Amanda Gates
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A Musings

I was talking to my husband (who I met online 12 years ago!) about my job hunt over dinner. He said out loud what I had been thinking in my head: “It’s like dating.” It really is! 

You create a profile to “sell” yourself. Then you have to hope people like the look of your profile enough to connect with you. You continuously tweak your profile in hopes it will better sell yourself to the prospects out there.

You have to network. Your friends, family and former coworkers can be of help when finding a match, so you have to spread the word that you’re looking.

You see a listing you like. You send a poke or a like or a wink (or resume). Out of, say, 40 pokes, you might get 8 responses. The rest of the time? Crickets. It’s pretty deflating.

Out of those 8 responses you get, many times there’s an initial phone call. This could go either way. You could feel great about it, but the other person feels differently. Or you could both get along and it could lead to a face-to-face meeting.

Out of those few initial phone calls, maybe you get a first meeting. You dress your best, your hair is just right. You practice sounding intelligent, witty and not-nervous in the mirror before you go. You sweat through your shirt, but at least you’re on your way!

There can be bad first dates. Those meetings that just don’t go well for either side and you walk away mutually OK with not seeing each other again.

Or there can be GREAT first dates. You talked a ton! You laughed! You’re so sure there will be a second meeting. So…

After waiting an appropriate amount of time, you send a follow up message. “It was great to meet you last week! Let me know when we can chat again.”

You wait some more. You question yourself. You self-esteem tanks. You realize you’ve been ghosted

Or maybe during this great first date, the other person makes a promise of a second date. “I’ll call you!” they say. You wait. And you still get ghosted. 

After several first meetings with different people, you have your “pitch” down. And frankly, you’re getting kind of burned out by it all. But this is a numbers game! The more people you meet, the more pokes you send, the better chance you’ll find the one you’re looking for. As my former boss would say, "If you want to play the game, you gotta get on the field."

Referrals are so important! When good friends try to match you up and vouch for you, that’s when you know you’ll at least get that first point of contact. Of course it’s no guarantee, but the phrase “it’s all about who you know” is true in many cases.

Or you might get set up by an acquaintance (recruiter). This person doesn’t really know you that well, but after meeting you, thinks you’re great. They say they might have the perfect match for you. This sometimes leads to a first date, or it leads nowhere (more crickets).

Your friends are your champions. They tell you with each rejection, “It’s OK! It wasn’t the right fit!” or “It’s their loss!” or “That just means the right match is still out there waiting for you!”

Maybe after 40 pokes and a few first dates, you meet someone who wants to see you again. Yes! This could go two ways: 

You meet again, but you end up in the friend zone. Back to the drawing board. Ugh. 

Or, it leads to a relationship! The first few months are fun, exciting and new. You meet new people and try new things. Then you settle in – either for a little while or for the long haul. But either way, you can stop looking for now. And that feels nice.

 
Posted: Tue, 11/15/2016 - 09:07 |

The Americans: The first two seasons of this show are available on Prime. It’s dark, but very interesting. I never really knew much about Russian spies and the Cold War. But if any of this in the show is even a bit of the truth, it’s crazy that this is what was going on in the early 80s. Also, how hard was it to be a spy without cell phones and email! I really like the two main characters, even if they do hate Americans and are trying to destroy us.

I’m not sure when more of the seasons will be available (for free), but I think the fifth season just started up again on FX, so it would be nice to keep going.

House of Lies: The first two seasons of this are also available for free on Prime. Tons of swearing, tons of sex. Frankly, they’re pretty awful people who do pretty awful things in love and business. It can be a bit depressing, actually, that these people are so self-destructive. But there’re some really funny parts, too. And Kristen Bell is in it, and I’d watch her read the phone book, so. (Don Cheadle is excellent too!)

Not sure when this will have more eps available either, but I would keep watching.

The Good Wife: When I heard this show was ending this season, I knew it was the perfect time to start. Stream straight through, no waiting! Like Scandal, this is a delicious surprise. Josh Charles can really do no wrong in my eyes and I enjoy Julianna Margulies, too. It’s funny because the first season is filled with guest stars who went on to be in Scandal.

I like that each episode is procedural, but also has Alicia’s marriage storyline flowing throughout. To think about why someone would stay with their husband in that situation is interesting.

Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island: My first biography of five I want to read before I’m 40. I had no idea this place existed, that this person existed or of the literal fight she's been a part of for the last 40 years. It's quite amazing.

I learned a lot (more) about the human destruction of wilderness and it makes me sad. I learned so much about sea turtles. That one smart, strong, brave lady could do as much as she has to try to save a small slice of American wilderness is pretty empowering.

Notorious RBG: The second biography of five I want to read before I’m 40 (first two about women! Woo!). I had no idea how amazing Ruth Bader Ginsberg is. I mean, a woman on the Supreme Court must be pretty awesome, but to read, case by case, her fight for equality… it just proved it. She’s fought for women. She’s fought for men. People of all classes and races.

I loved learning about her childhood. Her fight to go to law school in a time when women weren’t really doing that. How many times she herself spoke in front of the Supreme Court in the name of equality BEFORE she even became a member of it. The fact that she was nearly unanimously appointed to the Court. Her marriage to Marty was nothing short of inspiring. That he said, time and again, that he was put on this earth to help her get to where she was meant to be (and he was no slouch either!). I loved that the authors put in sections of her dissents and footnoted them so we could see just how she would stick it to her fellow judges when they made the wrong decision (in her eyes).

I feel badly that she might end her career on the bench in the minority. But knowing she’s there for a while longer makes me feel better about some of those rights men are trying to take away from women. She’s got our back.

The Girl on the Train: I was late to this party, but the book was worth the wait. A gripping thriller. Great storytelling. I could hardly put it down. Are the characters a mess? Yes. But I liked the suspense of it. Sometimes fast, gripping reads are what I need.

Me Before You, Big Little Lies & Where’d You Go Bernadette?: Read all three of these on the beach and they were the perfect picks for a vacation. Loved the first two for the engagement and speed and fun characters. I would read more by both those authors. I didn’t really enjoy Bernadette; she annoyed me and I mostly rolled my eyes.  

The Secret Keeper: I really love the way Kate Morton tells her stories. With this book, I found myself reading fast through the present-day stuff to get back to the chapters about the past. But only because I knew that part of the story held the key to everything. While The Forgotten Garden will (I believe) always be my favorite (I should really just read it again), all her books so far have been joys to experience. 

Posted: Wed, 03/09/2016 - 09:36 |

In recent years, I’ve thought about what I would do if I came into a lot (a lot!) of money. And I want to open an assisted living home-nursing home-hospice facility-animal rescue. All located on a big piece of land so we can have chickens and horses and dogs and gardens and beautiful grounds for our residents to live out their final days.

This dream comes from my own experience with a parent’s death, but also from bits and pieces I’ve read about end of life.

Being Mortal hit me right in the heart. Atul Gawande’s “Letting Go” in the New Yorker (and also Chapter 7 in this book) was my guiding light when it came to hospice care, and just how beneficial it is as an end-of-life decision for the one who is dying, but also how much stress it can save those who are left behind. The fact that I came across that article at just the right time still feels like a miracle to me.

I knew Being Mortal was a book that expanded on Letting Go and I’ve wanted to read it for nearly 5 years – I’m not sure why I waited so long. Because really, I wish I would’ve read this book in the summer of 2010, before my mom had a heart attack and had to go into a care facility for several weeks.

This book covers a few very important issues:

Elder Care: Geriatrics as a profession is decreasing fast, just as our population of elderly people is increasing exponentially. There’s no money in it (I mean it’s still more money than we’ll ever make, but compared to what other doctors make, it’s less). Gawande talks about how good geriatric doctors don’t focus on FIXING the problems from which older people suffer, but focus instead on MANAGING the problems. Simple things like asking them about their days, adjusting their meds if they feel dizzy (which leads to falls) or just looking at their feet and cutting their freakin’ toenails. Those things can make life better. Data shows that people who regularly visit their geriatric doctor live on their own for longer and need less medical intervention/hospitalization.

But the medical industry as a whole thinks it’s too expensive so they’re cutting/decreasing these programs at medical schools (like at the U of M).

WTF.

Quality of Life: One of his huge points in the book is that when people become old, what keeps them going is Purpose and Independence. That’s why people in nursing homes that are forced into wheelchairs (you might fall!) or to remain bed-bound deteriorate so much faster. Of course all these measures are CYA for nursing homes, but Gawande visited a number of facilities around the country to find just who was doing it BETTER.

One place fought the state to let them have birds in every room, along with two dogs and two cats. Employees were encouraged to bring their children to an on-site daycare. The fact that these residents now had animals to take care of on their own, and children to visit in a daycare? Medical intervention when DOWN by double-digit percentages. One man who never talked or left his bed? Came out one day and said, “Hey, I’ll walk the dog today.” Three months later – HE LEFT AND WENT HOME. (This place was the beginning of The Green House Project. Look it up.)

Other facilities do everything they can to NOT take away someone’s independence and privacy. Rooms/apartments have locks. Kitchens are open to everyone 24-7. You want to eat cakes and cookies? By all means, go ahead, you’re an adult! They don’t force people into wheelchairs… instead they let them walk as long as they possibly can and manage falls as they come.

End of Life Discussions: Oh, Sarah Palin and every other idiot who calls these “death panels,” you suck. One of the greatest gifts given to us was when my mom’s doctor sat us all down in her room and talked honestly about the trends he was seeing in her care (“You’re back in the hospital every three weeks. Let’s talk about why that is. And how we want to proceed.”). He was open and honest and took the time to answer all of our questions and her questions. He didn’t push more intervention or hospice; he just talked about how her body would react to all the different scenarios. And what did she think would be a more peaceful way to live out her final days. (Hospice was the answer.)

Gawande, a doctor who has found himself in these discussions with his own patients, talks about just how hard it is for doctors to do this. People don’t want to die. Of course they don’t. So doctors feel a responsibility to do everything they can to prevent it. But people also don’t want to live in pain, or not be able to eat, or be bedridden or stuck in the hospital. He talks about how certain questions, like “What things must you be able to do to have a quality life?” can help doctors know just how much to intervene or when to just manage the pain.

The way he writes openly about the mistakes he’s made as a doctor, but also how’s he grown when it comes to these discussions is so enlightening. And you just hope you (or your parents) get a doctor like him when the time comes.

After an atrocious nursing home experience with my mom – and then a really good one – I felt like I pretty much knew what to look for when it comes up again. I know how important these conversations are to have with my dad and my in-laws and our kids. The more you talk about it, the “easier” it will be.

I feel now, after reading this book, I know even better what’s best. 

Posted: Thu, 02/11/2016 - 11:22 |

I remember vividly when it happened. I remember sitting in the basement watching the around-the-clock (or at least it seemed like it – it would be now) coverage of the missing boy from St. Joseph. I was 8 almost 9. We watched Paul Magers and Diana Pierce of Kare 11 follow the story, hoping he’d be found. My brother was at college at St. John’s in St. Joseph - so we heard his perspective of how that little college town changed on Oct. 22, 1989.

Someone local on Twitter said they don’t remember a bigger local news story from their childhood – and I don’t really either. Maybe there was, but honestly nothing has stuck with me like Jacob Wetterling. And his face. The fact that he was basically my age. The ribbons – all the ribbons. And his mom. His amazing mom.

The case resurfaces every few years and you always hope.

When I saw the news yesterday that they had a new person of interest, my heart dropped. Tears sprang to my eyes. When I saw the eerie resemblance between the police sketch and this man’s picture, I wanted to puke. Because even though I don’t know this family, if you have even one ounce of empathy in your body, you want closure for them.

Paul Magers tweeted yesterday, “The #jacobwetterling case was so impactful - I've always personally believed it was a crime that stripped Minnesota of all of its innocence.”

I think that’s the truth.

I actually have to commend my parents because it doesn’t feel like this changed my childhood. I was coming home on the bus alone at age 10. I was riding a bike or walking to my friends’ houses alone around that same age. There were no cell phones, just the promise to call them at work when I got home. When I was in junior high, I was walking the 3-mile loop around our lake by myself. (I liked time to myself.) I had a great, free-range childhood.

Today as a parent? I don’t think I could be that open or that willing or that trusting of the outside world. It’s a fact that for the last 25-30 years, parents have slowly tightened that grip on their kids. It happened so slowly, but it happened. Even if the world is SAFER than it was “back then.”

Believe me, I WANT to be free-range. I do. I’m a rational person; I went to journalism school and understand the FACTS; I’m married to a rocket scientist who was born to look at things rationally; I know that the odds of abduction or other dangerous things happening to my children are slim to none. I know they’re far more in danger driving in my car with me.

I know.

But when you’ve had a story like Jacob’s in your brain since age 8, then add to it TV shows like CSI or SVU, the 24-hour news cycle, Amber Alerts, and most recently all these stories of CPS being called on GOOD parents who ARE free-range… it’s just like, what’s the point? Because when I read these news stories today about this man and what he could’ve have done to multiple boys (or if it wasn’t him, then SOMEONE did) it makes me want to throw up. If a tighter hold on my kids keeps them safe from this awfulness, so be it.

If something bad happens to your kids under your watch, it feels so different than if something bad happens when you weren’t there – but maybe could’ve been?

This is so often why I try to live in a bubble. Whether it’s irresponsible or not to NOT to think about the hardships and disasters and wars and injustices around the world, sometimes that’s just easier, you know? It’s how you can get out of bed in the morning and drop your kids off at places where they stay all day without you. It’s how you let your spouse go off to work in a dangerous profession. It’s how you watch a daughter go off to college… and arm her with mace.

For as long as I’m alive I will shed tears for Jacob. He represents all the pain of all the kids who have had to endure anything like this. He represents our innocence lost, yet also our fight to hold on. 

Posted: Fri, 10/30/2015 - 09:05 |

Inside/Out: I didn’t get a chance to see this in the theater but finally got to watch it this past weekend now that it’s out on Vudu. It’s a sweet story and there are so many things to love about it. I love that it takes place in a girl’s brain. I love that it looks into the complicated parts of the brain, like memory and subconscious and all those things we DO and DON’T remember.

I love the message that we can’t be happy all the time (and I love Joy’s journey to discover this truth) and that we oftentimes need the sadness to make the happiness. I also loved how it visually shows how becoming too sad or too depressed can literally erase the good memories or the happy times from your brain – and how you have to REALLY work to get those back.

Oftentimes in life I feel like a Joy – someone who dances a jig just to make the people around me happy or get out of their funk. But I also know how important it is to be sad and how sadness shapes who you are, too. Great movie.

Wild (movie): I read Wild a while ago, but just recently watched the film. And it was fine. I think Reese Witherspoon gave a good effort to be raw and depressed, but I did not totally buy her as Strayed. The movie seems to just touch on all the messages in the book (and I liked, but didn’t love, the book) but not enough to make it very meaningful. Again, it was fine.

Sonic Highways (series): We love the Foo Fighters in our house, so this was an amazingly enjoyable eight hours. Even if Dave and the band are researching their influences in the eight different cities, you still learn a whole freakin’ lot about music history. I honestly feel it’s a great docuseries that everyone (music buffs) should watch – whether you’re a Foo fan or not. Dave asks good questions and dives deep into some great or unknown parts of music history. I loved the Nashville and New Orleans episodes a ton. Austin comes in a close third.

Sonic Highways the album kicks ass, too.

Veep: Oh my gosh, this show. I consumed the first four seasons as quickly as I could. It is so hilarious, if only for the way it perfectly curses. I’ve watched West Wing, House of Cards and now this and Veep is the perfect in between. It’s perfectly ridiculous, with a bit of West Wing’s sincerity and a bit of House of Cards corruption. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a rock start, and her supporting cast is a dream. I cannot wait for season 5.

Girls: Huh. I may be too old for this show. I watched Sex in the City pretty much as it aired. I think I dug that show so much because the women were older than me, and more glamorous. They also were really good friends to each other. But these Girls? I roll my eyes at them and I find them so self-absorbed; I sometimes want to kick Hannah in the teeth. And Marni. Plus, they’re AWFUL friends to each other. Just awful. That is not how I know friendship.

I fall on the cusp of Gen X and Millennial and I don’t see myself in any of these Girls.

The Comeback: This was a fun way to get back in touch with a ‘Friend.’ Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish is pretty phenomenal. It’s often painful to watch, as she tries to stand up for herself against mean people, and really sad to watch her get screwed over when she’s just trying to make her “comeback.” But there’re many, many funny parts – and it’s an interesting look at how TV is made.

The Martian (book and movie): I quickly read The Martian before we went to see the movie. I really enjoyed the book. It was engaging and pretty thrilling and could keep me on the edge of my seat. I only skimmed a bit at the beginning when there was a lot of technical talk that meant nothing to me.

The movie was also really good. I wondered how they would get his fear and frustration across without being able to use all the book’s swearing, but the movie did a good job. I liked all the actors, too. They fit the parts. There was excitement throughout and lots of humor. I was a little disappointed (as often am with books-to-movies) that certain parts I found important to the story were left out. And also I didn’t love the changes to the ending – but can totally see WHY they would up the excitement factor for the ending of a movie.

Posted: Fri, 10/23/2015 - 10:03 |

I’m not really a music person. I just like what I like. That might be Sheryl Crow or Foo Fighters or a little old-time Neil Diamond because it makes me feel nostalgic and warm inside.

My company has a Song of the Day email group and I got on it but was too intimidated to ever “curate” a week. Because what if people judged my songs? But then after a while I said screw it, and decided to curate two different weeks.

Here were my choices.

Women Who Rock Week

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings: This lady right here proves that you can “make it” at any age, like, say, being nominated for your first Grammy at age 58. She brought 60s and 70s funk and soul to the ears of those of us born post-1980.

Here’s “Stranger to My Happiness,” where Sharon not only rocks it but also rocks her post-chemo, beautiful bald head. She emits strength.

Liz Phair: What can be said about Liz besides that the self-produced Exile in Guyville is pure brilliance. Here’s a woman who’s not afraid of her sexuality or what people think of her. She’s also not afraid of a little (or a lot) of cursing. She broke down a lot of barriers for what it means to be a woman in music. And at nearly 50, she’s freakin’ hot.

It’s hard to pick my favorite song of hers – she’s crossed over to more pop-rock in recent years – but “Divorce Song” is always one I turn up and belt out (privately, in my car).

Carole King: Let’s take it back. She’s a legend. Tapestry held the record for the most weeks at No. 1 (15 weeks) for 20 years (until Whitney broke it with The Bodyguard soundtrack).

“Where You Lead” is my go-to lullaby. I still sing it nearly every night. (It’s also awesome because it was the theme song for Gilmore Girls – another pop culture example of whip-smart females representing.)

Jenny Lewis/Rilo Kiley: While Rilo Kiley is no more (or is it?), several of Jenny Lewis’ songs speak to me. They’re anthems for tough times. Or inspiration for something better.\

My favorite of hers is “A Better Son/Daughter.” I cranked it during a rough patch. My favorite verse.

"But the lows are so extreme that the good seems fucking cheap

And it teases you for weeks in its absence

But you'll fight and you'll make it through

You'll fake it if you have to

And you'll show up for work with a smile"

Hayley Williams/Paramore : Ladies can appreciate her powerful femininity. Everyone can appreciate her set of lungs. Paramore’s been paying dues since they were teenagers. Hayley’s success at age 26 is quite amazing. I saw Paramore perform last year and Ms. Williams just Kicks Ass.

"Last Hope" is my favorite single from the band’s most recent album. It’s best heard live.

Acoustic Week

Dave Grohl: Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light came out the day my mom went into hospice. I listened to it every day as I drove to and from their house to be with her. I love the album in its entirety, but “Walk” is the song I still can’t listen to without tears forming in the corner of my eyes.

Dave says he wrote “Walk” after his daughter Violet took her first steps. But I think he knows there’re multiple meanings behind “learning to walk again.”

Sarah Blackwood: “Wrecking Ball” is probably the only Miley Cyrus song I can name, and it’s because of Sarah’s (and Jenni and Emily’s) version of it. It’s hauntingly beautiful.

Billy Corgan: Smashing Pumpkins is my husband’s most favorite band. I support his fandom, of course, but have never joined him there. However, Billy went on a special 10-city acoustic tour this summer and we saw him in June. Billy acoustic is much more my speed. It was a great show.

Here’s "Tonight, Tonight" acoustic from a couple years ago.

Ingrid Michaelson: Her biggest hit by far, I’ve loved “The Way I Am” since the day it came out back in 2007.

Grace Potter: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have been around for a more than a decade, but I only discovered them recently with “Stars.” The studio version really showcases Grace’s vocal power, but this acoustic version is just so lovely, too. It makes me think of my mom, out there just beyond my reach.

 

Posted: Fri, 09/18/2015 - 08:35 |

10 years ago today, my life changed. My favorite show of all time - all time! - ended. No more new FRIENDS. Fortunately, the show's in syndication until 2088 or something (plus I own all the seasons), so I can rewatch it any time I want. So, in honor of this anniversary (also, how fast did 10 years go?!)....

I’ve been meaning to write this forever, but when you love a show so much and you try to pick just a few of some 200 episodes… well, it’s like picking favorite children (OK, not really). Each one has at least a nugget or two that means something to me. I can watch nearly any episode for the 20th time and love it just as much as the first time. Maybe more.

(Important to note, I consider the Thanksgiving episodes their own category. I love many of those equally, so I didn’t list them here.)

On with the list. The best episodes, in my mind, are the ones when all the Friends are in one room together… or are all involved in the same storyline. Another reason why T-Day episodes are standouts.

The One Where No One’s Ready: I can recite this episode word for word. It’s a classic. The Joey/Chandler fight, the Monica freak out, anal Ross, Phoebe’s political statement, Rachel “catching up on her correspondence.” I can’t even pick a favorite part because I love it all so much.

Best Line: There are too many. “The cushions are the essence of the chair!” “I’m Chandler. Could I BE wearing any more clothes?” “Monica, I think you’ve gone over to the BAD PLACE.” “Donald Duck never wore pants…” “I’m breezy!” “You can’t say you’re breezy! That totally negates the breezy!” (The fact that Joey knows how to properly use the word ‘negates’ is questionable, yet enjoyable.)

The One With the Embryos: This is a CLOSE second. The quiz game is unreal in its hilarity. I love how well they know each other – it’s really a special quality to find in friends. I also love Phoebe’s sweet side story line, with her petri dish pep talk and funny lines, “OK, where am I giving birth, in a hospital or a big box under the stairs?”

Best Line: Too many! But probably, “His legs flail about as if independent from his body!”

The One Where Everyone Finds Out: I still remember watching this episode live and laughing so hysterically in our basement my mom came down to see what the heck was going on. The opening when Phoebe sees through the window (“My eyes! MY EYES!”) is probably the best part. But I also love the cat and mouse game they play to get Chandler to crack.

Best Line: “What about my pinchable butt and my bulging biceps? SHE KNOWS!”

The One with the Prom Video: Some of the flashback episodes are hit or miss; they can get a little carried away. But this was our first peek at the past and it was really sweet. I love that it’s the other Friends’ first peek at the past, too, and the fact the Ross uncomfortably knows what’s coming and Rachel doesn’t. And the end is the best.

Best Line: Insert anything about lobsters here.

Posted: Tue, 05/06/2014 - 07:58 |

This was a better year for books than last year. I made my goal of 20 books, even with having a baby thrown in there. Here are my favorite books of the year (books I read, not books published, in 2013).

Divergent Trilogy: Once again (as with Hunger Games and Twilight), I did this right by not realizing this trilogy even existed until about a month before the last book came out. I really liked it, too! It was an interesting concept all the way through the end, almost to the point where I could see our real world imploding on itself like that (in a way). I was fine with the ending, too, even though other fans were threatening Roth with death (COME. ON.) because of it. A fun, fast read all around.

Eleanor & Park: People all over Twitter were reading this so I picked it up to see what the fuss was about. It’s such a sweet, endearing and heartbreaking story. Teenagers in love. It brings you back. I loved nearly every word.

Tiny Beautiful Things: This was a nice change of pace from my usual novel. I really enjoyed Strayed’s advice columns and how she presented her advice as well. I liked this much more over Wild, even though you can’t really compare the two.

Winter Sea: I found a historical novel that rivals The Forgotten Garden in loveliness. I hope to read more of her books.

Fault in Our Stars: Another book people just rave about and I was a little late in the game to. But I loved this book and how truthful and raw it felt. Green speaks from the teenage (much less a teenage girl) perspective really well. I loved the joking and sarcasm. I loved the parents, especially since now when I read it, I read it more from that perspective than from the child’s, like if I read it in high school or something. Wonderful.

Waiting for Birdy: I read this at the perfect time, with a toddler boy at home waiting for a baby girl, just like the author. Nearly everything she wrote struck me, and I was recently alerted to another article she wrote awhile back, and once again, she reads my freakin’ mind.

End of Your Life Book Club: I already wrote a complex post about this book, but it touched me on several levels. Great read, for both readers but also those struggling with a parent’s death.

You might also like my previous end of the year roundups: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007

What books did you love in 2013?

Posted: Fri, 12/06/2013 - 14:29 |

Wait it Out Bingo: My good friend Katie alerted me to this piece and I think it’s so clever. I always want to think I can be the mom who will let my child CIO, but let’s face it, I’m spent after 5 minutes. So, at least this Bingo card on why my baby is awake adds some humor to the literally exhausting situation.

My additions: fireworks (someday I’ll like those again), tired mama bumping rocking horse into crib, doorbell, mama having a coughing fit while laying on nursery floor, etc.

I’m Not Sorry and You Shouldn’t Be Either by Denise Schipani: I’ve always been a big proponent of saying no to keep your sanity. When it comes right down to it, my family and my time comes before everything else. But sometimes I look at the messy house or the fact that I skip many events and feel bad (...but not really). I’m thankful Schipani tells me I don’t have to feel sorry.

Zombie Story: This is old, but I only just discovered it. Toy Story and Walking Dead (two things I love) have very similar themes. It’s hilarious.

Now We Are Five by David Sedaris: Besides the fact that I will consume anything he writes, I appreciated this piece for how well Sedaris writes about the death of a loved one who you might not actually be that close to. But it still matters. Great piece.

Bravery As Defined By an Accidental Housewife: I love the sentiment that we’re all brave and courageous just doing what we’re doing every day – wiping butts, cleaning house, going to work, being parents. Her last graph says it all:

“In reality I am someone who has never stopped feeling frustrated and uneasy with a messy house, who cringes when people wipe snot on her shoulder, and who still dry heaves herself when anyone around her throws up.  I wish I were more naturally tolerant of these things, but I’m not, and so for me the challenge I must rise to lately is the daily endurance of these discomforts.  It’s not quite as exciting or special feeling as having a baby, true, and it might not look brave to the outside world, but some days it takes all the grit I’ve got.  This is my current adventure, my life affirming challenge: not to endure pain or push myself to any physical limits, not to earn a new certificate or find a new career, but to help a kid wipe milk off the floor for the twentieth time in a week without resenting it.  To know that to the child who spilled the milk, my attitude does matter.”

What are you loving this week?

Posted: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 15:57 |

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Two of my favorite shows from the last decade are The Office and Parks & Rec, so it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that I would dig Brooklyn Nine-Nine since it was created by Office/P&R writers/creators. It’s my favorite new fall show. It took an episode or two to really like the characters (it took that for P&R, too), but Andy Samberg is really good at sitcom acting, Andre Braugher plays a hilarious, ahem, straight man, and the supporting players quickly grew on me. Good show.

Toy Story of Terror: I love Toy Story. All of them. A lot. And that’s a good thing, because in the last year or so, I’ve watched A LOT of Toy Story. (My kid cracks me up by quoting Spanish Buzz, “Senorita? Dondé esta?!”) The husband and I checked out Toy Story of Terror, which premiered the other night. The cleverness just doesn’t go away with this brand. On a road trip with Bonnie, the toys find themselves in a run-down, roadside motel and get in a bit of a pickle when they explore during the night. While I think it might be a tad frightening for my preschooler, it’s still remarkable for a 30-minute special.

Promised Land by the Milk Carton Kids: I always find new songs to love in the ending montages of TV shows and this one was on last week’s episode of Bones. After looking them up, looks like the Milk Carton Kids are group that’s just starting to make a big name for itself. I’m never in the know about breakout stars, but I think this group has a big future. (Other songs from TV shows I've instantly downloaded: Cloud Cult’s You Were Born from HIMYM, Joshua Radin’s My My Love from Parenthood (I get many songs from this show), Rilo Kiley’s Arms Outstretched from Weeds, etc.)

Take Your Licks by Amy Poehler: Just when you think you can’t love her more, she writes a sweet essay like this one. My favorite line, “It’s important to know when it’s time to turn in your kazoo.”

Mike Derheim’s TEDx Talk: He talks about engaging your workforce and how Millennials aren’t entitled, they just want to be empowered… and employers aren’t doing this. At his company, The Nerdery (always named a top place to work in Minnesota), everyone is co-president. It’s not about rules and regulations; it’s about less of those things. “Why not let people pick their own hours? Why not show people the picture of success and get out of their way while they try to achieve it?” Bravo, man. There’s a reason he’s grown his company to 450 extremely happy employees in just 10 years.

Posted: Fri, 10/18/2013 - 10:19 |