January Wrap-Up

I ran into the admin from my accountant’s office on Friday (our daughters play field hockey together). I asked if tax season was ramping up. She spent 5 minutes telling me how screwed up this year’s tax season will be because rules are still changing and they don’t have all the forms for filing, so people are turning in their taxes, but they can’t get them done because they’re waiting … for the government.

The upshot is, I need to get our tax organizer filled out if I have any hope of seeing a refund any time soon. The problem is this – I haven’t balanced my checkbook since January 2009. Why is this an issue? My husband is (sort of) self-employed. We use a computer program to keep track of what we spend and how much he makes. Do you see my problem?

So I spent several hours yesterday and a couple of hours very early this morning balancing my checkbook (what can I say, I woke up at 3:30 am panicking and figured I put the time to good use instead of just panicking uselessly). It’s done! Now I can tackle the stupid tax organizer and get it in this next week.

January Goals:
Writing
Reached. I’m not always here, but I am writing at least 30 minutes/day. Unfortunately, this last week, it was all work related. I guess if it helps me keep my job I can count it towards progress, right?

Eating Mindfully/Exercising
I’m counting this as a half win. I’m back on the exercise bandwagon, but the purposeful eating has not gone well. I’m making better choices on a day-to-day basis, but have fallen off the wagon a couple of times (note to self: DO NOT BUY POPTARTS).

Spinning
Reached. I did 4 oz each week this month. It’s not all up on 13 Pounds, but it did get spun. My WooLee Winder is on the fritz right now, so I’m going back to the regular flyer for my wheel until I can get it figured out or sent back for a tune up.

Special Goal for January
I set a special goal to get my resume tuned up by the end of the month. Early on, I realized that January was not the month to do this. January is the month to get all the tax details together. I’m the treasurer for my daughter’s field hockey team and there was year end stuff for that. I had to get Little Big Man’s FAFSA form taken care of (government form that figures out how much aid you get for university) and I had to get our tax organizer stuff together. The only thing left to do is actually fill out the organizer, so I’m considering this 95% finished.

I’m counting January 2010 as a successful month. I figure 2.5 of my major goals were met and 95% of the special goal met – it’s progress. Onward

Book Review

U is for Undertow, Sue Grafton
originally published in 2009

I could just say, “the best one yet” and be correct, but that seems a little too simple. I started reading this alphabet series after Grafton had written four of them. I loved her descriptions of everything and felt like I was sitting on a park bench in Santa Teresa. I still feel that way.

I met Sue Grafton at a book signing once. She had spoken about how she received letters from people admonishing her about how much Kinsey swore. She reacted by having Kinsey swear less, b…more I could just say, “the best one yet” and be correct, but that seems a little too simple. I started reading this alphabet series after Grafton had written four of them. I loved her descriptions of everything and felt like I was sitting on a park bench in Santa Teresa. I still feel that way.

I met Sue Grafton at a book signing once. She had spoken about how she received letters from people admonishing her about how much Kinsey swore. She reacted by having Kinsey swear less, but felt uneasy about it. Eventually she decided that Kinsey swore because that’s who she was and Grafton stopped trying to “fix” it.

In the last couple of books, I felt that Kinsey had hit her stride. She is who she is (so to speak) and she’s comfortable with it (and so is Grafton). I loved this book and the only bad thing is how quickly I read it. Now I have to WAIT for the next one.

Book Review

Personal History, Katharine Graham
originally published in 1997

Last year I read Warren Buffet’s memoir and he spoke endlessly of Katharine Graham. I figured she’d be an interesting person to read about – and she was.

Graham survived the curse of living in extraordinary times. I found it endearing that she was so worried about whether she was up to the task – any task (dressing herself, picking out furniture, running The Washington Post). Admittedly, she grew up at a time when women raised the children and decorated the houses, so she didn’t have …more Last year I read Warren Buffet’s memoir and he spoke endlessly of Katharine Graham. I figured she’d be an interesting person to read about – and she was.

Graham survived the curse of living in extraordinary times. I found it endearing that she was so worried about whether she was up to the task – any task (dressing herself, picking out furniture, running The Washington Post). Admittedly, she grew up at a time when women raised the children and decorated the houses, so she didn’t have many role models. However, she was whip smart and applied 100% of herself to everything she did.

She didn’t sugar coat anything in this book. Her insecurities are completely on display as well as how she reacted when her husband left her and subsequently killed himself, leaving her to deal with the aftermath both personally and professionally.

I’ll admit that once or twice her sense of privilege annoyed me, but that’s really the only drawback I found. Graham came through as a woman who met her challenges head-on and usually came out the winner.

Book Review

I confess that I love graphic novels. I don’t have a hard time imagining what everyone looks like or what the layout of the house is. I can just immerse myself and see exactly what the author wants me to see.

I didn’t always want to see what Small was showing me. Stitches was really painful to read. It’s the story of growing up in an emotionally stunted household where everyone is angry, but no one is able to talk about it. They aren’t able to reach out to each other at all, each memb…more Stitches: A Memoir, David Small
originally published in 2009

I confess that I love graphic novels. I don’t have a hard time imagining what everyone looks like or what the layout of the house is. I can just immerse myself and see exactly what the author wants me to see.

I didn’t always want to see what Small was showing me. Stitches was really painful to read. It’s the story of growing up in an emotionally stunted household where everyone is angry, but no one is able to talk about it. They aren’t able to reach out to each other at all, each member of the family wrapped up in their own cocoon of pain.

It is a beautifully drawn and artfully told story that will stay with you, long after you finish it.

Book Review

Celebrity Detox, Rosie O’Donnell
originally published in 2007

I’ve always loved Rosie O’Donnell. I remember watching her show and thinking, “she’s a star-struck kid with these celebrities.” It seemed so real and genuine. Turns out it was genuine, but it came with a pretty big price tag. Celebrity Detox is the story of how O’Donnell took a much needed break from her own show only to fall into the same trap again when she started on The View. She worked too much, was away from her family too much, and was recognized too much to enjoy just living. A…more I’ve always loved Rosie O’Donnell. I remember watching her show and thinking, “she’s a star-struck kid with these celebrities.” It seemed so real and genuine. Turns out it was genuine, but it came with a pretty big price tag. Celebrity Detox is the story of how O’Donnell took a much needed break from her own show only to fall into the same trap again when she started on The View. She worked too much, was away from her family too much, and was recognized too much to enjoy just living. As much as I miss seeing her, I hope she has found some measure of peace.

In the Car This Morning

Hub was driving me to work today. It was a typical Michigan January morning. Temp was hovering around freezing and there was a thick fog enclosing everything. The trees had a layer of ice outlining all the branches. It was really quite pretty and we were companionably silent, until

Hub: “You know, it’s a Cullen kind of morning.”

Me: ” ! ” Thinking ‘WTF?’ “Did … you … just … make … a Twilight reference???”

Hub: “Yes, yes I did,” quite proudly. “You know, it’s gray and the branches are kind of twinkly. It’s the kind of weather the Cullens like. A vampire-y kind of weather.”

Me: “There’s no sex like metro-sex.”

Saturday Spinning

I grew up thinking my mother was a feminist, and she is – to a point. She talked about Gloria Steinem and about how women are equal to men and how my sister and I could grow up to be anything we wanted. She also said things like, “You know, men are better friends than women. Women are so bitchy!” Or, “I’m glad I work with mostly men – they’re so much easier to get along with.” It’s funny how we pick up our parents’ habits especially when they say one thing, but do another.

In high school, my best group of friends were all boys. When I went to university, I thought my roommates and I would be best buds. I thought we were, right up until they ditched me to room in a double. My roommate junior year turned into a psycho nightmare when she felt we weren’t all living up to her standards. I used these experiences to decide my mother was right. Women are bitchy and impossible to get along with.

I’m not sure when we started our spinning Saturdays, maybe a year ago? There was a group of us who wanted to meet more often than the local spinning guild does, so we started meeting at a local coffee shop. We were careful only to invite people we really wanted to spend time with and it has become the oasis in my week. It’s the thing I look forward to most when the weekend comes.

Driving home today I felt blissed out. I was relaxed and happy. It occurred to me that it’s because I really like these women. It’s not just a group of people who spin, we genuinely enjoy spending time together and spinning is just the excuse for it. Are we bitchy? You bet. But we don’t hold the bitchiness against each other – we call it out so it’s in the open and doesn’t get a chance to fester and build up hard feelings.

We encourage each other to break out of our boxes. We discuss health issues (go make your appointment to see your gynecologist). We talk about issues with our kids – “how do I handle this?” We laugh, we scream, we watch Pride and Prejudice on an endless loop and talk about which Mr. Darcy is the BEST Mr. Darcy.

I got a little teary when I realized that this is the first group of women I really like and feel entirely comfortable with. We’re all different, but maybe that’s why we work together so well. My mother was wrong, women make the best Best Friends and I’m eternally grateful for mine.

Book Review

Beat the Reaper, Josh Bazell
originally published in 2009

I am a smart ass. If there’s a comment to be made that is slightly cynical or even crossing into mean, I’ll make it. I feel like I could sit down with Josh Bazell and be among my people. Bazell is literature major, a doctor, and a certified smart ass.

Beat the Reaper is the story of a young guy in the witness protection program. He’d been a hitman for the mob and now he’s a doctor. If that doesn’t give someone perspective into the human psyche, I don’t know what would. I found it interesting that I liked the main character as much as I did. He has great knack for rationalizing his actions and somehow I bought them.

From the snappy dialogue to the snort-inducing footnotes, I was hooked about two pages in. It’s a quick, but enjoyable read. I’ll be looking to read more from Josh Bazell.

Book Review

Me: Stories of My Life, Katharine Hepburn originally published: 1991 I started reading this book in October 2009 and didn’t finish it until the absolute end of the year. It’s not that it wasn’t good – it was. It was actually like sitting down with Kate Hepburn, having tea, and letting her talk. I couldn’t read much at one sitting without getting a little irritated.

I don’t have many older relatives, but I remember my grandmother as she aged rattling off the things she did like it was a grocery list. That’s this book, but with more interesting stories. There’s some gossip here, but Hepburn has too much class to air her laundry, so it’s quite tame. She tells the stories as she thinks of them, the book might have benefited from some sort of organization, but I think Hepburn’s voice may have been lost.

What I really liked was her attitude to her career. “I’m lucky,” she said over and over throughout the book. She was appreciative of her parents, her assistants, her ex-husband – anyone who had helped her in anyway was acknowledged and thanked. I found that really refreshing. This book is the perfect bathroom book. Great in short bursts, but difficult to read a lot in one sitting. Overall, interesting, but not a must read unless you’re a Hepburn fan.