book review: the new york regional mormon singles halloween dance: a memoir

by elna baker

At times I was completely in love with Ms. Baker, and then at other times, I just did not buy what she was saying. Ms. Baker tells the story of growing up in her Mormon family, living all over the world with them, and then her move to New York. Like all good Mormons, she is supposed to get married. But she was fat and not really into Mormon boys. What’s a girl to do?

I picked up the book because of her supposedly amazing weight loss. I don’t buy this part of the story. We don’t ever see any picture of her fat. There are apparently none on the internet, I’ve looked. So, while she might have slightly large calves, by her calculation, I can’t really believe she was ever fat. I think this was calculated. She wants to be a performer and becoming the fat Mormon woman who is skinny now would not be good for her image.

We also get some great insight into being Mormon and as readers of my blog will know, I love conspiracy theories and strange religions. I have had a few friends who were Mormon and always wondered what it would be like to explain my religion to others if I was Mormon.

“You see, this guys found some gold tablets from God, but instead of taking the gold with him, he reburied the gold, and then when he came back the tablets were gone.”

And you believe this? Ms. Baker sees how strange her religion might seem to others. And, as readers, we go with her, as her walk of faith is tested. But, at the end of the day, she decides she is still Mormon and I don’t buy this either. Really? You get that your religion is made up, but you still believe? I guess we all believe in make-believe sometimes; it keeps us sane.



Great news on the Grammy front. After quintuple bypass surgery, she is awake, off the ventilator, and talking. Brent thinks our biggest concern will be her overdoing it.



In St. Louis, waiting for Gram to get out of bypass surgery. More to come.


making do v. producing

One of the reasons for the year of making do is that I want to be a net producer not a net consumer. Years ago I realized that nothing productive comes from a day of shopping. I mean, it might be fun, and I might really like my new stuff, but I would not feel fulfilled at the end of the day. I feel fulfilled when I am creating things, when I am taking pictures, reading a book, painting, cleaning, talking to friends, spending time with friends, laughing. Not watching TV. I don't feel fulfilled after an evening of TV, even if I need it sometimes.

So far the year of making do has been interesting. First, sometimes I shop without noticing it. Not a lot anymore, but sometimes. Second, we were not buying nearly as much stuff as I feared. We are about a month into the experiment, and really we spend most of our money on shelter, travel, and food. Interesting.

But I realized just now that even though I am not out shopping, I am still consuming all of the time...just consuming time screwing around on the internet, rather than working on my book...

So maybe this should be the year of producing, instead of the year of making do?


my new favorite blog: Indigo Days

I am taking a new writing class that started a few weeks ago. I love these classes through the Stanford Online Writer's Studio. At this point I have quite a few new online only friends...that is after three years or so of classes.

Well, Nancy is in my newest class. She lives in Japan and just lives such a deliberately lovely life. In her blog she talks about all of the food they grow over there...and she mentioned rice.


Right, who grows their own rice?

She does. Well she and her family do.
I loved it. It just seems so amazing to grow all of your food. Her most recent post was about plucking the feathers off of her duck to eat it for Christmas. Wow.

Check it out...neat stuff over there...and some great recipes.




I really liked these lines when I read them in the Wall Street Journal:

"Memoirs are typically episodic, likely to describe only a fragment of a life or an aspect of
it -- aspects that tend to emphasize emotional subject matter. The things we stay up late
thinking about are the stuff of memoir.
They are our interior lives, our complicated feelings, what we write about when we write about love -- and the complexities of failure and sympathy and ambivalence and money and mortality."



hrumpf. that is how i feel today. after a nice weekend and fun birthday, i feel like the world is letting me down. i am sure the feeling will pass...but until then...

one friend thinks it is because of mercury...it is messing with my stars. we will see...


a weekend in boston

we had a lovely weekend in boston with brent's friends. we went to one of his college friend's wedding. (click here to see pictures.)

we also got to spend time with our friends tania, franklin, and sabine. (click here to see picture.)

and we celebrated my birthday. see the cupcake picture above.


la without people or ads


Can you imagine it?


fun movie

Doesn't this movie look like fun?


book review: the ultimate cheapskate’s road map to riches

by Jeff Yeager

Lots of reading going on this week. Thank you library. (We will be making a donation.)

Great tips to be had in this book that really focuses on the intangible ways we allow money to control our decisions. When we stop spending, money loses its power over us.

Time is money, but as Yeager points out, money is time then. How do you want to spend your time? What makes you happy?

One thing living in Germany taught me was that I am happiest spending time with family and friends, not shopping. I like having the memories of doing things together. My law school friends have a pattern of always going out to dinner and drinks when we see each other. The food is always great, but I find that sometimes I wish we would all go do something. (Now, I do live a few hours from all of them, and this is also a generalization, but try not to focus on that…)

Back to the book. The author is cheap. I mean cheap in ways I had never thought of. Linda was cheap too. So is Erica. I mean, not eat food all day when traveling to DC cheap because the food was all too expensive cheap. I am the opposite of that. If I feel I need something, out I go to get it. I think there needs to be some middle ground. Spending for the sake of spending is not good, nor is over-saving.

One of the many tangible pieces of advice he gives in the book is to pick a firm number for the amount of money you think you need to live on, and save the rest. He suggest picking the amount of money you were making when you turned 30. All raises, etc. should go into savings. I love this ideal. In fact on of my favorite high school teacher’s sister lived only on every other paycheck. She was a millionaire.

With the year of making do we are really trying to do this. But with 3000 advertisements flashed before the eyes of all Americans EVERY DAY, it is hard. Just keep trying I say.


book review: the selected works of t.s. spivet

by: Reif Larsen

This is one of those books I read about and instantly wanted…and then every time I would go to buy the book I would get cold feet…so I waited some time to get this one. (Obviously before the year of making do and our re-discovery of the library.)

The book chronicles the 12 year-old, T.S. Spivet as he decides to ride across the country from Montana to Washington, DC to accept an award at the Smithsonian. You see, T.S. is a very accomplished chart and map maker, even at 12. The book is filled with his charts in the margins. He chronicles his life in a series of notebooks, numbered, and in his bedroom. His mom is an entomologist and his father a rancher.

The book has a deeper theme that you are not told about on the book flap, and are only told about sparingly at first. I had to re-read some sections of the book when this theme popped up because I was so surprised.

I loved how the book falls together. As Stephen King says on the back, the book “combines Mark Twain, Thomas Pynchon, and Little Miss Sunshine.” Can you even imagine?

The only complaint I had with the book was that Mr. Larsen gave the dad a southern accent. Ranchers in Montana don’t have southern accents. It was kind of strange.

Another book to rush right out there and get dear readers. This one is a joy. And I think younger audiences will also really enjoy the book as well, but I caution parents to read it first, just to make sure the secondary theme is not too much for kids.


book review: you can’t catch death

by Ianthe Brautigan

Told as a series of vignettes, the book describes one daughter’s relationship with her father, who eventually kills himself. I am on a memoir kick, and can’t remember who recommended the book to me, but it was a lovely read.

Mrs. Brautigan’s father was a famous writer and throughout the book famous people flit in and out, seemingly to behave like the real people that they are. Her father split his time between San Francisco and a ranch outside of Bozeman. Ianthe did the same.

Pictures of her, and her father, are interspersed thought-out the book. By page 100 I felt the suicide and her relationship to her father had been well and interestingly covered. I was ready to move on, until I remembered that a mini-mystery was also involved in the book. We know from the book jacket that Mr. Brautigan had cut off all relationship to his family in his early twenties, but we don't know why. The cut was so final that for years Mrs. Brautigan did not know anything about her grandmother: not her name and not where she lived. I kept reading to find out the why. I suppose I never got any closure on that point, something I only noticed now as I was typing this.

So far as learning from how this memoir is pieced together, I really liked how some of her chapters are very long and some are only one line. I thought her chapter titles were superb, and I usually skip over chapter titles. She deftly interweaves clips of her father’s writing where apt in the book as well. I also found the length informative: 209 pages. Books take as long to tell as they take, but I find good examples of lengths worthy of noting. Finally, I loved how she put in information that was inter generational. We hear not only about her fears for her father, but her fears for herself and her daughter.

There were a few instances where she repeated something she had already told me, which I found annoying. And one quote had a typo in it...strange that I noticed.

This is a book to read. Well done, fast, and really gives you a glimpse into, not only the past, but also the pain of living with someone who is mentally ill, yet genius.

ps I also noted that Ianthe worked at Chico Hot Springs in the late 70's at the same time my parents drove across the US and considered buying the hot springs. I wonder if I already crossed paths with her. Funny.


i thought of two more

anything to do with the bathroom
anything to do with personal health for anyone outside of my family. (so if you are in the family, I will share your health information with others in my family)



One of the topics I am wrestling with in both my writing and my daily life is confidentiality. I suppose I assume, unless it is obvious from the discussion, that whatever you tell me, is ok to share with friends and family. Not in a malicious, gossipy way, but in a caring and concerned manner.

Some topics I feel are obviously not for sharing:

Well, sexual topics...that about rounds out the group for me.

In my writing this is kind of a problem, because some of the funniest stories are, well, about sex. I would love to share those, but nope...not yet at least.

Bottom line, if you don't want me to share, tell me that.

a collection a day

This blog, http://collectionaday2010.blogspot.com/, is highlighting a new collection of something everyday for 2010. I think that is kind of fun.


book review: half–assed, a weight-loss memoir

by jennette fulda

I don’t have much to say here: large woman decides to lose weight, loses said weight. We don’t really get a lot of good details here. We don’t learn about her longing for a boyfriend, her horrible family, heck, we don’t even learn what diet she was on. And the book is not written in any order; we hop around in time, which drives this reader crazy.

This book is more of an inspiration to me, not because she lost the weight, but because she sold this book. I mean she must have made some money on it right?

Bottom line: great idea, poorly executed. Her blog is apparently very good however...http://www.pastaqueen.com/halfofme/


the year of making do

I wanted to post a little more about this year's plan to make it the "Year of Making Do." This idea came to me after watching a show on PBS, Objectified. (Click here to read more about the movie.) The last segment of the film asked some famous adversiting guy what kind of campaign he would design if he had $1 billion. He said he would advertise using what you already have. Most people have everything they need, but are addicted to the rush of buying something new...I thought about that a long time...

We are planning on not shopping, unless we really need something, however food is completely exempted. If we do need something, we will throw it on the list, and wait a few weeks, seeking a. an alternative to buying the item or b. a place to buy the item used.

Naturally, January 1 found me out buying a drill to put the closet in...but Brent feels this was grandfathered in.

What is funny about the plan is that the New York Times just had an article about other people doing this...click here to read the article.

We have a lot of unfinished projects around here. Paint by number pictures to finish, yarn to knit, shadow boxes to create, fabric to sew. If you get a gift from me this year, it will likely be homemade.

Bonne Année


one last purchase

All year I have wanted one of those closet orgainzers you can get at The Container Store. I woke up thinking about it last winter. I promptly went to the store's website, measured our closet, and then waited for Brent to wake up. The first plan would have cost $800. Our landlord agreed to split it with us. I took out some shelving, re-arranged it a bit and got the price down to $671. Brent was still not interested in splitting the cost.

Throughtout the year I kept getting emails from the store about sales. 30 percent off during the month of January came in the email a few weeks ago...and Brent relented. Then we got a coupon for gift cards. Buy $100 in gift cards, get a $25 gift card. $300 in gift cards later, we reduced the cost of the closet by another $75!

I emailed the landlord, and he said he liked that I was a bargain shopper! Fire up.

At the end of the day, $200 each. Not bad. See the before and after pictures here.

The woman who helped us at the store said that after getting fit, getting organized is the second most popular thing to do in the New Year.

Putting in the closet was not hard, but we did have to buy a drill, on the second trip to Home Depot. I suppose we needed a real drill.

I was so sore from putting the closet in last night that I could not fall asleep. Today I spent some time gazing at my organizational skills.

Happy New Year.