe, attached below. But if you want to try the french toast, you'll have to book a visit. I cannot wait to return.

Inn at Westwood Farm Smoothie:

Fresh frozen banana
Fresh frozen pineapple & mango or raspberries or strawberries. Fresh is ok too.
Orange juice
French Vanilla non-fat yogurt
Vanilla whey protein powder

Put frozen banana & other fruit in blender, follow with OJ, enough to cover fruit, add yogurt then whey protein powder. Cover with oj and blend. Leftovers - fill Popsicle molds and freeze!

vices

I thought we'd spend a lot of the weekend exploring Orange, VA but the Inn was so wonderful and relaxing that we didn't get out much. We did, however, manage to visit two nearby wineries - Keswick and Barboursville (both of which have lovely views and good - though expensive- wine) and eat dinner at Palladio (the chef is a James Beard nominee). The service at Palladio was exceptional but I thought the food was just okay (better than average, just not sensational). And we checked out James Madison's estate - Montpelier (which is down the road from the Inn), more on Montpelier tomorrow. All in all a lovely weekend, fabulous in fact.

6/24/11

Things to Do - Make A Grateful List (May 2011)

yard

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT:
1. Treme: The Complete First Season
2. Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans
3. Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark (Modern Library Paperbacks) by Jane Fletcher Geniesse
4. Modern Family, Season 2
5. Death Cab for Cutie's Codes and Keys
6. The Chopin Waltz in E flat

FOOD:
7. Fried pickles
8. Lebanese Taverna market (wonderful food and it sells Crunchie bars)
9. Lazy dinners of smoked sausage, baguettes, and brie cheese

ETC:
10. T making us "pasta" in his kitchen (he calls all food he makes pasta)
11. Johnny our "pet bat" (i.e. backyard pet) (F made up tales about him and his whole family)
12. P always saying "oh bother!"
13. BronzedBerry (mobile spray tan - how awesome is that?)
14. Overnight mail (for when you forget your son's favorite blankie in a Charleston hotel room)
15. F's nature collection
16. T spending most mornings trying on the whole family's shoes
17. Playing "mixed up land" with the girls ("And where is the bat prince you speak of?")
18. The Memorial Day Weekend Sunset Celebration at Mount Vernon
19. Front loaders and mixers outside our house for almost a week, while they fixed the water pipes in the road (T was enthralled by the trucks).
20. Getting drunk with the mongolians for Saruul's birthday (oh the mojito)
21. T mowing the lawn (with his toy lawn-mower)
22. R&B Air Conditioning repair (same day service on a 97 degree day when everyone else was booked for the week)
23. Going to bed in a super-hot house and waking up to a cool (and wonderful) morning breeze
24. "Mom, let's go on a nature walk" (all three kids)
25. Visiting good friends (Laurie and Jon & Amy and Jon)

disney

VACATION:
1. The car train
2. P & F's enthrallment while watching the Main Street parade
3. Buzz Lightyear's ride
4. F on Thunder Mountain "mom, it was SO COOL!"; P on Small World "I love dollies, I just love them. I wish for more and more dollies!"
5. Fireworks over the Magic Kingdom
6. T saying "more rides, more rides" over and over.
7. The safari ride in Animal Kingdom
8. P saying at the Haunted Mansions "that's not real, that's just batteries, right?"
9. Dan's Disney dinners - baked chicken and sausage pasta
10. The Forsyth park playground (Savannah, GA)
11. The squares of Savannah (Savannah, GA)
12. The Disney sleeper sofa (shockingly comfy)
13. A double rainbow over Marion Square (Charleston, SC)
14. The Ellis Square fountain/splash park (Savannah, GA)
15. A whole day on Sullivan Island beach (Charleston, SC)
16. Oatland Island's alligators (Savannah, GA)
17. South of the Border's Indoor Reptile Exhibit (a much needed cheesy roadstop in the Carolinas)
18. The bouncy slide in Marion Square (Charleston, SC)
19. Finding a babysitter for our last night in Charleston and taking a walk in the riverfront park
20. Dolphin sightings from Sullivan beach (Charleston, SC)

The GIRLS' LISTS

F's List - Thunder Mountain, Small World, my family, my Simba doll, visiting Auntie Laurie and Jon, rainbows, bouncy slides, Disney World, the zoo, the pizza kitchen at the (National) zoo, playing with my friends, Mrs. Dog, reading books, nature

P's List - Johnny the bat and his family, cuddles, my family, pajamas, packages from Grandma T, my friends, art projects, dollies, Small World, fireworks, the beach, the sea, Auntie Laurie, playing mixed up land

6/23/11

Thing to Read - Books About China for Kids

books (6 of 17)

Lately the girls have been asking a lot of questions about different cultures and countries, so I decided to buy them some books on China. Why China? Well, first of all, almost all of their toys come from China (hence they dream of China like I used dream of of Santa's workshop at the North Pole). Further, two of our good friends are moving with the State Department to Malaysia in a few months (I didn't think I could find a whole series of books on Malaysia) and the kids are taking the loss of their best adult-friend, Val, pretty hard. Further, one of their friends is living in Mongolia with her grandparents for two years (and I didn't think I could find several books on Mongolia).

So here's what we've been reading:

The Seven Chinese Sisters

The girls love this book, in which a dragon abducts sister seven (the baby) and the six older sisters utilize their various skills to save her. It's a little scary (the dragon wants to eat the baby) but a really nice fable about working together and using everyone's "special" talent.

Great Race

The Great Racetells the story of the Chinese horoscope and how the animals' competition to win the name of the first calendar year. In the story, the rat tricks everyone and wins the prize. It's a fun read, especially as the girls like to compare their personal horoscopes at the end.

Chinese Children's Favorite Stories

In many ways, this is the perfect book. I've been trying to move the girls away from picture books, but P refuses to read anything that doesn't have illustrations on every page. This book has several "longer" stories, with only a few illustrations for each one, which I appreciated. Plus many of the stories introduce Chinese gods and heavens, which helped me discuss different religious views with the girls. On the downside, some of the stories are sexist - such as "The Mouse Bride" where the mayor basically auctions off his daughter and "Chang-E Flies to the Moon" where the heavenly guards explain that a good wife should not leave her husband. But I also like that the stories allowed us to talk about sex-related issues, such as "how do you think the Mayor's daughter felt when her father treated her like property?" and "do you think Change-E was right to leave her husband?" And some of the stories are simple, beautiful tales, such as "Dream of the Butterfly" where the "scholar" dreams he is a butterfly and learns to appreciate the natural world around him. And the girls really like the story of "The Ghost Catcher" where special paintings scare away bad ghosts (after we read it we made several pictures of our own to scare away ghosts).

China (A to Z)

This was the only non-fiction book I bought on China and the concepts it introduces are quite simple - such as food, puppets, holidays, etc. The girls have enjoyed learning about a different culture's everyday life and holidays (I've discovered that Communism is actually quite difficult to explain to children as they're used to living in a world where other people always tell them what they can and can't do).

The Dancing Dragon

This fold out book (which becomes one very long illustration) tells the story of a Chinese New Year Parade. I think F was a little too old for it (she's 5.5), but the illustrations are beautiful and now all three kids want to go to see the puppets at a New Years' parade.
___________

What about everyone else? Any good book recommendations for kids?

6/22/11

Things to Do - TWO!!

celebrate

TWO!! He's really two, I know how cheesy this sounds, but I really can't believe it. I enjoy this stage (tantrums and everything), but there's something bittersweet about the fact that my youngest is no longer a baby (i.e. I'm OLD). On the other hand, life really is getting easier. Last weekend, I read a book on a blanket in the yard while T played with trucks next to me and F read stories to P in the hammock. And a few days ago, at the playground, I read two whole New Yorker articles while T made me "pasta" out of mulch and F & P bonded with a girl they met. Some days I can actually feel the stress leaving my body.

For T's birthday, we had a small celebration. F's playgroup meets on Fridays, so I invited everyone over for decorate-your-own-cupcake and an Elmo pinata. I thought I'd finally escaped my bad pinata karma (click here for the story) but the strings didn't release the candy, so the big kids took turns beating Elmo up. I worried that this would traumatize T, but he seemed so overwhelmed by it all that I couldn't gauge his response.

truck

My mom bought him this truck set for his birthday and he takes everywhere (he even sleeps with it). It's funny, when the girls were little I NEVER let them walk around in just diapers. For reasons that seem silly now I associated unclothed children with bad parenting. I assumed that people would think "how can we trust a woman who can't even put clothes on her baby?" (actually people really do think things like this or so I've learned from DC Urban Moms). But now that it's summer we often leave T only in a diaper and I find him adorable like that. I guess I've finally realized how fleeting these stages are - how he'll soon be out of diapers and picking out "big-boy" underwear. And then grade school and prom and etc. (okay, so I'm getting ahead of myself).

6/21/11

Things to Make - Nature Art

naturecollection
(F's nature collection is pictured above)

As I mentioned yesterday, we've been going on a lot of neighborhood walks lately. On these walks I like to take a small cotton bag and "collect" some of the beautiful wildflowers and plants we pass by (sometimes the kids help me, sometimes they don't). After we return home, I place everything we found on the kitchen table and ask the kids how we could use our "nature stuff" to make pictures. F often comes up with great ideas - long green leaves have become jack's beanstalk, a teeter totter, and Tarzan's jungle. P usually gets out the tape and randomly makes "pretty designs" with the nature stuff. Some days the kids show no interest, so I'll start my own pictures (our family in the "jungle" for example) and leave them half-undone, only to come back later and find that the kids finished them (like a coloring book).

I know it's a super simple project, but the kids seem to like it. Plus, I'm always intrigued by the designs the kids create.

HAPPY TUESDAY EVERYONE!!

OTHER CREATIVE IDEAS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

*Stamping cookies (link via DesignMom). LOVE this one!

*Teach Mama has a huge (and wonderful post) on using recyclables for kids' craft projects (which includes a downloadable PDF).

*Build a road with black electrical tape, toy cars, and blocks. Sounds like fun.

*Salt map of the earth.

*Make your own sidewalk chalk paint (with cornstarch and food coloring).

*I love this DIY woven paper gift-topper, especially since I always use newspaper to wrap gifts (which embarrasses my children).

*10 Summer Dares (a very fun list).

pictures

6/20/11

Things to Do - Color Walk

pink

Lately we've been taking a lot of "nature walks" around our neighborhood (keep in mind that I live in the suburbs, so I use the term "nature" loosely). All three kids seem to love these walks, albeit for different reasons. F has started a "nature collection" (she uses a Barbie box) and she likes to look for small pretty flowers, little sticks, and other various things that catch her fancy (I never can tell what her next "find" will be). One of our neighbors has a driveway composed of thousands (millions?) of tiny little stones and P likes to look through these for the perfect stone. She could spend hours doing this (but I won't let her, seeing as it is someone ELSE's driveway). And T just likes to point out anything that looks like a ball or bird. Yes, this is how we spend our days.

Usually I just let the kids do their own thing (and discover their own things) while I meander next to them. But sometimes when they seem tired or fussy I try to come up with projects and games to move things along - like looking for a certain color or trying to notice how the landscape changes with the season (which flowers are in bloom, which are gone, etc.). When I read Frugal Family Fun's color walk idea I thought we could try it out on our nature walk. So I went to Home Depot and found a large number of paint card chips. For each child I put together a set with 8 cards (reds, greens, etc). I put slightly different colors in each set, hoping that the girls would compare and see whose card came closest (in retrospect I should have made all three sets identical as competition of any sort just leads to fighting lately). And I brought along a pen so as to record what we found.

P suggested we invite the neighbors (who are in 1st grade and 4th grade) to walk with us, which seemed like a good idea. P shared her cards with the oldest neighbor and the youngest neighbor took T's cards (not surprisingly, he had no interest in the project). Unfortunately the color walk seemed to bore P, but F LOVED finding things and recording them on her cards. Plus it proved to be a great exercise for F and our 1st grade neighbor in spelling and writing (I kept hearing over and over "how do you spell xx? What about xx?" as they RAN from plant to plant). All in all a fun afternoon. Even T tried to help out, he knows the word yellow now so he just kept pointing to everything and saying "ellow??" hopeful that at least once he would be right.

MONDAY LINKS:

*American Photography's Top Images from last year - stunning.

*La Domestique is the coolest food blog ever. Each week the author features a new seasonal ingredient. She write a thorough introduction on Monday, 10 creative uses of the ingredient on Tuesday, a featured recipe on Wednesday, a "storyboard" on Thursday, and final thoughts and inspirations on Friday (link via The Slow Life).

*"Washed Up is an ongoing project by Mexican-born, New York-based artist Alejandro DurĂ¡n that addresses the issue of plastic pollution making its way across the ocean and onto the shores of Sian Ka’an, Mexico’s largest federally-protected reserve. Unfortunately, Sian Ka’an is also a repository for the world’s trash, which is carried there by ocean currents from every corner of the globe." (link via Modish)

*A high-school teacher friend told me about this wonderful website, aimed at teaching women and girls about the dangers of advertising. A great (and interesting) resource, especially the gallery of offenders.

*Weird fruits.

*Scott Conarroe's By Rail - wow!

*Dear Photograph features people's old photos in the location now. Gorgeous nostalgia.

orange
T adores our 4th grade neighbor. ADORES!

6/17/11

Things to Do - Jump on the Bed

up

Oh, the magic of a hotel room . . .

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND EVERYONE!! No more vacation posts for awhile, back to "real life." See you on Monday!!
____________________

“She waited for the train to pass. Then she said, “I sometimes think that people’s hearts are like deep wells. Nobody knows what’s at the bottom. All you can do is imagine by what comes floating to the surface every once in a while.” —Haruki Murakami (I really like this quote and the man who said it).

WEEKEND LINKS:

*33 ways to stay creative. I need to print this and hang it somewhere.

*This is really funny and true. Why does paper beat rock? I've always wondered myself.

*LOVE this!!!!!!

*KidFriendly DC has the scoop on discount family movies in DC-area theatres and outside. Click here.

*These photos are beautiful!! As is this photo.

*A rug made out of balloons for $2000, it's amazing what people make and what people buy.

*Thank you Max Wagner, for reminding me to always carry a camera and always think out of the box. The cliff diving images are lovely!

*This cardboard sculpture is beyond inspiring, it's amazing what people can create out of things I usually throw away (or recycle).

p

This might be my favorite picture ever of my three kids, it really captures it all.

6/16/11

Things to Read - Summer Reading

It's that time again - time to lay on a blanket and read fun, interesting (usually not too serious) books. Lots of them. I love summer.

Here's What I've been reading:

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

I first read Danielle Evans when her short story, Virgins, appeared in The Best American Short Stories 2008. I remember thinking that it was one of the best pieces of fiction I'd ever read (if you're curious, an excerpt is available here) and googling her like crazy trying to read more of her writing. Unfortunately, there wasn't much out there. But I kept up my search. Finally, last year, Evans published a short story collection - Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self and it makes for some really enjoyable reading (though I still think Virgins is the best story in the book). Most of the stories focus on ways in which children and young adults enter a grown-up world. The story Snakes especially stuck with me - it tells the tale of how two young cousins, left by their parents to spend the summer with their grandma, navigate the world between responsibility and fantasy (with disastrous consequences). I especially found these stories interesting to read from a parenting perspective, in that they made me contemplate how adult decisions can impact children's lives, in ways that I hadn't necessarily thought of before.

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

This book was on my Amazon wishlist for about a year before I finally bought and read it. I worried that the book would be too cheesy or preachy or both, but I ended up really liking it. Rubin was a lawyer before she became a writer (she clerked for O'Connor) and she has young children, so I felt like I could relate to her (except I didn't go to Yale or clerk on the Supreme Court). And the book motivated me to try to find little pockets of happiness throughout the day - nothing drastic, just small moves towards a better you. I especially enjoyed Rubin's quest to stay true to herself (her motto is "Be Gretchen") while a at the same time open herself up to new experiences and possibilities. Now I'm thinking of trying something similar myself.

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

I read Portia de Rossi's Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain for bookclub and I never would have picked it up on my own. The idea of reading about a TV star's struggles with anorexia did not appeal to me (I seem to have the opposite of anorexia in that I continually - and against all logic - refuse to accept that food causes weight gain). But it ended up being the best book I've read in months. I couldn't put it down (I finished it in one day, albeit a lazy day). When de Rossi's weight dipped to the low 80s I really thought she would die (as did most of her family), despite the fact that I read US Magazine and I know that she's alive. Anyways, the story of how someone can slowly slip from yo-you dieting to forgoing toothpaste (she didn't want to risk the extra calories) was fascinating, very similar to Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. And at the end when she talks about finding Ellen (DeGeneres) and falling in love, I cried. Then I saw recent pictures of LeAnn Rimes in US Magazine and I cried more. Then I ate potatoes and felt incredibly grateful for the fact that I'm loved, just as I am (thank you, Dan).


Here are some suggestions from around the web:

*Daily Candy has a (hopefully) great list, that includes Karen Russell's Swamplandia!. According to Daily Candy, "Who can resist a coming-of-age swamp saga with an alligator-wrestling heroine trying to save her family’s decaying South Florida theme park? Not us. Karen Russell’s debut novel will first drop your jaw and then break your heart. Insect repellent suggested." I liked (though didn't love) Russell's short story book, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (Vintage Contemporaries), so I'm curious about her novel.

*My beach read suggestions from last summer.

*The Mad Men Reading list - this is awesome!! Who knew that Betty Draper read F. Scott Fitzgerald's Diamond as Big as the Ritz? And Peggy read Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence - Restored Modern Edition?

*Esquire magazine has a list of 75 Books Every Man Should Read (WTF? Because men need their own literature list? Why doesn't anyone ever have a list of 75 Books All Females Should Read? Besides Glamour or something else equally appalling). Anyways, despite the sexist title it's a really great list, which includes - Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories (one of my favorite books ever), Tropic of Cancer, and Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel.

*Bob Mould just wrote an autobiography, I can't wait to read it and remember high school and Sugar concerts.

*Flavorwire's Contemporary Short Novels for Your Summer Reading Pleasure - I'd never even heard of any of the books on this list, which makes me REALLY want to read some of them. Flavorwire also lists "A Collection of Wonderful Books By Morally Questionable People", which includes V.S. Naipaul's A House for Mr. Biswas (one of my favorite books ever).

*This book on growing up in a homesteading family sounds really good. As does this book on living simply (and eating well). For more books on eating "real food" and living a farm life, Farmbrarian always has great suggetions.

*"Modern fictional awesomeness" book recommendations.

*Oprah's List of 20 Books for the Armchair Traveler (Yay! Life of Pi)

*The 100 Greatest Nonfiction Books

*Budget Travel's 25 Greatest Travel Books of All Time - I know I'm supposed to grow out of it, but I still love On the Road (Penguin Classics) and I also really like Into the Wild.

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