Friday, January 27, 2012

Light52: Week 4

One of my goals for this year is to do something or look for something each week that reflects or explores my one little word for 2012.

Source: via Deirdre on Pinterest


Three sparks of light come to mind this week.


1. The bigs discovered The Three Stooges. I so dislike the three stooges. I’m not a fan of slapstick in general, though I enjoyed introducing the boys to  Abbot & Costello and Laurel & Hardy. But the Three Stooges? For Aidan & Sean, it was love at first eye-poke. And even though I felt an impulse to point out how ridiculous and repetitious all their gags are…I also thought of G.K. Chesterson’s “It’s easy to be heavy, hard to be light.” Is there anything lighter than stooges? I’m hoping I don’t regret letting them open this door. They’re scaring me now with plans to shave Nolan’s head and be Moe, Larry & Curley for Halloween.

2. Lucky Streak, ie: I won! I won! I won!


Look what I won from Lisa Truesdell’s giveaway at the moments in between! Lisa is one of my favorite inspirations. She mists, sews and scraps like no one else, but it’s her photos that make me swoon. She too is a mom to three boys, and her layouts capture the sweetness and hilarity of brotherhood. I’ve had the Happy Days stamps on my wishlist ever since seeing them on Lisa’s pages. Label stickers are my favorite, and I’ve been so tempted by the Smash book line.

I haven’t bought any non-digital scrap supplies in over a year (*shock*---I hope Brian reads that!) so I can’t wait to open this box of goodies to play. On a day when I was surrounded by sick boys and a to-do list that wasn’t going to get done, it was such a sweet surprise to see my name as the winner on Lisa’s blog.

Side Note: has made catching up on favorite blogs fun & easy. I think of it as my one magazine subscription that has all my favorite writers & photographers in it. If you’re still using Google reader (which syncs with it), check out feedly---good design makes all the difference.


3. A little light-headed, but also three pounds lighter. I’m attempting to avoid all sugar and flour, eating mostly vegetables and lean protein. It’s only been one week so far, but this much I’ve learned: sugar leads to more sugar. I’m not as hungry or craving carbs now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Round here…

We are finally flu-free. Only Aidan and Nolan got hit, our little guy considerably harder than his big brother.

Nolie's high fever

I’ve joked that between the drive to drop off and pick up, and Brian coming home for lunch every day, Nolie’s preschool only leaves me two child-free hours three times a week. Last week I realized just how much normally gets done in those two hours!

Nolan has also been informing us that he wants us to call him Brian Junior, but not now---only when he’s older and has a beard and truck. I think he saw Brian stick a pencil behind his ear once, and now Nolan has to do it almost daily.

2012 01 06_nolan pencil behind ear

Since the bookend kids were both sick, just Sean and I headed to KZMU to host Shine Time on Saturday.

Sean the DJ

Normally Aidan leads the show (being a strong reader helps with the station identification/sponsor messages/weather), while Sean introduces some of his favorite songs. This show, Sean totally lead the way and knocked it out of the park! He told his new favorite joke (“Why is 6 afraid of 7?”) and his own knock off (“Why is 2 afraid of 3? Because 3 four-ced 5!”…possibly a joke only a Star Wars obsessed six year old finds hilarious), before introducing this BNL’s song:

And here he is jamming along to his favorite (for almost a year now) “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz.

Sean at the radio station

Our oldest has become less cooperative around cameras.

2012 01 18_1598

Unless he wants me to take a photo of his latest creation. With a flash on the kitchen floor? The boy is killing me, but when he says please take a photo, I don’t argue. Here’s Scorpio, his mutant Bionicle (and his adoring brother, who always wants in on a photo):

2011 11 13_Bionicles Combo

I’m determined to get one good shot of him during his next basketball game. Wish me luck!

2011 12 26_Aidan and Bri playing basketball

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Light52: Week 3

2012 01 08 flowers from Bri

Fr. Peter Wolf, at Camp Vista in 1986, defined a miracle as getting what you need when you need it.

We’ve had little boys with the flu while I wasn’t feeling 100% myself. Brian made a run to the store for more Gatorade, a rare treat our boys associate with having a fever, and returned with this lovely yellow bouquet.

Few things offer me as sure a pick-me-up as fresh flowers. And yellow is my favorite color. I love monochromatic bouquets too.

Ever-observant Nolan noticed the immediate boost in my spirits, and was fascinated by the whole thing. He wanted to have given me the flowers, he said. Then he asked several times, “Why did Daddy give you them?” I finally answered, “Maybe he loves me!”

He quickly ran to Brian and asked him why he got me flowers. Brian answered, “Because I love her and she wasn’t feeling too good today so I thought they might help.”

Nolie ran back to his room where I was waiting to put on his pajamas and was happy to report, “You were right, Momma. Daddy loves you!”

Brian jokes about my forbidding him to buy me flowers on Valentine’s Day (overpriced!), but unexpected fresh flowers just when you most needed them= a modern miracle.

Light52: Week 2

2012 01 05_28

One of Aidan’s best friend became a big brother just days after the new year. I called a mutual friend who was coordinating dinners for the parents, and this sweet friend, Emily, suggested that a better gift to the parents would be a lil’ photo shoot of their new babe.

oscar and his momma's hand

That’s Emily’s little boy, Oscar, holding her finger, when I came over and took a few photos of him two years ago. She told me how much more the photos meant to her than any of the meals, which was just the push I needed. I sent a message to Colin, the new baby’s dad, who jumped at the idea, and we set up a time for me to come shoot some photos of their baby, only five days old.

2012 01 05_20

I have a ton to learn about photographing newborns (lesson#1 from this shoot---there’s a reason pros tuck the baby’s hands under his chin…because that lifts his face so you can actually see it). Even after three years of studying and shooting, I still have a ton to learn about my camera and post-processing. But I loved it.

2012 01 05_BW9

I love newborns and I love photography.

At the same time, I’m realistic. Our little town’s hospital has fewer than 100 babies born there each year. And even fewer people in our community would pay for custom photography.

And yet, I’m excited. Just to find something I feel passionate about. I want to keep learning. And to keep shining a light on this passion for capturing a new person during his or her first days of life.

Light52: Week 1


2012 01 12_Look to the Light

2007: Move; 2008:  Now; 2009: Time; 2010: Attend; 2011: Love; 2012: Light.

In 2007, I read Ali Edward’s post on choosing one little word to focus on throughout a year. She now has several posts on the topic if the concept is new to you.  I loved having LOVE for my word in 2011. For one, it was easier to remember (oh, attend, what a challenge you were!), and whenever faced with a choice or struggle, just thinking of my word was like turning on a light.

Love will always be my word, but I debated several for 2012. Beauty, joy, learn---all themes I want this year to include. And then, as I do every time I drive away from Nolan’s preschool, I read the above sign at the end of the driveway: Look Toward The Light.

web nolie and advent apple candle

Nolan’s Waldorf school doesn’t teach a certain religion, but there is definitely a spiritual component. At Winter Solstice we walked with lanterns while singing “This Little Light of Mine.”  And just before break, the children carried their own apple candle through an Advent Spiral while their teacher talked about turning to their inner light in the midst of winter’s darkness and sharing that light with the world. (Don’t you love Nolie’s concentration above?)

I ultimately chose LIGHT because it works on so many different levels. I’m reminded of the quote Gretchen Rubin often cites, by G.K. Chesterson: “It’s easy to be heavy, hard to be light.” I have a tendency to be heavy in my thoughts and words, and want to choose a lighter approach. I want to be physically lighter this year, for my impact on the earth to be lighter, to be light-hearted. But mostly I want to clear my way so I can look to the light and be a light in the lives of those I love.

One of my goals for this year is to do something or look for something each week that reflects or explores my word---and I hope to post on the blog (at some point each month) to hold myself accountable. I know I won’t post every week, so my Light52 posts won’t necessarily fall into the calendar week (the first 3 for example!), but I still hope to have 52 by December 31st. A big hat tip to Elizabeth Dillow whose 52 projects have inspired me ---and influenced my Lenten promise the past two years, and to Peppermint Granberg whose New52 provided a broader approach that even a not-so-crafty girl like myself could do.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012



I love the new year so much, I have three of them: January first,  the first day of summer vacation and the first day of school in September. Each of them feel like wonderful, fresh starts full of potential. And each of them provide an opportunity to revisit my goals for the year.

As part of our “Best of” letter, Mary Alice, Angie and I usually list accomplishments/disappointments and goals (or “revolutions” as MA terms them) for the new year. Last year I was influenced by two books, Checklists by Atul Gawande and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin to create a resolution checklist. I hung it on the inside of bathroom cabinet and checked off weekly to-do’s related to my long-term goals. This little step, along with keeping an on-going To Do Tomorrow list on my desktop and exchanging weekly “goals” via email with a friend, had a huge impact on my productivity.

And yet, there are still unfinished projects---from 2010 as well as 2011. I feel slightly pulled between the rush of starting new projects and the boost of finishing a long-term one. I’m going to limit myself to just 12 goals in this space, in honor of 2012:

Goals for 2012:

1.Take at least one family photo per month. Inspired by Tara Whitney’s 6x12 project and the fact that in preparing our 2011 Highlights DVD/Slideshow, I found only two of our whole family: one from our Boise trip and one from Christmas Eve, and neither is great.

2. Adopt and train a puppy. Oh me oh my. I want to do this. No, that’s not true---I want to have done this. I want to skip to five years from now when we have a family dog that is trained and low-maintenance (is any dog ever low maintenance?). I’ve been reading training books since we had our first backyard in 2001. It’s not great timing, but Brian reminds me it will never be the perfect time. And I always said our diaper budget would become our dog food budget. And, for the first time in NINE years, we no longer need to buy diapers. *Alleluia*

3. Prepare our family for our next trip to Chicago. This one has financial, emotional, practical implications, but I don’t want to think about any of them. Eventually I will, and hopefully that will help us all.

4. Learn the basics of my sewing machine and complete at least two projects. Inspired by African Kelli, the sewing machine Brian gave me for mother’s day a couple years ago (and which only he has used so far!), and the fact that Nolan’s teacher will be offering an evening class, this might be the year I finally learn to sew!

5. Submit two resumes. One opportunity just presented itself. I’m going to pursue it (and will discuss it more if it works out). The other involves a position I was interested in when we first moved to Moab. I met with the director who asked for my resume, and two weeks later, I learned I was pregnant and chose not to pursue it. Three years later,  I made another appointment with the same director only to learn just prior to our meeting that I was expecting again. I’m 99% I can apply this time without bringing another child into the world.  Our family isn’t ready for me to return to work full-time, but it’s exciting to start stepping into the paying-work world.

6. Start every month with a clean desk. I am going to hold myself to this by posting a photo of my desk here on the 1st of every month. So at least I know what I’ll be doing on the 3oth/31st of every month:)

7. Lose and keep off 12 pounds. Tomorrow I’m meeting two friends for a “strength-training” session at our gym. I lost slightly more than 12 last year and want to continue using and carving out time to move.

8. Create a home binder. Angie gave me a book designed to walk you through this last fall, and I even downloaded Aby Garvey’s free reference guide. But I only got so far as creating a cute cover for my still-empty binder. I may be overestimating the peace this completed project will bring, but I’d like to at least find out.

9. Grow herbs inside my kitchen. I miss basil in the winter. I have no idea if I can do this but I’ll try. Cilantro, basil and Italian parsley.

10. Create a Shutterfly book of 12 on 12.  First I was inspired by Elizabeth Dillow’s 12 on 12, but also wanted more leeway and a general capturing of a month rather than one day per month. So I’m combining the 12 on 12 idea with Rebecca Cooper’s Month in Review. I hope to scrap one 12-photo layout per month. Look to see if I get January’s done by Feb. 12th.

11. Go to the Telluride Blues & Brew Festival, or see a concert at the Red Rocks or camp in Zion National Park. I’m not sure which will work out, but at least one of these. And a girls weekend in Prescott.

12. 52 Weeks of Light…which I’ll explain/figure out by my next post, on my one little word for 2012.

There’s always more, more ideas and dreams than there is time. Mary Alice gave me a 5-year one-sentence journal for Christmas; my goal for January is to make it a habit. For February I want to write 750 words daily. In March, we hit birthday/anniversary marathon so juggling is the only goal for that month. MA, Angie and I are reading/re-reading The Happiness Project and writing monthly letters. I’d love our local mindful mommas group to find a way to bring Karen Maezen Miller to Moab. I want to teach Aidan how to edit his own short movies, and will definitely help Sean master his bike at last. I have a million and one projects on a list but these 12, this post, will be my guide.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Best of 2011: Life Lessons

Three lessons stand out to me from this year. Lessons I've probably learned before and probably will need to learn again.

Lucy Greely wrote: “I used to think truth was eternal, that once I knew, once I saw, it would be with me forever, a constant by which everything else could be measured. I know now that this isn’t so, that most truths are inherently unretainable, that we have to work hard all our lives to remember the most basic things.”

What I hope to remember in my heart from this year…
2011 12 24_our family of 5 goofs

1. Late November, driving away from Chicago, completely spent physically and emotionally, I remember making an effort to get out of my head, out of the past and to see what was in front of me. And what I saw was so beautiful it took my breath away and I tried to articulate it to Brian but ended up just crying instead. I’m still not sure how to articulate it.

Growing up, I didn’t keep a notebook, as my sister Eileen did, with clippings for her dream wedding. I didn’t want to get married. I didn’t even like to play house. I had lots of dolls growing up, but I preferred to play orphanage. I’d arrange all the dolls around our basement and then introduce each to their prospective parents, my little siblings John and Elizabeth. When asked what I’d be when I grew up, I’d answer a nun, like the Sisters of Saint Agnes at my school. They were easily the happiest women I knew, and if I was determined to be anything, it was to be happy.

I’m full of flaws and make mistakes daily that I’m sure will provide my own children with excellent fodder for therapy someday. But of this I am also sure: my children know that they are loved. I looked around our minivan that night, and felt my heart overflow. We are silly, we are happy, we are moody, we are all over the place, but there is so much love. This is the dream come true that I didn’t even dare to dream. I often feel like someone just feeling her way in the dark, without a pattern to follow while I try to knit this life together. And yet, it’s still turning out so beautiful.

bedtime story

2. Ask and you shall receive.

I've never been very good at asking for help. 2011 gave me plenty of opportunity to develop that muscle, and low & behold, I received so much more than I even asked for. Just the act of asking is like opening a window in a stuffy attic of self-reproach.

The gift of tea with Catherine after dropping Nolan off on his first day of preschool.

CeCe showing up to help at the start and the end of our yard sale, which just happened to coincide with one of the roughest days of my year.

The airport ride from an old friend, Marie,  in October. I’d been out of touch, and it felt brave to even ask for this favor, but then I reaped from it so much more than I could imagine.

Since 2007  I have been choosing a word for the year, ala Ali Edwards’ One Little Word. My word for 2011 was LOVE. I was embarrassed by it a little; it seemed so unoriginal and so obvious, but it was exactly what I wanted my year---and my whole life---to be about so it stuck. I had expected holding that word in my head and heart would be about stretching my ability to give, but almost immediately I was surprised by how much I had to learn to receive, how much energy I spent blocking love being sent my way out of pride or a desire for self-sufficiency.

I know life has even more love in store for me in 2012, if I can just trust enough to be open to it.

3. Plan, plan, plan and then let it all go.

I’ve been having this debate in my head for years. I planned a lot of things for 2011. Some of them happened, and some didn’t. I wish I could find the Thirtysomething clip when Melissa’s boyfriend Lee gets the art job, not the one he was planning on but one beyond that. Hey, maybe it all comes back to lesson#1 in a way.

If I stick too closely to any plan, I’ll lose out on greater things I can’t even envision. But I’m a girl who needs a plan, who does well with assignments and deadlines. So I’m going to make resolutions again, look at where I’m at and where I want to go, and still try to remain “open, choiceless as a beach, waiting for a gift from the sea.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Best of 2011: Favorite Movies


Once upon a time we  had two incomes, no children, and loved the movies. So almost every Friday we’d meet immediately after work for the discounted 5:30PM showing. We often saw 30+ movies a year. Then we became parents.

Thanks to the world’s greatest babysitter, we made it to a movie theater EIGHT times in 2011. I thought perhaps Brian and I had broken a new record, but based on my 2007 Best of (or rather, the list of every movie I saw that year), we merely tied that year. Note, that is also the year we discovered our babysitter, and that the record held because we had a baby in 2008. Torrie will be going to college soon, and there is no baby on the way, so come on Hollywood, help us make it to NINE in 2012!

In all honesty, we still watch around 30 movies a year…but now they are usually on DVD or a random discovery on cable after the kids are asleep. Remember, I’m behind the times. You probably saw some of these titles more than a year ago. Nonetheless, my favorites from 2011:



  1. Midnight in Paris

I used to love Woody Allen, until he became intertwined with Lolita’s Humbert in my mind. I can’t deny though that these were the two hours of movie-watching I most enjoyed this year. Perhaps it had a little to do with the lovely Brandy Alexander I was sipping. My dad used to make those every New Year’s Eve, so I was already in a nostalgic mood. And I’d just read The Paris Wife, in which the Lost Generation of artists were just as appealing.

Luke Wilson seems to be doing a Woody Allen imitation at times (especially during the lost-earrings scene), and Rachel McAdams seems wasted in this shallow role. And yet---it reminded me of Purple Rose of Cairo, my previous favorite WA film,in which another protagonist has to choose between fantasy and reality. The way he films Paris with a lover’s eye, surrounded by a wonderful soundtrack, reminded me of the way he treated NYC in Hannah & Her Sisters. Part of the thrill was recognizing who was playing who (“Dali” I yelled at the start of Adrian Brody’s scene stealing), so I don’t know how it would hold up to repeat viewings. But like Marion Cotillard’s character, it was  lovely and fun.

2. Barney’s Version

I saw Lara’s review on FB “your parents will love it” and thought, I must be getting old. I thought it was a total guy movie, since it is from Barney’s point of view and Paul Giamatti gets three beautiful women to marry him. But Brian didn’t care much for it. I loved it and was thrilled when others saw it so we could discuss it (for the record, I think Miriam set him up---and rightfully so!). A rare one I’d love to see again.


3. Blue Valentine

Beautiful and painful to watch. Ten years ago, when friends called to say they had news, it usually meant they were expecting. Today, it usually means they’re getting a divorce. Maybe it’s just our age, but in 2011 the news of divorce seemed to come up over and over. I love how this movie manages to show how right and wrong both partners can be simultaneously, and how the very things that made you fall for someone can be the same things that make you want to scream later. 

4. *The Help

It was so much better than I expected. It still didn’t come near the power of the novel, but I was very grateful that it began and ended with Aibileen’s voice.

5. *Moneyball

Low expectations contributed to my enjoyment of The Help; high expectations almost ruined Moneyball for me. There’s actually very little baseball in this baseball movie. The book, too, used Billy Beane’s character as its arc, but to greater effect. Brad Pritt was perfect, but I wonder what it might have been if Steven Sodenbergh had stay on. Still, the banter and acting were great.

6. Please Give

No, this isn’t a great movie. But I’m still thinking about it, months later, so it ranks up here. I love the way it plays with greed, guilt, and generosity. Oh, and the beauty of fall leaves. 

7. *Bridesmaids

I haven’t thought about this movie once, and that was its own particular beauty. Hilarious, gross and fun.

8.*Source Code

A light, entertaining action movie. Almost, but not quite makes up for Jake’s role in Love and Other Drugs, the worst movie I saw this year.

9. Winter’s Bone

I saw it at this time last year---and still remember it. I’m 42. That’s how good it was.

10. The Adjustment Bureau

We hadn’t heard anything about this movie, so it was a delightful surprise.

Honorable Mentions: Easy A, Sarah’s Key,Win Win, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part II, Crazy Stupid Love, Exporting Raymond.

*=one of our 8 big-screen ventures.

Movies I still want to see: Another Year; Tree of Life; Young Adult; The Decedents;  Poetry; The Guard; Hugo, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Newlyweds; Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close; Beginners.

One last movie note of 2011…I took the boys to Grand Junction the last week of the year. Aidan got to pick whether we’d see Hugo or Tintin. He chose Tintin. I was disappointed at first because it sounds like Hugo is a better movie. But Aidan loves Tintin, and so I love him too---and he just radiated joy sitting next to me in that theater at the very first sight of Snowy. He was laughing throughout it and loved explaining to me who people were or predicting what would happen next. So Tintin was one of my favorite times at the movies this year too.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Best of 2011: Favorite Books

Part Two of the Best of 2011: Books

My friend Catherine invited me to her book club in June of 2010. I relished Lara’s description of her Phoenix book club that I believe is at least 10 years old now, so I jumped at the chance once we returned from Park City that fall. I love that the group introduced me to new authors and books I might never have picked up. Love that the “deadline” of our gathering helped me make my reading time a priority. Most of all though, I love the evening of great discussion and camaraderie (and sometimes wine), and the friendships that have grown beyond the scope of our Thursday gatherings.

And yet, despite all that, I read fewer books in 2011 than in recent years. Perhaps because I was reading more fiction, or more books that I hadn’t necessarily chosen myself. Only two on the lists below were book club selections: True Grit and Cutting for Stone. Well, our group read Hand Wash Cold, but I had already read and loved it by then. Getting to have a Skype chat with the author, Karen Maezen Miller, was a highlight for all of us.

Then again, there were books started then abandoned, others that that I’m still reading slowly (The Phantom Tollbooth with Sean, and  Life, Itself, a birthday gift from Angie), books I finished but will never feel I’ve finished (Turning the Mind into an Ally, the Non-Designers Design Book), dog-training books (the Monks of New Skete among others), books on death and dying (Caring for Your Parents, The Dying Time, At Home with Dying), and books read with the boys. Some favorite children’s books were The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man, The Boss Baby, The Groovy Greeks and the Rotten Romans, The Calculus Affair and all of Herge’s Tintin collection that our library contained.

Of course, none of those books were misplaced, but somehow The Day My Butt Went Psycho did not get checked-in after Aidan returned it to our library, requiring me to then make several phone calls asking them to look for The Day My Butt Went Psycho on their shelves. And, “of coursely” as Sean would say---as I find all of us now saying, they would then ask me to repeat the title, pause while they debated whether I was prank calling them, and then type it into their computer. Aidan, for the record, you owe me.

Favorite Nonfiction:

Hand Wash Cold by Karen Maezen Miller

Not just one of the best things I read this year, but one of the best things that happened to me this year. It isn't one of those "stand up and change your life or the world" reads, but more of a wake-up and see the world in front of you. And what could be more life changing than that?

“Quiet the narration in your head, even for a moment, and see for yourself that life is life, and not one minute of it is a retelling or a foretelling. Some things happen; some things don't. That's what makes it all worth seeing, no matter where it goes or how it ends. There is no spinmeister steering it all to a forgone conclusion.”

When Things Fall Apart and The Places that Scare You by Pema Chodran

"This very moment is the perfect teacher." When I most wanted to run from the present moment, I went into my parents’ guest room and read that line. So many times this year, I felt this author offer me exactly what I needed when I need it.

Blue Night by Joan Didion

So much is going on here---it is not a memoir, or a book about grief, but a meditation on loss.

About Alice by Calvin Trillin

How I loved getting to know Alice, a woman who managed to "navigate the tricky waters between living a life you could be proud of and still delighting in the many things there are to take pleasure in."

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Man, was I critical of this book while I was reading it! Rubin is a highly critical person (or so I get the impression), and that line of thinking can turn a reader just as critical. But she is also bravely honest and earnest in her exhaustive approach to living life more fully. I’ve loved talking about her Secrets of Adulthood and Splendid Truths with others who’ve read the book.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Fun read that had Nolan asking me why I was laughing out loud. He kept coming over to look at the page, imagining it must have turned into a Kid History youtube video or something. Loved her description of her laconic coworker at the Y.

The Scrapbook’s Almanac by Elizabeth Dillow

I didn't think I'd ever buy a design book again, but this one is meaty---beautifully designed (it can lay flat, a big bonus), with the kind of photos and stories that make me want to create. Planning to enjoy it again, more slowly, each month this year.

The Courage to Start by John Bingham

It lived up to its title, providing me with exactly that.

Everyday Blessings by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn

I’ve been checking this title out from our library annually since 2007 and making very little headway before returning it once again. This year, a small group of mommas met once or twice a month to discuss it, and I finally did it, I finally finished it.

I found the beginning on sovereignty and the conclusion, especially “Losing It” to be enlightening and inspiring. There were sections in which my own alarms started going off (I don’t really believe my child will be scarred from having slept alone as a toddler or from being nursed for only one year---the authors stop short of saying that, but just barely at times). Still, despite my own defensiveness, I learned a great deal and want to go back and write out quotes from the many dog-eared pages. My friend Sarah summed up the parenting philosophy of the book in one line: “I love you and I honor your journey.”

Grateful to have finished this book, grateful for the Kabat-Zinn family’s generosity in sharing their lessons and practice, and so very grateful for the community of mommas encouraging me in my own mindful practice. We plan to keep reading together---Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, another favorite of mine, is up next.

Favorite Fiction

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
"I hope one day you see this as clearly as I did in Kerchele. The key to happiness is to own your own slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don't. If you keep saying your slippers aren't yours, then you'll die searching, you'll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny." 
Oh so good. I loved Ghosh the way I loved Leo in A History of Love. Marion is a messed-up narrator on some levels, and I fought hard against some of the later plot points, but no other story has stayed with me so strongly this year. I love the way he kept returning to that operating room, how he let the story of their birth dominate the first quarter of the book. Who dares demand so much of a reader these days? Definitely one to enjoy again.
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
“How small we humans are, she thought. All our scrambling around, trying to buttress ourselves against death. All our efforts to insulate ourselves against uncertainty with codes of behavior and meaningless busyness.”
“What he had kept from her, though, was what she kept from him-- the terrible weight of remorse and doubt that daily, hourly sometimes, shifted inside like a cargo.” 
An unbelievable but true story, embellished with some great writing. I might pick it for book club when my turn comes in April.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
“Happiness can be found in even the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.” 
I find myself appreciating this one even more as we move on to other reads. I have a million and one thoughts about the series that I’ll attempt to edit down to a reasonable few some other day. I really don’t think I ever could have gotten into these if my boys hadn’t held open the door for me, so to speak. I tried, honestly, as a teacher and just couldn’t make the leap. And now I can’t wait to return.
True Grit by Charles Portis
“People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.”
The whole book is quotable. Funny and poetic. Would be a great road trip audiobook.
This was a crazy, long post. I hope 2012’s favorite books list is even longer.

Next up on Wednesday: Favorite Movies of 2011

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Best of 2011: Favorite Songs


I can’t remember when Angie, Mary Alice and I started exchanging these list---I recently reread a letter from Angie that contained her best of 1996 so for at least 15 years now. Originally our end of the year letters were mainly a list of titles: movies, books, songs. Eventually they became more reflective of our personal lives and aspirations, but I still love the little time capsule of recommendations. And my new year doesn’t officially begin until my letter’s written.

Many of my favorites of 2011 aren’t necessarily from 2011; I’m often late to the party (or the DVD queue) so while I discovered these this year, you may have been familiar with them for years. And, of course, I reserve the right to edit and add to the list when I suddenly remember things next week.

Hoping to post every day this week as I pack up 2011 and prepare for the brand new year ahead.

Favorite Songs of 2011
  1. “The Most” by Lori McKenna
  2. “All Will Be Well” by the Gabe Dixon Band
  3. Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam
  4. Awake My Soul” by Mumford & Sons (as well as “After the Storm” & “The Cave”)
  5. “The Way It Goes” by Gillian Welch
  6. “Turn to Stone” by Ingrid Michaelson
  7. “I and You and Love” by Avett Brothers (this may have been on a previous year’s list, but fell hard for it again this year)
  8. “Someone Like You” by Adele
  9. “Such Great Heights” by Iron & Wine
  10. “Don’t Carry It All” The Decembrist
  11. “Brighter Than The Sun” by Colbie Caillat
  12. Magic” by Rabbit! (didn’t know this was a kids’ song until looking for that link just now…the irony being that this is the only song Nolan demands we skip when listening in the car!)
  13. “Gray Street” by Dave Matthews Band
The boys started hosting a radio show on our local KZMU once a month, so their music taste often took precedence (and most of my measly music budget). They introduced me to Taio Cruz and “Dynomite”, Kate Perry and “Firework”. I introduced them to “Let the Day Begin” and “Don’t Stop Believing.” Brian introduced them to AC/DC, who are (sadly? I’m still undecided) getting a lot more air time than the Beatles now.

This year had three distinct moods to it, each with their own soundtrack. When I was running regularly, from January to June, I was obsessed with updating my running playlist. I bought Chumbawamba and other oldies that reminded me of high school track. Ain’t Nothing Gonna Break My Strike…actually not a great beat for running. “Love the Way You Lie” , despite being so disturbing, was very motivating. I’m not a fan of AC/DC in general, but when trying to keep moving, “You Shook Me All Night Long” is classic.

Summer came with fire season and my grand idea to sign up for a 5K race. Less than a month after signing up, major back pain set in. Probably my  mistake of upping mileage and switching to pavement at the same time. I’d heal, run again, hurt again. I went to physical therapy most of July and August, as well as a chiropractor who finally convinced me to stop running until my back and hip fully heal. (I still ran/walked the 5K in September). Summer music was light and hopeful---see #11 & 12 above. “Come Dancing” by the Kinks got a lot of play, as well as Michael Franti & Spearhead with “The Sound of Sunshine” and “Say Hey, I love You.” Old Monkees favorites and lots of dancing around the living room.

It was in August/September that we learned the cancer had spread to my mom’s brain. Cue Mumford & Sons, a recommendation from my friend Jenny---a friend who moved away almost as soon as I discovered there was a momma who loved the same music & books living in the same town. How unfair is that? Her blog was one of the inspiration for resuscitating this one.  I was recommending Mumford & Sons to a friend this month, and then realized I have no idea what they might sound like to a normal person who wasn’t in a morose state of mind. For me, they have been like oxygen the past few months. On constant replay.

I can’t remember where I came across The Most, but the lyrics have stayed with me and I often find myself playing the song just to get the words out of my head:

My life is pieces of paper that I’ll get back to later
I’ll write you a story, how I ended up here.
And how the little things make us, and how long it takes us 
To figure out what matters the most . . . .
Someday, well, I’ll look back and wonder.
Someday--- comes around a little quicker than they told you,
asking “Did I do what I was suppose to in my life?”

2011 was a mixed bag, to put it lightly, but there was a lot of music in it. For that I am very grateful.

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