January 31, 2017
My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout.
A lovely, sad, sentimental, thoughtful book. It's about family relationships, family struggles. Finding your own identity and leaving your family. The story takes place in the hospital. Lucy Barton is recovering from an operation, and her mother, who she hasn't seen in years, comes to stay with her. We listen to the exchanges between these two women, to gossip and old family stories and flashbacks, and attempt to understand the bond between them. It was difficult for me, and I found it hard to relate to Lucy, but I felt for her all the same.
The Association of Small Bombs, by Karan Mahajan.
A difficult and tragic, but definitely worthy, read. Two brothers and their friend go to pick up their family's TV set at a repair shop in Delhi, and the brothers are killed by a bomb. The book deals in the aftershocks of this horrible event to many of those impacted by it - the boys' parents, the friend, his parents, and even the bomb maker. It is beautifully written, and although I have no personal experience in that part of the world, I was transported to India and into the lives of these characters.
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.
I'd been wanting to mark this one off my to-read list for a while, and when my fourth-grader read it with his class, I decided it was time. It's wonderful. It's the story of August (Auggie) Pullman, a ten-year-old boy with severe facial deformities. He had been home-schooled by his mother, but his parents decide it's time for him to start school. He attends a private middle school and works to adjust to middle school life. Middle school is difficult for anybody, but Auggie has to endure stares, screams, rumors, names...and he manages to do this without losing his own sense of self, humor, and kindness. The book is written from several different perspectives, and the chapters are short, making it a fast read that is accessible to all readers. I cried tears of sadness and tears of joy, and I'm happy my son loved it too.
January 30, 2017
It wouldn't be winter without a selfie from the ski lift.
I can feel the days getting longer. It's not quite as dark in the mornings as it had been. That said, we are still pretty far away from spring. It's still time to enjoy and appreciate winter.
We had an especially busy weekend, but it felt balanced and good all around. Saturday included yoga, errands (hair cuts, grocery shopping...), basketball, and an evening at our house with good friends and their boys. We grilled steaks (yes, the grill still works in January, and no, I didn't eat a steak) and enjoyed catching up with friends. Kevin and I had attempted another alcohol-free January, but we agreed to end it a few days early to sip some wine on the last Saturday of the month. Four weeks is pretty good, right? (Side note: I only had a couple glasses but still slept like crap and felt not-so-great the next day. I think I'll be continuing to decrease my alcohol consumption overall, because I think my body isn't digging it any more.)
Sunday was skiing. We went to a local mountain (an hour away) and enjoyed a beautiful day on the slopes. We got home mid-afternoon and watched another couple episodes of Game of Thrones before our dinner of spaghetti and meatballs.
That's a good weekend!
January 27, 2017
Just a few things I've bookmarked recently... Have a fabulous weekend!
How to raise kinder, less entitled kids (according to science). This article from The Washington Post doesn't share anything I didn't already know, but it's still a good reminder. It can be difficult to think of all the things we do that influence the way our kids learn and behave and think about the world. Especially when you do some things differently than the families around you, it's good to hear the message that you're doing the right thing. (Or to be given the gentle nudge that maybe there's a better way.)
Blue Feed, Red Feed. I hope most people know they live in a bubble most of the time. This is a good tool to review and see how differently people can receive information from social media sites. I'm helped by some conservative family and friends, but I still consciously watch/read Fox News sometimes in order to get a different perspective. It's painful, but it's important. I wish we didn't keep pushing everyone to the extremes.
What Teens Need Most From Their Parents. As you can tell, I'm drawn to articles and studies on parenting. I want to get it right. This one is interesting and serves as a reminder that teenagers need more, not less, attention from their parents.
The World's Oldest Yoga Teacher Has Some Advice. This woman is worth looking at for the pictures alone. They certainly inspire me to continue to improve in my yoga practice. But the words about all of the benefits of yoga inspire me too.
My President Was Black. A history of the first African American White House--and of what came next. A really long but worthwhile read about President Obama.
In Which I am a Little Bit of a Wimp. I loved this blog post from Tania Kindersley. I found myself nodding at several points while reading. The desire to be kind and to see progress without being a fighter myself.
January 26, 2017
A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman.
A story about a curmudgeon (what a great word that is, by the way) in Sweden. It took me a little while to get into this one, but it definitely grew on me. It's a beautiful, heartwarming story. It will remind you that everyone has a story. Everyone has struggles, and you may not understand what's going on behind the face that people show to the world.
Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine.
You have to go into this one knowing that it is poetry. If you go in with that open mind, you will be able to let the messages hit you hard and sink in. Poems, mini-essays, prose poetry...whatever you call them, they are powerful. They shed light on racism in all its forms, even/especially the small acts of prejudice encountered by people of color every day. It will open your eyes.
Paris for One, and Other Stories, by Jojo Moyes.
As I've said before, I'd read just about anything by Jojo Moyes. This one is a collection of short stories. Paris for One is about 100 pages, so more of a novella. The others are very short stories. I enjoyed Paris for One in particular, and I liked all the stories. Nothing that I'd rush out to buy or tell all my friends about, but a good entertaining read nonetheless.
January 25, 2017
What a beautiful weekend. We are living in interesting and concerning times, and it felt really good to get out and do something. My sister-in-law and I drove into Boston for the Women's March, and similar to what happened in cities around the world, the crowd was much larger than anticipated. It was a beautiful sea of people, all happy to be standing together and making our voices heard. It was positive, peaceful, and powerful.
I will admit there were quite a few signs that served to make fun of our new president (many featuring the p-word, references to tiny hands, his love of Putin, his hair, etc.); and although some made me laugh, they weren't my favorites. My favorites were thoughtful and serious and spoke to the issues we are genuinely concerned about. The same with the chants - some were more directed towards President Trump, but most were focused on the need to influence our culture in a positive way. My favorite: "Let's go Science!"
I came away feeling inspired and uplifted, knowing that so many out there feel the same way I do about so many issues. Let's hope we can keep that feeling alive.
January 19, 2017
I haven't done one of these in a long time. I've been stuck in a bit of a rut, making the same dinners over and over. There's nothing really wrong with that, as most of the dinners are healthy and enjoyed by all, but I do like to mix it up every now and then. I get bored, and I especially want to make sure my boys are game for trying new foods. I somehow managed to spend a bit of time looking through some of my old magazines, and I found a few recipes to try. Here's what went down last week...
Spicy Black Bean Soup
Winner! First, I love soups. They're warm and yummy in the winter, the boys generally do well with them, and they're an easy vehicle for veggies. But I hadn't tried a new one in a long time. Nathan likes black beans, so I thought I'd give this a shot. The main reason why this was a success was that he helped me make it. It was his first attempt at cooking on the stove, and he was extremely proud. I was a little worried that it might be too spicy, so I only included 1/2 of a jalapeno - I could've added more. But it was easy, super yummy, and healthy! The boys agreed that adding chopped avocado as a garnish is the best - they said sour cream made it taste too much like chili. Absolutely a keeper!
Parmesan Chicken with Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts, Potatoes
Not super exciting, but another success overall. I don't eat chicken, so I had a salad with the roasted veggies. And I took the leftovers with me for lunch.
Seared Fish with Beets and Broccoli, Beet Greens, Rice
I used cod for this, and it was okay, but I think I've determined that I prefer a flatter fish such as flounder for this type of dish. I loved the veggies, though. I had never cooked a fresh beet, and it was pretty easy - will definitely do it more from now on, because after loathing them as a kid, I now rather enjoy them. I also sauteed up the greens with some garlic and olive oil - yum!
Red Leaf Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
This is my favorite winter salad. Kevin and Aaron had leftover chicken with it; Nathan had a plate of sweet potatoes, walnuts, green beans, and cheese. Works for me!
January 13, 2017
I wish I felt quite as perky and optimistic as that sounds. I don't really jump into January - actually, I don't really jump into anything. I ease into things, I tiptoe. Sometimes I get pushed.
I was happy to get some time over the break to truly unwind. After the Christmas fun, we had several days at home, just the four of us. Time to play games, watch movies, clean, organize, and watch more movies. I think we all needed it, although I wish I could say I felt refreshed and ready to start the new year. The days simply ran out and work/school started again, ready or not.
And so here I am, now a couple weeks in, with a whole new year ahead of me. I'm working to figure out my goals for the year, both personally and professionally. What do I want to be when I grow up? I may never know the answer to this question, and although I'm coming to terms with that, there are definitely people I work with who would prefer I have an answer. Honestly, I am really okay with the not knowing. I enjoy my work, I adore the people, I am learning, I am contributing...what more can I ask for? I've never been one to be motivated by title or money - I am not ambitious in that way. I should say, though, that sometimes I do look at people who know exactly where they want to go and are blazing the path to get there and I am envious. What would that be like?, I wonder. I'll never know.
I do love this time of year. After all the indulgence of the holiday season, January feels clean, motivating. I love all the cheese and wine and cookies in December - sooooo much, too much - and now it's easy to say that I'm done with them all for a while. And it's a good thing, too, because exercise hasn't been happening very regularly lately.
My to-do list continues to grow so quickly that I'm having a hard time keeping up with just the task of maintaining it! Planning for the year on all fronts. On the home front, there's summer planning. Camp registrations, Drum renewal. Soccer. Baseball. Vacations. School events. Add work to that, and my head spins.
I need more yoga. Always. Every time I find myself on the mat, I come away feeling energized, with a clear head and ready to take on the world. I haven't done any this week, but I'm looking forward to going to the studio tomorrow morning.
We got a free six months of HBO, and we decided to watch Game of Thrones. After a couple episodes of learning the characters (so many storylines!), we were hooked. And we have six full seasons. After a few binge-sessions over the holidays, we've been watching one episode a night - we just finished season 3. It's a crazy, violent show, but it's such a fabulously complex story that's told so well. Now that I know what's going on, it's getting harder to avoid hearing spoilers, so I want to catch up with the rest of the world. It's going to take us another month or so...until then, don't tell me anything!
Happy January. Welcome 2017. Maybe by February I'll have my act together.