Saturday, January 8, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - New Mommy and Baby

My brother is 11 years younger than I am, so we have always been a generation apart as we pass through life stages.
My oldest child will graduate from high school this year, and his firstborn is a newborn.

I have never ever in my life wished to return to some previous stage in my life.
I really cannot even explain it.  I just enjoy all the grown-up roles I get to play ever year that I get older :)
This past weekend I got to play the role of older, more experienced mom.
I got to hold, sing, bounce and take care of the little high maintenence bundle while his mommy got some much needed sleep.
When the snapshot above was taken (by me) she had just come downstairs from several straight hours of sleep.  She had color in her cheeks and love in her eyes again.

I remember vividly those days.
I remember wondering how I might take my next step...much less ever live normal life again :)

I couldn't help thinking last weekend as I just finished reading Little Women that in past generations this is why the women of the family surrounded the new mother and helped take care of the baby around the clock.  Even in the infancy of medicine, women knew that a new mother must be allowed to rest and heal if she was to be able to take care of her child.

Interesting that we think we know so much today...but maybe, just maybe they knew more then.
Imagine that ;)

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home with Books

Friday, January 7, 2011

Book Blogger Hop #6

It's nice to begin getting  back into a home, at work and blogging :)
I love this hop! I've met so many great book blogging buddies through Jennifer's weekly hop at Crazy for Books and am back this week for even more! 

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week's question:

"What book influenced or changed your life?
How did it influence/change your life?
My answer:
Hands down...Kate Chopin's The Awakening

I was in graduate school by the time I read The Awakening...and I'm glad.  My middle child, who is in the 11th grade read it last year in English...???? I do not have any idea how a 15-16 year old would possibly have enough life experience to completely "get" The Awakening.
I read The Awakening not as a tragedy but the story of a choice that one woman makes to free herself.
Almost as if she realizes that the world she lives in is not ready for her yet.
And instead of subjecting herself to live the role the world demands her to play, she chooses ultimate refusal and leaves one world for the next.

Does that make sense??

It's not a story of giving up to me; it is a story of a strong, independent woman making a strong, independent choice, no matter how difficult, no matter how painful.
And, she's not afraid.
The water is cleansing and liberating, not suffocating and drowning as is the world Edna lives in.
To me, the meaning of this story is a figurative one...not literal as many many many people interpret it.

I'm sure I'm overexplaining this and not making any sense at all so I'll stop here.
Did anyone else feel this way after reading The Awakening?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Little Women - Book Review

Where in the world does a person begin when writing a review of a story that a person has loved all her life through the images of a movie screen rather than the book itself??
I'm so ashamed.
I have always been a fan of American Literature...which is why I've missed the Brontes and the Austens...the Dickens, etc.  Despite my excuses for missing some of the best Brit Lit out there, how in the world an English teacher/Am. Lit. fan reaches the age of 42 without actually reading Little Women I'll never know.
I decided to take care of that problem on Christmas morning when I opened my Kindle :)

I have to be honest and say that I was a little nervous; I've heard some people's negative comments about overly sweet, immature and romanticized descriptions of life within Louisa May Alcott's most famous work.  I didn't want to have that movie vs. book experience that happens so many times...where one ruins the I took a deep breath, took my time and cherished the words on the page.
My reading of Little Women was from the perspective of a mother of 3 daughters...I am not overly sentimental yet am grateful for honest hearth and home.  I am a woman of the world...who travels all over the country preaching what I believe about literacy and education...but who also loves to be at home and be the "matriarach" of my family.
Oh, if I could be half the mother that Marmee was to those girls!

"She was not elegantly dressed, but a noble-looking woman, and the girls thought the gray cloak and unfashionable bonnet covered the most splendid mother in the world."

Most everyone knows the story of sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March, their strong-willed, tough as nails and tireless mother, Marmee, as well as their father who is away for most of the book serving in the Civil War.  Marmee must support her four very different daughters alone on a meager existence while still serving her community and taking care of those who have been affected even more by poverty.
With her gentle but strict teaching and guidance, Marmee is able to give each daughter the love, discipline and support that each girl grow and become the person that each daughter will become by the end of the novel.
Marmee is not perfect; she has a temper of her own and is strong-willed.  She has high expectations for her daughters whether their aspirations include marriage and motherhood or not.  She encourages her daughters to be independent, to be able to support themselves and not to settle...for money, looks, or flighty things that other "silly" girls care about.

Meg, the oldest daughter is the first to find a life partner, which further intertwines the March's lives with their neighbor Mr. Laurence and his grandson Laurie who is best friends with Jo and will eventually marry one of the March sisters.  The third sister Beth is the quiet one and of course will be the subject of the most heartwrenching tragedy in the book.  I bawl my eyes out during this portion of the matter which version it is.  In the book, however, there is a chapter earlier that is left out of the movies...Beth and Jo go to the seaside hoping to find fresh air and strength to help Beth is here that Beth prepares Jo for the future.  I was crying so hard during this chapter that I could not see my Kindle screen and scared the Head of My Household to death!

After returning from the beach, Jo becomes a source of strength for her mother, their housekeeper Hannah and their father who returns from the war after falling ill.

"Tired with her short journey, Beth went at once to bed, saying how glad she was to be home, and when Jo went down, she found that she would be spared the hard task of telling Beth's secret.  Her father stood leaning his head on the mantelpiece and did not turn as she came in, but her mother stretched out her arms as if for help, and Jo went to comfort her without a word."

Little Amy is the youngest and the prissiest...but even she grows up to be a mature young woman in her own time...and in her own way.
I think that's what amazes me most about the heck she manages to figure out 4 very different young women and to give each of them what she needs to learn some life lessons the hard way and then to be ok in the her own in the world she has the energy for all this childrearing pretty much boggles my mind as well.

"...the parents who had taught one child to meet death without fear, were trying now to teach another to accept life without despondency or distrust, and to use its beautiful opportunities with gratitude and power."

Anyone who is a fan of the movie will be a fan of the original story...for there is more in the book than in the movie (as usual, right)...more little tidbits of their lives...and the reader will notice a few things added by Hollywood that are not actually in the original story.
I'm relieved to tell you that after reading the book, I love both the movie and the book...that doesn't happen very often for me. 
Little Women is a beautiful story of four young women with aspirations ahead of their time who find that family is really everything in the end.
Sit back and read this one when you have time to really enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Top Ten Books I Want to Read for 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme created by the ladies at The Broke and The Bookish

Top Ten Books I Resolve to Read in 2011

1.  All the books Santa brought me!  Can you believe I received every. single. book on my list!!
I guess I'm not as mysterious as I think I am!!  A Top Ten Tuesday list posted on your blog that your mother reads is helpful as well ;)

2.  Several of the books Santa brought my daughters!  I've made a commitment this year to read more YA books.  My firstborn came into the kitchen as I was taking this picture and about had a heart attack that I had removed her books from her room! OY.  My middle child gave me 4 of her books because, "They sounded interesting so I downloaded them to my Nook." :) 

3.  The Hunger Games - ok, ok, ok...I give in...geez.

4.  The Book Thief - can't wait to read this one...received it from a Secret Santa after wanting it for a long long time...Death as the narrator...Bring it.

5.  Wicked - saw the Broadway show and can sing you every single song on the soundtrack...but never read the book.  The time is now.

6.  New Releases Dead Reckoning - Sookie Stackhouse #11 (May 3, 2011) and Hit List - Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #20 (June 7, 2011).  FYI on May 3 and June 7 I am unavailable. ;)

7.  Christopher Moore - I want to read Bite Me, but I have A Dirty Job on my TBR be it.

8.  Jane Eyre - My firstborn is driving me crazy about this one...I even bought the cool Dame Darcy version...just haven't opened it yet.

9.  My Alison Weir collection - I've always been interested in the British monarchy, especially the Tudors...I started watching the Showtime series a couple of years ago and went nuts buying all the books I could find about them...The Lady in the Tower, Six Wives of Henry VIII, The Lady Elizabeth, The Children of Henry VIII, etc. 
Book reading for me is like an all-you-can-eat buffet...I end up with more on my plate than I could possibly eat in one meal :)

10.  Classics on my kids' shelves that I somehow missed in high school - Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, and Rebecca.  I like to read what they're reading when they read it...but as you can see, I've gotten behind.

Sorry to be a cheater this week and list multiple books for each number ;)

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Challenges

I think it's quite funny that most of us said we were going to scale back on challenges this year...and then we signed up for more than ever :)
As I began to be teased by everyone else's challenge postings and lists, I saved a list of challenges I was interested in and kept referring back to that list...kinda like deciding you want to buy some big ticket item but forcing yourself to sit on it for a while...

Then, as I added to that list I picked challenges that matched my reading interests instead of picking challenges to "make" me read something I don't normally read.  I also didn't pick any challenges that forced me to make a list ahead of time and stick to it.  I like structure and organization, but I didn't want to feel penned in.  At times when I began to feel a little panicky about the number of challenges I was considering, I started thinking about how many books would fit into multiple challenges...for example, Pat Conroy's My Reading Life fits into Memorable Memoirs, Southern Literature, and Okra Picks.  All of the challenges I chose are 1 year challenges and are pretty laid back...kinda like me ;)

I've noticed in my blog reading that book bloggers seem to either really enjoy or feel frustrated by book challenges.  I'm using Book Challenges this year to help me prioritize and organize my reading.  When I say "prioritize," I don't mean what I "should be reading" vs. what I "shouldn't be reading"...I just simply mean READING. 
Only other book lovers can really understand the joy that reading brings...I've been fortunate to re-discover that love during 2010 and I want to foster it even more.
That was corny, wasn't it?

The only other challenge that I know I will sign up for before the end of the year is the RIP challenge in October...can't keep me away from spooky books during the month of Halloween :)

I would also like to find a library challenge...I found one, but honestly I was offended by the button (sorry, I'm weird) :(  We all have our sensitive issues and that one is mine.

Here goes my Challenge List for 2011:

1.  A Year of Feminist Classics - when this one was announced several months ago I knew I was in.  I stumbled into early women's literature while working on my Ph.D. and would have minored in this area had it not been for the gazillion hours I was already required to take.  I was on a 2 year leave from work and needed to finish up my on campus coursework on schedule.  The Year of Feminist Classics is a challenge but also feels like a ReadAlong to me...we'll be reading one (sometimes two) selections per month and having discussions before, during and after the reads. 

January: A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft AND So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba 
February: The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor Mill
March: A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
April: Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
May: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
June: God Dies by the Nile by Nawal Saadawi
July: The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
August: The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
September: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
October: Ain’t I a Woman? by bell hooks AND Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism Anthology
November: Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
December: Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

2.  Audio Book Challenge - this one was a no brainer for me as well...I do most of my listening in the car...I've read about other bloggers who actually walk or otherwise exercise and listen to audiobooks! That's something I never even imagined but am pondering.  My goal is 6 audiobooks this year; I think I'll probably end up with more but I'm trying to set reasonable goals this year.  I'll feel better succeeding at reasonable goals than I would for failing unreasonable goals.

3.  The Ebook Challenge was another one I didn't have to think much about...with an Ipad, a Nook and 2 Kindles in our house, I think it's probably another reasonable goal to think that some E-reading will be going on in our family during 2011 :)  I've read 3 books since receiving my Kindle for Christmas!  I'm also setting myself a goal of 6 E-Books for 2011...again, I think I'll read much more than that, but I don't want to overwhelm my little brain :)

4.  Foodie's Reading Challenge - there are so many books floating around right now that are focused on food.  I had a bunch already on my TBR list when this challenge popped up.  Nothing like a challenge to give me the incentive to go ahead and read something I want to read anyway :)  The definition of a "foodie" book is pretty general, but I'll probably be sticking to more of the food fiction selections.  Again, my goal is 6 books.

5.  War and Peace Read Along - the first War and Peace Read Along I stumbled upon was a 2 month Read Along and I knew that wasn't going to much as I would have liked for it to...this one is more my style...365 chapters in 365 days :), 6 check-up posts along the way...Whoo Hoo!

6.  Classics Read Book Club - I stumbled on this great group of bloggers towards the end of last year and read Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in a Castle with them.  This is a laid back Read Along and that's exactly why I like it...good books, good folks and some great book talk :)

January - March 2011 - The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck hosted by Andi from Estella's Revenge

April - June 2011 - A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf hosted by Nymeth from Things Mean a Lot

July - September 2011 - Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert hosted by Michelle from My Books. My Life.

7.  YA Challenge - just from reading others's reviews of YA titles this past year and listening to my firstborn talk about the awesome books she's read, I wanted to give myself permission to delve more into the YA realm myself :)  Many moons ago I taught a YA lit class for secondary education majors...I loved reading the selections then and think I'll really enjoy seeing what's out there now.  I'm shooting for the "mini" level with this challenge...12 books over 12 months :)

8.  2011 Reading from my Shelves Project - I liked the idea of getting to some of the books that have been sitting on my shelves for too long...and I really liked the idea of donating them somewhere.  I love my books but I also love sharing them.  The library is my favorite place to share but I am willing to loan out my favorites (as long as they are returned).  For this challenge though I will specifically have to choose books on my shelves and then those books, after being read, must leave my house.  My goal is to let go of 12 books off my shelves after I read them this year. This is gonna be fun!

9.  Southern Literature Challenge - ahem, this one has my name written all over it, ya'll.  I can handle the top level of completion on this one (4 books) with my eyes closed ;)

10.  Memorable Memoirs Reading Challenge - I've always been a bio/autobio/non-fiction/memoir kind of gal...even when I was much younger I enjoyed reading books about real people...especially those in colonial America for some reason?  Anyhoo, seeing that there are no less that 7-8 memoirs on just one of my TBR shelves, I think I can take this challenge as well.

Yes, I know I've lost my mind.
Oh well!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

1 Year Ago Today...

One year ago today Uh-Oh and I began blogging :)

Actually, I'm the one blogging, but he likes to hang out and keep me company.

I began blogging to create an outlet for my mind which never seems to the point of some silly panic attacks a few years ago...not really silly...especially since I've seemed to pass this anxiety on to two of my three daughters so far :(

I needed a place that was just stuff, my words, the world as I see it. 
I loved blogging and reading other blogs from Day 1.

My goals for 2010 were general and not necessarily blog related...and I have to say that I have honestly made true progress on each of these goals...with much of the credit owed to this blog and my new bloggy friends:

1.  Get up earlier - On weekdays I get up earlier so I can read other blogs with my first cups of coffee.  Not everyday of course...I give myself a break on the weekends and I've really given myself a holiday over the holidays.

2.  Leave work on time - Because of my commitment to cooking more and eating healthy I need that time in the afternoons to prepare, grocery shop, etc.  Only during deadline times this past semester have I found myself falling back into my old ways of staying at work way later than I should.  I have also grown as a professional through reading other teacher bloggers postings about how they handle heavy workloads, grading essays and somehow keeping an academic/literary focus in a world of non-reading and writing students.

3.  Eat healthier - My entire family has embraced this goal.  My kids get used to me cooking rather than going out.  There are some things that just don't even taste good anymore...why would I want to eat a Sonic burger that I know is going to upset my stomach???  I've also met some incredible bloggers who like me are trying to make their lives more self-sustainable, to think about what they put into their bodies and also what is best for the environment around us and the other creatures who share our world.

4.  Cook more - this goal is acquired by sticking to number 3...nothing like goals that overlap :) I enjoy cooking, even on weeknights if I've planned accordingly and it doesn't take me all night.  I've learned through participating in Menu Plan Monday on several cooking blogs to plan casseroles, crock pot meals and other quick fare on week nights and leave the more elaborate meals for the weekends.

5.  Go to sleep earlier - This one has been pretty easy...bc once I get tired, I'm tired.  I like to have a little time by myself once everyone is settled in and I'm going to work on getting them settled a little earlier so that I'm not still up at 11 trying to get my quiet time.  If I stick to a routine during the day, bedtime seems to come around quite naturally.

6.  Spend wisely - This may have been my biggest accomplishment this year.  With my mother's help, I paid off all my credit cards.  With saving blogs I learned to organize my coupons and lists and return to smart shopping and coupon clipping.  I had forgotten what a high it was to get a bargain and/or get something for FREE!
I do not have a credit card now, nor do I want one.

My blog itself has evolved since this time last year.  I've pulled in more of the things I love, cooking, photography, reading, writing, traveling, my family, gardening, etc. to the point of developing a blogging routine just a couple of months ago.  I like having a routine but I also being able to stray from that routine when the feeling hits me :)  I don't like feeling fenced in :)
I'm still tweaking some specific blogging goals, my established routine and the final choices for Reading Challenges.

I'll fill you in on those tomorrow :)