Monday, January 30, 2012

The Introvert Lost

“But small talk with stiff-backed strangers at a swanky cocktail party is by far my least favorite part of my job.  Send me to a famine of a flood and I’m comfortable.  A few rounds of the room at a social event, however, leave me exhausted.”  Bryan Walsh, The Upside of Being An Introvert (And Why Extroverts are Overrated)  Time Magazine

In middle school, Horizon Skate was the place to be on a Friday night.  In those days, Horizon was a dark, dank, foggy with smoke destination where a deejay played a rotating assortment of pulsating top 40 hits.  Every single kid piled onto the rink whenever he played The Beach Boys’ Kokomo.  As an interminably shy 12-year old who would never quite fit in, but who kind of wanted to, I went a couple of times.  I found the whole experience to be emotionally draining.

20+ years later, Horizon is pretty much the same, minus the smoke.  I know because I lost Ben there on Saturday afternoon.

Rather, “they” lost Ben on Saturday afternoon.  I was just there to pick my kid up from a birthday party.  The host had no idea where he was.

“He’s around somewhere,” she said. 

“Somewhere” was a vast area mobbed with elementary school-aged kids maneuvering about the place in roller skates, playing arcade games in wobbly roller skates, trading tickets for prizes in wobbly  roller skates, and drinking large sodas in wobbly roller skates.  In other words, Horizon Skating Rink is the fifth circle of hell.

I went to the laser tag room: no Ben.  I checked in the jungle gym area: no Ben.  I checked in the arcade: no Ben.  (I did, however, get hit in the thigh with a skee ball.)  I sat and stared at the kids circling around and around on the skating ring, twisting and shaking to a Justin Bieber song.  No Ben. 

I noted the many unguarded exits, the strange men loitering in the vicinity, seemingly enraptured with whatever was on their cell phones.  I watched people pour in and out of the front door. 

I began to become unhinged. 

They called his name over the intercom.  Three times.  He didn’t show. 

Eight employees on walky-talkies were deployed to find him.

“He’s wearing a blue shirt, jeans, has blonde hair, and he’s six.  He’s only six,” I blubbered.

We found him waiting in line with his arcade tickets to redeem his prize of two small rubber lizards, one of which would consume the other in the van on the way home. 

“Did you hear them call you name?”


“Why didn’t you go to the snack bar?”

“What’s a snack bar?”

I was livid.  I was angry at the hosts of the birthday party, angry at Horizon for not being militant about the entry and re-entry of their most precious clientele, but mostly angry at Ben for his complete apathy regarding my near breakdown.  

So I did anything a mom with a bruised thigh courtesy of a rogue skee ball angry with her child for running off would do: I took Ben to the store and bought him copious amounts of candy and treats. 

The prodigal son came home.

Later that evening, I accompanied John to a swanky ball at the convention center. I acquiesce to being John’s date if he follows one rule: he does not leave my side. 

The event, of course, had an endless shrimp cocktail bar, and who can resist endless shrimp cocktail?  I sure can’t. 

“I’m going to get more shrimp cocktail,” I told John.  When I returned to where he was, he was gone.  

I did a lap around the room.  No John.  Another lap.  No John.

I was starting to become unhinged.  It appeared everyone in the room was comfortably chatting with someone they knew intimately while I was wandering around, lost and unbridled. 

I finally found him talking to friends in the complete opposite corner from where I had last seen him.  He greeted me like I was another acquaintance on the VIP floor, completely unaware that I was yay-close to dissolving into a weepy puddle in the middle of the ballroom floor. 

I read the above-quoted article in Time Magazine with interest.  (Also learned in Time Magazine:  The Miller’s grizzled langur monkey, believed to be extinct, was recently found in Borneo, in areas it had never inhabited before.  Good news for grizzled langur monkey fans!) 

While the extrovert (i.e., my husband) becomes energized in large social situations, the introvert becomes emotionally taxed.  While extreme shyness is hopefully a thing of my past, according to the innie or outie quiz in the magazine, I am a hard-core introvert.  And it can be difficult to be an introvert in an extrovert’s world.  (There are those, of course, who fall in the middle of the spectrum.  They are called ambiverts.)

“From the moment we wake up to the second we go to sleep- preferably after relaxing with a book in bed- introverts live in an extrovert's world, and there are days when we’d prefer to do nothing more than stay at home.  But while our temperaments may define us, that doesn’t mean we’re controlled by them- if we can find something or someone that motivates us to push beyond the boundaries of our nerves.  I’m happy to be an introvert, but that’s not all I am.”

Next Saturday, I choose to stay home.  Ben’s staying home too.  And there’s nothing at all wrong with that. 

Your happy song of the week is a request by Miss Corrie: “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees, a song, I think, that speaks to introverts and extroverts and even ambiverts alike.  

Take the quiz:  Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Elladay Part 2

In the waiting room, a group of girls were  playing with a train track. Ella marched right up to them and said,

“Hey girlfriends!”

Have I mentioned how much I love her? How her exuberance and passion for life brightens dreary January days?

She shucked her coat and joined them. She didn’t seem to notice that they were staring at her incredulously. She wouldn’t care if she knew. Life, to Ella, is too wonderful to give heed to the criticisms of her peers. Life is shiny, brand new every day, and she greets each day with a smile as big as Texas.

Remove her from the fun before she’s ready though and Houston, we have a problem.

Today, we found out that Ella has a significant hearing loss in her right ear. Her hearing is just in the normal range in her left ear. Without going into a lot of details, it’s probably treatable. And this is wonderful news.

It also explains some things.

One more Ella mystery solved.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


“Mama has baby in her tummy,” says Ella to a group of moms and daughers waiting for dance class to begin.

“What? No! No, mommy does not,” I say. “Just Christmas cookies, people. I made an astonishing number of Christmas cookies this year.”

With two new baby cousins in the family, Ella is lobbying hard, in her own way, for a baby brother or sister. She has made it clear that gender is of unimportance: she just wants a small round baby the size of a loaf of bread who coos and cries and wears diapers. You know. Your average nightmare.

“I loooove babies.”

Yesterday was Ella’s first dance class. I dropped the three boys at a friend’s house, to Ella’s dismay. She is adamantly opposed to being separated from her twin. She screamed all the way to the community center. We waited in the car until she calmed down. I pleaded. I threatened. I counted to three. She would not stop screaming. I reminded her how badly she wanted to take dance class. I threw out words she loves: ballet! Tap! Gymnastics! Pink! Girlfriends! She sobbed.

When she finally settled down, we joined the gathering of waiting moms and daughters, all of the little girls dressed in pink tutus and worn ballet slippers. This is my first girl. I had no idea where to buy relatively inexpensive tutus and ballet shoes, so we arrived in sneakers and comfortable stretch pants. (Turns out, Payless and Target! Who knew?)

This did not go over well with Ella.

“Pink! I want pink! I need dress!” I promised we would get her dance clothes this week. Another tantrum commenced, and I held my squirming, squalling child while the other moms looked on with fear. This little girl will be in my daughter’s class?

And just like that, Ella was quiet. With the flick of some mysterious switch, she was happy again. She pointed at me and announced the impending arrival of my phantom cookie baby.

Earlier that day, I had given Ella the Heimlich maneuver. One moment, she was happily devouring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; the next moment, she was struggling to breathe. I took three long strides across the room, pulled Ella toward me, squeezed beneath her rib cage, and she spit up a large chunk of bread. Her raspy, choking breaths were like music. I held her and promised she would be okay, promised I would always take care of her. She smiled at me, held my cheeks with her small hands and said, “I know.”

Before the girls entered the gym, I pulled the dance teacher, Miss Nikki, aside and told her Ella was a bit different. Special. I spoke of learning disorders and speech delays and receptive communication issues. Miss Nikki clapped her hands excitedly,

“I have a graduate degree in special ed! I love working with kids like Ella!”

Through the window, I watched six little girls walk on point, practicing wobbly plies to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Miss Nikki helped them form proper poses, one little girl trying her hardest in cumbersome sneakers. And I can’t be sure, but I think that little girl was Miss Nikki’s favorite.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Alabama Shakes and Shopping at the Home Depot

We're in the process of moving the kids' rooms around.  I lost my office.  Ella is gaining her own room painted the color "Ballet Slipper" by Benjamin Moore. 

This morning, after I convinced the fine gentleman at the paint store I didn't need primer (ample quantities of primer came with the house), I stopped by the Home Depot for an edger, some blinds, and just to browse.

Women enjoy browsing.  Men shop with purpose, and the Home Depot is filled with men who are shopping with purpose.  I meander lazily through the paint aisle and am nearly trampled by contractors and salesmen who assume I have a purpose for being in the paint aisle.  I did have a purpose- getting an edger- but the purpose was really secondary to checking out the Martha Stewart paint colors.  So pretty!  Who gets to make up the names for paint colors?  I want to paint my kitchen "Wooden Spoon," even though it's grey and doesn't match my kitchen at all.

John often mocks me because of my short attention span.

"And that's why I feel so passionate about this.  I mean, it really comes down to- ooooh look!  A butterfly!"

I feel like that in the Home Depot.  There's the hanging blinds I'm looking for, gotta make sure to get cream and not white- oh look!  Carpets are on sale!

I like the Home Depot, and I'm excited about Ella's new- oooh!  Look!  It's your Monday Happy Song! 

I'm really looking forward to this album coming out in April.  If you like Janis Joplin, etc. etc.:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

From The Planet Mexico

“Mom. Is our planet called Earth?” asked Ben.

“Yes. We are earth. The blue planet.”

“Huh. I thought we lived on the planet Mexico.”

Sometimes I fear the public school system is failing him.

We were in the car, Ben in the back seat dressed in full Darth Vader regalia. He was speaking to me from beneath his black, shiny helmet. Honestly, he resembled Rick Moranis in Spaceballs more than the tall guy they got to play Darth in Star Wars.

Ben is trying desperately hard to be a good boy, which is really hard for people from the planet Mexico- not to be confused with the country in North America here on the blue planet, earth.

In my refusal to mention what racist thing Ben said the other day, I should have mentioned no pejorative terms were thrown about. I was told that because I did not relay what he said, people’s imaginations went to the worst possible places. Compared with the guesses family and friends made, Ben’s statements were almost inoccuous. Relief swept over faces when I told what had been said.

“That’s nothing. Listen to what my kid said about…”

In the car, we named all the planets.

“There’s Mercury, and the Venus, which is covered with a poisonous gas,” I said.

“Jupiter’s the gaseous planet,” John said.

“ALL the outer planets are gaseous,” I retorted. I know this from reading The Magic School Bus Chapter Book #4: Space Explorers, which is a scientific work on par with Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

“Caleb, do you know what color Mars is?”

“Blue and green,” he said with confidence.

“Nope. Mars is the red planet.” I was starting to feel smug about my space knowledge.

“I thought you said 'what color ours is.' Our planet is blue and green.”

Tonight, the husband is out watching the final playoff game; this week he travels. I am left alone here on the planet Mexico to discuss basic astronomical nomenclature with my kids.

“Mars people are called Martians,” said Ben proudly.

He is a good boy. They are all good boys. But sometimes I ache for grown-up conversation.

Tonight it is too cloudy to see Venus burning in the winter sky.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Nine Years Ago

Before Caleb was born, mommy looked like this:

After Caleb was born, mommy looked like this:

Was it worth it?

It surely was.

Happy Birthday Caleb!

Born 9:12 pm on 1/13/03

LAST CALL TO ACTION!  HGL is moving to its own Facebook page!  To receive or continue to receive HGL posts on your Facebook news feed, please press "Like" on the Facebook plug in toward the top of the right column. 

Don't make me beg.



Monday, January 16, 2012


I have a list of Happy Song Project suggestions, the first of which I will get to next week. For today, however, this song, though not entirely "happy", seemed appropriate.

HGL is in the process of migrating to its own Facebook page!  To receive or continue to receive HGL posts on your Facebook news feed, please press "Like" on the Facebook plug in toward the top of the right column.  You rock.  Love, Holly

Sunday, January 15, 2012

That Awkward Moment When You Realize Your 6-Year Old is Racist: A Martin Luther King Day Post

The other night, and I don’t even remember how we stumbled upon this topic, Ben said something... a bit racist.  I can't even repeat it, I have so much shame.

To say that I freaked out would be an understatement.

“What? WHAT? What did you say? Why do you think that? Who told you that? Was it that god-forsaken public school system?” (Further freaking out commenced, and I turned to John and may have said things like the following):

“Why don’t we just call up the KKK and send him on over to Arkansas or wherever it is the KKK hangs these days.”

“I knew we should’ve sent him to the city schools for the first few years of his life. Then he’d know what it’s like to be the minority.”

I became irrational, which is what happens when freaking out goes unmitigated. Sometimes John just lets me go on:

"Why would you say that?  I need to understand the root of his statement right now or I'm going to totally freak out!!!

“This is what happens when you let kids watch too much television.”

“I failed! Somewhere along the way I failed.”


Ben: “Waaaaaaahhhhhhh! I don't want to go to a different school!"

And then, the voice of reason interceded. Caleb, who just turned nine on Friday, said the following:

“Ben, you’d better not say things like that or Martin Luther King will come out of his grave and get you.”

Stunned, both Ben and his guilt-ridden mother dropped the subject. I decided a lecture on pacifism would come later, after I could be sure Ben was no longer a racist.

I think Martin Luther King Jr. would want it that way.

MLK Jr.:  Racists, he's coming for you...

HGL is in the process of migrating to its own Facebook page!  To receive or continue to receive HGL posts on your Facebook news feed, please press "Like" on the Facebook plug in toward the top of the right column.  You rock.  Love, Holly

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blog Annoucement

After some consideration, I've decided not to publish blog posts on my Facebook page anymore.  However, since some people won't remember to read my blog unless it's on Facebook (you know who you are), I am creating a Facebook page for the blog.  You can find the page HERE. 

If you would like to continue to receive my blog posts in your news feed, please "like" the page. 

If you'd rather not, then you can subscribe to the blog via Google, Yahoo, etc. or stick your email address in the Feedburner spot over there and have the posts arrive in your inbox.  Neat, right?

If you don't want to do that, either, well.  Fine then.  I don't care.

(Except I do care.  Deeply.)

I will post a couple more posts through my regular Facebook page and then move completely over to the Holly Goes Lightly Most Awesome Community Facebook Page in America Thank You Very Much where I will post pithy quotations, witty sayings, what I'm eating for lunch, how I'm feeling, plus my deepest darkest secrets every half hour or so.

(I won't.  I will only post blog posts and rarely anything else.  Promise.)

Again, the link is HERE.

Next post: Back to Our Regular Scheduled Programming...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Feeding the Hungry

Has someone told you that you're callous, selfish, and that you hoard food? Me too! I've proved them wrong by voting for the Calvert County food pantry to win $5000 to help feed the hungry. And you can too. It's easy!

Vote for Rev. Robert Hahn at THIS LINK.  It takes less time than it did to contemplate who called me selfish, callous, and a food hoarder! (Scroll down to find the answer to this enigma.)

My sister works hard to help run this food pantry, and your vote would really be appreciated. Again, it's THIS LINK. Thanks so much my lovely readers!

Kiah the Wonder Dog

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dreams of Walking in the Snow

When there are spiderwebs hanging from your Christmas tree like tinsel, perhaps you've kept it up too long.  Unfortunately, Christmas trees are not easy to dust.  The needles just keep falling off.

All this to say, I finally took the tree down and the stupid thing gave me a rash on my hand.  Apparently I'm allergic to sap.  Or bark. 

I'm so over Christmas. 

I am, however, uncharacteristically excited about winter.  If it would just snow! 

Ben (solemnly):  I pray for snow every single day, mom.

And he does.  (Dear God, thank you for this food.  Bless it to our bodies.  Thank you for mom and dad and all my grandmas and grandpas and for my teacher and for my toys and fireplaces and Kiah and robots, and please let it snow today.  Amen.)

We want to go sledding and make snowmen and throw snowballs at my neighbor who hates me.  But that's a post for a different day.

Today's happy song:  Brandi Carlile's "Have You Ever."  I could listen to it over and over and over and over and over and over...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fire in the Hole! (Or New Year's Resolutions)

This is not my oven.  I did not, in the middle of a slight emergency, take the time to find my camera and take a picture.  This is a picture from the internet I'm using for illustrative purposes because, according to blogging experts, blog posts should come with at least one picture. 

One seemingly calm evening in early fall, I baked something, which happens every full moon during leap years. I bake in the oven that came with the house and hasn’t been cleaned since we moved into said house. There are bits of charcoal that have gathered on the bottom of the oven which I think lend the foods a nice, smoky flavor, appreciated when baking pizzas but not so much when baking, say, banana bread.

I was baking macaroni and cheese when the fire alarm went off. I opened the oven to find that my charcoal collection had caught on fire, which was an inevitable development, I suppose, but I panicked nonetheless. Here is Caleb’s account of what happened:

“Yeah, my mom screamed really loud and then threw water on it and the next day she went out and bought a fire extinguisher.”

This account was relayed to my babysitter, who had to contend with her own charcoal fire when making frozen pizzas for the kids last week.

“Why didn’t she just clean the oven?” the babysitter asked.

Why didn’t she, indeed. (Fires in the kitchen are actually a somewhat common occurrence in the Jennings’ household.)

This event is indicative of the level of chaos my kids have come to expect in our household.

All this to say that my new year’s resolution is to get my sh@# together. Because setting your house on fire is not being a good parent.

I’m on a new cocktail of meds that will supposedly help to keep me out of the mental ward (ha ha!), but they make me dizzy and forgetful. So, the next month will be about playing around with dosages, etc. Sometimes the cure is worse than the malady, but I guess I’d rather be forgetful than, you know, an inert weirdo.

(Which sounds better?)
Babysitter: So why didn’t your mom just clean the oven?

Caleb: Because she’s an inert weirdo, of course.


Babysitter:  So why didn't your mom just clean the oven?

Caleb:  She just forgot.  No biggie.  Everyone's okay.

(I thought so.)

New year’s resolutions:

• Don’t obsess over little things

• Hug my kids every day

• Respond with kindness, not impatience and anger

• Let go of those things I have no control over

• Take hold of the things I do have control over

• Be the more loving one

The More Loving One by WH Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well

That, for all they care, I can go to hell,

But on earth indifference is the least

We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn

With a passion for us we could not return?

If equal affection cannot be,

Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I am

Of stars that do not give a damn,

I cannot, now I see them, say

I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,

I should learn to look at an empty sky

And feel its total dark sublime,

Though this might take me a little time.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Year in Books: 2011

I read 28 books this year: one book fewer than last year. In my defense, I read longer books in 2011 and I did more writing than, well, ever. Not on my blog, per se, but there was other, more boring types of writing.

Breaking it Down

I read 12 by male authors and 16 by female. There were 5 memoirs, 2 non-fiction books, and 3 classics. This year, I thought I’d focus on my favorite ten of 2012. They are ordered by time period; Great Expectations was read at the beginning of 2011, The Lonely Polygamist I finished a couple of days ago.

1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I begin with one of the great works of classic literature- Charles Dickens' tome, Great Expectations. I personally love the novel's gothic allure (Bleak House has a similar tone) as well as the romance and the rags-to-riches tale. Plus, I think Joe Gargery is one of my favorite all-time literary characters.

Great Expectations is published with Dickens' revised ending. Originally, the novel had a much less hopeful conclusion, but novelist Wilkie Collins encouraged Dickens to give his work a more conventional happy ending. Some criticized Dickens for changing his original conclusion. George Bernard Shaw said that Great Expectations "is too serious a book to be a trivially happy one. Its beginning is unhappy; its middle is unhappy; and the conventional happy ending is an outrage on it."

I believe the ending is ambiguous enough not to be considered flagrantly sappy or happy, but what do I know? I was angry when Charlotte Bronte blinded poor bigamy-minded Mr. Rochester.

I love gothic novels.

This year, I also read Jane Austen's famous satire Northanger Abbey. Generally, I adore Ms. Austen, but I also adore a good gothic romance, so her mockery of the genre didn't do it for me. When the lead protagonist's imaginations of macabre goings on in the abbey fell flat, so did my hopes for an interesting novel. Blah.

If you haven't read Great Expectations since high school, I highly suggest you try it again. You can download it for free off of Amazon.

2. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

There's a fabulous scene in the television show Parks and Recreation where Leslie, the optimistic and ambitious deputy director of the parks department, is handing over research documents and a copy of the novel Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, to her best friend, Ann. Ann is supposed to use the documents to study for an interview for a job Leslie desperately wants her to get.

Ann looks at Freedom and asks, "And why am I reading this?"

"Because I'm almost done with it and I wanna talk to you about Patty!"

I keep waiting for someone I know to finish Freedom so we can talk about Patty. Alas, no one has pulled through for me yet. Maybe now that it's out in paperback...

3. The Waiting Place by Eileen Button

Read this exquisite book of essays in 2012. And buy a copy for a friend. You can read a longer review of the book here. I stole the above picture from this blogger, who also wrote a lovely review. Oh yeah- did I mention I'm going to hang with Eileen at the Calvin Faith and Writing Conference this April? I'm a lucky duck.

4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

This is a terrific book. It's fresh, original, smart, devious, and crammed with absorbing lore. And no, I didn't steal this quote from Margaret Atwood. Why do you ask?

I'd had this book on my shelf for a few years and, on a whim, picked it up and couldn't set it down. Life of Pi is a breathtaking allegorical tale that's part fairy-tale, part family saga, part fable. I've never read anything like it.

5. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

The prose is flowery and pretentious. After the first chapter, you want to kick the protagonist in the head. Her father, too. They are irritating and smug and wow... I thought Ms. Pessl was the most ostentatious, snobby author I had possibly ever come across. I mean, the protagonist’s name is BLUE. I think there was some literary reason for this, but I forget what it was. We’re talking that kind of pretension.

But the story was good. It drew me in. It became clear that in spite of the protagonists’ supposed vast intelligence, even she could never imagine the twists and turns her story would take. This is such a weird, wonderful, fun story. If you enjoyed Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Special Topics in Calamity Physics is probably right up your alley.

“Hurry up and read it ‘cause I wanna talk about BLUE!!!”

6. Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Two families adopt two little girls from Korea. The girls arrive on the same day. The story begins pre 9/11, and families are gathered at the terminal to greet the newest members of their respective families. The first family is a large, gregarious, quintessential American family. The second, a small Iranian family that consists of a husband, wife, and the husband’s mother. The two families forge a tangled yet strong bond and the novel follows their wobbly but important relationship as their sweet adopted daughters grow up as friends.

Ms. Tyler’s novels almost always take place in Baltimore. They are always relationship-driven, and they are among the most perfectly written pieces of work I’ve ever read. This is a gorgeous book. Read it.

7. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The Art of Fielding is supposedly one of this year’s great novels. The husband actually read it first and then made me read it before it was due back to the library. Of my ten listed, this is the one I vacillated upon including. I can’t pinpoint exactly what bothered me about it. I suppose some of the storylines seemed a bit trite and everything concluded a little too neatly. In other words, Shaw would not have been all that impressed.

On the other hand, this is a spectacular debut that tells a compelling story and, if I may draw upon the words of Harbach’s enthused fans, is:

“Intensely readable!”


“Harbach (has a) knowledge of baseball that is encyclopedic but never ponderous…”

The NY Times states:

“Detractors went looking for entertainment, and found art instead.”

I agree with above said statements.

The book is about college life and friendship and a tangled romance and forbidden love and baseball and more baseball and Moby Dick. And that pretty much sums it up. Also, it’s intensely readable.

8. Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens

Lori Lansens is fast becoming one of my favorite contemporary female authors. A while back, I read The Girls, a novel about a pair of conjoined twins. Rush Home Road was completely different in tone, voice, and everything else that distinguishes a novel.

Sharla, who had been living in a trailer park with her mother, is left under the care of “Mum Addy,” an elderly black woman who tries her hardest to give the little girl a safe, normal life with birthdays, clean sheets on the bed and all of those things our own kids take for granted. However, Addy soon realizes she cannot keep up with a troubled child and begins to worry about what will become of Sharla when she is gone. As she grows to love Sharla, we are privy to Addy’s memories, mostly painful, many beautiful. Lansens ties her modern-day tale with Addy’s past perfectly.

This was the “I can’t put this book down” of the year. Vivid, haunting, sentimental but not sappy, and ultimately, satisfying. I couldn’t recommend a book more highly.

9. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Another big novel in 2011! Still on the bestseller’s list, I believe. Eugenides wrote the wildly well-received novel, Middlesex- the most intriguing story about a hermaphrodite you’ll ever read.

The Marriage Plot follows Madeleine, Mitchell, and Leonard as they try and make their way in the world after college.

Madeleine is beautiful and intelligent, though not as intelligent as Leonard, her brilliant, bi-polar boyfriend. Mitchell is in love with Maddy, and kind of has a chip on his shoulder about it. He runs off to Greece (where else?) and other parts of Europe to forget about her. Mitchell finds God, but can’t forget Maddy. (Of course he can’t.)

The title The Marriage Plot refers to Madeleine’s college thesis, which is an examination of 19th-century marriage through a postmodern lens.

Eugenides is a great writer, a compelling storyteller, and the concept of The Marriage Plot would invoke great discussion about what marriage means in an age of rampant divorce, pre-nups, and religious apathy.

So hurry up and read it! I wanna talk about Mitchell.

10. The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

Four wives, 28 kids, and the guy’s… lonely? And is on the verge of having an affair with his boss’s wife? And he has gum stuck in his pubic hair and he has no idea how it got there?

This is an interesting story.

Polygamy fascinates me. I’m not alone. When asked why polygamy fascinates so many, Udall answered:

Why the obsession? It has to do with sex, of course. Everything we are obsessed about has something to do with sex, and polygamy is no exception. But I think there may be more to it than that.

Fine, I am definitely interested in the sex aspect of polygamy. I said it. I’m not ashamed. As for the “more to it than that”:

I find polygamy intensely depressing. I watched some of the first season of Big Love and had to stop after the Bill Paxton character began having an affair with… his first wife. His legal wife. The wife who began to regret agreeing to live “the principle.” It was just so sad.

Udall doesn’t write to condemn Mormon fundamentalism, but rather to examine the concept of a family. The story is told from the vantage point of the tall, bumbling, rather incompetent patriarch ironically named “Golden,” his maligned 11-year old son, Rusty, and his beautiful, young, and lonely fourth wife, Trish. The novel embraces the universal joys and pains of any American family: grief, jealousy, the hardship of raising multiple children, and of course, how to deal with the rogue ostrich that lives next door.

So, how does a man juggle four wives? The answer: he doesn’t. Each wife in the novel eventually divulges that she hasn’t been touched in months and months. Although, cut Golden some slack. The poor guy has gum in his pubic hair.

In Conclusion:

I didn’t read one book I “hated” this year because I have discovered something incredible. If I begin a book, and I don’t like it, I don’t have to finish it. The world will not end. No one will find me and beat me. The characters will not jump out of the book and chastise me for my lack of commitment.

I can’t tell you what a relief this discovery is. It’s also remarkable it’s taken me 34 years to discover this.

I would love to hear your favorite books read in 2011. Recommendations are a beautiful thing.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year, Peeps.

It's 10:30sh and I just recently got up because MY HUSBAND ROCKS.

First on today's bloggy agenda: I've simplified the blog layout. I've stripped it of advertisements and other stuff and changed the blog header. Someone I live with mocked it.

" 'The blog' in parantheses? Ha ha ha ha!"

I became offended, but thankfully we started speaking to one another again in time for me to sleep in today.

Stripping the blog is one step in my major life goal in 2012: Simplify MY ENTIRE LIFE before the crap hits the fan on December 21st. Or 23rd. Or whenever it is we're all supposed to perish. But discussing one's New Year's resolutions is a bit of a yawn when compared to presenting the Monday Happy Song, so I will move on.

Today's song has a backstory:

My father cruelly hid all my stepmom's Christmas music this year, so she's been listening to the soundtrack from The Sound of Music as a substitute. I do not think her Christmas music was ever recovered. I try not to get in the middle of these little marital spats, but I might suggest she hide something that's important to him? His grand piano, perhaps? I know a guy.

Anyway, she requested the following as a Happy Song for Monday, and she was so excited about it (I think she said, "Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!") that I had to oblige her.

On a side note: Caleb is not a fan of yodeling as a musical art form. Or, rather, not a fan of his mother's yodeling as a musical art form.

Comments below are for you to tell me how much you like my simplified blog: