Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Helping someone else achieve goals

As I've mentioned before, one of the unexpected pleasures of this project is seeing other people's lists.  Naturally, two lists that I'm watching most closely are those of my sisters.  They both are keeping blogs too, so if you want to look, here's Diana's and Janet's

I've also found that the more I get help from people when working on my own list, the more I want to contribute to help other people check items off too.  I haven't found anything major to help Diana out yet ... just a book recommendation or two along the way.  However, this past weekend, I got to help Janet cross one item entirely off her list - visiting the Chanhassen Dinner Theater.

When I was Christmas shopping, I had the brainstorm that I knew that Janet had several "night out" sorts of experiences on her list and that I could help her out by getting tickets to one.  I did check on available evenings with her before I ordered the tickets, but she didn't find out until Christmas Eve that we (she graciously asked me to be her date) were going to the Chanhassen to see All Shook Up

We had a great weekend together ... though I found yesterday that I don't bounce back from lack of sleep as quickly as I used to.  I got a chance to play some fun new board games - Unexploded Cow and Dixit - as well as a personal favorite of Bananagrams.  The Chanhassen experience was better than I remembered it from my school visit in the mid80s.  I enjoyed the show and am looking forward to contrasting this production with a national touring company's version that I will see in a few weeks.  For Janet's complete review of the night ... look here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

#68 part one - 203 books in 2010

My goal of reading 200 books each calendar year is really the only one that encompasses my entire 1001 day timeline (although I suspect I'll be working on the weight loss one right up to the last minute too).  Therefore, I decided to break it into four sections for blogging purposes - one for each calendar year.  I am only counting books that I have never read before (rereads are just a bonus from my stand-point), and since I look at basically every picture book that the library purchases those aren't counted either.  There are plenty of teen and children's nonfiction/chapter book titles included though.

When I was working on my masters in library science, one of the professors suggested that we keep an index file with a brief summary of the books we've read.  I don't do that; however, a few years ago, I did start writing down the titles and call numbers (I can generate a basic call number if it's a book that's not from the library) of every new book I read with a line break every month.  Looking through the list not only helps me remember that title that I know is just what someone is looking for but also gives me a quick memory tour of my year - "oh, I was reading that book when x happened".  So, as I was looking back through my 2010 list, here are some standouts with quick little reviews to whet your interest.

Provenance : How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury -- I will admit that I'm sometimes dubious about the art collecting world.  I'd rather get something that I like or has meaning for me than something that will appreciate in value because a critic thinks it's good.  But I was definitely impressed by the number of styles that John Myatt could copy and the sheer scale of deception that the con produced.

$20 per Gallon by Christopher Steiner -- What happens when gas prices really go up and stay there?  My advice:  travel now, you might not be able to later.  Also, that backyard garden you've been thinking about ... you're going to need it.

Swords : an Artist's Devotion by Ben Boos -- I would have gone nuts for this book in junior high, and it still wowed me now.  A great gift for anyone you know who likes sharp pointy things.

The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher (first book is Storm Front) -- My favorite brain popcorn discovery of the year.  I read the first book late in March and had finished #12 by early June despite having to get them all through interlibrary loan and telling myself that I had to read at least two other titles between each to space them out.  It has all the paranormal elements that have been so overdone recently, but humor and the fact that the main character is HUMAN - he gets tired, gets hurt, makes mistakes, doesn't have all the answers, etc make this series a standout for me.  Plus, there is a lot of creativity to how those standard paranormal elements are approached - for instance, there isn't just one type of vampire, there are three - my favorite villains were the billy goats gruff (and when was the last time you saw them in type after you graduated from picture books?).

The Last Illusion by Rhys Bowen - If you like light mysteries and historical fiction, you should try Bowen's Molly Murphy series.  Molly's a tough Irish girl trying to make it in New York in the early 1900s as a private detective while her beau (a tough Irish cop) tries to steer her in other directions.  This title involves Houdini ... go for a weekend of illusion and read it with a break to watch The Prestige starring Christian Bale and Michael Caine.

Memory of Trees : a Daughter's Story of a Family Farm by Gayla Marty -- I read this book partly out of nostalgia since the author grew up less than ten miles from my family's farm.  While the personal element may not be a factor for those not having my experiences as a daughter on a family dairy farm, it is a well-written look at changes in family owned farms during the mid to late 20th century.

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley -- If you have not yet met Flavia, the eleven-year-old heroine of these books, you should immediately go read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  She's waiting for you ... and she'll put distilled poison ivy in your lip gloss if you annoy her!

Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair by Laurie Perry -- I have read other books based on blogs, but this is the first book of the type that I've sought out simply because I liked the blog. 

Flawless : Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby -- How do you steal $500 million in diamonds from the middle of a secure facility in Antwerp?  The true story may never be known exactly, but this book makes some good guesses.

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern -- I don't usually read bestsellers when they first appear, but I wanted to see how bad the language was because I was sure we'd get comments at the library (we did).  His dad may be foul-mouthed, but he comes across as a genuinely caring parent with some good (often bluntly stated) advice.

Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter - The latest entry in a  fun young adult series with nary a vampire in sight ... think spies instead ... incredibly talented girl spies whose high school academy is a cover for a Mission Impossible style training ground.

Nuture Shock : New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson -- My niece tells me I'm a fabulous aunt (the nephews don't usually comment on touchy-feely stuff), but I don't ever plan to have kids; however, even for a non-parent, this book was incredible!  If you have children, plan to have children, work with children, you should read it.

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum - On the surface, this novel is about those crazy people who try to see tornadoes.  But really it's about what sort of things happen to you emotionally if you're in a close relationship with someone who is bipolar.  Very accurate ... I've been in such a relationship.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games trilogy is rapidly becoming the next teen/adult crossover phenomenon.  I thought it was much better done than Twilight books (more believable character interactions) and tend to like dystopia worlds better than vampires anyhow.  This is the last book ... you should definitely read them in order, so start with The Hunger Games.

A Million Little Mistakes by Heather Mcelhatton - I loved choose-your-own adventure books as a kid, so it was a happy surprise to find one written for adults.  You win millions in a lottery and your choices drive the story from that point.  In my first run through, I ended up alienated from most of my family yet happily running a restaurant on the west coast after finding my true love.  The second try made me the owner of a vast legalized brothel system!  Oh my, glad it's only fiction!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

#20 - Fabulous people in my life

The hardest part of sending notes to ten people in my life tell them how fabulous they are was choosing which ten individuals got the notes.  The second most difficult part was trying to find words that adequately summed up how much I admire them and why.

When I wrote this goal on the list, I had envisioned something more along the lines of sending pick-you-up notes to ten of my friends that I'm really close to with a laundry list of their special qualities.  As I sat down to start writing, the project turned into choosing ten people - each with a fabulous trait - that I am proud to have as a part of my life and wanted to thank in a succinct fashion.  The choices I made really taught me what I value in other people and the ideals that I aspire to in myself.

When it comes to having people in my life who are fabulous, I could have easily included every member of my family (but chose only one sibling) and triple the number of friends.  I am very fortunate indeed in the people who surround me.  However, I'd like to introduce whoever is reading this blog to ten (nine unnamed for their own privacy and because most of the letters are still in the mail) wonderful people in my life in the order that I met them.

First, my brother Tim who has put up with this pesky little sister for a long time, gave her wheelbarrow rides, fixed her cars, does the majority of the physical labor for our aging parents, and quietly fixes mundane problems so smoothly that you forget they even existed in the first place.  He is like the air we breathe, we don't realize it's there until it's gone and things go terribly wrong.

Second,  a very dear friend of mine from before, during, and after my school days.  His life is an tutorial for being a good friend - share everyday pleasures, listen when someone's down, make their path smoother.  I don't think we sometimes realize how much we need everyday heroes like him.

Third, a friend from elementary school and junior high that I reconnected with a couple of years ago.  While I have many fond memories of her, what really impresses me is how she's become an artist who generously and compassionately shares the work of others.

Fourth, one of my college roommates who among her many fine qualities has a knack for being courageously forthright and sticking to her principles with integrity.

Fifth, an individual who is an uber-friend - she has so many talents and gives to others in numerous ways; I could write a whole post just about the wonderful things that she has done for me.  Her special gift, though, is encouraging people to be themselves without guilt -- I can see people blossom when she touches their life.

Sixth, a friend who is like the bubbles in champagne.  She's always full of compliments and makes groups lively.

Seventh, a friend who is one of the most courageous individuals that I know.  She took stock of her life several years ago, decided what she wanted, and has taken some huge steps (that would probably be outside of the comfort zones of many people) to make those goals a reality.

Eighth, a friend who makes a fabulous partner for adventures.  She's intrepid, not bothered by minor annoyances, and always up for a new experience.

Ninth, someone whose faith that there is a purpose behind all things is rock-solid.  She finds the silver lining in bad situations and encourages others to ride out the storms of life.

Tenth, a new friend who offers no apologies for her obsessions.  Instead, she promotes them as what makes her an individual and has found a way to make one of them contribute to earning her livelihood.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

#49 - Jammies are us

The reality of achieving this goal seriously diverged from the rosy vision I had in my head when I added it to the list.  I couldn't ever remember spending a whole day in pajamas and originally pictured a sort of license to be lazy for a weekend ... say no to anything that required me to leave the house, eating homemade waffles for brunch, not touching the housework, etc.  Sounds nice, right?  I don't often give myself leave to do that, so I figured it would be a little mini vacation of sloth.

However, while I didn't leave the house, did turn down an invitation, and certainly haven't gotten much accomplished in the last few days, the reason was a nasty cold that kept me wrapped in blankets on the couch for two days followed by somewhat more activity yesterday.  I decided that I might as well turn today into a pajama day too since I still have no energy.

I realize that some people love to spend weekends in their pajamas - well, minus the being sick part.  I haven't found it all that appealing.  There were still chores I needed to do - shoveling snow in pjs felt particularly odd and I am so grateful to my friend Peter who did most of the snow removal for me and then helped carry in wood for my fire.  I didn't at all like trying to exercise  this morning without my regular sweats despite the fact that I was moving so slowly on my exercise bike that had it been real passing snails would have breezed by me.  But mostly, I just missed that end of the day "aah" that comes when you change out of whatever you've worn that day and into nightclothes.  So, despite the departure from my original vision, I am counting this goal as done and looking forward to putting on real clothes Monday morning.