Monday, July 22, 2013

Unsweet Tooth

I believe in positivity.  That is not to say that I am not a realist, because I am.   I am just a romantic realist.  So I don't always voice my negativity.  (Who am I kidding, I am a lawyer, I get paid to voice my realistic doubts.  Still, I give an opinion, and you are free to listen, or not.  Just let me give power to my voice).

Anyway, I like to post my positive reviews, but that doesn't mean they are all positive.  So, I thought I would let you in on a negative review for once.   Here it is:

Sweet ToothSweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

1. I'm not British enough to get this book.  2. As a woman, I had a really hard time buying the female voice and actions.  3.  Just no.  No no no.  Weird book.  4.  Amanda Green, you might like it because you are super smart and you never miss any tap steps.  The rest of us, our brains wonder about too much.

There it is.  My negativity.  I was gratified at bookclub to hear similar responses.  Here is what the book is supposed to be about, if you are interested, from the publisher's blurb:  

In this stunning new novel, Ian McEwan’s first female protagonist since Atonement is about to learn that espionage is the ultimate seduction.

Cambridge student Serena Frome’s beauty and intelligence make her the ideal recruit for MI5. The year is 1972. The Cold War is far from over. England’s legendary intelligence agency is determined to manipulate the cultural conversation by funding writers whose politics align with those of the government. The operation is code named “Sweet Tooth.”

Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is the perfect candidate to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer named Tom Haley. At first, she loves his stories. Then she begins to love the man. How long can she conceal her undercover life? To answer that question, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage: trust no one.

Once again, Ian McEwan’s mastery dazzles us in this superbly deft and witty story of betrayal and intrigue, love and the invented self.

There it is!  You decide.  I'll be interested to hear your verdict.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Positively Yes!

We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow.  I'm completely beside myself.   This book hooked me and delivered.   It made me laugh, cry, and think.  It taught me something new and changed my mind about some issues.  It reminded me.  It gave me hope. 

Fern and Rosemary are two sisters who are separated.  As sister separations tend to do, this act unhinged the family, but there is hope for a brighter tomorrow.   Here is the publisher's summary on Goodreads:

Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I spent the first eighteen years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she tells us. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion, I’d scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister.”

Rosemary was not yet six when Fern was removed. Over the years, she’s managed to block a lot of memories. She’s smart, vulnerable, innocent, and culpable. With some guile, she guides us through the darkness, penetrating secrets and unearthing memories, leading us deeper into the mystery she has dangled before us from the start. Stripping off the protective masks that have hidden truths too painful to acknowledge, in the end, “Rosemary” truly is for remembrance.

Put this one on your reading list, I've got to talk to you about it!

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Friday, July 5, 2013


I started to write a post about Summertime, with a list of books for the summer.  I've had it almost finished for several weeks, but life got in the way, as it tends to do.

There were some things that happened in that time that I had anticipated, and some that I hadn't.  For example, I knew that two of my employees were having babies, with delivery dates two weeks away from each other, making it impossible for me to leave the office for any reason over the next  two months.  I knew that some good friends were getting to be parents of the groom for the first time.  I knew that two friends are heroically fighting the cancer fight.  

What I didn't know was that a high school friend, whose posts I loved to watch on Facebook (and v.v. -- she and her husband came to Paris to celebrate their anniversary, while I religiously read her gardening page), would not recover from what she thought was just an illness last month that she couldn't shake, which turned out to be Stage 4 Breast Cancer.  I also didn't know that one of my cousins would pass away unexpectedly, just a week after my other friend did.   Tonight I found out that a friend who already has TOO much cancer in her life lost her sweet dog -- you guessed it, from cancer. 

Dad and cousin Laura last week

This picture of my Dad and my cousin shortly after her brother's funeral says it all.  Smiles on their faces, but I can see the pain in their eyes.  And here is a picture of my 99 year old grandad and one of my nephews, just yesterday, celebrating the 4th of July with the tractor tradition.

It is really odd,  seeing two sweet babies born, two friends (including a family member) pass away, a very beautiful wedding, my grandad living life to the fullest, and a sweet little dog pass away.   Odd but serendipitous.  

That is the way of life, it keeps going on.

Hard as I might try, I realized I had to face the facts last week that I could not make that 14 hour round trip home for my cousin's funeral.  Frankly, I found it quite excruciating to not be there, although I am by no means complaining about my job, my clients or my staff or those sweet babies who came along.  That is just life.  It is what it is.  But I have been having to do a great deal of processing in my head.

Life is just strange. There is no counting the days, the blessings, the sorrows. They come at you whether you will them to or not. 

Of course, I turned to a couple of books to help me deal with it and I mention them here because I loved them; they were a great help.  They aren't new books, but they are definitely books that have staying power.  
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

First was Ann Lamott -- Bird by Bird.   It is a book about writing, which I picked up because I really NEEDED to write, it is how I process, but I had been suffering from writer's block since the big PCT Off-Plaza production (see April 2013 posts).   I hoped it would help me write, what I didn't realize is that it would help me heal.  There is so much good in it, that I recommend you read it whether you write or not.   Definitely read it if you are an artist or creative in any way.
I share this quote for you because I think it says something significant about life itself.

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said. 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"

What great advise.  We do have to take life bird by bird.  Moment by moment.  Joy by joy.  Sorrow by Sorrow. 

Surprised by Worship: Discovering the Presence of God Where You Least Expect ItSurprised by Worship is the next little gem that I listened to.  It had been on my list for a long time, because I absolutely adore the author (Travis Cottrell), who is a worship leader for Beth Moore events. This little book nurtured my soul by addressing faith, forgiveness, and worship in an untraditional sense -- not the guitar or organ dillema, but the authentic "YOU" sense.  Has something gotten in the way of your worship, lately?  (Ok, the answer is yes if you are still on this earth, let's be honest).  Well, then Travis has some real thought provoking statements for you.  If you liked Heaven is for Real, listen to this book, I promise it will inspire you.  No, you don't have to be a singer, you just have to be human.  

And finally, something for the musician in me.  I grew up listening to Mom play Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53 in A flat major.    There is a you tube of the song at the bottom of this post, in case you don't know what that is.  (Go to it, hit play and listen while reading the rest of this.) 

Now, there are two things that are odd about growing up with this being played in your home, things that you don't realize until much, much later.   

First, Chopin is HARD.  You have to have real discipline to learn to play him.  Mom was prolific in her musical talent.   (I was a hardship for her.  Imperfect pitch, slow left hand, more interested in singing; I am the least talented musician in our family).  

The Life and Works of ChopinOh, and I hated to practice.  You can't play Chopin if you don't practice.  You can't play anything if you don't practice.   But, you can sure love to listen.  I can't ever hear this song without hearing her playing it, in the sweet home of my childhood. 

Second, Chopin is (mostly) for MEN pianists.  Notice that Mr. Horowitz in the youtube video is a man.  Not as many women can play Chopin, because you have to have a very wide hand span.  I mean you can play him and drop some notes, but really who would want to do that? I stare at the piano music that he wrote in befuddlement, because I literally cannot get my hand to reach all of the notes.  

But Mom could.   And because she did, she gave me a love for Chopin that will never go away.  So, feeling very nostalgic -- and let's face it, Chopin feeds my sometimes melancholic heart, I listened to this audio book about Chopin.   It was WONDERFUL.  It is short, and it has his music interspersed between  the events of his life.   

So about life.  Ann Lamott says:

“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” 

RIP Mom, Misti, Alynn, and big little Orphan Annie.  I'd rather have you here, but I'm glad I have the limp.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Horowitz plays Chopin Polonaise Op. 53 in A flat major

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

‘Lean In’ offers insights for women who work outside home - Guest Columns

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

‘Lean In’ offers insights for women who work outside home - Guest Columns

I don’t typically agree with the best seller list, but there are always exceptions, such as Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.”   Written mostly for women who choose to work outside the home, it also insightful for their families, bosses and co-workers.

According to Sandberg, “the blunt truth is that men still run the world,” despite the fact that women have made up at least 50 percent of college graduates since the early 1980s. She states that: 1) of the 195 independent countries in the world, only 17 are lead by women; 2) only 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOS are women (including Sandburg who went from Google to Facebook); and 3) that women hold 14 percent of executive officer positions, 17 percent of board seats and only 18 percent of congress. Women have outpaced men in education, but are ceasing to make any real progress in the top of the industry. We are not breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling.

I found Sandberg’s book refreshing because instead of playing the blame game, Sandberg gave an honest look at the issue and made some excellent points. I agree with her that although there are many factors involved, the simple truth is that choice is a factor in those statistics that shouldn’t be ignored.

This isn’t surprising to anyone. Women have been able to embrace many choices in my lifetime. Many women have chosen not to work outside the home, but many have also just gotten tired of fighting it, so they have given up their work dreams either literally or by backing off.

If you are one of the latter, or if you are a woman new to the working field with big dreams, or if you are related to such a woman or work with one, I urge you to read the book and learn some tips from a woman who is right there.

The main tips? Lean in (actually sit down at the table and share your opinions). Find a mentor (many factors make this hard for women). Make sure your partner is a real partner; understand the “myth of doing it all.” (For example, family chores are “family” chores). Finally, talk about it: “We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.”

We do none of us any good by not being honest about what we women face in the working world and at home. Sandberg does a good job of challenging women on our own ambition gaps, while giving tips on how to navigate the business world. She also makes a good point about why boards and businesses will be more profitable with more women.

Sandberg’s book reenergizes an important discussion. So, I hope you’ll turn off your non e-reader electronic devices and join me in reading this gem of a book. You might just change the life of a working woman you know.