Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Back

Yesterday was about thankfulness- today is about giving back. My life is not perfect, but I have a home, food, warmth, people who love me and care for me. So many people don't have these things here in this country or around the world. I try to give all year round, but most especially at the holidays.

P.A.W.S. of Michigan - ok, I know I am biased here. ;) But P.A.W.S. does so many great things, and I am most excited about our low-cost, high quality, spay-neuter clinic that we will be opening.

The American Red Cross - My father volunteers with them, and I hear from him all the good they do in our community, across the country and across the world.

Forgotten Harvest - I learned about this organization through a friend, and they do great work for people. So many people in our own community are going hungry.

Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Michigan - I have seen firsthand what a great program this is for children.

World Vision- Sponsor a child in an impoverished country.

You can also choose to donate your time instead of money - volunteers are so valuable to non-profit organizations, and they never, ever have enough. I tend to focus on people and animals, but there are so many other causes I haven't mentioned. Find an organization that you feel strongly about at Volunteer Match.

What about you- what charities or oganizations do you support?


It is easy to forget how truly blessed we are - life is so busy all the time, and life events occur that temporarily obscure our vision. I want to take this moment and space to reflect on what I am thankful for.

Billy- My love, my heart, my balance. :) The fact that we are about to have our home study, which puts us one step closer to our adoption. Our lives together, our crazy pets, our times with money and even our times without money, for we always manage and get by.

My mom, dad, Devin, Chrissy, Jerry, Shellie and my steps.
Brayden's smiling face, Brayden walking and running- something that they said would never happen, but with lots of hard work and love, that kid is doing it.

Sunday nights with Devin and Chrissy, cooking dinner together, laughing and talking.

Having great parents who still support and encourage me, even when other people think I am crazy.

My little second cousins- Melissa's children Madison, Nicholas, and Brian's daughter Chloe.

My friends old and new- from high school, from college, from the shelter and PAWS, from work, from Billy's work, who make me laugh and listen to me cry and support me as much as I support them.

I am thankful that Janel had a healthy, happy, baby girl named Lila. For book club. Lunches with my grandma every Wednesday. For coffee. For nights like the night of the Owl Prowl, where Billy and I were able to stand under the moon in the woods on a beautiful night waiting for owls, with no one around for acres and acres except for the two rangers. For teachers that go above and beyond. For the forgiveness of others for my faults. And for many more things, large and small, that are too numerous to list.

What are you thankful for?

I hope that everyone has a wonderful day today, spent with those they love. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

By Nightfall

Hostess: Karin
Book: By Nightfall, by Michael Cunningham
Food: Cheese and crackers,vegetarian chili, eclairs, pomegrante seeds, chips and salsa, cookies
Wine of the Night: Red Bicyclette, Pinot Noir
Month: November

For me, this book needed to settle and sink in before I could make up my mind about how I felt about it. Kind of like how meat has to rest to seal in the juices before being served, I needed to let this book rest.

This book is in short about an art dealer, his wife, her much younger brother, and their satisfying yet boring lives, and how they really feel inside about all these things. That is my one sentence summary lol.

Peter is an art dealer somewhere in his forties- it seems like somehow the excitement of his life has gotten away from him, the euphoria of being alive and in love, and just plain feeling in charge of his own life, free. Everything about his life seems it is going well on the surface, but it also feels rather mundane to the reader, who is privy to Peter's thoughts through the third person point of view the book is written in.

His life is just going on, he is part of the ride, all is at status quo, until Mizzy arrives. Mizzy is Peter's brother in law Ethan, known as Mizzy, which is short for "The Mistake". Mizzy is about 20 years younger than his sister Rebecca and Peter, and was always treated like a brilliant little genius who was spoiled rotten by his family. He sounds like he was a precocious brat growing up, and to be honest, he still kind of was at twenty. Rebecca and her other sisters always catered to Mizzy, and wanted to fix him and his issues all the time. Mizzy is very intelligent, yet a troubled free spirit who attended Yale but never graduated and has had multiple drug problems. As he is the baby of the family, Rebecca just wants to make things better for him, and help him find the right path. Very shortly after Mizzy arrives, Peter discovers that Mizzy is using drugs still.

Mizzy's presence reawakens feelings in Peter that he had for his wife when she was younger, when they first met. Peter begins to feel an attraction to Mizzy that rocks his whole world - is he in love with Mizzy? Would he leave his family for Mizzy? We all decided at book club that he was just attracted to the wild beauty of Mizzy, and also to the similarities he shares of a young Rebecca. Peter and Mizzy share a kiss on a beach and Mizzy tells Peter that he always had a crush on him, further confusing poor Peter. Later, in a conversation over coffee post-kiss, Peter confesses that he has serious feelings for Mizzy and is not sure if he can go back to his normal life. The way the conversation unfolds, you feel as if Mizzy had set out to deliberately seduce Peter so that Peter would not tell Rebecca Mizzy was using drugs again. It made me feel bad for Peter, even though he was going to cheat on his wife with his brother in law. Peter goes home, and finds out Rebecca wants to leave him. It is probably the worst night ever for Peter. They talk about their life together, and at the books end, you feel they are going to work on things, and you know that Peter is going to confess what happened with Mizzy.

The book kind of reminded me of JD Salinger's style of writing a little. While I very much enjoyed the writing style, the pacing of the plot was a little slow for my taste. I also did not like at all how Cunningham constantly seemed to name drop. That was annoying.

Overall this book was not too bad- I will probably remember it and think about it for a while to come, and for me, this means a book has done its job.

Next month we meet at Kelly's for our Christmas book club! I am excited for it- we decided to exchange handmade gifts this year, and I am so looking forward to what my friends have created, and to give them mine. The book for next month is The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan, Kelly's pick.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Good In Bed

Hostess: Mary
Book: Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
Food: Cheese and crackers, pasta, Halloween cupcakes, grilled peaches with bleu cheese, veggie tray
Wine of the Night: Little Black Dress
Month: October

This was a nice uplift from the seriousness of The Help ~ a perfect little book break. While this book was not mind blowing or life changing, the main character Cannie has an interesting voice throughout the book, which is very readable. She is a little snarky, a little sarcastic, a little whiny all at once. I found myself rooting for her, and wanting to slap her all at the same time.

I didn't like her chasing her ex. I wanted her to have more self esteem than that, but at the same time, that is precisely what the book is about, how she needs to get over the jerk that her dad was and have some feelings of self worth. Speaking of her dad, I would have loved for the story to explore the effects of their father's desertion a little more- in fact, it could have gone in place of the part where Cannie is living in Hollywood, with her new best friend, a movie star. This is a personal pet peeve of mine in books- where a regular, everyday person all of a sudden meets someone famous and the book whisks you away to Hollywood. I really hate this for some reason. I think it is asking to much of me, to suspend belief that much. I feel that Weiner tried to tie that in with Cannie meeting her father again and confronting him, but still, frustratingly, there wasn't any closure.

I also for some reason thought she was being a big baby about her mother's new relationship. I didn't think her response was appropriate for an adult. I can understand that she might be a little shocked, and that the situation might take some getting used to, but I thought Cannie was a little juvenile in her behavior.

I did like when Cannie sunk into a funk and just walked and walked and walked everywhere. Apparently I like my characters to suffer a bit. For Cannie, I think it gave her a depth of character I hadn't seen before in the book. I also liked her hooking up with that super awesome doctor. So I like happy endings for my suffering characters too :)

Next month's book is Karin's choice, By Nightfall, by Michael Cunningham.

The Help

Hostess: Jennifer
Book: The Help
Food: Cucumber Salad, Pesto Tortellini, Cheese Dip, cupcakes and cookies, cheese and crackers, garlic and herb dip
Wine of the Night: Malbec
Month: September

I am so behind on my book club blogs. We are about to have our November book club, and here I am talking about September's!

The Help is one of my favorite books of 2010. I devoured this book from start to finish, I was totally involved with the characters lives and the journey they were all on. More than the central plotline of racism and feminism that ran through the book, I was drawn to the smaller story within the story of Aibleen, Elizabeth and Mae Mobley. Mae Mobley broke my heart- I hated Elizabeth for being a cold, intolerant mother.

I think I cried my way through the last part of this book - for the women, for the children, for the injustice. I waited for Elizabeth to wake up and start taking care of Mae Mobley, to wake up and stop listening to Hilly- but it never happened. I cheered for Minny, loving her attitude and her relationship with Celia, although I was terrified for her as well. I cried when Skeeter's mom gave her good advice about Stuart- and cried when I learned what she did to Constantine. I think this book was terrifically written, and while it is written about prejudice and intolerance in the 1960s, it could apply just as well to life today.

At book club, those of us who read it, read it in a flash. This was definitely a great book- I loaned it to my mother, knowing she would love it just as much. She read it, and immediately started reading it again a second time.

It is just that good.